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A Beautiful Disaster : Mt. Pinatubo via Botolan, Zambales


Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano in the Zambales Mountains. After its eruption in June 1991, which makes it the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, a crater lake was formed.Today, the Mt. Pinatubo crater is open to tourists. You can take the Capas, Tarlac or Botolan, Zambales jump off.
Taking Botolan will take you an hour of 4x4 ride and 2 to 3 hours (depending on your phase) trekking going to the crater.
The Mt Pinatubo Adventure will start with an orientation at the base camp located at Camp Kainomayan in Botolan. The tour coordinator will discuss first how to protect yourself from lahar dust.

From here, ihanda ang sarili sa mahigit isang oras na paglalakabay sakay ng 4x4. Protect your eyes, nose, hair because anything exposed will be covered with lahar dust.  I don't have a mask with me, but  who cares "dry hair don't care!"

Check out our adventure below:
  

We booked through TriPinas and here's the itinerary:


ITINERARY 
0200 Meet up (McDonalds El Pueblo, El Pueblo Real De Manila, ADB Avenue corner Julia Vargas  Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.)
  • Meet the tour coordinator - Pay your balance - Sign the waiver form
0600 Estimated arrival time at the base camp in Botolan, Zambales
Free coffee, orientation and transfer to the 4X4 (or 6X6) vehicles for the off road adventure
0830 Start trekking (around 2 hours walking or less if the short-cut is passable that day)
1000-1100 (depending on your pace) Estimated arrival time at the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo
  •  Relax, photos, lecture about the history of Mt. Pinatubo, picnic lunch (at clients' account)
1230 Start return trek (around 2 hours walking or less if the short-cut is passable that day)
1430-1500 (depending on your pace) 4X4 (or 6X6) ride
1600-1700 Back at base camp. Freshen up
1730 Departure from the base camp to Manila
2030-2230 (depending traffic) Estimated arrival time in Manila (McDonalds in Ortigas)

OFF ROAD ADVENTURE
The dispatch of the 4X4 (or 6X6) vehicles is based on a queue which means that we can't choose the vehicle you will ride. Some are open and some are close, there are no seatbelts and the ride is very bumpy and extremely dusty.You will share the vehicle(s) with other groups.

TREK
The trek takes an average of 2 hours to complete (or less if the short-cut is passable that day). A fast hiker can do it in 1 hour and 30 minutes, if you take your time it will take 2 hours and 30 minutes. We will visit an Aeta village on the way. This itinerary can change depending on the mountain conditions, trail availability, weather and military exercises.

LIST OF THINGS TO BRING
  • sunscreen/cap/hat
  • dust mask (the off road ride is very dusty due to the lahar)
  • rain gear/poncho/umbrella (afternoon rain is common)
  • light jacket (it can be windy and cold on the morning and also during the transfer due to the aircon)
  • trekking sandals (there are several river crossings so use preferably open shoes)
  • extra clothes and extra pair of footwear (so you can change after the trek)
  • packed lunch, trail food (fruits, nuts..) and trash bag
  • water (1.5L or more per person)
  • small beach mat to use for picnics at the lakeshore
  • personal first aid/medications
  • camera
  • copy of a national ID (or copy of your passport for non-Filipinos) -it might be checked by the local tourism. If you are more than 59 years old you may need a medical certificate
  • small backpack
  • your happy self

An Amazing Evening with Collabro


COLLABRO - The UK-based musical theater group recently held their concert for the leg of their Asian tour last February 26 held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Pasay City. Composed of Jamie Lambert, Michael Auger, Matt Pagan and Thomas Redgrave, they took the stage of “Britain’s Got Talent” for an audition and eventually won the competition in 2014.


When I found out that they were here in the Philippines for a concert, I was looking forward to watch them live. I’ve seen their audition videos on Youtube three years ago and fell in love with them ever since.

The show started a bit late because the traffic in Manila caused problems to the people to get to the show on time. The organizers then decided to push the show back to accommodate the “late comers”.

