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Mount Cristobal : Not for the Faint-hearted

Hello there, kabalikat! First, let me ask you these questions: Do you want your next trip to be what you can call a “real” adventure? Are you tired of your barkada’s usual nature tripping and mountain climbing spots? If you and your buddies are bold and daring true-blooded nature enthusiasts, then Mount Cristobal is the right place for your next escapade!

Although just an extension of the mystic Mount Banahaw, Mount Cristobal has its own notoriety and is considered by townspeople to be one enigmatic mountain. This is because of some alleged unexplainable occurrences, not to mention the infamous horror stories. Climbers who have reached Mount Cristobal often claim of hearing sounds or allegedly bearing witness to a number of non-human creatures while trekking through its thick forests. Locals also believe that a supernatural being wanders through the mountain to guard it and punish those who would disrespect his home. Now, now. Don’t get too freaked out by these things.

Mount Cristobal may appear eerie but the 1,500-meter mountain offers more than just a venue of spooky myths and urban legends but also a majestic scenery for city people who want to experience genuine relaxation and adventure! It is so close to Manila, about 100 kilometers southeast, that it has become one of the favorite destinations of mountain climbers, even inexperienced trekkers looking for fun and excitement.

Although Mount Cristobal can be accessed through the Nagcarlan and San Pablo sides in Laguna, the perfect jump-off point is in Barangay Sta. Lucia in Dolores, Quezon for it is the shortest trail toward the mountain. To get to Barangay Sta. Lucia, buses in Cubao and Buendia bound to San Pablo is the best option. From San Pablo, jeepneys for rent take climbers to the entry point of the mountain – that is, Barangay Sta. Lucia. Guides offer their services for a fee at the start of the trek. A budget of 1,000 pesos is really more than enough to experience climbing Mount Cristobal. Imagine, just a thousand bucks – the same amount it would cost you if you’ll watch a movie and eat outside nowadays – and you can have a thrill-filled adventure that you and your friends can brag about!

Generally, climbers consider Mount Cristobal a minor climb as the trail is straight and very visible, and does not have many confusing obstacles. Fun and excitement actually are in the paranormal experiences! Kidding aside, the feeling of awe and amazement is what this mountain provides with the majestic views of nature every step of the way. Fun and excitement are in the trekking, camping, bonding in the middle of the mountain, and being in a place considered spooky by many.

The whole adventure – hiking, reaching the summit and going down – usually takes 2 days, with 5 to 6 hours of walking. The trek starts at around 10 in the morning and ends at 4 in the afternoon for day 1. After the trek, climbers start setting up their tents and preparing dinner, and by 7 in the evening everyone is ready to rest! Usually, no one sleeps after dinner because a soiree takes place. Although it is ideal for the body to find comfort from resting, no one immediately does so as climbers often sit together and have some fun first.
Day 2 starts at 6:30 or 7 in the morning to go to the summit. From the campsite, it only takes 30 minutes of walking to reach the summit so by 12 noon climbers are already back at the start of the trek in Barangay Sta. Lucia.

Like other mountains in the Philippines, Mount Cristobal is a haven for a myriad of flora, including the medicinal plant pakpak lawin, rattan, wild berry and thorny trees, and other flowering plants, and fauna, including wild boars, snakes, civets and lizards such as bubuli. At the start of the trek, only the thick forests, thus species of plants and animals, are seen by the climbers. However, when the summit is already proximate, panoramic views start to greet. The view of the crater of Mount Cristobal is a picturesque scenery that enthralls anyone who takes even a slight glimpse of it.

Reaching the Jones’ Peak, an area once considered the summit, offers a great panorama of the entirety of San Pablo City and its seven lakes! From the Peak, Lakes Sampalok, Palakpakin, Yambo, Bunot, Pandin, Muhikap and Calibato are vividly seen. Other beauties of nature can also be witnessed from the Peak such as Mount Makiling, or during sidetrips such as the Bunga Falls in Nagcarlan, and Sta. Lucia Falls in Dolores.

