Calaguas, an unspoiled beach destination for the Boracay-weary

wedgiesand

 
I’m a contributing writer for lifestyle and travel website When In Manila and I wrote this piece on a remote, undeveloped beach in a province in the Philippines. Sharing this with my readers (all three of them)— despite the “third-worldliness” of this country, I love living in the Philippines and places like Calaguas being within reach is just one of the reasons why.

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When in Manila, ask any urban-dweller about the best beach in the country and you are guaranteed a popular answer: Boracay. And why not? Boracay’s blindingly white powder-fine sand and its clear, azure waters have spoilt us Filipinos. The Philippines’ top tourist destination has set the bar for beach-goers who cannot help but compare other beaches they visit with that of Boracay’s sand quality and the clarity of the water.

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This is not Boracay.

 
However, Boracay’s popularity comes at a price. With throngs of tourists flocking to the beach, it has been called β€œManila with sand,” capturing the essence of what Boracay is like during peak seasons where the beach is so crowded that running into someone you know from Manila is a regular occurrence. With the influx of more and more foreign tourists due to the Kalibo airport now an international gateway, and the degradation of the beach due to unsustainable tourism practices, people have started looking for alternatives. Fortunately, with over 7,000 islands to choose from in the Philippines, there are plenty, and you don’t even have to fly from Manila to get to some of them.

These are the easy and obvious choices: drive down south of Manila for the beaches in Batangas, a destination known for scuba-diving. A little further south of Batangas and a boat ride away is White Beach in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. Go north of Manila and there’s Anawangin Cove in Zambales, where you can camp on a beach fringed with pine trees.

But if you’re willing to go further and off the beaten path, away from the crowds, lying off the coast of the province of Camarines Norte is a group of pristine, virgin islands called Calaguas, a reward for those who make the time and the effort to journey into the typhoon-battered region of Bicol.

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Continue reading “Calaguas, an unspoiled beach destination for the Boracay-weary”

Singapore’s Bras Basah Complex and Art Friend, the Asian equivalent of Michaels Arts and Crafts

(Read the first part of this two-part series here)

On our last full day in Singapore, my family and I decided to go our separate ways one afternoon since we all wanted to do different things. My parents went to Bugis, a street/flea market (they later complained that it was just like Manila’s Divisoria), my brother did touristy stuff like the Gardens by the Bay since he didn’t know what else to do (haha), and I took this chance to go to Bras Basah Complex.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Continue reading “Singapore’s Bras Basah Complex and Art Friend, the Asian equivalent of Michaels Arts and Crafts”

Singapore stationery loot: kikki.K and The Little Happyshop

As you may have noticed (or not) from my last Wordless Wednesday, I was in Singapore recently. I was there together with my brother and parents for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary.

I don’t have a travel journal for Singapore and probably won’t be making one (at least not for this trip). Singapore is nice. REALLY nice. But that’s all it was to me– nice. Singapore is a destination a lot of Filipinos have been to due to its proximity to our country (3 1/2 hours by air), the abundance of cheap airfare from Manila, and the lack of need for a tourist visa. A lot of people, tourists and Singapore locals like, say there’s not a lot to see and do there except eat. And walk. And ride the MRT. I found that to be very true. I skipped the touristy stuff (wasn’t interested in botanical gardens, theme parks, and museums) and checked out a few stationery and arts and crafts-related stores instead.

The first one I came across was kikki.K, and quite unexpectedly. My family and I were meeting some of my brother’s friends in ION Orchard mall for dinner and we got off the Orchard Road MRT. kikki.K was right there at the turnstile exit and I think I may have taken off and made a beeline for the store as soon as I saw it.

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Pretty! It’s like IKEA for stationery junkies.

 
kikki.K is a Swedish home and office lifestyle store selling stationery and gifts. I believe it started in Australia, and I remember my Australian-based friend giving me the link to their website a few years ago. I was looking forward to checking out their Singapore branch. It didn’t disappoint! Everything was so chic, pretty, well-designed, and minimalist… and also pretty pricey, as the rest of Singapore is. I didn’t take pictures in the store as coming from Manila where photography in retail stores isn’t allowed (why, nobody knows– not even the store attendants), I wasn’t sure if I could.

I had my eye on a blank, hardbound 365 journal, which I saw on their website prior to flying to Singapore.

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I ended up buying two! What appealed to me are the numbered pages, one page for every day of the year. Perfect for daily drawings/journals/photos/recipes/whatever. I’m still thinking of what to do with these.

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kikki.K
ION Orchard
Shop 44-46, 2 Orchard Turn
Singapore, 238801

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A week before the trip, I went over to Lorra’s blog and dug through her archives for her post on Singapore’s fun, crafty places. It was through her blog that I learned about The Little Happyshop in Holland Village. And so it was where I found myself a week later, browsing through a little happy shop of colorful merchandise, journals too pretty to write on, and stationery made just for hoarding. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures (this time, I forgot).

I bought a few rolls of MT washi tape (my favorite washi tape brand!).

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I also bought some Japanese rubber carving blocks for rubber stamp carving as my carving block supply is down to a small square and I also wanted to try other kinds.

