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Trip to magical Cape San Agustin  

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(PHILIPPINES) If you ever want to experience the feeling of standing at the edge of the world, head out to Cape San Agustin, the southernmost tip of Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental, Philippines.

Up at the very tip of this quiet municipality is one magical destination known to many but dreamed about by more and continuesto draw visitors from all over the world.

Pundaguitan is the last town in Governor Generoso where the buses either make the round trip to Davao City or sleep for the night. From the bus stop, my photographer buddy Arjoy and I hired one of the motorcycles for 200 pesos per passenger and up we went to passing barangay Lavigan heading to the famed Cape San Agustin.P1220473

I had been to the Cape twice in the past, but a lot has changed in the last decade. The once-rough road that I used to call stomach-churning, butt-numbing motorcycle ride as drivers try to reach the destination without falling into the deep ravine was now smooth and paved snaking its way up and around the mountain until we reached a clearing on top of the hill and then we were there.

There was no one at the Cape aside from a family with a small child who takes care of the property. I was back to one of the places I consider my favorite on earth.P1220391

I wanted to stand at the very edge of the Parola and watch the endless stretch of blue ocean merging with the blue skies, dotted by the red and yellow sails of a couple of fishing boats in the far distance but Arjoy and I got to work right away. For the next couple of hours, I forgot about everyone and everything and only my camera and the magical place I was in mattered.

A few meters away from the very end of the cliff we were standing on was The Islet which looked like a small piece of the island chopped and pushed off from the cliff a bit farther.P1220421

Under the cliff facing the Last Islet is a hidden cave that opens out into the ocean. The waves come in through the small openings in the rocks. The best feature of the Pagoda is the three lighthouses, with the oldest built in 1938 featuring an external spiral staircase

I was looking forward to climb hundred-plus steps to the top of the middle lighthouse but the door was locked and our guide/motorcycle driver told us the key keeper was out for the day.

The top of the lighthouse offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the Cape and the point where the raging waves of Celebes Sea blends with the peaceful calm of Davao Gulf.

From the Pagoda, we made our way down the hill under tall coconut trees to the Pagoda Beach below. The ocean seemed angry at the interruption and sent out huge waves rolling to the shore but it was not even scary, only mesmerizingly beautiful. A few hundred feet away is the Altar, an extra-ordinary rock formation believed to be the place where the Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier, the Spanish missionary said his first mass in 1550. I’ve climbed it in the past but didn’t have time to do it on this trip as we had to catch the last bus that leaves at 3 p.m. to stay the night in a delightful fishing village but that is another story.P1220558

Half the fun is in getting to Cape San Agustin. The four-hour trip on a public bus from Davao City takes you through green lush forests and picturesque coastal views past quaint fishing villages, vast rice fields, jungles, limestone walls, mountainsides and breathtaking cliff lines. It is where goats and cows rule the road and won’t budge so that buses and other vehicles have to go around them to pass through.

When in the southern part of the Philippines, don’t miss a visit to Cape San Agustin. It’s a place that never ceases to mesmerize everyone.

Getting there

From Ecoland Terminal in Davao City ride any of the public buses to Governor Generoso. The buses travel daily from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. at one hour interval. As an option, check out the L300 vans outside the bus terminal.  Travel time for L300 vans is about two and a half hours.

Adventures city travel Destinations Travel for everyone Travel information

Paris experience in Vegas

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I SAW it the moment the taxi drove through the famous Las Vegas Strip from the McCarran International Airport that early morning—the towering 541-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. It was not actually in my list as the Stratosphere topped everything but after seeing it, I knew I was not going to leave Las Vegas without going up to the Eiffel Tower.


At 6 a.m., the whole Las Vegas seemed to be asleep except for a few cars and people on the road.

Fast forward, my chance to experience Paris came on my third day in Vegas.

The entrance to the tower was a wonder in itself, with gambling machines everywhere, shops and replicas of the Arc de Triomphe, the Paris Opera House, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Louvre almost made us forget why we were there.

