Puerto Galera: DIY Itinerary and Expenses

A cancelled trip among friends to Southern Visayas made me consider going to Puerto Galera as an alternative. I initially wanted to push through with the cancelled trip even if it meant traveling solo, but the recent events in Marawi and Resorts World made me feel wary of going. The boyfriend offered to come with me but as it was a few days before our travel date, the airline prices were so expensive. So where to go without needing to get on a plane? My sister suggested Puerto Galera since she was there a few weeks ago. I was supposed to have 8 vacation days, but I shortened it to 4 days for Puerto Galera.

My Companion:

Good thing I have a kaladkarin boyfriend and is game for almost-last minute trips πŸ™‚

Sunset at Talipanan Beach

How to go to Puerto Galera from Metro Manila:

We headed to Jam Transit Terminal located in Cubao where we found buses headed to Batangas Port. It took us 3 hours to reach the port because we encountered Friday morning traffic in EDSA.

Upon reaching Batangas Port, there are a LOT of agents(?) who will forcefully pester you to avail their services. They don’t ask for money as it is their job to get customers for their respective shipping lines. They will guide you to their ticketing booth where you can buy tickets to Puerto Galera. We bought tickets to White Beach from Minolo Shipping Lines as they seemed to have the most favorable reviews online. We also had to pay a separate terminal fee.

Aboard the boat of Minolo Shipping Lines

While having the agents to guide you where to go once in Batangas Port is convenient, I advice you not to entrust your luggage to them. We made the mistake of not getting our bags fast enough and the agents who guided us wouldn’t give back our bags. After we bought the tickets, they went into the pasalubong center which I thought was on the way to the boarding area. But no. One of the agents asked us to buy overpriced and tasteless pasalubong from their stall. Only once we bought some that they gave our bags back. So persistent. And then we found out that the boarding area was in another building. Boyfriend and I wondered exactly what happened while we were waiting for our boarding call.

Muelle Bay

It is a 2-hour sea journey from the port for Puerto Galera. In our case, the boat stopped at Muelle Bay where free shuttles of Minolo were waiting to take us to White Beach. A stall was propped up near the docking area to collect environmental fees from the arriving passengers. The driver asked us where we would be staying and dropped each group to the nearest point in White Beach. Since we were staying in a different area, the driver texted our hotel to pick us up in White Beach. I didn’t have to text the hotel to inform them we’ve arrived.

Our Accommodation:

While searching for our accommodations, I considered these criteria: boyfriend wanted somewhere with a pool and I wanted somewhere not located in White Beach because I read that it can get noisy at night. I searched and searched until I found Tribal Hills Mountain Resort. Their promo page indicated that their off peak season rates are in effect (60% off). That made them within our budget range so I reserved a room immediately!

Tribal Hills Mountain Resort

I reserved through their email address. After a few pleasant email exchanges and paying the downpayment through Paypal, our room was already reserved πŸ™‚

The resort’s pool. A staff mans the poolside bar from 6 PM til midnight daily.

I loved the location of the resort. It is located on a hilltop offering a wonderful view of the surrounding hills from our terrace and of the beach from their Tree Tops restaurant. It was quiet and it felt like we were the only people there. Although I loved the location, I discovered that I hated going out of our room late at night. I encountered a few large frogs and grasshoppers on my way to the pool on the first night when I couldn’t sleep. They had me running back to our room immediately. LOL.

Standard double room

Terrace

The staff were also very attentive. Everytime we would leave our room, they would ask us if we needed anything or if we wanted to go to the beach. Since it was off peak season and they only have few guests, the drivers were always available to drop us off or to pick us up from the nearby beaches. The shuttle was free as long as the destination was White Beach, Aninuan Beach or Talipanan Beach.

Each room is also given a broadband device for the length of the stay. We could bring this even outside the resort. There is no signal inside the rooms though.

The food was delicious! They cook our orders from scratch so we had to wait longer than usual for our food to arrive but it is always worth the wait. πŸ™‚

Tree Tops Restaurant

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The 4D/3N Itinerary:

Day 1

We got to finally settle in our room at Tribal Hills at around 1 PM. We rested for about half an hour before we couldn’t ignore our growling stomachs anymore. We headed to Tree Tops Restaurant, ordered Bicol Epxress and requested the chef to make it super spicy. Eating late lunch with an awesome view of the beach and a tasty serving of Bicol Express was enough to recharge us.

