Isla Felomina: an unspoiled paradise

30 June 2016 Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

I am a mountain person. Well, I haven't seen a sea for ages. Yes, my friends, I mean this. The last time I went to have a taste of vitamin "sea" was in 2010 but didn't get a chance to swim or even dip my feet. I guess I was too chicken to get burned. Imagine, I stayed the whole day in a shade while my cousins happily swim and fish at the bay. Lame.

Anypoo, one of the highlights of our Puerto Princesa getaway last month was exploring a newly opened snorkeling and dive site just near the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Crystal clear water, fresh air... An unspoiled paradise. I never knew this is where I will find Nemo and Dory up close and personal.


GETTING THERE

Isla Felomina, is located at Barangay New Panggangan (pronounced as Pang-ga-ngan), Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. To get there you will need to take a 1 hour boat ride from Sabang Port. The rental cost of a boat is PhP 3,000 ($64) that can occupy up to 10 passengers. The same boat you rented out will take you to and back.

While waiting for our boat, I took this opportunity to have a selfie. I posted this photo right away on social media with a tag at Sabang Port. Haha. Phone coverage here is strong so you don't have to worry about not getting connected.


THE ISLAND

Before going to the island, you may contact Brgy. Captain Hipolito Lebios at (0950) 297 2477. The entrance fee is PhP 160 ($3.40) per person. There is an additional payment of PhP 200 ($4.25) if you want food to be served which includes desserts and fresh coconut juice too. The locals will cook the food for you. I strongly advise that you call them beforehand, preferably, 2-3 days before your arrival so they can prepare.

Hello Isla Felomina! I tried taking a photo of the whole island of Isla Felomina but our boat was moving too fast and here's my best photo of it. My apologies.


We arrived at the island around 10 in the morning and the locals welcomed us with smiles. They asked if we were hungry, but we said we would love to take a swim first because we knew that we will get hungry afterwards.

Look how crystal clear the water is. Sorry, I got an ugly feet.


Isla Felomina Snorkeling and Diving Site just formally opened last March, so it is not known to many yet, not even to the majority of the locals of Puerto Princesa. They opened up to us that they don't have the funds yet for the necessary things needed for the site to run properly. So far, I suggest you bring your own diving or snorkeling effects, or you can rent a snorkeling gear for PhP 150 ($3) at Sabang Pier.


The locals who keep alive the diving site is currently supported by Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The locals of New Panggangan volunteered to commit their time and effort to maintain the site.


Believe it or not, this was my first time to try snorkeling. And yep, I'm not good at swimming so good luck to me. But with the help of a life vest and a bamboo raft which I depended my life on it, I somehow managed to get through. At first, I thought it was hard to breath under water using your mouth alone, but when I placed the snorkel on and tried to put my head in the water, well, it was not that hard. Just relax.

Oh my, the fishes are so colorful the corals are beautiful. Am I dreaming? I never knew this was gonna be so amazing.

I am tempted to film the beauty that I am seeing under water, but I don't want to risk my phone's life (it's not waterproof). Haha. Oh, I wish I had a GoPro or any underwater device that will allow me to film that time so I can let you have a look.

I saw Nemo, I saw Dory, I saw starfishes, and a lot more colorful glowing fishes under the sea. I don't want this to end. It is so beautiful.


After a tiring yet satisfying swim with the fishes, we got hella hungry. Our lunch includes rice, tomatoes, onions, coconuts, and fishes which the locals catch fresh. The food was so amazing (especially the fish), my taste buds are satisfied and my tummy is happy. Yes, the fresh coconut juice is sweet too.


WHAT ELSE TO DO?

If you want to take a good 360 degrees view of the whole island and its surroundings, ask the local in charge to get you on top of the island. I didn't get an opportunity to get above because it started to rain. Check this photo from Lee, who got the chance to snap a view from the top here.


This was the best experience of my life yet. Trust me, it's okay to get "nakset" (sunburned) and all. It's all worth it. I suggest adding snorkeling and diving in Isla Felomina to your itinerary. It is best if you go to Isla Felomina first before heading to the Underground River Subterranean Park.

#LetTheRiverRest

29 June 2016

Photo from Flickr.

