Most Eco-Friendly Whaleshark Interaction in the Philippines: Pintuyan, Southern Leyte

Planning to go to Oslob? Visit Pintuyan instead! The most eco-friendly whale shark interaction in the Philippines.

When it comes to whale shark watching in the Philippines, Oslob comes first in the mind of most Filipinos and foreigners but people should stop supporting this exploitation!

It is really not surprising with all the Instagram and Facebook posts about it getting crazy popular if not viral, it has been the known circus. I one article it has been said that during the tourist season, more than 1,500 sightseers descend each day on Oslob, a town of 30,000 on the island of Cebu. If you want to watch real whale sharks and not puppies being fed, your best option in the Philippines is found in a lesser known site called Pintuyan.
Pintuyan is a fifth class municipality in Southern Leyte province is home to the most eco-friendly whale shark interaction in the country.

Why Choose Pintuyan over Oslob?

The difference between Oslob and Pintuyan is quite huge in several aspects.

  1. Less Crowd. Far from them park feeling you get when in Oslob, Pintuyan is a remote place that is not frequently visited by countless of Korean and Chinese tourists. Compared to hundreds in Oslob, in Pintuyan, you will probably have 20 other people the most.
  2. Longer Interaction for Lesser Cost. In Oslob, you only get to be in the water for 45 minutes and pay more while in Pintuyan, it will be for a three-hour long sea-based adventure. Since they do not feed the whale sharks, you will have to wait it out for a bit and have several chances in interacting with them.
  3. Directly Supporting Local Community. In Pintuyan, when you pay the fees, you are paying a small portion to the local government while directly supporting the local fishermen who are advocates of conservation, for a disadvantaged community this is helping them a lot unlike in Oslob where the government is earning millions per month without full transparency where the money is going.
  4. See Raw Nature and Real Local Life. Oslob has already gotten touristy while Pintuyan has remained simple and raw. You can sit back and watch the sunset from their port and enjoy local priced food and drinks in town.
  5. Taking An Ethical Stand Against Animal Exploitation. As travelers, it is easy to not think of our impacts when we support local destinations and activities. Saying No to Oslob is changes the perspective of tourism to a more sustainable approach and it is empowering communities that are opting to be more eco-friendly in their approach.

Getting to Pintuyan:

Traveling to Pintuyan involves several transfers but the scenery is worth it. Southern Leyte being a less frequented place has a lot to offer. I would suggest leaving Cebu at night and arriving early in the morning in either Hilongos or Maasin.

From Cebu:

To reach Pintuyan, you can either go on a fast craft or overnight boat to Hilongos or Maasin (closer) which can take 3-6 hours. Check out Roble Shipping Lines, Gabisan Shipping Lines or Weesam Express. You can then take a van or bus to Sogod where you can take another ride to Pintuyan. From Hilongos to Pintuyan takes about 3 hours and costs around 180PHP. You can also fly to Tacloban and then take a bus to Southern Leyte, however, this will cost a lot more money.

From Bohol:

You can take a local boat called Leopard Shipping Lines from Ubay to Maasin and from there to take a van or bus to go to Sogod Bus Terminal and then catch a van or bus to Pintuyan.

How Much Will The Whale Shark Interaction Cost?

Before you could swim with the sharks, all tourists must undergo briefing before given trip tickets to engage in whale shark interaction. Then you’ll need spotters and tour guides and KASAKA will provide that.

Charges are collected from persons engaging in Whale Shark Watching and Interaction. Interactions can be done from morning until early afternoon.

Whaleshark Interaction Fees:

Conservation Fee: Php250.00 per person

Boat Rental (Good for 3 people): Php700.00 boat tour within the Municipal Water of Pintuyan Proper.

Php800.00 boat tour within the Municipal Water of San Ricardo.

Tour / Naturalist Guide: Php350.00

Shark Spotter: Php300.00

For more questions:
Mr. Virgilio Plazon Flores
KASAKA Collector and also one of the P.O.’s Tour Guides
Mobile Number: 09359296626

Whale Shark Interaction Guidelines:

Make sure to strictly follow the guidelines before and after entering the interaction area.

guidelines

Also important to remember that you SHOULD NOT WEAR SUNSCREEN as these chemicals can affect the whale sharks.

