SkyJet Airlines is back in Siargao

SkyJet Airlines is back in Siargao

The fastest direct flights to the country’s surf capital are back!

The summer of 2020 has a promise of sun shinier skies as boutique carrier SkyJet Airlines brings back its direct flights from Manila to Siargao on March 29, 2020.

The selling of seats on SkyJetAirlines.com kicks off today, January 11, 2020, with one-way base fares starting at Php3,500.

Did you miss Cloud 9’s boardwalk? Photo by Daniel Soriano

“SkyJet’s Siargao flights resumption will enable us at SkyJet to help sustain the momentum of the island’s market growth and demand,” says SkyJet commercial head Joseph Alvarico. “SkyJet’s the first airline to fly directly to Siargao, and we are looking at fulfilling our aim at allowing everyone, including millennials, to experience the culture of the island by providing competitive fares.”

Stand-up paddling around Guyam Island. Photo by Daniel Soriano

“We are also working with the local tourism department in Siargao to bring Siargao’s culture across through the Dash Store, a boutique travel lifestyle shop in Salcedo Village, Makati, as well as give travelers a faster and more reliable experience of flying from Manila to Siargao,” he added.

Ride waves like this once more in Siargao. Stock photo from SkyJet Airlines

SkyJet has been known in the industry to offer the fastest flights to Siargao at about 70 minutes per way. This means the flights are among the most convenient for Manilans off to Siargao for a break, or for foreigners traveling to the country’s surf capital with Manila as jump off point.

Jumping off a rock in Magpupungko. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Siargao has long attracted travelers with its relaxed atmosphere and unique natural wonders such as the rock pools in Magpupungko, the stingless jellyfish in nearby Sohoton, and the world class surf breaks of Cloud 9. It’s been dubbed the Best Island in Asia in 2018 by popular online travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler and, more recently, one of its best holiday destinations for 2020. It’s also a growing favorite among celebrities as a quick island getaway.

Words by Andrew del Rosario
Featured photo by Gaps Sabuero

5 must-see sea creatures

5 must-see sea creatures

Marine biologist Miguel Azcuna curates of underwater species in the Philippines you should see at least once in your life.

The Philippines is an archipelago. This means it’s made up of groups of islands surrounded by a vast expanse of water, ergo, a rich diversity of marine life. Diving is the best way to see the beauty that our water holds.

We spoke to a marine biologist, Dr. Miguel Azcuna from Batangas State University, to know which marine species in the Philippines you should see at least once in your life.

Nudibranchs

Photo by Lisbeth Jensen

Where to find them: Anilao, Batangas

The name rolls off the tongue, right? These are the cute, colorful, shell-less mollusks (scallops, clams, snails, cuttlefish) you see in those island hopping package pamphlets that offer snorkeling. They love seawater and some have been referred to as sea slugs.

Thresher sharks

Thresher
A thresher shark at Monad Shoal near Malapascua Island. Photo by Klaus Stiefel

Where to find them: Malapascua Island, Cebu

“Thresher sharks are unique in that they use their unusually long tails to catch their prey,” says Dr. Azcuna. This particular species have found a home in the waters off of Malapascua Island in Cebu, known for its magnificent and quiet beaches. They are often found in Monad Shoal and pose no threat to humans. Be at the site early, like around 4am to 5am, for better chances of sighting.

Orcas

Where to find them: Tañon Strait, between the islands of Cebu and Negros

Dr. Azcuna says they rarely pass by the Philippines but they do swim from time to time. “These apex predators prefer cooler tropical waters and can (in very rare cases) be seen in Tañon Strait between June and October.” The last time orcas were seen in Philippines waters, it was 2018.

Sea Turtles

Photo from Inaladelan Island

Where to find them: Apo Island, Negros Oriental

Yes, there’s more than one place to find the humble pawikan. They can usually be found nesting in the waters of Palawan (for instance, just offshore of Club Paradise), but for a better chance of spotting one, Dr. Azcuna recommends Apo Island. You’ll usually see them grazing on seagrass.

Freshwater Jellyfish

Where to find them: Sohoton Cove, Siargao

You may be asking yourself this: “Why would you recommend seeing jellyfish as a once-in-a-lifetime activity?” Well, these jellyfish are ones you can actually swim with and not be extremely worried. Dr. Azcuna says the jellyfish that swim in Sohoton’s jellyfish pond are stingless “because they have no need for stings in freshwater.” Go early in the day to avoid the crowd.

Who is Dr. Miguel Azcuna?

Miguel Azcuna is a marine biologist who specializes in Bioprospecting for New Medicine, particularly from marine sponges. He holds a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, where he majored in Marine Biotechnology.

He was a part of the team from UP MSI’s Bolinao Marine Laboratory that donated giant clams to Camiguin’s Giant Clam Sanctuary.

He is currently an associate professor at the Batangas State University – ARASOF Nasugbu Campus and a member of the research staff at the Verde Island Passage Center for Oceanographic Research and Aquatic Life Sciences (VIP CORALS).

Glamp in style at Nacpan Beach Glamping, El Nido

Glamp in style at Nacpan Beach Glamping, El Nido

Top tier camping facility Nacpan Beach Glamping opened its doors in one of El Nido’s quieter areas, Nacpan, about an hour’s ride from the main town—a thumbs up to those wanting to camp but with creature comforts at bay.

Isn’t it grand?

