Balik Baguio

For years, Baguio has been a favorite travel destination in the Philippines. With its cool fresh air, lush surroundings, various parks and attractions, the City of Pines has the promise of an ultimate family vacation destination. But how does a traveler maintain excitement and novelty when he/she has already experienced what the place has got to offer? That’s our challenge when we went back to Baguio last December to spend the New Year again with our relatives there.

Easy Transpo:

Victory Liner has trips to Baguio every hour. Prepare yourself for a loooong ride, though. I left Cubao at 10am and arrived almost 6pm. That’s eight long hours on the road baby!

On our way back, we tried Genesis Bus Lines because Victory doesn’t allow pets and we’re bringing home Brix, our 2-year old Shih Tzu. Seats aren’t as comfortable as Victory’s, and the stop-overs aren’t good at all! But we had a faster trip this time, we left Baguio at 10am and were in Manila already by 3pm.

Of course, another option is to bring your own car, or rent vans going there. It will be costlier – but more comfortable.

After Pepeng, the super typhoon that caused major landslides and floodings in Baguio and nearby provinces, a lot of people avoided Bagiuo due to travel safety reasons. But tourism is already picking up, I must say. Baguio was crowded anywhere during the holidays. Well, maybe not like 2008, but still, I’m hoping the best for this little city.

Sulit Stay

We were lucky that my uncle and his family live here and that they have rooms for rent. We didn’t have to worry about finding a hotel and including the fees in our budget. In 2008 though, during the PMAP Conference, our company delegation stayed at Microtel Inn and Suites. It’s nice, new, and rooms are spacious. I heard they have reasonable rates too. Plus, they’re located at the back of the Victory Liner terminal, so it’s very accessible.

Fun Food Tripping

You will never get hungry in Baguio. Every nook, every street, every building have restaurants and food stalls. This year, we had a sample of some of Baguio’s famous food joints namely: Café by the Ruins, Oh My Gulay, and Tea House.

Tours and Treats

The more common landmarks are Burnham Park, Camp John Hay, PMA,

For pasalubong, go to Pink Sisters. Try the Session Road also for some tiangge and ukay-ukay. If you want to buy silver jewelries, go to Ibay’s main store or at their branch in Session Road.

General Itinerary

There’s no itinerary for us this time. And our dedicated guide is Melay, my lovely cousin. 🙂

Cafe by the Ruins

I’ve read a lot of raves about this cafe, that’s why I decided not to pass up on the chance to visit the place and see what it has to offer.

True to its name, the café cum restaurant is in the ruins of a former prominent structure during the Spanish period. They did refurbish the place but still maintained that old Spanish ruins, which added more appeal.

We’re still full from our family picnic in Burnham Park so we just ordered some light snacks.

For a Makati girl like me, prices are reasonable; but a bit more pricey as compared to their Baguio counterparts. Al fresco ambience is good, but it can get chilly especially at night, so better be prepared.

It was a good experience for us. For a good cup of hot chocolate though, I’d still go for good old Mary Grace. 🙂

Oh MY Gulay!

This restaurant is an out-of-this world experience in itself. For one, I’m sure one will never imagine that such restaurant exists smack in the middle of chaotic and cramped session road. The place was designed in such a way that you will think you’re in a garden restaurant and not in the 4th floor of some building.

It is, indeed, an ultimate discovery. A perfect hidden getaway in the city.


2009 Year-Ender

I wanted 2009 to be the year of being able to finally move on. From past loves, to annoying habits, to insincere friends, to self doubts, and selfishness. I just wanted to go with the flow and start a whole new cycle towards my happy ending. I was happy with how I managed to survive the year, and looking forward to a happier, more exciting, but peaceful and fulfilling 2010.

2009 started on a very challenging note though – my aunt died of heart attack and I got sick so I was on leave for more than half of january.

I was so excited to start the year because I was considering it as my moving on year and a fresh new start towards greater things. I have resolved to stay with the company I’m in for another year because of the shaky economy and i wasn’t disappointed. I’ve met one too many challenges at work that made me a better professional. I know these challenges won’t cease and will even get harder as I go along, but I know I’m ready for greater challenges this year.

