Need High-Speed Internet on the Road? Try Renting Your Own Travel Router

This week I came upon an interesting service that I think is new here. It’s essentially a pocket WiFi rental Philippines company—a traveler’s solution to connectivity issues around the country.

Now I’m no stranger to these issues. I have to travel a lot because of my job. Though some places have better WiFi offerings than most, they’re still slow compared to your usual home DSL plan.

Normally, you have to make do with public-access or hotel-wide Internet too, and there are clear problems with this in my experience.

Let’s go through some of them. [Read more…]

Lifelifters Transport: Accessible Tourism and the Socially Conscious Business Idea

Some companies add CSR (corporate social responsibility) to their business portfolio: others build their businesses around it.  The Philippine company Lifelifters Transport Inc. is a good example of the latter. Its establishment was driven by a socially-conscious impetus: the idea that accessible transport should be a possibility instead of just a wish.

Operating in the country’s capital, Lifelifters runs what one may essentially call a vehicle rental service.  Customers call them to set up appointments and schedule the use of a car—or a Wheelchair Van, in this case—and the company provides the vehicle along with the driver for the client’s use.  To that end, it’s much like many other car rental agencies both in and out of the country.  Unlike many other car rental agencies, though, it specializes in serving a particular sort of client: the differently-abled.

wheelchair van back door

Wheelchair Vans from LifeLifters

To that end, Lifelifters offers a specially modified vehicle for its client base.  The consumers are the wheelchair-bound trying to get around the perpetually busy streets of Metro Manila.  The company’s wheelchair van for hire is equipped with a hydraulic lift designed to make getting on or off vehicles easier for such clients.  With the Lifelifters van, a PWD or person with (a) disability can be conveyed to any location in the metro with an absolute minimum of discomfort.

It’s not something an average person worries about, perhaps, but process of finding, boarding, and even getting off transport is troublesome for many differently-abled people.  The mere process of getting on a car involves a progression of steps that are reiterated like rituals.  One has to be lifted off the chair and to a seat in the car.  This can be painful for some, especially those with injuries.  The chair has to be folded up and tucked away.  The reverse has to take place at each dismount.  And if one has a lot of stops to make—or a lot of sights to see, if one is a tourist—that can mean a great deal of effort and potential discomfort for something other people do so quickly, without even really thinking about it.

 

balanced wheelchair van philippines

Using the Van’s Hydraulic Lift

Meeting a Long-marginal Demand

There’s long been a mistaken assumption by many that differently-abled people don’t like to travel.  But in truth, what they dislike may merely be the hurdles they meet rather than the travelling itself.  Travel is twice as stressful for the differently-abled for many reasons, chief of them being the fact that the provisions made for them are not nearly as ubiquitous as the ones made for others.  Architects will integrate stairs into building plans to ensure that people can get from one floor to another, but not all shall add a lift or ramp to ensure that even those in wheelchairs can do the same.  Some architects do it: most don’t.

Things are changing, though.  Accessible (or what some call “inclusive”) infrastructure and transport provisions are becoming more common as people begin to take note of this lack.  It’s a growing consciousness that’s manifesting all around the world.  In 2010, the fully accessible Morgan’s Wonderland opened in the US.  Even more recently, the launch of the Inclusive London website saw millions logging on to browse London tourism’s accessible side.  And in the Philippines, the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) recently managed to get a proclamation signed that designates 2013-2022 “The Philippine Decade of Make the Rights Real for Persons with Disabilities”.  People seem to be responding now to what has been a thus-far-marginal demand.

But should it really be considered a marginal demand in the sense of being economically insignificant?  Accessible tourism is no longer a charitable cause alone: as rising numbers of PWD and senior tourism suggest, it’s also a great investment opportunity.  And with some reports pegging its market worth at $13.5 billion for the US alone, it’s easy to see why.

It’s an investment like any other, though, which means something has to be put in for something to come out. In that respect, it may be more or less understandable for people to expect more accessible tourism from developed countries—which, goes the logic, have more to invest in it.  But a lot of developing countries are actually becoming more conscious of the needs of PWDs too.  It’s a consciousness that we see being acted upon not just within public machinery or charitable organizations but even, interestingly enough, in the private economic sector as well.  Companies like the recently-established Lifelifters are proof of that.

 

An Uphill Ride on Wheels

It still is an uphill course.  A lot of countries have a long way to go yet when it comes to providing for accessible transport and tourism.  It wasn’t too long ago that the first Southeast Asian Conference on Accessible Travel foundered in its own sightseeing schedule upon discovering its host country’s (Malaysia’s) infrastructure lacking disability access.  That same year, a differently-abled woman getting off her flight in Singapore was asked to pay around 300 Singaporean dollars for the use of a wheelchair lift to bring her comfortably down from the plane.

It was done without any prior warning of the costs and even though the airline had been informed ahead of time that a PWD on a wheelchair was on board.  For the record, the woman demurred and crawled down the stairs instead.  And while some people may choose to interpret this as the shady side of the private sector cashing in on accessible tourism, others (including many in that same sector) will disagree: there’s an elegant and socially-conscious way of building a business around a serious social need, as well as an inelegant and less-than-generous one.

Most of the more laudable companies in accessible tourism integrate genuine generosity and social conscience into their operations.  They do more than nod to accessibility or engage in a flirtation with the advocacy: there’s constancy in what they do.  And that sort of commitment makes all the difference, besides resonating better with the consumer public.

For example, Lifelifters isn’t only involved in and supportive of local PWD NGO God is Able but also does its part to promote accessibility in the country.  It even offers free two-way rides for PWDs in Manila. Granted, the company does ask for a review or write-up of their services in exchange, but that’s a mild price for the convenience they offer and still more than generous.  Can one imagine, in the case of the tourist who had to crawl onto the tarmac in Singapore, that Lifelifters wouldn’t have offered the service for free had they been the wheelchair lift company?  Or the airline, for that matter?

 

The Potential Power of the Accessible Tourism Industry

Even in the Philippines, Lifelifters remains one of the few players in what many consider a niche market.  But it’s a market that more businessmen are most likely going to be taking notice of soon, and not just those in the foreign tourism industry either.  Many local establishments are beginning to see how promoting accessibility can help them in myriad ways.  It’s said that most establishments nowadays are marketing experiences more than solid goods as their products: if so, shouldn’t a more inclusive, more widely accessible experience not only be good for their market range and profits but also their social image?

