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Puerto Galera Trip – Simplying your Vacation

Trip to White Beach Puerto Galera with my AIEP clients and friends: Rozita, Chris, Aji, and Irish

Travel can become a nightmare if you are not careful.  There are many travel and tour operators who could promise you the world but deliver you nothing but grief.  I just want to Puerto Galera this past weekend, and I’m glad to say that my vacation wasn’t a nightmare at all.  No, it wasn’t one of the best either because we experienced some unexpected twists and turns.

For example, our tour operator told us that we would go directly from the port in Batangas to the shores of White Beach.  However, we were taken to another port where we had to ride a very small vehicle (much smaller than a jeepney) for another 30 to 45 minutes to get to White Beach.  On top of that, we had our meals catered, and the operator got the meals wrong: served tanigue sinigang instead of milkfish and scrambled eggs instead of omelette.

On the way to the underwater cave on a smaller boat.

When you get to there, there are many barkers, you know, the ones, mostly men, who hold their laminated pictures of the different beach activities.  I don’t mind if 10 of them come up to me to ask me if I want do their activities for a certain price.  I don’t mind if some of them have different prices.  Sometimes, bargaining is fun.  However, when almost everyone of them come to you within a span of an hour, you spend your hours conversing with them instead of enjoying the beach, the water, the sun, and the half-naked bodies.

There must be a way to simply your trip to Puerto Galera so that it becomes more enjoyable.  So here’s a step-by-step guide on simplifying your trip.

  1. Decide if you’re going to do it as a tour package or on your own.  If you do it as a tour package, there are many tour operators who are willing to set your itinerary for you at an additional price.  Of course, the disadvantage to this is that you have to pay extra for their services.  Here’s an example, we went to Puerto Galera this past weekend (March 8 and 9, 2014), and the travel package was almost Php 3,000 per person, inclusive of roundtrip bus transportation from Manila to the port, boat and Puerto-Galera-related fees, two days and one night of basic hotel accommodation at White Beach Lodge (quad-sharing with two full-size beds good for four), and three meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

    If you’re going to do it on your own, it would be a little bit cheaper, depending on the price of the accommodation.  Here’s an example:

    Php 100 – Taxi to Bus Terminal
    Php 340 – Roundtrip Bus Transportation
    Php 500 – Roundtrip Boat Transportation
    Php 060 – Miscellaneous Puerto Galera Fees
    Php 600 – Accommodation (Quad Sharing)
    Php 1,600 – TOTAL

    The meals are around Php 100 per meal.  But if you are really on vacation, I would highly recommend at least Php 150 per meal.

  2. If you’re going the DO-IT-YOURSELF way, looking for an accommodation would be the next thing you must do.  As we all know, the price is much higher during the peak season, which is in the summer (March to July and sometimes August).  In March, you can get a quad-sharing (good for four) accommodation with hot water for Php 2,500.  If you divide this by four people, that’s roughly Php 600 per person.If you go this way, you have to  call around.  Here are some of the more known places:

    White Beach Hotel
    White Beach Resort
    White Beach Lodge

    Yes, the more popular ones have “White Beach” in the name, for the name of Puerto Galera’s is beach is, yup, you guessed it, “White Beach.”  I am hoping to put a list of hotels and accommodation here soon.  We stayed at White Beach Lodge, and it was about Php 2,500 per quad-sharing room.  I tried calling my contact there, and he told me that they are already booked for the month of March.  The Holy Week is coming up in April, and I’m sure the prices are just going to go higher and higher.

  3. Next, decide what activities you’re going to do.  There are many activities to do in Puerto Galera.  They give different prices, so try asking around.  Here’s what we got for our activity:  There were 15 of us, and we paid Php 370 per person for snorkeling and fish feeding.  After our activity, we decided we would still want to do more activities, so we decided to go to the underwater cave for an additional Php 200 per person.
    Fresh sea urchins at 3 for Php 100. We bought this near the underwater cave.

    TIP:  It’s better to negotiate before you go on your activity because the boatmen would want to negotiate with you anymore.  According to the woman who got us the Php 370 deal, they could have gotten it for us for an extra Php 100 only.  It used to be cheaper to go snorkeling, but according to our vendor, there are new taxes, and even the locals don’t know where these new taxes were going since Puerto Galera hasn’t really improved in terms of economy and environment.