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Bigger carving block – $11.50 SGD | Smaller, colored carving blocks – $9.50 SGD

 
I was asked to do a review on Instagram and here’s what I can say, in a nutshell: these rubber blocks carve LIKE BUTTER. Literally like butter. I noticed the difference as soon as I sank in my X-acto knife to carve my outlines. They carved so smoothly– too smoothly, in fact, that you have to be extra careful so that your knife doesn’t slip and you don’t over-carve your lines by accident.

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I carved out a crafty set of scissors and dashed lines to try out the blocks. I also turned some of the leftover triangle ends into stamps as I didn’t want them to go to waste.

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In the end, though, I think I still prefer using my cheap, Faber-Castell erasers to carve my smaller-sized stamps as they’re more readily available and the carving quality is firmer and just as good.

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The Little Happyshop
Holland V Shopping Mall
My directions: Get off at the Holland Village MRT station on the Circle line (orange). Take exit C, turn left and walk straight until you reach a little street (Lor Liput) then turn right. Keep your eye out for the Holland V Shopping Mall on the left side of the street. Enter the mall (it’s more of a small shopping complex with little stores and not really a proper mall), go up the escalator. The Little Happyshop will be at the end of the left corridor.

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I wasn’t able to go around Singapore as much as I would’ve liked as I was traveling with my family, but on one afternoon, I did get to venture out on my own and it was then that I discovered the Asian equivalent of Michael’s (the arts and crafts store) in the US. But that’s another blog entry, for another day. Stay tuned πŸ™‚

EDIT: Click here to read part 2 of this blog post.

Illustrated travel journal: Kansai region, Japan

Japan trip and illustrated travel journal

 
It’s been a year since my Japan trip, and I still have not finished my Japan travel journal. Seeing its been a year and there have been other trips since, I am giving up on ever getting it done and just posting what I have so far. Hihi.

Wedgienet: Japan illustrated travel journal
 
Japan trip, November 2011
Osaka Castle park
 
Japan trip, November 2011
My first autumn!
 
Wedgienet: Japan illustrated travel journal
 
Japan trip, November 2011
The onigiri as illustrated in the journal.
 
Japan trip, November 2011
Assorted sushi and maki from the supermarket
 
Wedgienet: Japan illustrated travel journal
 
Japan trip, November 2011
My washi tape loot. See related entry about washi tape here.
 
Wedgienet: Japan illustrated travel journal
 
Japan trip, November 2011
Kiyomizudera temple all lit up.
 
Wedgienet: Japan illustrated travel journal
 
Japan trip, November 2011

 
Read my other Japan entries here, or view my other illustrated travel journals.

Bacolod travel journal

Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal

 
Two trips in three weeks! Eagle-eyed readers (all two of them) might’ve seen my previous Wordless Wednesday entry and assumed I was traveling. Indeed, I was! I was in Seoul, South Korea last week but before I can get to that, I have yet to post a blog entry of a trip that came a couple of weeks before– Bacolod city, in the Visayan province of Negros Occidental, Philippines.

Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal

 
People go to Bacolod primarily for the annual MassKara festival (mass = many, cara (Spanish) = face, maskara (Tagalog) = mask), a street festival filled with colorful smiling masks and costumed street dancers. There are dozens of similar festivals in the Philippines but the MassKara festival is arguably the most colorful and happiest. Ironically, the festival started at a low point in 1980, when the price of sugar (the main export of the province of Negros Occidental) was at an all-time low worldwide. It was also during the same year when a ship carrying hundreds of Negrenses sank, and as many as 700 locals perished. To uplift the peoples’ spirits, the government decided to hold a festival of smiles, “…a declaration by the people of the city that no matter how tough and bad the times were, Bacolod City is going to pull through, survive, and in the end, triumph.” (Wiki)

With a festival philosophy like that, I chose to experience Bacolod’s MassKara over all the other Philippine festivals. I’m all for good vibes and positive thinking! I looked forward to taking photos of the extravagant costumes and street dancing.

As the date of my departure drew nearer, though, I found myself more excited about one other thing. Bacolod is a culinary destination, known for its desserts and native delicacies but above all, its CHICKEN INASAL. Now, I’m a HUGE fan of chicken– I can eat it everyday and not get tired of it. I like chicken first, seafood second, then beef and pork as a far distant third and fourth option (ie. only if there’s nothing else). My favorite fastfood restaurant is KFC for its wide variety of chicken dishes. I love chicken so much that, at the risk of oversharing, my ex’s pet name for me was Chicken. Err. Yeah.

Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal

 
When in Manila, I eat chicken inasal at inasal chains in the Metro but having finally tasted authentic inasal from Bacolod, I would say nothing comes close to the original.

Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal

 
I had chicken inasal for dinner three days straight– which wasn’t enough! I was hoping to have inasal at least twice a day for three days hihi. Inasal for three straight days was the highlight of my Bacolod trip, although the MassKara festival itself was a very close contender! πŸ˜› The rest of the trip in pictures, as the festival is a visual feast no words can articulate (also, because I’m tired of typing):

Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal
Wedgienet: Bacolod travel journal

 
Salamat, Bacolod! I’ve crossed off experiencing the MassKara festival on my imaginary bucket list, but maybe I’ll be back again some day for another three days straight of authentic Bacolod chicken inasal πŸ˜€

P.S. If anyone is interested in a Bacolod chicken inasal recipe, Market Manila has what looks like a good one here. Try it, then invite me over to eat as I don’t know how to cook, kthnxbye.