In a one-hectare land now sits nine luxe tents surrounded by palm trees and shrubbery, mere steps away from what The Daily Telegraph has described as one of the “29 dreamiest beaches on Earth.” Nine more tents are set to open in October.

Here’s how it looks from the outside.

The tents made from canvas with heavy-duty cotton built to withstand the El Nido weather, come with a zipped mesh and PVC windows, and view of either the beach or the mountains. The interiors are set in earthen tones furnished with queen bed set on top of a native-style sisal rug, has thoughtful touches like a Japanese pendant light, and airconditioning, which you don’t really need if you’re breathing pristine sea breeze.

This is how it looks inside.

Food at Nacpan Beach Glamping is part of the stay you pay for and you get it from the Nacpan Sunmai Restaurant located right beside the campsite. It features an international menu with local favorites like sisig and grilled tanigue mixed with Japanese katsu, Italian pizza, and smoothie bowls. Other exciting stay inclusions guests get to experience are a one-hour sunset sail, and origami classes using coconut leaves.

Visit between December and May and you may get the chance to see turtle hatchlings being released.

The basics
Php7,500 per night for two; however, a tent can fit up to four
Nacpanbeachglamping.com
Tel: +63956 234 0162

Get there. SkyJet Airlines (skyjetairlines.com) has regular flights from San Vicente, Palawan where a van can take you to El Nido. Get off at Discover El Nido office on Amboy Street in El Nido town and hop on the Nacpan Shuttle Service.

Stars for Christmas: the Philippine parol

Stars for Christmas: the Philippine parol

Christmas maybe from the West, but the parol is truly Filipino.

The West may have developed the idea of Christmas, but the Filipinos have embraced it possibly more than the rest of the world. Case in point: the Philippines having the “longest Christmas” in the world, with decor and the holiday spirit kicking in as early as September.

A quintessential part and perhaps the most unique symbol of Christmas in the Philippines is the ever-present parol, a five-point-star-shaped lantern usually made of bamboo sticks and colored paper.

Taken from the Spanish word farol (meaning lantern or street light), its origins are said to date back to the early 1900s in Pampanga. First made by Francisco Estanislao, its base design, a five-point star pretty much stay unchanged since its inception.

Materials used vary from simple—bamboo sticks for the frame covered by papel de hapon or colored cellophane—to complex—steel, white or stained capiz shells, and a bunch of wires and circuitry. You can find at least one parol by the façade of Filipino home, or as part of the holiday decor beautifying streets of busier metropolises like Makati.

If you’re looking for the best designs, look no further than San Fernando City in the province of Pampanga. Lantern making in this city is an art and a livelihood, and is best embodied in the annual Giant Lantern Festival, held a couple of weeks before Christmas in December annually.

The basics
Get there. Take a Partas or a Victory Liner bus from these transport companies’ terminal in Cubao to get to San Fernando, Pampanga. Travel time is about one hour.

Tagaytay favorites without the hassle at D’Banquet

Tagaytay favorites without the hassle at D’Banquet

If you’ve ever wanted to avoid the crowd but enjoy the food of Tagaytay—hot bowl of bulalo and all—we’ve found the place to be.

Dining in Tagaytay usually includes experiencing a cool summer breeze with heart-warming food and (hopefully) a view of the Taal Lake so it’s no surprise that the two primary roads leading to Tagaytay along with every single restaurant are packed during weekends.

It’s a sign that might be hard to see, but once you remember it’s there it’s hard to miss. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Good thing there’s a place in Tagaytay that satisfies my cravings for a good bowl of bulalo (beef shank stew) and Tagaytay’s cool breeze: D’ Banquet. Located along Aguinaldo Highway, it’s ideal if you’re looking to head home after a few hours in Tagaytay or are looking for a good place to start an afternoon in the country’s second Summer Capital.

And then there’s this cute cafe. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

The restaurant has near-all-wood interiors and greenery wrapped around it. It’s quite a spacious restaurant, able to sit around 100 people with ease.

Adding to the rustic charm is a small cafe that serves specialty coffee from Benguet and treats you can purchase from the One Town, One Product shop they operate, which includes pastries from the famous Amira’s Buco Tarts.

Food

One of the crowd favorites: crispy pata. Photo from D’Banquet

They’re known for their boneless crispy pata (deep fried pork thigh) and their roasted native chicken, though the buffet offers much more than those. They’ve got a pot of hearty bulalo, which you can get on small soup bowls along with a myriad of Filipino dishes.

Try their balut a la pobre, a dish that gives the humble but exotic balut egg a salty, savory spin. Leave some room for dessert with pastries made from popular Amira’s Buco Tarts smack in the middle of the restaurant.

Drink

You can always ask for sodas at D’Banquet, but there’s a better, healthier option that’s right at the buffet: freshly squeezed fruit juices. They usually have at least four varieties available.

They also have simple lattes, still made with beans sourced from Benguet. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

If you want to discover something different, try the specialty coffee they serve at the cafe. They use Arabica beans from Benguet in hot lattés, Thai Coffee, and something you don’t see too often in Manila: cafe naranja, which is coffee mixed with orange fruit.

The basics
Php800 (about USD15) for two people, Php599 per person for the weekend buffet
Aguinaldo Highway corner Arnoulduz Road, Tagaytay City
Fb.com/dbanquettagaytay

Get there
Ride a DLTB Bus from Pasay that’s headed for Nasugbu and ask the driver to drop you off at Pink Sister’s Convent. D’ Banquet is located across the street from where you will be dropped off.

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