Category Archives: Family Life

A Family Trek to Buruwisan Falls

A Family Trek to Buruwisan Falls
by Danny Tariman

It was another long weekend. Our family had planned few weeks before, to go and “discover” Buruwisan Falls.

We have heard of this falls, we passed by the drop-off point many times in the past, but we really have not planned to go out and see this falls which is very near the Metro. But this particular weekend, we intend to trek.

The towering and enchanting Buruwisan Falls with my family in the foreground

It had been raining in the city for the past couple of days due a tropical typhoon in the northern tip of the country. But this has not dampened our spirits to go and trek that Saturday.

And so, we left the city at about 5:30 in the morning, did a 100-km drive to Macatad, in Famy, Laguna. We had a brief stop-over in Pagsanjan where we had a quick breakfast, and arrived at the drop-off point at about 8:00.

The road to the drop-off point lined by trees.

After the usual registration process and payment of fees, we got our trek guide “Kuya Dondon”. We were quite fortunate to have him for our tour guide: he was very helpful, and cheerful, and knows the place and the various trails quite well.

We started our trek at about 8:30am, passing a hanging bridge. Oh! We forgot to have our usual stretching exercise before the start.

The weather was good that morning. But the night before, we were told that there were rains. Because of this, the trail was wet, muddy, and slippery. It was a long trek. After almost an hour, we reached the summit of the first mountain. Yes, first mountain. Because we have to pass another mountain before the descending trail to the falls.

The summit of the first mountain along the trek. A good view of Rizal province, you can see the windmills of Pililia.

We passed a number of pit-stops which sells fresh young coconuts. I like these young coconuts – as it refreshes my thirst plus it is a good source of electrolytes. My family had a good drink of its juice and take its white meat!

It was quite a difficult trek mainly because the trail was wet. And because it was wet, it was muddy and slippery. It took us 3-1/2 hours to reach Buruwisan Falls! It would have been an easy 2-hour trek if the trail was dry.

This part of the trek is near the summit of the second mountain we passed.

The final descent to the falls was even trickier. The trail was very steep and rocky! But all the weariness due to the long trek were gone when we were greeted by the towering and enchanting Buruwisan falls. According to Wikipedia, the drop height of this falls is about 50 meters!

The final stretch: a steep descent to the falls.

Beneath the falls is a relatively shallow basin of water. According to our trek guide, the inner part of the basin could be 10 to 15 feet deep. We did not try. Hehe! My son & I had a good swim in the icy cold water in the periphery.

We had some good photo shoots here. While relaxing at the beautiful scenery and refreshing river, we had our lunch right at the riverbank beside the falls.

Our soiled, muddy shoes after the wet, muddy and slippery trek.

We were so tired by this time, and we wanted to just go back to the drop-off point. But our trek guide tells us that a nearby falls is just about a 5 minute walk. And so we went.

It was a 10-minute walk actually, really short distance from Buruwisan. This is called Lanzones Falls. It was a remarkably smaller falls, but the view is just as wonderful: gushing waters cascading from the rocks and splashing to small basin below.

The Lanzones Falls: so refreshingly cool with wild anthoriums lining the “walls” of the falls.

Our return trek was much faster! It took us only 2 hours with a couple of stops! Thanks to our guide Kuya Dondon (phone 0912-961-3105) who led us to another trail which was much shorter but quite steep. The deep descent was okay, since we were going down. It would have been a difficult one if we passed this trail going up.

We thank the LORD for this another wonderful family adventure experience!

My family in front of Lanzones Falls
My family at the summit of the first mountain
We finally reached the marker of Buruwisan Falls after 3-1/2 hours of trek.
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Diving & Snorkeling in Laiya’s Best Kept Secret Spot

Family Adventure
Diving & Snorkeling in Laiya’s Best Kept Secret Spot
by Danny Tariman

My kids were itching to have another dose of “vitamin sea” – that of going to a beach. We had searched the internet for a good location as we had been to most of the popular beaches in Batangas province. But this time, we are not settling for just the beach; we wanted to have a fairly secluded place not with many people, and a spot for diving and snorkeling.

