BGC Hostel is Your Home Away From Home in Manila


I love hostels. It’s an affordable way to travel and stay in cozy spaces that give you the opportunity to meet like-minded people. In 2013, I went on a solo trip to Hong Kong and stayed in Yes Inn in Causeway Bay (roughly P800 a night in the city whose shopping areas have the most expensive rent in the world). Last week, I stayed in the Vietnam Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi (roughly P1,000 a night for a spacious private room). Yes, hostels are now my go-to choice for traveling for their affordability and character.

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Returning to my roots as a caveman

For Holy Week, my family and I stayed at a friend’s unit in Hamilo, Pico de Loro, Batangas. My mom’s friend was kind enough to lend us her unit for a night, where we contemplated on life and bonded amidst a sweeping beach and a series of buildings that encircled an emerald-green lake. We stayed for a night, but the 24 hours we spent communing with nature (when we weren’t luxuriating in a wintry unit with stuff for mucking around like a kitchen and a balcony) was enough to get me back to my roots as a caveman and realize the rejuvenating powers of nature.

Hamilo Pico de Loro (10)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (2)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (4)

As an urbanite, I am accustomed to being online the whole day. In the industries I work in, I am expected to be online at all times. Take a break and you’ve missed a viral sensation. Act too slow and you’ve missed an opportunity to put your brand in the spotlight. And as a writer, I live a largely sedentary life, my mortal body bound to an uncomfortable chair and chained to a laptop. It’s my mind that journeys, explores distant lands, and travels to faraway planets.

Hamilo Pico de Loro (3)

While walking around Pico de Loro and being surrounded by trees, I confirmed my long-held belief that man was not meant to be a slave to technology. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, man lived in the wild, feeding off fruits and game, hunting for food, and relying on nature for everything. Today, we feed off our Instagram likes, we hunt for dates on Tinder, and we rely on Google for everything. I guess it’s a natural progression given the rate of technology, but there’s something scary about becoming dependent on gadgets and social media.

This theory reminds me of why cats have a reputation for being aloof. They’re like that because they’re not fully-domesticated. Despite 9,000 years of sharing a home with humans, they only split from wild cats recently, and some still breed with them.

Hamilo Pico de Loro (5)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (6)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (12) Hamilo Pico de Loro (11)

Like cats, humans are not fully-domesticated. We feel a rush of exhilaration when we see a gaggle of trees, a school of animals, a surge of foliage. That’s why many fall in love with the charms of hiking, mountain climbing, and hunting. It reminds us of our DNA as cavemen.

Hamilo Pico de Loro (1)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (7)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (8)

Hamilo Pico de Loro (9)

I was a caveman in Hamilo. I fell in love with the expanse of the sea, the salty taste of the water as I swam with the cold current. The feel of powdery sand between my toes. Walking along a pathway lined with vibrant flowers, whose fragrance perfumed the air. The sound of cicadas piercing the sky. The sight of the large lake, gleaming in the sunshine, its pattering like music to one’s ears. Facebook, Instagram, and Gmail faded away. I can count with one hand the number of times I looked at my phone. As they say, life happens offline.

We relied on Waze on our way home. Sure, technology has its uses, but I am a cat waiting to return to nature.

Wintering in the Wild

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Extra imagery used in the theme:pinit

On silence.


I grew up with a lot of noise. My mother has a vivacious personality so I grew up with 500 of her closest friends, who were constantly clucking about one thing or the other. Her side of the family is also a tapestry of colorful personalities so even if nothing interesting was happening, it was just loud.

Fast forward to my teen years and I became my mother’s son. I was also talkative, lively, and cheerful. I can’t remember, but there was maybe a time when I couldn’t stop talking because I feared lulls in the conversation, as if pregnant pauses would give birth to awkwardness when left to idle for too long.

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Cavite Staycation: Bougainvilleas

Just recently, I was at Puerto Azul with the folks for a family staycation. We stayed at this beautiful mansion, and spent a few hours at a nearby beach.



A shrub of bougainvilleas along Puerto Azul


I wrote about my stay in Puerto Azul in the links above, but I’d like to also talk about the bougainvillea plants I saw all around Ternate, Cavite. Most of them I saw in Puerto Azul’s residential village, and I was struck at how beautiful and majestic the flowers were.





Some of the bougainvilleas that pepper Puerto Azul


I see them all over Metro Manila, but I only got to appreciate the ubiquitous flowers on my Puerto Azul staycation. It was growing in intense heaps all over the village. Trees, shrubs, and flowers grew wildly, and the greenery was dominated by this simple yet colorful foliage.






More of Puerto Azul’s bougainvilleas


Bougainvilleas are native to South America, but also grow in countries with warm climates. Bougainvilleas grow in Brazil, Peru, Spain, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Venezuela, and of course, the Philippines. It is known by many names, but bougainvilleas are known as bonggang villa in the Philippines.

Switzerland’s Locarno is famous for its bougainvilleas.






