Caboangan Beach in Burgos, Pangasinan

Every summer, the Holy Week vacation meant a 4-day long weekend and going home to the province to relax and basically do nothing. But my friends proposed a short beach getaway this year to fight our boredom. After a long discussion on the places we wanted to go, we decided to go to Burgos, Pangasinan to see Caboangan Beach and the death pool that recently went viral on Facebook.

My Companions:

Three couples went on this trip so there already was a buddy system in place. LOL. This trip was a great chance to catch up an unwind with long-time friends.

L-R: Francis, Ruby, Angeline, Jhodan, Judilyn & Ian

How to get there:

Jhodan kindly volunteered their car for the trip and drove all the way to Burgos. Travel time from our home town in Binmaley was only 1.5 hours. But it lengthened to 3 hours because we made frequent stops along the way to buy food, booze, and whatever else we thought we needed. Our destination was fairly easy to find because of Waze.

We saw Tourist Assistance & Information Center just before the rough roads

For those planning to drive, the road to Caboangan Beach turns rough on the last 30 minutes of the journey. There were areas where the road was already paved but it can only fit 1 vehicle at a time. So every time we met a car in front, one of us had to give way. This was also difficult because the paved roads were high. Jhodan’s car endured a few scratches when he tried to go maneuver outside the road and the car dropped several inches on the ground.

This is a better part of the road heading to Caboangan Beach, believe it or not

Our Accommodation:

Finding a place to stay in Caboangan Beach was difficult because the resorts in the area didn’t have websites. The only resort we knew of was already fully booked several weeks before the Holy Week.

Parking area

But we finally found a resort through the power of friendship. 🙂 A friend of mine went to Caboangan Beach in early April and I got the contact number of the resort where they stayed. I think that we got the last vacant cottage on the resort. Lucky!

Luzviminda’s Resort from the beach

We spent our overnight trip at Luzviminda’s Resort. They were responsive to our text messages and their rates were affordable too. Sometimes though, their number couldn’t be reached or it would take a few hours before they reply. This is just normal since mobile signal in the area is weak.

The cottages and tents are located on the beachfront

Luzviminda’s Resort offers several options for it’s accommodations:

  • Air-con rooms – we didn’t inquire for the price though
  • Cottage fan rooms (6-10 pax) – Php 1,800
  • Cottage for overnight stay – Php 1,200
  • Tent (7 pax) with use of table with umbrella – Php 1,500
  • If guests bring their own tent – Php 200 per pax

We rented a cottage for our overnight stay and pitched our own tents too. The owner kindly waived our tent fees so we only paid for the cottage upon check out. The cottage was spacious and had a good view of the beach. At night, the resort provided a thin mattress and a couple of pillows so we can sleep on the cottage floor. The boyfriend and I slept on the cottage while our companions slept on their own tents.

At night, we removed the table and placed the mattress lent by the resort on the floor for sleeping

I was expecting a cool summer’s night but I didn’t feel even a slight breeze at all. 😦

Contact numbers:

  • 0930 302 2687
  • 0915 132 1759

Caboangan Beach and the Death Pool

We arrived at almost 3 in the afternoon and spent some time organizing our stuff, pitching the tents and preparing for dinner. The famous death pool was a 20-minute walk away so we decided to explore it the next day instead.

The view from our cottage

Caboangan Beach was a pleasant surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting white sand and blue-green clear waters at all. No wonder that the beach became an instant hit to locals and tourists alike.

Holy Week visitors of Caboangan Beach

Continue reading

Team Building at Estrellas de Mendoza Playa Resort

Estrellas de Mendoya Playa Resort was the venue for our recent company summer outing. The planning committee chose the resort for the following reasons:

  • it was an accredited establishment by our company
  • they gave us the most reasonable corporate rates. Though not the cheapest among the resorts that we contacted, the inclusions and facilities made up for their price point
  • they had facilities for team building activities
  • we heard the food was good
  • a beachfront resort with an infinity pool

All of us had a great time at the resort and we were able to recharge our work-stressed minds during our stay. 🙂

Taking a relaxing dip at the resort’s infinity pool

First Impression:

Upon arriving at the resort, I was surprised at how big the area was. The parking area is so spacious and the main building looked imposing.

