Saturday, March 26, 2016

Travel Guide to Cagbalete Island X Dahoyhoy Falls

Holy Week Escapade

Loving the Sunrise!

Heyyy! Summer has officially started, we all can feel it! The heat index has gone up and people are starting to go out as the school year has ended. I have been organizing trips with and for my friends for the past year and as the summer started, Elvis and I thought that we should go on a trip that is near the Metro and somehow avoid the crowded place. We thought of Cagbalete Island in Quezon, which is just 3 hours drive from Manila and has a good colleague who owns a resort in the island, her name is Ms. Jen Torre. Too bad that I was not able to have a picture with her,  we were so busy that day, but here's a 360 view of the whole resort.

Dahoyhoy Falls

Mauban, Quezon is a first class municipality in Quezon, it was made famous because of Cagbalete, as it is the main jump - off going to the island. Mauban has many things and sights to offer, more than the white sand beach of Cagbalete. They have several waterfalls, one of which is the Dahoyhoy Falls. Not famous to all, as this place is only reachable by foot or bike.  If you are into rustic vibes, they have several ancestral houses that were built during the spanish era.

Panoramic view of the island during low tide


Cagbalete Island is a small island in the eastern part of Mauban, Quezon. It is famous for its long stretch of creamy white sand. It may not be fine as compared to Calaguas or Boracay but if you love white sand combined with crystal clear water, Cagbalete will be your best option. Plus, it has the perfect sunrise! 


1. Via private car

From Manila, you can either take SLEX or Manila East Road/R5. If via SLEX, you can exit at Turbina then off to Calamba - Los Banos - Pagsanjan - Cavinti - Lucban - Mauban.  If via R5, you will pass through almost all the municipalities in Rizal and Laguna.

2. Via public vehicle
Your jump off point will be Lucena, as this is the grand terminal in Quezon. Going to Lucena is very easy as there are lots of bus companies offering hourly trip going there. From Lucena, you can either ride a bus or vans that goes straight to Mauban.

*Once you've reached Mauban, proceed to the port area and ride either Private or Public Boat to Cagbalete. 

Disclaimer: Sorry, I have no idea how much is the bus fare as we rented a van on our way to Mauban. 
*** For Van Inquiries: You may call Sir Macq at 0998 - 5615 - 736.

The public boat only costs 70 Php per head while the private boat ranges from 2,000 Php to 5,000 Php for a two - way trip. If time is of the essence, renting a boat is your best option. During holy week, expect high volume of tourist wanting to visit the island, waiting time for a public boat could take you up to more than 4 hours.


1. Again, if you are visiting the place during peak season, securing your return trip is highly recommended. Negotiate with your boatmen and ensure that you have their numbers just in case they forget your pick up time.

2. If commuting, ensure that you get back at Mauban Port before lunchtime as there are limited trips going to Manila via JAC Liner.


2:00 AM Meet up at Jolibee Shaw
2:30 AM Travel to Cagbalete
7:00 AM ETA at Cagbalete (We were caught in traffic at SLEX)
7:00 AM Secured tickets at the port, waited for an available boat.
11:00 AM Travel to Cagbalete Island
12:00 NN ETA Cagbalete Island, Pitch Tent, Lunch
4:00 PM Socials
7:00 PM Dinner, Party at the Beach, Socials!
5:00 AM Wake up, watch sunrise
6:30 AM Island Hopping
9:30 AM Heavy Breakfast, Wash up
10:30 AM Break Camp
12:00 NN ETD for Mauban Port
1:00 PM Lunch, Wash up
3:00 PM Travel to Dahoyhoy Falls
3:30 PM Trek to Dahoyhoy Falls
5:30 PM Travel back to Manila
8:00 PM Dinner at Emin and Mila's Canteen in Pagsanjan
12:00 MN ETA Manila

Our Budget: 1,500 Php (inclusive of all transpo, environmental fees and food) 


1. It would be best if you have a contact at Cagbalete Island, it makes all thing easier. :) Luckily, I have an angel who owns a place in Cagbalete, her name is Ms. Jen Torre of Joven's Blue Sea Beach Resort. She is very accommodating and answered all my queries plus, their rates are reasonably priced. Be sure to book your next trip with them.

2. You will curse the place during low tide. HAHA! We were forced to walk under the scorching heat of sun just to ride a boat because they could not dock at the shore. Looking on the bright side, hello sand bar! Perfect time to travel to Cagbalete Island from Mauban Port is at 6 in the morning. Low tide starts at 9 in the morning and ends around 4 in the afternoon.

Vandalized Sand bar! 

Tent City!
3. The electricity is only from 6pm - 6am. You don't need it anyway! :)

4. Cagbalete is one of the best places for sunrise. Be sure to wake up early and capture the magical moment. Plus, during holy week expect a blood moon! :)

A couple enjoying the blood moon.