On July 1, a bus full of artists & filmmakers will close the Puerto Princesa Underground River for three days. During those days, they will try to sell 3,600 passes to the river by driving from North to South of Mainland Palawan and continously upload videos of performances at stopovers and collaborations with the locals on Instagram to encourage buyers and Palawenyos to join the ‪#‎PositiveValues‬ Instagram Video Contest that can make them win US$3600 worth of Palawan adventure or Php360,000 film grant.


With a purchase of US$30 or Php1500 and not going to the river, one not only becomes a lifetime member of IsDa Revolution and be eligible to participate in all future events and contests of the organization but will also be able to sponsor one Palawan artist to the organization. (US$10 or Php500 only for Palawan residents until July 3.)


This is the ‪#‎LetTheRiverRest‬ Int'l Film Festival & New Media Convergence 2016. A project of PerCent Integrated Marketing Communications through its IsDa Revolution (Indie Support and Development Advocacy) Project in cooperation with CasaNieves.tv, The Palawan Heritage Center, WhenInManila.com, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development & the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River & National Park.

This years proceeds will be used as seed money to build the FilipiNow Theater, a state-of-the-art theater by the Underground River that will exclusively screen content and exhibit works produced by the members of IsDa Revolution.

Experience Vietnam - Viet Ville

23 June 2016 Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

On our second day in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, we had the chance to experience Vietnam and try out some Vietnamese cuisine at Viet Ville before heading to Nagtabon Beach. We arrived at 12 noon, and while waiting for our lunch to be served, we took this opportunity to tour the village.

Before roaming around the village, we first notified the restaurant management. We were told to be careful when going around because there are dogs that might attack us. Nonetheless, we went on to brave the dogs. YOLO!

The 13-hectare village was built in 1997 with more than 200 villas, a Catholic chapel, a temple, a playground, and a restaurant (famously known as Viet Ville Restaurant) with the help of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for Vietnam refugees.


The existence of a Catholic church in front and a Buddhist temple at the back of the resto signifies that two different religions can co-exist together.


The Vietnam village looks more like a ghost town, but some of the buildings are still functional today, like the Buddhist temple and the chapel.

The bulk of the Vietnamese refugees who used to live there already migrated to the United States. Only two original refugees decided to stay in the Philippines because they already married Filipinos and have their own families. The villas were left to rot over the years with only a few units remaining which houses a two or three Filipino families who resettled there with the help of the local government.

The village has now turned virtually into a woodland as many trees planted by the refugees have grown.


The continuing existence of the Vietnamese village is to share the Vietnamese culture with Filipinos and foreign tourists who visit Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

According to the management, Viet Ville will continue to assist arrested Vietnamese fisherman and they would help them regarding legal matters until eventually they can go back to their homes in Vietnam.


We headed back to the restaurant. The whole restaurant is made up of bamboo from its flooring to the windows, and everything. It felt so Vietnamese.

We were the only ones who's there that time. They disclosed to us that they're not getting a lot of customers these days due to the increasing number of competitions.


The restaurant specifically offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine such as rice noodles, spring rolls, and hotpot dishes. The manager revealed that most of the ingredients came from Vietnam.

We were treated to Bo Kho (Vietnamese stew), lapu-lapu Vietnamese style, spring rolls, Vietnamese sapin-sapin, and jasmine tea. The Vietnamese sapin-sapin is my favorite of all.


I always wanted to go to Vietnam but I don't have the money yet to go there. I never knew I'll get the chance to experience Vietnam without the hassle of spending too much money, and the best part is, I don't need to leave the country.


My fellow bloggers, Rona and Aci trying out the traditional Vietnam outfit. Yes, they're renting out their outfits for just PhP 25.


If you want to experience Vietnamese culture without leaving the comforts of the Philippines, head to Barangay Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Viet Ville is near Honday Bay and Sta. Lucia Hot Spring. For inquiry and/or reservations contact (0977) 456 7599.

4 fun things you can DIY for your wedding

21 June 2016

All brides want their wedding day to be a special occasion. But there’s more pressure than ever to make it a day that’s unlike any other. This is primarily why the DIY wedding trend has become so popular in recent years. This involves creating elements for your wedding day yourself, rather than buying it pre-made from a store. This can help give your wedding day a unique and personal quality, while also helping you unleash your creative side. It can take up a lot of your time, but wedding DIY projects have been found to save couples a substantial amount of money. This is something that is obviously very appealing if you’re sticking to a tight budget. So if you want to give this trend a try for yourself, here are four things you can DIY instead of buy.