Accommodations in Pintuyan:

You might want to go a day before the whale shark interaction to have enough time to rest before the interaction as it will be an action filled interaction involving a lot of swimming. Whale sharks seem like they swim slow but trust me they can swim fast! Pintuyan has only three options for you should you choose to stay for the night:

Pintuyan Dive Resort :  

They have twin rooms at around P5,000+ You can use my code to get a 10% discount in Booking.com:

D&D’s Lodge:

Located near the parish church of Pintuyan
Address: Barangay Poblacion Ubos, P.S.L.
Care Taker’s Name: Mrs. Emmylou Banol
Contact Number: 09069372486

La Guerta Lodge I and II:

I would suggest staying at Lodge I as it is closer to the local food places, more spacious and Municipal Hall where you pay the conservation fee. A room there costs P 600, it has aircon and an own toilet but no hot shower. You can share one room with two other people though it is quite a tight space and one has to sleep on the floor with a mattress while the two has to share a double bed.

La Guerta Lodge I
(In front of the Municipal Hall)
Address: Barangay Poblacion Ubos, Pintuyan, Southern Leyte

La Guerta Lodge II
(In front of the Pintuyan District Hospital – P.D.H.)
Address: Barangay Poblacion Ubos, P.S.L.

Care Taker’s Name: Mrs. Lynrie B. Guias (for La Guerta Lodges I and II)
Contact Number: 09261426986

6A’s Resort

6As’s Owner: Amy Tandayag – 09173211024

Staying in the Town:

  1. Palawan Pawnshop
  2. Reymart Bakeshop
  3. Mosqueda-Tandayag Building
  4. Basketball Court
  5. Michael Pharmacy
  6. CM Bakery
  7. Ayen Sari-sari Store
  8. Chapel
  9. Lucky Seven Trading
  10. Miq’s Haus
  11. Eatery
  12. Roselyn’s Sari-sari Store and Lotto Outlet
  13. Venus Sari-sari Store – BBQ, Vegetables and Fruit Stand
  14. Rucat’s Sari-sari Store
  15. Alice Store Sari-sari Store
  16. Water Market
  17. Pinoy ATM
  18. Cade’s Sari-Sari Store – Meat and Vegetables
  19. Richard’s Snackhouse
  20. Cebuana Lhuiller Express
  21. Surigao Sari-sari Grocery
  22. Ramos’ Store – Photocopy/clothes/house supplies
  23. Chapel
  24. Lelot Store – Fruits and Vegetables
  25. San Juan “Ubos” Barangay Hall
  26. Ariane Jee Lechon Manok
  27. Lhuiller Pawnshop
  28. La Guerta Lodging House
  29. Rowena’s Store
  30. Basketball Court Gym
  31. Municipal Hall
  32. Bakery
  33. Pintuyan Central School
  34. D&D Lodge
  35. Pintuyan National Highschool
  36. DJ BA Pharmacy
  37. La Guerta Lodge II
  38. Pintuyan District Hospital
  39. Ginell’s JenielJunJames Gen. Merchandise and Eatery
  40. Karaoke Bar

Another tip is to catch the sunset from the port, grab your beer and just chill. When sunset comes, you will be able to see the local fishermen head out to the sea. It is like seeing the boat version of Bagan’s air balloons. It is quite a sight to see. Also, remember that everything closes early in this place so make sure to buy dinner by 7:00PM as all stores pretty much close after. You can also use the dirty kitchen in La Guerta and cook, you can borrow the pans from the caretakers they are very helpful.

Other Activities You Can Do When in Pintuyan:

Hike Son-ok Peak

Located within the Panaon Point of Barangay Son-ok near Pintuyan Ecotourism Park, you will get a bird’s eye view of the bay.

Explore Pintuyan Ecotourism Park which has an area of 22,729 sq. meters, home to the Philippine long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis philippensis.)

Chase Waterfalls

A series of five waterfalls that stretch along 4.5 kilometers of river flows of Barangay Catbawan seven kms. Northeast of the town proper.

The site boast of its unique features thru different shapes of waterfalls.
The 212 hours of river trekking along the stretch is worth an adventure as one will hurdle each falls using roots and hanging “Bagon” leaving behind memories of hard knock efforts while enjoying what nature can offer. S

Snorkel or Dive

Pintuyan has several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that boast beautiful coral coverage and an abundance of reef fishes: Dan-an, Manglit, Son-ok, and Balong-Balong. But there are also interesting spots just along the coast like right in front of the Brgy. Sta. Cruz Pier or the sandy area in Brgy. Punod for muck diving.
Before you swim or indulge in any water activities, especially in the MPAs, please contact or visit the Tourism Office first to settle conservation fees, suggestions on where you can rent gear (mask, snorkel, fins) if you do not have any, and instructions on if and where inside these areas is allowed for recreation.