The differently-abled make up as much as 15% of the global population, according to some estimates.  If one of the most popular goals companies set for CSR is that of aiding excluded minorities to have better quality of life, it’s somewhat surprising that we don’t see more accessibility-focused CSR projects than we currently do then.  15% of humanity is a big number, which means accessibility projects would be deemed relevant—and for PR and marketing purposes—interesting for a lot of people.  And a lot of those people, businessmen have to remember, are consumers too.  The social importance and economic benefit of letting more consumers access what you (or others) have to offer isn’t really radical or novel, so one could say neither is accessible tourism.  Instead, it’s just plain good thinking.

lifelifters need a wheelchair van

Give LifeLifters a Call

The Boutique Bed and Breakfast: Where Personalized Services Matter

Tagaytay is a renowned destination for good old rest and relaxation and because it is a modern day hotspot for tourists, foreign and local, there are plenty of establishments from hotels to restaurants that have opened their doors to cater to these travelers from far and wide. You do not even have to make prior reservations because there are a number of different places that will accommodate you if you decide to stay for the night. Even if this is so, if you have planned your Tagaytay trip in advance, consider booking a room at the relatively new The Boutique Bed and Breakfast.

The Boutique Bed and Breakfast was established a couple of years ago by two travel buddies, Allana Montelibano and Happy Ongpauco. What makes their hotel different from other Tagaytay offerings is the highly personalized service that they offer to all of their clients. Starting with their available rooms, there are seven options that you can choose from depending on the nature of your visit: i lust, i dare, i desire, i dream, i love, i surrender, and i escape.

Each room has been designed to cater to the needs of the clients who will be staying there. There are rooms that are meant for single individuals simply wishing to get away while some rooms are intended for couples who want a retreat unlike any other. There are also rooms that are ideal for families where they have a place to bond and enjoy each other’s company.

Upon arrival and check-in, guests are brought to a small room where they can choose bathing products (shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and soaps) for the duration of their stay. For the hair care products, available scents include green apple, milk and honey, and lavender; for the lotions, there are lavender, cocoa butter,  and dry skin formula; and for the soaps, you can select from peppermint, mango butter, melon mint, apricot, rosemary, lavender, and tea tree scented bars. These are all from their own line of bathing products aptly named “Pamper Me”.

You will be given a basket consisting of slippers, a laundry bag, toothbrushes, and other essentials that you will need and they will also provide you with scented diffusers for your room. Available scents include grapefruit citrus and vanilla, citrus mint, jasmine citrus, lavender, lavender mint, and sampaguita citrus. You might think that the personalized service ends there but it doesn’t!

Aside from the standard room service offerings, they also have a pillow menu, yes, a menu for pillows. Here, you can choose additional pillows for your room making your stay all the more relaxing. Here are the types of pillows that you can request for: goose down pillow, memory pillow, lavender therapeutic pillow, mint therapeutic pillow, and down alternative pillow.

They also have a game library with various games for players of all ages. They have board games for children and games that adults can enjoy as well like the striptease dartboard. In every room, there is a DVD catalog that guests can browse through if they want to watch some of their favorite movies while in the B&B.

All guests get a complementary 10-minute massage as well and you can choose from either a foot treatment or a cold stone massage for the face. They also have different massages, Swedish, Shiatsu, or Combination Massage, that are available in-room upon request. The Boutique Bed and Breakfast sees to it that you get the pampering that you deserve during your stay and this is absolutely great!

The pampering does not stop there. Every night at around 9 or 10 o’ clock in the evening, they serve guests with evening snacks in the bedroom: freshly made churros dusted with a little powdered sugar and some native hot chocolate that will surely give you an even more relaxing sleep. They also serve breakfast in bed every morning according to the guest’s specifications and they have bedside nibblers and a magic 8-ball by the bedside as well.

If you are looking for a relaxing time in Tagaytay, your money will be well spent if you book a room at The Boutique Bed and Breakfast. Their highly personalized service and room offerings are so amazing that you will choose to spend a majority of your time in the room. This is truly a destination for the ultimate pampering so be sure to give it a try sometime.

The Boutique Bed and Breakfast
45 Aguinaldo Highway, Silang Crossing East, Tagaytay CIty
046-4131798
www.theboutiquebnb.com

Tales from Burnham Park

Baguio is one of the many amazing places that you can visit in the Philippines. Only a few hours away from Manila, you can reach the city by bus if you are not interested in driving yourself. The best time to journey up north is during the wee hours of the morning as the traffic is not as heavy, allowing you to reach your destination in about six hours or so.

When you reach the city, you can engage in all sorts of activities from horseback riding to cycling to park hopping. Yes, there are various parks that can be visited in Baguio. One of them is Burnham Park.

Named after a famous American architect, Daniel Burnham, the park is said to be located at a prime real estate area in Baguio. Locals and tourists alike can visit the park for free at any time of their choosing. The sky is the limit when it comes to enjoyment here.

Daniel Burnham is also recognized as an urban planner. This is why Burnham Park is considered to be an urban park in the heart of Baguio City. He became the namesake of this particular park because he was the one who actually laid out the plans for this city.

The park is surrounded by several roads and some of them are connected to the famous Camp John Hay which was an American recreational area back then. One side also faces the tallest mountain in Baguio. This is Mount Kabuyao.

Burnham Park is often referred to by locals as the mother of all parks in the city of pines. Several attractions like Session Road, the Baguio Cathedral, City Hall, and the Baguio City Market have all been constructed around this park. There are multiple roads leading to it as well from Harrison Road to Governor Pack and Magsaysay Roads to Kisad Road. On one side of the park, there is a skating rink. A man-made lake can be found in the middle. There is even an area for cycling.

Constructed by Burnham and his team over a century ago, the original design has been retained even though there have been several renovations through the years. New features have since been added to reflect Filipino culture and these really go well with Burnham’s original concept. Today, Burnham Park is a spectacular activity center that is adored by foreigners and locals alike.

The park is home to twelve cluster areas starting with the man-made lake complete with rowboats for rent and this is referred to as the Lagoon. Then there is a playground for children as well as a skating rink. The park is also home to various gardens from a rose garden, orchidarium, and the Igorot garden.