The concert started with the Singing Sensations,  Resorts World Manila’s very own “Dream Girls” as the front act. Composed of Charlotte, Jasmine, and Cris, this sultry and talented female group rock the stage with their hot performance. I must say that these girls are talented and their world-class performance is impressive. 


Charlotte, Jasmine and Cris of the RWMs Singing Sensations

Now here comes the most awaited part of the show.

Collabro started their performance with “This is the Moment” from the musical “Jekyll & Hyde”. It was then followed by Disney classics and some famous songs from famous Broadway Musicals that we love like “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera”.




Their repertoire also includes Beauty and the Beast, Send in the Clown, Journey to the Past, Empty Chairs and tables, Bring Me Home,  I dreamed a dream, Music of the Night, Frank Sinatra Classics, Come What May, Defying Gravity, Stars and their first original song Light House.

I got goosebumps with their empowering rendition of Music of the Night. I started to recall scenes from the Phantom of the Opera when we watched the musical back in 2012 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Too bad, my husband was not able to join me in the concert, if he was with me, I am sure he will be delighted. He is a real fan.

I am also super in love with their cover of “Bring Me Home”. With just the first line of the song brought back that Jean Valjean's death scene with Fantine and Éponine.



Whenever I think of Collabro, I think of Broadway. The group is also a huge fan of Les Miserables, that is why a song from that famous musical was always included in their album.

But you don’t need to like Broadway musicals for you to love Collabro. Aside from being good looking, seeing them performing on stage will make your heart flutter. Their heavenly music offers a feast for the ears.



I also had the chance to be with them after the concert. The After Party which was held at El Calle Bar – Resorts World Manila gave me the opportunity to have a photo op and dinner with them. It was an amazing evening indeed!


It's the Climb : Mt. Maculot Traverse (Grotto, Summit, Rockies) for Newbies

20 January 2018 - Hubby and I started our 2018 with a bang. Instead of going to Baguio or chilling in Tagaytay, we started our 2018 with a hike.

ABOUT MT. MACULOT

Name: Mt. Maculot or Mt. Macolod
Location: Cuenca, Batangas
Height: Grotto (510 MASL) Summit (930 MASL) Rockies (706 MASL)
Trail Class: 1-3
Guide: Mandatory/Required


THE CLIMB

The climb kicked off at 6am going to the Grotto and is definitely harder than I thought. All the while, I was expecting that this climb is ideal for first-time climbers with a difficulty level of 2/9. I am not a newbie but I am not a hardcore either. All I just was is to enjoy this climb, meet new friends and more importantly, to get that IG worthy photos at the Rockies.

I really don't have any idea that the traverse part of the mountain has a difficulty level of 4/9.

Mt. Maculot is considered to be a minor climb but for first-timers, I suggest to start with a 2/9 trail difficulty level especially if you are not prepared and physically fit. Or you may opt just to the climb the Rockies and not do the traverse.

E paano na pag mag-tra-traverse pala kayo ng grupo?


ASSAULT, ASSAULT AND MORE ASSAULT
  

Going to the Grotto will test your endurance. With barely no sleep and no breakfast at 6am, san ako pupulitin ngayon? Just during the first assault, I started to felt dizzy but thanked God I still managed to continue. So I pretend to pray every Station of the Cross just to take a quick rest while the younger ones continued with the hike as if they were just walking at the mall. 

We had our breakfast at the store near the Grotto and finally, I was able to recuperate.

Our guide mentioned that the hardest part is the trail going to Grotto compared to the trail going to the Summit. Maybe I need to ask him his definition of hard and easy or we may not be on the same page. I still managed to get a lot of photos during the assaults going to the Summit, so I guess he was right.






Finally arrived at the Summit at 11am. We took some photos, ate lunch and rest while enjoying the beauty of Taal in the background.

Hubby and I were happy to find new friends who are fun to be with. Dami kong tawa, mga tatlo! :-)
Photo Credit: Jethro Salamo of www.jethrosalamo.wordpress.com

TO THE ROCKIES

For me, the trail going down the Rockies was the hardest part. I am glad that my little knowledge of rappelling and wall rock climbing came in handy.