Now that you have a better option than Oslob, please spread the word and help promote Pintuyan, a hidden gem in Southern Leyte.

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Survival Guide: 10 Tips for An Epic Sinulog Experience

Are you ready for the 2019 Sinulog Festival? Here are my tips to prepare you for the grandest celebration in Cebu.

Cebu is one of the most known city in the Philippines. Although it is generally laid back, the city transforms from quiet to crazy every third weekend of January. The Queen City of the South becomes remarkably vibrant celebrating the arrival Child Jesus locally called as Señor Santo Niño in the shores of Cebu. It is a commemoration of start of Christianity in the country. Despite the religious nature of the celebration, it includes various higlights such as Miss Cebu, Festival Queen Competition, Sinulog Idol, Photo and Film Competition, Fluvial and Solemn Procession, Grand Parade and Street Dancing and Grand Finale Fireworks display, you are sure to find something to suit your taste.

Roland Pascua.jpg
Photo by Roland Pascua

Sinulog Festival is the grandest festival in the Philippines bringing in about 1 million visitors. As the weekend draws near, here are some tips to prepare you for the mother of all celebrations.

1. Plan your events well.

Here is a map of the Solemn Procession

If you are more on religious events and plan on going to the Basilica to see the image of the Child Jesus, make sure to be there as early as 5 a.m. because the queue is really long.

Check out the list of activities!

Map for Sinulog 2019 Festival Grand Parade Route Map

If you are more for dancing and parties, here are just some of the parties happening over the weekend.

2. Bring Cash.

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Avoid long queues to the ATM or worse running out of money when you need drink. Make sure you have enough cash on hand. It would be wise to keep them in different places, some could be hidden inside your bra (my mother’s advice). If you want to make the most out of your dollars, I recommend you head to Alco Credit and Foreign Exchange, Inc. they offer the best rates within the city, you can find them at Raintree Mall.

3. Prepare you Sinulog OOTD

Jover Alforque

You can buy cheap Sinulog shirts that you can cut and redesign. Opt for cotton and avoid wearing clothes with thick material. I discourage you from wearing jean pants, it can get heavy once it gets wet. You have endless options for accessories from feather to wooden beads. It is a great time to get your henna tattoo, you can easily find an artist along the street.The weather can get really hot and humid so do not be afraid to bare more skin. Unless you plan to go to the Basilica then you have to be covered. Do not wear expensive jewelries too unless you want to make friends with robbers. Also make sure that the bag you bring is always close to your body and waterproof.

4. Practice the Sinulog dance steps.

Victor Kintanar.jpg
Photo by Victor Kintanar

It would not be an authentic Sinulog celebration if you do not learn the steps. It is not that complicated, it is close to the basic one two step. All you have to do is move one foot forward and take two steps backward.

5. Think of Sinulog as a Marathon.

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I am not saying you have to wear your running shoes but it would be a good idea to wear your most comfortable footwear since the main streets in Cebu are closed specially on Sunday since parade starts as early as 6:00 a.m. People are forced to be more fit and you will not notice that you have been walking for hours because of the loud music, smiling dancers and happy people you meet in the road.

6. Embrace Extraversion.

Erick John Cuevas.jpg
Photo by Erick John Cuevas

If you have problems with personal space, then you should forget about it for this weekend. Cebuanos are extra friendly during the festivities. You will get hugs, greetings and drinks from random strangers on the road. You will be a dot in a sea of humans. The massive crowd walking with you will test you on this too.

7. Bring Your Squad.

Any celebration would not be fun if you do it alone. Bring your awesome friends except for the one who always complains which I call as Negatron (no one wants a kill joy).

If you are a solo traveler, do not hesitate to talk to people, there l always be some group ready to adopt you. If you are a member of Couchsurfing like me, search for Sinulog events in the website.

Also remember that signals will be down on the following days so make sure to plan where to meet ahead.

Here is the schedule:

8. Must Haves for Sunday’s Grand Parade

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Celebrating Sinulog is like hitting the beach for summer. You must bring the following essentials: Water or any form of portable liquid for hydration, sunscreen, favorite pair of sunnies, fan to keep cool , small snacks for energy, camera for endless selfies/groufies, powerbank and extra shirt!

9. Eat. Party. Sleep. Repeat

boie-wanderer-2

When I celebrated Sinulog 2018, I hanged out with a bunch of crazy guys so I ended up partying from Wednesday until Sunday. Make sure you get rest and nourishment in between. While you want to maximize your partying or events, make sure you will be okay on Monday and not in a hospital. There was a year when I missed out on the partying because I did not have enough sleep, my body gave in on Sunday. Also, remember to drink in moderation. It is easy to get carried away but you have to be responsible enough or at least be with a responsible friend. The past Sinulog parties have caused a major uproar from the conservative people as photos of teenagers sleeping unconscious along the streets went viral in social media sites. You do not want to leave traces of your partying in someone else’s Facebook account.