A first look at Estrellas de Mendoza Playa Resort

The staff was all smiles when they greeted us and they made check-in a breeze. We were able to go to our rooms within 10 minutes of our arrival.

I immediately looked for the pool and the beach area which both called out to me. I was more excited to get into the pool when I learned that it was only 4 feet deep. Perfect for someone like me who only knows how to float but not swim. But we had to participate in the team building activities first before our free time.

Estrella de Mendoza’s spacious infinity pool

Beach area

Our Room:

The arrangement was quadruple sharing for each room. Despite this, me and my companions had ample room. There was a double bed and 2 single beds which were all comfortable.

Room interior

We were each provided with our own toiletries, a towel for the room, a towel for swimming, bottled water and blanket.

At first, we had some trouble operating the air conditioning. But a call at the front desk was able to rectify it. They sent someone within 5 minutes to turn on the air conditioning and teach us how to operate it.

The bathroom was nice and clean. I rejoiced at the hot and cold shower even though it was summer time. I was sleeping with the air conditioning on anyway. 🙂

View of the pool and beach from our room

The only problem we had in the room was that the bathroom door didn’t lock properly. But as we were all females in the room, it wasn’t a big deal. However, it seemed that the locks of the bathroom doors was a common problem. I heard that our colleagues’ room also had a non-working bathroom door lock while another room’s lock was working so properly that my colleague was locked in until someone from housekeeping set him free. LOL.

Team Building Activities:

Estrellas de Mendoza set up tents and an obstacle at the beach area so we can conduct our team building activities. There were 2 courses, but we only used the one in the shaded area so we won’t get burned under the sun. It was summer so it was so hot, but we really didn’t notice since we were all trying to be competitive with each other while having fun. From time to time, a cold breeze would come to bring relief from the heat.

Everyone’s getting ready to beat each other in the games!

Obstacle course

We also used the Function Room for our program in the evening which was just about enough for our group of 20+ people.

Function room

The team building activities were tiring but we had so much fun in the friendly competitions. A few of us acquired bumps and bruises along the way but they weren’t so serious. The staff was able to provide first aid to our wounds.

Food:

Though we heard the food was okay, I wasn’t really expecting much. We were all pleasantly surprised when we tasted one dish after another and they all tasted delicious!

Our package included snacks, dinner, breakfast and lunch. Everyone was very satisfied with the food. My favorites include the pork sisig we ordered during our drinking session in the night and herbed roasted chicken they served during dinner. The only fail item for us was the pork embutido included in the breakfast buffet. It didn’t taste bad. But it just didn’t have any taste at all.

By the way, the resort doesn’t allow outside food and drinks to be brought into the resort. Chips are fine but the guests have to sign a waiver first.

Note: I have no pictures since I always left my phone and camera in the room everytime we ate 😦

Final Thoughts:

Overall, staying at Estrellas de Mendoza was a fun experience. I would recommend it for large groups, families and couples. We went on a Friday and left on Saturday which meant that we only shared the resort with another 3 or 4 groups. But they were expecting another 300 people for a company outing that Saturday which made me glad we came a day earlier.

For the rates, I find the resort a bit pricier than those I’m used to but I definitely think that it’s worth the price. It’s a good place to consider when you’re looking for a nice resort in San Juan, Batangas. 🙂

I hate going down circular staircases, but they are wonderful to look at

Masungi Georeserve Travel Guide

I was finally able to visit Masungi Georeserve in February 2017 with friends new and old. The conservation area is so popular and there are only a number of visitors allowed per day which made it hard to reserve a slot. Read on to know how we made this trip possible and our experience during the trail 🙂

A great view just before the day turned cloudy and it started to rain

Trail Visit Request

Initially, I and the boyfriend planned to just join a group tour for Masungi Georeserve. But upon browsing through their Facebook page, I found out that the management doesn’t allow tour operators to re-sell schedules and there is a big chance that visitors won’t be allowed to enter the area if this is the case.

