My Reviews

Apo Reef Natural Park

5.0 Stars
Great Outdoors
9

We are so darn lucky to exist in an archipelago surrounded by such lush aquatic life and bountiful marine ecosystems with majestic dive sites. I’ve always had a fascination for the big blue sea and the underwater world beneath it.

Going to Apo Reef means you’ve got to have the hydrophilic hormone in your system. Around 80% of the activities would involve swimming and snorkeling and there’s absolutely no point in going there if you don’t enjoy those. Expect to say hi to sea turtles, different species of fish, rays, and corals in technicolor, where your Go Pro would be a worthy companion. It’s a haven for Freediving and Scuba Diving and is second to the famous Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

But, as it is majestic, pursuing it may also be an equally toilsome chore. Visiting Apo Reef is like a persistent lover pursuing a long courtship and finally getting that coveted kiss from his dame. It is not for the faint-hearted, it’s for the adventurous souls.

Don’t mind long car rides? Then you can definitely endure the 10-hour ride via land and sea to Apo Reef. It can only be reached via Sablayan port in Occidental Mindoro, which is already a 6-hour trip from Manila. Top that off with another 2-3 hours in a speed boat. Yikes! But so so worth every aching bum and stiffing neck.

Begin your day by passing by Banderang Putol, where you can get up close and personal with plenty of fish in shallow waters surrounding an assortment of hard and soft coral. This is perfect for swimmers who aren’t comfortable with going too deep. Make your way to Banggan Coral garden — a site for sprawling fan corals and reef shark, then head to the island to set up camp.

Prepare for the extremes. When you get there, you’re completely detached. There’s no reception and the island offers only minimal comforts. Of course, you have to be willing to sleep in a tent or a hammock. There is a decent bathroom, which is short of a haunted deserted scene. Prepare to bring your own supply of H2O and be sure to have someone who can start a fire. Oh, and make sure your power banks are fully charged as there are no outlets on the island!

Besides the lush aquatic life people come to see, the island offers a unique side trip — a towering 110-foot lighthouse. As one of the tallest in the country, climbing this modern structure gives you a breath-taking 360-degree view of the crystal clear waters and the verdant mangrove forest, where you can enjoy a magnificent sunset and a glimpse of the Calamian group of islands. I just wish you all the luck and guts to brave the narrow, steep, knee-shaking (but perfectly safe) stairway to the top.

Day 2 would welcome you with a gorgeous sunrise and a unique experience of clinging on to the sides of the boat just above the drop at the edge of the reef. This is what they call Tawiran Apo and is the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen. It's pretty deep so you can encounter some really large fish. Oh and it could get a bit nauseating for some. Lastly, don't miss Pandan island and catch a glimpse of the largest Pawikans. They're amazing!

The story of my brief weekend getaway to the world’s second largest contiguous coral reef system is no joke. It was definitely one of the most interesting yet painstaking trips I’ve had to date. For water babies and mermaids, it’s definitely a must-see. I can't wait to go back!

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Diniview Villa Resort

5.0 Stars
Hotel
10

The undeniable charm of Boracay's postcard setting and the timeless appeal of its bustling party scene keeps it on every traveler's bucket list. The continuous development across the island is slowly turning the island into an urban nightmare but a quiet escape to Diniview Villas would mean a raw and natural experience of its unspoiled beauty.

Along the narrow road going to the tranquil Diniwid beach, is a refreshing tiny blue sign with the words “Diniview Villas, Your house in Boracay” that’s difficult to miss. From that point, a thrilling 2-minute ride to one of the highest points in the island slowly unravels the lush green hilltop sanctuary nesting eight exclusive and exquisitely designed villas that you can call your own little piece of paradise in the heart of Boracay.

As one of the early foreign settlers in the island, owner of Diniview Villas, Julia Lervik always had the idea of preserving Boracay and its natural topography. Originally acquiring the plot of land in 2004 to build her home on the island, the charming owner of Diniview Villas, who hails from a family of artists in Sweden, expanded the property to provide a tropical escape, a temperate environment where her friends can retreat in the harsh cold months of their home. Soon, these individual and uniquely designed villas began to decorate the lush hillside, each with their own stunning views of Diniwid beach and front row seats to the famed Boracay sunset.

With all the different accommodations across the beach, catering to the diverse crowd who come to enjoy the island, Diniview Villas proves to be a refreshing escape. It's strategically positioned to provide solitude away from the clamorous environment, but is still perfectly accessible from the main road via trike and is a quick 5-minute walk to the beach. Its location is ideal as it gives you the relaxing ambience without sacrificing accessibility and proximity to the sought-after lively Boracay scene.

