FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN – TRAVELLING SOLO?

Many people are too afraid of travelling solo. They have a lot of “maybes” and we all know that “Maybe” will always be a “What if”. Since I vented out my frustrations on travels I have to admit that I also went to that stage where I found myself wasting a lot of time thinking about it over and over again, struggling a lot until I finally get to set aside those “maybes”. I never had a second thoughts instead I had tons of thoughts before I finally made it.

It could be really scary and risky but sometimes you just have be brave, trust your instincts and be smart. Yes! Your instinct and be smart because travelling alone can only be scary when you act like bozo. You can have all the fun you want but never ever fool around when travelling, solo or not. Oh! Travelling alone and travelling with a group is both a fun thing to do but there will be times that people won’t be there for you or might have conflicts to accompany you in your travel but it should not hinder you from exploring places far from your comfort zone.

I actually like doing solo trips! (But don’t get me wrong I would love to travel with my friends as well. I am just patiently waiting and if time permits for all of us to travel in one place I would be really really be happy!) So going back with why I also like travelling alone, well it is because you really never travel alone… Lol. Eventually you will meet a lot of people, mostly the good ones. Of course your adventure wouldn’t be complete if you won’t allow your self to meet or even just have a little chat with a stranger. Just be careful in giving informations! Trust me it’ll be fun. And when you get to share a good laugh and experience with them the feeling is so exhilarating at the same time you’ll get to appreciate yourself, the environment and learn something from other people as well. You have to let yourself live and be able to see that there is a lot more to life than your fears and worries.

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BIYAHE NI DRA SA NUEVA ECIJA – Minalungao National Park

This journey started in an unexpected way and in an ordinary friday night out when my friend from the states came home and wished to see us. After our dinner at RW we had good times at Center stage, Pasay, then drove up in Intramuros.  Got hyped ’til 3am maybe we really missed each other.

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With Eiji, Karima and Karoa. ❤

It’s almost 4am when Eiji and I parted away from Karima and Karoa. Since we don’t wanna go home yet I took my wallet and saw it had 1800php left. I wonder where it can get us, somewhere nice and near the metro then I remember this awesome Minalungao National Park in Nueva Ecija! I saw it in multiple blog post raving how good the place was and so then I decided to bump it up to the top of my bucket list. No saturday class this week plus my football tournament was cancelled, the time is perfect to go there, I thought.

We went to my house to change, get some clothes and charge up our phones in a furtive manners. I don’t even know why we acted sneaky when we know everyone’s still in dream land. Croo.

How to Get there? 

Ride a Five Star Bus Company in Kaunlaran, Cubao, Quezon City Metro Manila or in Pasay bound to CabanatuanGAPAN. Tell the bus attendant to drop you at Bucana Gapan. Fare is only 150php and 120php if you have your student ID.

It’s only a 2-3 hrs travel depending on the traffic. Our bus departed at 7am and we reached bucana at 9am. We hired a tricycle routes in Minalungao National Park, a round trip for only 600php. You can still bargain about it.

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Along the way you will pass by the foothills of Sierra Madre range.

And mini rice field terraces!

And rice field terraces!

Nueva Ecija located at Central Luzon is known as the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines” because it’s the biggest rice producer of the country.

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Awed by nature

After a 45 mins ride and upon reaching the park there’s an entrance fee that cost 20php per head plus trike fee is 30php and any car or van is 50php.

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Minalungao National Park- General Tinio Nueva Ecija

Now it’s time to rock your world (literally? Lol!) and see what this park got us. Oh! Don’t forget to hire a tour guide, kids can also be your guide then hand them any amount after.

Eiji posed with a wacky face on the start hike!

Eiji posed a wacky face on the start of the hike!

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There are two ways to enjoy the park, you can either rent a bamboo raft that cost 800php good for 10-15 pax…

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Or hike along the side of gigantic 16 meters limestone!

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My long legged friend. Lol

It’s not hard, it is challenging but don’t ya worry, your tour guide will tell you where to step your feet for an easy trail.

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Penaranda River

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I love caves!

Aside from hiking, swimming and bamboo rafting you can also go for spelunking! There are 3 caves you can enter in Minalungao! You might want to bring flash light for your own convenience.

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I love the greeny color of the river matched with the lushes of grass on both sides of the amazing limestone walls!

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21Who would’ve thought that in just 3 hours away from the metro you can already find this natural hidden gem of Nueva Ecija. This is more than just an earthly pursuits! It is a perfect place for pensive thinking, you know… When you just want to reflect on what you did in the past and what you’re doing now or meditate as well. Allowing your self to get lost with nature. Perfect!

