Category Archives: Travels

Tuwad-Tuwadan Rolling Hills & Rock Formations

Family Adventures
Tuwad-Tuwadan Rolling Hills & Rock Formations
by Danny Tariman

My family loves outdoors and adventures. We are always in the look-out for new places to explore. It was not a surprise that when we heard and saw photos of Tuwad-Tuwadan, we put it in our bucket list.

The view of the blue ocean from the hills

Tuwad-Tuwadan Rolling Hills and Rock Formation is in the northern tip of the island province of Catanduanes. It is within the bounds of a village called Balangonan in the town of Pandan. The town is about 90km north of the City of Virac. We drove to this town from Virac for almost 3 hours, enjoying the coastal view by the road.

We got lost, actually. We didn’t notice the road to Tuwad-Tuwadan and drove straight to the town proper where we asked for directions. [Poor me! We didn’t use technology – like Google Maps – to locate the place.] That was good too, because we were able to visit the town, and even had some moments of prayers inside St Ignatius of Loyola parish church.

The fresh winds of the hills greeting us

Driving back southbound from Pandan, we finally found the road to Tuwad-Tuwadan. It was another challenge as there were no directional signs yet, as the road was under construction. And because it was under construction, we passed through dirt and muddy road.

If you plan to go driving yourself, do not go straight to the village (barangay) of Balangonan as the locals will offer you to take a boat ride to Tuwad-Tuwadan. When you go by boat, you will miss the windy and magnificent view of the rolling hills.

The rock formation on a windy day and rough seas.

Asking a few locals, we were able to finally found the right road. It was a very tough and rough drive. I would highly recommend that you bring an SUV for this adventure. I drove passing through deep trenches in the middle of the trail; I had to carefully navigate the tires not to roll down the trench! It was really a difficult, almost off-road trail.

All the difficulties reaching the place were negated when we reached the rolling hills. It was indeed an awesome view, with winds splashing our faces! From the hills, I have a fantastic view of the cream colored beach cove which opens to the blue ocean.

Another view of the rolling hills

This is just the opening of Tuwad-Tuwadan! We continued our drive until we reached the drop-off place to start our trek. This was just a short less-than-a-kilometer drive.

We were guided by 2 little local girls. We trekked passing through a rice field paddy to the main rolling hills. Really beautiful! Even our puppy who went with us from Manila enjoyed the place. She run away from us and explored the hills too! It was a good 15-20 minutes of hiking.

A lagoon that would have been a “blue lagoon” had it not been for the rough sea.

The rock formation is a down-hill trek on the side of the hills to the sea. It was a very steep trek. Although the locals made some cemented steps, I was a bit scared going down as I have this fear of heights. What could have been the blue lagoon was a white lagoon when we visited the place. It was because the sea was rough, with waves pounding the rocks, and the suds splashed by the waves covered the lagoon. It was still a good place for photos though. We didn’t swim as it was quite dangerous because of rough seas.

After few minutes of photo-ops, enjoying the sea breeze, and the magnificent views, we drove back to Virac. Another amazing experience for our family!

My family enjoying another adventure
Me and my wife at the rice paddy going to the rolling hills.
With my son
And with my daughter
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Pure Nature: The Beauty of Palumbanes

Pure Nature: The Beauty of Palumbanes
by Danny Tariman

My family had been talking about this “newly discovered” adventure-tourist spot off the island province of Catanduanes. We had seen a number of TV programs showing this stunning place where nature is at its best.

The pristine beach of Palumbanes

Palumbanes is an island off the coast of Caramoran, a northern town of Catanduanes province. It can be reached by a 45-minute boat ride. Caramoran is about 55km from Virac airport, passing though well-paved roads, zigzag at some points. My family drove for about 1hr and 40 minutes — quite slow — as this was the first time we drove this way. We had to take some photos, enjoy the view, while driving.

We were warmly met by the Palumbanes village head upon reaching the jump-off point in Caramoran. There is a safe parking area near the wharf, where we left our car overnight.

Upon reaching the island, we were awed by its pristine cream-colored beach! And crystal-clear sea water! With no other people in the island — except the 4 of us! We were indeed for an awesome, nature adventure trip!

My family — all alone in the beach.

We brought with us a couple of tents for our family, but the good village head offered us a native hut made of bamboo and palm leaves. This added to our nature outdoor experience!

We stayed in this secluded island in Parompong beach — a long stretch of fine cream-colored sand. My family is almost alone! We can play, we can swim, and we can do just about anything without any interference!

Just near the beach is a rich marine garden! My children were able to spot clown fishes playing in its natural habitat — a blanket anemone!