The house we stayed at in Puerto Azul also had its own bougainvilleas


They are known for the colorful flowers they grow, from pink to magenta, white, purple, red, orange, and yellow. Bougainvilleas can instantly brighten up a simple garden, but the bougainvilleas I saw in Puerto Azul lit the streets with its vibrant colors. Bougainvilleas are best appreciated in large clumps, when the sheer abundance of grandeur can overwhelm the senses.

Bougainvilleas are low-maintenance flowers because they are drought-resistant and versatile. They can be planted along walls, on fences, in baskets and containers. And best of all, they flower all-year round in equatorial areas! I plan on filling up our garden with bougainvilleas.


Cavite Staycation: The Beach

Last week, I went to Puerto Azul with the family for a staycation. Puerto Azul is famous for being “the resort that was,” once called Asia’s Paradise Resort that catered to rich locals and foreigners. Now, Puerto Azul is a crumbling facade of its former self, with many of its facilities rundown. However, news is that Ayala Land is planning to renovate the resort and bring it back to its former self.

We stayed at the residential area of Puerto Azul at this large house, and we had access to a private strip of beach exclusive to homeowners. Sadly, the beach is as neglected as the resort. Trash littered the path going to the beach and on the beach itself. The shore was littered with dried algae.
















The beach is picturesque, though. It has a lovely view of the sea and sky. We spent the short time we were there talking, eating chips, and looking for pretty seashells. I found a great batch of purple and brown shells.

Cavite Staycation: The House

Last week, I was at Puerto Azul in Ternate, Cavite, with the folks for a staycation and to celebrate my uncle’s birthday. Puerto Azul is notorious for its crumbling facade, which was once described as Asia’s Paradise Resort. It was an exclusive resort complex that catered to rich locals and foreigners, especially golfers. Its 3,3oo hectare land holds a a golf course designed by legendary golfer Gary Player, a beach, and a hotel with 340 rooms in 17 clusters. In fact, Leandro Locsin designed the main clubhouse, which still stands today.

Today, Puerto Azul is a shadow of its former self. The golf course is now dry and barren due to lack of irrigation. A shame, considering that it was designed by one of the greatest players golf history, and plays host to the important Philippine Open and Richard Gomez’s Goma Cup. Its Hole 17 has golfers playing with the dazzling Manila Bay in the background.

Its facilities are rundown and infrastructures aging. But my story takes place in a different location.



The residential area of Puerto Azul takes up only one street with lots of greenery


I had my staycation at the residential part of Puerto Azul. It’s right across the golf course, and is hidden by lots of greenery. It looks undeveloped, but the houses are huge. The house we stayed at had five floors.

The owner of the house has a funny connection with my family. She is friends with my mom, worked with my uncle (whose birthday we were celebrating), and her daughter was once my classmate in high school. I think it is their summer house because they occasionally rent it out.





The house is a pleasant shade of yellow


We had the space for two days, and I was impressed by the size of the place. The house is Asian-inspired and though I am not a fan of that architectural and design movement, I still loved the house for its size and devotion to large windows, seats, bathrooms, and greenery.

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Idyll Hands: Introduction

You have to love those serendipitious last-minute offers, especially if they involve all-expense paid trips out of town. That’s exactly what happened to me on a dreary Friday afternoon, when Nikko invited me to Ilocos the following week. Our trip would be sponsored by Parana Tours, who tapped When In Manila to feature the province.  I had to say yes. I promised myself I’d visit four cities this year and my trip to Capiz late last month was cancelled because everyone insisted I stay in Manila after finding out I’d be there for Halloween and the days of the dead.

I’ve always been intrigued with the Ilocos region. It’s in touch with the modern world but still embraces the past, from its architecture and ways of living. It still has that touch of provincial air with the relative convenience of this century. I mean relative because there were times when I would lose signal on my cellphone (hint: Smart has the best connection in Ilocos).

As far as I can tell, there isn’t much nightlife. Perhaps the locals have their own watering holes, but Ilocos isn’t known to travelers as a prime drinking spot. However, they make up for it by offering lots of nature-related and historical sights that are better than a pitcher of Mindoro sling. Ilocos is perfect for those who want to rejuvenate, meditate, or in my case, catch on some sleep. I was so tired that by the time we got to our cottage, I stayed in bed and slept right away.

Ilocos is rich in heritage, evident in the World Heritage Site Vigan City, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse that dates back to the 1890’s, and other culturally significant areas like Kapurpurawan Rock and the Malacanang of the North. Of course, Ilocos wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the fabulous beaches of Pagudpud.

Ilocos isn’t for the cosmopolitan traveler. Ilocos is for those who want to get in touch with nature and their inner self. It’s for those whose pleasure is in wild adventures by the beach and quiet nights in your cottage, with the sound of the sea punctuating the still air. Of course, private debauchery can be at hand. But don’t expect the glitz, the glamour, and the fireworks of other tourist destinations. And it’s perfectly fine.