Friday, September 30, 2016


Location: San Fernando City, La Union, Philippines

San Fernando City, is a third-class city and is the capital of the province of La Union, one of the provinces of Ilocos Region. It is in itself a charm of the province due to its very rich history dating back the time of the Spanish period.

The busy footbridge fronting the city plaza

Like any other cities in the Philippines, San Fernando is not spared of heavy traffic. Riding a jeep from its DFA Office to the city park took me around 30 minutes.

The busy main road of the city

The Town Plaza

The lush green town plaza

The park's stage and basketball open court

The plaza's ampi-theater

Saint William the Hermit Cathedral

The facade of Saint William the Hermit Cathedral

The interior of Saint William the Hermit Cathedral

San Fernando City Hall

The statue of Francisco L. Ortega: A Statesman, Legislator and Patriot

San Fernando City Hall

Filipino-Chinese Friendship Pagoda

The Pagoda Temple

The Capitol of La Union

The Capitol: The province symbol of pride and governance

Ma-cho Temple

Mesmerized by the festive Ma-cho Temple

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Location: Barangay Tangadan, San Gabriel, La Union

This is just a part of my 3-day La Union Trip. It was a mix of chasing water falls, city tour in San Fernando, beach surfing in San Juan, visiting old churches and other tourist spots of the province.

Diving from the 40-feet Tangadan Water Falls

I did not have plan of touring around La Union but then I have to go back there to pick-up the passport I applied in DFA San Fernando. It was almost two months since my passport has been due for pick-up but the time of going there which would consume at least one and a half days just for traveling back and forth was really a problem due to my hectic schedule.

Brgy. Bucao: The place of my tour guide

Realizing I will be consuming much time and expenses as well for the round trip bus fare, I decided to maximize everything when I go there in San Fernando City. The first time I went there was when I applied for the passport on its DFA Office and I also visited its Tourism Office housed on its Provincial Capitol for some query of its tourist destinations. The very accommodating staff gave me brochures but the problem was no specific contacts were given. I kept these brochures as reference thinking I can find time of touring around there maybe for summer which was too remote then. However, picking-up my passport was pressing me to go back there. It was only the night before my departure that I searched some blogs for possible tour guide. The blog which I read highly recommended a certain Pedro "Peter" Macaraeg or also known as Kuya Raymond and right there and then I called him. I can sense he was nice and so I finalized the deal.

The scent of newly harvested rice

The trek starts with rice paddies, the green rice fields and piles of harvests. It was just rolling and malling-like walk. My digicam started to grind for every step was a sight to behold.

Part of the trail heading to the water falls

Left Cubao at 10:30 P.M. boarding an airconditioned Partas bus with its terminal along Aurora Boulevard and arrived San Fernando City at 4:30 A.M. the following day. It was still dark and cold and so I stayed at the Partas bus terminal till 5:00 A.M. I managed to ask the bystanders to locate the jeep terminal of the route to San Gabriel and it was just walking distance anyway. The jeep left at 5:30 A.M. and the whole travel duration took 65 minutes to the town of San Gabriel. As per instruction of Raymond, I only have to take a tricycle going to Barangay Bucao which I did and I found him right there in their house.

The scenic upstream trail of the Baroro River

Coming from an exhausting trip, I decided to take an hour sleep in the ancestral house of Raymond. His whole family was so welcoming and I was so comfortable with them. After breakfast, at exactly 8:00 A.M., we left their house and using his sidecar as service vehicle, we headed to the water falls. We passed thru picturesque ricefields and typical green countryside. We left his sidecar at Barangay Dagup where all vehicles are parked and started the 30-minute trek.

The inviting and clear water of Baroro river which forms part of the trail

The trek was refreshing. The water of the river was so clear that you can see the reflection of your face. Big boulders of rocks are either on the river or along the river where we occasionally hop and climb. There is an amazing backdrop of the thick forest. We happen to pass through cottages halfway and a cargo zipline for transport crossing Baroro River.

The end of the trail will turn right and presto the store huts are there

Opposite the water falls is dotted with stores where food and drinks can be bought as well as life vest for rentals. There are also two comfort and shower rooms available for the guests.

Tangadan Falls with barely two guests around

A solo guest, Kuya Raymond and I were the first to be in the water falls at around 9:00 A.M. However, I've noticed that the water was brown. Unfortunately, there was a continuous heavy rain the night before. But according to the locals, during summer time or non-rainy season, the water is crystal-clear.

The view from atop the second layer of the falls

Raymond toured me around to the second layer of the falls and I find it there better as I felt so intimate with the falls. Though one has to be cautious because some parts of the massive rocks are slippery.

A zoomed out shot from atop the first layer water falls to its bottom radius

The second layer of the water falls has also a basin and its more calm compared to the basin down the first layer of the water falls where roars like a thunder in sound.

Diving again, this time at the basin of the second layer of the falls

According to Raymond, the basin has an average depth of 15 feet while the basin of the main falls has an approximate depth of 20 feet. But he had advised me to be cautious as there were already two lives claimed by this water falls.