Las Chicas!

5. During peak season each resort has their own way of keeping the whole island alive e.g. live bands, strobe lights, fireworks, fire dancers, etc.
Dinner time!

6. The best time to do island tour is between 4pm - 6pm (sandbar is visible and witness the sunset) or 6am-8am (best time for snorkeling and perfect lighting for photo shoot). The tour usually range from 1,500 to 2,000 which is good for 10 pax.

7. Bring extra cash because there are no ATM in the island and bring all the things you need before heading to the island e.g. drinking water, food and booze. *wink*

This is Sir Edgardo, you can contact him with this number (0907) 854 5945 if you want to visit Dahoyhoy Falls
8. Make sure you visit Dahoyhoy Falls before you go back to Manila. It is a perfect side trip for your Cagbalete Trip. Dahoyhoy Falls is just 10 minutes away from Mauban Market and 30 minutes walk from the jump - off area. You can ask for assistance at the the tourism office.

Jump off

Diyosa ng Tubig!
With the whole gang!

9. Before heading back to Manila, be sure to try Emin and Mila's Canteen in Pagsanjan, Laguna. "Mura na, Masarap pa!"

Verdict of Tara Gumala: Cagbalete Island is a must visit if you are looking for a white sand that is quite near the metro: perfect for weekend warriors! If you are a fan of white sand beaches, you'll definitely enjoy this island, its long-stretch of white sand will leave you breathless (literally and figuratively). 

Joven's has the best view for sunrise!

PS: Watch our video Cagbalete Island X Dahoyhoy Falls trip last Holy Week. Shot by Xperia Z5!



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Visita Iglesia in Tarlac and Pampanga

A Holy Week Special
7 Churches in 12 Hours

What does Visita Iglesia means? According to Rappler, Visita Iglesia or Church Visit is a Holy Week practice where devotees visit and pray in at least 7 separate churches. It morphed into a form of pilgrimage and meditation for the Holy Week, and also a form of seeking penance for sins. Superstition even has it that wishes would be granted upon completion of a Visita Iglesia. 

This holy trip is becoming a yearly thing in our office. We started it last year and visited 7 churches in Laguna and Quezon. This year, I was the one in-charge of looking for churches that we could visit. We are very particular with the churches we choose to visit, it must be old, a church that holds history. Also, I personally love to visit old churches, I feel reconnected to my past. 

Anyway, I am going to share with you guys out itinerary for our Visita Iglesia. We left Manila at 5 in the morning and arrived at 7 in the evening. 

Sir Ronald Sanchez beside his new Toyoto GL Grandia
You can do it also or choose other churches. I highly suggest that you hire a van/car whenever you are doing visita iglesia as it will save you more time. In that case, I personally recommend Sir Ronald Sanchez, you can reach him with this number, +63-932-255-3733, a very techie and polite driver I have ever met. He uses a navigation app and you don't have to worry about getting lost plus his van is spacious enough for 11 people. He was referred by Sir Macq, who also have a wide network of vans for hire, +63-998-561-5736. If you are looking for a van, you may contact Sir Macq, just tell him that you were referred by me and he will give you discounts. :)

Here are the churches we visited:

1. St. Josemaria Escriva, Gerona, Tarlac
A newly built church dedicated to the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva. This luxurious church is in Bgy. Maspac, Gerona, Tarlac and it is only 10 minutes away from Pura/Gerona Exit in TPLEX and an hour away to Monasterio de Tarlac.

With Fr. Ato

the so - called "drive thru" of the church, for those who need to feed their soul

2. Monasterio De Tarlac, San Jose, Tarlac
Where the 30Ft statue of Risen Christ is standing. Monasterio De Tarlac became popular and going there is really easy, you just have to follow the signs. One could take TPLEX and exit at Victoria or exit at Tarlac in SCTEX. Monasterio is 30 - 40 minutes away from Tarlac City.

A very scenic place

Since the chapel is small to accommodate large number of devotees, the station of the cross is in the quadrangle.
Statue of Risen Christ

3. San Bartolome Parish Church, Lacson Street, Magalang, Pampanga
From Monasterio De Tarlac, this is an hour and a half drive but I suggest that you skip this church and just head your way to Angeles especially if it is already past 11AM. The best alternative here is the Apung Macalulu Church.

Note that they're closing the church at lunch time
This is interesting, those are tombs

4. Holy Rosary Parish Church, Angeles, Pampanga
This is situated at the downtown of Angeles. I love the ambiance of this place, very rustic. There are old houses around the area which were turned to business but still managed to restore it. This church is part of the 7 Holy doors in Pampanga.

We were able to witness a wedding. <3

5. Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando
Don't be confused with this cathedral, the google map will tell you that it is along McArthur Highway but the truth is, it is located at downtown of San Fernando, facing the Capitol. This church is also part of the 7 Holy doors of Pamapanga.

