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Paradise during the Pandemic: Good news from the island of El Nido, Palawan

This story is part of a feature series that aims to share good news happening in some of the Philippines’ major tourist destinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We acknowledge the challenges and difficulties the residents of these destinations (and everyone else, basically) face during this time, but a little reminder on the good things may help get us through this situation. We hope you are reading this from a safe place.

Just this July, Palawan has been named the “best island in the world” by a renowned international travel publication — an accolade that is not new for this country’s “Last Frontier.” Time and again, Palawan’s idyllic beaches, deserted islands, and pristine underground river (one of the world’s longest) have been celebrated by both local tourists and foreign travelers. But as the world experiences the COVID-19 pandemic and tourism is at a halt, how has life been in this slice of paradise? 

@ Letti Meringue

We have reached out to residents at El Nido — a Palawan municipality famed for its stunning lagoons, turquoise waters, and towering limestone cliffs — to share how the island and their lives have changed since the lockdowns have been implemented. 

A Crowded Jewel, A Quiet Place

@ Letti Meringue

Prior to the pandemic, “El Nido was going into peak season, it was noisy, busy, and crowded,” shares Ann Pansinsoy, born and raised in El Nido and a member of the Tao Philippines expedition group. Angela Alvarez, a proud Palawena hotelier, shares the same sentiment, adding that the island was jam packed with tourists and construction was here and there. For these locals who have spent most, if not all, of their lives in what used to be a quiet and serene island, the surge of tourism in El Nido has definitely changed the atmosphere of their hometown.

On the flipside, some of the El Nido residents we interviewed came from different places and even from outside the country, in search of a more peaceful place they can call home. It took a friend’s invitation to visit El Nido (and many back-and-forths after) that made Jimmy Gustilo, once a Makati local for almost half a decade, finally “plant his roots” in the island — somewhere definitely quieter than the bustling Manila metropolis. Astrid-Marie Stretti, a French national, decided to pack her bags and move to El Nido so she could raise her son close to nature. 

Paradise on lock

When news that lockdowns and quarantine measures were to be put in place by the government, Shallah Montero was really on her way to El Nido for a work project. Little did she know that her one-month plan in the island would now become six — and counting. “I couldn’t bear thinking that I would be stuck in my apartment in Manila, so I purposely flew to El Nido to work on the project. For the rest, I didn’t have a plan.” Letti Meringue, born and raised in Manila and studied in Paris, moved back to the country with the intention of making El Nido her new home. “Honestly, I’m very grateful for the timing, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the city during lockdown,” she shares.

@ Shallah Montero

When borders were finally closed, “it became like a ghost town,” shares Jimmy. Most locals worked in the tourism sector — hotels, restaurants, cafes — and most of the people out and about in the island were travelers, so when almost everything got closed, so did the entire town.

@ Jimmy Gustilo

Tourists flew back home, while some chose to stay, housed by hotels and hostels that offered them discounted rates. Astrid and Letti recall that they cannot go out of their houses for more than 2 months, except for one person with a pass to buy food and essentials. 

Soul Kitchens & Community Markets

Frustration was inevitable, as with the rest of the country and the world, as life took a turn when COVID-19 hit. But for Angela, this was something “out of (her) control” so she diverted her thoughts into actions to help her family and the community. Through a project called Palawan Bayanijuan, tourism frontliners and families in 7 municipalities including Puerto Princesa, Coron, San Vicente, and El Nido were given care packages. Another project she is involved in is the Palawan Local Market, a digital platform helping local farmers and producers sell and market their produce to consumers in the area.

@ BayaniJuan | Angela Alvarez
@ Shallah Montero

Shallah, together with a friend, helped execute a community market as part of “Angkan sa Angkla” — a brand of events organized by the Angkla Beach Club in Nacpan Beach. The goal was to create a space for online sellers to offer their products personally, especially those who have started small projects and businesses during the quarantine period. “It was a success! A lot of people came and bought from various vendors and built networks. Some vendors even sold out! It was beautiful to see people support each other,” Shallah quips with much joy.