The resort’s right side: this is the place where we had snorkeling and diving just few meters from the shore.

And so, this particular long weekend, we drove to Laiya in Batangas. Leaving the city at about 4:30 in the morning. We passed by SLEX toll way and STAR toll way exiting in Lipa, down to town of Rosario, leading to the municipality of San Juan where this resort is located.

Turning left from the main road, we passed thru a dirt road (not so rough though) for about 2km. When we reached the junction, we were greeted by a lush rustic narrow road going down to the beach. The entrance itself is “Instagramable”.

The resort’s rustic entrance, which looks like a tunnel covered by lush greens

Upon reaching the beach resort at about 7am, we were awed by its freshness – crystal clear waters, blue skies, clean small shoreline perfect for my family. It was a good match for us looking for some “private place”.

As planned, we had our breakfast at the beach. We took our food packs and had a good eat of fruits and buns. We brought our food without the usual corkage fee that other resorts charge. The resort has no restaurant, just a few covered tables lining the beachfront.

The main beachfront, good for swimming with kids

We learned from the caretaker that the owners would want to maintain just a few visitors on any day. Good for us because we also like to be in a place with only few people. The resort has simple yet clean bathrooms and toilets, with water taps.

Immediately, my children explored the seas. I and my wife soon followed. Wow, the water is so clean and clear, you can see the bottom clearly even at the depth of about 4 feet! We explored the right side where my family had a good snorkeling experience. You can see live corals, and an assortment of reef fishes.

The underwater marine gardens: full of life with an assortment of corals and fishes

Further to the reef is a deep basin where my kids had a “free diving” – that dive without the usual diving gears. My daughter had a “free diving” lesson in the city a few months back where she learned the techniques of free diving. I enjoyed watching my kids going down to the deep. Oh! I saw a big anemone, and of course, its inhabitant, clown fishes. My son saw a number of live clams too! Really wonderful place for diving, and snorkeling!

My daughter going for the free-dive at about 18 feet.

At about half past ten, we tried to explore the other side of the resort, the left. This is the place for beach bummers and for swimming. The beachfront is just around 80-100 meters wide, not sandy but is covered with small pebbles and broken corals. Good for us, we brought our aqua shoes, as it could be hurting our feet.

The leftmost point of the cove is a good distance to walk. We saw a lot of tourists on boat go to this point and we thought it was good exploring!

The right side of the cove: a good distance to explore, but worth the trek.

We passed by a trail, where beautiful rock formations lined the shoreline. We even had to go down again to the waters to shoot some photos. It was good. The sea water is so clear. And you can swim almost in private.

We continued our short trek – about 30 minutes, where we had at some point, decided to wade through the very tempting clear water. When we reached our destination – the end of the cove, there were a lot of tourists taking photos. After some photo-ops, we went back to the resort.

Back at the resort, our children grilled tuna jaws. Oh, we had more than enough of tuna flakes! So deliciously fresh! We ate with our bare hands of course, on plates lined with banana leaves! It was a very satisfying home-made meal.

Oh! I will always remember this super-delicious grilled tuna jaws

It was truly a wonderful experience at Johnny’s Resort. Our kids enjoyed, I and my wife enjoyed. And yes, we all enjoyed the snorkeling, the dive, and the crystal clear waters! We love the awesome underwater marine gardens! We will surely come back!

My son’s turn for the deep.
A family pic on our way to the left-side point. Note the crystal clear waters!
My family in one of the few native huts lining the shoreline
A family photo in front of the resort

Beach Camping in Calatagan

Beach Camping in Calatagan
by Danny Tariman

My family had not been camping for many months now – I mean, really “camping”, that is pitching a tent, setting up the picnic table, setting firewood or charcoal to cook. I personally missed this kind of activity.

