Get off the grid with this private island getaway on Airbnb

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When your idea of a fun and relaxing getaway has graduated from endless partying and going to LaBoracay to finding solace away from the physical and virtual pollution of the city, here’s a destination that you may want to consider.

Just a little over three hours away from Manila, a private island is up for rent on Airbnb. Equipped with an 80-square meter bungalow with a living room, a kitchen, a main bedroom and an attic, the island can comfortably host a group of up to 10 people. It has a separate study with the most relaxing 360 degree island view and a spacious ground area where you can dine alfresco. You may also chill and/or read on a hammock under a tree, walk barefoot while enjoying your favourite glass of wine, or roast marshmallows and hotdogs around a ready bonfire by the lake.

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Hiking Mount Maculot – A beginner’s tale

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Ever since That Thing Called Tadhana, I have made it my mission to go emo while staring at the sea of clouds at Sagada’s Mount Kiltepan. Turns out, if you are not in your twenties anymore, you can’t just go to Sagada on a whim. While Kiltepan is supposed to be an easy climb, you have to do it at dawn in freezing weather which makes it challenging for first time climbers. Some preparation is needed and setting the incline on the treadmill at a higher percentage just won’t cut it.

The closest and easiest option for first time climbers is Mount Maculot in Batangas. The place is only two hours away from Alabang Town Center and smacked equally between Nuvali and Tagaytay in terms of travel time according to Waze. It is rated 3/9 in difficulty by Pinoy Mountaineers which should mean that it is fairly easy to hike.

Registration is required but your guide can take care of this for you. You may park at an area right before the start of the trail that has public bathrooms for rent. You would need to come back here and take a shower for sure unless you’d want to ride home all sweaty and muddy. It would also be prudent to bring an extra set of clothes and shoes. The toiletries, you can just buy from there.

Now, I am not exactly the fit – sporty type and my doctors (note that it is plural) have told me that I have a weak heart. Going up was pretty challenging for me but there were several set stopovers.  In most of these there were stalls where you could get water and/or food… if you went on a weekend. We were there on a Monday which meant that we had to carry enough water to sustain us until we get to a campsite at the top where only one store was open on weekdays.

It wasn’t really that the trail was difficult. I just ran out of breath faster than a normal human and my heart kept pounding in protest so I had to rest at least twice between each designated stop. Luckily, our guide was very patient and Jae kept me company (surprisingly) on my unceremonious stops. They also managed to endure my Justin Bieber playlist and my ‘Cathy Garcia Molina-verbally abusive because I am tired’ moments.

Speaking of tour guides, rate is at P400 for every five people. I think we got one really cheap though because the sites I checked out before our trip quoted P500-P700.

After about two hours –  you get to have this amazing view. I remember a friend who hikes regularly mentioned something about having a sense of accomplishment when you get to a mountain’s summit. I think I prefer my accomplishments better when I don’t have to sweat or get sunburnt.  But one thing I won’t argue against is the view. It sure is prettier when you are on top.

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All images © 2015 Dale Bacar.

A weekend cabin retreat near the Metro via AirBNB

I have always wanted to spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods. To be precise, I have always wanted to say that I spent a weekend in a cabin just like in them old Hollywood films. Of course my idea does not include the ‘roughing it’ part nor the scary monsters in that Joss Whedon film.

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Batanes

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Batanes is on the travel bucket list of almost everyone I know, and for good reason. Everything that you read (and heard from Coco Martin in that Star Cinema movie) about how beautiful it is are all true. It is the one place that does not only live up to expectations, it actually eclipses them. But just like anything else that is worth experiencing, Batanes is not easily accessible to everyone.

Only two commercial airlines have flights to Batanes – Skyjet flies every SMWF, while Philippine Airlines has one flight daily. The airfare is more expensive than your usual domestic travel rate and flights often get canceled because of the temperamental weather this part of the country. As of 2015, PAL tickets can go as high as P17,500/head round trip. Skyjet is more affordable at a little over P7,000 round trip and a friend even got a ticket from one of their promos for only P500!!! That P500 made me want to kick someone in the shins out of jealousy so you may want to stalk these airlines for upcoming sale announcements.

If you are taking a leave off work, make room for the possibility that you may not be back on time so do not schedule any of those important meetings on your planned return date. Also, you may want to travel light because checked-in baggage has a chance to get off-loaded to another flight depending on weather conditions. PAL makes this convenient by sending over your bags to your preferred address but make sure that the contents of your checked-in bags are non-perishable and you can do without them for a few days.

Batanes demands every tourist’s utmost attention hence LTE/3G connection for any network is almost non-existent. You may try to go online and upload those Instagram-worthy photos in a restaurant or hotel but internet connection is generally unstable and snail-paced at best.

For tours, I see the charm of getting the motorcycle-type things but personally, I would suggest renting a van. It can get sunny out, so it is always good to have the option of just staying inside an air-conditioned vehicle. Tour rates range from P2,000 to P4,000 per area for 8-person capacity vans plus driver/guide. These are usually offered at hotels. For your must-check-out destinations, check out the rates and packages offered by this tour service.

While we could not hope to capture all the beauty that this island has to offer, check out our photo diary to get a glimpse of why we are absolutely enthralled with Batanes.

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All images © 2015 Dale Bacar.