7 churches of Holy Doors.

6. St. James the Apostle Parish Church commonly known as Betis Church, Guagua, Pampanga
Among the churches we visited, this is my favorite. It may look old and shattered on the outside but inside it is full of saints and painting. It may be rustic but I love every piece of it. I love the wooden floor, the walls that were hand painted and the simplicity of it. This is a must visit church in Pampanga, plus every lenten season they have a museum which showcases the life of Christ and some of the Saints. 

The Museum
Inside of the Betis Church

7. Santa Rita De Cascia Parish Church, Dalan Betis Rd, Santa Rita, Pampanga
This is the final church for our Visita Iglesia. The church was crowded because of devotees from Diocese of Antipolo, they almost filled the church. The church is renovating but they still preserved the outside structure. 

The Exhibit during Lenten Season
The facade of Sta. Rita Church

That ends our Visita Iglesia, I hope this post helped you decide where to go on your next church visit. I think no matter what your religion is, visiting old churches is still a must do in traveling if you are into history and culture. Visiting churches will not just feed your soul but also feed your knowledge about the churches you visit. 

Verdict of Tara Gumala: Pampanga will not just feed your soul but also your tummy. This is a perfect place to visit churches and to be gastronomic.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Great Mt. Amuyao Traverse (Barlig - Battad)

My First Major Hike

No clearing at the summit of Mt. Amuyao but still worth taking picture
(c) John Barcellano (Most of the pictures from this post are from his GoPro)

A - Assault

M - Muddy (SOBRA) because of the rain

U - Unli Descent as in 1,500+ Meters Steep and Slippery!

Y - Yikes, Limatik!

A - Ayoko na! Pagod na koooo!

O - Olryt, NATAPOS KO!

Mt. Amuyao is the 10th Highest Mountain in the Philippines. It is situated in Barlig, Mt. Province and 2,702 MASL (Meters Above Sea Level).  According to +Pinoy Mountaineer, the Mt. Amuyao Traverse is the most challenging trail compared to Mt. Ugo and Mt. Napalauan Traverse. It is the most challenging as it will require you 3 days to finish this trail. You will pass through the mountainous areas of Barlig, then to the scenic village of Pat-yay then a very challenging and lengthy descent trail going to Cambulo then a walk in a park going to Battad, home of the amphitheater-like terraces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Mind that the trail difficulty of Mt. Amuyao Traverse is 8/9! I say that this is the most challenging hike I have ever experienced. I was not expecting that it was that hard but still thankful and blessed to have my team as they helped me finished this trail despite almost giving up. Among the 100 hikers that long weekend, only the 5 of us were able to finish the whole traverse altogether, plus we were the first group to arrive in Battad. Despite all the hardships, we still managed to finish the whole traverse. I know it was not a race but still felt proud that I was the first woman to finish the traverse that weekend. #WomanPower

Entry Point
If you want to do the traverse, like what we did, your entry point will be at Sitio Macalana, Barlig, Mt. Province which is 2 - 3 hours away from Banaue. And your exit point will be at Battad Rice Terraces, Banaue, Ifugao which is 30 - 45 minutes away from Banaue. When we say traverse, in layman's term, it means not going back to where you started, your entry point will not be your exit point. As simple as that, so don't be confused when someone asked you if you will be doing a traverse hike. *feeling expert* haha.

Exit Point

From Manila
- Ride a bus bound for Banaue. Dangwa Transit has a daily trip to Banaue, departing Manila at 10 in the evening. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance, like a day before. You will arrive in Banaue around 6 in the morning.
- Upon arriving at the terminal, you must purchase your ticket back to Manila, to secure a seat.

From Banaue
- You can rent a van/jeep going to Barlig but if you are on a tight budget. You can ride a public van/jeep bound for Bontoc then from Bontoc, you can ride a habal-habal or jeep going to Barlig.

You may contact Sir Joel Tindungan, +63 936 - 292 - 4890. He is from Banaue and owns a jeep. He has been transporting hikers from Banaue to Barlig for years.


If you do the traverse, Battad will be your exit point.

From Battad
- There are habal - habal/jeep that you can rent going to Banaue, just prepare some bucks, or have a contacted driver pick you up at Battad. Then, from the saddle point, it will only take you 30 - 45 minutes to reach Banaue.

Tip: Try riding on the top load on your way back to Banaue. :)


February 24, 2016 (Wednesday)
9:00PM Meet up at Kamias, Florida Bus Terminal
10:00PM Bound for Banaue

February 25, 2016 (Thursday)
6:00AM Arrived at Banaue | Register and Buy tickets bound for Manila | Meet our contact driver | Breakfast | Buy food and supplies at the Market
8:30 AM Bound for Barlig
11:00 AM Arrived at Barlig | Register and meet tour guide | Early Lunch and Repack
12:30 PM Go to Barangay and register
1:00 PM Start Ascend

Barlig's Viewpoint (No Clearing but still beautiful)
It was like you are in a garden

6:30 PM Arrived at the Summit, stay at the bunker or set up camp.

