Astoria Palawan

We stayed in a one-bedroom suite for three nights through the kindness of our friends who are members of Astoria. I am writing this review while we are still here, so I don’t forget the details.

>>>The service is excellent. My mum was surprised with the line of staff who welcomed us with a necklace and cold towel and she felt really special. I was not surprised because I read this from blogs before we came here. Everywhere we go the staff would greet us and are very helpful. The check in was swift. They took time to orient us with the things we need to know, but were very courteous on the things we forgot from the orientation. I just love how friendly, helpful and courteous the staff are.
>>>The suite is impressive. It is spacious, complete with almost everything we need, clean, design is really nice. We enjoy the bathroom and the kids loved the bathtub.

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We love the complete kitchen which enabled us to cook for lunch and dinner. We really wanted to save on money so we made it sure we have all the supplies we need before coming here. The two TVs was also appropriate for our group.
>>>The amenities are very good. The infinity pool’s design is very nice, suitable for kids, though not good for lap swim. We enjoyed the game room. I had a good time doing exercise using the xbox and playing street fighter while my family members enjoyed using the videoke room. I was looking forward using their gym but it was not available as they were undergoing maintenance. I was also looking forward to use the Waterpark as we thought it was free for us. However we decided not to avail of the 50% discount as we already enjoyed the other amenities that were free for us. Entrance fee to Waterpark is quite expensive – around 600 pesos per person. We loved biking around the big area. I am glad I was able practice biking, and now marunong na akong lumiko!! Haha…
>>>The beach, though not wide and the sand is not white, still provides a relaxing view esp during sunset. Madalas lowtide.
>>>The Reserve, Astoria’s resto, also offers nice food. It is already expected that the price would be expensive, but they offer 50% discount for their breakfast buffet, which we availed. The only thing we did not like is that the flies swarm while we eat. It is again expected as Astoria is in the midst of mango orchard. I do hope they could do something about it. We found a fly in our corned beef this morning. We just convince ourselves that the flies are clean in this part of Palawan haha. It is always good to put on insect repellant as there are insects that bites.
Another not so good thing (it is not so bad) is that power is fluctuating many times a day. They did mention it to us during the orientation and they assured us that it would come back after a few sec, and it does, ad they have a generator. We did see a lot of solar panels and I am glad another hotel is starting to use renewable energy.

I am really thankful for this three night stay in Astoria. We were able to rest well. We decided not to avail of the trips in Palawan as our stay in Astoria is already a very nice experience.

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Boracay, a Dark Paradise

Boracay, a Dark Paradise

Warning: An open-minded, possibly foolish, depraved Christian is writing her own views and experiences. Feel free to disagree…

I had just gotten back from a two-night stay in the beautiful island of Boracay. I have been there many times, both for leisure and work. This is the first time, though, that I saw first hand the other side of it. Two new acquaintance, who have been living there for over two years, both gays, described the Boracay as the “temptation island.” I know that the presence of many bars and the influx of thousands of tourists all year round could add to the island’s party place reputation. I have visited a few bars in the past, but I was on the safe side. I was on the ‘outside.’ This time, I was invited to ‘party,’ and being sure of myself and being with another Christian friend, I joined. I knew myself. My conscience is not bothered with a few drinks. However let me make it clear – I don’t advise Christians to go to these places nor make the same risky decisions.

Talking to our new acquaintances, they were sharing their lovelife. Both of them are gay and they both have boyfriends. Both of them usually spend their Fridays partying all night, until 4am, when the bars usually close, and will go to work the next day at 10am. Both of them love living in Boracay because of their lifestyle. Both of them, while partying, enjoy the night almost without moral limits. Well, maybe not as one of them said he flirts with tourists (only) but he does not have sex as he is afraid of STD/ HIV. I was quickly reminded of the recent training on AIDS that I attended, that there is a rising number of new HIV cases in young Filipinos. I felt the need to talk to them about this, but chose to keep quiet. I don’t know how he defines where to set his limits, but having sex is a no-no for him. I sighed for relief, not spiritually, but at least, there is one gay who is aware enough to set limits for himsef. I thanked my new friends for their honesty. I told them I like them, and I meant it. Deep down I was praying that they too would be found by grace which found me many years ago.

