A day trip to Don Salvador Benedicto

In the highlands of Negros Occidental, there is a small landlocked municipality that, by virtue of its location, is gifted with cool breezes and with a significantly lower temperature than the surrounding lowlands.  This is Don Salvador Benedicto, named after a former vice governor of the province, who distinguished himself during World War II.  The municipality is one of the youngest in the province carved out of 2 older ones, and was formerly a hotspot for armed conflict between government forces and communist rebels.  This is all in the past as peace and local governance has stabilized the place and it has since been designated as Negros Occidental’s summer capital. Continue reading

Enjoying the GoPro bandwagon

(Photo courtesy of Ann Umaña.)

Sometime late last year, Ann purchased a GoPro camera with its matching extendable, hand-held monopod. Since then, we’ve been using it more often than any of our other cameras because the GoPro can literally be brought everywhere and a photo (or rather, selfie) can be taken at almost any angle imaginable.  In this photo, we were using it to take photos of ourselves at Camp John Hay’s TreeTop Adventure.  I hold the monopod and camera, while Ann snaps away using the remote control.

Exploring Mambukal’s 7 falls

Mambukal Resort in the neighboring municipality of Murcia is probably the most popular day trip destination for those who live in Bacolod.  It’s actually quite old, dating back to 1927, when it first opened its gates to the public.  Originally designed by Kokichi Paul Ishiwata – a Christian Japanese – the resort is now ran by the provincial government.  Because it’s located in at the foothills of Mt. Kanlaon, the area is dotted by hot sulfur springs and waterfalls. Continue reading

“The Ruins” in Talisay, and a detour to Bacolod

“Talisay” is the name of a type of tree, and is also a pretty common place-name in the Philippines.  As far as i know, there are 2 cities and 2 municipalities that are known by this name in Negros Occidental, Cebu, Batangas and Camarines Norte, respectively.  What sets apart the Talisay of Negros Occidental is undoubtedly the remains of the building formerly known as the Mariano Ledesma Lacson Mansion, now referred to as “The Ruins”.  Talisay is adjacent to both Silay and Bacolod and I planned to spend the afternoon viewing The Ruins. Continue reading

The heritage district of Silay

When one flies to Bacolod City, one doesn’t really land in any airport within Bacolod.  Like most airports named after major cities, they’re usually actually located in a neighboring city or municipality where there’s much more open space.  This is the case with the “Dumaguete Airport” located in Sibulan, the former “Manila International Airport” located in Parañaque, the “Iloilo Airport” located in Cabatuan, and of course, the Bacolod Airport, which is located in the city of Silay. Continue reading

Year-end climb: Mt. Kinabalu

Photo courtesy of Ann Umaña

Last December 1 & 2, 2013, my girlfriend, Ann, and I climbed Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. Although reputed to be the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, it’s actually just the highest in archipelagic Southeast Asia because Myanmar in the Asian mainland occupies a portion of the Himalayas, which has peaks much higher than Mt. Kinabalu.

We were supposed to climb another mountain back here in the Philippines (Mt. Bulusan) as our year-end climb, but Mt. Kinabalu got us both physically and mentally exhausted that we agreed to not climb mountains anytime soon after. As usual, expect me to blog about this about a year from now as it’s now officially placed in the blog backlog.

Myanmar travel guide for Filipinos 3: Everything Bagan

Sunrise over Bagan. (Photo courtesy of Ann Umaña.)

More often than not, Bagan is the highlight of any tourist’s Myanmar itinerary. Like most tourist spots in the country, it was once a royal capital in the olden days of the First Burmese Empire. Its main feature are the thousands of pagodas of various sizes that dot a vast plain adjacent to the Ayeyarwaddy River. Continue reading

Myanmar travel guide for Filipinos 2: Everything Yangon

(Photo courtesy of Ann Umaña.)

I realized that a general travel guide would not enable me to say everything I want to share regarding traveling within Myanmar.  So I thought of creating this supplement to provide some helpful tips that are unique to some specific areas in the country.  In our 7-day trip, we were able to visit 3 of the top 4 tourist destinations in Myanmar.  These are Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay.  Together with Inle Lake (which we were not able to visit) they are collectively known as the “Big 4″ of Burmese tourism. Continue reading

Myanmar travel guide for Filipinos 1: Pre-departure and general concerns

I decided to leapfrog over a year’s worth of pending drafts and backlog to create this Myanmar travel guide primarily for 2 reasons: (1) I want to do this while all details of the trip are still fresh in my mind.  A few months from now, I would have already forgotten half of them and more so if I let a year pass without writing down anything.  And (2) I want to come up with a guide that is still relevant.  As I mentioned before, a lot of changes are happening in Myanmar, and at a fast pace at that.  It would be pretty much a waste of time to make a travel guide no one can use. Continue reading