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After a 30-45 minutes hiking you have the choice whether to eat your lunch in one of the stones or…

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you can just eat in your rented bamboo raft or cottages located at the entrance part of the park.

Cottages range from 150-200php.  I would recommend you to buy your own foods ’cause you won’t find any restau or heavy food stall in Minalungao National Park.

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With Mario our little tour guide.

After lunch we went swimming with Mario! The water is cold so I would encourage to stretch yourselves a little before dipping into it to avoid muscle spasm or cramps.

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“Prinsesa” as they call it is the biggest rock formation in Minalungao

For the most exciting part, never miss cliff diving!!!! There are several safe spots for this thrilling activity, ask your tour guide about it!

Note: Remember that it’s more difficult to swim in fresh water than in salt water, why? Because the more denser the salt the easier to float on it.

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The other little tour guide, Rominic.

At first, we had doubts because the tour guide is younger than what we expected, but we were surprise of the way they gave us information about the park. Very informative, we enjoyed listening to Rominic and Mario our two little tour guide. 
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Peace out.

Sometimes best things happens in unexpected ways like this journey of ours. Planning is not really a major, get it done. Explore the secrets of the earth and just like what Pope Francis said, “Allow yourself to be surprised by God.” You will definitely feel blessed, you just cannot contain the happiness, that unexplainable feeling…

So what are you waiting for? Travel up!!

 

16 Most Important Things Every Woman Should Learn

Got hooked. I had too much realisation in one blog. This is so true and really beautiful Stephanie! ❤

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“A woman is a beast. She is as lovely as she is repulsive. She is one part demon and one part goddess, one part slave and one part muse, one part child and one part mother. These contradictions are what makes a woman so intoxicating.”

– Andrea Mary Marshall

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Note: This not just limited to one gender, it’s for everyone. But it is, however, dedicated to the sisterhood.

To every single woman in this world, I dedicate this post to you. May we always strive to become better people.

1. To be brave and to always follow your fears.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”- Anais Nin

If you weren’t afraid of anything, what would you do?

With courage, you are given the power to do anything in the world. We hold ourselves back so much because of fear. I’ve known so many women who have…

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BIYAHE NI DRA SA BATAD, BANAUE IFUGAO!

December 2014.

It’s 4am, I can’t sleep and things are getting rough at home again. I wanted something but I don’t know what that is plus my thesis research, the pressure’s eating me and my mind starts to slow down, there were so many other things that I needed to worry about, it’s crazy, I wonder how much more of this I can take and be gone for another adventure instead. How fun would that be, huh?

Then I saw a post that says whatever’s good for your soul, do that. And so I did. Been reading a lot of travel blogs for hours and the place that had won my heart is tadaaahh, Hello Cordillera. I told my self that, hey, I found the perfect place to stay on Christmas week. Sadly but my buddy’s not in manila, everyone’s too busy, boo hoo, I’ve got no one so before things got worse I’ve decided, I’m going solo.

Random blogs had led me to Ramon’s Native Homestay and Restaurant (Batad, Banaue Ifugao). It’s the most recommended stay inn in Batad by a lot of Filipino blogger. I was so lucky ‘cause they were looking for the last participant to complete their (2Days-1Night) joint group tour package. The package has an inclusion of roundtrip Bus & Jeep transfer, Accommodation, Entrance Fees and Tour guide. Guess what? It had only cost me 2500php! Imagine with all that? Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it surprising? Isn’t exciting? Isn’t it? (With Kim Chui’s accent)

 We travelled by land and the only Bus Company that routes manila to banaue is Ohayami Transit (2014-’15).

Ohayami Transit

OHAYAMI TRANSIT

(Loc.: Corner J. Fajardo A.H. Lacson Sampaloc, Manila near University of Sto. Tomas) As of December   2014, the fare is 450php and advance booking is advise. Bus departs from 9 and 10pm. For more queries you may contact them at 0927- 6493055/02-516051 or visit their website.

Our bus departed manila at 10pm and arrived in Banaue at 6am. We were too early for our planned itinerary so my tour guide took us to Las Vegas lodge and restaurant for breakfast and nestled for a while. There I’ve tasted the best beefsilog ever, so far, so good!

Banaue to Saddle Point

My adventure started after breakfast where we top loaded a jeep. It’s a 45 mins ride from Banaue to Saddle point. I didn’t get a chance for a top load selfie ‘cause the road started to get bumpy and I got too scared. Lol! But it was a thrilling experience tho! But if you want to trek, estimated time to reach Batad would be 2 hours.

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Saddle Point to Batad 

From Saddle Point, the only way to get to Batad is thru trekking because the road is still ongoing for construction. Jhaque (My tour guide) provided us some walking stick but for other tourists they can rent it for 50php. I thought it was weird and cool but later on I realized how one stick can save your ass and can get you up to hill. It’s a lifesaver!

