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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.


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 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?


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


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
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! 

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!

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.

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!").

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. 

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.

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.

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery : The Only Underground Cemetery in the Philippines

“It’s creepy. It’s eerie. And why would I like my photos taken underground with the dead? Pang- IG ba?”, my daughter asked me.

“Then let’s see”, I said.

My daughters stayed inside the car while hubby and I together with some friends crossed the street from the gasoline station where we parked. “Ayaw talaga!”

Greeted us is the baroque arched gate and stoned walls embellished with iron grills. There’s this “Intramuros  feels” in it and I said this is a good spot where I can I have my photos taken. “Finally, mapapalitan na ang Cover Photo!”

It’s 9 am and there was no other tourist except us. Somebody approached us, which I believed from the tourism office because he acts as our tour guide and lead us inside the church which is a chamber.

After death.
A photo gallery entitled “Recuerdos de Patay” is strategically located inside the church. Reading at the information about the “Recuerdos de Patay”, it says that the photos are a good source on reconstructing the people’s mental template on death and afterlife. The photos show not only the culture’s valuing of afterlife (ie. kabilang buhay), but also the deep perception by Filipino about life as whole.

Napaisip ako dun.

Domed ceiling, bricks, adobe and river stoned walls in complex patterns can be seen inside the chamber. And yes, from the stairs going down the chamber made me chill a bit.  I feel like I am a character from a movie about underworld, occult, and exorcism. My husband has been telling me, “mabigat ano? na-feel mo yun?”

I guess he was referring to that creepy feeling. It was dark, and the thought of being inside a cemetery with the remains of dead people in the 18th century is something not fun, but scary. “Pinoy eh!”

After a test shot from my mobile phone, the lighting is just perfect. “Picture-an na!”

Not your ordinary cemetery.

Dubbed as the only underground cemetery in the country, the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery or the Libingan sa Ilalim ng Lupa ng Nagcarlan is a national historical landmark and museum in Brgy. Bambang, Nagcarlan Laguna supervised by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Built in 1845 and was established as a public burial site. But despite of its being a public cemetery, its underground crypt is exclusively for Spanish friars and elite Catholic family during that time.

There are no entrance fees to pay. The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is open on Tuesdays to Sundays 8:00am to 4:00pm.

Pwede bang magpicture? Yes. You may take photos but these should be for your personal use only. No flash photography allowed.

What are the Requirements for Chinese Visa (for Philippine Passport Holders) ?

Before buying that down jacket you’re crazy about and booking that 5-star hotel in Nanjing you’ve been dreaming of, be sure to get first a Chinese visa.

Most Filipinos get intimated easily in getting visas because of the fear of being disapproved. Sayang nga naman ang processing fee if ma-disapprove lang. But the reality is, that fear and or anxiety is coming from the lack of information.

Photo Credit : Leriza Catiis - Castro
Lamang ang may alam, as they say is actually true!

Let me guide you on the steps to be taken and the requirements to be submitted for a tourist visa for China (for Philippine passport holders).

For Philippine Passport Holder – First Time Applicant

1. Application form

2. 2 pieces photo (please see photo specification below)

3. Original valid passport

4. If valid passport was issued 2014 onwards, need to submit most recent old passport.

5. IF EMPLOYED, Original Certificate of Employment plus photocopy of latest ITR or BIR FORM 2316 & photocopy of company ID

6. If with BUSINESS, photocopy of Business Name Reg./DTI/SEC plus latest company ITR

7. Original Bank Certification of with official receipt/debit memo/certification of waived fee. The type of account which is acceptable are savings and current account from commercial or rural banks only and the account should be opened at least 6 months prior to applying for visa. The account should have an average daily balance and to-date/current balance of at least Php 100,000.00 per applicant.

The Bank Cert. should indicate the following:

·         Account Opening Date
·         Type of Account
·         Average Daily Balance and to Date / Current Balance
·         With Check Write
·         In addition to Bank Certificate, submit the original Bank Statement or Passbook of the said account detailing transaction for the last 6 months

8.  Airline confirmation

9.  Hotel confirmation

10. For those working in Non-Government Organizations (NGO), Religious organizations, Media, Entertainment Industry (Talents & Production Crew), Seafarer/Vessel Crew, submit guarantee letters from the applicant and form his company/employer. Both letters must state that the applicant will not conduct any task related to his profession/job, that the trip is for tourism purposes only and that he will fully abide the laws of the Chinese government.

For Philippine Passport Holder – With previous Visa (previous visa is used and issued within the last 10 years)

1.    Application form

2.    2 pieces photo (please see photo specification below)

3.    Original valid passport

4.    If valid passport was issued 2014 onwards, need to submit most recent old passport.

5.    Original passport with previous China Visa if current passport has none

6.    Airline confirmation

7.     Hotel confirmation

After you have the requirements ready, head to the embassy which is located at

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2nd floor, The World Center
330 Senator Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City
Visa Application Hours :  9 am to 11 am, from Monday to Friday

or you can call your travel agency to assist you in the application which comes with a minimal fee of course.

Basic Fees and visa processing
The usual processing time is 4 days. The fees are:
  • Single Entry: P1,400
  • Double Entry: P2,100
  • Six Months Multiple Entry: P2,800
  • More than Six Months Multiple Entry: P4,200
I didn’t have any problems with my visa application, the process is simple for as long as you have to present all the requirements and avoid the usual “pwede nayan”.
 Photo Specification