Another surprise we got was stopping over another part of Puerto Galera, a port called Muelle, where we had to be driven to White Beach.  We were expecting to arrive at White Beach so that it would be more of a “grand entrance,” but our tour organizer lied to us.  I believe it is the Molina Lines that takes you to that port, so if you want to go straight to White Beach, take another one instead.  They are the same price.

So planning a trip to White Beach in Puerto Galera?  It should be so much simpler, right?  When you go with the right people, your best friends or your family, the trip gets better.  I’ve been there numerous times, and it has always been different because of the company I was with.  I have a lot of photos, and as soon as I edit them, I will post them here.  Have a safe and happy trip!


Preparing Ourselves with a Purpose Driven Life

Preparing Ourselves with a Purpose Driven Life
by John Tan

John is a student at the American Institute for English Proficiency:
John is a student at the American Institute for English Proficiency:

I really really thought that after death, there is no more.  I thought that this world is our real home.  Before, I was so afraid to die because my family, friends, home, happiness, and everything I love is here.  I thought life is just all about living on Earth with people you love.  But i was wrong.

After I began reading the book, A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, I realized that living in this world is just a preparation for the next.  As the Bible says, “This world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven.”  Because of what I had read, there are three things that come to mind. I must do these three things before the final judgment.

The first one is “to love” because in heaven we don’t have enemies.  Next is “to announce,” which is the real purpose of life because I wouldn’t want to go to heaven all by myself.  I also want my family, friends and everybody to be there after the final judgment.  The last one is “to accept.”  Accept whom?  Of course God and his only begotten son, Jesus.  He is our creator and our leader in heaven.

I value life because we cannot rehearse nor prepare ourselves before entering the kingdom of God if there is no life.  All of us should use our life with a purpose.  It’s not bad to commit mistakes or sin because we are not perfect, but we should not drown ourselves in doing bad things.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Tan is a student at the American Institute for English Proficiency (Quezon City branch).

Eight Good Habits of Filipinos

Eight Good Habits of Filipinos
by Sanaz Raeisi
Although there are some negative things about Filipinos, they have many good characteristics to be proud of.  I believe that they even have good attitudes that only they have it.  I am married to a half Filipino, half-Iranian man, and I have learned that Filipinos are born with this belief: “I will repay the love and sacrifices of my parents as long as I breathe.”  They always think of repaying the love and sacrifices of their parents after schooling and go even as far as assisting them in sending their siblings to school.  This habit has already taken roots deep down in the Filipino culture which I think is difficult to uproot.  I have also lived here in the Philippines for over four years now, and I have discovered some lovely habits of Filipinos:
  1. Neighbors know each other and talk to each other.  It’s very comforting to know that your neighbors are not strangers who stare at you as you go out of the house and come home from work.  Sometimes, they are there to help each other out.
  2. ImageThe bayanihan (helping each other without payment) spirit is so evident inside the jeepney, where fare is passed from one passenger to the other until it reaches the driver’s hand, where change is passed (by passengers) from the drivers hand until it gets to the passenger who’s supposed to receive it.
  3. Pinoys will not buy new appliances until their old ones are totally beyond repair maximizing the life of electronics and reducing garbage.  That also reduces consumerism and helping mother Earth in the end.
  4. ImageMilitary and rebel ceasefire plus zero crime rate during Manny Pacquiao’s fight.  If only Manny has a boxing match everyday, but that’s too much to ask from him.  We need to produce more Manny’s to have a more peaceful country.  Otherwise, he should fight at least twice a week.  Then again, too much to ask.
  5. Most Filipinos are bilingual (Filipino + English).  Where ever you go, you can talk to a Filipino in English.  Many students come to the Philippines to study English because it is the third largest English speaking country in the world behind the US and Canada.  In fact, my husband came to the Philippines to study, and he speaks Persian, English, and of course, Filipino.
  6. ImageOverseas Filipino Workers continue to work hard and send money to the Philippines, helping keep the economy afloat.  I have heard that the remittances of OFW’s are in the billions.  I also work with Filipinos at The American Institute, and I know that they work hard for their family.
  7. In Baguio, the taxi driver gives you your change completely.  I have been to Baguio on several occasions, and the cab drivers have always been very helpful and honest.  I wished they would train the Manila drivers better.
  8. ImageFilipinos are very polite people , specially with the customers. They always smile at you and do their best to help you what you need in the store.  Sometimes, they get a little too friendly when they follow you around, but that’s because they really do want to help you.

