• Card Printing

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Unfortunately, there is no card printing at SM City Cebu LTO (this is Dec-2018). After you’re done with renewal, you will only have the receipt. And the advice they give is to go to Island Mall Lapu-Lapu or SM Seaside. I Just found out there is card printing just opened yesterday at Robinson’s Galleria Mall.

  • Queue and Duration of renewal

It took me two hours and I got in the mall as soon as it opens (10AM) on a Tuesday. Don’t go at LTO side yet, queue at cashiers by the Drug test center, the Step 1. You pay for medical and drug test, PHP 500, and given your number. I was 19th. You sit and wait for your number to flash on Step 2 board (for pic and fingerprint) where you hand-over your current license card, they will give it back when you’re done with the doctor. Again you sit down and wait for your number (before you leave the house, drink lots of water). At Step 3, they give you the container for urine. As soon as you have the pee, they give you the 5-page form. They have guides on how to fill out the form by the sides. Just fill out the ones with check marks. If your number is somewhere at 1 to 10, then you should fill it out fast, since there is no queue on the doctor yet. Again you wait for your number to flash on Step 4. The guy outside the doctor’s door will ask your height, weigh you, and sends you in. The doctor did not ask me anything, just my last name, first name, middle name, in that order as he was writing it down on the form. He told me to log my name on his table and the logbook outside and wait. I was called and given back my license and the negative drug test results.

The next steps are the other sides, the LTO side. Again a queue and the guy at the table outside hands out the number. At Step 1 when your number flashed, hand over the form. The guy will call you back for pictures and digital signature. You wait for your number at Step 2, where you pay. Rounded up; PHP 653 for not expired, PHP 728 for 1 day expired. And PHP 803 for 1 to 2 years expired. PHP 100 for change address.

Overall, there is a sense of urgency in this satellite office. And this is really something compared to my experiences at LTO office in Talisay, Cebu 3 years ago. I would say something did really change overall and it started when President Duterte said government services will be improved! And the license is now valid for 5 years! Tell me, who other President in the history of the Philippines ever thought of extending validities? Naa? Everyone behind the counter is working fast. So why would anyone pay for a fixer? A person arranging for a fixer, instead of standing in line when able, sneaking and paying someone, is just a lousy lazy ignoramus being a problem and not being part of the solution or maybe an anti-Duterte?! 😀

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Malapascua on off-season

November 10, 2018 — Leave a comment

Malapascua, which can be reached with a 4-hour bus ride from Cebu city north bus terminal to the Maya port of Daanbantayan, is a dive destination. There is a shoal near Malapascua, Monad Shoal, a natural cleaning station, where thresher sharks can be seen regularly. This is also a great destination for beach bumming, snorkeling, or island hopping (even to Kalanggaman). But I also say that it can be a disaster.

THE BOAT GOING TO AND LEAVING THE ISLAND IS NOT GOVERNED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT. The port is buzzing with local men looking to “rip-off” people; not just local tourists, but yes, more for foreigners. It is scary believe me. It is sad especially, to be earning money ruining people’s vacations. The boat does not have fixed departure time when there are not enough people to fill a boat for the 35-min ride to the island. What about the government imposing an island fee then? THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD MAKE THE FARE STANDARD. The boat should leave every hour. The boat should leave even if there is only one tourist. Leave the locals to make rules among themselves and there is sure to be chaos. The spokesperson’s (the person who brings tourist to a certain boat) manner of speaking and action is almost too close to forcing tourists to pay above the “normal fare” and to leave immediately like they do not have a choice.

My advice for visitors is to be aware of what is happening. The fare is 100pesos but really all you can do is hope and pray that there is enough of you going to the island. So you wouldn’t be subjected to negotiations, hassles, and annoyances. You come to take a vacation not to worry about being swindled. There is even a ridiculous, even the locals would say so, a small boat 20 pesos when the big boat “seemed” unable to dock near the beach at Malapascua island, due to low tide. This is again an opportunity for rip-off. I heard the local woman living on the island for 10 years already and was with us on the boat that the small boat is not necessary at that time. Again WHY DON’T LOCAL GOVERNMENT BUILD A PROPER PORT WITH A PROPER JETTY OR A PLATFORM WHERE PASSENGERS CAN EASILY WALK ON WHEN ARRIVING AND LEAVING THE ISLAND?