Luckily, the line at the ticket counter was very short and soon my travel buddy and I were heading up the stairs toward the glass elevator that gave us an exhilarating ride 46 stories up to the top. The sun was still up at 7:30 p.m. but we wanted to be there when it sets for the night.

The elevator doors opened and we stepped out into the observation deck. My jaw just dropped in awe. The deck which was enclosed by bars and screen for safety presented us a breath-stopping 360 degree view of the whole Las Vegas Strip below and the whole city.

P1310277An icon of the city skyline, the Eiffel Tower is a half scale replica of the world-famous Paris, France landmark. I learned that the original plan of the designers was to make it exactly the same but with the airport so close by, they had to scale it down to half.

I almost forgot I P1310284was up there to take photos and videos and not just gape in wonder. There are small square openings in the deck enclosure that you can insert your lens to take photos and for the next half hour, I didn’t see my buddy as he was also busy shooting photos.

The sun started to disa ppear, leaving streaks and splashes of fiery reds, golds and vermillion magic in the skies. I saw planes landing and taking off from the airport a short distance away.

P1310273 Hundreds of feet below, colorful lights began to flicker and the spectacular panorama of the city, the Nevada valley and the distant mountains once again set me in a trance.

Majority of the visitors stayed at the left side of the tower and I learned why. The fountain show at the Bellagio below is designed to romance your senses—a mesmerizing show of water, music and light beautifully choreographed to all-time classical and Broadway favorites.

From my perch at the most romantic spot in Las Vegas, it was all too magical and unmatched.

If you don’t have a camera, which I can consider a serious crime, stop by their photo shop for a souvenir pose because you just can’t go home without a memento of your Paris Las Vegas experience. Remember to bring lots of memory cards and extra fully charged batteries.

IMG_1544We were told that during the holidays, you can see Las Vegas in a new perspective from the Eiffel Tower’s observation deck, and it’s the best spot to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks for instance. Okay, added to my bucket list. For tickets and more details visit their website here . (First published at the Guam Post October 4. 2015 issue. See page 15 here)

Adventures Destinations Extreme adventures Saipan Travel for everyone

Extreme rides to Saipan’s best secrets

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GOING arounpolariz ridesd Saipan strapped to your seat onboard a Polariz is one of the thrilling and breathtaking experiences you must definitely try to get to know the island from another perspective.

My chance came last week with friends Chan Dennis and Ed Arriola. To start our tour, William from Let’s Go office took Dennis and me to a conference room where we watched a video about the tour. The video contained all we need to know—the destinations, safety precautions including how to fasten our seatbelts and put on our helmets, the speed drivers should follow as well as other traffic rules.

Ed told us we were going to Mt. Tapochao and the Hidden Forest trail for the one hour tour and off we went on board one of the four-seater Polariz Razr.

The fun begun as soon as we took the road heading up to Mt Tapochao on Capital Hill. It was when I immediately noticed the difference when you are driving your own car where you go slower and is careful to avoid rough and deep portions of the road. With the Polariz, you go straight for the deepest parts of the road, dive into ditches covering the road and get your dose of thrill on the road. It’s one ride where you hold your breath as the Polariz whizzes through deep rugged roads and yet you never feel any of the expected bumps, securely fastened to your seat and protected with helmet and goggles.

Halfway up to Tapochao, Ed took a right turn that led us deeper into the jungle—a trail I haven’t been to before. The small stony road snaked its way up and down plateaus and we came into the first pool of muddy water filling the road. Before I could take a deep breath, we plunged straight into the water and everything got wet, including my camera. We barely had time to recover from the cold when another ditch came into view and we plowed straight into it again. Not as shocking as the first time, and that was when you start to not care anymore, and want for more.IMG_9763

We reached the bamboo trail and got out of the Polariz to take deep breaths, still dripping from the cold muddy shower before heading back and proceeding to the peak of Mt. Tapochao.

If you only look at the Polariz, you might have second thoughts about riding it but once you experience it, the thirst for adventure begins and you will crave for more.

