Monday, November 30, 2015

Budget hike at Mt. Sembrano


Peak 1 of Mt. Sembrano (The grassy slope)

So after months of not traveling. My partner decided that we do a day hike at Mt. Sembrano. I was hesitant at first because of its infamous reputation for having a high number of theft cases. The thing that made me agree to do a day hike was the chance to travel again. Since I am too busy on my academics, my partner planned everything and I just invited some friends.

Mt. Sembrano is really a hard one, not perfect for beginners or "pabebe". According to Pinoy Mountaineer, the trail difficulty is 4/9 (for me it was 6/9). What made it harder was the mud and slippery trail plus it was all assault! I was really exhausted, by the time we reached the north peak I almost gave up but I could not stay there because they will all go to the summit.

The best season to hike this is during December - February (Amihan Season) because of the cool wind breeze!

The grassy slopes remind me of Mt. Pulag

Going back, I am so proud of this trip because I only spent 300Php for this trip. This is my cheapest hike ever! So how this we managed that? Simple lang..

Selfie at the summit

Here is  a sample itinerary for you guys (spoon feeding to ha!):

4:00AM Ride a van/jeep bound for Tanay
5:30AM ETA Tanay (buy snacks or lunch)
5:45AM Ride a jeep bound for Malaya (Tell the driver to drop you off at the Bgy. Hall)
6:30AM Register | Start Trek
* Depending on your phasing, the trek usually takes 2 - 4 hours before you reach the summit.
9:00AM Summit | Photo Ops, Rest, Picnic
10:30AM Start Descent as there are no shade in the summit.
11:30AM Side trip at Manggahan Falls
12:00NN Start Descent going to Barangay
1:00PM Wash up
2:00PM Ride a jeep bound for Tanay
2:45PM ETA Tanay
3:00PM Ride a bus bound for Crossing or Van bound for Starmall
5:00PM Home sweet home

Here is the breakdown of expenses:
70 - Van bound for Tanay
23 - Jeep bound for Bgy. Malaya
20 - Registration
10 - Registration at Mangahan
20 - Coconut
10 - Wash up
23 - Jeep bound for Tanay
60 - Bus bound for Crossing
236.00 PHP!

You still have extra money to buy food or drinks. I highly advise that you bring your own food, there are no stores open on early morning.

Ahhh This is life! :)

When you are on a tight budget and just want a new place to visit. Mt. Sembrano is the perfect place for hikers, maybe not for beginners but for those strong willed will surely conquer this!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chasing Milky Way at Mt. Daraitan + Tinipak River with Plan B

This post is for you to drool how cool it is to stay outdoor! Enjoyyyyy!

First stop, ride that boat and cross the river. Fare: 5 Php
Then ride a tricycle going to Barangay and Register. Fare: 10 Php
Environment Fee: 20 Php
Mandatory Guide Fee: 1,250 Php for overnight
The rocky boulders on our way to Tinipak River. A horse is their way of transporting their goods.

View in front of our tent city.
Photographers getting ready to chase milkyway! No lights pleaaase!

Took us 1 minute to have this shot! Thank you Master Rizalde Cayanan

After an early morning hike, this view welcomed us. Sea of clouds

Buwis buhay shots!

Groupie with Sleeping Beauty!

Best selfie for 2015!

Tinipak River enroute to the Cave

Daraitan and Tinapak River is indeed a must go to because of its natural beauty. I just hate the "mandatory" guide fee that is so expensive and they did not even issued a receipt! The local government must review their policy on this, in order to protect the environment at the same time the tourists.


Travel Guide to Buscalan Village, Kalinga

Oldest Traditional Tattoo Artist

Apo Whang - Od up close and personal

Buscalan Village is under the municipality of Tinglayan in the Province of Kalinga. It is an exclusive village and not passable with any kind of motor vehicles. 

When I first saw a documentary about Apo Whang - Od, I said to myself that I will visit her and she will put my first tattoo on my skin. A lot of my friends have been inviting me to come with them but my schedule does not allow me. Good thing my 'manliligaw' suggested that we visit Apo Whang - Od on his birthday and I quickly said yes, thinking that it will be a great present for my birthday also. 

Apo Whang - Od is the oldest traditional tattoo artist (mambabatok) up to this date and she is from the Bubut Tribe. One of the oldest tribes in Kalinga and they have their own dialect. Visiting her will require you a 16 - hour journey from Manila plus stamina to reach the village from the jump off point. 