Bicol Express

Our first and only destination of the day was Talipanan Beach. The shuttle took us to the nearest drop off point and we walked the rest of the way. The road was under construction and vehicles would have a hard time plying the uneven dirt road to Talipanan Beach.

A quiet afternoon in Talipanan Beach

An afternoon in Talipanan Beach is so serene. There were only a few people and the calm waters made it perfect for swimming. We just had to be careful not to go too far from the shore as there is a point where the water immediately becomes too deep. We both don’t know how to swim. LOL.

Luca Cucina Italiana

For dinner, we headed to Luca Cucina Italiana which was a well-known establishment in Talipanan Beach. The food is cooked by an Italian so the food is authentic and yummy πŸ™‚ We ate in the dark though since moths started coming in. We ordered the Lucas Pizza which was a bestseller according to the staff, and a plate of fries. The pizza was huge for just the 2 of us and we only finished half. We took the rest home to eat for breakfast the next day πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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

Sagada: DIY Itinerary and Expenses

Related Posts:

A Review of Coda Lines and PinoyTravel

Where to Stay in Sagada: Misty Lodge and Cafe

Where to Eat in Sagada

Sagada has been on my travel bucket list for a few years now. But the success of the movie That Thing Called Tadhana put Sagada on the radar of so many people which caused an influx of tourists to the town. So I let a few years pass by and chose a date that didn’t fall on a long weekend or holiday to enjoy Sagada with as few tourists as possible. Sagada on a Tuesday is so quiet compared to Sagada on a Saturday. I am very glad I gave up a couple of my vacation leave days to experience Sagada.

My Companion:

I and my boyfriend chose a date that was in between my birthday and our month anniversaryΒ  for our first trip together. We stayed in Sagada for 4 days so we can do all the tiring activities on the first 2 days and just relax on the second half of our trip.

Me and Francis :)

Me and Francis. Behind us is Bokong Falls πŸ™‚

Also, we chose not to join a packaged tour because we wanted to explore and enjoy Sagada at our own pace. We also didn’t monitor our spend so our itinerary and expenses below might come as a shock. LOL. We just wanted to enjoy Sagada and we don’t regret any of it.

How to go to Sagada from Metro Manila:

Coda Lines Corporation is (I think) the only bus company that offers direct trips to Sagada from Quezon City. Fare is Php 720 per way and they have daily trips to Sagada at 9pm. They are located at Monte de Piedad corner Maryland street in Cubao.

Their seats are very comfortable. We were able to sleep all throughout the trip to Sagada. We almost missed our stop because of this. LOL.

Coda Lines

Coda Lines

The comfy seats are highly appreciated for our 10-11 hour trip <3

The comfy seats are highly appreciated for our 10-11 hour trip ❀

Because they only have 1 daily schedule for Sagada, seats can fill up fast. So I reserved our seats a few weeks before our travel date through PinoyTravel. There is a booking fee but the convenience of not having to go to Coda Lines’ office made it worth it. πŸ™‚

I wrote a more comprehensive review of our experience with Coda Lines and PinoyTravel in a separate blog post.

Our Accommodation:

Our home away from home for 4 days and 3 nights in Sagada became Misty Lodge and Cafe. I found them on Facebook and their reviews were good. The clincher that made me book with them was their location. They are located outside of Sagada Town proper which meant that their place was quiet. Although I found that noise isn’t really a big issue as there is a 10pm curfew in Sagada. Their food is delicious and I’m salivating just thinking about it while I’m writing this.

Misty Lodge and Cafe

Misty Lodge and Cafe

The cafe

The cafe

An overnight stay in their room for 2 costs Php 700 per night with a common bathroom shared with other guests. We opted to stay in their cottage room which costs Php 1,500 per night. It had its own bathroom and a great view from the windows. Because the cottage is separated from the main house, we didn’t have to worry about disturbing other guests and lining up for a turn in the bathrooms. The cottage can accommodate up to 6 pax and the rates vary according to how many will people will stay in the room.

Misty's spacious cottage room for up to 6 pax

Misty’s spacious cottage room for up to 6 pax

Because we stayed at Misty for 4 days, I have a lot to say about the lodge. I wrote another blog post especially for Misty Lodge and Cafe πŸ™‚ Continue reading