@Angkan Sa Angkla | Shallah Montero
@ Astrid-Marie Stretti

A charitable meal distribution program was also organized by Astrid and her family. Through monetary and produce donations from individuals in the Philippines and friends abroad, they have been cooking meals everyday for El Nido locals and residents since June 8. Their Communal Pot project has already shared 15,000 meals to the community. “Almost 50 locals volunteered to help us cook and serve the meals. There are many good things that happened to El Nido and the people. I think the most important one is solidarity.” 

@ Astrid-Marie Stretti

Paradise Unlocked

No one has definitely prepared for what has come. Jobs have been lost, businesses have closed down, and lives are placed in danger and uncertainty — until, maybe, a vaccine is finally approved and available. But seeing the good does not necessarily mean turning a blind eye on the challenges. As Shallah puts it, “I am truly lucky (being in El Nido). But this does not mean I am ignorant to the issues my country’s been facing, I keep myself aware of what’s happening and continue on.”

As El Nido, along with most cities, provinces, and destinations in the Philippines, has been on lockdown, it also meant for a paradise of healed seas, strong communities, and hopeful people to be unlocked.

@ Shallah Montero

“We allow our islands to rest and prepare it once we open our doors to tourists again,” Angela shares, looking at the bright side. Ann, who has seen El Nido in its most pristine state having lived on the island before the tourism boomed, says, “one of the good things I’ve observed during this period was the healing of nature. It’s so quiet, there’s no rush. It’s so peaceful.” Shallah, even though she’s just a visitor, echoes this sentiment, “the locals got to see its beauty and serenity once more. They got to take a break from work and actually enjoy El Nido for what it truly is. ” Astrid has also seen some turtles in one of the busiest beaches in El Nido, “since it is not so crowded now, they can swim freely. From ashore, we can witness a much cleaner sea.”

@ Shallah Montero

Ann also appreciates how the stranded tourists became like locals, “tourists slowly changed their way of life and thinking. Everyone in El Nido got contented with what’s only present and available in the island, not asking for more.” Moreover, locals and foreigners have turned their backyards into vegetable gardens and greenhouses, and businessmen and hoteliers turned to farming as well, according to Angela. Letti also shares that as the quarantine rules became less strict, families and neighbors have started gathering for barbecues, and children have reunited for arts and crafts.

@ Astrid-Marie Stretti

Making the most of the situation, many locals have also turned their hobbies into income-generating activities. Jimmy shares that one of his friends in the island used to just bake for fun, but now has become a full-time business — an “expansion of creativity and skills” this pandemic has taught us to do so. Food selling and delivery have also become a hit in El Nido during the quarantine period, as with other places in the Philippines.

Always will be ‘The Nest’

The caves inside the towering limestone karsts that abound in the island are home to tiny swiftlets that build edible nests out of their saliva, hence the name El Nido, which means “the nest” in Spanish. And like these birds coming together and navigating their way through the dark cave walls to build a home and raise their young, the people of El Nido have formed stronger bonds and relationships throughout this dark, challenging time. From locals guiding stranded tourists to foreigners cooking for locals and many things in between, “it was heartwarming seeing everyone in El Nido help, take care, and depend on each other,” Astrid gushes. 

@ Letti Meringue

Special thanks to:

 

 

 

 

Z Hostel: Your Safe Place, Always

Hello wonderful humans of Z!

We hope you are holding up well. The past months have been nothing short of shocking, challenging, and uncertain. We were just chugging down May Forevers and jamming to chill music on the Roof Deck not long ago, weren’t we? While we missed seeing all of you stroll down the streets of Poblacion thinking where to go next at 2AM, we all needed to do what’s best for everyone: stay home, stay safe, stay healthy.

A handful of guests got stranded at Z Hostel, and we also welcomed locals who needed a place to stay near work over the last two months. As safety is one of our key priorities at Z, our hardworking staff have been going the extra mile to make sure everyone staying with us is safe and sound. 

We’ve ramped up our sanitation and housekeeping services by cleaning the lobby, elevator, cafe, game room, and roof deck multiple times during the day.

Each guest coming in is checked with temperature scanners and must sanitize upon entering our doors. Their rooms are also being cleaned weekly, while linens are washed up with laundry soap and sodium hypochlorite and dried at maximum heat. 