So I took went directly to Masungi Georeserve’s Trail Visit Request page to book our visit. I booked in November 2016 but all the slots were already taken until January 2017. I managed to find a slot for February 2017 so I grabbed that chance. At that time, it was only me and the boyfriend in the group. But since Masungi Georeserve only allows groups of 7-14 to visit, we had to find other companions to fill the group requirement.

The 13 weekend warriors of our group 🙂 One of my friends cancelled the same morning because she got sick 😦

So what to do? I posted a status on Facebook looking for folks to take up the vacant slots. Less than an hour later, the 14 slots were all taken with a few more friends asking if they can still join. I emailed the management to ask if more than 14 people will be allowed but they are strict with this guideline. If more people wanted to join, I had to book another trail visit request.

The total conservation fee for each guest at the time I booked was Php 1,400. This fee includes the services of a park ranger guide, helmet, light snacks after the trail, bag to be used during the trail and water. For 2017, Masungi Georeserve increased their fees to Php 1,500 for weekday visitors and Php 1,800 for weekend visitors.

Browsing through Masungi’s Facebook page, there are several complaints about the management not replying to emails. But I didn’t experience this at all. I received a notification saying that they’ve received my trail visit request and asked for the guests’ details (name, birthday and phone number). After I gave them this information, they asked me to make a 50% downpayment. They confirmed receipt of payment and my booking after paying the required amount.

A week before our visit, they emailed me again to confirm if we would indeed be going and to remind me to pay the remaining amount for our booking. They gave a final confirmation with the park guidelines and reminders after I paid the whole amount.

It was a smooth transaction for me. It took 1-3 days for them to reply but I was okay with that turn-around time.

Cosmos flowers were in bloom when we visited Masungi Georeserve. It was a lovely sight to behold. Beware of the bees though 😉

How to get there

Since all of us didn’t have a car, we decided to rent a van to take us to Masungi Georeserve. I inquired with several transport companies but they all quoted me from Php 4,500 to Php 5,000. Good thing my friend found Sir Chris on Facebook and he gave us a reasonable rate 🙂

All of us weren’t familiar with the way going to Masungi Georeserve but it was easy enough to find with the help of Waze. Travel time from Robinson’s Galleria took only around an hour. We were lucky there was no traffic then.

Discovery Trail

Upon arriving in Masungi Georeserve, a park ranger greeted us to get our names and to confirm if we were really scheduled for that day. There was a free parking area where the van and our driver could wait for us.

Path to Silungan from the parking lot

Steps going down to Silungan

We had to walk around 10-15 minutes from the gates to Silungan where we made final preparations for the climb and the staff gave us a briefing about the rules we had to follow. Two of these stuck with me the most: stick with the group at all times and no loud noise throughout the trail. We left our non-essential climb items at Silungan and borrowed bags we can use during the climb.

Waiting for the briefing at Silungan

It was a cloudy day and it was drizzling when we started our climb. I honestly preferred this weather instead of trekking under the bright sun.

Well-established trails in the conservation area

The first and shortest rope ladder along the trail. Save the nerves for the next ones. LOL

Our park ranger led us through well-established trails throughout the conservation area. We had to go through dirt paths, cemented walkways, steep stairs, caves, rope bridges and some rope ladders to get to the main features of the park.

We had to go through a few of these

I can’t count how many bridges we crossed throughout the trail

The first stop was at Sapot. This I think is the most famous attraction of Masungi Georeserve. I was so excited to finally be standing at the giant web. My balance was challenged the whole time though because the ropes were a bit slippery due to the rain.

Sapot

Lying down wasn’t very comfortable. LOL

The view from Sapot would have been amazing but the clouds blocked our view. We spent the most time here so everyone could get the perfect Instagram shot but our park ranger suddenly left us so we had no choice but to follow him to the next stop.

