Where do you wanna go in 2019?

Where do you wanna go in 2019?

#fitnessgoals, #careergoals, #lifegoals. How about #travelgoals for a change? We’ve asked professional travelers on places they’d like to visit in the Year of the Earth Pig.

If you’ve been looking for paths less traveled, hidden gems, unexplored trails, and untouched destinations, take inspiration from this list we got from some of the country’s top travel bloggers. Their choices could very well be on your wishlist for the year too.

Traveler Elal Lasola
Less is more

Yes, the Banaue Rice Terraces are nice, but so is this one: the Maligcong Rice Terraces in Bontoc. Photo by Elal Lasola

If you ask award-winning photographer Elal Lasola, less is definitely more for underrated destinations. Places like the Batad Rice Terraces in Ifugao, El Nido’s twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, and Bontoc, Mountain Province are some of her go-tos.

These places have less in terms of crowds in contrast to others [destinations], which means there are more opportunities for you to enjoy more.

Traveler Mervin Marasigan
For intrepid travelers only: Biri, Nothern Samar from

Man pointing upwards with Biri rock formations in the background
“To the skies!” A beautiful shot of the rock formations in Biri, Northern Samar. Photo by Larry Quinao

Mervin Marasigan, the man behind Pinoy Adventurista, calls it one of the most underrated destinations in the country. “An off-the-beaten destination that only the most intrepid travelers dare to visit. Don’t miss its stunning rock formations battered by strong waves. They are truly amazing! Every spot is definitely Instagram-worthy!”

Get there
Brace for a 17-hour journey by bus from Manila to Catarman, Northern Samar, a 1.5-hour bus ride from Catarman to Lavezares port, and a one-hour ferry ride to Biri Island.

Traveler Melo Villareal
The elusive Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro

The Sandbar at Aslom
Hard to find a better sandbar than this. Photo by Leo Castillo of Shoestring Travelers

Melo Villareal of Out of Town Blog liken for Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro to its namesake (bulalakaw is the Filipino term for shooting star) because of how beautiful yet fleeting it is. “Although it is overshadowed by nearby destinations like Puerto Galera and Mount Malasimbo, Bulalacao is without a doubt a place we can truly call paradise.”

Bulalacao has beaches and sights you’ll never see in Metro Manila and has temperatures that make it a year-round destination; quite rare for a beach if you ask us.

Get there
Fly from Manila to Caticlan then take a three-hour boat ride from Caticlan jetty to Bulalacao.

Traveler Estan Cabigas
The largely uncharted: Sitangkai, Tawi Tawi

Sitangkai woman with 'borak' on her face

A Sitangkai woman with ‘borak’ on her face. Photo by Estan Cabigas

Known as the southernmost place in the country, it’s a place that Estan Cabigas of Langyaw.com and Ten Zero Four describes as a “surreal place that is quite different from what we are used to in the country.”

“To go around the island, walk on elevated wooden pathways, swim, ride a tempel (motorized wooden boat), and swim at the still shallow water.” He’s also heard mosques calling the locals to prayer in near-unison, an experience he describes as unforgettable.

Get there
Fly to Zamboanga City and transfer to a flight headed for Tawi Tawi. Once there, you’ll have to take a ferry from Bongao Port to Sitangkai.

Our Dash Sources:

Freediving 101

Freediving 101

No tanks and regulators. It’s just you and the deep blue. How to freedive according to instructor Johnn Mendoza.

Conserve oxygen, equalize and safely surface

Relax before and during the dive.

Prepare for a freedive by lowering your heart rate through normal breathing and exposure of the face to water. This induces the mammalian dive reflex that helps in adapting the body for freediving.

Equalize the whole time because the initial depth changes in the water greatly affects the ears’ eustachian tubes and it may cause pain or discomfort—similar to what you feel when flying in higher altitudes.

Go only as far as you can, then go up. Slowly.

When you reach the depth you can handle, ascent safely and slowly and avoid overstretching as you do so.

Upon surfacing, do sharp sets of inhale, holding it in, then exhaling to restore oxygen content in your body.

Best time to freedive

In the Philippines, it’s year round because the waters, in general, have wonderful temperatures and conditions. The best is in the summer months of March, April and May when the waters are flat, warm and clear, allowing for a better diving experience.

The ideal location

Cebu has good waters for freediving, as well as seeing whale sharks.

Cebu is one the best and most convenient places forfreediving with so many dive spots only a few hours’ drive from the city. Panglao, Bohol has amazing reefs.

The right outfit and gear

You might also want to bring something to capture the moment, but it’s best to just enjoy the dive.

Fins, mask and snorkel. A low-volume mask is necessary for easier equalization. The snorkel has to be a simple J-type without a purge valve. Go for long fins designed for greater thrust using minimal exertion.