Each villa has been oriented to give guests the feeling of isolation in a lush tropical setting. All villas are artistically crafted and incorporated with native elements in an open layout for a light and breathable space that gives you best experience of the island. Although rooms are fully air conditioned, common areas are left open so you can enjoy the fresh air and raw island vibe. Each of the villas have their own personality and captivating charm, all uniquely named after the key element that inspired their design. I had the privilege of staying at the Sand Villa, the only one with a romantic outdoor shower installation, and is conveniently located beside the pool area -- one of the key attractions and most picturesque spots in this quaint resort. The Sun Villa would pertain to the modern minimalist space situated at highest point that catches the most sunlight. The big Talisay tree cascading over it would characterize the Tree villa. The Salt Villa, being the largest is also the most luxurious and stunningly designed. My personal favorite -- The Boat villa, has an actual boat embedded onto one of its walls. How resourceful and creative!

On the downside, accommodations like Diniview Villas don’t usually have in-house chefs that can prepare meals for guests but all villas have fully-equipped kitchens with a one-time serving of complimentary breakfast items along with a scrumptious fruit basket upon arrival. They also conveniently offer shopping services for a minimal fee when there’s something you need outside of the premises. Service is definitely one thing that makes it stand out, as I did not meet a single employee without a charming smile and a genuine concern for my comfort and needs.

Having experienced quite a number of hotels and resorts across the island, I could definitely say that Diniview Villas is one that will give you a unique and raw experience of Boracay. You may have to shell out a bit more than the usual but it’s definitely worth it! And despite the various modern and luxurious options available on the island, I'd opt for an establishment like Diniview Villas that applies sustainable design practices and has a heart for the environment!

#UnicornGiveaway

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H.I.D. Burgers

4.0 Stars
Burger
2

Now you must be wondering why it's a photo of a chicken and not a burger. Well, you must have noticed that most burger joints serve buffalo wings as these two go hand in hand to satisfy your ultimate comfort food cravings. That, plus the fact that I ruined my burger before having had the chance to take a photo! Hahaha! But anyway, this new burger joint near my office is situated conveniently in the corner of a gas station, which makes it an easy meal stopover.

The price is comparable to most burger joints - the burger itself? Well, I wouldn't say it was terrible but I've had juicier patties and crispier bacon in my past encounters. The chicken was pretty good, though. But they could definitely improve on the sauce. It wasn't the best meal but I'd give this another go 'cause you could never go wrong with burgers!

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Nagsasa Cove

5.0 Stars
Great Outdoors
7

Having a rather spontaneous, half-baked first time camping experience and an even more unprepared consciousness for the stories of paranormal activity in its sister cove, Anawangin, I returned to the mountainous coast of Zambales with my closest kin, just a bit more primed and mentally equipped.

Zambales is only a three-hour drive from Manila, but it offers a kind of picture you never thought would’ve existed just on the outskirts of the capital. Frequented for its glorious surf spots and scenic hiking trails, the coves of Zambales offer a pleasurable and charming escape from the bustling city life. Aside from the more populated and commercialized cove mentioned above, Nagsasa is a more remote and pristine option.

From the jump-off at Pundaquit, it’s roughly an hour away by boat. It’s not too bad given that you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the panoramic view of the mountain ranges and see a mix of private and tranquil enclaves that invite you to dock. Keep your heart still and wait for the grand view that awaits you at the last turn. Notice how the shore is lined with pine trees that were built by the Aetas when the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo consumed the natural seabed and covered it in a blanket of ash, though still abundant in marine life, which you can see clearly through the spotless waters. It’s magical, really, though not nearly as exquisite as the view from the top of the mountain to the left of the cove. It’s a quick 20 min hike that you should do just before the sun sets.

Enjoy an evening free from the conveniences of technology and listen only to whispers and songs of fellow campers alone, while you seemingly wait for your campfire to die down and call it a night. In the morning, grab a quick bite and prepare for a trek to the waterfalls. Make sure you do it briefly and avoid the 12 o’clock sun or you’ll come back baked like a hot potato.

I isn't for the faint-hearted, It’s clearly for the adventurous and the so-called cowboys. Because if you’re not afraid of roughing it, then roughing it in pitch black darkness could get to you. It’s an amazing experience and something that you should do at least once in your life.

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The Lind Boracay

5.0 Stars
Hotel
10

Imagine walking into an enchanting and delightful place where every corner greets your eye with elegant design and intricate detail — a place where art and creativity is incorporated even into the most basic elements. Picture yourself enveloped by a structural canvas where the only thing brighter than the playful balance of color is the bright smiles of the most accommodating and warm personnel.

