Wanderlust Series 1: Corregidor Island

Corregidor is one of those places that I’ve been itching to go to for the longest time. A friend of mine mentioned a long time ago that there were affordable tours for the island but I just never got around to going there.

We got the opportunity to finally visit the island during my dad’s most recent vacation here in the Philippines. You see, his stay was short so we didn’t really have the time to book something grandiose. Fortunately, Corregidor is quite near and we’ve never gone there before so it’s still something new to experience.

Inside M/V Bay Cruiser.

Sun Cruises is the provider of tour packages and transportation from Manila to the Island. Booking and reservations for the trip was quite a breeze. Most of the instructions and details about their packages are already found on the website, so from visiting the site you can already get an idea of what package you want to avail.

Corregidor isn’t as popular as, say, Boracay or Puerto Galera, as a vacation destination, so scheduling wasn’t difficult. We called Friday afternoon for a scheduled day tour and overnight stay on the following day and we got slots with no problem.

There were two basic packages to avail of: the guided historical tour and the walking tour. The main difference between the two is the mode of transportation within the island. The guided historical tour lets you visit the main points of attractions via tranvia.  The walking tour on the other hand is a bit of a hike. You visit the main points on foot, plus you have the option of going inside caves and woodland trails and all that fun stuff that you cannot reach via tranvia.

The tranvia; which is basically a bus with open sides. (Photo credit from http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/gallery.html)

We took the walking tour at my insistence because we gorged ourselves too much over the holiday. I figured we could use the exercise.

I wasn’t able to take any photos of the cave exploration part, so I’m borrowing one from http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/gallery.html

Excuse the footwear, it was a walking tour and I didn’t want to ruin my other pair of shoes.

Greetings from the Lighthouse.

How many stories can these old walls tell?
(Photo credit: http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/gallery.html)

If you’re staying overnight, there are several activities you can do on the day after the main tour. We opted for a round of Zipline, and then just went petiks on the beach. The beach quite rocky though, so not really an ideal site to sunbathe on.

A very rocky beach

Pre-Zipline!

What I loved:

The history. Their guides certainly knew a LOT about what went down in every site. They can tell you which craters were made by bomb hits and shrapnel, which trails were caved in and whatnot. Probably my favorite part would be the bat cave and the Malinta Tunnels, where you can find Manuel Quezon’s old office, hospital ward tunnels and the secret passageway that McArthur used to escape from Corregidor. I think it was also where he uttered his famous words “I shall return.”

The rustic feel. Though airconditioned and clean, Corregidor Inn’s interiors were not too glamorous. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that it didn’t feel like a hotel. In fact it looked pretty much like an old house, which went with the whole history thing. The island is powered by solar energy and generators; only one TV can be found in the whole building because the generators won’t be able to sustain TVs in all 31 rooms.

Corregidor Inn

The view from my window. Now wouldn’t you want to wake up to that?

The two-bedroom suite. (Photo credit: http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/gallery.html)

What I didn’t love so much:

The food. I was severely disappointed with La Playa’s menu, which didn’t offer that many choices. My father was looking forward to some fresh seafood. I suppose he thought seafood would be easy to come by since we’re on an island and the sea is so close, but he was disappointed by that as well. Turns out, the food and ingredients they have on hand were also from Manila, and their generators can’t sustain superfreezers that can keep the seafood fresh. For the price range of 150-400php, the cooking was bleh. “Southwestern Fried Chicken” is literally just fried chicken. Chef’s Special was fried fish. The Spare ribs tasted like tocino. They have excellent churros though, but other than that, everything else on the menu isn’t too good.

The rather sad menu. No further food porn because I do not like lies.

Recommendations:

History enthusiasts and nature lovers would have a blast here. I think even RPG geeks would have a heck of a time with all the canons, weapons and war memorabilia. I swear, I couldn’t stop associating inane words like “Quartermaster” with World of Warcraft. “I am ready to exchange my Arena Points now. Where be my Wrathful Set?”

DEFEND THE CITY, WE ARE UNDER SIEGE!

– If you’re a first timer, or if you’re not too fond of long walks and hikes, go for the bus tour.

Bring your own food if you’re planning on staying overnight. Save your money and avoid disappointment. But do try the churros.

– Seems like a nice place to hold team buildings. No videoke though, but I think they’ll have a “recreational area” up and running soon. Though the lodging and food weren’t too classy, I didn’t really mind. I came here for the experience and for the history, and what an experience it was indeed.

