A Travellerspoint blog

Historical Trip to Corregidor

A visit to one of the most historic islands in the Philippines

semi-overcast 32 °C

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At the mouth of the Manila Bay lies one of the most historically-rich island in the Philippines. And I was very glad to be able to set foot on this tadpole shaped island that had once become Manila's last stand during the World War II. It is the 'Rock' on Manila Bay, Corregidor.

Corregidor, or the 'corrector' in Spanish, served as the first stop for galleon ships seeking entry to Manila. Trader's had to aboard the island to have their cargoes checked before being allowed to dock the port of Manila. Since then this island had become an important first line of defense for Manila. In the early 1900s, the island was used by the American forces as one of their army posts in defense of the region specially during the WWII.

On June 18 of 2006, I together with two other colleagues and an American client and friend was given the opportunity of visiting this historic place. It was our tradition in our office to take time to tour our American visitors to different destinations near Manila. And, I was always asked to come as I was the most organized in the group to arrange trips. Maybe because I love to travel.

Anyways, I booked ourselves with Sun Cruises which mainly offers daily trips to the island. Inclusive of the ferry transport, buffet lunch, travel tours, and entrance fees, their Day package costs P1,999. Their main terminal can be found at CCP Terminal A at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex, Manila. Their daily trips leave the terminal every 8:00 am, but passengers are advised to come in at least 30mins prior especially if their checking in some luggages for overnight tours.

And so, we picked up our American friend from her hotel at Shangri-La Makati around 6:30am and drove to CCP to catch our trip. At around 7:30 we were asked to board the ferry. The ferry is similar to what SuperCat uses which is airconditioned and is a fast-craft. The ferry ride is about an hour long and many of the passengers on board were tourists from different countries. Prior to leaving port, safety regulations were broadcasted on its TV screens. During the ride, continually the TV screens flash different Philippine tourism ads that I haven't seen anywhere yet.

At around 9:00 am, we dock on Corregidor which is part of the province of Cavite. And when we alight the ferry, we were escorted to ride on four trams which looked like jeepneys but have seats that not parallel to each other. On each tram, a tour guide is assigned to us. A separate tram was alloted for the Japanese tourists for a Japanese speaking guide. Another tram was alloted for a big group of Malaysian tourists on that day as well. And so, the remaining two trams were for the other visitors that are English-speaking. Well this is one of the first domestic trip that I took that I really felt like a tourists like I was visiting a foreign destination.

The tram ride was provided for all guests to allow tourists to see most of the island which is divided into 3 section, the Topside, Middleside, and the Bottomside or the tail end. We began the trip from the Middleside section at the South Dock. And from there we start our trip to the Topside section. We first stopped by McArthur Park to commemorate the return of General Douglas McArthur to the Philippines to fight against the Japanese during WWII. The park has a monument of McArthur waving his arm in his arrival to the Philippines. Then next we stopped on a high point with a view of the bay and Caballo island. A view of El Fraile, also known as Fort Drum which is an armored island made by the Americans is on sight.

Next stop is a memorial for the Philippine revolution, I forgot what it was called but its a white and low structure with bronze murals in front depicting events of the Philippine revolution. Also it had the monument of Manuel Quezon in the center. Inside it is a museum. It has a miniature of the whole island to give visitors an idea of topography of the place.

Then afterwards, our tram proceeded to the Japanese memorial where cannons that date back the war period are positioned facing the open sea. It also has a big statue of a lady Buddha. After these we head to the main tunnel of the island. A tunnel network was dug in the island to provide shelter from bombs dropped to the island. The main tunnel is known as the Malinta Tunnel and on this tunnel they feature a light and sound show featuring the events that occurred during WWII on the island. At this point, tourists who have paid for the show are asked to come down the tram. And since we were already there, we paid an addition P150 each for the show. When it was time to get in, we all lined up to slowly enter the dark, humid tunnel. The tourist guides had to wait for the gate to be closed before proceeding with the show. Inside they have human figures to depict each event supported by lights and sound. The whole tunnel is about 200 meters long and it was very humid then so we were sweating all through the show. They also showed a portion of a tunnel inside the tunnel that leads to other networks of tunnels, some have already collapsed. According to our guide, for night tours they enter these network tunnels.