It’s where you’ll find yourself in a trance, consumed, reminding yourself to take a step back and realize that it isn’t a dream. You’re in a vibrant cloud of wonder and luxury and you never want to come down — something you’ll get to experience with The Lind Boracay.

At the far end of the more upscale area of White Beach, home to most luxurious resorts and hotels in Boracay, is the fresh contemporary resort that nestles quietly, discreet of its world-class amenities. Its facade does a wonderful job in containing its magic from the maddening crowd of Boracay tourists. The modest frontage conceals a sprawling wonderland that is every Millennial’s dream.

The Lind’s stunning interiors and brilliantly furnished space displays class in a fun and vibrant way. The mix of semi-industrial detail with candy colored pieces and tropical prints keeps your senses alive — that is apart from the aroma of the scrumptious food they offer at their three restaurants. This secret spot is definitely for those who want to experience luxury sans the usual classic elegance. Here’s one of eclectic chic with a touch of quirk and penetrates your soul, ultimately making you feel like it’s a sin to refrain from taking photos.

See how Interior designer Manny Samson’s vision brings life to the already brilliant architecture and enjoy a refreshing fusion of bold prints and patterns and irregular silhouettes and forms. Watch how the staff wears their intricately designed ensemble with pride by none other than the amazing Francis Libiran. For someone who loves art and design, the Lind is a wonderland and a feast for the eyes – a showcase of true Filipino talent.

As I rushed to my garden view room on the first floor, a refreshing scene welcomed me. The scent of the clean bed sheets was inviting enough that I had to keep myself from diving in. The rooms illuminated slow and steady as the details carefully revealed themselves. I especially love how their attention to detail comes down to even the toiletries, which were a bit too pretty for consumption. Everything was well thought of and personalized to make clients feel overwhelming love and service – the management clearly spoils them, making them indulge completely in their well-deserved vacation.

Set in the poolside restaurant, Tartine, the breakfast buffet (P1,586++ net per person) offers an amazing selection of freshly baked pastries apart from their extensive display of local and international fares! Modifications in the menu are done daily but expect to see the staples such as eggs, pancakes, bread, cereal and of course, bacon! They can’t skip the bacon. Feel free to come as early as 6:30AM till it closes at 11AM. Enjoy your meal with a fine cup of coffee and jump in the pool afterwards to start your day! Apart from Tartine, indulge your taste buds with several other dining options. Experience hefty options at Crust and watch as they prepare your food in their rustic brick oven. End your day with cocktails at +36 (a name creatively acquired from the island’s area code) and lounge in the most photographed and Instagram famous lobby level, while listening to your favorite tunes. I must say they have a selection of creatively concocted beverages that are already a visual delight.

One of the highlights of The Lind is their beautiful ballroom with a panoramic view of the famed Boracay sunset. It’s also the perfect venue for intimate gatherings. Apart from the events room, they have a typical boardroom, also instilled with fun colorful eclectic accents shying away from the typical meeting venues. What especially got my attention was the kids’ room, which is apparently one of the plus factors for clients in booking the Lind as their accommodation provider.

The Lind Boracay is the brainchild of the owners of the popular wellness chain, The Spa, which makes perfect sense that they have their own Spa within the resort, how convenient! As expected, it was quality service and a very rewarding 1-hour well spent.

You’ve probably seen photos of this fun and modern hotel in Boracay with a youthful vibe circulating online. It’s fairly new, just over a year old yet it managed to claim the No. 1 spot on TripAdvisor, an achievement that can only be backed by exquisite luxury and incomparable service.

#Halloolooween2016

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Sunnies Cafe

4.0 Stars
Café
3

I was always skeptical about this place. One look at it and I think, this is too good to be true. The uber cute retro interiors and the polished furnishing has made me feel that this was designed to cater to the Instagram + Foodie generation. I waited for the hype to calm down and when a good friend was hungry enough to take me out, we ended up here one Friday night.

The menu is creative enough, consisting of eye-catching dishes that sound innovative and enticing with solid comfort food, and a wide range of refreshments. Being that it was my first time, I opted for the best-sellers/chef’s recommendation and I got the following:

Crispy Tacos Php270 10084100841008410084
(asada steak, fried quail eggs, homemade crispy parmesan taco shells, cilantro cream sauce)

Could be their most photographed dish online. And why not? Those quail eggs are adorable! It was a heavenly delight. The taco was perfectly crisp and tasty and the combination of the meat and sauce was amazing!

