A Day at Minalungao National Park

The sudden announcement of a 4-day weekend due to to ASEAN summit was such a pleasant surprise for me. I immediately thought of where I can spend it but I had limited budget at the time. After much thought, I decided to go somewhere near Manila for a day tour and spend the rest of the long weekend relaxing at home.

My Companion:

Good thing the boyfriend was game when I suggested that we go check out Minalungao National Park for a day. We have never been there before, so naturally we were both excited to see the place.

Boyfriend didn’t want to be in this photo because of the flowers in the background 😀

How to get there:

We arrived at Five Star’s bus terminal at 4 AM. We underestimated the long weekend rush so we had to wait for a bus to Gapan for over an hour. We also checked the other bus terminal along EDSA, but the lines to Gapan were longer there. It was pure luck when an empty Cisco bus to Gapan arrived and we were the first one to get on it.

The fare Php 150 each. After paying the conductor, we slept for the whole 3 hours of the journey to Gapan.

Our Tour Guide:

Visitors to Minalungao National Park don’t really need a guide, but we opted for guides because we wanted a hassle-free trip and we wanted to do all the activities in the park. While searching for information about Minalungao, I stumbled upon the Facebook page of Sir Darine. He comes highly recommended by travel bloggers and visitors of Minalungao.

I sent a message on Facebook inquiring about the tour packages and I chose to avail the complete package for Php 999 per person. This included:

  • Transportation – Gapan-Minalungao National Park-Gapan
  • Entrance fee
  • Registration fee
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Life vest
  • Complete tour of Minalungao
  • Services of a tour guide
  • Toilet & shower fees
  • Rental of a floating cottage – if there are 3 or more people availing the package

When we came, Sir Darine had to take care of another group of visitors so he assigned Sir Kim to us. I loved the practice of Sir Darine and his group prior to our arrival. They were in constant communication with us since the night before our visit to confirm our departure from Manila, where we were, where to alight in Gapan and other useful tips for us 🙂

From Gapan, it was another hour to Minalungao National Park via tricycle. It was long but good thing we stopped halfway to eat some breakfast.

Things to do in Minalungao National Park:

  1. Cross the hanging bridge. The bridge offers a view of Minalungao National Park in all its beauty so this is a must do. Crossing the bridge is really unavoidable since this leads to the hotel, the 1000 Steps to the shrine and the zipline.

    View of Minalungao National Park from the hanging bridge

  2. Go up 1000 steps to see the shrine. This was such a big challenge for my knees. LOL. Sir Kim reminded us to buy water for our trek to the top. I was appreciative of this because the sun was already shining brightly. There wasn’t even a cool breeze in the summit. The shrine at the very end of the 1000 steps was a good place to meditate, pray and take in the view. But the other visitors were so loud and rowdy while taking their selfies.

    I wish there were numbers to tell me how many more steps I have to take before I reach the end.

    The giant cross at the end of the 1000 steps

  3. Explore the caves. It took us less than 10 minutes to explore the entirety of the caves in Minalungao. I wished that I could have stayed inside longer because it was so cool but there was a long line of visitors waiting for their turn in the caves.

    Spelunking for 10 minutes 🙂

  4. Rent a kayak. Visitors can rent a kayak for Php 200 per hour. Renters should leave their IDs at the shop and they can claim it at the end of the hour. Our relationship almost ended because of this. LOL. Boyfriend and I spent almost half the time arguing over how to properly row and navigate the kayak. In the end, I just let him steer for the 2 of us. 😀

    I let the boyfriend do all the work so we wouldn’t fight anymore. LOL.

  5. Rent a floating cottage. For those wanting to rent a floating cottage a take a cruise along Penaranda River, it’s best to arrive early in the morning so you can have the best location for swimming. I wanted to go on a floating cottage even if it was just the 2 of us, but Sir Kim discouraged us. Aside from the long lines of people wanting to rent a cottage, the river was already crowded that maneuvering it along the river would be next to impossible. Hence, we rented a kayak instead.

    Countless floating cottages along Penaranda River

  6. Swim! We looked for the shallower part of the river for swimming. The water was clean and clear, but not really refreshing. I was expecting the water to be cool but it was in fact, warm 😦

    There is a lifeguard constantly on watch to reprimand guests not wearing a life vest while swimming.

    Clear waters. But I wish it was colder.

  7. Go on a food trip. I was surprised to discover that there were a lot of restaurants and stall in the park offering different food and snacks. Boyfriend and I chose to try the different snacks when we got tired of swimming. Also the lunch prepared for us was very delicious ❤

    Both the barbecue and sinigang ng hipon were so yummy! ❤

  8. Ride the zipline. We opted not to do this since we convinced ourselves that the view is just the same from the hanging bridge. There were many people who rode this throughout the day though. The rate for a 2-way zipline ride is Php 200.

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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

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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