Photo Credit: Jethro Salamo of www.jethrosalamo.wordpress.com
I am really excited about the Rockies. Ang totoo nyan, sa Rockies ko lang gustong magpunta. I am really looking forward to that one photo at the Rockies.



And finally, with determination, this hike ticked off the bucket list.

Presenting.... my buwis buhay shots at the Rockies.....



Despite being the eldest in this group composed of young professionals in their mid 20s, I still managed to catch up with them and victoriously finished this Level 4 of 9 hike without any harm.
Only 3 out of 13 had the courage to have this buwis buhay shot and that includes yours truly, while the others were trembling by just watching us posing for the cam.
Nakakatakot naman talaga, lalo na paglumalakas ang hangin. One wrong move and you're dead. Pero buo ang loob ko doing this. Di ko din alam bakit di ako natakot, slight lang.

Ako si JLo a-tapang a-tao!!!

Check out our video highlights of our Mt. Maculot hike.


How We Got (Almost) Scammed in Shanghai

I had lots of thoughts if I'm going to write about this or not? Maybe it is my pride that's telling me not to post this because I have this feeling that most of my friends, readers and followers would say "Huwattt sa style ni JLo na daming research muna bago mag travel e na scam pa? Ang pride ko 'teh!"

Don't get me wrong, everything was perfect. The food was great, we love our hotel, we love our itinerary except for the 3 mandatory visits to the following stores (silk, herbal medicine and jade stores) which are actually waste of time. (more stories on my  next blog)

So here I am after gathering all my strength and a lot of sighs! 

BACKGROUND
Since my friends and I availed the tour package, I did not make a thorough research on what to expect.. I decided that I'll just follow whatever it is on the itinerary. I needed a break in DIY-ing my travels, so I am really excited that we got a tour package in Shanghai.Yes!

THE WARNING
It was the last day of our tour and visited Shanghai Tianmai Jewelry. Although my friend who's with us already told us about the same thing happened to her in Beijing, we just continued with the tour because our guide said that it is mandatory and we just need to stay in the store for 1 to 2 hours. Knowing a little bit about the "story", I am confident that I will not be persuaded in buying anything from the store.

THE SET-UP
Tianmai Jewelry is a typical Jade Store where you can see jade statues and carvings lining the walls. My first impression is that it is a high-end specialty store and you can only expect authentic jades that carry a hefty price tag.

A saleslady approached us and led us into a sort of a training room. She said that the speaker who will teach us about jade and pearls is still not available and is quite busy. She repeatedly asked us if we can speak Chinese even a little, to which we repeatedly say No we don't speak and we don't understand Chinese. We were immediately served with hot tea while waiting for the speaker. 

She also informed us that we need to clap once the speaker enters the room because the speaker is the daughter of the store owner ("wow big time!").

THE STORYLINE
Now enters Fiona. She's wearing a nice dress that looks pricey and how can we forget that Chanel earrings of her. She actually looks like a real daughter of a wealthy businessman. She always blames herself for not speaking good English and too young to handle such big responsibility. She keeps on saying that her father sent her to the store as her training because they will soon be opening another jade store in Cambodia.

Aside from teaching us how to spot fake jade and pearls, she keeps on reiterating that she does not like what is she's doing and how she was being pressured by her father to excel in handling the business at a young age of 22.

She's actually charming and the room was filled with laughter and "trust".

After 45 minutes of discussing jades and pearls, we were immediately sent to the VIP room. (drum rolls please!)
Fiona, the daughter of the store owner kuno. 

THE SALES TACTICS
At the VIP room, Fiona leads us to a jade pendant with a zodiac gold design on it and asks the sales lady for the price which says "1,800 RMB" (14,000 pesos). She said that it comes with an authenticity card. Since my friend already has this, we did not fall into her trap. 


Surprisingly, she showed another box which is a smaller version of this pendant. She then asks the sales lady how much is the price, to which she replied that it's 120 dollars. Without any hesitations, Fiona said that she is going to give the jade pendant for only 80 dollars. The sales lady was shocked and made comments that the price is too low to make profits. We showed no interest in buying.

the  cheaper alternative 

To lure us, Fiona gave each one of us a circular jade pendant for free. We already knew that it was fake so since it is for free, we grabbed it.