Let’s Go Tour Company never rent out the cars to anyone, but tourists and locals who want to get a ride must be accompanied by tour guides who will be at the head of the pack, and another one at the rear who will monitor everyone.

The Polariz cars are capable of racing up to Mt Tapochao at very high speeds but Arriola said as a rule, they require all drivers not to exceed 10 miles per hour especially when passing through the residential areas.

To go for a Polariz Razr ride, wear long sleeve shirts or dress according to the weather. Athletic shoes or boots are advised, no open toed sandals or slippers. Put on sunscreen and prepare to get wet and muddy. If you are taking pictures, be sure to secure your cameras with appropriate covering if you don’t want it to be wet and covered in mud.

Other options are the North Island Tour which allows you to visit Banzai Cliff, Santati Trail, Bird Island, Kalabera Trail and Suicide Cliff from a totally different perspective, and the South Island Tour which covers the amazing scenic trails heading to Naftan.

Visit to try this gut-wrenching experience or for more information call 670-322-5387 or 670-322-4646.

Adventures Destinations Photos Tinian

Sunset at the Taga Beach

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DSC_7557 - CopyTINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands—Just a few meters across from the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino is my favorite beach on the island—Taga Beach.

From the ground level, you won’t see any beach but just the rocky ledge bordered with Taga Stone-shaped rocks leading to the jump off or diving point the end which is the best feature of Taga Beach.

Here you will see kids and adults diving into the crystal clear waters any time of the day, but the best times to watch them is during late afternoons just when the sun is about to set. The beach is great for swimming and snorkeling.

Time and again, I’ve stolen shots of the kids and adults diving. I’d sit at the other end of the cliff line waiting for anyone to dive so I can catch photos with the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.

Go beyond the fence line and go down the crudely built ladder made of rusty shaking steel pieces to see a perfectly secluded cove with a patch of white sandy beach and crystal clear waters. The small beach clearing fills up with water during high tide.

Taga Beach is that one beach where your photos are never the same no matter how much you frequent it. There will always be new angles viewing the same thing.

When on Tinian, don’t miss to stopover at Taga Beach. It’s one spot where you might capture your sunset shot of a lifetime. For more photos of Tinian, check me out on Flickr at this set HERE  (

Adventures Destinations Philippines Surigao del Sur

Carrascal zipline adventure

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We were zooming so fast toward the ditch they dug and I held my breath waiting for the moment when we would finally smash straight into the rough stones lining the pavement near the landing area, our faces deleted and replaced by gnarled unrecognizable mess and mass of tangled and bloody torn flesh sticking to our scalp.

CARRASCAL, Surigao dIMG_8826 (4)el Sur—There are ziplines and more ziplines have been sprouting up everywhere to challenge one’s stamina and endurance. Ziplines differ in location, elevation and distance and you can do it batman style, sitting, suspended upside down or whatever way you prefer but they all share the same the common denominator of making you watch your life flash back as you compose your last prayers before you die.

I admit I was kind of hesitant to try the 1.1 km zipline in Carrascal, Surigao del Sur last month and was glad when Roland, one of the photographers I was with, convinced me to go tandem with him.

Four or us strapped into a cable car which will take us to the starting point of the zipline, crossing a river and above the tree tops. The cable car seemed to take forever, crawling at a speed of -.001 miles per hour. I could feel my stomach beginning to get queasy as we crawled past the nipa plants, above the river, past the jungles and heading toward the mountain. I wished there was some way to speed the cable car up but it was designed that way, according to the staff.

We finally reached the end of the cable and mounted a few stone steps leading to where the zipline adventure was to begin. Only one staff was there to assist us into the harness, and that doubled my initial hesitancy. The first time I tried zipline there were so many assistants but whatever, we were already there.