When tourists try to get a motorbike to get to the other side, to Langob beach, and just happen to ask a group of locals, the tourist would be thronged in, answers will be given simultaneously like the drivers were trying to outspeak each other. I heard one driver in a crowd offer 2,000 pesos for a tour which is ridiculous. The others will not even react to this, as expected. The island is only 6.8 kilometers in length. I also heard one say 200 pesos to go Langob beach. When the tourist says “too high”, the driver ended up giving the standard fare anyway which is 40pesos per person, one way to Langob beach. But why try this tactic of offering a very high price. It is plain and simply dishonest. How many tourists fallen into this overpricing scheme. You may even walk, going back. Give a tip when you want to (we do so long as we know that we were told the standard fare outright). I would not recommend asking a crowd. Just ask one driver. When you walk on bounty beach, some local is bound to approach and offer tours.

On a lighter note, Langob is best for chilling. Just don’t leave your trash. There was a lot of them already on the beach, on the part where there were no residences, just a beach and empty lots.

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Langob beach

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Langob beach

Shout out to this resort for their segregation

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at Slam’s garden resort

 

 

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A floor is about 12′ tall or say 4 meters. So a 100-meter building would be approximately 25 floors. Imagine standing at 2,954 meters (9,692 ft), it’s like climbing up 738 floors! Mount Apo is the highest mountain & volcano in the Philippines. It is one of the country’s most popular climbing destinations. Several trails lead to the summit, coming from North Cotabato and Davao provinces.   

 

Today, hiking the highest mountain of the Philippines can be easily planned with the help of climb package, like the one offered by mtaposdventures

Main contact: Albert Gabriel <mtapoadventures.com@gmail.com>

I say easily planned because communication is easier. An arrangement can be done in a stroke of your laptop keys, and an online fund transfer to confirm everything. Nevertheless, respect for the mountain by preparing enough to be physically fit, doing pre-climb to get the feel of long hikes are still very important. “We do not conquer mountains, we conquer ourselves.”

Since this kind of climb is a “to-do-before-reaching-35” thing, and the girls are not the type to hike every other weekend or own a mountain tent, we requested the easiest trail. We actually planned a traverse hike to Lake Venado and to Magpet, but due to a typhoon that was in Philippines’ area of responsibility that time (Typhoon Ompong) we only did a back trail. We climbed down the same way we hiked up on that Sta.Cruz/Sibulan Trail.

Inclusions of the climb package are

  • Permit to Climb and Exit Fee
  • Climb Certificate
  • Guide Fee
  • Transportation from Davao City to Trailhead and Exit Point to Davao City
  • Meals for the duration of the Climb (dinner on the 1st Day Up to Lunch on Day
  • Porter Fee for the Food and Staff in the Package
  • Tents, sleeping bags, and insulators
  • 1 Night Hotel accommodation in Davao City
  • Mt. Apo souvenir T-Shirt

Pretty much we just have to bring personal stuff, hiking outfits for cold weather (19 degrees) such as bonnets and fleece jacket, and others. A porter to carry as much as 25kg of personal stuff will cost extra for the whole duration of the climb.

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1st day of the hike; at the last village before the mossy forest of Mt. Apo National Park, at the village of Tumpis, Kapatagan, Sta. Cruz, Digos, Davao del Sur

 

We started early on the 1st day of this 3-day adventure. The guides of mtapoaventures.com fetched us at the hotel near People’s Park. We took a taxi to a bus stop and took a bus to Digos city, then we got off at this Shell gas station in Digos city after about an hour and 30 minutes;  this is where the habal-habal drivers (arranged by the guides) were waiting for us. After some pee break, the habal-habal took us to the Kapatagan market, where we stopped off to have breakfast, it was about 9am already, and also we bought our packed lunches to eat on the trail.

