Sunday, February 28, 2016


Location: McKinley Hill, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Phillippines

The newly built Venice Grand Canal

This newest mall with an attraction of architectural design inspired from the Venice Canal of Italy is now operating with a few shops and restaurants for picks of guests and tourists. Even if it just opened, hundreds of visitors and tourists are now crowding the mall most particularly in capturing its picturesque grand canal where gondolas for hire will give a delight to visitors.

The other end of the grand canal

I was checking some blogs to get some facts about it but most of the posts provided no significant information. And so, I have to rely with my first hand experience on how I reached the place.

Capturing a better view from the bridge

I was with my colleague, Allan Revilla De la Trinidad (shown on the above picture) and my eldest sister when I visited the place and we really find it difficult to capture a nice angle shot as people are crowding everywhere. I am thinking of visiting the place again during weekdays to get more shots with less people around.

Taken from the second level of the mall

An inset park in the mall

There are more fine dining restaurants in the mall but a couple or three are fastfoods with standard prices same in other locations like KFC. I just noticed that not all shops are opened yet. Some parts of the mall are still being worked for its completion.

Venice Piazza - the Mall's Facade

Gondola rides along the grand canal just opened last February 13, 2016 and this will only operate during Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 to 11:00 P.M. for P500 per person. A gondola ride in the evening is even better as lights can help the camera capture best results. It can be more romantic and serene as background music will also be aired all along the place.

A wide angle picture of Venice Grandcanal Mall

To know which restaurant will you dine while in the mall, click this link and see what restaurant will you prefer to dine in case you became hungry after an exhausting stroll in the mall.

Taking a rest after being worn out from my stroll

Venice Grandcanal Mall at Night (Photo Credit: Costas Images)


My Personal Option

For me who just resorted to public transportation, I went there through a jeepney ride from my condo unit at City Residences at the back of Jose Rizal University (JRU) taking Hulo Jeepney Route for P7 only and dropped at the boat terminal just after Makati Bridge. Took a motor boat for a minute ride just to cross to the other end of Poblacion, Makati City. Took a jeepney again and lifted near Gate 1 for P7 and took another jeepney to Market Market for P7. From the Market Market, look for the Jeepney Terminal of Gate 3 for P7 and walk down the street maybe three long blocks away.

Another Option

You may find this link useful in visiting this place. After reaching Market Market, look for the Jeepney Terminal of Gate 3 for P7 and walk down the street maybe three long blocks away.


Location: Between 11th Avenue and McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Philippines

Serendra is one of the prime residential projects of Ayala Land, Inc. which is a 12-hectare garden community with European architecture style derived from Tegel Harbor and Germany Berliner Strasse master plans combined with the stone style house or bahay na bato architecture of the Philippines.

Fountains in the garden park in the vicinity of the mall

Serendra provides a gracious suburban lifestyle within the conveniences of the city. From Nicaraguan Jasmine trees, flowering trellises filled with thunbergia, swaying bamboo clusters to ponds filled with koi, Serendra provides a unique garden environment that provides the spirit with an overwhelming sense of calm. And within this private enclave, residents are able to enjoy exclusive amenities such as a dedicated spa, underground badminton, and basketball courts, multiple swimming pools, gyms, and many others.(Wikipedia)

The mall on its splendid European architectural design

The mall itself is a one-stop shop since banks and other financial establishments are housed on it. Tourists find the place as a place of refuge when they want to enjoy its calm ambiance. It was conceptualized in such a way that plants and trees helps to balance its parameter of ecosystem.

Just one of the fine dining restaurants of the mall

Restaurants in this area may come with many choices serving different kinds of local and foreign dishes. It can be observed that most of the people to be seen here are foreigners where some of them work in some of the offices located in BGC.

The stairs leading to the basement carpark


You may find this link useful in visiting this place.


Location: Pasig River, Brgy. Hulo, Mandaluyong City and Poblacion, Makati City

Nightscape at this Pasig River Boat Crossing

This may not be a tourist spot but I was amazed to know that there is a short cut routes from Mandaluyong to Makati City without passing through the traffic jammed Edsa. Aside from minimizing the fare cost, it also helps to save time for those commuting from Mandaluyong to Makati City.

This Pasig River boat port as captured during the day

I do reside in Mandaluyong City and the jeep travel with a route of Hulo which passes through our residence near Jose Rizal University (JRU) Shaw Boulevard Campus is so accessible to me and this public utility jeep drops me right there in the boat terminal Hulo-Mandaluyong side. It is so convenient and I only pay P7 for the jeepney for one way.