Melvin Jones Grandstand can also be found on this location together with the Athletic Bowl and the Picnic Grove plus the Japanese Peace Tower, Pine Trees of the World, and Sunshine Park. The original plan for Burnham Park was to have it serve as the eco-park of Baguio since it had wide green spaces, a multitude of trees, and other flora species as well. Nowadays, the people consider it more as a place for amusement complete with tracks, eateries, and the like.

Burnham Park
Kisad Road, Baguio City

Resorts World Manila: Manila’s First Integrated Tourist Destination

Like the slogan says, it is definitely more fun in the Philippines. There are plenty of attractions to visit and there are plenty of great places to eat at. Also, especially in the heart of the country, in the city of Manila, there are plenty of things that can be done at any given time of day.

Only a couple of years old is the latest prime development from the Megaworld Group of Companies, which is the famous Resorts World Manila, a franchise from the internationally acclaimed Resorts World Incorporated. With other Resorts World developments across the globe, its arrival in Manila has impressed and excited the locals and foreigners alike. The great thing about this place is that it is the ultimate tourist destination where everything from retail to dining to arts, culture, and gambling have been integrated to give people an all-in experience of the city life in Manila.

The compound of RWM is home not only to the main Resorts World infrastructure but also to several hotel establishments like The Marriot, Maxim’s, and Remington Hotel. Within the vicinity, you will also find several fast food offerings that can provide you with quick and easy meals when you need to grab a bite before heading off to the airport. Its close proximity to all three NAIA terminals also make it an excellent place to hang out in before and after flights.

Inside the main building of Resorts World Manila, you will immediately see the huge casino located at the center of the infrastructure. There are games for everyone from the slot machines to tables for cards and even roulette. They have offerings for amateur or leisure gamblers and they also have offerings that cater to the regulars and high-rollers.

Not everyone is into gambling though and the developers really thought this through. Even if the concept of Resorts World considers the casino as one of the primary elements of the establishment, they did not focus on this element alone. Because they want RWM to cater to everyone, they made sure that there is something for every member of the family.

Several retail establishments can also be found inside RWM. Most of the brands that are available are high-end names but there are mid-ranged offerings when it comes to apparel and such. The stores here are diverse enough to provide people of different styles and interests with the things that suit their fancy.

There are several cinemas that can also be found on the topmost level of the building. Although the cinemas are not as large as those in other malls, they can seat about 200 a piece and one of the great things about watching movies here is that the seats are extremely comfortable. At RWM, you do not get basic movie seats but you are entitled to your very own reclining chair.

For a lot of the visitors that set foot inside Resorts World Manila, probably the best offering that RWM has is its selection of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Even if a large part of the building has been allocated to the casino, they saved enough space to provide visitors with a number of dining choices able to suit every type of palate or craving day in and day out. In RWM, there are a lot of great places to eat at, both fancy and casual.

If you are about to travel, one of the best places to visit before you head off to the airport is Resorts World Manila. Instead of spending all that time waiting at the airport for your flight, you can let the time pass somewhere more enjoyable and this is such a place. If you have just arrived from a flight, it is also a good idea to head down to RWM so that you can relax for a while before heading home.

For those who want to experience a great day out, this is also the place to be. A day with your family and friends can be made even better with the offerings that RWM can provide you with. As promised, you will not experience a single dull moment when you head down to Resorts World Manila.

Resorts World Manila
Newport Boulevard, Newport City. Pasay 1309, Metro Manila
836-6333
www.rwmanila.com

PNKYs: Your Home Away From Home

One of the best things to do during a long weekend is to head out north into the depths of Baguio City. The cool weather persists all year round, making it a really refreshing destination, especially when the summertime comes. There are all sorts of transport that you can take but nothing beats the Victory Liner service, which will take you there in 6 hours flat.

Regardless of how you intend to get there, it is advisable that you leave the city in the wee hours of the morning so that heavy road traffic will not be a problem. Since Baguio City is six hours away from Manila, leaving at night means that you can get there by morning and start your adventures early on.

There are a lot of places that can be visited in the city but before you can do anything, you have to find a place to stay. There are countless inns and hotels in the area that suit every type of budget but if you are looking for a cozy retreat, there is only one place to check out. This is PNKYs Bed and Breakfast.

PNKYs is not your typical B&B. There is a café on the property plus a museum as well. According to the owners, their philosophy is simple and that is to provide their visitors with a cozy home away from home.

They believe that if a traveler enjoys a particular trip, even before the traveler leaves, he or she will already be thinking about returning. Aside from providing visitors with a great place to stay in, PNKYs also provides clients with excellent memories to take home with them. Basically, the owners love Baguio so much that they want you to love it just as they do.

PNKYs started out as a rest house for the owners and they eventually converted it into a B&B when they relocated to Manila. There are 5 rooms to choose from depending on the number of guests checking in. The rooms are called the Forest Green Room, the Baguio Blue Room, the Van Gogh Room, the Hideaway Room, and the Gallery.

The rooms have been designed to significantly differ from each other. The Forest Green Room is decked out in green of course and gives you that tranquil feeling that is reflective of nature. This room can fit four people.

And then there is the Baguio Blue Room which has been painted in blue. This is the room that you should get if you want a sense of calmness. This room is ideal for two persons.

The Van Gogh Room and the Hideaway Room have been named after the pieces of art that can be found in the space. The former obviously has Van Gogh prints while the other has prints from various artists. Both rooms fit two people each.

Finally, there is the Gallery which started out as a literal art gallery that housed the works of the owner’s real life daughter. It is a much larger space complete with a living area and a sleeping area that is suited for two people as well. This is the room that is ideal for couples.

PNKYs Bed and Breakfast
13 Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City
074.444.5418, 0922.818.4247
www.pnkyhome.com

Enjoying the View at Mines View Park

If you happen to find yourself in Baguio City, see to it that you get to visit the famous Mines View Park. Aside from being the most visited park in the area, this is actually part of the most popular parks in the Philippines. In the city, all you have to do is take a short jeepney ride from the main plaza and you will arrive in no time.

Inside Mines View, there is an observation deck that has really gained a lot of local and foreign fans through the years. On the deck, you will have a panoramic view of the gold and copper mines that Benguet is known for. You will also have the chance to see the breathtaking mountains that surround the city.

What you have here are some of the sights that you should not miss when in Baguio. This is why a trip to good old Mines View Park is really something that you should not miss out on. No other place will give you this particular view of Baguio.

