Category Archives: Family Life

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.

Wonderland in the Mountains: Campuestohan Highland Resort

Wonderland in the Mountains: Campuestohan Highland Resort
by Danny Tariman

This was an amazing experience for my family! We never thought that in a far-away place, on a mountain overlooking a city, we can find an enchanting themed park: the Campuestohan Highland Resort. The resort about 800 meters above sea level, located in Talisay City, part of Metro Bacolod, in Negros Occidental.

My family at the Indian Village
My family at the Indian Village

This was not in my family trip’s itinerary. But my cousin who was guiding our tour spoke highly of this place that I was actually very expectant of what my family will see. And I wasn’t disappointed, the place has a refreshing mountain air, and divided into several themed parks.

We were welcomed at the main entrance by the real-looking windmill, with pavilion on both sides. The well-manicured lawns are dotted with various real-looking animals and icons. At the entrance itself, you might lost track of your time taking photos at every nook and cranny. Haha!

The real-looking windmill at the entrance of the theme park
The real-looking windmill at the entrance of the theme park

As we went further “inside” the park passing through an arched bridge, we saw this “Bonita” village. This area has Igloo-like cottages which are actually room-accommodations for guests preferring to stay overnight. I was observing closely the Igloo-like huts, it looks like real. The details are well done; looks to real!

Walking further, we came into the “Indian Village”. The huts in this area are teepees, an Indian typical house. The houses are built around an artificial bonfire. What I noticed is that even the tents which look like real, are actually concrete cottages. The “logs” in the bonfire place looks like real wood but are actually made of cement!

The Bonita Village gate.
The Bonita Village gate.

There is also a part with statues of the super-heroes or Avengers – Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and others. Near to this super-heroes is a kiddie park with swimming pool, kiddie rides, and a shoe-house.

At the water park, we were welcomed on the left by a “jaws-house” which entrance is the mouth of a shark, and on the right, an artificial wave and surf. Oh! We got some photo shoots here! The area has a large swimming pool. With a cool ambient highland temperature, I am almost sure the pool water is also cold. Haha! You’re correct, we didn’t swim.

At the Shark Wave park
At the Shark Wave park

A number of people are crowding at King Kong for photo shoots. It was kinda difficult to get a shot of your own. We didn’t climb to the ape’s hand for the usual King Kong movie poster shot. Also, this ape’s area sounds-off the growl of an ape every few minutes. We thought there was an ape coming near us.

There are plenty of rides and challenge walks: the usual zip-line, the sky-bike where you ride a bike and pedal it on a tight rope, a “rope-course” which is basically a challenging rope bridge, the hamster wheel (we saw a couple of teens trying this out; it seems difficult), and of course, kiddie rides like the carousel, mini train, and many more.

This themed mountain resort is really a fun place to go for a family adventure!

King Kong park
King Kong park
The water park entrance
The water park entrance
The Indian Village with a bonfire in the middle
The Indian Village with a bonfire in the middle
The Super-Heroes park
The Super-Heroes park
The kiddie park
The kiddie park
The surf ride I tried in the park
The surf ride I tried in the park

Smiling in the “City of Smiles”: Bacolod

Smiling in the “City of Smiles”: Bacolod
by Danny Tariman

This was my family’s first time to set our feet in the City of Smiles, the nickname given to Bacolod City. We all are pretty excited to explore this new place to discover. This city is about 1 hour and 15 minutes ride by plane, south of Manila. It is located at the western side of Visayas group of islands in the Philippines.

The stately Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol
The stately Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol

 

The day before our departure, we were greatly troubled because our flight to Iloilo City (another destination we are going to) was canceled and we were told to re-book our flight. The plan was from Iloilo, we will take a fastcraft boat to Bacolod. We had some difficulty getting booked for the next earliest flight; as we were informed that we can fly at about 12 noon.

But God has the best plan for us because instead of landing in Iloilo, then taking a 1-hour boat ride to Bacolod, we were able to get a flight direct to Bacolod, as no cost to us!