10. Be Ready For Everything and Anything.

Restie Derigay.jpg
Photo by Restie Derigay

Make sure to agree on a meeting place with your friends. During the festival, the mobile networks normally suffer lags and some messages arrive hours later. While the weather reports say the weather will be fair, make sure that you are ready to embrace the rain as well as random showers of water, beer, alcohol and even paint. These tips should give you an idea on what to expect but nothing can be completely planned in life. Do not let this unpredictability stop you, this will make your Sinulog experience more memorable.

With all that said and done, I wish you the best for Sinulog 2019! May the force be with you as you brave the streets of Cebu! Prititit!!! Pit Señor!

Reginald James Lorico
Photo by: Reginald James Lorico

Speak Visayan: Greetings, Pronouns and Questions

When travelling to the Philippines, it pays to learn a bit of the local language despite the fact that most Filipinos can easily speak English. Visayan is one of the most spoken language in the Philippines being used both in Visayas and many parts of Mindanao.

Speak Visayan

Learning Visayan is not as easy, I have had several expat friends who already lived in Cebu for year but never got to speaking the language. Why you may ask? Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, most locals prefer to speak to foreign travelers in English as an effect of years being colonies of foreign countries. If you know a bit of Spanish then you already know a bit of Visayan because some of them have been mixed into the dialects along with some Malay and Chinese words.  I am writing this post to share our dialect and spread awareness, here are some words and phrases that you can use:

Greetings

  • good morning – maayong buntag
  • good noon – maayong udto
  • good afternoon – maayong hapon
  • good night – maayong gabii
  • goodbye – babye
  • thank you – salamat
  • thank you very much – Daghang Salamat
  • please – palihog
  • you’re welcome – walay sapayan
  • yes/no – o/di
  • yes/no (polite) – oo / dili
  • OK – sige
  • just a minute – kadali lang
  • only, merely, simply – lang
  • again, similarly – na pud
  • no problem – walay problema
  • how are you? – kamusta (na) ka?
  • how are you? (plural) – kamusta (na) kamo?
  • where have you been? – Asa ka gikan?
  • where are you going? – Asa ka paingon?
  • I’m coming from Mactan. – Gikan ko sa Mactan.
  • I’m going to Moalboal. – Adto ko sa Moalboal.
  • Good – Maayo
  • Good, thank you and you? – Maayo man, salamat, ug ikaw?
  • Also good – Maayo sab/pud
  • And – Ug

Pronouns

  • I – ako
  • You – ikaw
  • he, she – siya
  • they – sila
  • we (I and you) – kita
  • us ( I and others) – kami
  • you (plural) – kamo
  • this – kini
  • that – kana/kadto(farther)

Questions

  • who (singular) – kinsa
  • who (plural) – kinsa-kinsa
  • how – unsa’on
  • how many – pila kabuok
  • how much – tagpila
  • what – unsa
  • what did you say? – unsa to?
  • when – kanus-a
  • where – asa
  • why – ngano/ng
  • where is the port? – asa ang pier?
  • what is this/that? – unsa ni/na?
  • when is it ready? – kanus-a mahuman/matapos?
  • how far is it? – unsa kalayo (layo)?
  • who is this/that? – kinsa ni/na?
  • what is your name? – unsa may ngalan nimo/mo?
  • how old are you? – pila na may imong edad?
  • where do you come from? – asa ka gikan/ taga diing lugar ka?
  • which bus for the city? – unsang bus ang moadto sa siudad?
  • where is the bus stop? – asa ang hunungan/hulatanan ug bus?
  • where do I catch the jeepney? – asa ko musakay ug jeepney?
  • where does this bus go? – asa paingon/moadto kining bus?
  • where do i get off? – asa ko manaog?
  • how much is the fare? – pila ang plete?
  • what time is it? – unsang orasa na?
  • how much is this/that? – tagpila ni/na?
  • do you have air-con? – nabay air-con?
  • how much is a room? – pila ang usa ka kwarto?

Now you have learned a couple of basic Visayan words and phrases, do use them if you want to win over the hearts of the locals. Up next will be adjectives, numbers, commands and some conversational phrases!