Clown fishes playing just few meters from the shore.

Oh yes, the corals! Our host took us to a nearby deep snorkelling area. My children, of course, take turns doing their free-diving to about 15-18 feet. I and my wife also took a dip into that snorkelling area. We were just awed by its colorful coral formations.

As the day was about to close, we all watched for a spectacular view of the sunset! We were not failed! Golden rays booming out of the clouds, with the sea at its foreground, a perfect shot indeed!

The golden sunset of Palumbanes

In the night, it was another almost magical experience for my family. We saw a couple of trees along the beach inhabited by fireflies! My 2 children (and me too!) immediately took their mobile phones to take photos, but unfortunately, it didn’t work. My son took out his DSLR camera, but then again, the fireflies can hardly be seen. But the experience was just awesome!

All alone in the beach that evening, we were just gazing the heavenlies. We enjoyed a night of pure nature: just the moon and the stars lighting the beach and the entire surroundings! There was no electricity, and no lamps. In my about 2 decades living in the city, this was the first time I enjoyed the moon and the stars! Really wonderful, what an experience!

My son on top of a rock formation. Note the stars in the background, this photo was taken in the night

Here’s another experience: we cooked our dinner on firewood! Wow, indeed outdoor experience at its best!

We were assisted in this adventure by a passionate promoter of the Catanduanes Island as a tourist destination — Ferdie Ocol Benavidez — who led me to meet our tour guide, and Palumbanes village head, Kap Tiloy Condeno who guided us. Kap Tiloy can be reached through his mobile phone at 0948-4165370.

We left the island the following morning with many good memories to keep. Amazing, awesome, wonderful experience!

My family floating at the snorkeling area.
My wife and I taking a selfie while watching the sunset
Our children taking photos of the beautiful sunset.
My daughter taking the 18-ft deep.
With our puppy who traveled 600-km with us from Manila.

Awesome Binurong Point

Awesome Binurong Point
by Danny Tariman

It was raining very hard when we first attempted to trek to Binurong Point, in Baras, Catanduanes. While waiting for the weather to improve that morning, my family met with the village head, who is my cousin. It was decades since we last met. But after about an hour of waiting, and there seems to be no let-up for the rains, we decided to go first to Puraran Surf Beach (I have a separate story for this), to try out surfing, with the weather permitting.

An awesome view of Binurong Point, in Baras, Catanduanes

The following day, we woke up to a good weather: the sun was rising up the horizon without rain clouds. And so we drove back to the jump-off point for our trek to Binurong.

We were met by the village head’s wife, who acted as our trek and tour guide. We were so glad that a relative accompanied us in this trek. And I am so happy that she knows a good story about Binurong Point, and knows the best angle for the photo-shots!

My family, with our 3-month old puppy, started our trek passing through the rocky end of the sea shore. After a few meters we were on the trail going up the hill. We passed through some muddy trail as there was a heavy rain the day before our trek. But after about 30 minutes of trek, the beautiful view of Binurong Point was just in front of us!

A spectacular view of point ##1

The view was just awesome! It was a perfect blend of the hill, the sea, and the sky! As our trek guide would tell us, there are 4 “points”, but we just explored the first 3.

The first point is the left-most, facing the ocean. It is for the daring heart! I tried but couldn’t walk the hill as I have this fear of heights. The hill is quite steep on both sides with a not-so-wide trail on top. I remember that this was the hill where a motorcycle-riding TV-host had a very good shot while he run through the trail on his bike.

The “amphitheater ” with a pond in the middle of the valley.

Between points 1 and 2 is a valley that looks like an amphitheater. In the lowest area of the valley is a little pond, or lake as you may call it. My cousin would imagine bringing musicians in this area where the audience can just sit in the beauty of nature that surrounds the place.

We had wonderful shots taken at point #2. It was quite easy for me to explore this cape as the top had wide flat area for photo-ops. But whether it is point #1 or #2, whether you take the left side or the right side as the backdrop, all angles are just perfectly beautiful!

My family, with our 3-month old puppy, at point #2.

Onto the third point, we passed through another awesome sight of the waves splashing into a rock formation. Wow! Really beautiful! Our puppy enjoyed this place too as she continued to run around and explored the place!

What an experience! What an awesome sight!

The rock formations going to point #3

After a little over an hour exploring the place and taking photos, we decided to trek back. Upon reaching the village, we treated ourselves with ice-cold halo-halo (a mix of fruits and jelly, topped with shaved ice and milk).