I am going to share with you guys our experience at Buscalan Village, on a backpacker's perception. 


There are many ways to reach Buscalan Village you may choose via Tabuk, Banaue or Baguio

1. via Tabuk

Victory Liner has a daily trip going to Tabuk. From Manila it will take you 12 hours to reach Tabuk. Then, ride a public jeepney going to Bontoc which is approximately 3 - 4 hours and drop off at Bugnay. From Bugnay, you may opt to walk your way up to the Bucsalan Village (5kilometers of rough road) or rent a habal - habal (200 Php) going to the jump - off point. 

2. via Banaue (This was our route)

Ohayami and Florida (Dangwa) has a daily trip to Banaue, the latter costs 530 Php. From Manila it will take you 9 hours to reach Banaue. Then, ride a public jeep or van in the market which is bound for Bontoc which is approximately 2 hours (150 Php). From Bontoc, ride a public jeepney that will go straight to the jump off point in Buscalan (100 Php). The jeep leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon and the only jeep that goes straight to the jump off. The terminal is beside the Mt. Province State Polytechnic College.

3. via Baguio

Victory Liner has an hourly trip to Baguio City on a daily basis. From the terminal, go to the bus terminal of GL transport which is near the Baguio public market and then, ride a bus bound for Bontoc (usually this are non - aircon buses). From Bontoc, ride a public jeepney that will go straight to the jump off point in Buscalan (100 Php). The jeep leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon and the only jeep that goes straight to the jump off. The terminal is beside the Mt. Province State Polytechnic College. 

From the jump - off point, prepare yourself for a lot of walking and climbing stairs just to reach the Buscalan Village Proper. It took me 30 minutes to reach their place. Haha.


There are no hotels or resort in Buscalan Village but good thing there is Charlie. Charlie is our contact/guide in Buscalan, he owns a very basic house in Buscalan Village near the house of Apo Whang - Od and he turned it into a transient house. He is a very simple man and funny too! Most of all, he is very accommodating. 
Since we met some friends on our way to Banaue, Anne and Matteo, we shared a house with them. I do not want to disclose how much Charlie gave us for an overnight stay but you may contact him for the price. Here is his number,  (0998) 1888-697.

Meet Charlie! Call him (0998) 1888-697

This is our simple home for the night, cooking is free.

View from our veranda.

This is the veranda of Charlie where guests do their socials


1. Get a tattoo from Apo Whang - Od or Grace, her niece.

See the blood? eek!

The artist doing best on her craft.

2. Sip a hot organic Buscalan Coffee while chatting with your friend or new found friends.

3. Roam around the village and explore the other side of Buscalan Village, they have their own rice terraces and a waterfalls. 

4. Play with kids and bring some candies for them, they will be asking it from you. 

5. Experience riding in the TOP LOAD on your way to Buscalan!


1. Bring your own food and water. Cooking is free, if you are going to stay with Charlie. Also, his niece will help you in preparing and they will be the one to do the dishes. There are no convenient stores nearby and the market is in Bugnay or Bontoc.

2. Bring extra cash, there are no ATM or Banks in the area.

3. Be cautious of the time, the public jeep bound for Bontoc leaves at 8 in the morning! In our case, we missed it and have to walk 5 kilometers of rough road under the scorching sun! Gaaaaahhh!

4. Prepare 300 - 1000 Php if you are getting a tattoo. There are no fix rates, it will all depend on Apo Whang - Od. 

5. Apo Whang - Od is very popular, expect a lot of tourists are visiting her. Be prepared to be in line just to get a tattoo and also prepare yourself that there is a chance that you will not get a tattoo. Anyway, they say Grace's work is better than Apo. 

6. Bring your jackets it really gets cold at night or even bring extra blanket or malong.

7. Interact with locals! Greet them whenever you see them, it's a way of showing respect. Participate in their local celebrations and explore their culture, respect it.

8. There is a curfew and lights are usually turned off at 10pm. Also, be mindful of Charlie's house rules like no footwear inside the house and bathroom.

9. If you are commuting your way to Buscalan, be sure to have an agreement with the jeepney driver on the time of their trip going back to Bontoc the next day. There are no cellular signal in the area for smartphones.