We stopped at Batad View point for a 10-15minutes break. I started to feel weary but seeing this beautiful scenery had struck me, I must go on because I know the real adventure has not yet started!

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Ramon Homestay and Restaurant

We reached Ramon’s homestay at exactly 11am. My legs are shaking, my head is about to give up, and I’m starving that I could actually eat a horse. Brahhh. Good thing my group agreed to take a rest and ordered some foods for lunch.

Foods & Drinks

They offer a menu of Filipino and Continental dish ranging from 150 to 300php. For lunch, I ordered tinolang manok (150php), one native plain rice (25php) and 1000ml nature’s spring bottled water (70php). At first, I felt appalled by the price range but after experiencing the hardships of climbing up, I’ve come into a realization that the price seems fair.

 

 

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Ifugao Nipa Hut

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Animal Skulls underneath the Nipa Hut

 

The food preparation is 1 hour so we checked in our baggage to our designated rooms first. You have the option to take either the regular room or the Nipa hut. Oh! Don’t worry about the collection of animal skulls underneath the Hut. Mang Ramon said it’s their tradition to hang it up to drive away evil spirits.

The Traditional Nipa Hut can accommodate 5 – 7 guests. You can also check it in AGODA.COM.PH

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Window View

Envision waking up to this beautiful Batad view every morning. That time, stress broke up with me.

We finished lunch at exactly 1pm and stretched ourselves for our first destination, the Batad’s highest viewpoint.

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We climbed up!

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Climbed down…

 

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And a few zig zag route

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It can be steep

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You have to be extra careful because one wrong move can tumble you over the cliff.

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Batad Rice Terraces

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Batad Rice Terraces

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But first, let me take a selfie #Haggarda

For about an hour everyone’s already gasping so out of nowhere we stopped, rested for 10mins, strikes a pose ready for a tweet pic with a hash tag nature. Lol. I’m kidding! Hands-up to these remarkable engineering work done by our very own ifugao tribesman with their bare hands, bare feet, minimal help from animals, wood tool and stone!

houseAlong the way you will pass by an ifugao house that sells their cultural artefacts.

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The coolest and the only Blonde Ifugao tour guide in Batad

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As we continue walking in less than 30 minutes we had finally reached the Batad’s Highest Viewpoint.

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Batad’s Highest View Point

Now I know why it’s titled as the “stairway to heaven” and dubbed as the 8th Wonder of the World. Even though the rice is not fully ripen and it wasn’t very green that time, I was astonished and speechless… It had ease the enervation we felt brought by long hikes. From that moment I found myself praying to God, I thanked him for keeping me safe, pushing me forward and letting me see what’s beyond this spectacular and amazing works of ifugaos. And I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” – Sylvia Plath” –Satori

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Tappiya Falls

After trekking the Batad’s highest peak we moved on to our next target, that is the stunning Tappiya falls. We reached it at exactly 4pm, it’s supposed to be just an hour trek away from the highest peak but in our case we were too slow that it had cost us two hours of travel. Lol.

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I was astonished by its beauty!

I am certain that it was all worth it even the effort itself yields it’s own reward. It had thought me about the difference between life’s real triumph and defeat. Tappiya falls had left me completely awestruck; it gave me a chance to reflect and the best time & way to look back at things. We had swum the coldest waterfalls and survived the biggest ice bucket challenge! I am reconnected to life, to earth and to the universe again. My mind’s at peace.

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After dipping for 15 minutes we headed back to Ramon’s home stay. In the middle of our trail I started feeling twinges of pain in my back and my legs are shaking, thanks to kuya Mark (tour guide) who pulled me all through out the trek from tappiya to Ramon’s homestay. Hiking around Batad is a challenge hiking back is even more!

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Ifugao’s way of cooking Native Chicken

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Leemas is showing us how to cook Native Chicken!

It was around 7pm when we arrived at Ramon’s homestay just in time to see Leemas cooking the ifugao’s style native tinolang manok for the guests. It has a pleasant aroma and a very tasty flavor that you don’t wanna miss! Don’t forget to try it with their famous Rice wine, it’s perfect for the weather.

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Batad Kids

Before dinner we had a gift giving activity for the kids of Batad and in return they have prepared an ifugao dance for us but since the temperature hovered into near freezing that night they just sung a thank you song for us.

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Our simple gifts for the kids…

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Groupie!

I really love kids. They are innocent and bubbly they never forget to smile and those beautiful smiles are enough to make our day! I feel glad to be part of something like this. It’s priceless!