The staff strapped Roland first, and I followed, scared of the seemingly low cable and our closeness to the treetops. Before we got a chance to change our minds, manong released the safety belt and off we went zooming toward the trees at neck-breaking speed.IMG_8741

Talk about having your face deleted from the earth at a speed of a thousand miles per hour and having your body parts scattered hanging all over the trees. We crossed the river in split seconds and real terror set in. Roland raised his foot and his face shot forward lower! We were zooming so fast toward the ditch they dug and I held my breath waiting for the moment when we would finally smash straight into the rough stones lining the pavement near the landing area, our faces deleted and replaced by gnarled unrecognizable mess and mass of tangled and bloody torn flesh sticking to our scalp.IMG_8682 (3)

Of all the ziplines I have seen, it was the closest to the earth they had to dig a ditch near the landing area. There is supposedly a platform where zipliners can land safely but the assistants said that was what everyone was scared of- having their face deleted.

I learned that was the unique feature of the Carrascal Zipline Adventure—the feeling that you are going to zoom straight to the ground. We landed in one piece, and with our slippers still strapped on our backs, and our cameras still in our hands.IMG_8689

Roland went for a second spin, wanting to erase the horror of our tandem ride. Jess went for another round too, this time sitting down. I wanted to go again but the 20-minute cable ride was no fun. I decided to stay behind and shoot. Alex came zooming out of the trees past me so fast in a sitting position, looking like a cuddly teddy bear hanging on for dear life at the harness. The rest of our companions did not dare to try the zipline and they missed a lot.

The Carrascal zipline has an elevation of 75 meters. The Carrascal Extreme Adventure Park opened for business in March this year. Plans are in place to put up more facilities so watch out and don’t miss one of the attractions that is drawing people to visit Surigao del Sur.IMG_8666

The zipline is located at the side of Carrascal Cultural and Sports Center. For updates visit Carrascal Extreme Adventure Park on Facebook or check for directions on how to get there.


Adventures Airport Tales Destinations Travelling tips

Frisked in Beijing

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What they saw made them and everyone on the long lines gape. You will, too if you are looking at the accompanying photo. A confusion of wires and cables, batteries and chargers, external hard drives, videos and cameras, mounts and tripods, a shirt and a white underwear (thankfully it was new still with tags on it) and more chargers met their eyes. The impact wouldn’t have been so shocking if everything was packed neatly.

BEIJING, China—WHEN the Asiana Airlines I was boarding taxied into the runway of the Beijing Capital International Airport at 2 p.m. a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that I was going to experience the most and super-thorough security body check that produced shivers and goose bumps for the first time in my life.

I followed the rest of the passengers up the first escalator at the arrival area and emerged into long endless, high-ceilinged halls that seemed to swallow everyone and everything inside.

Everyone has to pass a “temperature check” booth where we were asked to stop as the machine checks if we have fevers or high temperature. If you do, you will be quarantined.

I was too busy taking pictures as I queued at one of the long, slowly moving immigration lines. Looking up, I wondered why the lines at the left side moved faster and discovered those lanes were for Chinese passport holders only. Shooting I went, and only when it was my turn at the counter did I see the No Photos sign and a drawing of a camera with a red X on it. Dropping my camera to my side, I handed my passport to the immigration officer who checked it and returned it to me, pointing me to the longest of all the lines in the area. Transfers, it said.

I was in the wrong lane. Thanks to whoever invented absent-mindedness. Into the rear of the ever-slow moving line I fell along with all the other passengers who were transiting through Beijing—a merry mix of white, black, brown and yellow skinned travelers who all wanted to be out of that line as fast as possible. I didn’t do any advance research about Beijing airport on purpose so I wouldn’t know what to expect. Security was not tight. It was super tight.

The immigration officers checked and double checked connecting tickets before stamping it ok and the line slowly moved on. Breathing a sigh of relief, I thought I was going to start my airport adventures but I was wrong. The line led to an escalator going down, where longer lines of passengers waited.

We had to pass through more immigration officers once again who validated passports and connecting tickets. Bags went through the X-ray machines and passengers had to go through scanners.

At the end of the line, more immigration officers waited to conduct body checks and I believe me, it was the first of its kind I encountered. The officer did a raking and scraping motion through my arms and legs and body until I had to stop breathing so as not to scream. I am ticklish and it felt like they were feeling for chips planted in your body.