After that sweaty show, we now proceeded to have our buffet lunch on the other end of the tunnel. We were brought by our tram to the hotel at a high point with views of tunnel and the see. We were served with a sumptous set of meals from roast beef to vegetables.

After lunch, our tram tour brought us to the spot where the big cannons are located. These big cannons are housed in structures that are not scarred by bullets shot by Japanese planes. On this spot, we took the chance of taking picture of this big cannons, climbing on them to show how big they are compared to us. There is their biggest cannon on the island which is about 30 feet long in my estimate or even longer. And beside the cannon is a big crater which our guide said was made by bomb dropped by planes. On our way to this battle station, we have also passed by ruins of two barracks that were damaged by the war.

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And next we come by the more famous spot on the island, the ruins of the Mile Long Barracks, which as its name says is a mile-long barracks for soldiers. This was damaged and burned during the war. And on that site is an area where you'd see other ruins of the barracks of officers as well including a theater. Our tram took a longer stop on this site since another memorial is also situated here, the Pacific War Memorial.

At the entrance of the Pacific War Memorial is a monument depicting a Filipino soldier helping a wounded American soldier. This commemorates the united effort of the Philippine and American forces against the invading Japanese Empire. Then inside is a dome shaped structure with an hole in the center and a circular table in the middle also to commemorate the war casualties. In this memorial, names of the soldiers who died in the war are listed on the walls. and on the south end is a monument depicting a flame. The south end also has the view of the tail end of the island. After that we passed by the Spanish Lighthouse before heading back to the port for our trip back to Manila.

Overall, it was a great experience to set foot on such a historic island and to experience being a tourist in my own country.

For my other travel blogs, please do visit my PauTravels site at http://www.pautravels.com

Posted by pau_p1 07:28 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Trip to Sagada

sunny 10 °C

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On the night of Christmas 2006, me and 3 relatives went to the beautiful and enchanted mountains of the Ifugao. We stayed in Banaue Hotel under a tour package provided by the Philippine Tourism Authority. On our 2nd day of stay in Banaue, as part of our tour package, we travel to another off-the-beaten-track tourist destination, Sagada.

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Sagada, is a small town in the Mountain Province, in the midst of the Cordillera Mountain Range on the island of Luzon, Philippines. Sagada is about 3 hours drive north of Banaue through zigzaged and rough roads on the steep mountain sides of Cordillera. Sagada is a well known tourist destination for its underground caves and the hanging coffins. Around the town's limestone cliffs, wooden coffins can be found hanging by the cliff side. It was a burial tradition performed by local tribes that inhabit the mountains.
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The drive to the place is quite long and a bit tiring but the mountain areas that you'll pass by is amazing and very beautiful. You'll pass by rice terraces, vegetable terraces and pine-fill mountains. Driving thru the dirt road will make you feel like you're on top of the world. Along the path, we passed the town of Bontoc, the capital of the province around 11am. Our guide informed us that we'll proceed to the Sagada Cave first since there will be more tourist flocking the cave by noon and afterwards.

On arrival to Sagada, our tour guide brought us to the town hall to register and pay a small amount for the environmental fee. The charge it to keep their site clean and safe for tourists. After paying, we were told by our guide that we should make ourselves ready to get wet. Really get wet, upto the waist. And so, we decided to buy a pair of slippers and put our wallets and cellphones into water-tight plastic bags.

And so, we head on to the caves, which is a short ride from the town hall. On the way to the cave, we saw some of the hanging coffin sites. And when we got there, we had to walk done a number of steps to reach the mouth of the cave. The cave was deep and some parts are slippery, so we are told to take care. Inside the cave, lines of tourists are walking down the trail with their guides holding their lamplights. Without the lamplights, the place is pitch black. It was cold inside and has a lot of pools the are filled by water dripping down from the cave's ceiling. Getting in the cave, you'll have to make use of your hands and feet as there are areas where you'll crawl the cave wall or grab ropes to let you cross deep crevices. We had to wade, waist deep on some parts or crawl through narrow passageways. It was exhausting. But when we got into the deepest part of the cave, it was a great achievement. It was beautiful! Well, after a few picture sessions, we again start our way up, passing through the same path that we went through. We had to take a breather when we got back to the cave's mouth.