 

My Wardrobe Checklist for 5 Months of Backpacking

Planning to go on a month-long trip? Here is my wardrobe checklist for 5 months of backpacking!

I always worry about my luggage when traveling. My obsessive-compulsive side always want to make sure I do not bring too much and most of the time, I barely reach half of my luggage limit.

“The old school of thought would have you believe that you'd be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn't what being in nature is all about. Rather, it's about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us.” ― Ryel Kestenbaum, The Ultralight Backpacker: The Complete Guide to Simplicity and Comfort on the Trail
“The old school of thought would have you believe that you’d be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn’t what being in nature is all about. Rather, it’s about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us.”
― Ryel Kestenbaum, The Ultralight Backpacker: The Complete Guide to Simplicity and Comfort on the Trail

I am lucky to be gifted with the talent of travelling light. When I went for Malaysia for Ms. SCUBA International 2013, I managed to fit in 25 kilograms two pairs of heels, national costume and with all my dive gears.

The problem most ladies face when doing long-term travel is trying to fit everything into a small luggage. I can recall the sight of my Bb. Pilipinas 2013  co-candidates during our three-day stay in Shangri-La. I felt that I barely brought stuff since I only carried a medium-sized duffel bag while the rest brought ones as huge as dive equipment bags (TBH I will never know what was inside those bags).

Back in 2015, I went to Tacloban and packed for a month of volunteer work which turned out to be longer. It became a 5 month-long wardrobe in a 50 L backpack?

How did I survive?

Here is my list:

TOPS

You can try to have 2 of these in bright colours to add more life to your usual neutrals.

If you are doing PR work, best to have some dressy tops.

4 Tank Tops

4 Shirts – 2 short-sleeved and 2 long-sleeved

Choose ones made from light materials.

1 Windbreaker

Jeans can be heavy though.

You can mix both to create a juxtaposition of sophisticated and casual.

3 Pair of shorts

2 Long Pants/Trousers

1 Pair of Leggings

A-line is safest.

1 Long Skirt

3 Brassieres

You can also choose to bring Nubra (silicone adhesive bras), they are easy to wash and wear.

Basic Undies

4 Pairs of Underwear

1 Sarong/ Cover-up (30 Ways to Use Your Sarong)

Less space consumed by microfiber towels compared to standard cotton ones.

1Towel (Microfiber is best)

1 Pair of Sneakers or Rubber Shoes (Hiking shoes are not as good-looking but they do their job well)

1 Pair of Flip-Flop

1 Pair of Ballerina Flats (For sophisticated moments.)

These are my basics and you can choose to add clothing items depending on where you will be doing volunteer work. If you are backpacking in the Philippines, I suggest you bring ones made of cotton because the humidity will make you sweat like a pig and a pair of joggers and long sleeve shirt will help fend off mosquitoes at night.

Having a hard time deciding which to take? Let George Clooney inspire you or check out this Pinterest Board.

Mermaid on A Motorcycle

Nothing like a quiet drive around Siargao Island to clear the mind and reconnect with nature!

View from Siargao
View from Siargao

This is one of my favourite things to do when in Siargao. The minute I arrive in General Luna, I pick up a semi-automatic motorcycle from a local shop. They already know me well that I just send them a message and they already prepare the board rack and my essentials.

WHAT ABOUT MOTORCYCLES?

As a teenager, my mother never wanted me to learn how to drive a motorcycle because she knew I always did insane stunts from climbing our balcony, sliding down trees with the use of a bamboo pole and even standing on hammocks pretending to surf.

Jessica Alba Dark Angel
Jessica Alba as Dark Angel

LEARNING TO DRIVE

I followed my mother’s advice and stayed away from driving motorcycles but growing up seeing Jessica Alba as Dark Angel looking all cool, the idea never left my mind. During my volunteer trip to Tacloban, I was riding at the back while we visited different spots. One of the unforgettable and probably the most painful in the butt was when we decided to go to Biliran and chase waterfalls. The trip took more than 3 hours being on the motorbike however the scenery and the perfectly paved roads. I have been at the backseat most of the time enjoying the breeze, and checking out the scenery. I love the feeling I get from adrenaline rush that speed gives me. After I ended my volunteer work, I had a relationship with a guy who also loved weekend adventures and it was with him that I decided to stop being fearful and learned to drive.