FAVORS

Wedding favors are one of the most popular things that brides choose to DIY. This is probably because they are so versatile. There are a whole host of items you can create that can easily be used as memorable favors. You can bake cupcakes or cookies and display them in hand-painted boxes. You could also make your own preserves using fruit from a local farm or your backyard. Making your own candles or soaps at home using step by step guides is also another good idea. If you’re struggling to decide, think carefully about your wedding theme. This should help you narrow down your options. Receiving handmade favors is bound to go down well with your guests and they will treasure the contents forever.

FLOWER GIRL'S DRESSES

Flower girls are often the youngest and the smallest members of the bridal party. You’re spoilt for choice with hundreds of designs, colors and styles of dress. If you’re brave enough, why not try making the dress yourself. Children’s clothing can be made with little skill and experience. Plus it gives you a chance to have some fun. You could take the fabric from an old dress and transform it into a skirt or a top she can wear. There are some incredible free sewing patterns online and in most craft and sewing stores. You can also use these stores to find fun fabrics and trims to make the dress extra special. Or you can customize one she already has with buttons, netting, and fake flowers. The only restriction you have is your imagination, so create an outfit she would love to wear even after the wedding is over.

INVITATIONS

Your wedding invitations are a crucial aspect of your wedding day as the provide your guest with informative information. There are thousands of invitation suppliers with beautiful designs to choose from online and in shops. But did you ever consider making your own? Invitations are one of the easiest DIY projects you can do for your wedding day. You can find inspiration online and head to a local craft store for supplies. Or you can create personalised laser cut wedding invitations online and assemble them yourself at home. You can even use programs like Photoshop to create an invitation design that you print off quickly and easily. You have the freedom to choose the theme, colors and size, while also saving yourself some money. So invite your bridesmaids round and start creating.

PHOTO ALBUMS

Many wedding photographers can provide stunning wedding albums to store all of your pictures in. But these often come with a hefty price tag, particularly if you want more than one. Instead, why not ask for a CD with your wedding day photographs on. You can then use these files to get creative and create your own wedding album. You could use photo printing services or print the images off at home. You could also create a photo book online, where you can choose the layout and colors used. For a more personal touch, you can use large pieces of card and string to create a scrapbook style album. You can then decorate the cover and pages with stickers, glitter, and feathers. The possibilities are endless, and you can be as simple or as extravagant as you please.

These DIY projects can help multiple elements of your wedding stand out by reflecting your personality and style. While also showcasing your creativity and skill. You’ll also feel a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to see your hard work pay off. Obviously, you will need to make sure you have enough time in the run up to your wedding to create these items. So start planning and get creative today!

Preparing For The Ultimate Gap Year Like A Pro

15 June 2016



Travel has become an increasingly important part of our society, and most of us enjoy a holiday or two each year.

For others, taking a year out to explore the world and themselves is a far more attractive prospect. Many students love taking this option either before or after their college years. However, it’s an adventure that you may decide to take at multiple stages of your life.

If you are going to follow those travel dreams, it’s imperative that you do so in a winning fashion. After all, you’ll probably only get one shot at making it work. There are many factors to consider. But with the right preparation, you’ll be just fine.

The most attractive prospect about taking a year out is the chance to visit various locations. However, taking public transport and paying for hotels will cost you huge sums of money. Meanwhile, it’ll become difficult to ever truly relax. The best way to solve this is with a brand new stylish Cougar RV. Between a group of you, it won’t work out that expensive. And it opens up far greater opportunities for your future adventures.



An RV has the potential to cut your costs drastically. However, you must learn a few basic cooking and cleaning skills to make the most of those facilities. This is especially true for younger travelers. As long as each member of the group pulls their weight, things should be just fine.

The flexibility of taking a year out means you could go anywhere. And this may encourage you to take spontaneous detours. That’s great. Nevertheless, you should make a list of places that you’d love to visit. Whether it’s seeing a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon or meeting a various group of people doesn’t matter. The gap year is a phenomenal opportunity to tick items off of your bucket list. Even if it means visiting multiple countries on your journey, you should.

Whatever you do on your adventures, it’s imperative that you keep yourself safe. Staying connected to friends and family back home is essential. Meanwhile, placing a tracking device on your smartphone could be key to staying protected. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The most important element, however, is to travel with the right group. Seriously, vacations can be testing at the best of times. A whole year in each others company can be even tougher. Therefore, you cannot just jump in at the deep end without thinking.