 

Budget:

Historical Walking Tour Package: PHP 1,788 per head [incl of roundtrip ferry transfers; shrine, entrance and terminal fees; guided walking tour, packed lunch and tour kit, fuel surcharge]
Accommodation: PHP 4,000 per room per night (2-br suite), max 4 persons per room
Food: PHP 150-400 per person per meal
Misc  Activities:
– Sunset Viewing – PHP 250 per head
– “Ghost Hunting” – PHP 250 per head
– Zip-line – PHP 150 per head
– ATV – PHP 500 per hour

Kaizen!

“Why do they insist on calling it “team building” when its really just an excuse for officemates to go out of town, swim and get drunk?” is what one of my girlfriends said when I told them I will be out of town for the weekend for the company team building.

Where I work however, when they said team building, they actually meant it. I’m talking conferences, mental games and a makeshift amazing race kind of thing.

This year’s theme: Kaizen. From what I understood it basically means taking what you have and stepping it up a notch. The change doesn’t have to be huge, just as long as it’s for the better. It’s minimizing wastes, and maximizing productivity, and taking the initiative to improve oneself.

Sounds like some cheesy corporate pep talk I know (which, it is actually), but I like the idea. I have some pretty ambitious dreams for this new road that I chose to take, and I’ll do whatever it takes to move forward, no matter how cheesy and cliché those techniques are.

We held the team building in Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas. You must’ve heard of the place before, it’s a popular choice for celebrity weddings.

Accommodations were simple, nothing too fancy. The bathrooms could use some work also but overall, I’d still like to go back there.

What is so remarkable about Balai Isabel is the scenery. No wonder that it’s a favorite among high-end weddings; Balai Isabel has so many picturesque spots that are perfect for those occasions. Seems like a good place for personal retreats too. If I can afford it, I can see myself going there alone or with a small intimate group, just to detox from the many stresses of the city.

A view of Taal Volcano

But I digress.

The activities included a conference, a few games, a couple of dinners and an Amazing Race. I reckon that the Amazing Race was the main event, as it is a whole day affair and it involved the most team work (pun slightly intended).

Corporate Jargon woop!

Of course SOME drinking was involved.

Let it be said that this is the first team building that I’ve been to. I didn’t get to experience anything like this during my hospital days. The last event that I’ve been to that was even remotely similar to this one was a leadership training during my senior year in college. Thus, I have no point of comparison as to whether this event went well or not. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the activities thoroughly; they were all built to test wits, guts and physical prowess.

The only activity we managed to take photos of

Most memorable for me were all the heights-related challenges. You see, I kinda have a fear of heights. I don’t mind being on planes, but being strapped onto a swing with a few flimsy ribbons? Climbing the side of the building using a swaying rope ladder? Yeah, really not too keen on that.

BUT, I had to do what I had to do, so I did all the challenges given to me. I may have screamed myself hoarse and punctured a few eardrums in the process, but in the end, what matters is that we were able to complete most of the tasks, and even ended up snagging second place.

Too bad everyone was so into the Amazing Race that nobody thought of bringing a camera along. We had some pretty memorable experiences with the challenges that would’ve been great if caught on film.

The event ended that weekend, but the Kaizen mindset has just begun. I’ve already started by taking a crash course on Photoshop, and I’m planning on learning so much more than that.

Huzzah for initiative!

Delayed Summer Episode 1: Potipot Island

When I started working this year, I already resigned myself to the fact that there is little to no chance for me to enjoy a proper summer vacation. Probees usually have limited leaves, and I wanted to save those for emergencies.

Lo and behold however, I was regularized after my third month (HUZZAH!), and with it came the influx of the fringe benefits.

So, when I got the invite for a beach getaway to a place called Potipot Island in Zambales, of course I said yes. Never mind that I had no idea where that is, and that the name sounds pretty sketchy. I just wanted to do something that involved sun and sand before the rainy season rolls in.

Welcome to Potipot! (Photo by Arnel Palor)

The place is prettier than its name (Photo by Arnel Palor)

Aptly named “Poor Man’s Boracay”, Potipot Island boasts of fine sand and clear, blue waters that Boracay is also known for, only, you spend less.