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Bonfire to keep us warm and an Ifugao Story Telling as our night ender.

We also had bonfire at night but my group chooses to have a massage and slept early instead because of tiredness. They left me along with the other foreign guests for the Ifugao Story telling about their culture and history hosted by Mang Ramon, he also encouraged us to ask questions, first I was too shy but then I realize how dork I’d be if I’ll miss this opportunity to discover new things, so don’t hesitate to ask about the locals or anything you want to know about Batad!

I love how they gathered guests to exchange and share ideas. This is a great way to learn a lot in a very short time, you get to understand and respect the life of others. You’ll start to find beauty in everything you see. You’ll realise how blessed you are, you’ll appreciate things that you have no matter how big or small they are and most especially you’ll learn to really love life.

To end my night I had an ifugao massage.

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Another foggy morning. Breakfast anyone?

The next morning before my day started I prefer to hold off and eat my meal, I had a pancake with maple syrup, Batad’s peanut butter, mango juice and this perfect morning view for breakfast. Ohhhh. For a moment I thought, I don’t wanna go back to anything, I just wanna stay here.

After finishing my meal I had to face another challenge… That is to take a bath with water cold as ice!

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With the lovely couple Sarah and Carlo.

Wearing their traditional Ifugao costume was one of my favorite part.

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Ifugao’s way of Pounding Rice

Every morning the ifugaos are pounding rice for 20 minutes using this pistol and wood mortar to peel the rice.

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Then they have to separate the rice that was not peeled.

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Unlike in Manila, most people have their breakfast ready in their tables but still complains of the kind of food they have in their plate. And most students have a lot of complains about their love life, their school, their allowance, their wifi connection and other stuff. In Batad, they don’t have a school bus or any ride going to school, instead they wake up early and walk for about 2 hrs for school everyday. They don’t have enough money to buy foods so in the middle of the day they have to walk again for hours to eat their lunch at home and another long walks to return to school for the afternoon class. It’s a really heartbreaking experience for students at a young age yet you wouldn’t hear anything from them.

Ifugaos are intelligent people and very good in speaking in english. So you wouldn’t have any problem communicating to them, specially the elders, they prefer speaking in English than Filipino. If not, you would rather hear them talking in their dialect which is Tuwali.

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Chubbiest ifugao so far! lol

Mang Ramon had also thought me to dance like an ifugao! There are two types of dance in Batad, the first is the Eagle dance which is mostly performed in any occasion and the other one is the War dance. Living in the moment while wearing the ifugao costume makes me feel like a local! (I’ll soon upload the video.)

Sir Joel with The Rice God

They also showed us the Ifugao Rice God known as Bulul or guardian spirits. Ifugaos had converted their religion into Christians but their ancestor are pagans, a religion who worship spirits and Gods of nature. And this Bulul are used in rituals and believed to bring a plenty harvest of rice and protection from any catastrophe.

You cannot take wacky pictures with this bulul to show respect to the spirits that may have lived in it. So be careful.

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Ifugao Elders in Banaue

The sweetest ifugao grannies!

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I wil never forget you guys! You had the most beautiful laughs I’ve ever heard in my life.

From Batad back in Banaue you can take pictures with these cutie ifugao grannies! They will only ask you for “donations” so hand them any amount. And please do so! It’d be a big help for them. This was taken at Banaue’s Highest View Point unfortunately it was too foggy that time we weren’t able to capture the panoramic perspective of the terraces.

Ifugao Wooden Scooter

Don’t miss the chance to ride their improvised scooter! You can rent it for 50php. I never thought Ifugao could be this good woodcarving artisans, it’s normal for them to use this wooden scooter in Banaue as a mean of transportation.

Groupie!

Groupie!

With a group of strangers? Nope! With a different people who shared the same tour guide and experience. Glad to be friends with them now. Some of them are awesome Professors and Principal from different well known schools. And yes I am the youngest and the only solo traveller in the group. Hope our paths will cross again to the near future voyage!

Jhaque with Rambo!

Jhaque with Rambo!

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And of course, I will never forget the awesome and most caring tour guide ever, ate Jhaquelyn Binalet Bastian. So for those who are planning to visit Batad, Banaue I would highly recommend you to her and to Ramon’s Homestay and Restaurant. Thank you for accommodating us, our experience in Homestay will surely be remembered!

I was astonished and found the perfect place. I found peace and complete happiness. I met new friends, locals and foreign. Learned a lot from them. Loved the vibe and my whole journey. In a span of four days, I was able to forget Manila. Things are great in Batad. I fell in love with its beautiful mess and blend of everything! And now it’s time to make things right and apply what I’ve learnt. 

So what are you waiting for? Travel up!