The jump-off is a place they call Baruring, the road going there is very tricky that only experienced habal-habal drivers can maneuver. There is a small dam, with a river which in summer “normal” days is a dry river bed but at that time, water from the mountain was flowing. Was it an indication of what that hike and the next days would be? Will we be wet and gloomy? Actually no, and Thank God it wasn’t all raining. We might not have marveled at a sunrise or sunset or a clear view of whole Kapatagan and Davao at the summit, instead what we have was a good weather for 3 days. It rained but only for like – seconds! From that small dam, it was an ascent to the village of Colan,  where we had the DENR (Department of Env’t and Natural Resources of the Philippines) informal orientation. The DENR personnel informed us that there were already 50 people on the campsite. He told us to not leave our trash and not be loud. As we went through the forest, it was amazing to hear the sound of the cicadas, like an ambulance or a sort of mechanical alarm. We reached the Tinikaran camp at around 4 pm. The guides said we all had a faster pace. Well, all those practice hikes in Babag and Spartan trail of Cebu paid off.

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2nd-day hike through the Boulders to the summit!

 

Day 2 started even earlier at 4am. From Tinikaran Campsite 1 to the summit is about 4 to 6 hours walk depending on your pace and how many and duration of every stops. The boulder is the hardest part, as it is all open space, steep and can sometimes be unsteady rocks. Of course, there is talk of accidents, of people stepping into loose rocks and falling into their deaths. The boulders’ elevation is already at more than a thousand meters, at the sides, sulfur is emitting from the earth, there are unknown cracks, so stepping carefully and following the markings (yellow and orange flags), heeding the guide’s warning are a must. That same trail we took is also the trail for the famous Boulder face Challenge, joined by local and international extreme adventurists; that race starts with a hike from the beach lines of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur to the peak of Mt. Apo via the Sibulan Trail, then 5-km of river tubing, 36.6-km mountain biking, 53.5-km trail running, and 12-km road running! Extreme indeed.

 

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that point where we stopped for breakfast at the boulder face

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huge rocks looking like The Wall protecting the realm of the seven kingdoms

 

We reached the lake near the summit at around 11am, we had lunch at that lake with freezing water and immediately moved to walk to the summit. The wind, cold air, and the clouds offer almost zero visibility. We wanted to wait for the sky to clear as the other group who were there before us, said they had a very brief clearing, which was all that you need,  but we could not afford to wait, as the guides were telling us we could die of the cold out and up there. As we went back to the lake near the summit, there was sea of clouds all for us to take in, Kapatagan was visible from up there, it was surreal to be that up high, looking down at a point where you came from, and realizing how far that walk and how hard that journey is.

 

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view from the lake near the summit of Mt.Apo, some hikers were camping at the bottom, their tents looking so tiny, at the area called white sand. At night this area can be very cold, and no water source nearby, unlike the camp back at Tinikaran.

 

The walk down back to the campsite was as hard as the ascent but nothing like a troop of monkeys at the other side of the boulders to capture our attention. The guides said they are rarely seen and would only come out when only a few people are around. The young monkeys were very playful and they were picking on the same berries we picked on along the trail. With aching legs, we arrived back at camp around 5pm. We had a hearty meal of pasta and a sound sleep until we were awakened by a sudden drop of temperature around 4am wherein no matter how you curl up in a fetal position, the cold still gets to you. It really helps to have fleece pants to sleep into.

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the same Sea of Clouds along the boulders

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Day 3 – near the village of Colan where the boulder face and Mt.Apo are visible. Imagine again looking up at that huge mountain and realizing that you set foot at those white sulfuric rocks! and set foot at its highest point! whooo been there! checked! We did it!

 

Day 3 started at 7am. It would be a walk back to the forest, to the village of Tumpis and though Colan and down to the same jump-off point 2 days prior. We packed all our belongings, our heavy stuff given to the porter, and we made sure we left no trace of our trash. We said our thanks to Mt. Apo national park and focused on every step, as the path was a bit muddy and all ascent from the campsite.  We reached Baruring about 10:30am, where we waited for the habal-habal drivers to take us back to the bus station of Digos City (about 2-hour ride depending on the driver’s speed). We had our lunch near the bus terminal, and we then took this taxi, the driver offered to take us for a fixed amount; 5 of us girls, our 2 guides, 7 people in a 6-seater taxi, in a city strictly implementing 4-passenger in one taxi no matter how big the car is. We arrived around 2pm at the same hotel we stayed at near People’s Park and all were limping up the stairs. We just laughed at ourselves at how funny we were all walking. And then we had our first shower after 3 days that felt so good, and we had tons of photos to remember and relive by the 3 days at the grandfather of Philippine mountains.

Never mind what others do; do better than yourself, beat your own record from day to day, and you are a success.