Luckily I knew already how to balance and ride a bicycle so I started learning basics driving an automatic scooter. It has been three years since I mustered the courage to drive and it was at Camiguin, then I tried again in Siquijor and Southern Leyte. My third time would be in Siargao alone. My first trip to Siargao, I was just riding with people from the hostel but I realised how limited I was. I decided to rent a scooter on my own. I was driving at 30KPH, slowly and surely, I got the hang of it. After that trip, I returned with more confidence and with the supportive locals, I was encouraged to try the Honda XRM. It was not as intimidating as I first imagine it to be but definitely exposure to rough terrain  and the need to see more of the island forced me to toughen up!

MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS

I am a worrier and it usually does not help you. I remember my first bad turn, how I drove to the other end of a street just because I was so bad with turning on sharp curves. I would give up driving the scooter and asking my bf then to drive but after we broke up, I had no one to drive for me! It was May 2017 when my first main accident happened. I ended up with several burns in my right leg after a bad turn on our way to Magpupungko Rock Pool. I noticed the junction late and tried to turn quickly but I ended up in the rocky portion and panicked so instead of slowing down, I revved up! The worse part is that I have high pain tolerance so I thought when I fell over it was just a bit warm from the metal absorbing the heat from the sun, it turns out, my leg was against the engine! Fortunately, I was with my good German Couchsurfing friend Yasha who was also a nurse so we drove a couple of meters to find ice and guess what? I still surfed that day!

Burns from the fall
My scar from the burns from the major fall.

The next motorcycle accident that spooked me well was the recent one earlier this year, I was driving on my way to Salvacion a surf spot in Pilar. I decided to go ahead of everyone to save time and just wait for the rest there. Everything was going well until I reached one rocky area and the board rack snapped. The surfboard was starting to go up and my reflex was to hold on to the board, I ended up hitting my head on the ground and having a couple of scratches in the legs. It reminded me of my stupidity of not only putting more concern over the board than my own safety but also of not wearing helmets. It was a good location for the board rack to snap though because there were several locals on a break from the road construction. They helped me pick myself up and tie the board rack back to the motorcycle. Despite this I still decided to drive ahead despite terrible road condition. It was my last day in the trip and I wanted to leave the island stoked. The locals who saw me driving to the spot would look and think how crazy I am to be bleeding and still want to surf.

 

On Being A Mermaid on a Motorcycle

It was in Siargao where I learned the most because of the offbeat trails that have either mud or huge rocks. It was because of my love for the island life that I conquer my fear given to me by my mother after here motorcycle accident. I do understand the dangers that comes with it but it does come also with freedom. The freedom to breakthrough terrible traffic or even just simply the feeling you get while driving through beautiful landscapes. Women riding motorcycles is still uncommon in the country. I had one chat with an Angkas driver and he told me out of all the drivers in Cebu there were only 2 female Angkas drivers. There is still a stigma about women doing dangerous stuff. For decades, riding motorcycles have been considered more of a guy thing. However, we are not at a period where the disparity between men and women as growing thinner.

Despite the accidents and norms involved in riding motorcycles, I bought my electric scooter just last year. Now, I not only drive around the island but also through Cebu City. I learned how to drive in between cars and other hacks for driving in the city just like how Angkas drivers do.

To me being an autodidact is quite rewarding, I went from noob to confident rider and knowing that somehow when I drive a motorcycle men will turn their heads and think:

” She can definitely drive.”

I am indirectly changing norms that motorcycles are just for men and encouraging more women to do the same.

In the end, you can basically learn and change anything in this world with the right motivation and a whole lot of grit.

What have you pushed yourself to learn or change recently?

5 Changes That Would Make Travelling Around The Philippines More Fun

“It’s more fun in the Philippines” is over and now it is “Bring A Friend”.

Couple of years ago, I came across an article where it said that the Philippines is one of the least preferred country to travel in South-east Asia and honestly I was not surprised. Although being known for typhoon and crazy rebels, we have not really challenged our fellow Southeast Asian countries which are doing well in tourism. We are barely even a quarter to the number of visitors Thailand receives in a year and quite a far cry from Vietnam or Malaysia.

Sometimes I wonder why but being an active Couchsurfer and having foreign friends opened my eyes about the existing problems our country have and should work on to become a better tourist destination. I started this list couple of years ago in my old blog in frustration and decided to update it (still with frustration).

There are tons of things to improve on but these 5 listed are the most annoying for me as a traveler.

Here are my suggestions for the Department of Tourism and the Philippine government in general.

1. Reliable Cab Drivers and Public Transportation

The minute you get off the plane, your chances of getting ripped off is high. Most of the time, the airport taxis have broken meters. I fell victim once to one airport taxi. His meter went crazy that when we reached to our place it was already P1,500 when it was from NAIA Terminal 1 to Makati Ave. which should cost around P400.