Until one day, we stumbled upon on the internet a beach in Calatagan, Batangas which is solely devoted for camping. No resort facilities like restaurant nor coffee shop, not even a decent bathroom nor toilet. Haha! After reading a number of pertinent blogs, comments and reviews on the internet, my family agreed to try this out.

The long stretch of beach of Manuel Uy camping grounds

And so one Saturday, we headed for Manuel Uy Beach in Calatagan, Batangas. It is located between two well-developed resorts – Aquaria Beach Resort on the left, and Stilts Resort on the right. My family had been to these two resorts where we had wonderful family moments. I have separate blogs on these 2 resorts.

We left the city at 4:30am, with the objective of arriving at the beach at about 7 in the morning. Yeah, that early, as we planned to have our breakfast on the beach! Our estimate didn’t fail us; we arrived at the beach at about 6:50am.

The beachfront where we pitched our tent. Really good spot for a relaxing day.

It was a 2 1/2-hour drive passing through Tagaytay, going down to Nasugbu, left turn to Lian, and finally reaching the Calatagan town proper. From the town, it was just about a 10-minute drive.

At the road corner heading to the beach, there was a Tourism desk that asked us to pay the 30-peso per person “Environmental Fee”, which is quite normal in Batangas. This is supposed to be for the upkeep of the environment.

The beach camp entrance is just a very short distance from the main road. We paid 50 pesos per person as entrance fee. Parking fee was Php100.

We were not expecting facilities which are common in the more developed resorts. We were really ready for camping!

As we drove to the beach, we found a good spot where only few people camped, and we pulled our vehicle. It was good location: away from the crowd, we had a lone tree cover, a space for our car and a good flat area to pitch our tent and set-up our camping table and chair, and just the right beach front! We are indeed blessed!

As soon as we settled down, we prepared our packed breakfast, and set it up on our portable folding table with bench. Oh, it was really an amazing experience. Our table was just about 5 meters from the shore where the sea and the sand meets. It was quite windy too! Really relaxing and refreshing environment for breakfast! Haha!

Our breakfast by the beach; just a few meters from the shoreline.

Soon, we just enjoyed the beach and the sea! My son explored the seabed for his usual search for sea creatures he can use for his saltwater aquarium. I also had a good swim on the almost flat seabed – very safe for families with kids.

The beach has fine, light-brown sand. Since the sea was quite rough because of a weather disturbance, the water was not very clear. We couldn’t see the underwater view. But it was very safe, because it was almost flat up to a good distance from the shore. During the low tide, I observed that there was not much live sea weeds nor sea urchins which could be annoying when you swim when the water is deep enough.

Another view of the beach. Beyond the cove is Aquaria Beach Resort

The wind and rough seas washed plenty of dead sea weeds and assorted debris onto the shore while the tide was rising. The good thing is that every 30-45 minutes, beach cleaners rakes the debris on the beach and dump it into a pit.

It was a “beach camping site”. We were not expecting nice facilities. We were ready for a true outdoor experience. We took “shower” in a make-shift bathroom, with a water supply that is manually pumped by the house-owner. We used a reasonably clean rural toilet to respond to the call of nature. We have no complain.

The water in front of our beachcamp.

We thank the very hospitable homeowners who opened their house for campers. I befriended them, and when we are about to leave, we were given 2 bunches of cooking banana direct from their backyard! A bonus treat indeed!

Truly a relaxing and refreshing beach camping experience for the family!

This is me in the middle of the sea!
My ladies just relaxing in the freshness of sea breeze.
My family at our beach camp.

Family Trek to Hulugan and Two Other Falls

Family Trek to Hulugan and Two Other Falls
by Danny Tariman

It was good sunny Saturday. With all the excitement, my family is all set for the trek to three falls in Laguna.