This is my giveaway to you guys! This was our itinerary coming from Banaue. (You may check my Travel Guide to Banaue

Day 1
10:00 am ETD for Bontoc via Van
12:00 nn ETA Bontoc | Lunch and buy stuff
3:00 pm ETD for Buscalan 
4:00 pm ETA jump - off of Buscalan | Start Trek
4:30 pm ETA Buscalan Village | Unlimited Coffee
5:00 pm Prepare dinner or join an activity in the village

Day 2
5:00 am Wake up! Start your day early, Apo Whang - Od is ready! Get your tattoo!
8:30 am Start trek going back to the jump - off (Since we missed the jeep, we walked more than an hour to reach Bugnay! That is 5 kilometers of rough road!
10:00 am Breakfast at a small store in Bugnay while waiting for a jeep that is bound for Bontoc
11:00 am Ride a jeep going to Bontoc
12:00 nn ETA Bontoc | Lunch

You may opt to do a sidetrip to Sagada OR  you may go straight to Baguio or Banaue and catch a bus back to Manila.

Total breakdown of budget for this trip (excluding stay with Charlie + Fare from Manila)
Van Banaue to Bontoc - 150
Lunch at Bontoc - 75
Groceries for food in Buscalan - 125
Jeep Bontoc to Buscalan - 100
Village Fee - 50f
Tip for porters - 70 
Jeep Bugnay to Bontoc - 80
Lunch at Bontoc - 75


Verdict of Tara Gumala:
Buscalan has many things to offer besides its famous Apo Whang - Od. I will definitely go back to this cultural place with my friends and have my tattoo! This should be one of your destinations when you do a Cordillera trip. Everything is cheap here and some are free!

This is a perfect weekend getaway with your friends, reconnect with your culture and cultivate it. Have your tattoos done and be proud of your ethnic race! We all share the same blood. :)



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Commentary : Death of a tourist in Palawan

(c) CNN Philippines

Few weeks ago, this news about a tourist who died because of stepping on a coral, shook all travelers who enjoys going to the beach. Different kinds of commentary were done but who is to blame for this incident? Before that, I want to send my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Miguel Ruiz.
(C) Chris Chug

This is my opinion (as a traveler who loves being in the beach and a social worker):

Well, when you are in the wild, expect these kind of things to happen. I mean, why would you blame other people, especially those locals (bangkero) in Coron for not having a training on CPR??? It should be the DOT's responsibility to train them. On one end, no matter what you know about CPR, when you are poisoned, you can't do anything about it. You could have prevented it, if you are more cautious.

Accept it, we do not have a great facility when it comes to health and we barely have clinics on every town. Some will even need to cross rivers, oceans or mountains just to get to the nearest hospital. Most of the hospital that offer high quality of health services are in the Metro, as well as most of our trained professionals.  We could do something about this, let the government know that each one of us, specially those in the far flung areas need health services that is accessible and affordable.

Lesson learned:
1. Wear proper swimming gear whenever you are on the beach. Aqua shoes will be your life saver.
2. Bring your own first aid kit or check if the agency/tourist guide has.
3. Be very cautious of your surroundings.
4. When you are in the wild, even if it a tourist place, expect that there are other creatures stronger than you. Be always vigilant.
5. Never blame the bangkero for not doing anything or not knowing anything. They are good and innocent people who just do their job, which is to transport guest to the tourist attractions. If you are to blame someone, blame the government for not taking actions to address these kinds of issues! The government just keep on reacting whenever a situation happens, what we need is a pro-active government. Remember that prevention is always better than cure! :)




Sunday, July 26, 2015

Solo Backpacking Trip to Cebu

Here I am venturing on my FIRST S-O-L-O trip to a place that I do not know anybody or have a knowledge on their dialect. So why did I choose Cebu? Simply because I haven't been there and they say FOOD in Cebu is worth visiting. Here are my reasons why I chose Cebu:

1. Traveler Friendly
2. Food is cheap but delicious "LAMI-AAA"
3. There are several beautiful Beaches you can visit from Northern to Southern Part of Cebu.
4. So many travel blogs about Cebu, you will never get lost.
5. I haven't been there!

Anyway, I am going to share with you guys my TOP FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER when venturing on your FIRST S-O-L-O BACKPACKING.