Although I may not want to live in the Philippines forever since I am a foreigner, and I feel like I don’t belong here sometimes, I really do love the Philippines and the Filipinos.  I am married to one.  I am leaving the Philippines very soon, and I definitely would like to come back to visit this great country once in awhile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sanaz Raeisi is a former student, currently a marketing specialist, of the American Institute for English Proficiency (Makati and Quezon City).

Photo Source: Google Images

Why Davao is the Next Best Destination

Why Davao is the Next Best Destination
by Edmond Apolo

davao 1It has been a while since I’ve been to Davao.  All I remember was that the it was a clean and safe city.  I had stayed there for 4-5 hours only because I was working as an OJT in a shipping company.  This year, however, I got a chance to visit Davao again.

At first I was quite hesitant to go to Davao since I preferred going outside the country.  The airfare going to Davao was only around Php 3,000, and I booked a hotel (with breakfast) for only Php 1,000 a night.  Though I stayed in Davao for only three days and two nights, it was one of the best trips I have ever taken.

DAvao 2

Like I remember the first time I went there, I saw that Davao was still a really clean and safe place.  According to my taxi driver, their Mayor is so strict, calling him ” kamay na bakal,” which means iron hands.  According to the taxi driver, there are stories floating around that if someone dares to be a hard criminal, the mayor would ask someone to kill that person without going to court. That’s the reason why people there are all afraid to commit crimes. His name is Mayor Duterte.  Sometimes, we need to have a stronger authority to discipline us, but I don’t know about ordering to kill people.  Then again, this is just the “story” of my cab driver.

Also, I can really say that foreigners will be safe visiting Davao.  I was even surprised that the taxi driver even gave me Php 2 change.  Even the hotel staff were really good.  They were always smiling and  greeting us.  However, when it comes to jeepneys and multicabs, it is quite same as in Manila.

davao 4Surprisingly, the restaurant food is so cheap, even as much as 50% that of Manila’s prices.  I ate at a Filipino restaurant called Nanay Bebeng, and their tuna was cheap but good.  I even ate at a buffest for only Php 320, and it was much better than Cabalen, a famous buffet restaurant here in Manila.  They served various kinds of dishes with free drinks and sashimi ( raw fish), which is quite expensive in Manila.

davao 6When it comes to tourist attractions, there a lot of places to visit, especially the beaches in Samal Island.  From the city proper of Davao, you can take a multicab going to the port, and it will cost only Php 25 pesos.  After that, you can take a ro-ro or a boat to Samal Island, which will cost only Php 15 since the travel time is only 10-15 minutes, and there’s a boat every 10 minutes. There’s a lot of beaches to choose from.   But during that time we chose to go to the Blue Water Resort.

Upon arriving at the port of Samal Island, you can ride a  motorcycle going to your designated beach resort. It will cost only Php 50-60 pesos  for two people. Surprisingly, the entrance fee for the resort is only Php 90 per person compared to the expensive resorts in Cebu. The resort we chose had a pool and a beach.  Although the beach was not as good as Boracay’s, the sand is white and the water is really clear.

davao 7If you are a big fan of animals, it also a good idea to go to the Philippine Eagle Center.  It’s a bit far from the city proper of Davao since it is an hour drive or commute using a multicab for Php 40. dava 8After an hour of commuting, you need to ride a motorcycle again, which will cost about Ph p50, to get to the Philippine Eagle Center, with an entrance fee of Php 50.  The center was davao 8really like a jungle since it is also a breeding place for the endangered Philippine eagles. You can see several Philippine eagles, hawks, owls, and some other animals like monkeys and deers.  If you’re an animal lover, I am sure that you will really enjoy this place.

