Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kalinga: Travel Tips and Final Thoughts

Summary of my Kalinga trip:

Kalinga is a province in Region 2. On February 14, 1995, Philippine RA 7878 divided what was then Kalinga-Apayao into the two provinces of Kalinga and Apayao. It was only on this trip that I learned about this provincial separation; I learned about Kalinga-Apayao back when I was in grade school and that was before 1995. :) I also asked some locals what the correct pronunciation of Kalinga is. Apparently, the 'ng' in Kalinga is pronounced with a hard g, the same way 'ng' is pronounced in finger (and not in singer).

If you visit Kalinga, I highly recommend staying at the Davidson Hotel. They have big rooms which are ideal for big groups. Each room has a TV with some cable channels, air-conditioning, and hot water in the shower. The hotel also has a small swimming pool.

Davidson Hotel
Provincial Road, Purok Datu, Bulanao
3800 Tabuk
09264126018 / 09175797110

Our stay in Davidson Hotel came as part of a group package that they prepared for us so all our activities (rafting, rappelling, shooting, visit to Ryan's farm, and trip to the Kalinga capitol) were organized by the hotel. This also included all our transportation. (I also got to play a new game with my friends: The Resistance. This was a lot of fun and it provided many hours of entertainment.)

Our planned itinerary had to be changed due to the weather in the days leading up to our trip, making some of the places we were supposed to visit difficult to go to. As such, we weren't able to see and enjoy the Palan-ah falls and hot springs as well as the Sleeping Beauty Mountain in Tinglayan. If you get a chance to visit Kalinga, you may want to visit these places.

Almost all our meals were organized by the hotel and everything was pretty good. On first dinner was served boodle fight-style where all the food was served on banana leaves that were laid out in the center of our table. However, the most memorable dish was the sisig during our final dinner. It was prepared by the daughter of the owner and it was so good, possibly the best sisig I've ever had! That dinner was set up in the Chinese restaurant of the hotel (I can't recall the name) and after dinner, we had a karaoke party before returning to our room (a Magic Sing was connected to the TV in the restaurant). 

I got my daily coffee fix in the hotel's cafe, Leigh's Grill and Coffee Shop. They have a few cakes and desserts (a few of which I tried) and they also serve halo-halo (which I also tried). The coffee is pretty good and it's cheap. Also, if you are staying in the hotel, your brewed coffee is refillable. Awesome! We chilled out in this cafe quite a few times. Here's a cool photo I took in this coffee shop:

If you visit Kalinga, try to have some pan de buko (and no, I don't mean pan de coco). Pan de buko is available in local bakeries. Essentially, it's a soft bread roll filled with the same coconut filling that you can find in buko pie. We had some when we drove through the city center and it's really delicious!

On our way to the airport, we stopped at the border between Kalinga and Cagayan. Here we had some pretty incredible views of the Cagayan Valley, like you will see in this next photo:

This was a fantastic trip to a province I had never been to before and it was made more enjoyable and memorable by the fact that I went there with good friends.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

More Kalinga experiences

On our way to the Chico River, we passed by some mini-terraces that had been carved out of the mountainside.

Later that same day, after we had rested a bit from our rafting adventure, we visited Ryan's Farm.

It actually felt more like a large garden than a farm, with a variety of plants, fruit trees, and flowers spread out all across the grounds.

Corazon Kub-ao Ryan, co-owner of the farm and a Kalinga native, acted as our tour guide. She is a BS Biology graduate from the University of Baguio and was a Gawad Saka national awardee in the fishery category in 1997. She has done many seminars over the years, sharing her knowledge to others so that they can also be more successful in agriculture. They have a small fishery in the farm and some of us got to feed the fish while we were there. They are also big on vermiculture and composting.

The farm is known for its bugnay wine and we got to see the bugnay trees. I even got to pick one of the fruits from the tree and try it. Corazon told us that she and her husband both loved wine and as such, they decided to try making wine from this fruit. We had a bugnay wine and juice tasting while we were there and some of us ended jup purchasing a few bottles. (Check out this short video for more info about the farm.)

the bugnay fruit

On the afternoon of our rappelling and shooting day, we drove through the city center of Tabuk, the provincial capital, on our way to the Kalinga Capitol which is where their city hall is located.

The capitol is on top of a small hill. It was a quiet afternoon and we walked around the complex grounds, enjoying the views of the city and taking photos. On the far end, there were several nipa hut-like sheds where people could just sit in the shade and hang out.