February 26, 2016 (Friday)
5:00 AM Wake up | Hope for a clearing | Breakfast | Picture Taking | Break Camp

 A little bit of clearing! Huhu
7:40 AM Start Descent
9:00 AM Arrived at Waiting Shed | Rest

With the HARDCORE Mountaineers

9:15 AM Start Descent

1:00 PM Arrived at Pat - Yay Village | Lunch

Pat- Yay is my favorite. No establishments and most of the houses are still native.
2:30 PM Start trek going to Cambulo (Unli Descent and if you are lucky enough, the trail is so muddy because of the rain) I almost gave up but good thing Elvis and Macq were there to helped me get through that trail. It was steep and slippery because of the mud.
10:00 PM Arrived at E-Camp, house of Tatay Ricky | Rest

*** It took us 14 hours just to reach the house of Tatay Ricky, we were really exhausted, good thing he offered his house and there is a free flowing water that is somehow safe for drinking.

February 27, 2016 (Saturday)
6:00 AM Wake up | Prepare things
7:00 AM Start trek to Cambulo (Centro)

8:30 AM Arrived at Am-way Tavern | Brunch

L-R : Moses (Guide), Macq, Penny, Gab, Elvis, Raul (Am-way Owner) and John
10:30 AM Trek to Battad
12:00 NN Arrived at the View point of Battad| Take Picture | Drink ice cold beer while enjoying the view.

3:00 PM Arrived at the Saddle Point | Ride Jeep bound for Banaue
4:00 PM Arrived at Banaue | Hot Shower at People's Lodge and Restaurant | Dinner
7:30 PM Go to Dangwa Bus Terminal
8:00 PM Travel back to Manila

February 28, 2016 (Sunday)
5:00 AM Arrived at Manila
6:00 AM Home sweet home!

TOTAL EXPENSES FOR OUR TRIP (Note: Some expenses were divided into 5)

530 Php - Bus ticket to Banaue
50 Php - Registration Fee at Banaue
50 Php - Registration Fee at Barlig
20 Php - Environmental Fee at Sitio Macalana
150 Php - Stay at Ricky's Native House
50 Php - Heritage Fee at Battad
80 Php - Food and Supplies (400 Php)
1,100 Php - Rent of Jeep going to Barlig and pick up at Battad (5,500 Php)
900 Php - Guide Fee (4,500 Php for 3 days, 1,500 Php per day)
495 Php - Personal food expenses for the whole trip
530 Php - Bus ticket to Manila
3,955 Php


1. Make sure you are all experienced mountaineers. This traverse is not for beginners though if you really want, your guts can take you to the top plus you will definitely have a hard time on the traverse trail.

2. Make sure you have all the necessary things needed for this trip like jacket, emergency blanket, flashlight/head lamp, whistle, trail food, water, proper clothing, socks, cap, raincoat, tent/ sleeping bag.

3. It will be best if you have a pre - climb, so that you will know what to do, expect and bring. A pre - climb is a meeting / hike prior to the climb.

4. Get a local guide from Barlig, as they know how to preserve the trail and handle the hikers. I highly recommend Moises Lamaton, you may contact him with this number +63 935 - 854 - 9642. The trails are a bit confusing and having him as our guide made this whole traverse easier.

Moises is the one wearing Blue Shirt. He took care of us during the whole hike. 
5. Be prepared for unlimited mud, especially when it rained as the forest is very mossy, and limatik.
I suggest that you wear a legit trekking shoes and high knees socks.

6. When walking on the rice fields, be very cautious. I was disappointed to see some hikers who stepped on the newly planted rice. Haiiiiiiiiii!

7. Never leave your group, you should always stick with them because worst comes to worst they will always have your back.

Our team composed of Elvis, Macq, John and Penny! :)
8. If you were too exhausted when you reached Pat - yay, you may opt to cut the traverse and make your way to Mayaoyao, Ifugao which is 5 -6 hours trek but on a more established trail. Some groups did this according to our guide. Also, if you reached Cambulo, there are jeeps or habal habal going to Banaue.

9. Bring cash, as there are no banks/ ATM in Barlig, Patyay and Cambulo. :D Food at Cambulo and Battad are relatively expensive.

10. Make sure you enjoy your hike and just keep on walking!

Verdict of Tara Gumala: It was a very challenging hike for me, not recommended for beginners. I suggest that if the weather is not good, do not proceed. The trail is really muddy. I will definitely go back to Amuyao but will no longer do the traverse and just explore the hidden attractions of Barlig.