Posts Tagged ‘‘philippines’

29
Dec
19

Philippines: Siargao’s Isla Cabana


IMG_0134Siargao, a tear-shaped island in central eastern Philippines, is famous for its surfing waves and is considered the country’s surfing capital.  However, my family’s first visit to Siargao was not for the surfing experience but to get a first hand look of what the island has to offer in addition to popular surfing.

 

 

20190122_122532We arrived on a flight from another island called Cebu. Two days prior to our flight, Siargao and Cebu were both in the path of a typhoon but it was downgraded into a tropical depression later so we arrived in Siargao with a very good weather.  We took a private van from the airport in Del Carmen that took us almost an hour to a resort in General Luna called Isla Cabana.

 

Isla Cabana

Siargao, in particular General Luna, has a variety of lodging options from the basic, cheap accommodations with shared bathrooms to mid-priced to exquisite resorts.  We were traveling with our two young girls aged two and three so we chose one of the better resorts in General Luna called Isla Cabana.

IMG_0131It was the infinity pool that made me choose the resort.  I recognized later that this same resort pool has been featured in Conde Nast Traveler’s article where Siargao was voted as the best island in Asia and in the world by its readers. The photo above was taken during low tide when the water recedes much to reveal a wider shore of powdery white sand.

 

 

SIARGAOOn one of those rare breakfast moments this side of the only restaurant in the resort facing the pool was shockingly empty so I requested one of the staff to take the above snapshot.

 

IMG_0140More snapshots of the empty pool area that would later be filled up with guests.

 

 

IMG_0154Another angle of the pool area.

 

 

IMG_0138At times I would come back to the pool area to have some rum coke hoping I would be able to snooze a bit.

 

 

IMG_0143Local craftsmanship is heavily showcased in the resort furniture like this lounge chair which I tried while sipping my rum coke.

 

 

IMG_0149Next it was time for the stronger long island iced tea and the scenery kept me awake!

 

 

20190122_135343This is the other resort pool just to the right of the restaurant and the infinity pool  area.

 

 

20190122_145616To the right of the infinity pool and restaurant is a cemented pathway that leads to the beach-fronting villas.

 

 

20190122_145605This is one of the beach-fronting villas in the resort.  Other lodging options in the resort would be villas with garden views that dot between the lobby area to the pool areas and the beach. There are also new rooms in the recently expanded section of the resort adjacent to the lobby.

 

 

20190122_140048The room we had was truly spacious and well-appointed.

 

 

20190124_105928In contrast with the touristy Cloud Nine area that is a great place to catch stunning sunsets,  Isla Cabana is located on the east side of the island facing east offering breathtaking sunrises like the one shown above.

 

 

 

20190124_110457The pool area is the best place to watch the magnificent sunrise after which you can have your breakfast right next in the restaurant.

 

 

20190124_105657It is also at this time that the pool is cleaned.

 

 

20190122_224203At night, one can just sit by the pool and watch the moon lights up the sky.

 

 

20190123_080622This was taken in front of the other pool area fronting the sea.

 

 

20190122_201401A lounge and entertainment area just next to the resort lobby is available for those who want activities outside their room but still within the resort.

 

 

20190122_201350Also a gym is available for that late night workout.

 

 

Outside The Resort

IMG_0147Surfing is the main draw of Siargao. Cloud Nine is where the high profile surfing happens and the area is located at an area north side of Isla Cabana.

 

 

20190123_093258Aside from surfing, another activity to do when in Siargao is to get into one of the boats and do island hopping.  One island hopping option is the tour to three islands called Naked Island, Daku (Big) Island and Goyam Island which I took alone with a boat man and his assistant. An entire boat that can take in up to 8 people would cost around 3,000 pesos or roughly $60 for the 3-island tour.  There are other tours that would take you to Sugba Lagoon and other famous spots around the island.

 

 

20190123_215627I took the photo above as we were approaching Naked Island.  There were some local tourists spending the mid-afternoon charm of the tiny islet.

 

 

Later I used my drone for the first time to take a video of Naked Island.

 

 

20190123_215610After half an hour we left Naked Island and set for Daku Island.  I only spent a few minutes in the big island because my drone ran out of battery, skipped Goyam and returned to the resort.