The motor service boat

The boat has barely five minutes interval as it only accommodates around 28 passengers for P4.00 one way and the trip is barely a minute to cross to the other end of the river bank.

The enticing riverscape at night with the skyscrapers at the background

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Location: 2135 Aniceto Gueco Street corner NLEX, Barangay Pulung Maragul, Angeles City, 2009 Pampanga, Philippines

I happened to visit MarQuee Mall last February 22, 2016 for the purpose of an application for passport renewal which is housed in the mall at DFA Angeles Extension Office. DFA means Department of Foreign Affairs. However, I only got an appointment for the passport renewal on March 15, 2016 which is such a remote date. Since this is situated in Angeles City, I had the opportunity to tour around the city after I filed my passport appointment. The city has really undergone a massive progress and development compared to the time when I had it visited in 2001.

Establishments near the area of the mall's Cinema section

MarQuee Mall is a 3-floor 9.3 hectare real estate development owned and operated by the North Beacon Commercial Corporation which is a 100% subsidiary company of Ayala Land with a gross floor area of 140,000 square meters. It was opened on September 23, 2009. It opens daily from 10:00 A.M. and closes at 9:00 P.M.

The Activity Area of MarQuee Mall

On the other hand, Angeles City is a first class city of the province of Pampanga, Philippines just 16 kilometers away from the capital city of San Fernando with a land area of 60.27 square kilometers and 82.8 kilometers from Manila. It also has the SM Angeles and a few malls around the city. Under normal traffic conditions, the city can be reached for barely two hours from Manila. As of this writing, I paid a bus fare of P139 (airconditioned) from MarQuee bus terminal to Cubao.

DFA Angeles Extension Office

With over 450 shops and restaurants, one may not be bored strolling around the mall. After I was given my passport appointment date and time, I was hungry then which was at 12:45 Noon and I dined in my favorite Kenny Rogers Restaurant. There are a lot of restaurants to dine with but Kenny Rogers has the meal packages close to my heart and culinary taste.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

After taking my lunch, I took a walk and reached out to visit the mall's Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help which is located on its third floor just the same level of its DFA Extension Office to offer few prayers.

The mall's inviting benches along its spacious lobby

Ayala Land has its reputation of building malls keeping its reputation for lucrative and highly attractive interior and architectural design - a reason for mallers to visit and enjoy its malls spread over the Phililppines.

The mall's Cinema Section

Since it was my firs time to be in this mall and it was still early, I watched in one of its four cinema houses the movie titled "The Choice" top billed by Teresa Palmer as Gabby and Benjamin Walker as Travis.

Creatively designed mall's interior

It's worth to take a walk inside the mall as you will see that a cosmopolitan lifestyle that the metropolitan Manila's malls can offer is also available for the shoppers and mallers in Angeles City which is already a provincial location.

The MarQuee Residences

As I stepped out from the mall, I saw another landmark --- the MarQuee Residences. This residential complex is composed of two towers rising towers of 8- and 14-storey structures which is an integrated community just a few minutes walk from the MarQuee Mall developed by Alveo of the Ayala Land. MarQuee Residences was inaugurated in June 2014.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Location: Itogon, Benguet

Entry point: Brgy. Ampucao, Itogon
Exit point: Brgy. Sta. Fe, Itogon
LLA: 16.2904 N, 120.6312 E, 1846 MASL (Mt. Ulap)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-4 hours
Specs: Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3,
Features: Grassland and ridges with pine trees, scenic views of the Cordilleras, burial caves
(Source: Pinoy Mountaineer Website)

The Gungal Rock Formation at 1,814 MASL

I was busy then with my work and I had no plan to climb. However, on January 18, 2016, I saw Pete Zee's Mount Ulap Climb Facebook post. Pete, whom his group of three were our companions in our April 13-14, 2015 Mount Kanlaon Climb, had served to be a person whom I usually ask something about travel and mountaineering activities since then. Upon reading that post, I chat with him and had some queries about the climb. Together with another friend, Retzer Quevedo, we finalized to join the latter's friend group to have the January 24, 2016 Mount Ulap Day Climb.

Late afternoon walk at Burnham Lake with Retzer

Retzer and I left Cubao at 11:09 A.M. on January 23, 2016 boarding Victory airconditioned bus No. 2111 on its Cubao Terminal. We arrived in Baguio City at 4:50 P.M. From the bus terminal, we opted to walk going to the Jeep terminal for our Bokawkan transient house. On our way, we dropped by at Burnham Lake just to unwind.