The basics

Lessons

Dive ta Bai chapters all over the Philippines can help you connect you with the local community of freedivers. Message them on Facebook at Facebook.com/DiveTaBai/.

Words and photos by Johnn Mendoza

5 celebrated Pinoy desserts

5 celebrated Pinoy desserts

Our friends from Let’s Eat Pare tell us the all time fave sweets Filipinos love to serve in any given holiday.

Ube Halaya

Ube Halaya or purple yam to the rest of the world. It’s something the world just discovered yet we’ve been snacking on it for decades. Photo by Mon David Pakingan

The world is at least a century late on having discovered the wonderful flavor of the humble purple yam or ube. It’s sweet; has a bit of a gritty texture (in a good way); and goes well with virtually any dessert, especially with the next item on this list.

To enjoy this delicious treat, it’s best served on a plate drizzled with either condensed milk, coconut milk with a bit of sugar, or cheese.

Halo halo

The king of all Pinoy desserts, the halo-halo. By Jocas See

Widely considered the quintessential Filipino dessert because it has it all. It’s like the Japanese shaved ice dessert kakigori but with more to it than ice. You’ve got beans of nearly every size and shape, green and red gelatin (or really any color you want), strips of macapuno, jackfruit, or maybe some bananas. Some throw in corn kernels to the mix. Have it topped with some ube, a scoop of ice cream, and the next item on this list.

Leche Flan

A new twist to the leche flan: a LeCheesecake. It’s a (mini) cheesecake with leche flan on top. Photo by Niki Alfaro

A staple in every Filipino celebration that involves food, the leche flan looks like a simple custard but it’s more than that. It has that distinct combination of sweet and creamy, making it an ultra sinful, hard-to-resist dessert. Its many forms include the LeCheesecake from Nikita’s Pastries.

Buko Pandan

Two things combine in this ridiculously simple (yet delicious) dessert: glistening green pandan-flavored gelatin and the ever-refreshing and popular strips of coconut. Take these two and combine them with all-purpose cream and sweetened milk and you have yourself something that is a sure hit at any party table.

Tibok tibok

A dessert hailing from Philippine gastronomy capital, Pampanga in the North, that has graced many holiday buffet tables in Central Luzon and Metro Manila. The taste is akin to a spoonful of the widely-known maja blanca—soft, delicate, almost melt-in-your-mouth—but this one is a tad bit salty, thanks to the use of carabao’s milk.

Words by Andronico Del Rosario, with information from members of Let’s Eat Pare®

Weekend escape

Weekend escape

Quest Hotel & Conference Center in Clark has a 36-hole golf course and a two-pooled villa. What’s not to love? 

As I check in at Quest Hotel & Conference Center on Mimosa Drive in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, I get a hint I’m in for a pleasurable stay.

I see renovations are ongoing—the hotel is being rebranded from Holiday Inn to Quest Hotel & Conference Center—but it does not keep the property from revealing glimpses of pleasures.

The hotel is clean and elegant—taupe walls, marble floors; the hallways are spacious; and there’s window all over letting natural light spill in.

The earthen tones extends to the Club Lounge.

The main lobby is composed of earthen tones and texture at play, with a vibrant flower arrangement at the center. It’s minimalist with velvety couch seating as main furniture pieces.

Check-in is fuss free and personalized. Once I’m settled, somebody offers to take my bag and leads me to my room.

Wow factors

The Mimosa Golf Course is an enviable 36-hole facility set within Filinvest’s201-hectares property. You don’t need to be a member to get to play.

Lose all the pounds you gain here.

The swimming pool, brand new gym and equipment, and yoga studio are great for keeping fit while holidaying, not to mention the expansive grounds for early morning jogs.

Families with kids will love the well-appointed kid’s corner too.

And when they say grand, they mean GRAND.

The Grand Villas built in between the main hotel and the golf courseis the ultimate in pampering. Fetching 75 grand a night, the Balinese-inspired comes with a personal butler, a private pool, a lavish living room, cable satellite TV, a king size bed, kitchen with top tier fittings, all-white bathroom with vanity area and a grand bathtub with a view.

The nest

Got this room to myself.
And clearly enjoyed it. Photo by Kat Magsino

I’m billeted in a 22sqm Club Deluxe Room, furnished with a king size bed, a work table and a seating with a view. There’s cable TV, private bathroom with hot and cold running water, and coffee and tea making facility. Lighting is subdued but who needs it when you have bright interiors andbig windows for natural light to seep in? Loved the vintage inspired white cabinet, and found the daily fresh fruits thoughtful.