We left the city at about 5 in the morning for a long 95-km drive to Luisiana town in Laguna. With a brief stop-over for a quick breakfast in Los Baños, we had an easy comfortable drive. We were headed to Bgy San Salvador, the jump-off point to the falls. We arrived in this fresh-mountain-air rural village at about 8:30am.

The awesome 95-meter high Hulugan Falls:

We were impressed by this small village’s organized system in handling trekkers. Upon turning right going to the inner road (there is a big tarpaulin marker announcing “Hulugan Falls”), we were greeted and met by a lady who introduced herself, and gave us some directions on how to proceed. We were also assigned a trek guide – “Kuya Boy”. Upon boarding our car, the guide led us the registration desk and the nearby parking area.

My family at the start of the trek

After a short 5-minute briefing, we started our way to the falls. Oh, by the way, we were warned to get our rubber shoes wet, or wear rubber sandals. Good enough, there is a store that sells rubber sandals at a fair price.

We boarded a tricycle which took us to the starting point of the trek. It was maybe a 2 to 2.5-km ride, but it was okay, since we saved time and energy for the mountain trek. It was an easy 35-40-minute hike going to the first falls. Passing thru a dam, and a river bed, a little down hill hike, and some up-hill trek we finally reached our first destination: the Talay Falls.

The tropical rain forest along our trail

The Talay falls has two down-streams. The first to greet you is a small “falls”. We had some good rest here as the place has bamboo benches and tables for picnic goers and trekkers. We had our snacks taken in this place too.

The Talay falls: our first stop

Few steps away, passing thru the big rocks or boulders, you will see the quiet beauty of “Talay-2” falls. This one is taller and the flowing waterfalls is slim.

The downstream from Talay Falls. This is where we had a rest for some food.

After a few minutes of rest and some photo ops, we proceeded to our next falls destination: the “Hidden Falls”. This is a short trek – about 15 minutes – from Talay but a bit challenging as it was an uphill trek. The good thing is the trail is lined with bamboo poles which serve as handles, so you can hold onto these while navigating through your uphill climb.

The Hidden Falls was a refreshing sight! Large volume of water gushing in-between big boulders. I reckon, maybe it was named “hidden” because indeed you won’t be able to see this beauty from the path of the trail. You will have to jump over to the rocks and boulders before you will see and appreciate this natural beauty.

The Hidden Falls.

We continued our trek to the final and the third falls for this adventure. It was a bit long trek.

We passed through a farm where pandan as large as trees abound – this is the variety which is used for making baskets and mats. There were even some “trees” with big fruits falling on the ground. We were told by our trek guide that some trekkers stay overnight in this area where they pitch tent and build bonfire at night.

The pandan farm along the way

After about 35-40 minute walk, with long down-hill hike, we reached our final destination: the Hulugan Falls. We were greeted by this wide rock formation where water flows freely. I thought it was IT! But it was just a ‘preview’. We were able to see the main scene when we stepped into the rocks and saw this awesome, very tall body of water, gracefully flowing down! We were told it is about 95 meters high! And it was so wide – providing a white veil that covers a wide portion of the cliff!

My family upon reaching Hulugan Falls

After looking for a spot to keep our backpacks, we immersed ourselves into the fresh gushing river from the falls. Wow, it was really refreshing after almost 1-1/2 hour of hiking! While my wife rested in a shaded area, me and my children had a good splash. We really enjoyed it!

Enjoying the gushing downstream from Hulugan Falls

Oh! We had our lunch right beside the huge falls! And our water for drinking was taken direct from a dripping water under the rocks! It was really refreshingly natural!

Fresh “mineral water” direct from the rocks, where we got refill of our drinking bottles.

After enjoying our river plunge, we trekked back passing through another route. This was the most difficult trail in this trekking adventure. We climbed almost vertically from the falls. Remember the falls was about 95 meters. And we had an almost vertical – well maybe 80 degrees – climb. We had to rest every 10 or 15 minutes! Haha! The nice thing is that the locals had placed bamboo poles as handles throughout the trail which we can hold while maneuvering the rocky path.