Standing at Bokawkan Road on my way to my Baguio City's transient house

From Burnham Lake, we walked again uphill heading to Baguio City hall passing thru the Veniz Hotel just four blocks away. Then presto!! we found the jeep terminal heading to La Trinidad though we have to drop somewhere in our transient house where we will stay for overnight.

The Mountainside Lodging House along Bokawkan Road

We really did not know the exact location of our transient house but the jeepney driver as well as the passengers helped us to find its address at No. 51 Bokawkan Road under the name of Mountainside Logding House. There, we finally met Retzer's friend with his friends for a total of 16 where they opted to be in Baguio earlier of the day leaving Cubao on the eve of January 22, 2016. We were provided with four rooms at a rate of P300 per person. Not bad for an overnight stay. Retzer and I had dinner at the downtown and some evening walk to chill out feeling the cool Baguio for a change.

The Ambunao Paoay Peak at 1,788 MASL

As early as 2:00 A.M. on January 24, 2016, our group were already up from our beds to prepare. At exactly 3:00 A.M., our chartered jeepney picked us from our transient house. However, we were delayed since we dropped at 7-Eleven opposite the Victory Terminal to buy some food and other necessities.

The piled rocks at the peak of Ambanao Paoay

We then left Baguio City at almost 3:30 A.M. heading along the Ampucao-Philex route and arrived at Ampucao's barangay hall at 4:10 A.M. It was just timely for some of us to have their breakfast at the barangay hall and at the same time to register at a fee of P100 per head. One can buy noodles and some other basic food necessities at the barangay hall.

Majestic sunrise along the mountain slopes of Ambanao Paoay

Prior to our climb, our Expedition Leader had already contacted guides for our group. Unfortunately, they did not show up and so, we randomly took one guide for our group instead of a required two since we were all 18. His name is Jipson Pis-oy. There were a couple of group of climbers ahead of us.

A relaxing trek along the slopes of Ambanao Paoay

It was still dark when we started the trek even if we started at 4:55 A.M. and so we used headlights and flashlights. First, we trailed through a concrete road with a number of houses along it. The air was crisp and we were breathing fresh air everywhere.

Still a part of Ambanao Paoay trail

Our first hour of trek was still dark. What you can see are lined up lights along the trail since we were a total of four groups who climb together. Looking closely at our trail, we can see that we were trekking along a pine tree dotted slope. Occasionally, the trail becomes steep and some may even request for a quick rest.

A lone tree against the backdrop of the blue sky and white clouds

Gradually, the dramatic sunrise was peeping through the skies. It was then that we witness in awe that we have trailing are densely pine forested. The nearby mountains such as Mount Pulag, Mount Ugo and Mount Sto. Tomas were visible to our naked eyes.

An open clearing showcasing the nearby mountains

As I trekked, I realized how easy was the climb. It was cheaper and the preparations are not as that of Mount Pulag. It was still fresh to me that in my third climb in Mount Pulag dated November 27-29, 2015, we failed to reach the summit and nobody in our huge batch of climbers were allowed to camp somewhere but only at Ambangeg.

Just a picturesque cliff photo but not yet the Gungal Rock

If you wanted to an easy climb, just pick Mount Ulap where it is jusst as equally rewarding like that of Mount Ulap though it does not have the sea of clouds. However, if you trek this mountain, you would consider this as an event since wherever you turned with amounts to a scenic view that you will really be in total awe.

Just one of the assaults leading to Gungal Rock

The scenery you will see when you climb in Mount Ugo can be seen in Mount Ulap but the former is a major climb and it has a series of cardiac assaults. Trekking can be longer and exhausting in Mount Ugo and the budget is even more expensive.

Capturing the scenic backdrop

As the sunrise completes its glorious showdown, every slopes of grassland somewhat turned into gold. It was so amazing to see it. We can't stop but to be lo and behold and snap some photos. Every angle was just completely amazing. I was absolutely speechless and only my camera was on its complete senses capturing as many shots as it can.

Standing stunned with the captivating view around

With less effort and sporting a somehow a malling walk, the joy I felt in every step of mine was just tremendous. It was such an awesome experience. Our group were completely stunned with the beauty of the mountain and we were with few words along our trek but continuously being mesmerized with what we see.