Despite its reputation of harboring negative aura within its area, people, first-timers and returnees alike, continue to flock and visit the mountain all year round. Climbers may have experienced what others consider as supernatural occurrences in their mountain climbs but this does not stop them from returning, because they also have witnessed the richness of natural resources of the mountain as well as the beautiful sceneries from atop. These magnificent views are the ones that entice them to climb the mountain over and over again.

Truly, Mount Cristobal is a good climb especially for city people who want to stay away from the busy metro even for a short period of time. Not only does Mount Cristobal provide a coveted fresh air, it also brags about the sceneries that climbers could see from and in the mountain.
So what are you waiting for? I know your feet are now itching for this adventure! If you’re ready for one exhilarating trekking, pack your bags and call your barkada! Visit Mount Cristobal and discover why this mountain is not for the faint-hearted!


Majayjay: Discover the Hidden Wonders

This next trip we had was something we didn’t expect nor planned. For our second adventure we still decided to feature another town in Laguna, since the province is home to unique towns with equally blessed beauty, rich historical background, scenic views, warm and hospitable people, breath-taking hidden wonders that could be a potential tourism destination and real delicious delicacies that can only be found (originally made) in each town.

When we planned to feature Majayjay, we initially thought of going to the famous Taytay falls. Others call it the Majayjay falls or even Imelda falls because the promotion of tourism in this place was financed by the ex-first lady Imelda Marcos.But due to lack of time and information, our feet brought us to a different path that led us to discover a wonder that this town is hiding.

It was past lunch time when we got to ride a Siniloan bound jeepney from Sta. Cruz, Danilli was the one doing all the talking for directions and the local jeepney drivers were more than glad to answer all our queries (good-natured provincial folks -as i have mentioned before)
We were told by the jeepney driver to wait for jeepneys bound for Majayjay, but there was none or if there were any jeepneys going to Majayjay – it was full. The clock was ticking and its getting dark (there’s already a downpour), so we didn’t waste any time after realizing it’s hopeless to get a jeepney ride. We, instead resorted to a tricycle, which was abundant near the waiting shed that sheltered us from the rain.The initial price they gave us for the ride going to Dalitiwan was 120Php and we were surprised at how costly our fare was but it left us with no choice.

We told the Manong driver to get us to Dalitiwan falls which was quite popular in Majayjay. On our ride to Dalitiwan, we realized how worthy the 120Php fare that we paid because the ride took 20 to 30 minutes going up and down the highly curved, steep and zigzag road in the hills. The tricycle ride gave us a better view of each barangay (there were even big houses here and there), the people and their extra simple lifestyle.

Majayjay is considered a 4th class municipality, it is located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, one hundred twenty kilometers of Manila, it is bounded by Lucban in the province of Quezon, Luisiana and Liliw and it is politically subdivided into 40 barangays. Majayjay derived from the word “Ma” which means many. Some say that in the old days, to reach this town of hilly terrain, one had to pant, saying “hay,hay” (sigh) thus came the name Majayjay.

After the long ride going up and down the hill the tricycle driver puts into a halt at the gate just around the highway. At last we said, near the gate, a tarpaulin bore the sign Dalitiwan Resort. It didn’t look anything like a resort to us, so we came in and asked somebody if the falls was near or if we were in the right place.

Located near the gate is a house where the katiwala (care-taker / in-charge of the place) lives. Only the kids who lived there entertained us and told us their mother was down the hill, so we headed down hill to look for their mother. As we were walking we can’t help but be mesmerized by the view of tall green trees that covered the whole place, fresh water coming from the mountain can also be seen so we didn’t waste any time to bring out our camera for photo opts.