With my children enjoying the refreshing swim

I wouldn’t recommend this “return trail” for those with weak heart. It was really difficult. We managed to reach the pick-up point after about 30-40 minutes trek, mostly uphill. With my and my wife’s age at over 50, it was indeed a feat to pass through the uphill trail from Hulugan Falls.

Wow, this was really another great adventure for my family.

A fantastic shot of Hulugan Falls, with my daughter at the foreground

Manta Ray: A New Way to Enjoy the Depths of Anilao

Manta Ray: A New Way to Enjoy the Depths of Anilao
by Danny Tariman

It was a different kind of excitement for the family.

My family in front of the dive resort.

My 2 children had been to the depths of Anilao using the usual diving suit and gear: rubberized suits, air tanks, etc. We all enjoyed it. Me and my wife enjoyed to see the depths of the sea through the video clip that our daughter took while in the deep.

I was really fascinated by beauty of the undersea in Anilao: colorful corals – both soft and hard, variety of fishes swimming around with our children, the little discoveries they had: giant clams of various colors, lion fish, and others.

But this weekend, it was different. We are out to try the manta ray dive.

My son holding the manta-ray board

Manta rays are similar to stingray. Both are flat-type of fish that swim with their bodies (or flaps) in horizontal position. The difference is that manta rays don’t have the long tail.

And the manta ray dive use a board designed like of manta ray, which is tied to a rope and attached to a jet-ski. The diver holds onto the board while the jet-ski is in motion.

Our Adventure

It was a long drive from Manila. We passed by the SLEX tollway, then turned to STAR tollway, and out to the City of Batangas. We continued to drive to Anilao which is about 45 minutes drive from Batangas City.

We arrived at Sicilian Dive Resort at about 9 in the morning. It was sunny and clear. The resort was very nice and yet affordable. The resort owner, Eric, was very friendly too, we even had some talk about business! Haha! We didn’t slept overnight. We really had planned that this time, it will just be a day tour.

The Sicilian Dive Resort

My eyes surveyed the surroundings immediately upon our arrival. It was good! As expected of Anilao, there are no sandy beaches; only pebbles and stones. But no worry; we enjoyed this place as we were really for snorkeling, while our children went for the dive.

Snorkeling and Diving

While my wife and I enjoyed the shallow waters by just having little swimming here and there, our children went for the new adventure: the manta ray diving.

Our daughter had the first try. She held onto the manta-ray board, and when she was ready, the jet-ski went off. It was a 15-minute tour of the under-water world. I can see her enjoying the dive. She would go into the waters and in few minutes would come out again, repeating the routine as the diving board she was holding was being towed by the jet-ski.

Our daughter in the depths of the sea on manta-ray diving board

This dive was without the usual mask and oxygen tank. It was really under her control whether to go down the sea or to come out of water. She said it was really enjoyable.

After her, our son had his manta ray dive too. They both enjoyed the dive. And they got different exciting stories as we had our lunch! Haha! And yes, they were able to view the beautiful under-water scenery that they passed by.

After the dive, my family had some snorkeling. We all enjoyed seeing the colorful fishes swimming around. Some of the fishes would even get near us “thinking” that we will feed them. I realized that we should have brought with us some bread that we can feed the fish for a more exciting snorkeling. experience.

Our son trying out the manta-ray dive

More Family Bonding Moments

While are children were at the sea, my and my wife prepared the much. Oh! It was really nice! I prepared the charcoal grill and cooked the pork strips. My wife prepared the green mango salad with tomatoes and salted eggs. We really had a good and fulfilling lunch.

Our family-prepared lunch at the resort

In the afternoon, we went for a walk to a rock formation at the end of the cove. We had some photo ops here. We also noticed that near the rock formations is a dive site. There were a couple of boats ‘parked’ while waiting for the divers who were exploring the deep and the reef.