davao 10Another place I would recommend is the Crocodile Farm, with an entrance fee of Php 150 per person.  There is a variety of animals there, with a focus on the crocodiles.  You can meet and greet their biggest crocodile named “Pangil,” and you can even see how they feed him.  It was so worth going there since they even had a quite entertaining bird show.  To get there from the city proper, you can just take a taxi, and it will cost you roughly Php 150.

davao 12If you are really on a tight budget, you can also visit People’s Park.  It’s located at the heart of the city.  It’s not an ordinary park since it has statues of eagles, and there are lots of davao 13durians there.  Who can forget the durians when in Davao, right?

All in all I can say that its better for me to go to Davao rather than Cebu when it comes to safety, friendly people and I can also include places to visit.  There’s a lot of places I haven’t visited in Davao. For now, those things I can share but for sure  I will definitely go back there again someday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edmond Apolo is a former student, currently marketing specialist, at the American Institute for English Proficiency (Makati and Quezon City).

Photo source: Google Images

Why Women Take Longer in the Shower than Men

Why Women Take Longer in the Shower than Men
by Leah Armada

Source: Google Images
Source: Google Images

Women are more particular than men when it comes to the bathroom and taking a bath.  For me,  I do take the time when taking a bath to make sure that my skin is very clean.  I am extremely particular when it comes to beauty as well.  I would always want to be at my best when going out.  Here in the Philippines, we are always exposed to pollution, dirt, and even sunlight, all of which make us sweat profusely.  We women take a lot of time because we want to maintain our beauty and femininity.  In addition to that, bathing for an extended period of time also helps to improve blood circulation since warm water improves the flow of blood throughout the body.  We need both health and beauty, right?

What about you?  How long do you stay in the bathroom?  Do you take your time as well?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Armada is a former student, currently a marketing supervisor, at the American Institute for English Proficiency (Makati and Quezon City).

Playing Sports Gives You “Pogi Points”

The Benefits of Sports
by Rosdom J. Capellan

There are lots of sports in town.  What is your favorite sport? Or do you like sports?  For me, I like almost all the sports; it’s like my body is into sports every time I heard or saw some sports I am so interested.  I remember, when I was young, I was sitting and watching on the bench, and all my classmates were playing basketball.  I didn’t know how to play, but with out thinking twice, I stepped on the court and asked my classmate if I could join.  It was so funny because I made a lot of mistakes. I mean most of the playing time, I committed senseless and unforced errors.  During that time, however, I enjoyed playing so much that even when the game was already finished, my body still wanted to play more.

As I said, there are so many sports, and I have my three favorites:

dartDARTS.  Paying dart is my past time and bonding time with my brothers.  I remember when I played against my brother and there was a bet.  If I won, he would give me a Php 100 load, and if he won, I had to buy him an alcoholic drink.  I was lucky that time because every time I threw the dart, it hit the target.  I think the reason why I won the game was that I enjoyed playing with my brother regardless of the outcome of the game.  The sad thing was that I didn’t get my price.

bikeBIKING.  I love biking, especially with my friends.  I was talking about biking in the province and going to different places like mountains and secret places.  I was biking with my friends last year when I had my vacation in Aklan.  We went to the cemetery and biked there.  One of my friends was so scared, so we didn’t stay long. But that was really fun.

mjBASKETBALL.  Basketball is my favorite sport of all time.  Playing this game for me is not only for exercise, but also gaining more friends.   When I went to Singapore, and I was walking at the park with my Malaysian friend, we saw a group of people playing basketball, and they asked us if we wanted to play.   We played and gained new friends.  I believe that that Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time in basketball.   He is my favorite player, Michael “M.J. 23” Jordan.

Playing sports is not just fun.   It can help you to earn “pogi points” because you start to look good and health.  In addition, you can gain more friends and have time with your family while having “bonding time”.  I highly suggest everyone to go out and explore the world through sports.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Rosdom J. Capellan is a former student, now a marketing specialist, of the American Institute for English Proficiency (Makati and Quezon City, Philippines).