Social distancing is strictly followed in the lobby and front desk, as well as inside the elevator. We have also put up an information board with important announcements relating to COVID-19 and reminders for guests to stay physically healthy and mentally well.

Our staff are provided with proper equipment and sanitary tools to make sure they are able to perform their tasks effectively while, most importantly, keeping them safe. All of them have recently undergone COVID testing, too, and have all tested negative.

Z Hostel has always been about fostering meaningful connections and giving each one a great, fun time. But while we had to be physically apart, the DJ deck empty, and the nights silent, Z will remain your safe place, as always. 

We can’t wait to see all of you again! So be safe and healthy because when that time comes, it is going to be one hell of a party!

Tight virtual hugs,

Your Z Hostel Team

 

2020 Travel Inspiration: A mighty traveler to visit every country in the world without flying

Travel bucket lists don’t need a new year to be written out. But as we ring in a new decade, we’re kicking it off with a unique and epic story of one man’s journey, or a “saga” as he likes to call it, around the world!

Born Torbjorn Pedersen, he goes by the name Thor, which actually makes it easier for him to introduce himself to practically every kind of citizen in the world. Because mighty as his name, Thor left his homeland Denmark last October 10, 2013 to embark on a trip to visit every country — without taking any flight! If he does this successfully, then he will be the first person in the world to do so! Call it crazy but when he came to the Philippines a few months ago, he has already traveled 276,000 kilometers only by land and sea in 186 countries then!

Apart from (obviously) his passport, a smartphone, and a multi-purpose scarf, he swears by a ballpen as one of his travel essentials. “It’s good for communicating especially if you don’t speak the language of the country. And also for self-defense!” he quips. 

With the immense landscapes Thor has seen from every corner of the globe down to the thousands of people he has encountered (he thinks of strangers as friends you haven’t met yet), one would think he has probably found the answers to life’s most complicated questions. Yet his most profound learning throughout his 6-year-and-counting saga is that “the world is so peaceful, mundane, and ordinary. It is made out of the normal things you do everyday like standing in line, taking the bus to work, paying your bills, etc. That’s what we spend most of our life doing.”

Pretty sure you have a list of questions in your head as to how he is able to fund his non-stop travel, cross borders, get visas, plan out all the routes, and so on. He maintains his website onceuponasaga.dk where he documents all information about his trip. We also learned that he was made Goodwill Ambassador of the Danish Red Cross and visiting Red Cross National Societies in every country is part of the journey. His background in logistics work has probably served him right as well in planning his routes and schedules. 

Thor is taking on a journey not many of us could possibly take in this lifetime. But his ambition remains to inspire people to pursue their life’s goal, however small or ambitious it may be. “Too many people have dreams that remain dreams. A plan should follow after a dream. And then that one step.” Another fun fact: Thor is engaged to a woman back home while he is away, so imagine how hard it must be for both of them! It sure takes a lot of sacrifices to achieve this but as we delve into Thor’s journey, it’s definitely going to be worth it!

He leaves us with his favorite quote by Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta: traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. Well, he definitely won’t run out of stories as he fulfills this saga around the world. And we were left in awe and out of words listening to just some of them!

Must-see Christmas Attractions around Metro Manila this 2019

The most wonderful time of the year has finally come — at least for this country who is known to be celebrating the longest Christmas in the world! As early as September, sparkling lights and Christmas carols can already be felt around the Philippines. And come December, a lot of establishments pull out all the stops to create the most magnificent Christmas attractions for the public to experience and enjoy. If you’re in the capital of Manila, here are some that you should not miss:

Ayala Triangle Gardens’ Gallery of Lights

For many years now, this pocket of garden in the middle of the bustling Makati City Central Business District has been flocked by hundreds of people every night for its annual Christmas lights and sounds show. This year’s Gallery of Lights feature thousands of lights dancing in eye-popping patterns to the tunes of local and international holiday songs. A wonderful addition this year is a 3D video mapping on the dome of Tower One, featuring visuals inspired by church ceilings and windows from around the world.

What makes this attraction more amazing is it is entirely free for everyone! The Gallery of Lights runs every night from 6PM to 10PM until January 12, 2020.