After that cave, we move to another one but only walked down upto the its mouth where dozens of wooden coffins are stacked by the cave's entrance. We took some pictures and head back to the town center for lunch.
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After having lunch, we start our way back to Banaue but we made a short stop at Bontoc to see the Bontoc Museum. The museum features pictures of the Ifugao, Igorot and Aeta tribes who lived on these mountains long before the Spanish came. It also features different ornaments and idols made by these tribes. There are also the different replicas of the typical tribal houses.

That day was a long one and exhausting, but it was one of the travels that I made that I'll always remember. Including our way back through the rough, zigzaged road to Banaue. On our way back, we were caught by darkness as night fell. The road being challenging as it is in day time has become more challenging as there were no lights and the clouds began to engulf the road. It was a creepy road but luckily we made it safely.

For my other travel blogs, please do visit my PauTravels site at http://www.pautravels.com

Posted by pau_p1 16:21 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Trip to Banaue

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View My Philippine Vacation trips on pau_p1's travel map.

Christmas last year (2006), my wife, two cousins, and myself embarked on a journey to visit a land among the mountains, the land of the Ifugaos.
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Through the Philippine Tourism Authority, we have procured a travel package to see two Philippine tourist destination that are found off-the-beaten track. We took a 3-day/2-night travel package to see Banaue, Bontoc, and Sagada. The package includes transport from Banaue to Sagada and back via Bontoc, breakfast and a packed lunch for the Sagada trip, tour guide, accomodation, and some souvenirs.


Banaue is situated in the mountainous province of Ifugao, around 10 hour bus ride north of Manila. This is also the site of the majestic Banaue Rice Terraces which are rice paddies terraced on the mountain sides. These have been carved by the Ifugao tribes for thousands of years, even before the Spanish colonization. These are also composed of four UNESCO world heritage sites.

Only two bus companies offer trips from Manila and Banaue, Autobus and Dangwa. We opted to take Autobus from their EspaƱa Blvd bus terminal. We got the 10pm trip. This was the only trip for the night and so it was packed by people mostly locals. We also noticed about 10 foreign tourists. Around 7am of the 26th, we arrived at the Banaue terminal. We took a tricycle to take us to our hotel, Banaue Hotel.
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Banaue is in the midst of the Cordillera Mountain range about 6 hours away from Baguio City. It was very foggy when we came and it was cold, about 16 degrees Celcius. You'd feel like walking among the clouds.

We noticed that some of the passengers of the bus we took are checking in the same hotel. Anyways, Banaue hotel is maintained by the Philippine Tourism Authority. After getting settled in our hotel, we decided to have a walk and do a little shopping. We went to one of the viewing point in the area which was south of the hotel. It is about 15 minutes tricycle ride passing by the town's center.

While my group does their shopping from replicas of idols to local food, I went on taking pictures of the place. The view was awesome, breath-taking. The Ifugaos really did a great job on carving the whole mountain range into stair-like rice paddies.which starts from below to the tip of the mountains. On the viewing area, there are some old Ifugao locals there sitting on the ground and chewing their betel nut. We thought of taking a picture with them which they are happy to do so. We rented some head-dresses, adorned with rooster feathers to match their outfit. It was a great picture with them and a partial view of their ancestral farming area. Each head-dress costs Php10 (US$0.25) for picture taking. We also just gave the Ifugao women some cash for taking the picture with us.
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After that, we walked back to the hotel to meet our tour guide who brought us to 4 different viewpoints within Banaue. Each featuring a great vantage point of this centuries old rice terraces. Our last destination of the day was in the Banaue Museum which is just in a private house. The museum faces a whole mountain side of terraced rice paddies. One thing that we noticed and quite felt sad was that many of this rice areas are not longer tilled by the Ifugaos. Vegetation has already taken up some of the older planting areas. This was, according to the museum curator, due to economic concerns where the young Ifugao no longer dream of planting rice but instead go to the cities to work or just work as tourist people. The place is getting endangered as years passed by. Also the curator showed us an old picture of the terraces which was taken by its discoverer where you'd see the whole mountain terraced without any other vegetation. And it is more vast unlike today where vegetation and population has taken over some of the old planting areas.