As we descended, we saw a house that created this unexplainable fume we smelled us we headed down in search for the Katiwala.
As we found out, it is the place where they make Lambanog, another local product of the town, “Lambanog” is a Filipino term for wine produced from 100% natural sources like sugar cane, coconut and rice. The resort is also home to hundreds of coconut trees that they use to create this local wine, one thing visitors will notice when they look up are the bamboos that are interconnected and hangs between the tall coconut trees that serves as bridges to get from one tree to another. The Manang (Lady) who’s in charge of the cooking was nice enough to show us around the place where she cooks Lambanog. She said that the lambanogs they produce are pure and doesn’t contain any chemicals since they cook it the natural way and it is evident to the huge oven/container they use for cooking. They sell their Lambanogs for only 250Php per gallon, quite cheap for its fresh and authentic quality. Their wines are also exported in Manila and different towns and provinces in the country, but Manang said that Japanese visitors also love their Lambanogs. Koreans and Japanese are among the resort’s foreign customers.

After a little chitchat and photo opts, we headed down the hill to look for the caretaker so we could ask some information and services that the resort offers, but we didn’t see her.As we went to explore the place we could hear the river as it flows from the mountain which made us more thrilled to see what’s ahead of us.

Dalitiwan River is located at Barangay Botocan, it’s noted for its cool and crystal water with panoramic beauty that is ideal for swimming and fishing, the cold water of the river gushes through the rocks and boulders along the watercourse in sweeping currents. The resort with its aim to be truly close with the beautiful surrounding kept everything simple, cottages were built on the sides of the river which gives everyone a good view of the flowing fresh water which is also ideal for fun photo shoots. A hanging bridge is also built to connect visitors from one cottage to another. There are also shower rooms, a swimming pool atop the rocks, a canteen, a barbecue stand/place where visitors can freelly grill and cook their foods for picnic.

Fun definitely won’t stop here because there’s tons of things you can do in the resort that is truly designed for pure comfort and fun. I’m sure what everyone wants to know now is how much is the entrance fee… Right? So we’re now going to dish out how many bucks it would cost for you to experience this truly alluring resort.

The entrance fees are as follows:
Adult: 70Php
Children: 60Php
Overnight: 150Php
The resort’s rates are definitely cheap but the whole experience and fun one can gain here is definitely priceless.
Another attraction of the town is also their age-old, baroque-styled church called the Parish church of San Gregorio Magno which was built by the Augustinian Missionaries in 1571 but was burned down in 1578. It was then rebuilt by the Franciscan order in 1578 during the time of Juan De Plasencia.

Truly the simple and mystic beauty of Majayjay is something that is still waiting to be discovered as it will surely lure anyone who visits this town in Laguna


Mabitac: Home of the Victorious

As part of our trip around CALABARZON we still decided to present you the few remaining towns left in the province of Laguna that we or you still haven’t discovered. Laguna truly is a magnificent province in the country that would never fail to amuse any foreign or local visitors seeking for an adventure or just looking for the perfect place to unwind and relax.
Mabitac is a 5th class municipality situated on the eastern side of Laguna and it is known as the battle ground where Filipino revolutionaries won over the american soldiers during the Philippine-American war.

Coming from Sta. Maria (another town in the province we will feature) our rented tricycle brought us to the neighboring town that is Mabitac.

Mabitac was once known as a great hunting ground for wild games. The town was refered as “Mabitag” from the root word “Bitag” meaning, a place with plenty of traps but since the friars who inhabited the place could not pronounce the letter “G” thus Mabitac came along and the rest as they say is history.

Various history books in the country rarely mentions Filipinos winning battles against Americans or if there were any books about Filipino victories against the Americans they were only concentrated in Manila or other nearby places, but the Battle of Mabitac is an example of Filipinos victory against the colonizers. It was on the fateful day of September 17, 1900 where General Juan Cailles, a Filipino revolutionaryy leader in the area, fought and won the battle against Col. Banjamin F. Cheatham Jr., an American soldier from the 15th and 37th infantry.

Even if the Americans were far superior, the Filipino revolutionaries from this town headed by Cailles didn’t succumbed to give up and instead used their mastery of terrain and their Guerilla tactics to bring back glory and freedom to their much beloved town that resulted for the Americans to leave Mabitac.