The centuries-old church of Bacolod City -- the San Sebastian Cathedral
The centuries-old church of Bacolod City — the San Sebastian Cathedral

We arrived Bacolod Airport (which is actually in Silay City, part of Metro Bacolod) at abour 5:30 in the morning. We were met by my smiling cousin (true to the name City of Smiles) at the airport. We swiftly drove to the city proper, passing though sugar plantations. It was a relief that after all the problems we encountered in our flight booking, we easily reached the city.

Bacolod Cathedral

Our first stop, as we usually do when we visit places, is the local church. We visited San Sebastian Cathedral where we offered our thanksgiving and prayers to the Lord who had blessed us with a good trip. This is a centuries-old church which was built in 1882 reportedly from coral stones from the neighboring Guimaras Island. The interior is so beautiful, with arched ceiling. I had noticed that the 2 bells are not hanging at the belfry but are actually hung in a brick structure on the church yard.

St Pope John Paul Tower

This tower was built exactly on the spot where Pope (and now Saint) John Paul celebrated the Mass when he visited the City in 1981. This 7-story tower is located in the reclamation area at the fringes of SM City Bacolod. When we reached the top, we got an good, unobstructed view of the Bacolod seas.

At the ground floor are some of the memorabilia of the saint.

The St John Paul Tower standing on the exact spot where the Pope, and now a Saint, celebrated Mass in 1981

The St John Paul Tower standing on the exact spot where the Pope, and now a Saint, celebrated Mass in 1981

Capitol Ground and Lagoon

The provincial capitol of Negros is becoming a tourist destination. You can see the busyness in infrastructure developments from all sides: malls, and office buildings under construction. The stately capitol building stands as a good backdrop of the well-manicured lawn in front.

Fronting the grounds is a huge lagoon where golden statues of Malakas and Maganda are standing on each side. A good place to take photos!

The golden statue of "Maganda" at the lagoon of the Provincial Capitol
The golden statue of “Maganda” at the lagoon of the Provincial Capitol

On the sidewalk of the Capitol area, we bought from a cart vendor, a famous local fruit, not easily available in Manila, called “marang”. This fruit has a strong smell; it is prohibited to be brought inside our hotel room! The external of the fruit is like a jackfruit with finer “skin protrusions”. But the fruit! Oh, so exotic! It tastes very sweet; much different from jackfruit (langka) and durian. Its meat is soft and creamy sweet.

Negros Museum

It was good that the museum is open on Saturdays! Haha! Our tour of this place gave us an insight of the historical past of the Negros Island. It showcased murals depicting the pre-colonial life and culture of the island and its people. It had artifacts from various period of its history. It also has toy collection reportedly worth millions of pesos, according to our museum guide.

We were fortunate also the hear and watch at the lobby, a practice of budding classical music performers: a young soprano, and a young tenor who was also playing an old piano.

Manokan

The Manokan, or in English “place of chicken” is a row of restaurants near the reclamation area fronting a mall. All of these restaurants offer almost the same dish, the Bacolod Inasal – vinegar-marinated chicken, grilled on charcoal, basted with achuete that brings out a yellow-color. The dish is usually served without the usual spoon-and-fork because the guests are expected to eat by hand. This is a must-try for visitors of the city.

Having our lunch at Manokan: a Bacolod-kind of treat.
Having our lunch at Manokan: a Bacolod-kind of treat.

Food Outlets

We had our first lunch at Aida’s along the Manokan row of restaurants. The place has ‘carinderia’ ambiance. What caught my attention in this place aside from the tasty Bacolod chicken, are the masks on display. The masks are the ones worn during the Maskara festival in the city

We also went to Calea bakeshop. This is a must for a city visitor: very delicious cakes of various recipes, at very affordable price!

In the evening, we had dinner at Aboy’s: an excellent way to cap a day. It offers seafood, and other Filipino food. Good ambiance.

Goodies

We bought some local goodies from Bong-Bong’s. Various flavors of the famous piaya, barquillos, napoles, butter scotch, and more! You have to taste napoles, a tasty bun topped with sugar icing. Really a treat for people who loves sweets. We bought the items from the factory outlet, rather from the shop at the city central. The good thing about this store is that it can pack your goodies “airport security ready”; really nice packing!