Next post: my final thoughts on this thoroughly enjoyable Kalinga trip.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Kalinga: Shooting and Rappelling

Our Kalinga adventure continued the next day with military-training-inspired activities. First on our agenda: rappelling down a bridge. I had never rappelled in my life before and I'm not a huge fan of heights so this experience was a bit nerve-racking.

Before we started the activity, we were given a briefing and some safety instructions. The biggest challenge for me was actually getting off the bridge and not having anything solid under my feet. However, once I got the rhythm of controlling and releasing the rope, it was relatively smooth sailing.

A couple of my "daredevil" friends actually did a "lizard rappel" or I think that's what it's called, which means that they went down head first. Pretty awesome! Not something I would like to do, though. :)

Once everyone in group had been able to rapel at least once (a few did it twice), it was time to eat. We headed to the venue of our next activity - shooting training - where we had a really good picnic-style lunch.

After our delicious and satisfying meal, we walked over to our outdoor shooting range. Our instructor is a PMA graduate and he made sure we understood the importance of treating a gun with utmost respect and not treat it lightly. He explained the proper way to hold a handgun and showed us how to aim and shoot it. He also taught us how to replace the magazine. Once our briefing was done, it was time to shoot.

Our training involved three rounds. The first part was basic: we had to just shoot at the target. The second part required us to do rapid fire. The third part required us to fire three shots in quick succession, replace the magazine, then fire another three shots. I started out really nervous because I know how powerful and dangerous guns are. It felt like having so much destructive power in my hands and it made me really uneasy. In fact, I couldn't even cock the gun at the start because my hands were so sweaty. However, once I felt more comfortable, I started doing a lot better.

In the end, I did marginally well for a first-timer. Some of my shots landed very close to each other. Our instructor told me that I had potential to be a decent shooter. Cool!

This was a fantastic day that involved two new firsts for me - rapelling and handgun training. My Kalinga trip was becoming more memorable by the minute. Still, I will be sharing a few more experiences in my next post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kalinga: White Water Rafting

Chico River, we meet again! This is where I had my first white water rafting experience 10 years ago and I was really looking forward to shooting the rapids of this Northern Luzon river again.

Our trip was organized by Chico River Quest. We were picked up at our hotel and it took approximately an hour to get to the part of the riverbank where we would start our adventure.

Our guides gave us a briefing and explained a few basic instructions that we would need to follow to help properly maneuver the raft. Once our overview was complete and we all had our helmets and life vests on, we got on our raft and headed down the river.

We naturally started out in the part of the river that was still calm. It didn't take too long though before we started flexing our muscles by paddling to help control and direct our raft. There were some pretty incredible rapids!

Almost everyone tumbled over inside the raft at some point. In fact, in one particularly rocky stretch of the river, my friend Tim actually fell out of the raft! I guess it wouldn't have been a complete experience if nobody accidentally fell out. :) Our briefing included what to do when you fall out and how to get someone back into the raft so getting Tim back in was quite easy.

Midway through our trip, we stopped by a spot on the riverbank that had a small waterfall to have some snacks and drinks that were included in our package. Of course, we took this time to take pictures as well. :)

Apart from the awesome physical challenge of shooting the rapids, another great thing about this is the amazing scenery that you get to enjoy while on the river.

Towards the end of our adventure, our guides told us we could jump off the raft and let the current take us down river. Naturally, we all did. (I think it's standard to do this because I also did this the two previous times I went rafting.)

I'm glad that I got to borrow the waterproof camera of my friend because for the first time, I was able to take lots of pictures and even videos of my white water rafting experience. The entire trip down the Chico River took about three hours and this adventure alone made our visit to Kalinga worth it already. Of course there was still a lot more in store for me and my friends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kalinga Adventure

It started out while my friends and I were enjoying coffee and dessert early this year. We talked about possibly going to Sagada in late 2014 but I told them that a trip to Mountain Province isn't ideal during the rainy season because of the possibility of landslides and blocked roads. What is ideal during the rainy season is white water rafting. It had been 10 years since I went rafting in the Chico River and I had such an amazing time that I suggested it to my friends. Everyone else seemed to think that was a great idea so last August, we all made our way to Kalinga.