The thing about Mines View Park is that it is often the third item on people’s lists when they visit that side of the city. This is because you get to see a couple of attractions before you reach the park. These attractions are the Mansion where the president stays whenever he or she is in Baguio and Wright Park, which is known for horseback riding.

Upon reaching the park, you need to traverse a winding stairway that is made out of stone and this serves as the entryway to the park right next to the parking area. Remember to practice extreme caution when going down these steps as they are quite uneven and if it is humid, they can be very slippery as well. At any point, if you feel the need to rest, you will find several wooden benches along the path.

Even whilst seated you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city and this is what is so great about Mines View in Baguio. If you like, you can rent some binoculars for a small fee and get an even better view of the surrounding areas. If you want a souvenir photograph, it will be fairly easy to find commercial photographers that will be able to help you out.

The thing about Baguio is that the cold weather makes it highly susceptible to fog. This is why if you intend on visiting Mines View, you should start your day early. If not, you might not get to see any of the spectacular sights that have been mentioned in this article.

Do not fret though, for foggy days only happen during certain months of the year. One thing that you can do is plan your vacation ahead of time so that you can avoid the foggy months or so they say. This way, you will be able to make the most out of your short stay in the city.

You can also do your souvenir shopping at Mines View Park as stalls selling handicrafts line the streets. Here, you can buy everything from famous Baguio delicacies to wood carvings. Baguio is also known for silver products.

If you get hungry, there are canteens all over the place where you can devour mouthwatering home-cooked dishes. From bulalo (beef soup) to everyday fare like kare-kare or kaldereta (meat stew), you will be able to find fresh home cooked meals here. The shopping area somewhat resembles a public market.

Mines View Park
Mines View Park, Baguio City

Camp John Hay in Full View

Baguio is one of the best vacation destinations in the Philippines and thousands of tourists visit the city every year. From locals to foreigners, there are plenty of people who simply adore the city of pines. There are a lot of things that can be done in Baguio and there are tons of sights that can be seen.

There are plenty of attractions in Baguio City and one of them is Camp John Hay. Located by Loakan Road, this used to be the site of a humongous American air base used by soldiers during the Second World War. Now, it has been transformed into an area where vacationers can relax and revel in the beauty of nature.

Formerly known as John Hay Air Station, Camp John Hay is situated on a major hill in the city. Long ago, it served as a place for recreation for the US Armed Forces as well as the employees of the defense department. Before it was turned over to the Philippines, the United States Air Force ran the entire thing.

The camp was designed to act as a communications station but American solders decided to convert it into a place for rest and relaxation. Aside from the renowned American Residence, the area was also home to the Voice of America broadcasting facilities. It was actually established in 1903 under the rule of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Occupied by the Americans for quite some time, the land was turned over to the Philippines after some time. When the Filipinos received Camp John Hay, there were 290 rooms that have been fully furnished in the cottages, lodges, and apartments within the property. These rooms also had kitchen facilities, refrigerators, and working television sets.

One of the most popular places on the property is 19th Tee. You can also visit the Halfway House and Scout Hill baseball field when you visit the camp. The Officer’s Building, now known as the Main Club and the famous Mile-Hi recreation facility can also be found here.

There was a time when Camp John Hay was closed to the public. You had to know someone inside to be able to enter the premises. Unless it was for official business, entry was not as easily granted to outside individuals.

Occupied for a number of years by American forces, Camp John Hay was formally transferred to Filipino control in 1991 on the first of July. This was when the Philippine Tourism Authority took over all administrative duties. Later on, they turned the camp over to the Bases Conversion Development Authority for further assessment and development.

Nowadays, Camp John Hay is one of the most famous sights in Baguio. Regularly visited by tourists from near and far, the American facility serves as an excellent tourist attraction. This is truly the place where rest and relaxation can be achieved.

The property is huge. There are a lot of places that can be seen within the camp limits. There is the Par-69 golf course, The Manor, The Suites at Camp John Hay, plus several restaurants and stores.

Camp John Hay
Loakan Road, Baguio City
074 424-0931
www.campjohnhay.ph

A Haunting We Will Go: Laperal

When summer fills the air, one of the best destinations to visit is Baguio. There are plenty of activities that can be done and plenty of memories to be made. A trip to Baguio will surely be something that you will remember for years on end.

Baguio is famous for its reputation as the Philippines’ summer capital as well as The City of Pines; a lot of tourists visit the area all year round. There are plenty of things that can be done in Baguio from sightseeing to horseback riding to cycling and a lot more.  However, the area is also known for something else, something eerie in a sense. Even in the past, Baguio has been known as a haunted city and the cool and foggy weather complements the rumors.

Aside from attracting tourists, the city also attracts clairvoyants, paranormal seekers, and those who simply want a different kind of adventure. This is the reason why there are businessmen that actually make money off of touring people around the haunted spots of Baguio. Yes, there is a tour that you can join complete with overnight accommodations plus a paranormal guide instead of a regular tourist guide.

The hauntings in Baguio are not only weak rumors as there are a lot of locals and tourists who can attest to the fact that something indeed fills these haunted areas. One such place is the Laperal White House, which is an old ancestral home down by Leonard Wood. It once belonged to the Laperal family and they were once one of the biggest clans in the area.

If you ask people from Baguio about haunted spots in the area, one of the first places that they will start talking about is the Laperal White House. The all-white structure was actually built during the 1920s and it was where the Laperal family lived. The Laperals are part of the oldest clan in Baguio city.

The Laperal family lived in this house until the Second World War, after which it was taken over by the Japanese. Japanese soldiers claimed the house to use as their personal shelter at the time. The sad thing is that they did not simply take the house from the Laperals by driving them out.  Instead, they engaged in a reprehensible act, the likes of which one only sees during such lawless times as war.

The Japanese soldiers who took over the structure murdered the entire Laperal family. After the war ended, the last Laperal relative also died from an accident. He slipped and hit his head.  This put an end to an ill-starred family.

If you take a look at the design of the house, it embodies a colonial element. It seems like a very nice place to live in but this is not the case. There have been a lot of occurrences in the house that are responsible for it being uninhabited until now.

There are caretakers who live on the property but stay near the gates. A number of people have already mentioned hearing moans and footsteps as days draw to a close. There have even been several encounters where people see apparitions by the house.