I’ve also explored places in 2009, more within the philippines. That Ilocos trip was very memorable. This year, I discovered countless restaurants, hangouts, shot photos in UP and high street, memorized megamall, shangrila, and market market. I’ve discovered hidden getaways near manila and squeezed in weekend trips whenever our schedules and budget permits. I also discovered a new hobby which is lomography.

When I lost THAT person, I found myself again. I developed new friendships. I learned to mingle with other people and renewed relationships with those I have neglected. It paved the way for me to get closer with my sisters and angelo as well. I loved who I became and stopped looking. I learned I can be happy as I am.

And then I fell in love.

C – is my dream guy. Cheesy as it sounds, but, he’s the one. I knew it since the very first day we talked. How we clicked. How there were one to many sparks in that one memorable night in high street. He was able to bring out the giddy school girl in me again. I never thought that my admiring-him-from-a-distance-drama could be real. He’s the best gift God has given me in 2009. And I intend to take very good care of it. 🙂

In 2010, I still want to maintain the go with the flow attitude. I have written my must dos and in a nutshell, in 2010 I want to explore more places (more hidden getaways, and a tour of asia), be more adveturous and be more flexible, and start living healthy. It already started with an edgy haircut from tony and jackey a few hours before new year. 🙂 no regrets.

Viaje del Sol

You need not travel far to escape from the heat and noise of the city…. And you don’t need to spend so much money to enjoy this trip in San Pablo, Laguna.

Via del Sol (Way to the Sun) has been getting a lot of attention lately. Travelers rave about the unique experience combination – of being close to nature, good food, relaxation, the slow pace, and homey ambience. We didn’t actually complete all the attractions in the map – because we only have a day and a half, and we wanted a more relaxed pace for this vacation. Action-less nevertheless, we had a great time.

Easy Transpo:
Even if you don’t have a car, San Pablo is still very accessible. JAC Liner in Kamuning along EDSA has buses going to Lucena every hour. Just inform the driver to drop you off at San Pablo Medical Hospital. It’s hard to miss because it is beside a big Chowking fastfood restaurant. You may want to sit in the right side of the bus to easily spot the landmark. In front of the hospital are tricycles that can take you to the resort.

Sulit Stay:
There are a few resorts and hotels in San Pablo, but Casa San Pablo, for me, stands out because of its affordability but quality service, friendly staff, and unique rooms. We availed of the overnight stay with two meals for only Php 1,750 per head.

You may read about my Casa San Pablo review here.

Fun Food Tripping:
For both our Lake Pandin and Casa San Pablo experience, we were served home-style traditional Laguna cooking. You may also try Kusina Salud (owned by Patis Tesoro), or Kinabuhayan Café for a more vegetarian alternative.

Tours and Treats:
The Viaje del Sol map suggests several possible tourist destinations. Due to time constraints, we tried the local cruise at Lake Pandin and spent the rest of our time inside the Casa San Pablo compound.

Click here for my Lake Pandin story

Our budget? only Php 3,000 per person!

Enchanting Casa San Pablo


This overnight trip is the first part of my elaborate surprise for C on our first Christmas together. If there’s one thing that we have in common, that would be our love for travel – and the adventure and photo opportunities that go with it. And Casa San Pablo was able to give us all that – and more!

I’m dividing this story into three parts. I’ll start here with a tour of the surroundings, our room, and the food. The next blog post will be about my suggestions on how to enjoy your stay at the Casa, and the last will be our amazing local cruise balsa-style in Lake Pandin.


Casa San Pablo has interesting artistic rooms inside the Kay Inay Resort compound. Each room is unique in the sense that they have different inspirations and themes in various sizes. We were billeted in the Hot Wheels Room.

Don’t expect five-star accommodations here. The rooms are very basic, some furnitures are old, including the air-conditioning unit in our room. But for me it adds up to the overall appeal of the place. It’s very homey, like you’re just n a vacation in your grandmother’s ancestral home.