Funny thing about this trip, though. When I went rafting in the Chico River a decade ago, we stayed in Tuguegarao in Cagayan. As such, I figured this is where we would be staying as well. However, since my friend who was going with us used to work in a travel agency, he made almost all the travel arrangements including the hotel booking and the itinerary. It was only when we landed in Tuguegarao and boarded our airport pick-up that I realized we were going to Kalinga instead. The Chico River, which is where the rafting would take place, is actually a river system in Kalinga that empties into the Cagayan River. It was a pleasant surprise because I got to visit a Philippine province that I hadn't been to before. Cool!

We stayed in Davidson Hotel and they organized a package tour for us. We stayed there for four days and three nights and apart from the rafting, our itinerary also included rappelling down a bridge...

...and a trip to the shooting range.

We got to do a few more things when we were there. I'll be writing in more detail about this amazing Kalinga trip over the next few blog posts. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pacquiao beats Algieri

Another impressive win by Manny Pacquiao, this time against Chris Algieri. It was a dominant performance by the "Pambansang Kamao" as he knocked down Algieri six times in their fight that lasted the full 12 rounds. Just how one-sided was this fight? The three judges had it 120-102, 119-103 and 119-103.Manny also landed 229 punches out of 669 throws (34%) while Chris only landed 108 of 469. Pacquiao not only had a better percentage than his opponent (34% vs 23%) but he also landed more than twice as many punches (229 vs 108). Wow.

This win allowed Manny to retain his welterweight world title and it cements his position as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in history. Congratulations, Manny!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

The ramen craze hit the Philippines a couple of years ago and it's still going strong. I can't say I'm a ramen connoisseur as I've tried only a handful of places so far. Of the ones I've tried, my favorite by a mile is Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen. This place specializes in tonkotsu, or pork bone broth, ramen (note: this is not to be confused with tonkatsu which is a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet). I love the food here so much that I've actually visited this place several times already, allowing me to try a handful of their menu items.

My favorite is the Ajitama Tonkotsu (P380). It's essentially their normal Ikkoryu Original Tonkotsu (tonkotsu ramen garnished with chashu, green onion, bamboo shoots, wood ear and dried seaweed) but with an Ajitama soft-boiled egg. I don't know how this egg is cooked but it is packed with flavor and goes perfectly well with the delicious ramen.

Ajitama Tonkotsu

The Chashu Tonkotsu (P380) is also pretty much their basic original Tonkotsu ramen but with an extra chashu slice.

Chashu Tonkotsu

The YUZU-TAMA Tonkotsu (P380) is one of their spicier options and the heat in this dish is provided by the yuzukosh┼Ź, a paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt. It's not extremely spicy so if you aren't a big fan of spicy food and want to try something different, this is a good option.

YUZU-TAMA Tonkotsu

I also got to try their Black Garlic Tonkotsu (P380) which has a special roast garlic oil mixed in with it. It's got great flavor while you are eating it but the slight downside for me was that I could still taste the garlic oil a couple of hours later.

Black Garlic Tonkotsu

The food here is quite expensive (all ramen options are in the P300-400 range) but it is worth it. You can check out their menu here. As of this writing, they currently have six locations, with a seventh one expected to open soon. Writing this blog post just made me want to have some of their tonkotsu ramen again LOL so maybe I should plan another visit some time soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big Hero 6

I have a new favorite movie of the year: Big Hero 6!

photo courtesy of

The fact that this is a superhero movie with an adorable robot that kicks ass is, for me, already worth the price of admission. :) But of course, it's more than just that. Visually, the animation is amazing. (Side note: I love how a fictional city named San Fransokyo served as the setting.) Story-wise, it's a perfect blend of action, fun and laughs, and touching and even heartbreaking moments. As expected, the character development is done brilliantly. I don't know how Disney (and Pixar) do this miles better than other animation studios but when you watch their films, you get emotionally invested in the lead characters and you care what happens to them.

It was wonderful and heartwarming to see how the bond between Hiro Hamada and his brother Tadashi strengthens through their common interest and skill in advanced robotics. Then of course there's Baymax. He is animated in a way that makes audiences fall in love with him and his viewer appeal is further heightened by his amazing loyalty to his friends as well as his original design purpose. On top of all this, it was really cool to see how the scientific experiments and developments of the science students would later on become the advanced weaponry of Big Hero 6. Seeing their dynamic as a superhero squad evolve throughout the course of the movie is really fun to watch.

