2013: The Year That Was

Five days to go and we will bid 2013 goodbye. Another year is about to come to an end and we will welcome another in less than a week. How time flies.

The year 2013 was a  productive year for me. I was able to travel more, share more, and learn more. The last quarter might have been a disastrous one for the Philippines, especially for the Visayas region, but this won't keep me from exploring different places in the Philippines and beyond. My advocacy for 2014? Travel more and help the Visayas stand up and rise again.

As a yearender report, let me give you a recap of where we've been, what we've seen and experienced throughout the year 2013.

I left my heart in Biliran

For our birthday getaway, we chose to celebrate it in one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines, yet it is one of the richest (in terms of natural beauty) and the most picturesque. It is undoubtedly the most memorable trip we had this year. It may not be as famous as Boracay or Palawan, but what we had seen is priceless.

My favorite was our journey to Sambawan Island, a sub-island of Maripipi Island off northwest Biliran. The island has a long stretch of white sand beach, several interconnected islets, a view deck, and a marine sanctuary. The view in Sambawan Island is simply breathtaking.

To check out my travelogue on Biliran, click here.


Sambawan Island

Dalutan Island

Ulan-Ulan Falls
And because we were so enthralled with the spectacular views in Biliran, we are going back there for the Holy Week next year.

Calm before the storm in Tacloban
As a sidetrip to our Biliran getaway, we had spent a night in Tacloban City, our gateway to Biliran. Yes, we were there less than a month before the devastating super typhoon Yolanda. We were actually there during the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and Cebu. The memories  of seeing the chandeliers sway left and right at the Sto. Nino Shrine (the Romualdezes' mansion in Tacloban) are still etched in my mind. We almost walked out of the mansion barefoot!

San Juanico Bridge
Tacloban is one of the cleanest and most organized cities in the Philippines that I've been to. That was before the typhoon. The eateries beside the airport are now gone. No more McDonald's in downtown, near the jeepney terminal (for jeepneys bound to McArthur landing site). I guess no more Ocho Grill and Sunzibar for the moment. Oh, and even the hotel were we stayed, including my friend's coffee shop, were down the drain. So you could just imagine our grief when we first saw Ted Failon's video of the destruction caused by the typhoon Yolanda. We were literally in tears and goosebumps at that. So sad. =(

To know more about our Tacloban trip, click here.

McArthur Landing Site in Palo, Leyte

The first floor of Sto. Nino Shrine less than a month before the typhoon
A series of unfortunate events in San Vicente, Palawan
What we thought would be our most awaited trip of the year turned out to be the most disastrous one. But don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. In fact, if not for the series of unfortunate events that happened during our San Vicente escapade, my friends and I might not have enough time to bond with each other. We blame it to super typhoon Odette!

Yes, we were finally able to set foot on the famous 14 km long white beach in San Vicente, Palawan. It is known to be the longest white beach in the Philippines, even longer than the famous white beach in Boracay, Aklan. But...it was also our first time to get stranded in an island amidst pouring rain, gigantic waves and a damaged boat. It was our first time to get rescued by the Bantay Dagat. We were not able to go to German and Exotic Islands and the famous Boayan Island where Discovery's new luxury resort will soon rise.

To read the full story, click here.

Travel buddies at the Long Beach in Brgy. Alimanguan, San Vicente, Palawan
Stranded in Tandan Island
Surf's up in Baler
I was also fortunate to have been invited to have a sneak peek at the newest boutique resort in Baler during its soft opening -- Costa Pacifica Raintree. The Raintree group is famous for managing luxury resorts and top of the line restaurants (Misibis used to be under their umbrella, by the way).

The familiarization trip also gave me the opportunity to explore Baler's treasures like Dicasalarin Cove, Diguisit Beach, the majestic falls, historical sites and delectable gastronomic delights. It is in Baler where I have discovered that suman is best dipped in coco jam or peanut butter.

To read about our Baler escapade, click here.

A view of Dicasalarin Cove with a modern lighthouse by the architect Ed Calma
Revisiting Misibis Bay in Cagraray Island, Albay
As a mid-year trip, we went back to one of the most talked about luxury resorts in the country -- Misibis Bay. Our last time at the resort was during it's humble beginnings, and the facilities were not yet finished that time. It was so nice to see it the second time around, all complete with state-of-the-art facilities and a myriad of activities to enjoy during our stay. My favorite part was the ATV tour with sunrise breakfast at the hilltop overlooking Albay Gulf, the sunset cruise along Sula Channel, and the whole day snorkeling at the resort's own marine sanctuary.

To read full story, click here.
The Amphitheater

I swam with these babies
The alluring Bucas Grande
Another destination has been crossed out of our bucket list as we were able to explore the majestic Sohoton Cove in Bucas Grande Island in Surigao del Norte. The journey may not be the fastest and most convenient one, but every step of the way was worth it. The cove has an enchanting aura different from any other tourist destination I've been to.