We thought it was all for the treat. But there was one more: as we were leaving the small village, little children were waving at us and saying “good bye” and “see you again!”

A warmth of hospitality as shown by little children of Binurong Point

Really awesome! Awesome views, awesome experience, awesome people!

My son at the edge of point #1
Another photo of my family: just enjoying the scenic views of Binurong
By daughter at a rock formation
The point #3 at the background
My wife and I with point #1 at the background

Family Weekend at Kota Keluarga

Family Weekend at Kota Keluarga
by Danny Tariman

Laiya in San Juan, Batangas is known for its long stretch of beaches fronting the Tayabas Bay. My family had been to a number of resorts along this place and for a reason of trying other resorts, we opted to try as walk-in guests in this resort very near the town-proper of San Juan.

A view from the bar-resto area of the resort.

The entrance to Kota Keluarga is impressive. It looks like an expensive resort, but actually has a reasonable price structure. The resort itself appears to be on the higher-end of the spectrum with its glass-walled cabanas fronting the beach, 2 very well-appointed swimming pools, a nice bar, and of course, it’s well maintained, clean cream-colored beach.

Kota Keluarga’s swimming pools

The road from the entrance to the beach is a mix of paved, concrete road, and dirt roads. The paved road ends at the Kota Keluarga Village, after which, we drove on a dirt road for about 3 kilometers.

Upon our arrival at the parking area, I noticed several cabanas with red tile roofing. I told myself “This must be expensive”. We proceeded to the reception area near the bar. I was impressed as I walked passing though well-manicured garden, and really nice facilities.

To my surprise. It was reasonably priced! And so I asked my family if we will use this resort. All agreed!

Our family photo upon our arrival at the resort

We were helped by its staff to unload our stuff and bring it to our open cabana. As I surveyed the place, I feel blessed to have been brought to this resort. The beach was not full – just a few groups, the facilities are up-scale, clean swimming pools, and the shore swimming area is just right – not too deep, and no sudden change of seabed contour. Best for kids!

We enjoyed the place almost just our family, as there were only very few guests in the resort. Our children explored the place some more. They found a good place for free-diving just about 10 meters from the shore. I joined them, and I was awed by the beauty of the deep with its corals and tropical reef fishes.

With my children near the diving spot

I also enjoyed playing with our puppy. We ran back-and-forth along the shore. I got too tired running around I have to stop, while the little puppy was very active and playful. Haha!

And of course! We enjoy a lot our family bonding moments! I had a couple of 360-degree videos with my wife, the children and I enjoyed our swimming in the deep. Really priceless moments!

It is indeed another weekend of full-pleasure! We had just a day tour in this resort, and everyone enjoyed the beach, the facilities, and even the food and drinks!

One of the colorful attractions of the deep: clownfishes playing in its anemone territory
The full view of the shoreline
My wife and I enjoying the beautiful beach
My son in the deep
My daughter in her free-dive
Our very enjoyable meal of grilled tuna and pork belly
Another scenic view of the beach front as viewed from the open cabana area

Snorkeling in Binukbok

SNORKELING IN BINUKBOK
by Danny Tariman

My family’s desire for outdoor adventure moves us to look for places we haven’t been to, for spots to discover.

That weekend in December, we planned to explore another place – the Binukbok Viewpoint in Bauan, Batangas.

Binukbok rock marker

It is about 2-1/2 hour drive from the city to the drop-off point in Bauan. We left home at about 5 in the morning so we can reach the cove by 8am. We were not disappointed: we parked our car at 7:30, had a boat ride for 15 minutes, and we reached our destination as planned!

Binukbok is a diving and snorkelling spot. The place is not for kids. There is no sandy beach; only big rounded stones lining the shores. But it was good! Just a few steps from the shores is a rich marine garden teaming with corals and reef fish.

A giant clam seen by my children just few meters from the shore

Upon arrival at the resort, we were met by the very friendly resort owner, Kuya Manny, who immediately asked his staff to assist us to our reserved space. And yes, there is a flowing coffee tourists can take – unlimited.

The seafront is lined with native cottages, and behind the cottages, are small patches of “free space” where back-packers can pitch their tents. This is not a luxurious place to be, but good enough to satisfy one’s craving for snorkelling and diving.

Tents pitched within the small space of Binukbok.

Oh, the snorkelling area! It is so near the shore! The resort has stock of fish feed that you can use so that the fishes will swim to you as you go down the water. Indeed, fish of every kind swarmed around me when I did just that! So thrilling!

Of course, my grown-up children enjoyed their dive! They went to the deeper spots where there are more colorful corals. We just enjoyed all these marine creatures!

