Monday, February 23, 2015

Panagbenga Flower Festival

        Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines bloom every February as they celebrate the annual Panagbenga Festival. Panagbenga which actually means "season of blooming" is a symbol of tourism, culture and local flower industry. The festival began in 1995 to boost the local economy and revive its tourism after the devastating earthquake in 1990. 

      The highlights of the Panagbenga Festival is the floral float parade happening during the last weekend of February. Almost a million tourists go up to Baguio to witness different themed floats with thousand of colorful and beautiful flowers which are actually grown in the towns of Benguet. The parade is participated by different organizations and commercial establishments, it starts at the Panagbenga Park and ends in the Baguio Athletic Bowl traversing the iconic Session Road. The parade is accompanied by marching bands and  street dancers in colorful costumes. It also showcases the culture of Cordillera Region with its traditional clothes and music.

Tips and Reminders to Enjoy Your Stay in Baguio during the Panagbenga Float Parade.

1. Accommodations are always fully booked during the Panagbenga season, make sure to booked two to three months before the grand Panagbenga weekend. 

2. For commuters, booked your returning bus to Manila at an earlier time to avoid delay.

3. For private car owners, commuting within Baguio is recommended because major roads will be closed and finding a parking space could be a problem.

4. Tourists are lining up at the Session Road as early as 5 in the morning, make sure to come early to reserve the best spot to watch the parade.

5. Eat your breakfast before going to the parade to give you enough energy for the 2-3 hours waiting time.

6. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, you might not be able to move properly due to volume of people. 

7. Do not litter, keep your own trash and promote proper waste disposal. 

8. Bring your cameras with you to document your Panagbenga experience. 

9. Bring a lot of patience, you will do a lot of walking, experience vehicular traffic and long waiting time. 

10. Enjoy the festival with your family or friends and mingle with other tourists. Have fun. 

Below are some of the colourful and beautifully designed float during my Panagbenga Flower Festival 2013 experience. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Travel Tips and Recommendations: Puerto Princesa and El Nino Palawan

     From the amazing limestone formations to the famous longest navigable underground river to the enchanting lagoons and stunning beaches, Palawan is definitely a paradise on earth. In this article, I would like to share with you some tips, recommendations and guide for a hassle-free vacation in Puerto Princesa and El Nido for you to fully enjoy your stay in the world's top island.

1. As much as possible, book your flight ticket two to five months before your desired date of trip to score much cheaper rates. You may also wait for Piso Fare sale from Cebu Pacific or Air Asia. Both airlines are flying from NAIA (Manila) to Puerto Princesa Airport.

2. If you are availing of regular or discounted rates, booking one-way ticket from different airlines will save you a lot of money.
Sample Computation:
     Cost of round trip Cebu Pacific ticket from Manila to Puerto Princesa is Php 3,800.00.
      Cost of round trip Air Asia ticket from Manila to Puerto Princesa is Php 3,400.00.
      Cost of Cebu Pacific ticket MNL to PP and Air Asia ticket PP to MNL is Php 2,800.00.

3. Book your accommodation via direct coordination to the hotel/inn or via (for more discounts). If you failed to book in advance, airport tricycle may help you tour the city to look for a cheaper hotel/inn/pension houses in Puerto Princesa. Tricycle cost is Php 100.00.

4. For the Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour, getting a tour agency will cost you Php 1,200.00 each person while DIY (Do-It-Yourself) will cost you Php 1,300.00 for the boat good for 10 persons. Tricycle rental will cost you Php 500.00 with pick up from your hotel to Lourdes Wharf and vice versa. Add additional Php 500.00 to include Iwahig Firefly Watching transportation. Iwahig Firefly watching will cost you Php 600.00 per person. 

5. Availing your El Nido Island Hopping Tour and van services from Puerto Princesa to El Nido in one travel agent will give you Php 100.00 to Php 200.00 discount for each island hopping tour.

6. Ka Lui restaurant in Puerto Princesa is open only from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Advance reservation is required due to volume of tourists.