After my first dive at the second basin

I have the reason to stay longer on the second basin as people have crowded down the main falls. As you see bamboo raft down there has been flocked with guests to get closer to the water falls.

A not-so-cold swim on the second basin

Fortunately, I was lucky that even if water falls has freezing cold water, that time it was not. I just realized it was scary to swim in a brown water where I can see the basin rock bed.

Stayed longer at the second basin

I was highly engaged in the second basin as I stayed longer here. After all, only teenagers and athletic guests scale this height of the second layer of the falls.

Recapturing the trail back to the jump-off point

After three hours of swimming and diving, I got tired and decided to take my lunch from the nipa stores around. Raymond was not available to serve as my guide the next day to Kapandagan Falls and so I he looked one for me.

Such a postcard perfect picture

Trekking back was easier and faster though it was already hot because it was 10:30 A.M. but some parts are shady anyway. I took my time trekking and I engaged myself in getting the details of the trail. I look at them up-close. I must be in love of the serenity and beauty of the place.


1. Take any bus going to La Union or any other bus going to Vigan, Abra or Laoag for 5-6 hours night travel: Partas (Cubao), Farinas (Cubao), Dominion (Cubao), Viron (Cubao, Sampaloc) or Philippine Rabbit (Oroquieta Street,Manila; EDSA Balintawak)
2. Lift at San Fernando City, La Union preferably at Partas bus terminal.
3. From the Partas bus terminal, ask to find the terminal with the route going to San Gabriel town proper.
4. From San Gabriel town proper fronting its municipal hall, tricycles are available going to the jump-off point to Tangadan.
5. You have the option to wait for Raymond fronting the municipal hall, or take a jeep going to their house to Barangay Bucal.
6. Follow the same pattern in heading back to San Fernando City.


SN Particulars Amount
1. Round trip airconditioned Partas bus fare from Cubao to San Fernando City (P410 one-way)
2. Round trip jeep fare from San Fernando City to San Gabriel (P25 one-way)
3. Round trip tricycle fare from San Gabriel town proper to Raymond's house (P20 one-way
4. Tour guiding fee
5. Life vest rental
6. Four meals at P45 per meal


Pedro Macaraeg or Kuya Raymond

Mobile Numbers: +639953992099 and +639462222102


Day hike charges P500 for one guide for a maximum of 5 guests

In excess of five guests from 6 to 8, each has to pay P100 and 9 to 10 pax, two guides are required

For overnight, same ratio of guests-guide, however, the rate is doubled.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Location: Talim Island, Laguna de Bay

Major jump-off: Brgy. Janosa (Talim Island) Binangonan, Rizal
LLA 14.32° N 121.23° E, 438 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-2
(Data taken from

The scenic backdrop of Mount Tagapo

This is so far the cheapest and the most accessible climb ever in my whole life. I had no major preparation and we were in a group of five, whom I consider as my climbing and travel buddies. How did I come up with this idea? Well, I was able to read a post of this climb in Broke Travelers blog as shared by my friend, Giovanni Alexander Pido in his Facebook post.

This is the very picture of Broke Travelers blog that enticed me to climb Mount Tagapo

Our group met in the Binangonan Jeep terminal opposite of Jose Rizal University (JRU) along Shaw Boulevard and boarded a jeepney leaving at 4:30 A.M. and since it was early then, we arrived at the Binangonan Port at 5:50 A.M. It was just timely since the second boat trip going to Talim Island is at 6:30 A.M. There were some eateries and fruit stand around and so we decided to have our breakfast. We agreed to bring with us a food container and so we also bought our pack lunch there just for P35 per meal.

What to expect of the boat transport

The boat is big that it can accommodate a hundred people in one trip. And yes, it will have so many stops because every barangay in Talim Island has its own port where loading and unloading can be done.

The vast expanse of Laguna de Bay

It was my first time to be in this place and so there was a sort of excitement on my part as I watched the vastness of Laguna de Bay where according to my online readings, it is the largest freshwater lake in the Philippines and has a surface area of 911–949 km² (352-366 sq mi), with an average depth of about 2.8 metres (9 ft 2 in) and an elevation of about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level.

The fishpens at the Laguna de Bay

Amazingly, I saw a number of fishpens on the Bay. No wonder that in this area, bangus is cheaper as compared to the other parts of the Metro Manila.

Arriving Brgy. Janosa safely

We were lucky enough that the trip had only two stops and the third was in Barangay Janosa. Since Barangay Janosa is not the last destination of the boat, it is suggested that you asked the boatmen to reminded that you are just up to Barangay Janosa. With this, the trip only lasted for 70 minutes. It was cold in the boat and so our group was able to sleep (soundly).

The registration site

Just approximately 20 meters from the port is its registration where it also has a canteen and the meal package is also at P35. There are shower rooms for P20 and comfort rooms charge P5 per entry. I realized, I should have ordered my packed lunch here rather than had it in the Binangonan Port.