The town marked the 109th anniversary of the “Labanan sa Mabitac” (Battle of Mabitac) last September 17, 2009 and so unlucky of us because we arrived and explore the town a day prior to their much awaited celebration where the whole town was kept busy preparing a one-day event that includes parades, mass, a play reenactment of the battle, quiz bees and cultural shows that is especially done and prepared by the ever-friendly local officials and staff to pay tribute and commemorate the triumphant victory of Filipinos who never gave up against the much stronger and superior American colonizers.

Aside from it’s historical value, we asked the tourism head of the town Mr. Norberto Tubaña on what other attractions do their town offer and he led us to their famous church just beside the municipal office situated on top of the hill that requires 126 steps to get to the church itself (there’s another way aside from the stairs), another feature of this church is the relaxing view of Laguna de Bay and the small town, truly a mesmerizing and not the usual environment you will see when attending a mass.

This may sound cliché but we personally like to say that another considered gem of this town are the people whom we personally want to say thank you most especially to the local staff from the Mabitac’s municipal hall who warmly welcomed us to their humble office as they entertained all of our questions, gave us a little background of their simple yet historically-rich town with truly amiable people and being invited to their anniversary celebration of the battle that was won by the Filipinos against the much superior American military.


88 Hotspring Resort – Korean Fever is on!

Korean song, Korean idols, Korean foods and lots of Koreans on the Philippines in short Korean fever is here to hit Philippines!
Since Koreans are the number one tourists of the Philippines, many resorts and hotels conceptualize a better theme to cater the taste of every Korean guests and at the same time catering also our “kababayan” visitors.
The booming number of Korean restaurants, hotels and resorts are growing like mushrooms, so my search for the best resort and at the same time stress reliever for our dear “kabalikat”
My feet set on Calamba, Laguna, the one and only Korean resort. The place is no other than 88 Hotspring Resort.

88 Hotspring Resort is particularly catering not only Korean visitors, but also for Filipinos and even other guests as well, as long as you have the taste for Korean dishes then you are welcome. This place is also a spa center where you can also rejuvenate while looking to the majestic Mount Makiling.

88 Hotspring Resort is located in # 9601 National Highway, Bagong Kalsada, Calamba City, Laguna. To get there, take South Luzon expressway and exit to Calamba City and along the highway is the resort.
You can also enjoy their different type of pools, they have hot pool, warm pool, herbal pool which is very suited for “lolo’s and “lola’s” , Jacuzzi pool and the intriguing Fengshui Enery Pool! (First time to hear “kabalikat?”)

If you are here for long stay, they have rooms that will perfectly match to your taste and budget. Select from these options “kabalikat” – Small Kubo; with one queen sized bed and with air- con. Represents the old type housing of Filipinos, simple but comfortable for travelers, next is the Resort Standard with one queen sized bed, air –con, TV set and with refrigerator, perfect for honeymooners or partners, then the Resort Bamboo with one queen sized bed, air –con, TV set and with refrigerator and represents the standard hotel room but with traditional bamboo combination of facilities and surroundings, they also have Resort Villa with one queen sized bed, one single bed, air –con, TV set and with refrigerator.

Concrete structure villa with adjacent to hot spring and pools and accessible to most facilities, and the last one is Nipa Hut – one queen sized bed, two queen sized bed, private Jacuzzi, air –con, television and also with refrigerator, ideal for family and groups. They also have conference room for group events or company seminars and trainings. This room can hold 70 persons with adequate audio visual equipments and of course a wifi zone.

88 Hotspring Resort also has different types of food accommodations, depending to your taste, they have restaurant wherein you can check their menu and pick your favourite dishes, they also have fruit bar which I truly enjoy “kabalikat”, you can enjoy seasonal fruit juices and Halo- halo! And also for dads, they have pool bar where cold and hard drinks are available.

I can say that one of their best services is their massage – extensive massage in a peaceful and soothing atmosphere to nurture your relaxation, soothes your senses and do wonders to your entire being a great treat for jaded body. You can also enjoy Videoke for night gimmiks with friends and kids can enjoy horse back riding!

Everything you are looking for a perfect vacation with the touch of Korean Fever can only be enjoy only here in 88 Hotspring Resort in Calamba Laguna. So kabalikat, if you are one affected by the Korean fever and also wanting to have a great vacation, book yourself and even the rest of the gang for a different kind of trip!