Wining and dining

Lots of options to choose from but the Club Lounge is special, giving you exclusive access if you’re booked in a Club Deluxe Suite. Here, you can have breakfast or enjoy fill after fill of cocktails and snacks from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Charley’s Baris a countryside-inspired sports bar at the ground floor, which serves wines and spirits, and an international menu. Their classic Margarita is a must try.

Lunch may be had at Q by Mimosa, located right within golf and country club, for American, Korean and Filipino favorites. I thoroughly enjoyed their meaty Bolognese spaghetti and Mimosa Salad.

Opening soon is Mequeni Live, an all-day interactive buffet featuring a grilling, Asian, Kapampangan(Pampanga local fare), desserts and other stations. Look forward to their specialties palabok and pork sisig. Guests can expect their favorite dishes to be personalized as they will serve it according to the customers’ preferences.

The basics

From Php6,000 (USD113) per night for two
Questhotelsandresorts.com/clark/
Tel: +6345 599 8000

Get there

Take a P2P Bus going to Clark for Php350 (USD7) at NAIA Terminal 3 Arrival Bay 14 then ask to be dropped off at Mimosa, Filinvest

Words by Kat Magsino

Going through “hell” with Chrystalle Omaga

Going through “hell” with Chrystalle Omaga

Obstacle Course racing (OCR) is the newest craze in sports adventure attracting all sorts of athletics or the mere active, including celebrities who never mind the grit, the sweat, for as long as they get a dose of the physical fun. Beauty queen-cum-obstacle racer Chrystalle Omaga gives us a glimpse of the growing sport.

Chrystalle Omaga in action during a local Spartan Race.

Obstacle course racing is like a duathlon but with obstacles along the way. It features varying terrain that’s based on army training courses, incorporating trail running and a good mix of upper and lower body challenges.

My first OCR experience was “hell”. My boyfriend and I were given free tickets to a Spartan Race by one of their brand ambassadors. It was a 14km Open Division Spartan Race. Apart from hell, it felt like marriage counseling for us. If you finish something like this together, you’ll definitely know more about your partner.

Crossing the finish line with her boyfriend at their first Spartan Race.

Beware the Spear Throw. It’s a common obstacle in a course that’s at least 12 kilometers and involves chucking a spear into a haystack. You only get one try; miss and you’ll have to do 30 burpees. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs when I hit it during a race in Subic. I got 2nd place in Elite Women because of that.

I train twice a day, six times a week. I usually train weightlifting at Anytime Fitness Cubao and find a hill or trail to run on for running. If we’re talking about OCR-specific training, I go to Obstacle Sports Factory in Makati or the Spartan Obstacle Course Camp in BGC.

She also enjoys a good trail run every now and then as part of her OCR training.

If you wanna try OCR, learn to run before you try OCR-specific training. You’re still running for most of the race, so running is important. If you’re already a runner, try and advance to trail running or train for altitude runs.

Tip to anyone who wants to compete: Expect to perform like a beginner; enjoy the race; and go for it. Crossing the finish line and saying you’re able to finish an exhausting muddy race is the greatest accomplishment you can achieve. Just go for it and expect the unexpected!

Racers I look up to…Lindsay Webster (@lindsaydawnwebster) and Ryan Atkins (@ryanatkinsdiet). They’re the best OCR athletes in the world!

What I lug with me:

    • Luxxe Slim L-Carnitine and Green Tea Extract from Front Row
    • Whey protein from Wheyl Nutrition Co., a proudly Filipino sports nutrition brand
    • Under Armour athletic gear 
    • Sunblock
    • Garmin watch

My pre-race meal: Banana chocolate chip pancakes. I don’t know why, but I just love them! During the season, we prepare our own meals with the help of a nutritionist. Off-season, we’re fans of Samgyupsalamat. It’s an amazing all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurant.

Off training, I chase after my two-year-old kid. He keeps me on my toes and running after him gives me a good workout. I also go to the spa for recovery.

When they’re not racing, they like enjoy a good day at the beach.

We love to hunt for trails, so we go to places with mountains and beaches for vacation. Some of the places we love to go to are:

  • Subic Bay. Playa Papagayo, in particular, is a great place to stay in since it’s right by the beach. They also have a good restaurant that serves delicious Mexican food.
  • Cebu. It has a lot of good trails for running, especially in the southern part of the island.
  • Boracay. It’s got great beaches and is a place where we go to for a relaxing trip.

Yes. the lady can both beat you in a race AND look fierce.

Who is Chrystalle Omaga?
Chrystalle Omaga is an obstacle course racer and trail runner, an international model, a former beauty queen (Ms. Universe-Canada 2016), and a loving mother to a two-year-old boy.

Photos taken from Chrystalle Omaga’s Instagram account @misschrystalle

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