The facade of Sto. Domingo Parish Church

Barangay Janosa of Talim Island is just any other typical barangay equipped with social services and with many stores to buy basic necessities. It can access strong network signal and not really that isolated from civilization.

The interior of Sto. Domingo Parish Church

We started our trek at 8:00 A.M. and from the registration we passed by the Sto. Domingo Parish Church. I was intrigued that inside the church I saw that most of the attendees were in formal white dress with men likewise. There was a group of musical band outside. Asking a bystander, he shared that it is the way we bury a dead person and mind you, it was only a mass of a 2 -year old girl.

Beng Sia and Tess Santiago in gradual assaults

The first 40 minutes was just either a rolling trail or a number of gradual assaults. It was mostly covered with trees and so it was not really that hot. Some parts of the trail can even accommodate 3-4 persons walk side by side.

The lake viewdeck

After a 40-minute walk, we rested in a nipa hut where it serves as the lake's viewdeck. Inviting improvised bamboo chairs which can accommodate eight people can stay there to enjoy the cool breeze.

A denser forest habitat

The next trail was characterized by thickly forested area and it was slippery. Assaults needed big strides and one has to be kept on guard of his footsteps not to fall. The only consolation was that we were walking under thick trees covering the trail.

Trail almost covered with tall grasses

The last 15 minutes to the campsite was an annoying trail with grasses taller than us. One can hardly see the trail. Besides the flowers of these grasses are so itchy to the skin.

The nipa hut leading to the campsite

There is a nipa hut at the foot of the summit where it leads to the campsite. By that time that we climbed the mountain, the grasses were so taller than us and so the campsite at the back was not visible. We rested for 15 minutes in the nipa hut and bought some cold drinks sold the enterprising local kids.

Captured scenery midpoint leading to the summit

The summit can be climbed to an average of 15 minutes. However, the tall grasses are so annoying that it covers partly the trail. Since it is completely open, it is hot.

A close-up of the nipa hut and the campsite

As one climb higher to the summit, the more that the grasses are dwarfing the trekkers and so taking pictures is not possible. It would have been better if the grasses were not that tall so that the dramatic landscape can be totally captured. With the dominant white flowers of the grasses, my expected rich green landscape was no longer possible.

The view from atop the summit

The summit has a big and deep hole which was excavated as there were reports that wealth of gold can be found there and what was left is a hole believed to have been inhabited by snakes. Thus, the guides always give a caution to avoid this part of the summit as it is covered by thick grasses.

My couple friend, Gani Dionela and wife, Carmila Uy, descending the summit

It would have been better if the summit has a viewdeck so that a better shot can be captured considering that the grasses were so tall. It was really hot there that one will not prefer to stay for long. But I was told by the guide that sunset and sunrise can be captured here with amazing effect.

Leaving Barangay Janosa boarding a boat

We stayed for an hour at the campsite after descending from the summit. The big trees there gave so much shade and comfort. At exactly 12 noon, we descended and reached the registration office at 1:40 P.M. We rested a bit, took shower and lunch. We waited till 3:00 P.M. for the our boat departure. Unbelievably, we were only 5 boarding the boat. This time, if the boatman sees waving a hand in a certain barangay port, the boat docks and get the passenger. Mind you, we had 9 stops. Every barangay along Talim Island has concrete port which is always next to a covered court. We arrived in Binangonan Port at 4:20 P.M. We boarded a jeepney heading back to JRU where Binangonan Jeepney terminal is located. I was home at 6:45 P.M.

As to the budget, it can be broken down as follows:

SN Particulars Amount
1. Round trip jeepney fare from Binangonan Jeep Terminal in opposite JRU to Binangonan Port (P45 one-way)
2. Round trip boat fare from Binangonan Port to Barangay Janosa Port of Talim island (P30 one-way)
3. Guide fee for a maximum of 10 pax for P300 including tip of P200
4. Breakfast and Lunch in Barangay Janosa for P35 per meal
5. Registration Fee
6. Shower Fee in Barangay Janosa

Suggested Itinerary

04:30 ETD Binangonan Jeep Terminal opposite JRU along Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong
05:50 ETA Binangonan Port
06:30 ETD Binangonan Port for the 2nd trip where 5:30 A.M. is the first boat trip
07:40 ETA Brgy. Janosa Port (the trip may vary depending on the number of boat stops) There is an option to take breakfast
08:20 Start trek 09:00 Lake viewpoint/rest and refresh in a improvised bamboo sofa/forested and slippery trail starts with occasional assaults
10:00 Campsite to rest and regroup. It only take 15 - 20 minutes to summit
10:30 Summit
10:50 Descent to campsite and recreate at the campsite again
12:00 Start descent
13:40 Back to the Registration Hall (take lunch and shower)
15:00 ETD Brgy. Janosa
16:00 ETA Binangonan Port

Other Concerns

The barangay captain assured us that there will be no need for booking a guide because as tour guiding is a part of their sustainable community tourism income generating activity, they assign them by rotation. Every group who desire to climb Mount Tagapo can be provided with their respective guide.