Tuesday, February 26, 2008

***My Weekend Vacation travels for Feb.2008***

I am not really a "travel bug", as people say for people who are always on the go for travels, but I would look forward to travel "locally" if opportunity (financial and time-wise) strikes. Two of the most recent travels I made are in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte; and Puerto Princesa, Palawan. I was able to take a longer weekend -offs during the past two weeks of February to accompany my Uncle and Aunt in their Philippine vacation to escape the winter in Seattle. I am chronicling my two out-of-town travels in two succeeding weeks in two opposite directions, northern-most tip of Luzon and the South-western part of the Philippines.

First trip, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte - Feb.8-10

This trip has been one of the most memorable and challenging trips I ever encountered because this is actually the longest land-travel time I have experienced in my entire years of living. This is approximately 566 Kms. North of Manila or actually the Northernmost part of Luzon. If 566 Kms will be translated into travel time, it would have to be approximately 9 hrs of continuous travel time at speed of 60 kph, or lesser if travelling at a much faster speed. But in reality, without a clue of our actual destination, we took it at around 12 hrs given the sidetrip we made at Vigan, Ilocos Sur for some breakfast, tour and souvenir shopping and also for our gasoline station stop-overs, and because we travelled in two private vehicles in convoy.
The verdict on Pagudpud? Actually, I never really liked the beach in Pagudpud. We stayed at Bgy. Saud which is popularfor their white sand beaches. We stayed at Tera Rika Beach Resort in Bgy.Saud which is just beside the more popular (and upscale) resort, Apo Idon. When we arrived at Tera Rika, the beach was not calm and strong waves greeted us. During our stay
at Tera Rika for 3 days and 2 nights, we were not able to take a swim (or even dare) to take a dip at the beach since you wouldn't really like to be swept away by the strong waves. However, you would appreciate the serenity and peacefulness in Pagudpud since there are no nightlife present, and we were there during an off-peak season. You could have the beaches to
yourself during this season since strong waves and current aren't really tourist friendly, but I appreaciate the cool winds there during night-times that seems like a typhoon is present since you can hear strong wind being blown. During night-time, you can only hear the strong waves and wind blows which is a part of what you would appreciate from it's charms, serenity. During our stay in Pagudpud, we were unfortunate to have rains in the evening til mornings which coupled with strong winds would beat
baguio for it's coolness. My advice is to bring sweatshirts if you are not used to a somewhat cooler climate than in Manila. My
Uncle and Aunt liked Pagudpud for it's cleanliness and away from the hustle and bustle of city life, noise and pollution. Their allergies were gone because of the natural sea breeze in Pagudpud.

On our second day, we actually were looking forward to buy fresh catch from the local fishermen to taste some fresh fish and other seafoods. I was also looking into trying to buy me some lobster since from what I've heard, and read...lobsters are cheaper there. Unfortunately, we were not able to avail of some fresh catch since no boats went out to fish and braved the strong currents, therefore my looking forward to taste lobsters were gone in an instant. We just headed up to the Pagudpud Central Market but it is bare of fresh seafoods there. Only cultured fresh water fishes, meat and some vegetables are present. So we just bought enough for our meals during our stay. We just asked Tera Rika to cook those for us. Note that there is a charge for cooking for each meal asked for/served. Plus is dining by the seaside - experience dining out with the sea breeze and the sound of the strong waves. During our second day also, we went out to see some of the tourist attractions that Pagudpud has to offer, and more famous for.

First stop: Aqua Grande Picnic park.This is one of those stops famous for it's 'batis' coming from the mountains that meets the South China Sea. Entrance fee is P20 for picnic and if you would want to take a dip into the 'batis' but we did not enter here and
just took a photo op at the resort with the 'batis' at the background.