 

 

 

Food Experience

My eldest child was sick all the time when we were in Siargao so as much as her situation limited our roaming around the island, it also limited our food experience within the resort so I would review only our gourmet experience here.

 

Buffet breakfast is included in the room price so everyone takes breakfast in the resort’s only restaurant at the back of the infinity pool area. The wide variety of choices include widely Asian and Filipino plus continental.  The coffee was very good too, one that passed my standard as a straight black coffee drinker.

 

 

20190122_153917The ala carte menu for lunch and dinner include notable dishes that were done very well like the Thai Green Curry Chicken…..

 

 

20190122_154013…..Filipino noodles called pancit canton…..

 

 

20190122_153951…..Filipino lechon kawali (deep fried pork belly)…

 

 

IMG_0142 2….gambas Al Ajillo….

 

 

20190224_000004…..and the Indonesian rice dish, Nasi Goreng, with pieces of meat and vegetables added topped with fried egg.  I love fish so much but unfortunately no fish dishes were available due to the recent typhoon that passed through the island.

 

This pretty sums up our Siargao adventure that was limited to Isla Cabana and some island hopping.  There still so much to discover and much to be done like a trip to Sugba Lagoon and spending some time in Cloud Nine area and hopefully we can do those things the next time we visit the islands of Siargao again, God willing.

 

 

02
Mar
15

Philippines : PP Underground River


The Ultimate Underground River

Welcome to Palawan, the Philippines’ last frontier and home to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and also one of the World Heritage Sites in the country.
CSC_0231It is the world’s longest navigable underground river at 8.2 kilometers with a lot of amazing natural structures inside.

 

Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave.

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DSC_0207Avoid carrying plastic bags in the open as the monkeys tend to think they are food items and they could grab them. Otherwise they are harmless unless you touch them.
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At the cave’s opening, a lagoon with clear waters is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water’s edge.



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Up to 10 persons are allowed in a boat.  If you opt to have more privacy during the boat tour, you can nicely request the tour operators ahead of time to have your group take the entire boat.  This would also depend on the crowd waiting.  Our group of 5 people was allowed to take the entire boat.

 

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Upon entering the cave, the only light that you would have is the headlight of the boatman/tour guide. Unless you have your own powerful light, it is very difficult to rely on the boatman’s headlight for sights that you would like to capture on camera.  Most of the time even camera flash is not enough.  As we did not bring our own light, I tried my best to capture the sceneries where the headlight was currently focused.

 

Here are some of the things we captured:
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A female fish head with eyeliner.

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Tom and Jerry.
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Lady in boots and a panda.
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A giant garlic.
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The biggest chamber of the underground river is known as the cathedral which is halfway into the tour. (Credits to Geb Bunado for the cathedral photo.)
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Here you can find the giant candle among other statues.

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You can also spot Pegasus resting.

 

 

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You will then pass through the “highway”.

 

Normally, some few more meters after passing through the highway the tour will end.  However, if you request the boatman/tour guide to take you to the sea cow fossil, then it would be another mile beyond the normal tour route.  And we did exactly that!
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We were able to see the recently discovered fossil of the 20 million year old Sirenia, commonly know today as the Sea cow or Dugong, of the Miocene period which is plastered on a limestone wall.  This became the highlight of the underground river tour. On the way back, you will pass the same route that you had earlier and you will have another chance to take those photos again.

 


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Finally, we were out of the cave.
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It was an experience of a lifetime with my parents and friends visiting this natural wonder right in our home country.

 

 

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Goodbye PPUR!

 

I would like to share some things to consider when visiting PPUR.

 

when to go

To avoid extremely choppy boat rides, you need to visit the Underground River from December until May.

 

how to go

PPUR can only be reached via Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa.  Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia have one-hour flights from Manila to this laid back capital city that is the jump off point to many of Palawan’s other natural attractions like Honday Bay, El Nido, Taytay, Tabon and San Vicente.  You can check my blog here on the best places to go in Palawan.