Ortigas East Christmas Street Musical Light Tunnel

Photo Credit: Ortigas East Facebook

Illuminating the eastern side of Manila, the Ortigas East Christmas Street Musical Light Tunnel in Pasig City has been unveiled for the public to enjoy. The lights and sound installation will be playing classic and modern Christmas tunes while blanketing visitors with bright lights. It is definitely a place for the family and friends to enjoy as it also features a nightly “StrEAT Food Market” where a wide array of food selections can be bought and eaten under the light tunnel.

The lights installation and night food market runs every night from 6PM to 10PM until January 5, 2020.

Lakbay Museo Paskong Pinoy Village

Photo credit: Lakbay Museo PH Facebook

After a quick stroll by the Manila Bay, one can head to the nearby S Maison at Conrad Manila for the newly-opened Lakbay Museo, an interactive museum featuring the best of Philippine culture and destinations. For this season, they opened the Paskong Pinoy Village that truly showcase the grand Filipino Christmas spirit. Huge parols (Christmas lanterns) and sparkling lights light up the entire place. There’s even a life-size Belen (Nativity scene) and a replica of the famous Barasoain Church!

Visit lakbaymuseo.ph for tickets and schedules.

And while you’re in Manila already, check out these other amazing sights and activities you must definitely seek out and enjoy: https://www.flightnetwork.com/blog/8-marvelous-things-to-do-in-manila/

Culture Trip: Must-visit Museums In Manila

Exotic food, unique sights, and local adventures — these are the things we usually look forward to when we travel to a new destination. But a great way to understand a place more is through culture and arts. A trip to the museums is a must then! We’ve rounded up a list of must-visit museums while you are here in the capital city Manila:

National Museum of Fine Arts

Photo credit: Instagram user @migoymigs

Formerly known as the National Art Gallery, this part of the National Museum of the Philippines has undergone a rebirth most notably with its interiors and organization of works. But the heart remains: historically important art works, documents, and masterpieces of Filipino legacy housed under one roof. And at the center of it all is the most famous painting inside: Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium” which depicts a critical message that still resonates even today. Get to know more Filipino stories weaved through every important work, including Fernando Amorsolo’s The Burning of Manila, Vicente Manansala’s Planting of the First Cross, and Leonardo Cruz’ Noli Me Tangere.

Address: Padre Burgos Ave., Ermita, Manila
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday | 10.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: Free

National Museum of Anthropology

Photo credit: Instagram user @airikacapanas

Go deeper into the National Museum complex and walk further down into the National Museum of Anthropology — a glimpse into the sociological, linguistic, and economic history of the Philippines and the Filipino people. Decades of work and study by the country’s renowned historians bring about a massive collection of culturally important materials such as traditional Philippine textiles, ancient Filipino writing called the baybayin, and century-old artefacts of the maritime and ivory trade in the country.

Address: Padre Burgos Ave., Ermita, Manila
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday | 10.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: Free

National Museum of Natural History

Photo credit: Instagram user @jovin_pyo

One of the more recent addition to the National Museum of the Philippines is the National Museum of Natural History: a vast housing of the country’s rich flora and fauna biodiversity. At the heart of it is the beautifully-designed elevator aptly called the “Tree of Life” that leads up to a canopy-inspired ceiling. The clever use of natural light highlights the astounding gifts of nature to the country. Some of the most interesting finds inside include the skeleton of Lolong, the largest crocodile in captivity, suspended in the building’s ceiling; an entire gallery dedicated to the bountiful marine life of the Philippines; and an archeological treasure that is an ancient rhinoceros from Kalinga.

Address: T.M. Kalaw corner Gen. Luna Streets, Rizal Park, Manila
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday | 10.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: Free

Ayala Museum

Photo credit: Instagram user @abonymous916

Shopping for labels and appreciating contemporary art in one — welcome to the Ayala Museum. Just right next to the Greenbelt Mall complex at the heart of Makati business district, the museum houses notable art from Filipino contemporary artists, a collection of rare books and photographs, and evolving art exhibition that celebrate Filipino history and artistry. One exhibit that cannot be missed is the “Gold of Ancestors: Pre-colonial Treasures in the Philippines” that showcases more than a thousand pieces of intricate and jaw-dropping pure gold jewelry, statues, and rare items.