At this point, we noticed that her English is getting better and better.  She then makes another decision to sell us the jade pendant for only 50 dollars because "we are friends already and I don't need money", she said. 

The sales lady shook her head and unwillingly followed Fiona's instruction.

This is the time when I opened my calculator and converted the 50 dollars to peso. After more than 45 minutes of being a prisoner in this VIP room, I gave in and showed the sales lady my credit card and I'm hooked! :-(  Another friend bought the same thing so ayun na! The other two friends, meron na sila which they bought in Beijing. 


Once is Never Enough
Knowing that we have credit cards, she led us to the pearls section, she then rubbed two pearls to show that the pearls being sold were real and not fake. We discussed this earlier during her talk.

At this instance, nahihimasmasan na ako. I actually love the craftsmanship of the pearl necklace and earrings and besides, I really need to have one. I said to my friend, if am going to get 2 pairs of earrings and 2 necklaces for 20 dollars, I'll take it.

And yes Fiona agreed with my proposed price. I noticed that they are showing me another design and obviously pinipilit ako on this particular design nalang kasi its nicer daw. This time, nakatunog na ako that the ones I'm holding were the real stuff or of with a higher quality. Kahit hindi partner partner I said that this is what I want. 

I also noticed that they were shaking their heads. Nakabawi bawi nadin kahit papaano.

from Left to Right :
Circular Jade pendant (Free)
Jade with gold zodiac design (50 dollars)
1 set of necklace with a pair of earrings (Not in picture is the other set of necklace and pair of earrings) (20 dollars)

Reality Bites
Our total purchase was 120 dollars.

Fiona, the owners' daughter was fake, the sales lady was trained to act as supporting actress following a storyline. The jade and pearls were either fake, of low quality or just a fashion jewelry which you can buy anywhere at SM or Landmark accessories section. Although I find the craftsmanship really good, so ok na din

Looking back, I had no interest at all in purchasing jades since I already have elephant jade pendants bought in Bangkok years ago. But humans are humans, and we Filipinos really have a hard time saying No especially if it will hurt our pride. We are also trusting in nature and that irrational fear of hurting that person you trust or who trusted you may lead to spontaneous purchases.

7 Most Instagrammable Places in Shanghai, China

Instagram addict? A trip to Shanghai will make a photographer out of you. If you are visiting Shanghai for the first time, check out my version of my seven most Instagrammable places in Shanghai.

The Bund
The Bund is a waterfront area in Central Shanghai. The area along the river faces the modern skyscrapers of Lujiazui in the Pudong District. The Bund usually refers to the buildings and wharves on this section of the road. It is one of the most famous tourist destination in Shanghai.



Enchanted Story Book Castle (Shanghai Disneyland)
This castle is the centerpiece of the Shanghai Disneyland Park which opened in June 2016. The castle is the first to represent the Disney Princesses, contrary to other parks. It is also the tallest Disney castle ever built.



Yuyuan Garden
Yu Garden is composed of six scenic areas: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall, and the Inner Garden. The highlights of the garden are classical Chinese architecture, exquisite sculptures and carvings and the busy Yuyuan Bazaar.



Yioulai Shanghai Shopping Village
Shanghai takes shopping to a new level. Ready to shop 'till you drop? 
Yi Ou Lai is China's first luxury shopping tourism destination of its kid. With more than 80 boutiques spanning over the huge area where you can find the best deals for luxury brands and unexpected discounts during final reductions.



Transparent Observatory (Orient Pearl Tower)
The only all 360 degrees glass panels observatory in the world. You can also challenge yourself by walking through the 150-meter long corridor while keeping your eyes looking down through the transparent glass floor.



Chenghuangmiao Market
This market is located in Shanghai's old town surrounded by ancient Chinese buildings. The complex consists of tourist and shopping areas and is known as a "paradise for tourist" to get handicrafts and Shanghai local snacks.


Xintiandi
Located in the center of Shanghai City, it has become an urban attraction that holds historical and cultural legacies of the city. It is a fashionable pedestrian street composed of Shikumen and modern architecture style.