From Puerto Princesa, there are a lot of vans that would take you from the airport to Sabang Beach in less than 2 hours.  From Sabang Beach terminal, a short walk away is the port where boats are docked that would take you to PPUR.  You need to get a ticket ahead of time as there is a limited number of visitors allowed per day. There are packages from travel agencies that would offer the PPUR tour for 1,200 pesos including the van from the airport to Sabang and back. You also need a licensed tour guide to go with you.  At the port you need to wait for your name or your group’s name to be called when you’re ready for boarding the boat.  The entire PPUR tour starting from the Sabang Beach port and back could be done in around 2 hours.
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This is the area where boats would load the passengers going to the Underground River.

 

 

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This is the future plan for the Sabang Wharf.

 

what to do

Sabang Beach is the gateway to the natural wonder.  You can either base yourself in Puerto Princesa or stay for one or two nights in Sabang Beach.  The few things you can do around Sabang Beach is to visit the Underground River, hang out at the quiet beach or ride the nearby zipline. If you are checked in at the two major resorts in Sabang Beach, they have a lot of resort facilities that you can use. I prefer staying just one or two nights in Sabang Beach because I would rather go back to Puerto Princesa area and spend time in nicer Dos Palmas in Honday Bay with almost the same rate.
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This is Sabang Beach right in front of the resort where we stayed which is discussed next.

 

where to stay and eat

If you opt to stay around Sabang Beach for a while and just want a really simple place to stay, you can select from the many inexpensive lodging houses lining the beach.  If you want a nicer place to stay, you can choose between the area’s only two major resorts, Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa and Daluyon Mountain & Beach Resort, a few steps away from each other.

 

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I have chosen Daluyon because of its more natural feel, native charm, eco-friendliness and slightly cheaper price than Sheridan.

 

 

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The air-conditioned rooms are all sea-facing and they are simply amazing where you can open the doors and windows for a more relaxed and airy feel.

 

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Cabana 102 was perfect for us.  They also have a three-bedroom suite that can accommodate 6 persons with private pool and dining area.

 

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Its common adult and kiddie pools at the back of the resort have the mountain view.

 

Sheridan is more contemporary.

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The resort has a really huge pool.

 

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If you like a modern place to stay then Sheridan would suit your needs.  Since our breakfast at Daluyon was complimentary, we tried having our lunch at Sheridan one time and the food was good.

 

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We also had some afternoon drinks at Sheridan too. There are other smaller and cheaper restaurants lining the shore that are alternative dining options and we enjoyed them too!

If you have any questions about this trip, you can leave me a message in the comment section with your email or you can email me directly at eaniban@yahoo.com.
27
Apr
14

Philippines: My Top Boracay Experiences


Boracay

in central Philippines has been consistently voted as one of the world’s best islands, having one of the world’s best beaches.  In 2012, it once again went to the top of such listing, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Islands, only to be toppled to the second spot in 2013 by another Philippine island, Palawan.  Nevertheless, Boracay still awes first time and repeat visitors alike especially during the best times to visit it, December to April.  Even with numerous visits to Boracay, I am always amazed every time I am swimming in White Beach’s amazingly clear waters and lazing on White Beach’s powdery sand, the softest white sand I have ever seen.

I first visited Boracay in 1996.  From then on, I have always come back to have a different experience of the famed island. Yes, I could say it is crowded nowadays compared to 10 or 15 years ago but its natural beauty still amazes me. So I have come up with my favorite Boracay experiences with matching snapshots taken during my different visits to the amazing island.

1.  VIEWING BORACAY FROM ABOVE 

Boracay can be reached from Kalibo where bigger planes can land after which you take a van or bus to travel to Caticlan jetty for 1.5-2.0 hours.  The easier but usually fully booked and more expensive way is to take smaller planes to Caticlan airport directly from Manila.  If you are in the right time, right seat and right side of the plane, you can view the island from above before landing.

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The 4-mile beach of blindingly white, soft sand, just overwhelms me every time I get the chance to experience this view.

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A closer look would reveal an almost saturated development but this does not stop me from enjoying Boracay.

2.  CAPTURING PICTURESQUE SCENERIES OF WHITE BEACH   

White Beach is Boracay’s gem. The beach has the softest and finest white sand most people would have seen.  It keeps its cool even on hot summer days. The best time in the morning to take stunning photos of White Beach are from 9 am to 11am.