Next stop: Patapat Viaduct. This is just a bridge that connects Ilocos Norte to Cagayan. This is just beside the mountain and overlooking the open sea. It is a very beautiful sight to behold since a view of the open sea you will not find any nearby islands. This I think is also where the South China Sea in the North and the Pacific Ocean in the East converges. You will also pass-by a small waterfall just beside the mountain in Patapat that forms a small creek where the water is cool and clear - not for bathing though but feel free to have a 'lusong' in the creek.

Next stop is the Famous Blue Lagoon which is one of the famous attractions in Pagudpud. This is just 15 mins away from Bgy.Saud. This is a downhill travel that will allow you to see its beauty from afar as you go downwards to reach the beach. The waves are much more calmer here as compared to Bgy.Saud but there are also some portions which are restricted for
swimming since there are strong waves and currents also present. Sand is white and much finer than in Bgy.Saud but not really fine than in Boracay. Shore is also not yet clear of sharp stones so be bewared. However, one you reach the sand portion of the
beach, it is already shallow and clear. I wonder also as to why the water is blue from afar yet when you are already in it, it is just as is, a clearear sea water. However, clear and shallow as it is, when you use your goggles, you wouldn't really see anything underneath
other than sand and sea weeds. Back at the shore, I happen to also have a conversation with a Local fisherman and asked as to where I can actually buy a 'lobster', as to satisfy my curiosity of what a Lobster really tastes like. Since according to him, lobster are seasonal catch only and can only be caught during night-time with full-moon. I asked for the price of a lobster and it
seems like its price ranges from P300/kilo which seems a little cheap for me.

During our tour, we missed out some other tourist spots along our way like the Kabigan falls - due to the 1.5 km mountain trek that can't be made by my Dad, the Cape Bojeador tower and the Bangui windmills, but they are visible from afar from the highway stretches of Bangui.
I asked the resort what's the best time to go back to Pagudpud, and was told that they are peak during summer time where the sea is much more calmer and good to appreciate the beach.
Is it worth to travel back to Pagudpud? Based on the long travels, I would just opt to go to the other parts of the Philippines that have good beaches with lesser travel time by air. Pagudpud is clean but the beach is rather similar to Puerto Galera, with the exception of Blue Lagoon. Snorkelling is also not possible due to the strong waves and sea current. Though I appreciate the rice fields, greeneries by the mountain-side along the way, and the natural cleanliness in some un-touched portions of Pagudpud.

There is also less or zero air pollutants in the area - which is a good factor in my rating of Pagudpud. If you are after a serene place to get out of the hustle-and-bustle of city-life but is ready for, and adventurous enough to take a long travel by land, then, Pagudpud is your place to be.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's time everyone flies...but with Cebu Pacific? Not anymore...

I am going to set this one straight...this has been Cebu Pacific's catch phrase for their air transportation services, "Cebu Pacific Air - It's time everyone (every Filipino) flies". I would like to share this horror experiences I encountered with Cebu Pacific, from ticketing up to actual date of departure.

So here goes the story:

It was January 9, 2008 that I decided to book a flight for 7 PAX to Puerto Princesa. I booked via their Customer Service Hotline Number. I was booked for a roundtrip ticket from MNL - Puerto Princesa and vice versa. I was given a confirmation day on January
12, 2008 on/before 3:00 PM. Ticket fare is P4,515 per head.

Came January 12, 2008, a Saturday - I made my way to their ticketing office in Robinson's place, Manila to confirm booking and pay for the tickets. It was a rainy Saturday and I wasn't able to get on time (before 3:00 PM), but fortunately, I was able to have the confirmation time extended upon informing the Ticketing Agent. I was able to pay for the 7 rountrip tickets amid more than an hour's wait for my number to be called. I had to pay P4,515 per head with 3 tickets to avail of the Senior Citizen Discount at 20% which was lowered to around P4,100+ per Sr.Citizen (note that the Senior Citizen ID has to be presented even without the ID owner
present during the actual ticket confirmation).