Address: MakatiAvenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati, Metro Manila
Operating Hours: Ground-Fourth Floor Galleries – Tuesdays-Sundays | 9.00am to 6.00pm
Filipinas Heritage Library – Tuesdays to Saturdays | 9.00am to 6.00pm
ArtistSpace – Mondays-Sundays | 10.00am to 7.00pm
Entrance: ₱100.00 – ₱425.00

Pinto Art Museum

http://www.instagram.com/p/BsnWCEilP3S/

Photo credit: Instagram user @tiffynalexis

If you’re looking for a quick trip outside the busy capital, Pinto Art Museum is the perfect place to go to. Think of it as a respite from the bustling metro and an opportunity to see beautiful contemporary art. More than just an Instagram-worthy art space, the museum sits on a sprawling 1.2 hectare property that almost feels like a resort getaway with its respect to space, greens, and air. Walk into Mediterranean-Spanish inspired structures with well-maintained gardens sprinkled with art pieces, sculptures, and photographs from both seasoned and up-and-coming Filipino artists. “Pinto” literally translates to door in the Filipino language and it definitely is an access to appreciating Filipino creativity and artistry.

Address: 1 Sierra Madre St, Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday | 9:00am – 6:00pm
Entrance: Adult P150, Senior and PWD (with ID) P120, student P75 (required ID)

New Rules, Same Beauty: Guidelines and reminders with the newly opened Boracay Island

The world’s most beautiful beach is back — refreshed and rejuvenated from its 6-month rehabilitation. Boracay Island needed the break or else we would have probably lost it forever. There are definitely improvements but while the reopening was already last October 2018, some construction and repairs are still on-going.

A lot of you may still have doubts on whether you go or just skip it, what to do, what the new rules are. So here’s a rundown of guidelines and reminders and what to expect with the newly reopened Boracay:

The White Beach is still the gorgeous eye-candy that it is

There is no doubt the 3-kilometer stretch of blindingly, powdery white sand is one of the best beaches in the world. It just is beyond compare. And with the breathing room it got for half a year, it definitely took its time to rejuvenate and become more beautiful as ever. The waters are clear as glass. The layers of blue is fifty shades and more. Pure beauty.

Puka Beach is clear and back to its serene state

An escape from White Beach and its crowds, Puka Beach used to be a peaceful spot. But it become a tourist favorite and many stalls and stores lined up its shores to cater to the growing crowd. Now it’s back to its clear and serene state — new palm trees planted on one side, only one stall selling drinks on the far left end, and just pure golden shores and blue and (sometimes) raging waves waiting for you.

Only accredited hotels are allowed for bookings — and you need to show reservations

In an effort to control the mad number of tourists going to Boracay, the government implemented a new rule of having a hotel booking reserved before you can enter the island. So make sure to check this updated list of accredited hotels and accommodations so you won’t run into any problem upon arrival.

NO LITTERING, NO SMOKING, NO DRINKING on the beach

And this we can’t stress enough. The reason why Boracay crossed a deteriorating state was because of the amount of abuse it got from tourists over the years — in the form of trash and littering. Anyone who will be caught littering, smoking, and drinking on the beach will be penalized. Let’s all be responsible and vigilant visitors of Boracay or else this piece of paradise will just be all a memory.

Labora-bye!

Leave the hardcore partying somewhere else. Huge beachfront parties and music festivals (especihad its time in Boracay. Now let’s go back to listening to waves crashing against the shore and enjoying the chill vibe Boracay has to offer.

The prices have gone relatively higher

Most hotels, hostels, and restaurants have amped up their rates and prices — understandably given they have to recover from the 6-month closure. So be prepared for this. But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it anymore. We’re talking about 50-peso rum pineapples from local bars, affordable meals from small eateries, and free sunbathing on the shore.

Pack a little more patience than you usually do

The road construction and repairs are still on-going. So be patient because you might get stalled for a few minutes on the road, have to deal with dust and mud, and experience occasional brownouts. But it will be all worth it!

Boracay sunsets are still jaw-dropping

Enough said. Enjoy!