As said by William J. H. Boetcker, this quote sums up how I feel about running.

I have used the Nike Running App since March 2012. Back on the day when it was still a red app that millions have downloaded, even after the new update and the change of the name, I hold on to it. My first run is here, the farthest, the longest, and the fastest are all in this app.

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This app makes it possible to “do better than yourself.” Personally, by seeing how I have done yesterday compared to my run today, and seeing my progress, motivates me to reach the targets I set for myself. The past runs when I used the Nike app have amplified for me why I got hooked on running. All these runs below are in the MacRitchie reservoir loop. From struggling at 8′ min per km pace, I’ve felt lighter and stronger at my recent run with 7’17’ per km pace.

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The MacRitchie Reservoir nature trail is the best place to practice 10km, there is no dull moment in this loop. There is uphill, downhill, muddy rocky trail, boardwalk by the water, the trail even runs through a section of a golf course.

There are two ways to run the trail, a loop starting by the canoeing and kayaking centre or starting from mushroom cafe, to the entrance of the trail. I tried both, and I prefer the latter.

Running the MacRitchie loop from mushroom cafe

When I run this trail, I count it to 10 sections

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  1. Mushroom cafe to the 1st boardwalk; from the cafe to the proper park, you will pass by this twisting bridge, you can even run through it, there are even musicians playing their instruments by the park, as you run further, you will then see the sign for the entrance of the trail. Just a few minutes run from here, you will then see the 1st boardwalk. My suggestion is taking the boardwalk (although there is a sign that running on it is not advisable – there is a lot of trail from your 4km to 10km, that using the 3 boardwalks is a relief!)

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Warning: you might see monitor lizards roaming the park.

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2. 1st Boardwalk/Chemparai trail

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3. 2nd Boardwalk/Jering trail; watch out for low hanging branch. On some days, you can see a lot of students training hard.

4. The golf link; a change of scenery. After the 2nd boardwalk, it is a short trail until you see the seemingly endless roll of green grass. There is a sort of dirt bridge leading to the golf link. Runners path are clearly marked, and there is a sign on where you slightly turn to the right to go back to the MacRitchie trail. When I run here, I was afraid of getting hit by those golf balls, because I once saw one rolled in front of me.

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5. 3rd Boardwalk, up to Jelutong tower ; warning, a lot of monkeys here. After the golf link, there is a bit of a climb/ascent part, the trail though have stones stairs. Get those heart pumping more.

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6. To the ranger station, up to Petaling hut; I think this is the rockiest point of the trail. It is hard to run and watching out for those rocks. The rocks are more exposed in this part, as water seems to slide down here, washing off all dead leaves and soil.

7. After Tree top sign; if you run the loop from the cafe, after passing the golf link, and you’re looking for the tree top, it might be hard to spot, as the to tree top is at your left, not right away visible, but there is a hut opposite side, on your right  and normally a lot of people would be hanging around resting in the hut.

8. Turning right, and the short paved road part of the loop; Just a few meters away the hut the trail will turn right. Just keep going until you see a paved road and again you will turn right. I always see this point as my halfway point, although at this point, I have run almost 7km. It must be just about 20 steps of paved road, and you go back down to the trail again. (you go back down by turning right).

9. To Rambai hut; at this point, you’ll likely begin to think, “when will this end?” lol. This is the part where you dig deeper, dig down to your inner strength to just keep on, as the trail seems long, narrow, and even some hard ascents, which forces you to walk it up, but I personally hate walking, as I tend to get more tired when I stop to walk. So I try to just hop it up, or hop it down.

On the trail, a branch just fell. That just shows how alive this forest is. The Cicadas sound can be a bit frightening as they seem really so loud.

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10. 2 km stretch to the exit; oh the light at that end, and the words in your head repeating “I did it! I did it!”  At this point, you should be running more than 10km already.

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It is then a short run through the reservoir, you will see people fishing, rowing, busy in the water, and you will run back down to the cafe, turning to your right. The complete loop is 11.13KM.

 

 

Singapore experience is not complete without eating at a hawker. Open-air, inexpensive, and a lot of food choices. They are typically found in city centres, near public housing (HDBs) estates or transport hubs (train stations and bus interchange). I went to only 3 of the most notable hawker centres, and they are more than enough.