In the two bars that we went to, and in the conversations that we had amidst the loud music, a few things were evident in my saved-by-grace eyes. Boracay, especially at night, is a place full of lost and needy souls representing all kinds of sexual orientation. Bars are full of energetic, partying people, mostly young souls from 18 to 40, who don’t know they are lost, who don’t know they need one most important thing. They live their lives thinking they can meet their need in these places through the same needy souls they meet. Drowning themselves with alcohol, they lower their inhibitions until they feel free to do whatever their body needs. One eye contact and they think they found someone who they can spend the night with, whether in that bar or somewhere else. Our new found acquaintances, having found out we were single, wanted us to enjoy the night, which means, they wanted us to get drunk, find someone (or more) to flirt with. It was difficult to explain to them, in the loud background music, that we don’t share the same values. Many times they connected us with a few guys, whom we politely turned down and said we were not interested. We were careful not to look anyone in the eye to avoid communicating interest. Many times I turned my back to those who would approach. I am thankful my two other friends know how to drink without getting drunk. As the night lingered the partying people slowly (for others more quickly) got drunk. Before the night ended we helped one gal who was dead drunk find her way back to her hotel. Our two gay friends were so drunk we were not able to say goodbye to them. The next morning they messaged saying they got drunk, but were able to show up for work. And it would be another week for them, until Friday comes and they would again party the night away. It was both amusing and sad watching Boracay at night.

If there is one good thing that I can make out of my close-to-foolishness decision of getting in to this hardcore bar, it is that I saw with my own eyes the hopelessness of this place that should drive me to pray for the gospel to be shared in this island. What I did, deciding to ‘party’ with my unbelieving new friends, should be a once in a lifetime experience. And I would not have done it if I were on my own. Thankful for the opportunity to be in that place but to state the obvious it is not a good place for Christians to be at. Thankful to be friends with honest and fun unbelievers but at the same time there is a need to live differently. Hearing today’s sermon in Romans, I pray the Lord would send messengers of His good news to Boracay.

Philippine History Through Art

Are you like me who in high school found history boring? (Don’t be too guilty, a lot of people and students felt the same way, that is why I look up to teachers & historians who make learning fun). Well, redeem some of those lost times being too bored to learn, learn history through art, head to Sining Saysay in Gateway in Cubao, Quezon City. I went with my nieces ages 19, 10 and 7, and we all were reminded of our country’s rich history through the paintings of talented Filipino artists.

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I asked the girls if i could take a photo of them, my seven year old niece Dylan replied, “Only in the hospital where Ate (older sister) was born.” There you have it, a short but personal caption for this photo, showing Quirino Memorial Medical Hospital, named after one of our Philippine presidents.

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Oh, and did I mention that entrance to this exhibit is for free?

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Clean parks of Iloilo vs dirty Quezon Memorial Circle football field

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I remember while my friends and I were walking in a plaza (park) in Molo in Iloilo City one morning, my friend Ella thought loudly and enviously, “We don’t have parks like this in Pasig!” I can’t really emphatize with her. In Quezon City we have a park that is called Quezon Memorial Circle. Every Saturday morning I get to a jeepney with 12 sometimes 20 kids, for 15 minutes and go to this park to play football. A lot of people go here to run and exercise, especially every weekend morning. It has a museum, and it is even a concert venue sometimes. I have even seen one of my favorite local rock band, Slapshock, play here for free, and I was even on the front! It is a blessing to have this park in the middle of the city, and so near where we live. While I am thankful we have this space to go to in the city for free, I don’t like it that some parts of it is dirty, especially the football field.

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I don’t blame the local government. I know they try to maintain it and keep it clean. I see their efforts. I want to call out to Quezon City residents, and maybe Filipinos in general. I see our lack of discipline from crossing the streets to being late in appointments  (but that’s another story). We need to be more disciplined. Wherever we are we can throw our garbage properly, from your cigarette butts to dirty diapers. We can bring home our trash if we don’t see garbage bins around us.

It is probably pointless to write about this on a blog. I just hope that even a few people who would read this would be challenged. If you know you are not contributing to the garbage (and flood) problem in Metro Manila, maybe you could gently remind that friend with you who just flipped a candy wrapper outside the jeepney and tell him, “Ang basurang itinapon mo, babalik din sayo.”

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Guimaras, Cabaling Beach Resort

Guimaras, Cabaling Beach Resort

Guimaras is an island 20 minutes boat ride from Iloilo City. It is known for its mangoes, which are said to be the sweetest in the world. We stayed in Cabaling beach resort for a night. This will suit you if you want peace and quiet, as it is a bit secluded. A few meters away you can already see beautiful corals, especially from the bridge. No need to snorkle. 

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Looking down from the bridge you can see corals, esp during lowtide

Corals a few meters from the beach of Cabaling, Guimaras.How to get there >> Take a boat from Iloilo City to Jordan wharf for 20 minutes. Rent a multicab for Php 600 from Jordan wharf (It can accommodate up to 10 passengers). The drive would be for around 35 minutes to one hour mostly on rough road. The resort offers free boat pick up from the drop off point. This boat ride will take around 5 to 10 minutes, or you can also walk for 15 minutes. >> The resort offers boat transfer directly from Iloilo City for Php 2000 one way. The boat can accommodate up to 40 persons. The resort was constructed in 2007 but operation started in 2008. All their facilities are well kept. They have seven airconditioned, huge, clean and beautifully designed rooms each for Php3000 a night for two persons but each room can accommodate up to six persons. You would need to add Php 150 for every additional person. They have one fan room for Php 2000 that can accomodate up to six persons.

