Australia Family Trip (Day 3) – Blue Mountains, Kangaroos, and Friends

April 16, 2014. We were booked on a tour to the Blue Mountains, a national park west of Sydney. Spectacular views. We were likewise brought to a small zoo where we were able to interact with some kangaroos, koalas and emus. Instead of taking the road back to Sydney, we were ferried on a, well, ferry along the Parramatta River as the sun was setting down. I met up with a childhood friend and her sister for a night out in Sydney.

Las Haciendas in Laurel, Batangas

Las Haciendas, Laurel, Batangas October 18, 2007. I had a Mass Media Law exam scheduled the next day, but I decided to go ahead and join Ivan, Nino, and Gideon to Las Haciendas in Laurel, Batangas. The place is a large and budding real estate development on what is apparently a large estate owned by a prominent landowning family. It initially bothered me how the extent of its area covers much of the town of Laurel, even including public offices within its private control and how its development will displace hundreds of local families who have lived in the area for centuries.

I will not claim to know much of the history and the exact details but it to me, it felt like it had the makings of a classic land ownership and feudal relationship issue dating from the Spanish period. Before I could raise the question to our hosts, however, we were told that the long-time peasant residents of the estate will indeed be displaced but will be offered socialized housing. Because we were hosted and toured for free, I will not be an ingrate and I’d rather say that that was fair enough for me, and I shall keep my reservations for now.

Anyway, Las Haciendas is a real estate development that claims to offer urban families and retirees a pampered ‘provincial life’, with their own farm lots and resorts where they can cultivate their own fruit trees and other such plants, and build their dream weekend getaway homes.

Las Haciendas, Laurel, Batangas

We visited Las Haciendas mainly to trek to Ambon-Ambon Falls that was within the estate. The trek to the falls was a fairly easy half-an-hour walk through some small local communities, foliage and streams.

Ambon-Ambon Falls gets its name from the particles of water that shower anyone within the fall’s enclave. The “ambon” however, was not as apparent as it used to be. Other real estate developments upstream have blocked many of the streams that provide the falls with much of its water, hence, the falls are not as strong as it used to be. The pools at the bottom of the falls have also since then become small and shallow so if you trekked to the falls for a swim or a dip, you’ll be disappointed. Unless of course, if it had just rained.

I slipped on some of the rocks on the way to the falls and managed to get myself a handful of cuts on my hands and on my legs. Thankfully, my digital camera came out from the minor accident scratchless, even though I was carrying it by hand when I slipped.

Hinulugang Taktak, Daranak, Batlag

September 27, 2007. After my only class in the morning, I went with fellow blogger and a brod of mine, Ivan in one of his spur of the moment trips with fellow travelers Gideon and Sai to some falls in nearby Rizal province. We were supposed to go only to Daranak Falls in Tanay, Rizal but we ended up also passing by Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo and further to Batlag Falls in Tanay, too.

Hinulugang Taktak

Hinulugang Taktak is one of the falls that many of us know, because of the infamous folk song that went “Tara na sa Antipolo, at doon maligo tayo!” and, also because of its proximity to Manila. Unfortunately, it is perhaps because of this proximity to human settlements that the falls seem quite neglected. The waterfalls is visually picturesque but it smelled like detergent from all the residents doing their laundry upstream.

Surrounding the falls is a park where families can have picnics. There’s also a swimming pool downstream. More information at

After taking a few photographs with the falls, we proceeded to Tanay, Rizal which was less than an hour away from Antipolo.

Soon enough we found ourselves driving down a valley into a park along the river. After paying the entrance fee, we walked upstream through the park to Daranak Falls itself.

Daranak Falls

Since it had just rained around the area, the falls looked healthy with all the water plunging down to the catch basin. The water wasn’t really too clear with all the weathered matter from upstream, but that’s not a problem. Swimming is allowed, and the water doesn’t smell like detergent as it is in Hinulugang Taktak. The picturesque paradise-like surroundings and its proximity to Manila apparently make it an ideal location for shoots. Anyway, more information at

Daranak Falls

A few minutes walk upstream from Daranak Falls is another falls, Batlag Falls, surrounded by lush vegetation. It is for me, the most picturesque from among the three falls we went to.

Unlike Hinulugang Taktak and Daranak, Batlag Falls is more branched than it is continuously wide. You can also swim in the falls’ catchbasin. We were the only visitors in the area, probably because it was a weekday. From the cottages around, it would seem that Batlag Falls is also a frequent destination for those wanting to have a picnic within lush surroundings and a beautiful cascade of water around them.

Batlag Falls

US Trip ’07: Muir Woods

Muir Woods

May 30, 2007. After dropping by our second vista point of the Golden Gate Bridge, we continued driving north of San Francisco to Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County. It’s apparently one of the last ancient coastal redwood forests in the San Francisco Bay area.

It’s the first time I encountered trees as large as the redwoods in Muir Woods. I’m not exactly sure why my aunt brought us there, but it was a relatively uneventful trip. We simply walked around the wooden paths and pleasantly took in the fresh cool air and redwood scents.

Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin (Part I)

Pryce PlazaWe left Manila by plane at around a quarter past 5 AM. We arrived at Cagayan de Oro’s Lumbia Airport a little more than an hour after. It was my first time in Cagayan de Oro–actually, only my second time in Mindanao, the first being in Davao four years ago.

Our host picked us up from the airport and took us to a hotel on top of a hill overlooking the city for breakfast. The original plan of the host was to take us straight to Camiguin, but since we were in Cagayan de Oro already, we suggested that we do the white water rafting CdO has recently been famous for.

Before we reached the starting point of the white water rafting course, we dropped by this place where I tried out the canopy walk and the zipline. Whew. For an acrophobic like me, that was an accomplishment! It was scary. What made it more scary was not the height of the canopy walk nor the zipline but it was because our friend over there was walking so close behind me, he made the bridge sway a lot, I thought it would snap with both our weights combined. Hehe.

zipline and canopy walking in Cagayan de Oro

After going through that, we took off and went straight to a remote part of Cagayan de Oro, bordering Bukidnon already, at the banks of I-forget-what-the-name-is river.

White Water Rafting at Cagayan de Oro River

Wow. Before we went off on our inflated rafts, we were briefed as to how to paddle correctly and how to follow orders from our raft guide. Since it had been raining the past days, the current that day was relatively strong and the water was brownish (brown water rafting?), but still refreshingly cold.

It was an exhilarating two hours of shooting the rapids. There were fourteen rapids all in all, and we just started on the beginner’s level. Each of the rapids had different characteristics. I think what made the rafting experience more scary is the guide’s scary anecdotes and orders. He would always warn us that the raft would tumble over if we didn’t paddle hard and correctly. Fun, fun. I would’ve wanted our raft to tumble over for more adventure, but then I was with my parents and my brother and I didn’t want to see them just drown or float off.

The sceneries along the river was breathtaking. It was a shame I couldn’t bring my camera. When you do the rafting, bring your own lunches because you’d stop over at a spot in the river banks for an hour lunch break. We didn’t know that so we didn’t have food. We had to beg our guides to allow us to leave earlier (we were with two other rafts and they had food).

Check out my photo gallery for more pictures.