Lucban Quezon – Passage to Heaven

When we say Lucban Quezon, it means Pahiyas Festival which is held every May 15 in honor of the patron St. of harvest, Isidore the Laborer, the farmer. This festival showcases an avenue of houses which are beautified with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products, handicrafts and “kiping”- a rice-made decoration, which afterwards can be eaten grilled or fried. The houses are evaluated and the best one is declared the winner. Every year, tourists stroll to the municipality to see the decoration of houses. But there are other reasons why we should visit Lucban Quezon “kabalikat”.

Lucban Quezon rests at the foot of the prestigious Mt. Banahaw. Legend has it that the town derived its name from Lucban or Pomelo fruit tree. Three hunters from Majayjay, Laguna named Marcos Tigla, Luis Gumba and Lucas Manawa came upon a plain at the northeast foot of Mount Banahaw after they lost their way following the trail of some wild game. Resting under a tree, they saw a black crow or “uwak” up on a tree, and believing this to be a bad omen, they moved to another location and rested once more. While resting under a large shady pomelo or lucban tree, the trio were attracted to a couple of kingfishers (salaksak) singing. Fascinated by the beautiful color and lovely rhythmic chirps of the birds, the supertitious hunters took the incident as a sign of good fortune and decided to settle in the place and named it “Lucban.” The people of Lucban accepted the story as true. Marcos Tigla was the first gobernadorcillo in 1596, and then Lucas Manawa took over the responsibility for four years. Today Lucban is a booming district bounded by its untouched environment and retaining its extraordinary beauty.

To get there via public transport, just ride a Lucena bound bus at Kamuning or Buendia that will take you to Lucena Grand Central. From there, the shrine is just a short jeepney ride. During your trip you will notice on how the place is really a “probinsya type” very simple living but abundant of the love from Mother Nature. Green grass, picturesque mountain views, farms and everything that there’s none in the city. As much as you want to enjoy the trip, the cold wind will embrace you and make you fall asleep, no ruthless sounds or noise. Imagine how this place is really blessed “kabalikat”

So from there, as I was saying “kabalikat” aside from Pahiyas Festival, there is more than Lucban Quezon can offer to its tourists and visitors.

One reason is the Kamay ni Hesus Healing Center. A wonderful place for Visita Iglesia and retreat. The shrine is located on the slopes of Mt. Banahaw, Barangay Tinamnan, Lucban Quezon. It features a church where healing masses were celebrated by the known healing priest Fr. Joey Faller. Also on the site is a 292-steps hill with life size figures with the 14 Stations of the Cross. On the top is a large effigy of Jesus Christ, a 50-foot statue that is said to be the third biggest in the world. So for those planning a holy week excursion or even an escape, Kamay ni Hesus Shrine is a great place to memorialize the life and passions of Christ. Healing masses are also offered every Monday and Saturday at 09.30 AM. Pilgrims and those who seek out for physical and spiritual healing voyage to the mystical municipality of Lucban, just visit Kamay ni Hesus.

After the physical and spiritual healing, it’s time to enjoy the food that is “tatak” Lucban, The best and the only “Pancit Habhab”. Visitors and tourists will not complete their trip to Lucban if they don’t have the chance to eat “Pancit Habhab”. This differs to the pancit we used to eat, because it’s Habhab, it is eaten without the use of fork. No need to hunt or to go anywhere, just outside the church is a small canteen which serves Lucban’s constantly well-known Pancit Habhab. You have to eat the noodles straight from the banana leaf.

Before deciding to go home, take a visit to the Church of St.Louis of Toulouse, as always the church is very rich in its meaning just by seeing it.

It’s time to buy “pasalubong”! One of the best pasalubong shops is the Eker and Ely store that offers different pasalubong like “broas” “ pulvoron” ang others. And one of the best buy is the Lucban Longganisa! The BEST “kabalikat”.

Let me remind you “kabalikat”, if you are a commuter, you should ta