If you are brave enough to see what mysteries lie within the Laperal White House, do consider joining one of Baguio’s infamous Haunted Tour Camps. They provide overnight packages for small groups, about 4 to 8 people per trip, taking them to all of the haunted areas in the city including the White House. If you have the heart for it, why don’t you give it a go?

Laperal White House
4 Leonard Wood, Baguio City, Philippines

High Times at BGC

After a long and grueling work week, the best thing to do on your day off is to relax. There are times when relaxation is not that easy to achieve, though, especially when you decide to head off to a mall in the city. This is because of how loud things can get given the traffic in such areas.

There are moments when an out of town excursion is also not that easy to do. Driving might be too much of a hassle when all that you want to do is sit back and enjoy a good book. It is a good thing that Taguig offers you comfort away from your home and it is in BGC or Bonifacio Global City.

Developed only a couple of years back, Fort Bonifacio in Taguig has really come a long way. Dozens of condominiums now stand where grasslands once were. Shopping centers are being built left and right. International schools and offices as well are starting to join the bandwagon.

The thing about this area is that no matter how busy things seem to be, there is one spot that can give you that sense of calm and relaxation that you are clamoring for. Located in the middle of BGC is a series of open air yet swanky shopping and dining establishments. The great thing about this area is that it is animal friendly so you can take your pets along.

The dining location is known as Serendra and here you will find amazing foodie options that serve Filipino, Fusion, Thai, American, Italian, French, and other cuisines that you could think of. The only thing that you should remember is that this area is classy in terms of their offerings. You can dress anyway you want but by being classy, prices are normally jacked up.

Anyway, you should not be disheartened for there are plenty of ways to enjoy at BGC for a fraction of the price and all you have to do is walk across the street from Serendra to where the shops are. This shopping area is also known as BGC by itself and it is made up of 8 buildings each with its own series of offices upstairs and line of shops and food options downstairs. Every section also has a parking lot so there is no need to worry when it comes to that.

In this area, there are about 5 coffee shops that you can stay at if you simply want to be comfortable while reading that book of yours. Outside seating is also available so you can do things French style. You can get engrossed in the story that you are reading while sipping a cup of coffee watching the people as they go.

If you get hungry, there is a great burger joint nearby or if you want, you can go to the other restaurants in that area. Another way to take a break is by strolling down the cemented paths while doing a bit of window shopping. You can also view the different art forms that surround the area from a free standing see saw type installation to a huge fountain right smack in the middle of BGC.

When the night comes, after some dinner, visit the different bars around the area. You can go to pub style places and engage in some casual chit chat or you can go to one of the bars that offer bottle service. Dance the night away if that is your thing.

Surely your day off is best spent doing the things that you love and if relaxation is what you want, a trip to BGC will be well worth it. A bit of advice: use the C-5 road as it gives you the fastest route to Taguig. Enjoy!

Bonifacio Global City
The Fort, Taguig, Metro Manila
www.bonifaciohighstreet.com

Undersea Adventure at Manila Ocean Park

Let’s face it. We never really get too old for things like parks, especially when it comes to the places that show us the vastness of the universe. This is the feeling that you can experience when you visit the Manila Ocean Park.

The Manila Ocean Park is an oceanarium in Manila that is owned by China Oceanis Philippines Incorporated. This is a subsidiary of China Oceanis Inc. which is a Singaporean-registered firm that has operated four oceanariums in China already. It is located behind the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park.

Manila Ocean Park formally opened on March 1, 2008. Compared to the Sentosa Underwater World oceanarium in Singapore, it is much larger based on floor space. There is also a 25-meter underwater acrylic tunnel inside the establishment.

Although the park is open, there was construction and development for some time starting with phase one in which the park had its soft opening. Then there was phase two where they started constructing the park mall and hotel, which both adopted the marine theme. The last phase, the third one, included work on other attractions and habitats inside Manila Ocean Park.

Upon entering the establishment, you will be greeted by the main aquarium setup first and this is actually divided into several tanks, each with its own theme. For every division, a specific group of fish is included. These tanks act as separate environments for particular species of marine life.

The first one is “Agos”, meaning flow in Tagalog, and it houses freshwater fish in eight tanks that have been designed to resemble a rainforest. Following it is the “Bahura” or reef section and here you will see a collection of different corals. These corals are only replicas of the real ones and they fill up about 48 tanks.

The third one is “Laot”, which basically means fishing ground, and here is where you will see large fish species and an assortment of rays all living in an elongated tank. You will be led to the living ocean or “Buhay na Karagatan” section afterwards and this is actually the main attraction of Manila Ocean Park. What you will see is a 25-meter long tunnel with 220-degree curved acrylic walls that allow you to literally walk underneath the swimming marine creatures.

Then there is “Kalaliman”, which stands for the deep and this is where you will find marine creatures that normally live in the deepest parts of Philippine waters. The aquarium also has a separate enclosure for the rays and it is named “Pagi”, which is the local term for the sting ray. It is an overhang tank that houses a bunch of rays, each a different size from the rest.

Finally, you will arrive at the “Pating” or shark section of the aquarium and here you will see a variety of sharks up close. These tanks are really amazing and the fish are wonderful. The park provides you with the best and safest method of seeing these fascinating creatures with ease.

Another attraction that you should not miss is the Acquatica Musical Fountain, which is the Philippines’s first and tallest musical fountain, going as tall as 120 feet high, and the largest water and laser show consisting of over 1,600 water nozzles – water, music, lights & special effects – backed by live performance. Do set aside some time to check out the marine life habitat and the open water marine habitat as well. The Concourse Plaza should also be visited in this case.

Manila Ocean Park
Beside Quirino Grandstand, Qurino Street, Manila
567-7777
www.manilaoceanpark.com

Something about Robinsons Galleria

May it be a weekend or a weekday, Filipinos love hitting the malls throughout the course of an entire week. What people normally look for in a mall is the location first and foremost, movie and shopping options, and food offerings as well. When it comes to malling, one hotspot in the Metro is Robinsons Galleria.

Strategically located on the corner of EDSA and Ortigas, Robinsons Galleria makes it easy for patrons, commuters or not, to reach the premises without any transport problems. Opening its doors in 1990, there have been plenty of developments since that time. Two hotels (Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza) have been built, the mall itself has been renovated countless times, new wings have been added with a number of new stores lined up, and then there is also the newly completed Veranda, which provides mall goers with a dining ambiance like no other.

