Sunday, February 28, 2016


Boracay, we meet again! The last time I visited Boracay was more than four years ago so I was due for a return trip. Knowing that my Ati-Atihan experience would exhaust me, I felt that a couple of days relaxing at the beach would do me well. They certainly did.

This was my first solo trip to Boracay. I chose to stay at the Boracay Mandarin (I will write more about this hotel later), which meant that I was just a short walk from D'Mall and many other restaurants in Station 2. This allowed me to try a lot of different restaurants (I will be writing more about these as well in succeeding posts).

I also managed read a book (my first since Juliet, Naked) during my short vacation. On top of that, I actually finished it in just one day. I can't recall the last time I was able to read an entire book in just one day. Granted, the novel I read, In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami, is only 181 pages long. Gotta say, reading a book by the beach while enjoying fresh fruit shakes is the life. :)

I somehow ended up with a bit of a late-day-early-evening routine while I was there. I would go swimming in the sea shortly before sunset and once it got dark, I would move to the swimming pool of Boracay Mandarin. The water was a bit cool since it was January but I found it very calming.

Of course, no trip to Boracay would be complete without the requisite sunset shot. :)

This vacation turned out to be one of the most restful I've had in a while and it allowed me to regain my equilibrium. Despite being on my own (or maybe precisely because I was on my own), I enjoyed my two-night stay in Boracay tremendously.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Kalibo Ati-Atihan: Final Thoughts and Travel Tips

Here's a summary of my Kalibo and Ati-Atihan posts:

I'm really happy that I have now been able to attend my first Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, the city where many of my relatives were born and raised. Being able to experience the annual celebration from which many other festivals got their inspiration was incredible.

Kalibo Cathedral

I'm amazed at the endurance and heat tolerance of the parading tribes. It was tremendously hot when I was in Kalibo, and I can't even imagine how difficult it must have been to dance and parade in oppressive heat while wearing an elaborate costume and being covered in body paint. Or while beating drums - some of them pretty big and heavy - non-stop and with full force. That this is done for hours at a time and many times over the At-Atihan weekend, with many of the participants being children, makes you realize just how big of a deal this festival is to the locals.

I will say this though: if you want to have your photo taken with one of the people parading in costume, it is just more polite and proper to ask them (or at the very least just say you will take a photo with them). I was really put off when I saw some people grabbing random paraders - a lot of them kids - to stop them from moving forward so that these people could take a better photo. It is rude to grab someone else, especially when what they doing is very physically demanding, so please treat the paraders with respect.

Getting around Kalibo
Tricycles are most common and easiest way to get around the city. A tricycle from the airport costs P100 (for one person that's expensive but for a group of people, not really). Within the city, tricycle rides are P8 for short distances. I guess there are jeepneys here as well but I don't know their routes. There are no taxis.

Where to stay
As I wrote in my previous post, during Ati-Atihan, if you want a bit of peace and quiet, La Esperanza Hotel is a very good option. (Be ready to pay about 3-4 times more than you normally would if you plan to visit during the annual festival.) If you want to visit Kalibo at a different time and you want something closer to the plaza, you could stay at Hotel Carmen. If you plan to go to Boracay after your stay in Kalibo, La Esperanza is the best option because it is right next to the Ceres bus terminal, meaning that you can just get on the bus immediately after checking out.

Kalibo to Caticlan (Boracay)
I was told that the best way to travel from Kalibo to Caticlan is by bus from the Ceres bus terminal. Shuttle vans are apparently not very safe because they are driven too fast in the hopes of making more trips from Kalibo to Boracay and back. Aside from more safety, another good thing about riding the bus is that you also have a bit more leg room.

When I got to the Ceres bus station, the Caticlan bus had just left but I only had to wait about 20 minutes for the next one to arrive. (There was actually a non-aircon bus to Caticlan but I wanted to take a bus with aircon so I decided to wait just a little longer). My bus took 1 hour and 45 minute to get to Caticlan and it made only a few stops on the way. It also doesn't wait to be full before it goes, so you don't really lose a lot of time if you choose to travel by bus.

Total cost of my trip from Kalibo to Boracay island via bus: P332

  • Bus ride from Caticlan to Kalibo:              P107
  • Terminal fee at the Caticlan port:              P100
  • Environmental feeat the Caticlan port:         P75
  • Boat ride from Caticlan to Boracay:            P25
  • Electric tricycle ride on Boracay Island:      P25

After my high energy weekend in Kalibo for Ati-Atihan, I spent two days in Boracay to chill and relax. I will be writing more about that next.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Kalibo: La Esperanza Hotel

I booked a standard room in La Esperanza Hotel along Osmena Avenue. The hotel is a 15-20 minute walk from the Plaza. It is near the rotonda where you can find a Chowking and a Dunkin' Donuts (which is where I got my caffeine fix multiple times during my stay). There's an Andok's right next to the hotel which is open 24 hours I think. There are also many sari-sari stores and a drugstore nearby. (I can't recall which one it was; I think it was Super K?)

The standard double room comes with a queen-sized bed. There's a TV mounted on the wall. The toilet is quite spacious and the shower area has hot water. There is free WiFi in the hotel but the internet speed could be better - I guess maybe there were so many people checked into the hotel during my stay that at certain times of the day, everyone was online.