Imagine if all the cab drivers in our country are making sure that we find the quickest and cheapest way to our destination? Luckily we now have Grab and Uber in the country.

Another thing, if you go to Hong Kong, you can easily go from one spot to the other thanks to the metro system and organised government-owned buses.

Think of it, if they work on improving this, make getting from point A to point B easier, it will definitely make travelling in the Philippines a lot more appealing with less time lost to commuting.

2. Affordable and Available Healthy Food

Veggie Kare-kare at Harana Resort
Good food from Harana Restaurant

It has been one of my frustration when I walk around the city and other places in the Philippines. It is always easy to find adobo and other pork dishes but you rarely find a vegetable dish (without meat) or even a simple salad. With the rest of the world going for a healthier and sustainable lifestyle, it is sad that a primarily agricultural country is lagging behind. It does not cost that much to prepare healthy dish as I cook regularly. I have lost count of the travelers that I have met from Germany, UK, Canada and other countries that had no choice but to stop being vegan just because it was a lot of stress to travel and maintain such diet in this country. We should keep up and make more food options not only vegetarian but even Kosher and Halal ones.

3. Good Roads and Quality Accommodations

Muddy Road in Siargao
Muddy Road in Siargao

This year I have gone to Siargao a lot and one of the things that I wished they worked on before the stadium are the small roads that end up getting flooded and muddy during rainy season and same issues exist for Boracay and other destinations.

Another thing is compared to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, our accommodations are pricey for the quality we offer. If you book a bunk bed for P 500 you cannot expect much in this country. I had an experience where I booked a place in Agoda for a business travel in Batangas and on the description it said “Resort” so we expected it as a real resort but here in the Philippines, places labelled as resort are misleading. We arrived there to find out they have really old air conditioners, no hot and cold shower and the beds were quite uncomfortable and they were charging the same rate as a good hotel in Makati!

4. Equal Charges for Local and Foreign Visitors

Backpacker mode in Malaysia
Backpacker mode at Kuala Lumpur

I find it preposterous to see how they charge tourists according to local and foreigner be it in Taal Lake or Palawan. Where is the equality? It is bluntly showing that we want to make more money from foreigners. They already spend a lot more than most locals so we should not keep this practice. Just because they have a more powerful currency does not mean that we should milk them off. We should not be charging them double!

When I go to another country, I do not want to feel this way so why should a country who is known to be generally Catholic treat everyone differently? Go figure.

5. Convenient Travel Information

I went to Puerto Galera and it was our first time travelling so we wanted to find out information about the place but we found a closed tourist information center. I also tried asking some of the people in a tourist information center in Palawan and they were not fluent enough to entertain questions in English. Let’s not talk about those seemingly useless road signs.

If we want more travelers visiting our country, we should make sure that travelers will not have a hard time finding information about places.

Our official website also needs more apps that would be useful for travelers like bus and ferry schedules and online booking options and not just picture perfect photos.

They should create an app for travel assistance where chatbots can help customise their itineraries or give suggestions on places to visit.

Also, I hate to admit it despite having so many world-class social media influencers in the Philippines, our official tourism instagram sucks a lot!

There are definitely a lot of areas wherein we can improve to elevate the experience of tourists and travelers coming to our country and I know that we have a long way from being this raw to becoming a better tourist destination but we should not wait too long.

Yes, in general, this is a rant to the current system because they spend so much on superficial campaigns and forget that it is experience that will make people want to come back. We are lucky because Filipinos are one of the friendliest and welcoming people but we should not rest until these things are improved. It is time to change the current status of the Philippines for being one of the least popular destination.

Do you agree with my list? Share your suggestions.

Weekend Wandering: The Unspoiled Beauty of Southern Leyte

Visayas is home to a lot of beautiful destinations however, we often hear about Cebu and Western Visayas. Get to know more about Southern Leyte! A less popular diver’s paradise and a offbeat traveler’s dream.

The problem with the Philippines is that we have too many islands. There are so many options that you cannot possibly visit them all in a month! However, when people ask me for suggestions, I rarely suggest the popular ones. Why? Because other islands are also deserving of appreciation and have the same if not better things to offer. I am guilty of exploring my own province and nearby destinations quite late. One of the places I have grown fond of visiting is Southern Leyte. Why? The province offers a rustic and unspoiled beauty that is conveniently near to Cebu.

Now who do I recommend Southern Leyte to?

Beautiful Reefs of Napantao

First, to anyone who wants to dive in a pristine spot without the tourists, Sogod Bay is one of the few places where I have seen little trash while diving and they still have a good reef cover.