Later that night of January 12, I hooked-up on the Internet and just tried to book the same flight itinerary over Cebu Pacific Air.com and was shocked to get seats over the same flight for P3,600 per head (plus of course a lesser fare for the Sr. Citizens). I went to call their hotline number to inform of my plea as to why I was able to get a lower ticket over the internet - given the same itinerarythat I already confirmed and paid for over their Ticketing office. After much discussion with the CSR over the phone, he agreed to have my flight re-booked to avail of the lower 'promo' fare over the internet but will be charged with P300+ per ticket rebooked for the re-booking/re-ticketing fee. Even with the charges for re-booking, I agreed since it will have me avail of the refund for the tickets at P600 each which is really a HUGE difference from our original ticket cost. I was just advised to have it confirmed by January 15, 2008 at 4:00 PM, but since this is a weekday and I won't be able to drop-by on a weekday due to work, I went the next day January 13, 2008 (Sunday) to confirm my re-booking.

Came January 13, 2008, I went to their Ticketing Office in Robinson's place Malate to confirm the re-booking. I waited for 3 hours to have the re-booking confirmed and have my refund. It was really an upsetting day partly because they have a very tedious
process of cancellation and refund and the Ticketing Agent was quite slow. Cancellation and refund took 1 hour to do, Re-ticketing took another hour. I was really already losing my patience, but was able to hold on into it. Thank God I was able to get my ticket at
around 7:00 PM that day. I thought I was going to miss mass during that night. I was able to attend to the 8:00 PM mass that night. Piece of advice though, for ticket confirmation and payment, it's better that you visit them at around 6:00 PM or about an hour before closing since there are almost no customers in queue by this time - that is, if you still would like to take Cebu Pacific. This is just a premier of what I encountered with them during Ticketing - the horror of the actual day(s) of flight will still be discussed later.

Came February 15, 2008 - the day of our departure for Puerto Princesa. Since our ETD is at 2:30 PM in the afternoon, me and my company arrived at the domestic airport at around 12:30 PM (2 hours before our departure). At Cebu Pacific's check-in counter was a long queue of travellers also departing for Puerto Princesa. We were able to escape the long queue by lining-up at an open check-in Counter for Cebu Pacific originally opened for Kalibo - we were actually advised by the stand-by guard that we can check-in our baggages at that Counter. Upon checking-in our luggages and waiting for the baggage pass, we were informed that our flightwas delayed and moved to 4:00 PM. I asked the Check-in Counter attendant for the reason and was given just a ,'Maintenance excuse'. We can't do anything but oblige. We proceeded to enter the Pre-departure area after another x-rays and payment of
boarding fees. We were at the pre-departure area by 1:00 PM, after-all it's 3 hours wait. We had to have our lunch inside the pre-departure area which was rather expensive.

30 mins before our scheduled departure for 4:00 PM, we still weren't called for boarding and waited 'til 3:45 PM to ask the Customer Service counter if our scheduled departure for Puerto Princesa at 4:00 PM will be on-time. I was advised that there will be another delay and re-scheduled trip is at 5:17 PM, the reason being that the plane we'll be flying at still hasn't arrived from Puerto Princesa. But they were kind enough to provide for a packed meal due to another delay. They gave away a packed Jollibee chickenjoy lunch and
a bottle of water. Again, there's nothing to do but wait. During those wait time, I have witnessed all flights of Cebu Pacific to other destinations go, there was Kalibo, then Bacolod and then Cebu. To think that 5:00 PM has already arrived and we still weren't called to board. One American national already approached the counter and was already pissed-off. He stated his case that he was with his family and waiting at the pre-departure area since 11:00 AM and he has a baby in-tow. I also approached the counterto ask if the 5:17 PM flight will still push through, and he was polite enough to go ask the terminal officer. As soon as he was
gonna go back to approach me, the cardboard labelled Puerto Princesa was placed in Gate 1 of the Departure area which signalled that the flight to Puerto Princesa is already 'boarding'. We were able to depart at 5:30 PM and arrive Puerto Princesa more than an hour later.
It was such a hassle to us since we have a neighbor's relative pick-us up and went to the airport several times. We were able to get out of the Puerto Princesa Airport at 7:30 PM. We don't have a place to stay yet and was really pissed off that due to the delays that Cebu Pacific gave us, we weren't able to get a place to stay at til 10 PM that night and we weren't able to arrange for a tour with our accomodation for us to the Underground River because it was already late. We were to stay in Palawan for 3 days and 3 nights only. But was lucky enough to be able to book a day tour of Dos Palmas on Feb.17 (Sunday) - this will be discussed in a separate blog.