>> They offer island hopping for Php1500 for 3hours. This rate is more expensive than the rate in other resorts (500 for the first hour and 150 for succeeding hours).

>> The resort also has a swimming pool, from kiddie to 6ft deep.

>> They also serve nice food in their resto with reasonable price.

>>  Billiard for Php 50 per hour

Not so good things >> No wifi and no cable television. Not necessarily a problem esp if you want a break from city life.

You may contact the owner / manager, her name is Bing, at 63-9494909206. She’s kind and accommodating. She didn’t charge us corkage fee. She also let five of us stay in the room without extra charge.

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Why Iloilo is one of the best travel destinations in the Philippines

I just came back from my second visit to Iloilo this morning. I want to share with you some of my reasons why I love this place, and why I think it is one of the best travel destinations in Asia.

>>> Kind Ilonggos >>  They helped us with direction as we navigated the city and nearby towns during our five nights stay. One elderly lady overheard me and my colleague transacting with a trike driver to bring us to Acao in Cabatuan, and in Ilonggo dialect directed us near the police booth. The police told us trikes could not go to Acao, and they were able to connect us to a driver of a ‘singgol’ motor bike which became our service until we finished our business in that far part of Cabatuan town. We gladly gave tip to the driver. I was just too happy to be back to the market in one piece.

>>> Sweet accent & language >> who would not fall in love in the way they speak?

>>> Smoke-free Iloilo campaign  >> I would love for the whole country to be smoke free! Quezon City, please pick this up…

>>> Rehabilitated Iloilo River >> It took them years, but they made it possible. We heard it was started by the incumbent mayor, and the city really allotted budget for it. Now it has become a very nice view, especially from the roof top of the city hall. Imagine if we could rehabilitate every river in the cities!

>>> Esplanade >> This is probably one of my favorite spots in the city esp during late afternoon/ early evening. Not just the cool breeze I felt walking along the clean Iloilo River, but seeing a lot of people walking / running and benefiting from the rehabilitation efforts  made me feel happy being in that place.

>>> I like taking photos of old buildings and churches, and Iloilo has a lot of these. I was able to visit this massive church in Cabatuan which was built in 1834. According to wikipedia it is one of the most beautiful churches in the country.

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Below is Santa Barbara church built in 1845. Visit exploreiloilo.com for more info on these two churches and the rest of Iloilo’s old buildings.
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>>> Well maintained plazas >> this is one of the things we don’t have in Metro Manila. In Iloilo plazas we saw young people  playing basketball or practising bar-tending under the shade of the trees,  the elderly people exercising, sitting, reading a newspaper or singing by themselves, children running around safely, and tourists like us just enjoying the serene view of how these people live their lives in a simple way.

>>> Football fields in almost every town that I visited. It’s no surprise that Ilonggos are very good in this sport, having produced one of the greatest Filipino footballers in the country, Chieffy Caligdong.

>>> Iloilo city’s Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog ranked 5th in world mayor search of 2014. For me that says a lot about him and the city itself.

>>> It is home to breath-taking beaches. From Iloilo you can also easily go to Guimaras, Kalibo, Boracay, etc.

Have I bored you yet? I can go on with my list, esp mentioning the different festivals they celebrate. Oh, I need to say that I felt safe while walking the streets of the city, though I know it is not 100% crime-free. The government’s effort of controlling drug abuse related crimes is also evident in the many posters and police presence in different parts of the city

Book a flight to Iloilo soon and experience the province/city yourself. We hope to come back next year for the Dinagyang Festival.

Have you been to Iloilo? What do you like about this province?

Raymen Beach Resort in Guimaras

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No doubt it is one of the most popular beach resorts in Guimaras. When we were there they could not let us stay the second night because they had a booking for 300 guests.
Good things:
>> Beach front – though narrow, the sand is close to white and the water is clear.  Most Filipinos, esp children would enjoy just playing with the waves. Since I have just recently learned to swim in deep waters, I only stayed for a few minutes as the markers prevented me from going to deeper part of the water.
>> Food – they have a resto and they cook good and reasonably priced food.
>> Mango shake – First time we stayed here we enjoyed their mango shake at 55 pesos. It was a bit cold to order for a shake the last time we visited.
>> Accommodations – nothing great about their rooms but if you only need a bed to sleep in and some privacy then what they have should suffice. I personally thought their A/C rooms were small for the price. Their fan room would be good enough at 700 pesos if you want to save on cost and just enjoy the beach. Otherwise go for the more expensive rooms from 1500 up if you want a bit of comfort.
>> Service – very helpful front desk staff.
>>Security – We felt secure as their guard/s were patrolling during the night.
Not so good things:
>> We didn’t like it that they charge entrance fee even to those who would stay the night. 25 pesos is not so much but there really is no reason of paying this if you would pay for the room.