Of course, there are various other items that might appear on your gap year bucket list. I, for example, would suggest taking the opportunity to do something for people in need. Volunteering in any capacity is extremely rewarding. Besides, it’ll leave you with far more interesting stories to tell.

Taking a year out to travel isn’t for everyone, but it can be the key to leading a more satisfying life. Above all else, learn to enjoy it and make every day count. The last thing you want to do is look back with regret.

Mornings at Microtel by Wyndham - Puerto Princesa, Palawan

12 June 2016 Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

During our 5 days 4 nights getaway to Puerto Princesa, we stayed for the first two nights at a hotel resort - Microtel by Wyndham in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The hotel is the only beachfront hotel in Puerto Princesa and offers an impressive white-sand shores and a picturesque views at any time of the day.



MINIMAL DESIGN

The design at Microtel by Wyndham Palawan are light, bright, minimal in style, and of course, the signature color of Microtel - blue. The Balinese-inspired design at the common lounge area is one of the unique features you'll encounter at Microtel by Wyndham Palawan. When I saw the interior and the overlooking magnificent white-sand shores beachfront view, I thought I was transported to Bali in a zap.


HOTEL TIP: Looking for a strong wifi connection? The lounge area is perfect. They also have a free water and free overflowing coffee vending machine in the area.

THE ROOMS

The hotel has 50 rooms in all consisting of single rooms, queen double room and queen suite rooms. The rooms are equipped with Cable TV, internet-ready data port, and of course, full-sized bathrooms with hot and cold water. It also comes with a radio clock and IDD/ NDD telephone, as well as safety features such as an automated fire safety system and electronic key card entry. Baby cribs are also available upon request.

Our room is a Queen Double Room overlooking the beach area and its published rate costs at PhP 8,000 ($174) a night. What I like about our room, aside from the overlooking beach area is you could actually open the sliding glass door (which also serves as a window) and voila!

Sorry for the bad photo here, the sun was too harsh.

The toilet and bath area has a readily-installed blower and has the perfect rain shower which I really love after a tiring day out the sun. A complimentary soaps, shampoos, toothbrush, toothpaste, paper towels, and a mosquito repellent lotion for sand-mites is also provided. Their towels smells good too. However, I was looking for white fluffy robes but there was none.


They also have complimentary drinking water which is also available upon request.

HOTEL TIP: Feeling the need to shave? You may request a razor by dialing the front desk hotline or ask one at the reception area.

SENORDAMLA AND THE POOL

What I absolutely love about my stay here is the swimming pool and the food. The swimming pool and the restaurant is perfect during evenings, eating your dinner, or having a perfect swim with friends, while being serenaded by live performers.


The hotel has a restaurant beside the pool area named, Senordamla Gourmet Restaurant. Senordamla? I haven't got a clue of what Senordamla is and why it is named such. Their buffet breakfasts is the bomb though.


THE VERDICT

If you want shot bars, nightclubs and lively crowds, this hotel isn’t for you. However, if you’re endlessly searching for a hotel that combines serenity, great service, marvelous surroundings and laid-back luxury, Micotel by Wyndham Palawan offers everything you could ever want from a sun-drenched vacation.

I’m all for discovering new places around the world and like to cram as much in to my trips as possible, but if there’s one place I could go every year to recharge my batteries and totally switch off, it would be here.


DIRECTIONS

Microtel by Wyndham Palawan is located at The Emerald Playa Beach and Nature Park, San Manuel, Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

From Puerto Princesa Airport, turn right to Rizal Avenue. Turn right to National Highway. Turn right to San Manuel Road. Follow directional signs to the hotel (approximately 3.2 kilometers away).

For inquiries and/or reservations contact +63-48-7230977, +63-48-7231018, or email puertoprincesa@microtel.ph or visit www.microtel-palawan.com. To check the availability and prices and for easy-booking, click here.


What do you think of Microtel by Wyndham Palawan? Is this the kind of place you’ve been searching for? Or have you already visited Puerto Princesa? Let me know your thoughts below.

I would like to thank Mommy Lariza for some of the photos here.

@heycharchar on Instagram

© Charlotte Anne. Design by Fearne.