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One of my favorite spots to take snapshots of White Beach is at the area in front of Pearl of the Pacific. It is just past Willy’s Rock where there is always a huge crowd gathered and before Discovery Shores which is also crowded most of the time.  The area around Boracay Terraces after Friday’s is also not a bad option.

3. SUNSET WATCHING

Boracay has been listed as one of the world’s top places to watch sunsets. You can do anything you like during day time but by late afternoon, you ought to be at White Beach to watch the glorious sunsets.  Bars and restaurants offer buy one take one drink promotions as early as 3p.m. until 8p.m.

DSC_1011DSC_0227DSC_0122DSC_0909DSC_0866DSC_0867My favorite spots to be sipping cocktails or ice cold beer at rock bottom prices while watching the sun disappears in the horizon are Friday’s, Jony’s (second level) and Discovery Shores (if not very crowded).  You can actually just sit down on the shore along the 4-mile long beach but you have to battle your way through the sunset crowd to get the best spots.  Of course, you can also opt to go up to Mount Luho as I did one time but personally, I still prefer to be on White beach during sunset.

4. LAZING AT PUKA BEACH

White Beach may have the crown but Puka Beach still gets my attention.  Here, I would spend my time adding pages to my book alternating my drinks between fresh coconut juice and San Mig Light beer.  This is also where I stay to get away from the madding crowd of White Beach. The sand is coarser and the beach slope is steeper but I always get the solitude I need on this beach. It is just a 15-min, 150-peso tricycle drive away from White Beach.

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There are no resorts in Puka Beach and I only have my favorite restaurant, Puka Grande, there.  A bar adjacent to it just recently opened.  Also, a 10-min walk to the west, is a small kiosk selling drinks and peanuts in front of a huge area that is sometimes used by Shangri-la for its corporate events.  There are beach huts and benches that are available for rent.

5. MASSAGE & TIRTA SPA

Sure, I would always enjoy every minute of the 300-peso, 60-min massage right on White Beach and I do not have problems with the experienced therapists who perform the traditional Filipino “hilot” on me.  However, when I have the budget, I take one of the packages offered by the multi-awarded Tirta Spa Boracay.   Yes, it is not one of those cheap spas and it is certainly more expensive than those beach massage but trust me, from the oil they use to the ambiance to the therapists, everything contributes to make an unforgettable experience and a service that is always impeccable and worth your bucks. I have visited the spa twice already and I have always come out refreshed.   They have not been awarded for the third straight year as the Day Spa of the World for nothing.

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You will be ushered into one of these villas where you will have a world of your own.

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Choosing oil is an important part of the process as it will set the mood throughout the massage session.

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An Egyptian milk bath in a tub filled with exotic flowers will prepare your skin for the massage.

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Yes, you can have some banana fritters and kalamansi juice.

DSC_0305Next is the vichy shower experience. A Vichy shower is a metal arm with five to seven shoarallel to a cushioned treatment table, so you can get a shower while lying down

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And it is time for that relaxing massage.

6.  FOOD 

Whether is it the biggest burger in the island or the sumptuous Italian and Mediterranean dishes or the fresh seafood, I simply love the food in Boracay.

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Just for experience I ordered the biggest burger in Boracay at Nigi Nigi and it was juicy and huge.

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The seafood risotto at the Ambassador in Paradise also caught my attention.

DSC_0551One of my hotel experiences in Boracay was at Shangri-la’s Vintana where I had lunch with my family  DSC_0549after watching a Pacquiao DSC_0550 match at the hotel’s Entertainment Centre.

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The best dining experience for me would always be at the D’Talipapa where one can choose fresh seafoods to be cooked in one of the nearby restaurants. Fresh fish, lobster and prawns just amazingly abound.

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The best fruit shakes are made by Jonah’s and probably Jony’s comes in a strong second.

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Anyway, Jonah’s also offers delectable Filipino cuisine such as longsilog, tapsilog and all the other “-log”.

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Finally, I would never visit Puka Beach without having lunch at the long standing restaurant in that area, Puka Beach Restaurant.  I always order the reasonably -priced fried grouper and fresh coconut juice.

7.  NIGHTLIFE 

Boracay has been voted as one of the top party beaches in the world even beating perennial favorites like Ibiza in Spain, Kuta Beach in Bali and South Beach in Miami!