After our long viewpoint hopping, we went back to our hotel and took some rest. And that night at 8pm, a tribal show was performed at the lobby area. The local Ifugaos performed different dances from war dances, to courting dances, to wedding dances. It was a great experience. They also encouraged their visitors to join them in their dances.
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On our next day, we continue our tour to Sagada in Mountain Province. This will be on my next blog. On our last day, we decided to walk to the Ifugao village just behind the hotel. There we were able to walk into the rice fields and talk to the locals there. They also let us wear their tribal costumes and take a picture with the skeleton of their elder.

Anyways, if we had time, I wish we could have gone to the Batad section of the rice terraces. According to people and travel guides, it is a lot more beautiful and a lot more preserved compared to the view sites that we went to near the town of Banaue. We didn't opt to take it because it would entail us to walk for an hour and a half to get into the site. Anyways, there's always a next time.

For my other travel blogs, please do visit my PauTravels site at http://www.pautravels.com

Posted by pau_p1 02:41 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Cruising by Ha Long Bay

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My very first international travel flew me to this exotic country that was caught in the midst of war a few decades ago. In October 8, 2003 thru my work, my company sent me to Hanoi, Vietnam for a whole month. Hanoi, is the capital of this socialist republic and is situated on the northern part of what used to be the communist North Vietnam. Famous spots in Hanoi includes the Hoan Kiem Lake which is in the center of the city. Within Hanoi is the old French Quarters which is basically a section of the city filled with French architecture that was left by the long French occupation, including the Hanoi Opera House. Also, here you can visit the frozen tomb of Vietnam's national hero, Ho Chi Minh.

During my long stay in Vietnam, I, with 2 lady friends planned on going into this serene place and is one of UNESCO's world heritage sites. On the 2nd of November, we took an overnight cruise to Ha Long Bay. We got our cruise package from Handspan travel agency in Hanoi. Our package includes transportation from Hanoi's busy commercial area to Ha Long Bay, guided tour to one of its caves, and our sumptuous meals. It costs US$50 each person in 2003.

We left Hanoi around 7am that day and it took us about 2 hours to get to Ha Long Bay. Along the way as we near the bay, karst mountains or limestone cliffs that stood up like skyscrapers can be seen from a distance. And seeing those makes me realize that it was going to be a great trip. On our bus are at least a dozen of tourists of different nationalities. It was my first to be with this group.

On our arrival at Ha Long Bay, we ride on Dragon Pearl, a traditional Chinese Junk. This is where we will be staying overnight. Our guide then grouped all of us and assigned us our rooms. Each room had 2 guests. And since I'm a lone man, our guide put me in a room with a Singaporean guy who is travelling alone.

For our group, which is about twelve, we had the 3 of us Filipinos, a Singaporean, a Swiss lady, 3 German women, an American couple teaching Japanese and an American guy (Mr. White). On the junk, is another group of twelve who was on the cruise for a 2 night stay.

Our first stop is one of the caves within hundreds of islets. But before getting there, our junk cruised slowly through tranquil waters among hundreds of karst islets. I and my friends, Ana and Mhe-ann, walked up on the top of the junk where the orange sails are. On that top deck are benches you'd usually see on beaches where you can lie and have sunbathing. Around us, the other tourist guests find their places to either sun theirselves or read out a book. I decided that I just lie on the bench and feel the calmness of the place. It was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. It was serene and peaceful. The sea is as calm as water in a basin and is so green and clean.