The guestrooms don’t have TVs and refrigerators as well. If you want cold water inside your room, they will give you a cooler with your choice of drinks inside. Those that will be consumed will be charged separately.

The Food

The Php 1,750 per pax package already includes our overnight stay with two meals. Like the room, the food also tastes like home. I read that they serve meals buffet-style, but since there were only two rooms occupied that night, they just prepared food for two tables for both our dinner and breakfast.

Our Sumptuous Dinner

Yummy Breakfast

I love the room! I love the food! But what’s happening inside the Casa? Find out here.

Activities in the Casa

Now that you’ve already seen the Casa San Pablo compound, had a peek in our room, and savored the food, let me give you some ideas now on how to maximize your stay here.  Let me remind you again though that Casa San Pablo is all about relaxing and cuddling, and bonding. So if you’re looking for a getaway that offers adventure or other active activities, this might not be the place for you. It gets very quiet here, especially at night, and it’s a good chance to catch up over coffee chitchating with your companions and loved ones.

Activity # 1 – Swim, Swim, Swim!

The hike and the tour left us feeling tired and dirty, so a dip in the pool was perfect to keep us recharged.  There weren’t many guests at that time – which is good because we have the pool all for ourselves. The downside is, it looks like the water wasn’t cleaned/filtered of dirt and fallen leaves that day. I just hoped water was clean. Nevertheless, we still had fun in the pool.

Activity # 2 – Have some quiet time in the hammock

The vast garden has about six hammocks where guests can lie down, relax, and perhaps read a good book or sleep. We love it! We were there for hours while waiting for our dinner. We talked, took photos of the pine trees and the clouds, and watched how the sky magically changed its color from blue to orange to black.

Activity # 3 – Indulge in a competitive board game

Several board games are available for guests to borrow for free. We had a fun game of scrabble while waiting for dinner. Guess who won? 🙂

Activity # 4 – Stargazing

Lie down in one of the “banigs” in the garden for a doze of stargazing and some quiet time. At night, the whole place lights up, thanks to the candles scattered all over the place.

I heard they also have massage services here. But we didn’t get to try it already because of the very limited time that we have. Overall though, I think the trick is to be with someone who you really enjoy spending time with. And I’m just happy I AM with that person.  🙂

your triphunter | I love quiet bonding opportunities, therefore, I love Casa San Pablo! 🙂

Cruisin’ Lake Pandin

This tour is part of our christmas getaway following the sun in San Pablo via Viaje del Sol. View related post here.

If you’re out to try something different, try the local cruise on a balsa in Lake Pandin. A project of the local government of San Pablo, this initiative aims to promote the beauty of the “seven lakes” and help give additional income to the women of Pandin.

The lake tour rate is pegged at Php180 per head. There’s really no minimum number of persons required. I think they will be open even if you are a solo traveler. Better to make prior reservations though. Call or text Mr. Mandy Marino at 09175016694 and he will refer you to the people who will arrange the tour.

Our adventure started with a 15 to 20 minute-hike to the lake. It’s a difficult walk, (especially for someone without any exercise) but I had no choice but to endure it.

A few minutes later, we were welcomed by such breath taking view!

Lake Pandin is one of the famous seven lakes of San Pablo. The local “balsa” will tour you around the lake for a view of the surroundings. What makes it unique is that the community women serve as the paddlers. They were also the ones who prepared our food.

We made arrangements to have our lunch in the balsa. For an additional Php 180 per head, we were served delicious and fresh Laguna delicacies!

How to go there:

From Casa San Pablo, we took the tricycle going to Lake Pandin. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t know how to go there! It took us almost an hour before we reached the place. And the driver was charging us more than the Php 100 that we have agreed on.

The jeeps would be a safer alternative. In front of Casa San Pablo, jeeps bound to San Pablo town proper from Tanauan pass by. Get off San Pablo Plaza and ride another jeep going to Ilog Sambat in Barangay Sitio Angel. Get off the Lake Pandin parking space. Your guide should meet you there.

your triphunter | I love my “batik” hat-fan from Indonesia!

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