“When night falls, this incredible beach comes to life. There are amazing fire dance shows and fireworks, live bands and parties that last from dusk until dawn. There’s a great variety of clubs and bars along the beach, so no matter what kind of music you’re interested in, you’ll find a great place to hang out where the dance floor is never empty.”  – Huffington Post

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Top places to hangout at night in Boracay are Club Summer Place, Epic Bar and Club Paraw.  There are also countless choices of acoustic bands playing pop, reggae and rock. Station 2 is the center of Boracay’s nightlife.

8. WATCHING WEDDINGS AT FRIDAYS

Boracay is a very popular wedding venue.

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Since my friends and I watch sunset at Friday’s Boracay most of the time, we always had the chance to watch countless weddings took place in the resort.

9. SPENDING NEW YEAR’S EVE

This could be quite an expensive experience if this will not be planned a year or months earlier as most hotels are charging higher than any time during the year and flights are at its most expensive too. Thank God, even if my first New Year’s Eve trip to Boracay was hastily planned, my friend was able to secure a room at his friend’s place in Boracay and he was able to tag me along and oh yes, we wisely took a boat from Batangas pier direct to Caticlan for just less than a thousand pesos, one way. It was my first time to take the boat to Boracay and my first also to spend New Year’s Eve. It was absolutely amazing.

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10. FALLING IN LOVE WITH BORACAY

Despite negative things being said about Boracay, I will always be coming back and loving this amazing island.  I am always amazed at how beautiful the island is as if every time is always my first time.

Lately, concrete fences within 50 meters from the shore have been torn down to give a more natural beachfront ambiance. I just encourage everyone to be responsible in everything they do in the island as God has given us this amazing island to enjoy and not to destroy.

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12
Apr
14

Philippines : Kalanggaman Island, Again!


Kalanggaman is a stunning Philippine island destination located between Leyte and Cebu. During my  first visit to the island in 2011 the town of Palompon in Leyte served as our jump off point to Kalanggaman.  In 2013, I planned my second trip to the island from Malapascua in Cebu where I was spending holidays with my friends, a Dutch and Filipina couple, with their two adorable kids.  I wanted them to experience the island too.

IMG_7331It was a lovely day as we left our base, Malapascua Island in Cebu.

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We took a boat right in front of our beachfront hotel.

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Oh yes, we were all excited. Our boat was small so it took us around one and a half hours to reach the island.  A bigger boat can reach the island from Malapascua in one hour or less.

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The approach to the island gave me goosebumps.  The aquamarine waters around the island were stunningly clear.  The eastern sandbar was visible creating a thin white line along the horizon.

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The sun was almost mid-morning high and it made the stunning sandbar shimmered as we passed through it. I was caught between fainting and taking the perfect shot of the breathtaking view while the boat was drifting fast, curving the sandbar towards the northern shore.
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And this was the end of the sandbar.
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The north shore approach was also thrilling because of the glass-like waters.
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Finally, a signage of the island.  It was not there yet two years ago.
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As usual we situated ourselves near the northern beach.
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The scenery was just a feast to the eyes!
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And it was time to dip in the crystal clear waters!
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Then it was time to take our lunch.  The tour  operator included our food in the tour package. Chairs and tables were available for rent.
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After lunch, we rested for a while and the sandbar caught my attention again.
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The next activity was to take that long walk to the end of the sandbar.
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It was time to take my self shot on the sandbar.
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A few more minutes and I would be at the end of the island.
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Finally I reached the end of the sandbar.  My camera stand was not with me so I positioned the camera on top of a coconut husk, set the timer on, ran to the side of the  sandbar and  this photo was created.  Me and my favorite little island in the Philippines!
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It was already past noon time and with the sun slowly venturing down to the west, I went back to the main shore as we prepared to leave.
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We approached Malapascua as the sun was setting.
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As we reached Malapascua and alighted from the boat we were treated to a stunning display of yellow, pink, red-orange and purple in the skies.
I’d love to take this Malapascua route again to Kalanggaman, an island that I will never get tired of visiting.  My every visit to the island is always entirely a different experience.
Click HERE for my first visit to Kalanggaman in 2011 where we experienced an unbelievable sunset when we had an overnight stay in the island.



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