When we reached the cave site, we were led by our guide dozens of steps up to the cave's mouth. The cave was big and had the trail that led to the insides of the cave. Inside it, the cave is lighted on every corner and that gave you an easy walk inside the cave. I did not appreciate it much because it was no longer as natural as it is, but still it is a beautiful cave. On our way back to the junk, we saw some merchants on oval boats that looked like made of weaved leaves. They sell different kinds of stuff from food to drinks.

After that day cave trip, around 4pm our junk docked itself in the midst of the sea among the islets. The crew invited the guests to have a swim to the sea. Since I and Anna knows how to swim, we decided to do so. At the
back end of the junk, there was a deck where the guests can stand and dive down to the sea. Some of the guests waded nearby the junk, some floated on their life vests or holding on floaters tied to the junk. For some who knows how to swim, swam farther including us. Around 4:30pm, some of the guests near the junk felt that the underwater current seemed to be getting stronger and so some of them started to swim back. When I myself noticed it, I planned to return but saw that Ana was wading farther. I swam to her and told her to go back, but it was too late. The current has gone strong that we no longer move no matter how we swam. And then we heard Mr. White shouting that we are drowning. So, two crew members decided to get on a boat and paddled towards us passing to Mr. White first who was also caught by the tide. When the boat got near us, they threw us a rope and then paddled back to the junk. They paddled and paddled for about 10minutes but we were not moving. Either because the 3 of us are too heavy or the tide was too strong. Fortunately, one of the American teachers dove with a rope and swam to the boat and swam back to the junk. So the other crew dragged the boat that was dragging us. It was a scary and funny experience. Scary because if help didn't reach us, we might have returned to the Philippines by tide. Funny because two skinny Vietnamese crew members were not able to pull 3 heavy and stout tourist like us.

That dinner, we everyone was taking of us, of how they were worried that we almost drowned. On that dinner also, another funny event happened. Our meal was seafood and Ana asked the waiter for some lemon with salt to dip the calamari on. The waiter returned with a lemonade. Salted lemonade. That's how communication barrier can go wrong. Hehehe... anyways their manager corrected it. Anyways, the dinner was great. The food was pouring.

The next day we went back to the port to go back to Hanoi. That short cruise in Ha Long is something that I consider to be among the best vacations that I got and one of the most memorable because of being dragged by the tide and being served with salted lemonade. Anyways, if I get the chance to get back to Hanoi, I'll definitely visit Ha Long again and make sure I have a digital camera with me.

For my other travel blogs, please do visit my PauTravels site at http://www.pautravels.com

Posted by pau_p1 17:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Boracay, a Natural Beauty

sunny 32 °C

Among the 7,107 islands of the Philippines, one island destination definitely stands out as the most famous and most visited by tourists local and foreign alike. It is none other than the beautiful island of Boracay, known for its sugary soft white sands, a wide coastline and a perfect beach destination. But little did know that this island has more to offer.
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Boracay island is a small island off the northern tip of Panay island in the island group of Western Visayas in the Philippines. This island has an about 4 kilometer-long white sand beach on its southwest side where different hotels, resorts and commercial establishments line up the coastline. Each resort offer different water sport activities like para-sailing, jet skiing, and even scuba diving. On the north eastern part of the island is a bit rougher as it is lined with coral reefs, caves and strong waves. Within the island, there are golf courses and also waterfalls.

On March 20, 2006, my wife, myself and 4 other colleagues purchased a travel package to Boracay. We took advantage of the PALakbayan promo released by Philippine Airlines during that time. The package we got was for 3days/2nights stay at Sun Village Beachfront Resort.

To get there, we took the Philippine Airline flight to Boracay via the Kalibo Airport in the province of Aklan. The flight is about 1 hour long. On our arrival in Kalibo, we took a ride on a van to take us to the Caticlan Jetty Port. The van is included in our package and the drive to the jetty port is 2 hours long. On the Jetty Port, we take a ride on motorized bancas that drop tourists on their respective Boat Stations on the island.

