Caramoan with Family (Day 3)

April 17, 2016. Today is my mother’s actual birthday, the very reason our family went on a trip to Caramoan. As a devout Catholic, her first request was for us to visit the town proper of Caramoan to have mass in the church. The trip from the resort to the town proper was through a boat ride that took almost an hour. We didn’t get to town early enough, however, so we contented ourselves meditating in prayer inside the church.

Before leaving town, my parents made their usual rounds of souvenir shops for trinkets and other pasalubong to take back home.

The boat ride back to the resort was a rough ride against strong currents. After the turbulent trip, my mother claimed to have finished praying all mysteries of the rosary!

After lunch, my sister and I went to the resort’s beautiful infinity pool overlooking the cove and several islands, including Catanduanes province in the horizon.

Later this afternoon, we all went to a brief trip to the national park’s lighthouse, obviously atop of the park’s highest peaks, to marvel at the sunset and absorb further, in peace and tranquility, the sight of this majestic piece of paradise.

Caramoan with Family (Day 2)

April 16, 2016. Our second day in Caramoan was spent island-hopping.

Caramoan is a large rural municipality in Camarines Sur where Caramoan National Park is located. It boasts not one long stretch of beach but hectares of jungle with a coastline that boasts many coves and beaches, and dozens of islands scattered over the surrounding seas.

The beaches are as diverse as their number. There are beaches that have white, powdery sand, beaches that have huge rocks, beaches that have coarse pebbles, beaches that are secluded by towering limestone rock formations and thick foliage, there are beaches that are visited by many, there are those that lend visitors tranquility in isolation. Take your pick. It will definitely take more than a day to hop through all these islands and coves. My family was only able to visit a handful of islands and coves during this particular day trip.

Traversing the seas to go from one island or cove to another is like a boatride through Jurassic Park with all the foliage and mountains. It was a scenic trip that I had expected from a trip to Palawan, but not from a trip in Luzon. It was pleasant surprise. It was not, then, a very difficult decision for producers of the reality-show Survivor, in its many syndicated versions across the world, to pick Caramoan as one of their choice exotic settings. (No Survivor cast sightings here though!)

Caramoan with Family (Day 1)

April 15, 2016. It has become a tradition for our family during the summer to take a trip to celebrate my mother and my brother’s birthdays. This year, we went to Caramoan, in Camarines Sur.

Our first day was spent settling in our resort accommodation and going on one of their beach-hopping tours in Caramoan National Park.

We took the first plane in the morning to Virac, Catanduanes, and a shuttle to Codon, also in Catanduanes. From there, we took a speedboat to Tugawe Cove Resort in Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Located near the tip of Caramoan peninsula, Tugawe Resort is situated adjacent a small village separated from the rest of the municipality and town proper of Caramoan by the jungles of Caramoan National Park. Its isolation lends the place a very peaceful and exclusive feel, but likewise makes getting anywhere else journeys by themselves. Mobile network signal is likewise hard to get by, but who would really need that if you’re after a quiet and tranquil retreat? The staff are very hospitable and friendly. From experience, they go out of their way to grant specific requests to make their guests’ stay comfortable and memorable.

Baguio with Family

January 15-16, 2016. The family spent a night and two days in Baguio to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary. A sentimental trip it was because Baguio is where they celebrated their honeymoon back in the late 1980’s. It is likewise the venue of many family vacations as a young child together with my brother.

The family went for a stroll in Burnham Park and went for a boat-ride in the park’s manmade lake. My siblings went for a bike ride around the park too. Later that day we went to La Trinidad for its strawberry fields.

Kowloon and Hong Kong Island

December 3-6, 2015After spending an overwhelming part of the year preparing for the bar exams and actually taking them through November, a trip to Hong Kong (probably the nearest foreign destination for residents of Manila) seemed to be a great idea, at least for someone like me who enjoys traveling.

It had been four years since my last trip to Hong Kong with my family and much of it was spent in HK Disneyland. For the first two days of this particular sojourn, I had the privilege of going about my way alone, unhampered by any packaged itinerary or the whims of travel companions.

HK 13

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Lamma Island, Hong Kong

December 4, 2015. Lamma Island is a short ferry ride from Hong Kong Island. One of Hong Kong’s less inhabited and less visited islands, it usually attracts local Hong Kong residents and tourists who wish to escape the intensely cosmopolitan vibe of the city.

There are two charming villages on the island bound together by a trail that crosses through a small range of hills running north to south of the island. Aside from an imposing and ubiquitous power plant that seemed out of place, the island was indeed a serene escape from the bustling commercial activities of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

I arrived just in time for lunch at the village of Yung Shue Wan at the northern part of the island. After a hearty meal of succulent shrimps cooked in scrambled eggs, I wandered about the quaint community, walked to a beach called Hung Shing Yeh, and then trekked through the “family trail” that traversed the rolling hills of the island southwards to the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan.

Tokyo with Family (Day 4)

April 5, 2015. A visit to a Disney theme park in one city didn’t seem to be enough for my folks, we just had to go to another Disney theme park in Tokyo, Disney Sea. It would have been the more interesting theme park visit because it deviates from the classic Disneyland blueprint. However, the rains and the cold really dampened the mood, after seeing most of the park’s sections, all we wanted to do was go home and stay dry.

Tokyo Disney Sea, unique to Tokyo, is made up of seven themed “ports of call”–Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 3)

April 4, 2015. Our third day in Japan was spent with a tour group with a half-day itinerary to two of the city’s iconic landmarks — Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) and Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). In between, our shuttle made brief drive throughs of other landmarks in the city.

In Meiji Shrine we were fortunate to have witnessed a wedding ceremony and a miyamairi (宮参り, literally “shrine visit”) a traditional Shinto rite of passage for Japanese babies.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 2) – Tokyo Disneyland

April 3, 2015. Tokyo Disneyland is Disneyland anywhere else in the world. All generally follow the same blueprint and themed sections, with some particular variations in attractions. If you have been to other Disneylands, this will be a familiar trip.

It was a weekday and despite the overcast and occasional drizzle, hundreds of school kids in their uniforms were in the park, which seemed as busy as it would have been on a weekend. Lines were long, so if you’re not prepared to stand in line and wait for at least half an hour for each ride, forget it! Ha ha. If you’ve been in a similar ride or attraction in another Disneyland, it’s probably quite the same.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 1)

April 2, 2015. My family visited Tokyo, Japan right at the peak of the year’s bloom of cherry blossoms (sakura 桜). Part of the awe of the spectacle is the transient nature of the full bloom of flowers, which only happens roughly within the span of a week or so at a particular place, which makes one cherish the experience even more. This likewise explains why upon arrival, hanami (花見) or viewing the cherry blossoms was the first thing our family did.

In fact, the short-lived character of the beautiful bloom symbolizes many aspects of the sakuras’ cultural significance to the Japanese, centered on the beauty of life and its many aspects and their fleeting existence to be relished at their peak.

By the end of our short 5-day trip, the bloom had waned and the flowers have started falling down.

We were fortunate enough to be billeted in a hotel within walking distance from one of the best places in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵), or the moat the surrounds the northeastern part of the Imperial Palace.

As with any scenery that have been become familiar not by actual sight but by dominant cultural portrayal and association in visual media, seeing the cherry blossoms of Tokyo for the first time in person was a surreal experience. The trees in full bloom was indeed a sight to behold, especially as set against the cosmopolitan vibe of Tokyo.

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