It's really interesting how two of my favorite superhero movies - Big Hero 6 and The Incredibles - are both animated and from Disney (or well, The Incredibles was produced by Disney-Pixar). Big Hero 6 is a five-star, two thumbs up film that is certainly worth watching. I am definitely getting the DVD of this when it's out. And who knows, maybe I'll watch it again in the movie theater. We'll see. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Setting records in the Shakey's V-League

The Shakey's V-League Season 11 Reinforced Conference concluded recently, with the Cagayan Rising Suns getting help from their imports to beat Philippine Army. Cagayan had two top Thai players in their roster but it was local player Aiza Maizo-Pontillas who was hailed tournament MVP and finals MVP. Cool! I've been a big fan of Aiza ever since her UAAP playing days and it's great to see her playing and still doing very well. Apparently, she is the most decorated player in the Shakey's V-League so far, with 2 Conference MVP and 3 Finals MVP awards. She has also won each of the following awards once: Best Scorer (most total points), Best Attacker (highest attack success rate), Best Server, and Best Blocker. Talk about an all-around player!

The V-League also held a men's tournament for the first time, with IEM winning the inaugural title over Systema. Matching Aiza Maizo-Pontillas' achievements on the men's side was Jeffrey Jimenez from IEM, who also took top honors as tournament and finals MVP to go with his championship title.

Volleyball has clearly become very popular in the Philippines, with more and more matches being televised. While the Shakey's V-League may have already concluded, the Philippine SuperLiga is still ongoing (it's being televised on Solar Sports). And of course, next week, the UAAP volleyball season will commence. I'm definitely looking forward to that. :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Djokovic clinches year-end top ranking

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic for clinching the year-end #1 ranking in the ATP tour. He achieved this last Friday when he won his last round-robin match during the ATP World Tour Finals. That win allowed him to get to the semifinals and guaranteed that Roger Federer would not be able to catch him.

As it turned out, Roger had to withdraw in the final due to a back injury. Federer's withdrawal allowed Novak to claim his third ATP World Tour final trophy in a row and fourth overall. Only one other player, Ivan Lendl, has won the year-end title three years in a row. Djokovic is now the seventh player in the open era to be ranked #1 at the end of the year at least three times. He has definitely achieved a tremendous amount of success in his career so far, making him one of tennis' all-time greats, and it will be interesting to see how much more he will accomplish over the next few years.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Awesome day at Enchanted Kingdom

Yesterday, I went to Enchanted Kingdom as part of my company's anniversary celebration. For the entire day, access to the amusement park was exclusive to company employees and our family and friends. Because EK was blocked off, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to take my family there because it wouldn't be as crowded as it normally is.

I was hoping this trip would make up for the last time I visited Enchanted Kingdom which was a major bust because the lines to get on the rides were incredibly long and we ended up just getting on the ferris wheel and going shopping. True enough, this time around, the waiting time for the rides wasn't too bad - it was around 30-45 minutes on average only. As such, despite arriving there mid-afternoon, my family was able to try a few attractions. Cool! I myself didn't get on too many rides but my brother and my nephew did. They got to try the Ekstreme Tower, Anchor's Away, and Space Shuttle. As a family, we all went into Rialto which was a major disappointment. I remember getting on this attraction back in the day when it was pretty exciting because it was a motion simulator where you felt like you yourself were moving. This time around, it was just like watching a 3D movie with your seat moving. I definitely don't recommend it (at least not with the current Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs experience). However, we did follow that up with a trip to 7D and that was a really, really fun and amazing ride! You need to pay an additional P100 per person to get in but it is definitely worth it!

Before the park closed, my brother and my nephews tried the XPP paintball (it costs an additional P120 per person) and despite there being only 3 of them, they all still had a blast. With around 10 minutes left before the park closed, my nephews and I still managed to get on the Jungle Log Jam. As there were no more lines, once we got out, we went back in again. We were all pretty soaked after but since the park was already closed, we all just got into dry clothes and headed home.

All in all, an awesome day that definitely made up for the last time we were there. The only unfortunate thing was that Rio Grande was closed so I wasn't able to experience it. Maybe one of these days, when it isn't peak season, I'll take my family there again.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Inspirational Paul Smith

Care to guess what medium was used to create this copy of the Mona Lisa?