My daughter in her free dive

We had grilled tuna and pork ribs for lunch. The resort staff were so good, they even helped us cook on charcoal our meal grilled dishes.

We stayed in this cove for just a day. It was another day of family fun and adventure!

Our family picture in Binukbok Viewpoint
The Binukbok cove
My son in his diving form
Colorful corals of the cove: can be seen just few meters from the shore
More of the beautiful corals
Our children near the shoreline
My wife and I in front of our picnic hut.
The other side of Binukbok cove
Corals, corals, more corals!

 

Coron Family Adventure – Day 3

Coron Family Adventure – Day 3
Diving in Coron’s Breathtaking Spots
by Danny Tariman

This is our final leg of our 3-day Coron adventure. The past 2 days allowed us to see and experience the natural beauty of Coron: colorful corals in Siete Pecados, the awesome sunset from Mt Tapyas, the amazing interaction with wildlife in Calauit, the sunken ship, and more.

My family at a good vantage point overlooking the famous postcard view of Coron.

It appears that even to this last day of our 3-day escapade, we are still in for more surprises. We are so blessed to have a very good tour guide who guided us throughout, and even taught my wife how to swim without too much effort, and the best of it all, he knows the best shots in the various locations we went.

We left the wharf early at about 8 in the morning. Our tour guide was so smart that he told us that we start in Cayangan Lake to avoid the over-crowding of tourists by mid-day.

Cayangan Lake

The view of the lagoon as seen from the lake’s entrance was awesome. It was the picture-perfect angle for postcards. Because we arrived early, we saw only few tourists – this means we do not have to jostle with other tourists to get that good shots! Haha!

A one-of-a-kind family picture under the water of Cayangan Lake

The lake is a fresh-water late. It is so deep that there are some tourists who took the dive with oxygen tanks. Our experience here was awesome. We had a one-of-a-kind family picture here where all of us took a dive at the same time while our tour guide took a series of shots.

My family had also some swimming formations at the water surface, while our guide took some shots from down-under. Really fascinating shots!

Our 2 floating formations, as seen from the bottom of the lake.

Twin Lagoon

These two lagoon are separated by a narrow tunnel that is accessible to pass through at low tide, but during high tide tourists are advised to climb up a few steps to go to the inner lagoon. The inner lagoon has a natural mix of warm and cold water. Because of this occurrence where warm water meets cold water, the water is not so clear, you wouldn’t be able to see the deep.

Our “centipede swim” at the Twin Lagoon

We had a good swimming experience here. Upon the suggestion of our guide, my family had a centipede formation where we swam together, with our legs holding the next, forming a long line. And we swam from the inner lagoon to the outer lagoon, passing through a narrow tunnel.

Hidden Lagoon

The Hidden Lagoon is not much for swimming or diving. But the view was impressive too: very clear waters, with rock formations as a backdrop. We had a wonderful sightseeing, pass-through tour of this place.

We passed by this Hidden Lagoon: truly awesome clear waters.

Banol Beach
We had a stop-over at this beach for our lunch of crabs, fresh fish, grilled pork belly, and local vegetable salad. It was really a feast!

Banol Beach: perfect for beach-bumming and swimming.

Fine, powdery white sand lined the beach front. It was truly a good place for beach-bumming and swimming. We had very relaxed moments in this island as we rested for a while after our sumptuous meal.

CYC Beach

Not much attraction on this small island called “CYC”. We had some photo shoots as soon as we disembark from our boat. At the right side of the island are some mangrove trees, and the left side is a bit wide beach where a lot of tourists, especially children, were crowding. There were also food vendors in this island trying to out-do each other racing in their small boats to reach the tourists.

My family at CYC Island

Balinsasayaw Reef

My family enjoyed this spot very much, primarily because we love snorkelling and we all love to see the colorful and amazing creatures under the sea. Our 2 children had their own time, diving to the depths of the sea without diving gear (free-diving), while I and my wife were assisted by our tour guide who patiently “towed” us around the reef.

My son going for the dive at Balinsasayaw Reef

The view under the water was just amazing! Branching coral formations is so huge, and yet very colorful! We saw many giant clams scattered all-over the place, living in its natural habitat. Along the paths that we swam, we encountered also various kinds of reef fish.

My daughter with beautiful coral formations at the foreground.

We enjoyed the underwater garden of this Balinsasayaw Reef! After about 30 minutes of snorkelling non-stop, we got tired, and went back to the boat.

It was indeed another day of truly enjoyable moments with family! We had an undeniably awesome adventure in this part of Palawan. We love this place called Coron! Given the chance, we will come back again to this place, but maybe explore the neighboring El Nido!