Where to go in the Philippines this Summer 2019

Summer is just around the corner — at least this side of the world. And it’s probably the best time to come to the Philippines: glorious sunny skies, endless glass-like waters, tropical madness you’d wish it was all year round. So we’ll make it easier for you. Here are our recommendations of top summer destinations — mostly off-the-beaten — for you to visit this 2019:

Camiguin Island for Natural Charm

It may be the second smallest island province in the Philippines but it packs a lot natural wonders than one would think. This pearl-shaped beauty could be formed by magic but it was really because of many volcanic eruptions and geological events — thus its moniker “Island Born of Fire.” But the atmosphere is nothing close to chaotic as its geographic history: sleepy, laidback, serene. Because it’s everything you’ll see that will do the talking.

Waterfalls in every corner (Katibawasan and Tuasan Falls are a must); an immaculately white sandbar aptly called White Island that changes its shape depending on the tides; Mt Hibok-Hibok which is still active but provides for a picturesque adventure trail; Mantigue Island teeming with abundant marine life; cold and hot springs all worth a dip; and the famous Sunken Cemetery where a big cross was erected in 1982 and serves as a landmark for a town submerged in sea when Mt. Vulcan erupted centuries ago. Now wasn’t that a mouthful?

How to get there:

Fly from Manila to Cagayan de Oro. Hop on a van or bus from Agora Market to Balingoan Port and take a 2-hour ferry ride to Camiguin Island.

There are also direct flights from Cebu to Camiguin Island.

Malapascua Island, Cebu for Marine Life

On the northernmost tip of Cebu lies a gem of an island — Malapascua. While its name directly translates to “Bad Christmas” from Spanish, it just looks so good and features many amazing spots. It is mostly famous as being one of the few spots in the world that thresher sharks call home and where you can dive and see their magnificence in flesh. Apart from Monad Shoal where the sharks abound, there are also several coral gardens, coral walls, and an excellent dive site in nearby Gato Island. If you’re not into the underwater world (yet), Malapascua’s Bounty Beach is a sun-worshipper’s treat. But several visitors drive up to North Beach for its more idyllic and relaxed vibe.

You can also hire a boat for a few hours and take you to spots like Los Bambos which is known as a cliff-diving spot, a snorkeling area where you can see a Japanese ship wreck just a few meters down, and a chance to see a towering white light house.

How to get there:

From Cebu City, take a bus at the North Bus Terminal to Maya Port in Daanbantayan and from there, take a small boat to Malapascua Island.

Palaui Island, Cagayan for Rugged Coastlines

If jagged coastlines and wave-sculpted terrains excite the adventurer in you, then Palaui Island offers that and so much more. Way up north of Manila in the province of Cagayan, Palaui is a destination not yet frequented by many but is worthy of the long road trip. It’s a mix of white sand beaches, historic sites, and landmarks carved by forces of nature through time. The docking port of Punta Verde and where most inhabitants live has public beach areas.

It is also the jump-off point to one of the most famous spots in the island, the Farol de Cabo Engaño, a lighthouse built by the Spaniards during the 18th century. There are two ways to get to it: via a 2-hour hike or you can ask the boatman to take you there. And while you are in or going back to Tuguegarao City, don’t miss the chance to visit the Callao Caves.

How to get there:

Fly from Manila to Tuguegarao City and ride a van or bus to San Vicente Port in the town of Sta. Ana. Only special boat trips are available for visitors and price varies depending on spots you want to visit. Punta Verde and Cape Engaño is at P1,800 (for 8 people).

Green Light District: St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at Poblacion, Makati

Once again, the Z Hostel Group pulled out all stops in throwing another unforgettable party in the Poblacion neighborhood — this time, for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

In partnership with Irish whiskey brand Jameson, the party saw the streets of Poblacion bathed in everything green and guests were treated with a sensory spectacle.

Originally held to mark the death of St. Patrick, it has become into a day of revelry for Ireland’s most beloved patron saint. Other parts of the world followed suit and since the Philippines never shies away from any reason to have fun, we now also take part in Ireland’s National Day.

Local and international acts filled almost all establishments in the area, their performances being the main highlights of the celebration. The participating venues included Z Hostel, Meeting Point, The Apartment, The Ruins, Ms Gee, Alamat, Wild Poppy, Green Door, Nokal Smokeyard, Estee, Polilya, Pura Vida, ABKD, and The Workshop/Annex House.