The rock formation at the end of cove. Note the dive sites where boats are parked

It was really a fun day for the family! And a new experience on manta-ray dive!

Snorkeling time for the family
Our simple family-prepared lunch.
The snorkeling area near the beach

The Shortest School Year

The Shortest School Year
by Danny Tariman

“Persevere in the faith…” – Colossians 1:23

We homeschooled our children using the US curriculum. Because of this, they were required to take exams to qualify them to enter Philippine schools.

The exam results were released in August. My son was okay since he could start the next semester. My daughter, however, had to start immediately in a Philippine-based homeschool.

She started her last year in high school in September and she wanted to finish by February to catch up with university enrolment.

She studied from 8 a.m. until about 8 p.m. There was no let-up for her. She focused and gave all her energy to finish it in time for college enrolment. We gave our all-out support for her.

The principal couldn’t believe she finished it in a very short period. She questioned us, suspecting that there was dishonesty in the completion of exercises and tests.

But all she did was to persevere. Despite the limited time, we continued to trust in the Lord.

By God’s grace, she finished it successfully. Romans 8:37 says, “In all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.”

Reflection: Are you in a very difficult situation? Persevere in action and in prayers. The Lord promised that He will always be with us.

Prayer: Lord, let me see Your Hand moving in my situation. Amen.

[This reflection was first published in Didache – Sept 5, 2015]

Bringing Joy to Orphans

Bringing Joy to Orphans
by Danny Tariman

“Religious observance, pure and undefiled with our God and Father, is, this – to be visiting orphans…” (James 1:27)

Celebrating birthdays with the poor or the less-fortunate people is something that really blesses my family. We are so blessed that my daughter had her birthday celebrated again this way, and this time, with orphans.

My family and our daughter's friends, with kids at the orphanage.
My family and friends, with kids at the orphanage.

I coordinated with an orphanage in Tagaytay City. I was able to communicate with the nun in-charge of this kind of program for the orphans. She gladly accepted our proposal to hold a ‘birthday party’ for the kids in the orphanage.

Weeks before, me and my wife started buying the individual kiddie gifts, and some food & grocery for the orphanage. Our daughter had planned what kind of games to play with the little kids.

Just a week before the “big day”, my family had assembled the kiddie bags with gifts (an assortment of hygiene, food, and toy items). It was a wonderful time doing all these together for the love and care of the orphans.

Our daughter and some friends playing with little girls.
Our daughter and friends playing with little girls.

On that bright Saturday, together with our daughter’s friends, we drove to the mountain city of Tagaytay, about 50km from where we live.

We reached the orphanage before lunchtime. We were greeted by a little girl who showed us the parking area. Oh, that little girl! She was so cute waving her tiny hand as she was signaling me the direction to go.

We quickly unloaded our gift packs and brought them inside the orphanage’s reception. Wow, there were about 25 kids – from infants to early teens, both girls and boys. It was a joyful moment for us family, to be with these kids to celebrate our daughter’s birthday.

Kidsat the birthday party eating their lunch.
The birthday party lunch.

After an opening prayer, which the kids actively participated, we had our first game. Then we had our lunch together. We had a very nice interaction with the kids during and after mealtime. I had noticed, they liked to be hugged and play with. Most of our time were spent interacting with the kids – playing, talking, and simply being beside them.

Towards the end, my family and friends were treated with a special dance number by the orphans. Oh, what a touching moment. They were also prepared!

One of the games we played with kids.
The “Pabitin” — one of the games the kids really enjoyed.

Before we parted, we personally handed our kiddie gift bag for each child. We were so happy to see the kids play with the toys we placed in the bags.

Truly a blessing for my family to be a channel of God’s love for these children! Thank You, LORD!

[Pls note that the faces of the kids are blurred to protect their identity. Thanks.]

An "intense strategy" play with kids.
Interacting with kids at play.