Robinsons Galleria is not as large as its Ortigas area counterparts but it houses tons of shopping, dining, and leisure options under one roof. The ground floor houses a huge food court where tons of options are available for the everyday foodie. The supermarket is also found on this floor.

Below it is Park Avenue where you will find the mall’s main offices. Here is where you will also find dermatology clinics and several banks not to mention travel agencies and the like. If you need to have your license renewed, this is also where you will find the office of the LTO.

Going on to the second floor, this is where you will find the department store, which offers all sorts of products from clothes to household items and appliances to furniture to toys. On this floor, you will find a number of clothing establishments and salons. This is also where the Veranda is located.

The third floor also has plenty of clothing stores but this is also where you will find the children’s wing, Jumpstart, furniture stores, appliance stores, stores for collectible comics and cards, and sports related outlets as well. On this floor are several clinics too from optical shops to dental offices and even a tattoo parlor. Here you will find a couple of ATMs if you need to withdraw some money.

Finally, we come to the fourth floor, which is known for the cinema. There are 10 theaters in total, which provides a lot of options when it comes to watching movies. There are two main snack bars and surrounding the movie house is a number of fast food joints as well from Taters to Burger King.

On the fourth floor on the opposite side of the cinema, there is Galleria Bingo for players of all ages as long as you are over the age of 18. On the other end is an arcade, Tom’s World, which is filled with games and rides for both children and adults to enjoy. This is also the floor that houses several dine-in restaurants like Pizza Hut, Max’s, Pancake House, and Burgoo.

There is also a bowling alley and billiards hall in Robinsons Galleria. They offer bumper bowling, which sees to it that you get no gutter balls no matter what. While playing a few rounds, why not order a pizza from Magoo’s?

The hotels are connected to the mall with entry points at both the third and fourth floors. There are gyms that are available as well. Also, the mall is right beside the EDSA Shrine for those who attend masses and there is another center for the faithful, Victory Christian Fellowship which is on the fourth floor. Both of these can be accessed from the West wing of the mall.

Robinsons Galleria

EDSA corner Ortigas, Metro Manila
397-1888
www.robinsonsmalls.com

Budget Friendly Getaway at Tagaytay’s Picnic Grove

The Picnic Grove is just beside Tierra de Maria, located at Brgy. Sungay in the east-end of Tagaytay City. It is one of the cheapest attractions that can be found in Tagaytay and obviously, one of the most crowded especially during the weekends. Before deciding to unpack your lunch on one of the picnic tables in the area, see to it that you first pay your parking and entrance fees in one of the big cottages used by the staff.

Upon arriving, you will see that there are no signs for parking areas so basically you can just park anywhere you see other cars parking. Always remember not to park your car near a coconut tree with those large coconuts and leaves threatening to fall sometime soon or you might regret it later on. There are different sizes to choose from when it comes to the picnic sheds here (the price varies according to the size and ranges from P100 to P250) so choose one that is just right for your group to fit into.

There are barbecue pits scattered all around the picnic area for grilling food and these can be used by anyone without any fees. The thing that you have to remember though is that you have to bring your own charcoal and lighting agents. In this case, you also have to bring your own food.

Normally, you will see other families eating or kids running around playing whilst you eat. The thing that makes picnic grove such a nice place to visit is the fact that you can see Taal volcano in all its glory while you enjoy some delicious food. This surely provides for the best ambiance that can be experienced in terms of al fresco dining.

After a satisfying meal, the next thing that you should check out is their Eco-Adventure Trail. Before heading off to the trail, see to it that you do not forget to go up the view deck where you can get another enchanting view of Taal Lake while enjoying the breeze and taking pictures. For most people, this often becomes the most enjoyable part of the trip to Tagaytay.

Right beside the view deck is a sign marking the entrance to the Eco-Trail. It is basically a long boardwalk with a hanging bridge that spans a mini-valley full of trees, shrubbery, and other types of vegetation. This landscape makes it ideal for a 250-meter zipline and a cable car, giving guests a unique angle for viewing the lush scenery even if the zipline only lasts for less than a minute.

When you’re walking along the Eco-Trail, seeing people flying across from you is rather common. The cable car is technically slower, giving riders more time to take in the surroundings. While you are in the cable car, see to it that you snap as many shots as you can.

For the attractions, rates usually differ for the weekends where they are more expensive from the rates on weekdays. For a weekend zipline ride, it will cost you about 300 pesos for a two-way trip. You can choose to ride alone or with a companion and you can ride the zipline superman style if you wish.

The rides operate as early as 9 AM and close at 6 PM. Visit the zipline’s official website if you’re still curious about this new addition. In the picnic grove, you will also see a line of souvenir shops that sell the famous Tagaytay shirts. Knitted items are also popular here as the weather can get pretty cold at times.

Horseback riding is another fun activity that you can try when you visit this chill spot in Tagaytay. The fee is about 350 to 450 pesos per hour and this comes with a horse and a guide. If you intend on riding a horse, just see to it that you are wearing long pants and sneakers or else things might get a little dirty.

Picnic Grove
Tagaytay-Calamba Road, Tagaytay City, Philippines

Breathtaking Boracay

Apart from the sights and sounds of Manila, there are other things about the Philippines that both the locals and tourists are fond of. Beaches are included here. Although there are a lot of beaches nearby, from Batangas to Zambales, there is something different about the beaches of Boracay.

Boracay is known for its white beaches with sands that are powdery fine. Through the years, even with the commercial boom in the island, the local government has been able to keep the beaches clean and this is really impressive. Once you have taken a dip in the pristine waters of Boracay’s white beach, no experience in other beaches will be comparable to your experience here.

Considering the identity of Boracay as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines, a lot of businesses have decided to set up shop on the island. This led to the commercialization of the area. Nowadays, tons of beachfront restaurants, hotels, and stores are ready to serve visitors.

The way to get to Boracay is to take a domestic flight from Manila. Local airlines like Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, Zest Air, and Seair all offer daily flights to Kalibo or Caticlan which are the two routes that can be taken. If you decide to fly to Kalibo, there is a two hour bus ride that you have to endure to get to the port with ferries that will take you to Boracay Island. If you hop on a flight to Caticlan, all it takes is a tricycle ride to the port.