Green everywhere in Masungi Georeserve. Shot during the short intervals when the rain stopped

He reminded us that we were only allowed a specific amount of time for each stop so other groups can take their turn. The park rangers coordinate with each other through a radio so they know where each group is. When it’s time to move on to the next destination, the group has to follow. Those left behind will risk being lost in the forest or be bitten by snakes. Yikes! We apologized for our group not respecting the time and we continued on. They are very strict with following the guidelines, but it was for our sake and for the other guests as well.

We crossed a bridge to get to Patak which is an air house held up by thick ropes. According to our park ranger, there wasn’t a tree big enough to be able to hold up the house so they hung it with ropes instead.

Patak

Although Sapot was a sight to behold, my favorite part of the trail was Duyan. It is Masungi Georeserve’s giant hammock in the middle of the forest. To get there, we first had to climb down a long rope ladder. It looked scary at first but climbing down was relatively easy.

Climbing down to get to Duyan

There was another group lounging at Duyan when we got down. Their park ranger and the rest of their companions already left them but they still continued on with their photoshoot like they had all the time in the world. It was very irritating since they can see that we were already waiting for our turn and it was starting to rain hard. Our park ranger had to go to their spot and photobomb their shots until they decided to leave. Because of this, we only stayed for short while at Duyan for a water break and for our group shot.

There were hand grips to help us balance ourselves atop Duyan

Duyan

We were led to Yungib ni Ruben for a brief shelter from the rain. The cave was named after the park ranger who discovered the path in and out of the cave. The cave smelled of sampaguita flowers thanks to the scented candles inside the cave. These candles also served as our guide inside the cave.

Yungib ni Ruben

The rain was falling hard when we got to Tatay. It is the highest peak in the conservation area according to our park ranger. We only saw fog from the peak and a silhouette of Nanay which was our next destination. By this time, I was already soaking wet and shivering from the cold. I had no choice but to wear the rain poncho provided by Masungi Georeserve. I had to be extra careful while climbing though because the poncho got in the way of my movements.

Tatay

Nanay

Both Tatay and Nanay would have given a great view of the park and the surrounding areas, but we weren’t so lucky to see it. We loved the rain, but it reduced our visibility from the different vantage points of the park.

Nanay, some rain and plenty of fog

The last hurdle of the trail was Bayawak. If I thought the rope ladder going down Duyan was long, this was even longer. We were all very tired and hungry at this time. The thought of food was the only thing that kept us going.

Bayawak

Finally, our park ranger led us to the end point where light snacks were waiting for us. The egg sandwich, bananas and juice served to us were gone in 10 minutes. LOL.

Complimentary light snacks after the trail visit

Overall thoughts

We all had a great time exploring Masungi Georeserve. Even though it rained, it was part of what made our experience unique. The staff were all smiles and very attentive towards all the guests. I think the strictness of the implementation of the guidelines is necessary or else we’ll see empty bags of chips along the trail soon. We could all see how the area was well-preserved thanks to the hardworking people of Masungi Georeserve and through the cooperation of the guests.

At first, I felt that the conservation fee was too expensive but it was justified by the service and the beauty of Masungi Georeserve. The fees we pay go to the salary of the park’s staff and towards the conservation of the area. They are also continuously improving and adding facilities for the benefit of the guests which makes their price increase for 2017 a bit easier to accept. We saw another attraction in progress during the trail which made me want to go back in the future.

We wished there was a restaurant (which the park ranger told us is already in the works), a souvenir shop or even a certificate for the guests to remember their visit to Masungi Georeserve and a shower facility (but this is hard to build as water supply in the area is hard to come by). The last item wasn’t a big deal for us since it rained 90% of our climb. LOL.

I went to Masungi Georeserve mainly for the photos but I realized that it wasn’t just something you do for fun. It was an educational experience for all of us. And it made me more aware towards caring for the environment. 🙂

Ngiting-tagumpay after the 4-hour Masungi Georeserve experience!