7. You should try eating tamilok (wood worm) and crocodile sisig. These dishes are available at Kinabuchs Grill and Bar, they are open from 6:00 pm to 2:00 am daily.

8. Puerto Princesa City Tour will cost you Php 600.00 to Php 700.00. Each tricycle can accommodate up to 4 persons. 

9. Puerto Princesa Underground River tour must be booked in advance via a travel agent to secure permit and schedule. PPUR tour published rate is Php 1,540.00 per person inclusive of transportation, tour guide, entrance fee, environmental fee, boat transfer, wharfage fee and buffet lunch but you can get it at Php 1,240.00 per persons only (see Fort Wally contact details below). This tour includes side trip to Ugong Rock Adventures.

10. Rent a kayak (good for 3 persons) from Php 200.00 to Php 700.00 for El Nido Island Hopping Tour A to fully explore Small and Secret Lagoon.

11. Island Hopping Tours offer free use of snorkeling gears or you may bring your own. Aqua shoes and waterproof bags are a must. Buffet lunch is included in all island hopping tours, they will serve you grilled fish, grilled pork, squid, crabs, vegetables with rice, water and softdrinks.

12. El Nido requires each tourists to pay for Php 200.00 environmental fee valid for 14 days.

Puerto Princesa Tours:

Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour
     Cowrie Island - Php 275.00 entrance fee
      Pambato Reef - Php 50.00 entrance fee
      Luli Island - Php 60.00 entrance fee
      Starfish Island - Php 50.00 entrance fee
      Pandan Island - Php 100.00 entrance fee 

Iwahig Firefly Watching - Php 600.00 per person

Puerto Princesa Underground River - Php 1,240.00 per person

Ugong Rock Adventures
     Entrance Fee - Php 200.00 per person
      Sitting Position Zipline - Php 200.00 per person
      Superman Position Zipline - Php 250.00 per person

Puerto Princesa City Tour
     Palawan Rescue and Wildlife Centre (Crocodile Farm) - Php 40.00 entrance fee
      Rancho Sta. Monica (Mitra's Ranch)
      Baker's Hill
      Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garen and Tribal Villgae - Php 50.00 entrance fee
      Puerto Princesa Cathedral
      Plaza Cuartel

El Nido Tours:

Island Hopping Tours (inclusive of buffet lunch)
     Tour A - Php 1,200.00 per person/shared boat
                   Small Lagoon
                   Big Lagoon
                   Secret Lagoon
                   Simuzu Beach
                   Seven Commando

      Tour B - Php 1,300.00 per person/shared boat
                   Pangulasian Island
                   Snake Island
                   Codugnon Cave
                   Cathedral Cave
                   Eli Island

      Tour C - Php 1,400.00 per person/shared boat
                   Hidden Beach
                   Matinloc Shrine
                   Secret Beach
                   Star Beach
                   Helicopter Island

      Tour D - Php 1,200.00 per person/shared boat
                   Cadlao Lagoon
                   Pasandigan Beach
                   Paradise Beach
                   Bucal Beach
                   Ipil Beach

Inland Tours (includes transportation only)
     Nacpan - Calitang Twin Beach Tour - Php 1,500.00 for 2 persons
      Nacpan - Calitang Twin Beach/Hot Spring/Waterfall Tour - Php 1,700.00 for 2 persons
      Taraw Cliff Climb - Php 350.00 per person minimum of 2
      Las Cabanas Beach (Maremegmeg Beach) - Php 300.00 tricycle rental

Important Contact Information:

Van Rental (Puerto Princesa to El Nido and vice versa)
El Nido Island Hopping Tour Reservations

Richard Dela Torre
Airport Tricycle Service
Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour
Iwahig Firefly Watching
Puerto Princesa City Tour

Airport Tricycle Service
Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour
Iwahig Firefly Watching
Puerto Princesa City Tour

Fort Wally
Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour 
Ugong Rock Adventures