My family enjoying the deep fresh-water at Cayangan Lake

 

My children and I as caught by camera handled by my wife.
At CYC Beach near the mangrove.
Giant branching corals at Balinsasayaw Reef
Giant clams, many of them, at Balinsasayaw Reef

Coron Family Adventure – Day 2

Coron Family Adventure – Day 2
Encounter with Zoo Animals, Exploring a Sunken Ship and More
by Danny Tariman

We woke up very early in the morning to our long boat trip to Calauit Island. This is our second day in Coron, Palawan.

The free-roaming giraffes in the wildlife sanctuary

The tourist van picked us up from the hotel at about 5:30am. We were taken to the wharf where the boat will take us to Calauit. We were supposed to leave at 6am per schedule, but for some reasons, we actually left at about 6:30.

It was a long trip. But thanks be to God, the sea was smooth all throughout. We just had to contend with the loud sound of the boat’s engine; it was not deafening, though. While aboard, the boat’s crew served our breakfast, and flowing instant coffee! Haha!

Calauit Wildlife 

We reached Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary at about 10:30am. After a quick registration process at the reception office, we immediately went out to meet the roaming giraffes, zebras, and others. We were quite excited as this is the first time we will have a live and unbounded interaction with these animals.

One of our first family photo in the island — with zebra in the background

We were not disappointed. From a distance, we immediately saw group of zebras roaming and feeding on the grass. We also saw the long-necked animals just wandering around. It was really a sight!

We quickly took photos with the animals. Really a one-of-a-kind experience.

The good caretaker also toured us around. There are other wild animals kept inside the sanctuary: monkeys, eagles, turtles, snakes, porcupine, crocodiles, and many more. You just have to walk about a kilometer to get a good glimpse of the animals around.

I love this activity: close encounter with a giraffe

Just before 12noon, we left the sanctuary to have our lunch at the Black Island. It was a short 30-minute boat ride.

Black Island & Bat Cave

The Black Island’s coast is so beautiful: wide beach, creamy soft white sands, and crystal clear waters. Perfect to beach bumming. We were told that this is called “Black Island” because of the rock formations which looks black from a distance.

The pristine beach of Black Island

We had our lunch in this island. It was a feast – I mean really feast: generous servings of seafood, fruits, and chicken! We had a good eat here.

But more than the food, we truly enjoyed the beach in this island.

In the island is another attraction: a bat cave, which is just a few steps away from the hut where we had our lunch. Inside the cave is a freshwater pool, which was very cold. I had dipped into the pool for few minutes. It was amazing to see a big cave in the island.
We moved on to our next destination after spending almost 2 hours in the island.

My family inside the bat cave.

Coral Garden

From the Black Garden, we had about an hour and a half boat ride to this amazing submarine garden. Wow! I was so fascinated by the colorful and huge coral formations in the area. I was with our children, while my wife was being “toured around” by our guide by pulling a rope where some tourists have just to hold.

We had a very enjoyable experience viewing the underwater scenery: corals of every kind: branching corals, plate corals, both soft- and hard-corals. Really captivating! My children and I were just floating on the sea with our life vests.

My daughter going for the free-dive at coral garden

After about 30 minutes of snorkeling, we moved on to our final destination for the day: the ship wreckage.

Lusong Ship Wreck

It was a short boat trip from the Coral Garden. All of us found our way to quickly jump into the water as this was one of the highlights of our trip. We really wanted to dive and see this famous Lusong ship wreck. We actually got assurance from the tour operator to make sure that we will visit the ship wreck.

My son at the ship wreck. Note the edge of the ship showing, with all the sea creatures that had grown on the ship.

The ship was lying on its side. It was about 12-15 meters long – I really don’t know. But it was quite long. The ship is already full of marine life: carbuncles, sea weeds, moss, and others attached to its side. Oh! There were plenty of fishes swimming in the wreck!

On the other side of the wreck is quite scary. It was very deep. I can’t see anything, except for the deep blue waters.

Feeding the fishes with seaweeds at the wreckage site.

We didn’t stay long here as the sun was setting down already. And so we left the place at about 5pm and headed back to town.

We arrived Coron town already dark, but it was good: we can see the lights of the town lining the shores, and the Cross on top of Mt Tapyas glowing bright.

It has been a long day full of adventures. It was another wonderful day, an experience of a lifetime in Coron!

I was trying to lure a porcupine who was hiding in a log, its natural habitat.
The entrance of the bat cave in Black Island
The colorful corals at the Coral Garden