Click here for the whole story.

Entering Sohoton Cove

La Fortuna Lake

Bucas Grande Island
A quick look at Pangulasian Island Resort, El Nido
While everyone has been raving about El Nido Resort's newest baby, I was lucky enough to go on a business trip to Pangulasian Island Resort. El Nido is by default beautiful and the addition of world class amenities and impeccable service at this resort made our stay "a shoot to remember." We were also able to stay for a night at Miniloc Island Resort, El Nido Resort's first ever resort venture.

The beach at Pangulasian Island
See my story here.

Not your ordinary beach in Surigao del Norte
Before going to Bucas Grande, we stayed for a night at Almont Beach Resort, a sister resort of the Bluewater group. Since we have time to spare, we took a chance to explore Surigao and visited the famous pebble beach in Brgy. Mabua. There is no fine sand here, just pebbles…humungous pebbles.

See my travelogue here.

Mabua Pebble Beach
Almost naked at the Naked Island, Siargao
After exploring Surigao City, we also stayed a night in the world-class surfing destination -- Siargao. Instead of surfing, we went island hopping! There were three beautiful islands nearby namely: Naked, Guyam and Daku. Of the three, my favourite was Naked Island. Why? It's like a stretch of flour at the centre of azure waters. No huts, no trees, no whatever. Just naked!

Checkout our island hopping getaway here.

Naked Island, Siargao
Fiery company outing in Punta Fuego, Batangas
This year, our beloved company had our outing in Peninsula de Punta Fuego. It was my second time in Punta Fuego, the first being in Terrazas de Punta Fuego years ago. It was nonetheless a fun-filled day with colleagues.

Read the whole story here.

A bird's eye view of the Peninsula de Punta Fuego
Honda Bay the second time around
This year, I brought my family to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. And of course, what is a trip to Puerto Princesa without exploring the pristine islands of Honda Bay! We checked out Luli Island and stayed for the day at Pandan Island. We were so happy to play with fishes of all sorts at knee-deep water!

Check it our here.

Saying hello to Pandan Island's residents

The beach at Pandan Island
No more pink buildings at Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu
Years ago, I was able to check out Hilton Resort in Cebu. Back in the day, it was one of the most popular resorts in Mactan until there came a time when the resort became quiet and a bit out of the limelight. When it reopened this year, it was all abuzz with its new management (under Movenpick Resorts) and a whole new look at that. I was again, lucky to be a part of the blogger group who went there for a familiarisation trip.

The resort was made chic and hip. Plus, a brand new Ibiza Beach Club - one of the hottest clubs in the city- was opened. And by hot I mean fiery hot. Think about Churrasco dinners with unlimited serving of about 14 kinds of meat and seafood, fine wine and cocktails. The beach club also has lounges by the sea and a Jacuzzi.

To read my story on Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu, click here.

Ibiza Beach Club b day

Fish feeding at Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Resort
Barefoot in Carabao Island, Romblon
While everyone is going crazy over Boracay during the Holy Week, we chose to cross the sea and stay in Carabao Island, a laid back destination just an hour away from its famous twin sister, Boracay. It was as if we own the entire stretch of the beach for three days! We were castaways for awhile and we love it!

Read our Holy Week escapade here.

Said Beach, Carabao Island, Romblon
Surviving Calaguas
We opened 2013 with a trip to what is referred by many as the most beautiful beach in the Philippines - Munting Buhangin in Calaguas Group of Islands, Camarines Norte. While the waves en route were terrifying, what welcomed us on the island had erased all our fears. The beach was breathtaking. We were awestruck. It deserves to be called the best beach in the country.

See how to go to Calaguas here.

Mahabang Buhangin, Calaguas Group of Islands, Camarines Norte
Postcard from Vietnam
My one and only out of the country trip for the year was again courtesy of my beloved job as a full-time writer in a luxury magazine. Our shoot was done in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! It was a memorable one since I also had the chance to visit my godfather who I haven't seen in two decades! How cool is that! We went on a food tour, savoured pho and banh mi, as well as hoarded my favourite Vietnamese coffee and a lot of spices from Ben Thanh market.

Saigon Notre Dame Basilica
It was indeed a fruitful year for Travelogues and this won't be possible without the support of my hubby, family, travel buddies, and industry partners. Thank you all for your help!

Plus, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those who helped us raise funds for the affected families of the super typhoon Yolanda in Coron. To Charisse and Jonel, this relief ops would not be possible without your dedication! Kudos to the two of you for braving the waves of Palawan to be able to send our little help to the needy. And to the donors, may all of you be blessed more in the coming years!

Here's to more travel and charity initiatives in 2014! Cheers!

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