Here’s a breakdown of what the package we availed of:

Budget: PHP 2500 per person (group of at least 10)
Inclusive of:
– Shuttle service exManila to Zambales and back
– Boat transfer from Zambales to the island and back
– four sets of full meals
– tents
– full use of the beach “amenities”

The difference between Potipot and Boracay, obviously, is that there a probably less people in Potipot, and…well. Potipot isn’t exactly the most civilized of places. Our group opted to sleep in tents, but you also have the option of availing their cottages.

Camp out!

I personally didn’t fancy the cottages, since you had to climb up to get in. Outings like these always entail massive amounts of alcohol. Stairs and alcohol aren’t a good mix. The tents weren’t so bad anyway, at least for me.

Inviting, but I'd rather stay near the ground when I'm drunk (Photo by Arnel Palor

The only thing I really want to complain about is the lack of proper plumbing. I’m no delicate princess, but I do take hygiene seriously. Think, toilet bowls with no tanks, shower heads with broken taps and no tabo. I didn’t want to eat or drink too much during the whole trip, for fear of having to use the bathrooms.

Well anyway, for the price that we paid, I think we really got the value for our money. Comfort may not have been the highlight, but it was an experience worth remembering, and I’d be glad to do it all over again.

And now for gratuitous beach photos. Pardon the vanity, I only get to wear a bikini a few times every year and I wish to capture my youth while it’s still non-offensive.

My constant camwhoring buddy

Souvenir shopping

Le body ink up close ❤

My beloved group of geeks and geekettes

Want to experience Potipot? Message me, I can hook you up with contacts. Peace!

Murphy’s Law vs. Friendship

I am a relatively friendly person. My social network has gotten so big lately and I absolutely love all my new friends, but for me, few friendships can beat ones that were built during high school. They are the people who have known you since your wonder years, before you discovered glamour and relationships, before social networking sites and anything that can jade you. They know your roots and grew up with you, therefore accepting whatever you’ve become, and would tell you if they like it or not. When things screw up, they’re the ones who’ll be laughing at it with you in the end.

Pre-digicam days, when studio photos were still in

When high school ended, it took with it the regular lunch breaks and dismissal times, hence our regular bonding sessions came to a halt. My high school friends and I (i.e. The Benchwarmers or Benchers named after the benches outside our alma mater where we used to hang out) found new lives after college, yes, but we still kept a one hand hanging on to our little group, trying to get together at least a few times every year.

Seven years later we still were the tight knit group we were in college, albeit with more experiences and juicier stories to share. A few of us now work abroad, several others work with tricky schedules (call centers and hospital shifts) which made planning a get-together even more difficult.

This year, we planned on going on a Tagaytay getaway on December. Hoo boy, that planning stage was a mess. Schedules just wouldn’t meet, money ran short and several other mishaps happened, telling us that cancelling our plans would probably be the best option.

We refused to give up however, and come December 2009, we were on a rickety, rental FX and on our merry way to Tagaytay. We had planned on camwhoring at Sonya’s Garden, horseback riding in Taal and possibly, going to Zipline.

Roadtrippers!

Outfit post: Black knit sweater (thrifted), white printed minidress (Market!Market!), black leggings (Forever 21), brown boots

Enter Murphy and his law.

Murphy’s Law dictates that “Anything that can go wrong, will.” It has been proven time and again, that this extremely pessimistic law is true. While we were able to do two out of three on our itinerary, we should’ve known from the beginning that that  trip was not going to be a smooth one.

Our balikbayan friend, who was the primary reason why we tried so hard to organize this get together, got sick on the road trip going to Tagaytay. We underestimated the cost of the trip, so what was supposed to be a horseback adventure up the Taal Crater turned into what I now lovingly call The Shitty Hike (aptly named because of the multitudes of horse dung that littered the trail).

A shitty hike, it was indeed

Another friend of ours fell in the lake on the boat ride back from Taal to Tagaytay, and our car broke down in the middle of the long, dark, zigzagging road. By the time we got back to the rest house, we were all tired, cranky, and just a little bit spooked. (You know how easy it is to believe the paranormal when you’re out of the city.)

I was pretty sure by then that everyone was already regretting that they spent so much time and effort, not to mention MONEY, on this messed up trip.

Surprise , surprise. It took only some instant noodles (the only things we were able to grab from the grocery before it closed; we got there too late),a couple of bottles of Gilbey’s Premium and a bath for us to get back into a festive mood. Before long, we were already laughing again, reminiscing our favorite high school moments.

MSG was our salvation

Only the awesomest friends would go through all of that and still love you after.

Until next year, Benchers!