Note: there are no elevators so if your room is on the 2nd or 3rd floor, you need to use the stairs. This should not be a problem for most people but if you have difficulty going up stairs for whatever reason, you may need to request for a room on the ground floor.

What I realized is that hotel room prices really spike during Ati-Atihan. When I checked the price of a standard room in La Esperanza on a different date, it is around P1,300. During my stay, I had to pay around three times that rate. I will assume this is the same for any other hotel in Kalibo.

La Esperanza is about a one to two-star hotel. During my stay, my room was not cleaned and my towels were not replaced. However, I didn't have any need for my room to be cleaned (I had no trash inside and I was pretty tidy when I was there) and I wanted to conserve water and energy so I didn't want nor need my towels to be replaced. That said, I am guessing that if you want your room cleaned or your towels replaced, you can probably ask them to do it.

I initially thought of staying in a different hotel the next time I go to Ati-Atihan, one that is closer to the plaza. However, I think that La Esperanza is a very good option primarily because its distance from the plaza. This means that you can get some peace and quiet at the end of the day when you feel like it since you won't hear drumbeats all throughout the day and you won't be amidst thick crowds of people all the time. I would definitely recommend La Esperanza as a place to stay in Kalibo.

La Esperanza Hotel 
Address: Osmena Avenue, Kalibo
Phone:(036) 262 3989

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Food tripping in Kalibo: Ramboy's

Ramboy's came up in a couple of lists I saw online of food places that you shouldn't miss when you are in Kalibo. It is supposed to be known for it's liempo, which is a bit unique because unlike most other liempo dishes, the Ramboy's version has a very crispy crackling skin. When I learned about this, I knew I had to try it.

Ramboy's, like most lechon manok and liempo places (such as Andok's) is primarily a take-out joint. I read online that you can pay an additional P10 to eat in so I had initially planned to do that, but when I got there, no one else was dining in and there seemed to be only one person preparing and selling the food so I ended up just getting an order of liempo for take out.

An order of liempo is P290 but it serves about 3-4 people. I also have to say that it absolutely lived up to the hype. While the meat is good and tasty, the star of this dish is the crackling skin. I don't know how they season it but it not only has a really good crunch to it, it also has a whole lot of flavor.

Since I was by myself in my hotel room, I couldn't eat all of it in one go so I had a third of it for early dinner (around 7pm), another third for a midnight meal (don't worry, I didn't sleep immediately after eating), and the rest I consumed the next morning. What's amazing is that even the next morning, more than 12 hours after I bought the liempo, the crackling skin was still very crispy. I don't know if there is more than one Ramboy's in Kalibo but the one I visited was along Toting Reyes Street, at the corner of N Roldan Street (just one short block away from Roxas Avenue).

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Food tripping in Kalibo: Peil

I visited Peil on Saturday afternoon before I joined my relatives for our late afternoon sadsad. It is on the corner of 19 Martyrs and Acevedo Streets, and it is in fact on the same building complex as Primavera (albeit on the opposite side). I saw this place on Friday afternoon and I noticed that the place was packed and they served crepes. I decided this was a perfect place for me to have an afternoon snack.

Peil doesn't only serve crepes; they also have a lot of other items, including savory dishes, on the menu. The challenge I had was that the menu didn't have descriptions of the different crepes. I ended up getting the Red Maisie, which the waiter told me was a strawberry crepe.

Red Maisie crepe (P135)

Red Maisie (P135) is served with a generous drizzle of strawberry sauce and a scoop of strawberry ice cream. It is served with bananas, cream, and surprisingly, cereal! I had never tried crepes served with cereal before and I actually really enjoyed this. The cereal provided a good crunchy, textural contrast and made this sweet snack even more satisfying.

The downside of Peil is that they don't serve coffee, not even instant. I ended up ordering softdrinks to go with my crepe. While I do wish they had brewed coffee in this place, the crepe I had was really good so I wouldn't mind visiting this place again to try the other crepes on their menu.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Food tripping in Kalibo: Primavera

While in Kalibo for Ati-Atihan, I found time to try a few restaurants and food places in the city.

Primavera is at the corner of 19 Martyrs and G. Ramos Streets, just a couple of blocks away from the plaza. I ended up having lunch here on Saturday because I was looking for a place to have lunch and almost all places I saw were full. Primavera was also full but just as I passed by, a table became available so it became a logical and easy choice for me to eat here.

I ordered the Penne Rosa pasta (P252). It was pretty good, quite similar to the Penne Rosa of Amici.

It was while having lunch here that I saw the parades in full costume passing by so I decided to finish my pasta and not have any coffee and dessert, which was what I had originally planned. As such, I returned to Primavera the next day after having lunch with my relatives on Sunday so that I could get my caffeine fix. This time, I ordered a Cafe Americano and a slice of Sans Rival. (Total bill for both was P200, I guess each item was around P100; unfortunately, I lost the receipt.)

Overall, this is a place to have a meal, with is tasty food, good portion It has great ambience (I prefer sitting outdoors as the interior of the restaurant has a tendency to smell a bit like the smoke from all the food that was cooked during the day). They also don't have any service charge. If you are looking for Western cuisine and good coffee near the plaza, this is a good place for you.