Photo Source: Google Images

Ellen Adarna’s Statements in English regarding the Mysterious Case of Navarro, Cornejo, and Lee

Source: Facebook News Feed
Source: Facebook News Feed

I was just doing a post on basic English vocabulary for beginners when I saw this meme on my Facbeook news feed.  At first, I was surprised to see that Ellen Adarna would say something like that.  Why?  I had learned that she was very vocal and controversial, but I also heard that she was well-spoken.  But when I saw this image, I couldn’t believe it, so I started to read some of the comments to understand more.  I am taking an interest in this one because, hey, I am an English teacher at The American Institute, and hey, the Vhong Navarro and Deniece Cornejo case is a hot topic right now.

Actually, I thought I would never write something about the Vhong and Deniece situation again, but I have to now since it’s crossing into my territory, English proficiency and communication skills.  But to make a long story short, the moral of the story is that don’t believe everything you read.  Otherwise, you assume, and you make an ASS out of U and ME: ASS-U-ME.  Sometimes, it’s just an illusion.  The internet and social media is filled with lies, lies, and more lies, and if you are not careful, you could just become one of those stupid, gullible people who would just jump the gun.  If you do become one of them, you know you deserve a bobo slap.

So here’s some of the comments that may disprove the meme and prove that Ellen Adarna is well-spoken after all.  It also proves that most Facebook users in the Philippines, and I mean most, don’t really know what they are talking about.  They are more emotional, not intelligent and rational.  Shit, I know I’m gonna get stones thrown at me for this post.   I should restate.  MANY, not most.

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook
And here’s another one…
Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

Do Most People Believe Vhong Navarro over Deniece Cornejo?

Screenshot 2014-01-27 19.47.02

Navarro accuses Cornejo and friends of bodily injury and extortion.

Cornejo accuses Navarro of rape.

ABS-CBN reports.  GMA reports.  The Fort condominium may be slapped with a lawsuit for not cooperating.  Justice Department may even get involved.

Netizens weigh in.  Some smart.  Some are just plain stupid.

What do you think?

What is the #1 Filipino Food?

Eating could be a considered a past time in the Philippines.  My friends tell me that I have become very Filipino because I talk about other food (usually food for the next meal) while eating.  When I was on vacation in my province, we ate almost 10 times a day.  Yes, Filipinos love to eat.  But what is the Filipino’s favorite Filipino food?

Adobo-PinakbetPhoto Source: Google Images

Questions Arise in Beating of Actor Vhong Navarro

Credit: ABS-CBN
Credit: ABS-CBN

From time to time, I do worry about my own safety because of news like this.  Years ago, when I first moved back to the Philippines, I was the victim of a “hold up,” and I can still remember this horrifying experience.  Fortunately, I was not beaten up, and I managed to just move on with my life like most other “hold up” victims.  I moved to a condo in Eastwood, and I felt very safe and secure there.  After six years, I moved to another condo near my office in Quezon City, and it is less secure.  On the first night I moved here, my car was keyed.  There were also “hold ups” nearby.  I was thinking I may be next.  Thank God, I am safe.

I got curious about Navarro’s case because beatings and extortion could happen to anyone.  When I first moved here, I have heard of these incidents, but I never thought it could happen to me.  It did.  I searched and searched about this story that happened three days ago, but I wasn’t able to find any more information.  Therefore, I only have questions:

  1. Where is the information? I thought the initial police report is public record.
  2. What happened to the journalists?  Aren’t they able to provide more information?  It has been three days, and we still do not have much.
  3. Why are the photos circulating on the internet provided by Navarro himself?
  4. What is the name of the condominium?
  5. Who is this female friend?
  6. What was the purpose of the female friend’s invitation?
  7. Were there any arrests?
  8. Were there any witnesses?
  9. Why are there no interviews from journalists of neighbors, guards and relatives?
  10. Is this a publicity stunt? Does Navarro have an upcoming project?

When I walk alone at night, I always try to be as vigilant and as careful as possible.  I do hope that this never happens to anyone.  If it can happen to people like me, to high profile people like Navarro, then it can happen to anyone.  Let’s continue to pray for his recovery and hope that justice will be served.