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There are actually two airports that serve as the gateways to Boracay. These are Kalibo Airport which is about 2 hours drive away from Caticlan Jetty Port and the Caticlan Airport which is just a few minutes away from the Jetty Port. The Kalibo Airport is serves bigger airplanes unlike Caticlan which only allow smaller planes to land. Kalibo Airport is served by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Philippines, Asian Spirit, and Pacific Pearl Airways. While Caticlan Airport is served by South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR), Asian Spirit, Interisland Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and Asian Spirit. SEAIR provides the fastest way to fly to Caticlan from Manila for only 36 minutes.

From the Caticlan Jetty Port, aside from the fare on the jetty, the provincial government of Aklan also charges a Php20 (about US$0.50) for environmental fee. This fee is basically used for maintaining the marine environment around the island.
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Now, Boracay has 3 boat stations, Stations 1, 2, and 3. Station 3 is nearest to Sun Village. The boat jetty ride from Caticlan to Station 3 took about 15 minutes. Station 3 is also the nearest boat station to Caticlan. And so, we were the first ones to alight the boat. The boat stations on Boracay does not have any port that connects to the land and so boats just dock on the beach side nearest to dry land. And so, one should be prepared to get wet as soon as they alight the boat on Boracay. From Boat Station 3, we walked about 5 more minutes to reach Sun Village.

At first sight of Boracay, I was amazed on how soft and how white the sand was. Though there were greenish stuff on the shoreline. Looking more closely, the green mossy stuff is seaweeds pushed by the waves. It's a common sight during summer months of March and April. The water is also crystal clear and cool.

On the island, tourists and locals alike are all around. It is quite a busy beach front. Unlike other beaches in the country, women in two-piece swimsuits is a common site, most are foreign tourists. Filipino women are a bit shy on showing off their body parts that a regular swimsuit is on shirts and shorts. And so seeing caucasian women in skimpy swimsuits is a sight to see ehehehhe.

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Along the beach, people either enjoy the tropical sun, play beach volleyball, or take pictures on this massive sand castles scultured by local artists. The artists start on piling sand and carving them into castles in the afternoon and wait nearby for donations from tourists taking pictures in their work of art. At night, these sand castles are lit with gas lamps.

Boracay's beach front is 4 kilometers long and walking from one end to the other can be tiring for some. And so an option for people to get to the other side is by walking inland to the nearest road and hire a tricycle to bring them to the other end. Tricycles are motorcycles with sidecars that are common mode transport in the country. But of course, to enjoy the beauty of the sea, sand and sun, nothing beats walking along the pedestrian path along the beach.

On our second day in the island, we hired a boatman for a morning boat ride that will bring us to a snorkeling site and a crystal cave on the other side of the island. First we were brought in a coral garden on the northern tip of the island. Our boat stopped in the middle of the sea near other boats with tourists who are also snorkeling the site. The waves that morning was a bit strong that one of us did not take a dip, while some stayed near the boat and holding on the side rails of the boat. That site is a good site to visit with a beautiful coral area. The strong waves that day was just one thing that made it a bit scary. At least the boatman provided us with life jackets. Having snorkeled here in Boracay, I can say that I still love snorkeling in Puerto Galera more than here since its corals are nearer to the shore.

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After a short snorkel, our boat man brought us a short stop on Puka Beach where took a short dip. Puka shells line the shoreline. And then after that he brought us to the Crystal Cave at the southeast point of the island. This part of the island is rouger and stony. It has a low cliff sides and the terrain looked like corals reefs that used to be sunken to the sea. This side of the island has strong winds and rough waves. We walked through a path that led to the entrance of the crystal cave. To get in, we walked down deep underground through crevices which led us to this opening underground that opens to the sea. It was very beautiful and scenic down there. I'm very glad I was able to bring my handy tripod with me. And above ground, it offered a great vista of the greenish blue see. It was one of the best sights for me.

I consider myself not being a beach person and so maybe that's why I don't appreciate the Boracay's beach much. Maybe seeing the island in the months of September to December would be better when there are less people there. But for a beach person, Boracay would definitely a great place to visit. This island visit of mine was made very much memorable by the great sea front of the crystal caves. For other beach destination in the Philippines, I'd recommend Puerto Galera. =)

For my other travel blogs, please do visit my PauTravels site at http://www.pautravels.com

Posted by pau_p1 07:28 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

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