The ferry trip takes about 30 minutes or so depending on weather conditions. Some hotels offer this transfer service for free while some do not. Expect to pay about 150-200 per person for complete transfer arrangements to and from Boracay island from the port area.

Upon reaching the island, you can take tricycle rides going to your hotel. The terminal can be found in D’Mall, which is the main shopping and dining hub on the island. The fare depends on the distance of the hotel from the main terminal.

Aside from taking a swim and going around the island on a foodie trip, you should really set aside some time for activities like snorkeling, parasailing, and skim boarding as well. For more adventurous travelers, cliff diving is something that should not be ignored. Another popular activity in Boracay is helmet diving.

The activities that you can try here are not limited to the ones done in the water. If you want, you can go around the island on a buggy car or an ATV if you wish. These give you another sight of Boracay that not everyone has a chance to see.

The guides will take you to the other beaches on the island like Puka Beach, for example, which is popular for the Puka shells that can be found there. They will also take you to see the giant bat and the bird aviary. On a side trip, you can also go to the Boracay Zip line and Zorb center.

Boracay is a hot spot for any vacation or holiday, may it be during the summer or any other time of year. This is a place that you should visit when you are in the Philippines. May it be with family or friends, you will surely enjoy the sights, sounds, and beaches that Boracay has to offer.

Boracay
Boracay Island, Aklan

Lemon Tree Inn – Your Home in the Metropolis

English novelist Jane Austen once said, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” But what if you’re a travel bug? Do you really have a chance of finding home in other places?

In Metro Manila, you might just find your answer. While there a lot of hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns and other lodging options to choose from, there can only be a handful of establishments that offer the same peace and comfort as your home. One of these is Lemon Tree Inn, a 12-room facility tucked into the northern portion of the metropolis.

Lemon Tree Inn is located in Quezon City, near the corner of Quezon Avenue and Scout Magbanua and just right across Capitol Medical Center. It may be a little off the main highway, but it’s hard not to notice this charming establishment. The façade is painted in pastel yellow and green, with a design reminiscent of Victorian-style houses in San Francisco.

From inside, the inn exudes a homey, luxurious and contemporary look and feel with its warm lights, dark wooden furniture (which look expensive and of foreign origin but are actually locally-made), clean surroundings, and friendly and accommodating staff – true to the inn’s “home away from home” slogan.

The cleanliness is not only apparent in the common areas but especially inside the rooms. Indeed, Dra. Linda Luz Amante, owner of Lemon Tree Inn, said that cleanliness is the establishment’s forte. It’s usually what makes their customers want to come back or stay longer.

The inn also has a lot to be proud of in terms of amenities. All 12 rooms are air-conditioned and complete with an LCD television, dresser, safety deposit box and ensuite bathroom with hot and cold shower. They have soft and thick beds, comfortable pillows and fresh sheets. Once you hop on the bed, you may need to remind yourself that you’re inside an inn and not an upscale three- or four-star hotel.

The kitchenette makes a whole lot of difference. Having your midnight snack within your quarters becomes an attractive option when you have your own mini-refrigerator, microwave oven and electric kettle right in your own room! Don’t worry about staining the sheets: all rooms (except in deluxe) have a dining table where you can comfortably enjoy your meal. To complete the package, Lemon Tree Inn also provides washable dinnerware for guests.

If you’re in the mood to prepare your own meal, you can do so at the common kitchen. They have everything from pans, knives and pot holders to ladles, strainers, electric blenders and cheese graters. Be sure to reserve a slot and expect to pay a reasonable fee.

On top of these, Lemon Tree Inn offers complimentary breakfast courtesy of Figaro Coffee Shop at the first floor, wireless Internet, a Business Center with a computer and printer, laundry service, courier service and airport transfer service. They also have a small conference room perfect for meetings and presentations.

What’s best is that you get hotel-like amenities and service for an inn price. Rooms range from P2,300 per night for the Deluxe Room to P3,800 per night for the Family Suite. Talk about value for money!

So the next time you’re looking for a temporary home in Metro Manila, try a night’s stay or more at Lemon Tree Inn. I guarantee that your experience will be anything but sour.

Lemon Tree Inn
No. 18, Scout Magbanua, Barangay Paligsahan, Quezon City
+63.2.376.4401 / +63.2.376.6103
www.lemontreeinn.com.ph

Need a Break? Head Off to Tagaytay!

After a very tiring work week, wouldn’t it be great if you can go for a quick retreat somewhere not that far from the city? Wouldn’t it be great if you can take a short drive and spend some time recharging for the week ahead? Well, look no further for you can have the break that you so desperately need and all it takes is an hour-long drive to Tagaytay City.

Considered as a second class city, Tagaytay City can be found within the city limits of Cavite. Today, Tagaytay City is known as one of the most popular tourist spots in the country and it is also very popular destination for the locals. From Manila, you can choose to go on a day trip via Aguinaldo Highway as it is only about 55 kilometers away from Manila.

The city of Tagaytay can be found on top or the Tagaytay Ridge which is actually the highest point in Cavite. Because of the high altitude, Tagaytay City is a great destination when the summer time arrives since the climate is relatively cool around that season. You will also be able to set your eyes upon the spectacular Taal Volcano when you come for a visit.

There are several look-out points in Tagaytay, each one offering a different view of Taal Volcano. If you want a completely unobstructed view of this active volcano and the lake that surrounds it, go to the look-out point by Starbuck’s Coffee Shop. This is near the main roundabout so you cannot miss it.

If you plan to stay for a night or two, you will be able to choose from a wide selection of Tagaytay hotels in the area. Regardless of your budget, it will be easy to find a place to stay here. There are also plenty of restaurants all over Tagaytay so if you get hungry you have plenty of cuisines to choose from as well.

Aside from the cool climate in Tagaytay, both local and foreign tourists are fond of visiting the different Tagaytay parks including the Picnic Grove, People’s Park, and People’s Park in the Sky. There are also several bicycle parks and horse riding areas in the city. They have recently added a new attraction and that is the zip line by the Picnic Grove and this is truly something that you need to try out when you visit Tagaytay.

As what was previously mentioned, Tagaytay does not only have plenty of hotels but there are lots of places to eat as well. Whatever cuisine you prefer, you will surely find something here. From traditional Filipino food to classic Italian, the options are limitless making the city a great destination for all foodies alike.