Then I heard a beep, and more beeps from my luggage. The officer looked at his monitor, and re-scanned my luggage. When it emerged, he instructed two more officers to open it, and in full view of everyone popped the results of panicked packing that morning when I just threw everything into the bag and ran to the airport.

What they saw made them and everyone on the long lines gape. You will, too if you are looking at the accompanying photo. A confusion of wires and cables, batteries and chargers, external hard drives, videos and cameras, mounts and tripods, a shirt and a white underwear (thankfully it was new still with tags on it) and more chargers met their eyes. The impact wouldn’t have been so shocking if everything was packed neatly.

They had my bag go through the X-ray machine twice more times. Then they checked my shoulder bag, and out came two more cameras—a big one and a small one, a video cam, more batteries, cables, iPad, cellphones and even a recorder. Into the X-ray machine my shoulder bag again went. The silence in the long lines was deafening and all eyes were on my bags as they did a final check and I was told to go over the scanner again. I was already sweating by the time they finally decided I was harmless.

The rest of the passengers breezed through security but I noticed a couple of turbaned passengers received almost the same scrutiny as I did, but mine was still the worst.

I couldn’t blame the security people if they thought I was going to assemble a bomb right there. Anyone would, after seeing the jumbled contents of my bag, but then Incheon security was not that strict.

I was eating a leisurely McDonalds take-out in Garapan when I got a text message from buddy Patrick asking if I was on my way to the airport. I panicked, realizing I was about to miss my flight. I thought I was flying out the next day and had barely time to catch the 2:30a.m.flight.

Travel Tip:

If you transit through Beijing, pack your bags well and check in unnecessary accessories like batteries and chargers. Come with me next time on a quick tour inside the Beijing Capital International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.

Adventures Saipan

Stepping on Stars

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SAIPAN, CNMI—Have you ever heard of star-shaped sand but haven’t actually seen it? Here is your chance and you don’t even have to fly to Tinian’s Star Sands or Chulu Beach to do it.

A friend and I went on a jungle tour to Kagman one afternoon some weeks back and we took the short cut passing through the very rough road from Kagman that goes straight to Laulau Beach.

Tired and hungry, all I wanted to do was go home but our driver made a left turn toward the old dock a few meters past the hut built by the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance. I have been to the old dock at Laulau Beach countless times before and aside from the World War 11 bunker hidden behind a thick clump of shrubbery, there was really nothing more interesting so I decided just to wait for them in the car. My companions headed to the water’s edge, scooped sand and started sifting the sand in their palms. This piqued my curiosity enough for me to get out head to the water’s edge too to check what they were doing.DSC_1609

I squatted to look at the driver’s palm wondering what was so interesting when I saw it—or them. Fine grains of brown and white sand shaped like stars, similar to those at the Chulu or Star Sands Beach on Tinian.

That was something new, something I didn’t expect to see here. Our driver said they had brought some tourists to the beach to see the star sands as one of the attractions in a jungle tour package.

Who would have thought there are star sands in the rocky seashore? The one attraction I have been coming back at the Laulau Beach for were the birds that populate the area. It’s fun trying to capture them swooping down to grab some floating seaweed for their nests and when they are lucky, some unsuspecting fish.

My companions got ready to go just when I was about to scoop sand in my hand so I was left with no choice but promise myself to come back when I have more time to linger. Unluckily, (or luckily) I still didn’t get the chance to go back as the roads that were repaired a couple of years back seems to be a thing of the past. Huge potholes dominate the roads and if you are driving your own car and it’s not a four-wheel drive, I promise you it’s too much agony listening to the agonizing squeaks and groans of your car when you leave reach the end of the paved section.

I’m sure you would have visited the beach at one time or another but like me you didn’t take time to take a closer look. We are stepping on stars and we are not even aware of it. Be careful if you go to the area though, the site is a nesting area for green sea turtles and don’t forget to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos.

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