I would like to personally thank my cousin who was our guide in the whole trip and who also provided us the vehicle for our trip. I won’t mention his name; he is a senor officer of a local company owned by a Filipino business tycoon.

My family enjoying the scenery of the Provincial Capitol grounds
My family enjoying the scenery of the Provincial Capitol grounds
My wife wearing a traditional Negrense mask
My wife wearing a traditional Negrense mask
A few of the several artifacts inside the Negros Museum
A few of the several artifacts inside the Negros Museum
The masks of Bacolod worn  during its Maskara Festival
Various masks of Bacolod worn during its Maskara Festival

Family Fun in Calatagan

Family Fun in Calatagan
by Danny Tariman

Batangas province in the Philippines is one of the provinces blessed with many scenic coves and wonderful beaches. My family had been to most of these, but the province does not stop surprising me with new and “unexplored” beautiful places to go for family bonding.

The quiet beach we 'discovered' along the Calatagan coastline.
The quiet beach we ‘discovered’ along the Calatagan coastline.

After searching for new destinations, we decided that this weekend, we will go to another beach front resort we have not visited yet – the Aquaria Beach Resort in Calatagan, Batangas.

A view from the top of the Aquaria Beach Resort
A view from the top of the Aquaria Beach Resort

We left the city at about 5 o’clock in the morning to beat the traffic, and also to have more time in the beach. We drove through South Luzon Expressway, and turned right for Tagaytay. It was an easy morning weekend drive. (I had been disappointed to drive in Tagaytay lately, because on weekends, traffic is just unbearable!)

From Tagaytay, we drove further down towards Nasugbu and turning left at the last junction going to Calatagan. I always wanted these kind of drive: out-of-town, country driving. It refreshes my soul as I see the beauty of nature on both sides of the road.

Upon our arrival at the resort, we were greeted by this grand pavilion which houses the front desk. From all angles, you will know that this resort is out of the ordinary: well-appointed guest couches, impressive check-in counter, well-organized staff, and really stunning entrance with well-trimmed greens.

The entrance of the beach resort
The entrance of the beach resort

Past the pavilion is a stunning beauty of its swimming pool complex! Kiddie pool with fountains, arching foot bridge over the pool (good for photo shots!), a giant slide, and more! I was really surprised of the beautifully designed swimming area!

But our first priority was the beach. And so we walked for about 50 meters past the pool and wow, an expansive length of beach cove and placid ocean greeted us. We thank the Lord for the good weather: the sea was so calm, no rain, and with overcast skies.

Another view from the top. Note the beach front at the upper side of the photo.
Another view from the top. Note the beach front at the upper side of the photo.

We had a good time frolicking on the beach, and the almost flat seabed. We can walk at a distance without the danger of drowning. However, sea urchins abound during the time of our visit. If you plan to go, wear beach footwear to avoid being stung by this urchins.

And oh yes, we enjoyed the ride on giant slides at the pool area. Rides goes in tandem – 2 persons in one big-sized “rubber boat”. So I had many rides: first with my wife, next with my son, then my daughter. It was really exhilarating. Haha!

Me and my son gliding through the giant slide
Me and my son gliding through the giant slide

The pool complex is an awesome attraction from any angle you look at it: the snaking “river” pool with arched foot bridges, the nature-like waterfalls in the middle, the kiddie pool with many fountains and rides, and of course a small lap pool for swimming. With well-appointed cabanas and greens the place is indeed a cut-above-the-rest. Don’t forget to take a photo from the top of the slide: the view is fantastic, truly awesome!

The beach-front restaurant offers delectable Filipino dishes. In this visit, we just ordered the “family package” which includes many of our favorites: grilled fish, grilled squid, fried chicken, grilled pork belly, and many more. It also has the famous halo-halo, and other deserts.

Will surely come back for another weekend retreat for my family!

A family photo at the swimming pool complex.
A family photo at the swimming pool complex.
A view from another angle of the swimming pools.
A view from another angle of the swimming pools.
My family at the beach-front cabana.
My family at the beach-front cabana.
At the beach-side restaurant with our family friends from Papua New Guinea.
At the beach-side restaurant with our family friends from Papua New Guinea.