1. Maxwell Food Centre

I rely mostly on gothere.sg when it comes to direction, but I found it sometimes frustrating, like when you search for direction to Maxwell Food Centre, it says Exit G (at Tanjong Pagar MRT) – which is the exit to Telok Ayer Street which was the reason I walked around to Cross St, even coming up to Telok Ayer MRT to Chinatown, and even up to Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum just to find this hawker. I guess starting at Chinatown would be ideal as it would be a feast to the eye for a tourist, and ending up at Erskine Road.

Take Exit B from Tanjong Pagar (from my experience this is the easiest route to go directly to this Hawker). Just to the left side as you walk out of Exit B, you just need to walk the Maxwell road, right opposite is a park, and along the way, you’ll see the Ministry of National Development, and keep walking until you see on your right the Maxwell Food Cente.

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shortest, about 5-minute walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT

If you’ve seen Mike Chen a.k.a Strictly Dumpling, then you’ll have the courage to try as much food as you can. But for me, I only opted for light snacks.

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Oyster cake for $2

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Lao Ban, almond $2

2. Lau Pa Sat

Lau Pa Sat, built in 1894, is historic. It’s amazing how Singapore can be this city-state of high-rises and has a very modern feel, and yet in the middle, there are gems and abundant greens. This food centre has an intricate roof and column structures, an old clock that chimes the hour. Even the birds do not stay out and would peck now and then on some food scraps by the table.

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From Raffle Place MRT, just follow the sign to Lau Pa Sat (EXIT I) – again something amiss at gothere.sg because it says Exit F, Juts follow the signs at the train station and outside.

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amazing roof structures

Here I tried the Seng Keng Local Delights, Fried Hokkien Mee, $5.50 (yum)

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Lau Pa Sat is actually known for Satays, more than 10 satay stalls in its outdoor dining area, starts at 7pm. Its satay stalls provide diners with skewers of chicken, lamb, beef and pork from Chinese to Muslim style. Among those, stalls # 7, # 8 and # 10 are the standouts.

3. Old Airport Road

This is near the Dakota MRT of the circle line, when you exit for old airport, just turn to your left and keep walking until you see the building below.

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Satays of Chuan Kee Satay and Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee are good recommendations. For me, another light snack, for $1.20 for that distinct curry taste.

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Curry Puff

An Unusual Garden

March 6, 2018 — Leave a comment

Singapore truly has everything. From the most photographed buildings to the best airport, to Gardens by the bay, and an unusual garden, the one found in Pasir Panjang Road depicting Chinese folklores and legends. If you take the circle line going to Harbourfront and get off at Haw Par Villa station, just outside, you will find this attraction.

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If you have the time, the attendants inside offer a free tour, and you can learn about the Chinese mythologies. They may appear gruesome though. The ones outside would leave you intrigued about what the hell you are looking at.

Those sculptures are hard to unsee. They look like scenes of nightmares. I did not dare see the attraction they call ten courts of hell, and just took photos of other statues outside.

Alegria – Mt. Lanaya

What I’ve read in most blog posts is that visitors would hike to the camp site first before going to the summit-kalo-kalo peak. And that is what we did. From the registration area in Barangay Legaspi, a little office just beside the road, where you pay a fee to hike the mountain, is about an hour of walking (mostly ascent) to this scenic site. It is an awesome site in between towering mountains of Lanaya and the view of the ocean, the Tañon Strait, with the silhouette of the Negros island in the distance.

 

It was best to start early from Cebu city, as early as 5am maybe, to get to the camp site at lunch time, pitch the tent, get enough rest before the assault. Estimated time to get to Kalo-kalo peak is about 2 hours. Getting back to the camp site just in time for sunset is the best reward of all that steep climb, slippery and sharp rocks almost vertical. The peak will provide a fantastic view of the Tañon strait and it was an awesome feeling to have reached the top, to have made it, that feeling of relief, all those struggles and pain, being there above it all is like having your energy replinished.

When you are at the camp site, in the morning when you’re having coffee, and you look at the mountains, it was impossible to imagine that there were trails inside, where you maybe slipped once or more than twice going down. It’s an accomplishment in itself to have been there. It is easy to get addicted with hiking when it was all so that difficult and then so beautiful at the same time.

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Kalo-kalo peak (when it cleared for a sec)