A handy backpack is your top priority when traveling, it should carry all your stuff needed for your trip. Months before my trip, I got a backpack that was on sale. At first, I was hesitant because it is the most expensive bag I will ever had if I buy it BUT my partner said that it will be useful in all my travel. Anyway, I bought the Berghaus Bioflex Light 35 Rucsack.


There are soooooo many travel blogs about Cebu! Just ask Google about it or better ask a travel blogger like ME! ahem. haha! Looking at different blogs made me decide to visit Bantayan and Malapascua mainly because I love white sand beaches and enjoys long driving.

Always know the Do's and Don't s of a place your visiting. It pays to respect their culture! :) Credit to several blogs that I have read!!! Thank you so much, I could not do it without your guidance. Tagging Lakwatsero, Travel with Chichi and Traveling Panda.

Photo Credit: Google

I know Cebu is a friendly province but you must consider your safety especially if you are traveling alone. I am a practical or control freak traveler, I want everything in place when traveling. I don't want any hustle and bustle of looking for a place to stay, gaaah! It is such a waste of time.

Months before my trip I was all set! I booked everything in advance especially where I will stay and how to get to places. As in, I have my itinerary on my tablet, which is from my mom. I never road a taxi whenever I go to places, even coming from airport! There is an app in Google play about Jeepney routes in Cebu, it is so easy to follow!

Note: If you are travelling during peak season, better to book weeks or months before your trip. It can save you a lot of time, money and effort.


It is always cheaper by a dozen, be a "joiner" to other tours. How to do this? Simply talk to the locals (boatmen) and ask if they trips. Usually they will be the one to offer you. My trip to Virgin Island in Bantayan was cheaper because I shared it with a group!


This is really hard especially if you do not know their dialect but don't be a stranger on your own country! It was hard for me at first to connect with people but I manage to keep it simple and smile at people. Keep on interacting with them and as Cebuano says "Iba na kapag may kakilala ka diri" (It pays to know someone in this place). 


Too much of anything will harm you, just keep it balanced. Be adventurous, try new things, new food, new activities that you rarely do in the Metro BUT always stay safe and alert.You should know yourself, especially your limitations and always secure your things.

Take a leap of faith but be careful during your leap. ;)

That's it. So where will be your first S-O-L-O backpack trip? Share it with me!



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mudhike at Mt. Manalmon

Mt. Manalmon, San Miguel, Bulacan

This hike was organized by BaseKamp Galleria, a shop selling outdoor stuff and organizing budget hike for marketing purposes. It was not our first time to join their event and I vouch that they are great with what they are doing. 

Mt. Manalmon is part of the historical Biak - na - Bato National Park in San Miguel, Bulacan. From Manila it is just 2 hours drive from Manila. Mt. Manalmon is famous for its Rock Formation and the monkey bridge at the Madlum River (which was featured in the Bear Brand Commercial). Summer is the best time to visit this place because the trail is dry and you can do river crossing, plus the water is clear.

Ikaw saan ka kumukuha ng tibay mo?

Anyway, this hike was rescheduled because of a storm and you know what happens to the mountain after a storm. MUD! Yes, we were welcomed by mud. I was not prepared for it and even my shoe gave up for too much mud. :( The hike would have been easier if the trail was dry! Haii. I will do a revenge hike for this. Probably when my schedule permits. 

Here is a sample itinerary:

5:00 AM Ride a bus that is bound for Cabanatuan (via Bulacan) *Baliwag Transit has an hourly trip going to Cabanatuan. 
7:00 AM ETA San Miguel and take a tricycle to jump - off 
8:00 AM ETA Jump - Off, Register at Sitio Madlum get guides at community
8:30 AM Start trek
10:00 AM ETA summit of Mt. Manalmon; take pictures. Have lunch
12:00 NN Start descent
2:00 PM Side trip at Madlum and/or Bayukbok Caves (Optional)
4:00 PM Try Monkey Bridge at Madlum river
5:00 PM Freshen up | Travel to the main road
6:00 PM Bound for Manila
8:00 PM Home Sweet home!

For the registration and guide fees you may inquire with this number. (0948) - 916 - 3928. This is Sir Lian our guide in this hike. He is friendly and even let me borrow his hammock when I decided to just stay at the registration while I waited for my team to return from the Bayukbok Cave. 

VERDICT OF TARA GUMALA: Mt. Manalmon is a very easy hike what makes it challenging was the excruciating mud! It is a must visit for beginners during summertime. I will definitely comeback and do a revenge hike.