Consoling a lonely dead tree

Alas!!! I've seen another showcase of beauty!!! It was the Ambanao Paoay!! I begged from our guide to scale it thinking it was out of way, but he said, it is really a part of the climb. Without any delay, I ran down with reckless abandon and reaching the foot of the slope, I rushed like a marathon runner scaling up the peak of Ambanao Paoay with an elevation of 1,788 MASL or 5,866.14 feet above sea level.

Braving the heights of the Gungal Rock

Descending the Ambanao Paoay at 6:44 A.M. was just the start of unending scenic treats unfolding to our naked eyes. It was then that trekking became just gradual. Fortunately, that day was not really that hot. I did not even bother to use my umbrella tucked in my backpack.

The trek continued after the Gungal Rock experience

We were on a cliff at 7:33 A.M. and it even took time because we have to fall in line to have our own moment for picture taking. When I asked our guide what was the name of the cliff, he just said it has no name.

Capturing the Gungal Rock at a far distance

Finally, we were at the Gungal Rock at 8:32 A.M. It was jammed packed with climbers who wanted to have their own solo souvenir shot. Others did not dare to try conquering its height. They were just contented watching those whose souls were brave enough to have their solo picture taken on top of it.

One more look around down the hills, mountain slopes and other neighboring mountains

Though Gungal Rock is fast becoming the trademark of Mount Ulap, this is the ultimate goal in climbing the mountain because it is only 1,814 MASL or 5,951.44 feet above sea level. There is more! that is, conquering its summit.

That is my dramatic ascent to the summit

The summit of Mount Ulap is recorded at 1,846 MASL or 6,056.43 feet above sea level. As far as I knew, major climbs should have an elevation of 5,000 feet or more. But this mountain considering its degree of difficulty at 3 and can be done at a half-day hike is categorized under a minor climb.

The camp site just below the summit

Ascending to the summit is not really in cardiac assault level of difficulty. It has somewhat well-trimmed grasses and one can enjoy leisurely lying on it. We took time staying on the summit not just for picture taking but to have an ample rest and to savor the moment being on top of everything.

This is the prize of being at the summit

There is enough space on the summit and it has 360 degrees scenic full view. Photographers can capture a variety of shots at the summit and I find close up photos more amazing.

Zooming in the captivating summitmania

I can't believe that we were at the summit at around 9:00 A.M. and I did not even bother to take food because I was not yet hungry then. I just ate one big apple, mango-flavored jelly ace yum and a liter of bottled of water. I was completely occupied capturing pictures.

Passing thru the campsite as we started to descend from the summit

Descending the mountain was really a challenge since the trail is so steep. Though it was even rewarding as you cut through densely-pine tree forested trail. Still on an elevated location, you can see two dams.

The steep trail descending the Sta. Fe Ridge

It was more than an hour of descending the steep trail, somewhat endless at that. From the foot of the ridge, you will pass three hanging bridges and finally a meal station where food is sold at a very minimal cost. Siomai is P5 per piece. Pancit is sold at P25 per serving. There are cold drinks, too. I haven't seen fruits being sold there. After having our lunch there, we trek again passing two more hanging bridges and finally reach the national road where the jeepney going to Baguio awaits us.

We were back in Baguio at around 2:00 P.M. just timely to buy some "pasalubong" for my Ate Rose and friends. At the same time, I accompanied Retzer to roam around the City of Pines. We left Baguio City at 6:00 P.M. boarding a Genesis airconditioned bus and reached Manila at 11:40 P.M. of the same day of January 24, 2016.

Please note that Baguio City is the center of tour activities for those who go Mount Pulag, Mount Ugo, Sagada, the influx of tourists in a Baguio tour and the number of students who reside in Baguio City but studying in Manila and this is not to mention those the alarming increase of climbers in Mount Ulap. Thus, when you arrive in Baguio City, you should purchase right away your return bus ticket for Manila. Booking reservations are always full and you might end up staying for another two days if you do not follow this advise.