All swathed in anything green, these venues welcomed both locals and travelers into a night of all-out fun as they raised and made cheers with the night’s Jameson-ginger ale drink special while live bands, DJs, and singing acts such as She’s Only Sixteen, Six the Northstar, NKTA, Cocoy Puyat, Skarm, Sky Dominique, Manolet Dario, Kristian Hernandez, Kat Arragado, and DJ Shortkut and MC Supernatural (from the USA) took to their stages and played the night away.

The streets of Don Pedro and Alfonso also saw a congregation of people who wanted fresh air and pumping music while Jameson ambassadors treated them with free shots all night long.

The liquor brand didn’t scrimp on games, side activities, and gimmicks as well that rounded up the night’s festivity.

A popular song would say “amber is the color of your energy” but last March 16, it was definitely and undeniably green all the way.

Why you should not skip Port Barton in Palawan

When thinking about idyllic beach and island destinations in the Philippines, the usual list will definitely include Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Siargao, and Palawan. And talking about the most latter, it’s always Puerto Princesa, Coron, and El Nido that doesn’t leave the bucketlist. But what if we tell you there’s one Palawan spot you’re probably missing out and that you shouldn’t? Welcome to Port Barton.

Photo by Instagram user @ardnaxela.wolf

Although not that known to many travelers yet, Port Barton has become a favorite stop for the few who have extra time and curiosity in their hands. Everything in this little coastal village spells C-H-I-L-L. Imagine a town dotted with little huts and simple houses and lined with tall palms and fishermen boats.

Photo by Instagram user @nabmen

The village is roughly about 2-3 hours north of Puerto Princesa. Because infrastructure is not fully developed, getting there and around is still a challenge for the tourists whose main criterion is comfort. But for those who like to rough it, Port Barton is more than worth it. There are a few islands nearby the village that round up your stopover: Cagnipa Island, Paradise Island, Inaledelan, and German Island. These offer immaculate white sand, cerulean waters, and rich marine life ideal for snorkeling.

Photo by Instagram user @virg_claerhout

The best thing about Port Barton is it still remains sleepy: no big developments, no luxury restaurants, and no mass tourists like the ones you see in the more famous Philippine tourist spots. Also, the small establishments like bungalows and eateries are owned by locals.  And we hope it remains the same way — it’s the total local experience you want to get being in this slice of paradise.

A gentle reminder to always be a responsible and conscious tourist in any of the places you visit here in the country, especially the beaches, islands, and mountains. They are home both to the locals and the wildlife that inhabit them. 

Featured Photo by Instagram user @portbartonlife

Connecting the World, One Pancake at a Time

Ask anyone what connects us all and you’d probably hear “music” or “love.” But for one Dutch guy, it’s something else. Pancakes! Wait, pancakes? Yes, you heard it right!

Couchsurfer, business consultant, and world nomad Robin Vogelaar has forged connections and established relationships in more than 40 countries and 200 cities by cooking pancakes. He has been organizing Dutch Pancake Nights around the world with the simple mission of bringing everyone together while enjoying food he and a lot of people across the world love to eat.

Last October 27, Manila finally got a taste of this wonderful event and The Ruins in Poblacion, Makati gracefully hosted the celebration and welcomed locals and foreign tourists alike to a night of conversations, drinks, and of course, pancakes. The folks from The Ruins and Z Hostel also generously prepared free toppings such as chocolate syrup, peanut butter, fresh fruits, nuts and sprinkles that definitely added color and excitement to the Dutch pancakes.

What’s most interesting about the event is that it was all for free! And talking to Robin for a few moments, he shared that he organizes the event and buys all the ingredients for the pancakes out of his own pockets as part of his unconventional way of living traveling around the world.

He simply enjoys seeing everyone have a good time and inspiring others to live extraordinarily. True enough, some of his guests in his past events have turned out to do similar gatherings: a Vietnamese lady started her own Spring Rolls Nights in different countries!

Robin is an active member of the Couchsurfing community and also engages with different organizations as part of his consultancy work. So who knows, in your next travel abroad, you’ll bump into Mr. Pancake guy himself as he connects the world, one pancake at a time.

Self Check-In