Believe it or not, It was created using a humble typewriter! Check out the zoomed in version and see how a lot of the facial detail was created using a hashtag (#):

Astounding right? However, what is truly mind-blowing and absolutely inspirational about this is that it was created by typewriter artist Paul Smith, who at an early age already suffered from cerebral palsy. Despite his condition, Paul displayed such an immense will to thrive and his amazing creativity found an outlet through the humble typewriter. I don't think I have enough superlatives to describe this. Check out this video about Paul:

video uploaded in youtube by John Stofflet

Paul Smith passed away back in 2007 at the ripe old age of 85. You can read more about him in this article about him in You can also see a lot more samples of his unbelievably impressive and intricate art in that article. I've tried to search online for books that feature his art but it seems nothing was ever officially published. Too bad. I guess I will just check out his amazing artwork online.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Cross Trainers

Seems like the shopping bug still hasn't left me LOL. Last weekend, I bought a new pair of cross trainers. I didn't get them on a whim, though. I had known for the last several months that I needed to replace my old pair but despite my efforts to find new shoes, I couldn't really find what I was looking for.

That is, until I passed by the Reebok shop on the third floor of Robinson's Galleria. I went in not really expecting to find anything but then I saw this pair of Reebok Quick Edge shoes. They had my size and when I tried them on, I thought they felt comfortable enough and looked pretty good.

The kicker was the that these shoes were on sale. At 40% off, the discounted price was only P1,900. Wow! Add to that the fact that they are cross trainers (meaning that I can use them for a variety of physical activities) and my purchase decision was made extremely easy. I'm really happy that I went to Robinson's Galleria last weekend and that I decided to check out the Reebok store while I was there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gender Equality in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of the top ten countries in the world that display gender equality at the workplace. Amazing!

I read about this in an article published by a couple of weeks ago where the World Economic Forum rated the Philippines #9 out of 142 countries in terms of gender equality. They recently released their annual Global Gender Gap Report which rates how well a country is doing using four sub-indexes: Economic Participation, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. If a country is viewed as having fully closed the gap in a sub-index, it is ranked #1. As such, there are several countries that can be ranked #1 in a sub-index. The Philippines is ranked #1 in both Educational Attainment (along with 24 other countries) and Health and Survival (along with 34 other countries). In fact, as of 2014, the Philippines is only one of 8 countries that have fully closed the gap in these two sub-indexes. Amazing!

While there is still some way to go in terms of Political Empowerment (where we are ranked 17) and Economic Participation (where we are ranked 24), it's still great to see that the Philippines is one of the countries leading the way in terms of gender equality. Being ranked #9 out of 142 is pretty impressive. Hope things continue to get better and the gender gap continues to close, not only in the Philippines but in the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trying out Tim Ho Wan in Megamall

Tim Ho Wan started out as a dimsum hole-in-the-wall in Hong Kong that gained international acclaim by being the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world. It became a lot more accessible for its fans in the Philippines when it opened in SM Megamall back in May. Since then, the lines outside this restaurant have always been incredibly long. As I was in Megamall last weekend and I wasn't in a rush, I decided to brave the crowds and try it out for myself.

The long line outside Tim Ho Wan at around noon on Saturday

Tim Ho Wan became popular because of its legendary Baked Buns with BBQ Pork (P145). Each order comes with three buns. It's kinda like siopao but the difference is the bread: it's crusty, flaky, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth and very delicious!

Baked Buns with BBQ Pork (P145)

This is the must-have dish here and I think everyone who eats in this resto orders this. It definitely lived up to the hype!

A look at the BBQ pork filling

I wanted to try a couple of my personal dimsum favorites so I ordered the Steamed Prawn Dumplings (P160)...

Steamed Prawn Dumplings (P160)

...and the Bean Curd Skin Rolls with Pork and Shrimp (P120).

Bean Curd Skin Rolls with Pork and Shrimp (P120)

The prawn dumplings (hakaw or har gow) are good but not really different from what you can get in other Chinese restaurants. And strangely enough, I actually prefer the beancurd roll of Causeway to the Tim Ho Wan version (although I do love the fact that the Tim Ho Wan version has shrimp in it). I guess my palate isn't very sophisticated LOL. Nevertheless, it was an overall good meal with the baked buns being the highlight.

I was very lucky because I arrived at around 11 AM and despite the queue, I was given a table within around 2 minutes of me being in line. Wow! I guess it was because I was alone and almost everyone else was in bigger groups so when a table for 2 became available, I was the only one they could seat in it. I'm pretty sure that I will eat in Tim Ho Wan again and enjoy their amazing Baked Buns with BBQ Pork but that said, I will most likely not be willing to wait in line for more than 30-45 minutes to get a table here.