Whaleshark at Pintuyan

Second, to people who want to swim with the whale sharks in an ethical way, Pintuyan offers whale shark watching with the proper interaction guidelines. Will be writing more about this in a separate post.

Sunset over Liloan Bridge

Third, to travelers who want to avoid the touristy place and thrive on offbeat adventure. If you want a place all to yourself without breaking the bank and not travelling too far from Cebu City where you can see nice sunrises and sunsets while driving through quite roads and covered with numerous stars then definitely this place is for you!

Green fields of Southern Leyte

For an introvert like me, Southern Leyte is one of my favorite places to visit, though I still have tons of islands to explore. Its tranquil and raw nature excites the explorer and romantic in me.

WHAT TO DO:

Dive – Sogod Bay is quite popular to a lot of dive photographers as it is a good spot to find pygmy seahorses, whale sharks, nudibranches, mandarin fishes and other interesting marine creatures. You can do muck dive, night dive, drift dive and even blackwater dive. I would have to say doing a night dive in Sogod Bay is quite a visual experience as it is highly diverse, you see tons of creatures lurking at night. Also one of the spots to not miss is Napantao! This site looks like something out of a fairy tale because the reef forest is so magical.

Diving Selfie

Trek and Spelunking – You can trek to find Cagnituan Falls or the three falls in Taglinaw, explore Cambaro Cave and Lagoon or to hangout with wild monkeys in Hindang Caves Park.

Sogod Bay

Swim & Snorkel – You do not need to go far to find interesting creatures just by the shore you can find sea turtles swimming around. Padre Burgos is a less crowded version of Apo Reef. On my first trip where I stayed at Sogod Bay Scuba Resort, just a 100 meter swim away and I already saw the house turtle. At Pintuyan, you can snorkel with the whalesharks for hours without the crazy circus in Oslob!

Ready to Dive

Island Hop – Southern Leyte have several islands nearby worth visiting such as Limasawa, Cuatros Islas and Canigao Island where you can find dolphins playing along as you head to the islands. These islands also boast of beautiful white sand beaches and pristine waters.

Southern Leyte Road

Ride a Motorbike and Zipline- Take a scenic ride around Southern Leyte, they have different landscapes that are sure to please your eyes. You can even drive to Agas-Agas Bridge, the highest bridge in the Philippines and try out the zipline known as Zipline Leyte! It was easy for me to lose track of time as I relished the unobstructed landscapes where it be rice fields or beautiful sunsets over Liloan Bridge.

Surf – Unknown to many, Southern Leyte also have a number of surf spots.  There are at least 18 surf spots around the province, most of them in the Pacific towns of Hinundayan, Hinunangan and Silago. If you want to have a chill surf sans the crowd of Siargao then this is your spot.

Volunteer – If you heart is in marine conservation, you can join several NGO’s located in Southern Leyte such as Scaphro Philippines which creates artificial reefs out of bamboos, Coral Cay where Filipinos and foreigners can volunteer and maintain the Napantao Reef and LAMAVE , an NGO active in the protection of whale sharks and other large marine vertebrates they help train the local fishermen in Pintuyan in making their whaleshark interaction low-impact and eco-friendly.

Here are just some of the things I have listed above that you can do featured as in a local travel show:

HOW TO GET THERE:

Liloan Bridge

To get to Southern Leyte, you can now either fly or take a boat to Ormoc or just directly book a fast craft or an overnight boat to either Maasin or Hilongos. You can choose to take Weesam, Roble or Gabisan. Roble is the cheapest option while Weesam is the fastest. Fares ranges from P 133 to P 650.

Here is the schedule though it is always advisable to double-check with the shipping companies as it tends to change every now and then.

transtime

ACCOMMODATION:

The area where you can find a good number of accommodations is in Padre Burgos as it is where the white sand beaches and dive spots are. Last time I went there, I stayed at Leyte Dive Resort and Adventure Tours. The good thing about this place is that they have limited huts which means you do not have to deal with crazy boisterous crowds and you can rent a motorbike for P250 which is a must do if you want to go around Southern Leyte as transportation is not as often unlike other tourist spots.

If you are heading to Pintuyan, you can stay at La Guerta Lodge  they have aircon rooms good for two for P 600.

Leyte Dive Resort and Adventure Tours
Leyte Dive Resort and Adventure Tours

All of the possibilities that Southern Leyte have to offer should be enough to convince you to include in your bucketlist for your next travel destination in the Visayas. These are the same reasons are why I include this region as part of my top 3 destinations whether for adventure or chill this region has it all!