When you visit, make sure that you try out the signature dish of Tagaytay City which is the Bulalo. The Bulalo is a traditional Filipino beef stock soup and a lot of local restaurants serve this and most of them offer free refills on the soup base so eat your heart out. When it comes to the ultimate Bulalo experience, go to Leslie’s restaurant.

There are other places of interest for tourists in this city aside from the parks and restaurants. If you can, try to visit Tagaytay Highlands. This is a recreational not to mention a residential complex which offers sporting activities like golf and tennis. They have a cable car within the property limits if you are interested.

Tagaytay is also home to numerous World War and historical markers like the 41st Division USAFFE Marker and the 11th Airborne Division Marker. You will also be able to see a number of seminaries here. So, after that long work week, plan a trip to Tagaytay and relax.

www.tagaytay.gov.ph

Star City – Manila’s Premier Amusement Park

Star City is an amusement park that caters to both kids and adults. It is open daily, even on holidays at 2PM onwards. As such, if you plan to go and have fun, it is most suggested to head out to Star City.

Figure 1: Kids must see the Dino Island Museum inside Star City

One of the many great things about this place is that most of kiddie rides are located indoors. In other words, parents and guardians do not necessarily have to be concerned in case of sudden downpour of rain. In addition, the place is secured enough to let the kids run around and have fun.

Some of the kiddie ride that is considered as a must-try is the Kiddie Bump Cars which allows the child after a certain height requirement to have a feel behind the driver’s wheel. They can bump their cars to their other siblings without hurting themselves. This also teaches them to strategize at an early stage to know when to hit and avoid being targeted.

Other rides and sights to see for small kids are Grand Carousel, Kiddie Wheel and Dino Island Museum. Many families start out to these rides and museums first for quality time bonding. If the child is old enough to have an exhilarating taste of being up in the air, they can ride roller coasters fit for their age. After all of these heart-pumping activities, the family can rest at the Little Mermaid Boat Ride to see different old models of cars.

Adults also can enjoy Star City but most of the rides are located outside. Try to ride the most extreme roller coaster ride and feel the rush of air to your face. Or enjoy the Adult Bump Car and meet new friends.

Figure 2: The fantastic Snow World at Star City

Another new attraction in Star City is its Snow World. In here, blankets of ice layer the ground for the enjoyment of guests and visitors. You can ask for a coat or hand gloves to keep your body and hands from too much shaking.

Figure 3: Star City’s Wild River Ride

If you are brave enough for the challenge, try their horror houses. Or if you would like to experience mind-numbing heights, then try to swing up in their Viking Boat. If you want to get wet, you can try their Wild River rides.

In case that you would like to try out all of the rides, Star City offers ride-all-you can package. But if you chose to see first what is in store for you, it is best to keep some lose money available and fall in line for the ride of your choice. There are also food stalls around the area in case that you get hungry from all the rides.

However, Star City has also its limitations. The rides are a bit old but still functional since it began operating way back 1991. In addition, the shouts and noises inside is magnified due to the indoor location of the rides.

But Star City keeps on delivering its promise of providing entertainment and amusement to people of all ages. It also continues to improve its facilities thru modernization. Indeed, Star City remains to be the premier amusement park in Manila.

Star City
Sotto cor Jalandoni Sts. CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City, Philippines 1300
+632 832-6121
http://www.starcity.com.ph

See Marine Life Up Close in Manila Ocean Park

The Manila Ocean Park or MOP is considered to be a relatively new tourist spot as it only begun operating only on the first quarter of 2008. This project is being owned and handled by China Oceanis Philippines which is a subsidiary of China Oceanis, Inc. The said corporation also happens to manage four more oceanariums located in mainland China.

Figure 1: End of the acrylic tunnel which showcased “Buhay na Karagatan” section

Figure 2: Different kinds of sharks up close at “Pating” section

The Manila Ocean Park is said to be a bit larger than the Sentosa Underwater World located in Singapore. The floor area of Manila Ocean Park is 8000 square meters and currently features a 25-meter underwater acrylic tunnel which is the main attraction. The whole project construction went three phases but the venue is now fully operational to be enjoyed by guests and visitors.

Figure 1: A resting “Pagi” for better viewing experience

There are six sections inside of Manila Ocean Park. The first one is “Agos” or “Flow” that showcases rainforest-inspired surroundings with eight freshwater tanks that contains incredible fishes. The second section is “Bahura” or “The Reef” which displays artificial corals much like found on natural reefs.

Next section is “Laot” or “Fishing Grounds” which shows big fishes and rays inside a long tank. Another section that provides a glimpse of the marine life underneath the ocean is the main attraction of the place and aptly called “Buhay na Karagatan” or “Living Ocean”. This section is a walkway acrylic tunnel as mentioned awhile ago that has a 220-degree curved walls for appreciation of life under the sea.

Another section that you must visit is the “Kalaliman” or “The Deep” which features fishes normally found in the deepest parts of the Philippine seas. “Pagi” or “Sting Ray” is the section that displays varieties of rays and sting rays. Of course, you should not miss the section “Pating” or “Sharks” to appreciate the beauty and gracefulness of different kinds of shark.

Manila Ocean Park also features Acquatica Musical Fountain which highlights Manila’s most grand and tallest musical fountain. It stands about 120 feet high and is backed with lights and special effects. This show is presented every Wednesday night, on top of the regular entrance fees.

Inside Manila Ocean Park is a Marine-Themed Mall which is a first in the Philippines. It has 25 restaurants that face the Manila Bay which is a popular hang-out place. The mall also has 30 unique shops which call for a visit.

Event organizers also make use of Concourse Plaze which can house big events such as concerts and product launches. There are also many food stalls to satiate hunger pangs. A lot of souvenirs shops are located in the area for ease of shopping.

In addition, guests and visitors can have some water splashing at Open Water Marine Habitat. For a minimum fee, kids can have fun in an outdoor swimming pool. Adults can also enjoy snorkeling or diving in the area.

Indeed, Manila Ocean Park offers a fresh perspective of the marine life. The place continues to improve to provide high entertainment and educational value. Pay Manila Ocean Park a visit and see the excitement comes alive.

Manila Ocean Park
Behind the Quirino Grandstand Luneta Manila, Luzon Philippines
+632 5677777
http://www.manilaoceanpark.com