Manhattan on foot

There is truly too much to see in the Big Apple. But since I only had one free day, I could only explore those in the neighborhood around the hotel I was billeted in. I was glad for the opportunity even though I almost had blisters in my feet, and my shins and calves shouted in my protest as I kept on going and going the dozen blocks I went around in. Anyway, I swore to myself that I will be back, and next time, I will make sure to visit all the things the city has to offer. But for now, my feet took me to these places…

Business class

I just got back from the Big Apple a few days ago. As always, I will blog about it in the days to come, but this one here deserves a separate post. Yay! For the first ever, I got an upgrade from Cathay Pacific to Business class! I wished that I got the upgrade during the long haul flight from New York to Hongkong so that I got to travel more comfortably, but I will take this any day. I was really so giddy the whole time. Who wouldn’t enjoy the pre-flight champagne, 18-inch LCD screen, huge legroom (though I have short legs, lol), upgraded menu, and much much more personalized service.

I could get used to this. I loooove Cathay Pacific, and have travelled with them on my first international flight to London, then to Canada, then to Cambodia (through Cathay Dragon), and now to New York. If at all possible, I will always use them for all my trips abroad. It can also be said that I totally dig transiting in the Hongkong airport, absolutely one of my favorite airports in the world!

Hundred Islands

This is sooo late, but better than never right?

So last Holy Week, we brought ourselves to Pangasinan so we can try something new. The highlight of our trip was the famed Hundred Islands. Mischa has been dying to go here because it has continuously cropped up in her lessons, mostly in Social Studies, and one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.

We set out very early because we knew it would be so crowded given that 90% of the workforce is on holiday. Thank goodness we had a wonderful host, and Mommy Ann, being a local of Alaminos, pre-arranged everything for us, including our boat ride. We had to spend some time at the port, which was teeming with people of all sizes, ages, gender, etc. on that Holy Friday. The local government requires all visitors to register with them first prior to venturing out to sea plus pay a minimal amount for the continued maintenance of the islands and its surroundings. Since we were a large group, we had to be in two boats.

We just got off one island-Marcos Island-and stayed there for lunch and of course, beach frolicking. You wouldn’t believe how clear the water is and how semi-fine the sand. It is a bit rocky near the edge of the beach though.

Afterwards, we went around the area and just viewed all the other islands from our boat. Almost all the beaches were occupied. Most of the bigger and dock-able islands are named. It is noteworthy that those that we went to or seen even from afar seemed to be impeccable and well-maintained. Good for the people and environment, as well. I am not sorry we came here at all.

Up north

We had our annual family vacation this year in Alaminos, Pangasinan. This actually happened about three weeks ago but hadn’t had the chance to blog about it yet. Anyway, we kind of dragged ourselves there because it was kind of far away, and this is the longest we drove in a private car (we went to the hubby’s home province in Cagayan but on a public bus so no one among us got tired driving), and I am happy to report that we all survived haha. My brother was going on and on about “not doing this again ever” because no. 1: it was Holy Week and everyone was driving away from Metro Manila, ergo, major major traffic!; no. 2: it was a ten-hour drive; and no. 3: let’s just go abroad!

Because I was not driving, I enjoyed myself because I really like the provincial scenery. It is really like leaving your worries behind in the Metro as you drink in the beauty of nature–trees, animals, fields, mountains, rivers. Even the kids like it when they were not asleep. I like to hear the awe, especially in Maxine’s innocent young voice, as she points out birds, cows, dogs, goats.

Finally, we arrived in Alaminos City in the mid-afternoon of Holy Thursday. We had enough time to visit the city’s church and had some time relaxing by the pool of the Northwood Hotel where we stayed. We had dinners and breakfasts at the home of our host, whom we fondly call Mommy Ann. She used to be based here in the Metro but has since moved back to their ancestral home. It was such a great place, full of old charm and history.

The following day was spent traveling (again) for the better part of the day down to Cabongaoan, a place in Burgos, Pangasinan known for its wonderful and secluded beaches. It was dirt road for the most part, and we rented a jeepney to take us there, but the destination was great. There were even depth pools, which we didn’t have the energy to trek for. lol.

Kids had so much fun, even Mischa, who used to dislike the beach and wanted to swim just in pools. Great that they’re beginning to love the sea!

Essen

To continue my German saga…after that whirlwind few days in Berlin, off we went to the city of Essen. The main purpose of our trip, which is to participate in a gathering of Filipinos, took place in Essen. We took the train from the central station, and the trip took about five hours. We enjoyed the scenic ride as Germany offers a picturesque countryside, but I have no great pictures to show because it was too fast for my phone to capture. It was not so bad at all that the train had wifi, yay!

We mostly kept to the city center, and then at the venue of the conference, which is uphill and kind of isolated, but very gorgeous. While the city is known as an industrial center of Germany, given the limited places I’ve been to, I could only describe it as quaint and charming. And autumn gave everything a burst of colors that, for somebody who comes from a tropical country, is a sight to behold. Fall is becoming a favorite season of mine.

In Deutschland

I got lucky again because, despite the constant stress brought about by my work, I get to see travel and see the world. This time to Germany. More than ten years ago, I was able to set foot in the United Kingdom, but this is my first time to be in mainland Europe. Yay!

The weather was quite good the whole time we were there. It was smack in the middle of fall, and it wasn’t too cold. It rained for a couple of days in Essen but it was okay overall. I loved the crisp air, and savored the feeling of not sweating, which Manila does to me all the time. It was very nice walking the streets of Berlin and Essen mainly because of this. As always, my heart jumped at the new sights and smells of a foreign country. Thank goodness for some free time in between official duties.

Did all the touristy things in the capital, such as visits to the Berlin Wall, Holocaust Memorial, the Bundestag, Tiergarten, Branderburg Gate. Met up with a friend and his family, took the subway, took the bus, had curryworst, name it.

Bakhawan Eco-Park

I went back to Aklan after a year to continue one of our advocacies for the local government unit. Last time, I went here and didn’t have time to go to one of the province’s famed attraction, the Bakhawan Eco-Park. A visit to the latter deserves maybe a whole afternoon depending on how much time you want to spend at its penultimate spot. Though I wasn’t much of hiking/nature kind of gal, I enjoyed myself here. Located at New Buswang, one of the coastal barangays of the capital town of Kalibo. The wide expanse of mangrove forest was a rehabilitation project in the 1990s, and has saved the townspeople from floods and other effects of strong typhoons.

It was a long trek on a man-made wooden pathway spanning a little more than a kilometre. One would pass by mud crab and fish pens, and acres of mangroves. Every few hundred meters or so are sheds with benches where one can catch their breaths or just enjoy the stillness of it all. There is a even a camp site for those who wish to pitch tents and spend the night there. I and some of my colleagues who were with me enjoyed the leisurely walk while listening to sounds of chirping birds and crickets. What made my heart jump for a few minutes was the rickety wooden bridge we had to cross to get over the other side of the river cutting through the forest. Nyay!

But the view of the sandbar and the open sea beyond more than made up my moments of anxiety! God’s creation never fails to amaze! We spent a good half hour just sitting on huts just enjoying the breeze and waves as they splashed the shoreline. As it was getting dark, we made our way back as dusk was slowly creeping its way in.