Day 1

11:00 Take bus from Manila to Baguio
17:00 ETA Baguio City

Day 2

04:00 Take jeepney or taxi from Baguio to Brgy. Ampucao along Philex Road
04:40 ETA Brgy. Ampucao; Register on its barangay hall and hire a guide
05:00 Start the trek
06:30 Ambanao Paoay Peak
08:00 ETA Gungal Rock
09:00 ETA Mt. Ulap summit
11:30 ETA Sta. Fe jump-off point where jeepney to Baguio can be accessible
12:30 ETA Baguio City for lunch, shopping and roaming around
18:00 ETD Manila
24:00 ETA Manila

Other Considerations

To minimize costs, do not stay in Baguio City for an overnight. Leave Manila at 10:00 P.M. as your Day 1 and approximately arrive in Baguio at 4:00 A.M. at Day 2. With this arrangement, you should have booked for a contact of a jeepney so that when you arrived in Baguio, you can take a connecting trip to Ampucao and arrives there at 4:40 A.M. If you are just alone or a group of 3, it would be wiser to take a taxi with a round trip cost of P1,000 from Baguio to Ampucao. In taking a jeepney, the fare per person is P50 for one way. So, if you are less than 22 passengers, you have to shoulder the total of P1,100 one single trip for a jeepney transport. So, it is an advantage if you travel in a bigger group since your group can divide the said amount minimizing the share per person.

Take with you enough water where you will need it along the trail. 2 liters can be safe. However, it is suggested that you also take trail food like apple, pears, jelly ace yum as you do not have to drink water when you eat them. Chocolates needs more water to drink. Equipped yourself with a pack lunch as you would go hungry while trekking. For those who opt to have a connecting trip from Baguio to Ampucao, equip yourself with packed breakfast and lunch.

Take with you a headlight, if you opt to start the trek at 5AM or earlier. You may also bring with you a rain coat and an umbrella. I just observed that the mountain is not that windy.

To give you an idea of how much you will spend for this climb with an option of staying overnight in Baguio City, just read it below:

SN Particulars Amount
1. Round trip bus fare from Manila to Baguio City (P450 one-way)
2. Round trip jeepney transport from Baguio City to Ampucao (P30 one-way)
3. Accommodation fee for the transient house
4. Registration fee
5. Share in the guide (Guide's rate is P400 for a day for a maximum of 8 persons)

The budget can be minimized if you opt to bring with you food or eat in some carenderia while in Baguio. It can still be minimized if you will not stay overnight in Baguio City. Anyway, jeepney from Baguio City to Brgy. Ampucao is available for P30 one way till 7 pm from Baguio.

Contact Details

Mountainside Lodging House - No. 51 Bokawkan Road, Baguio City; Globe - +639273395888; Smart - +639209087180; Sun - +639228819568; Website:; contact Mr. Michael Tan
Ms. Claren (Tourism) - 09217292726
Ulap Guide: Jipson Pis-oy - +639079824250
Brgy. Ampucao Tourism – +639989589549


A. By Public Transport

1. Manila to Baguio City

There are a few bus companies with Manila-Baguio route for at least 26 times trips in a day where Victory Liner is one where as of this writing the fare rate is P445 one-way. You may find this link useful for your on-line booking reservation. The number of trips in a day may increase during peak seasons. This land travel has a duration of 5-6 hours most particularly in a night travel. Nowadays, this travel time has been decreased due to accessibility given by the SCTEX and the new highway opened.

2. Baguio City Proper to Barangay Ampucao of Itogon,Benguet

Locate the Ampucao-Philex Route's terminal in Lakandula where the jeepney charges P50 per head for one way. The jeepney has a maximum of 22 passengers and thus its total fare should be P1,100 to be shouldered by the any group which hires them. Since it is only 40 minutes road travel, one can opt to take taxi for a total fare of P1,000 one way.

B. By Private Vehicle

Note: This advisory has been adapted from Out of Town Blog which reduces the travel time from 4 to 5 hours.

1. Drive through NLEX.
2. Take Exit 85 right into SCTEX.
3. Transfer to the right lane and drive to Baguio via Tarlac.
4. Take the Tarlac exit and follow the road signs that will take you to MacArthur Highway.
5. Once you’re on MacArthur Highway, drive straight to Tarlac and Pangasinan until you reach Rosario, La Union.
6. From the Rosario junction, you can turn right into famous Kennon Road. This is the most popular and scenic route up Baguio City.
7. If you prefer the wider lanes of Marcos Highway, drive further into Rosario and turn right towards the new entrance.

From Baguio City, drive through Philex Road heading for Barangay Ampucao for 40 minutes.


Accommodation in Baguio varies from transient houses, house-for-rent, dorms, inns and hotels ranging from budget to luxury ones. This link can be useful in your search for comfortable accommodation.

Teachers can rent in Teachers Camp for as low as P120 a day if they have a government issued Identification Cards. It is a must to reserve for accommodation during peak season


Tour packages are offered by many organizer for Mount Ulap as low as P1,400 in Climber Page in Facebook. Register yourself there to get some updates.

Camping fee when you use your tent for overnight stay is P400.