Came February 18, 2008 (Monday), which is our departure day. We were supposed to leave at 4:15 PM that day. And was relaxed that we still have a lot of time to shop for items in Puerto Princesa the morning of that day. We left the resort for a little shopping at
7:30 AM and went back a little past 9:00 AM. Upon returning to the resort that morning, I went to pass-by the Resort's front deskand asked if she could confirm with Cebu Pacific if scheduled flight to Manila at 4:15 PM later that day will be on-time. Initially, she
said that she was trying to call Cebu Pacific's office but the lines were always busy. She assured us that she'll be constantly calling Cebu Pacific to confirm our flight that day. And I went back to our Resort room to try to get more sleep. Anyway I was assured that we still have so many hours left. To make the story short, after 15 minutes the Front-desk clerk went to our room and asked if 'passenger 1 and 2 (name withheld)' is with us, and I said 'Yes'. She told us that our 4:15 PM flight was cancelled and we may have the option to board the 10:00 AM flight bound to Manila, or be transferred as chance passengers to another carrier (PAL, Seair) in the
afternoon, or stay another day at a different hotel/resort to board their flight in the morning the next day. I initially said that we can't
stay another day since I have work the next day already. And all of us decided to take the 10:00 AM flight. We were informed of this situation at 9:37 AM and we still have a lot of packing-up to do. Imaging the hassle and the stress that Cebu Pacific gave us
that day. None of us were able to take a shower and to double-check if we have left something at the resort or not. We packed-up hurriedly and was really furious at what Cebu Pacific did to us. I would have appreciated if they gave me a call before hand to inform
us that our return flight to Manila was cancelled because as far as I know, during ticketing, I gave all contact details including my mobile phone number. We left the resort on the way to the airport at 9:50 AM and arrived the Puerto Princesa airport at 10:00 AM.
We had a hurried check-in, x-rays, and all and we were able to board the 10:00 AM flight with the plane just waiting for us to board. The plane was able to depart Puerto Princesa at 10:30 AM, still delayed by 30 mins due to their procedural and Customer Service flaws.
With this experience with Cebu Pacific on-hand, I doubt if I will ever consider flying with them. I've had numerous trips in the past already, both International and domestic, flying with some other airlines and Cebu Pacific's performance was very memorable for the wrong reasons. I doubt if I'll fly with them again in the future even if they have their Piso (P1.00) fare catch. Note also that for the more than an hour trip, there's no snacks or refreshments served to the passengers. I would have taken PAL for just a couple of
hundred pesos difference, had PAL still have open slots on the same destination, at anytime.

It's time everyone flies...but not with Cebu Pacific for me, Again!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Start 2008, A new Fam Car

My brother has always been the most successful in the family-career wise. He worked in Singaporethe past 9 years and went back at home for good in 2006. Eversince he went back, he was hired by a major global financial institution as a Project Management Consultant - He was there for a year as a consultantand the time came when he was offered regular post by that same financial institution, this happened before last yearends around November 2007. One of the perks he had was a car subsidy from the company- a car of his choicefor which the company will initially shoulder the cost to purchase and 50% split of the cost to be paid by my brother on a fixed rate per month for a couple of years. He opted to get a SUV from Ford, the Ford Escape4x2 Automatic Transmission SUV. I am really not a car enthusiast but I would say it was rather a nice choice.We've had a family car for six years now which is a Mitsubishi Adventure model 2002-the same car that had tried the tests of time with numerous hits, bumps, and collisions when we (my brothers and I) were still trying our bestto learn how to drive. We owe Ishi - the car's a she, since it was purchased by my mom when she retired from workyears ago. Ishi is a stick-shift, manual transmission type, SUV. It's moot for me to compare Ishi with the new Ford Escapebut based from what I saw and experienced, here's what I have to say:

Number of passengers that can be seated - Ishi won
Leg room - Fordie won
Airconditioning - Ishi won (Fordie doesn't have dual aircon) it has all it's aircon blowers in front by the dashboard.
Dashboard - Fordie no contest
Fuel utilization - Ishi is still fuel efficient, I am not sure but based on my first time to handle a auto-transmission vehicle,it consumed a lot of fuel based from the short distance we had it for a test-drive from house to mall of asia, and then back.
Ergonomics - Fordie no contest

I just based my points on my observations among the two vehicles. I am really not a know-it-all type when it comes to vehicles but these are just based on observations.
I must also say that driving an automatic transmission type is so easy, but I would advise that it's better to learn drivingin Manual transmission (stick-gear) type of vehicles. I must also admit that I have a lot to learn with the Ford EscapeI was just able to test drive it once on a short distance only. It's hard for me to size up the vehicles by it's four corners - for which I already have experienced with the Mitsubishi Adventure. I must say that Ishi holds a special place in our heartsince we've had her for 6 years already for which Fordie still has a lot to prove in our family.

A new year, A new blog

This has been the first time for me to blog again eversince time immemorial. Let me start first be greeting everyone a Happy New Year for 2008!- and I hope I am not too late to send out my greeting. Better late than never! right? I just hope everyone started the year right, so that everything that'll happen for this year will be on-track. At the startof the year, I promised myself never to be late ever! But up to now, I have yet to fulfill that promise. I don't know what instigated this habit of mine-but I really have a tendency to be Late. I habited myself with being Late at work (not unlessit is required or necessary for me to report for work early), going to church (for which my wifey always gives me a frownwhen we meet for church). There are some things that I do not know why my Lateness became a habit, and I am reallydreading to change it...for Good!
One of my problems really, apart from being Late, is not being able to manage my Time efficiently. There are mostlytimes when I just do tasks that I feel like doing ala 'spur of the moment'. I try to list down activities for me in the 'To dotasks' entry in my planners (yes, I do have two planner(s) - one for work, one for personal and business purposes). I startedusing planners so that I can jot down activities for the day coz I have a tendency also to forget things. As we grow old, we grow wiser-and also 'forgetful'.
I also would like to change my attitude of being slightly obsessive-compulsive (OC). I have this attitude that makes me stick to a task longer because I have this habit of making sure that everything about that task is spot-on-clean, hassle-free,and mess-free. One example I might cite is the time it takes for me to clean my room. I don't have a big room, but itusually takes me hours and ages to clean it up because I want everything In order and spot-on clean. I meanthere's nothing wrong with being clean, but I would have done a lot more than sticking to cleaning my room. This is usuallywhen I feel like not enjoying my weekends much-there are a lot of household tasks to do.
I would also like to change my attitude of being a 'big spender'. I have this habit of buying things-mostly gadgets, thatis really not important but I splurge-on. My wifey is my biggest advisor- not to spend on things that are not importantand needed. This is one of the things I like most about her and am thankful for.
Be more friendly and flexible with others. I must admit it! I am really not a people-person. I rather choose my friends thanbeing friends with everybody. I am really not sure about why I am like this, maybe I am a bit shy about engaging inconversation with others. This is one of the reasons why up to now I am still adjusting to new environments. There are times when I fell OPd (out-of-placed) but it doesn't really bother me at all. I just wish that other people willnot misundestand me as being a snob, un-friendly, loner, when in fact, I am just not really good at initiating conversationwith others. I choose who I talk to. I don't talk to anybody.
Well, these are really my attitude-tuning to do in 2008. I am happy, at least I was able to jot them down thru this blog.