Baked Squid Ink Lasagna Php360 10084100841008410084
crispy clambers, creamy cheese sauce, homemade tomato jam, basil oil

I was expecting a dished soaked in black sauce but this was entirely new to me. It was very tasty. My favourite among the three.

Butcher's Steak Php480 1008410084
sous vide hanger steak, french beans, roasted marbled potatoes, scallion brown rice

I don’t know if it was the sauce but I wasn’t especially pleased with this one. The steak itself was bland. Could’ve used a bit more pepper and the rice did not complement the meat at all.

Overall, I would say that it was definitely better than I expected but the serving is quite small for the price. Would love to come back and try more!

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Los Indios Bravos

4.0 Stars
Filipino
4

There's a reason why Los Indios Bravos is second when it comes to dining options in Boracay. Towards the back beach, Bulabog, you'll find this industrial-themed restaurant that was inspired by the conceptualization of the Los Indios Bravos in our history books. Aiming to bring a revolutionary concept to the island, the owners, created the restaurant to cater to those looking for hearty meals to go with a round of perfectly crafted and proudly local beer.

Although I didn't get to try their alcohol, I had a lovely early dinner with a group of friends and I got a taste of what people are raving about. Here's what we ordered:

Grilled Cheese (Php 310) 1108811088110881108811088
Aged cheddar, gouda, gruyere on grilled sourdough bread, topped with fried egg. Served with fries and house pickled vegetables.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Php 395) 110881108811088
Indian Chicken Tikka with curried tomato masala topped with fried onions and yogurt served with steamed rice, cucumber and tomato chutney.

Chicken Tikka (Php 395) 11088110881108811088
Grilled Indian Chicken Tikka with curried tomato masala topped with fried onions, and yoghurt served with steamed rice, cucumber raita and tomato chutney.

The Indios Bravos Pork Schnitzel (Php 360) 110881108811088
Austrian style breaded pork, lemon wedge and fries.

I must say, the grilled cheese was absolutely mouth-watering. I devoured it within seconds. Imagine the cheese oozing down your plate! Pure heaven. The pork schnitzel was sadly a bit dry and bland. It was really huge though, and it could fill up two grown men at least. Also, I preferred the Grilled Chicken Tikka over the Chicken Tikka Masala. It seemed to be a bit more flavorful and palatable than the latter, in my opinion.

Being the only place in the island that serves local craft beer is one of the highlights of this handsome gastropub that's hiding in the more quiet area of the busy island but the food most definitely puts it in your gastronomic itinerary.

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Banapple Pies & Cheesecakes

4.0 Stars
Café

Ain't nothing better than Banapple's Banoffee and Apple Crumble Pie over coffee when catching up with old friends! Classic!

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Maitre Chocolatier Boutique Café

3.0 Stars
Dessert
10

Did you know they served real food at this place? I used to come here for their chocolate bouquets but my mom's been badgering us to take our lolo here for dinner. Well, next to his grandkids, nothing makes my lolo giddier than chocolate. And doesn't a restaurant with a menu of chocolate-infused dishes just sound delightful?

Sorry to disappoint you but, it might have been a bad idea. The only acceptable ones were those that didn't have a hint of chocolate for an aftertaste. But, most of them, honestly just.. seemed.. Forced.

Here's a summary of what we had:

Rosemary and Garlic Chicken (Php225) - 127851127851127851
Lacks flavor and plating was so lousy. Looked like someone just poured white sauce all over my meal. Not a pretty sight

Linguine in Spicy Dark Chocolate (Php230) - 127851127851
Imagine champorado and noodles. Yuck.

Chicken in Mushroom White Chocolate and Cheese Sauce (Php245) - 127851127851127851127851
Ok. This was yummy. My brother had two of these.

Meat Pizza (Php210) - 127851127851
Considering it took 30 mins to prepare, Why did it taste like those ready made ones you buy in the grocery? And poured your homemade sauce and topped it with whatever leftover you had in the fridge?

Pumpkin Soup (Php110)127851127851127851127851
Yas!!!

Cream of Mushroom Soup (Php108) - 127851
Don't even think about it.

Linguine in Pesto sauce with Parm-Crusted Chicken (Php258) - 127851127851127851127851
No hint of chocolate on the dish. Seems like this was the most common meal on the menu, and though it wasn't bad there's nothing extraordinary about it either.

Roast Beef Panini (Php 168) - 127851127851127851127851
I'm glad mine was completely palatable. You won't get filled with this, though. You need to order something else.

And for the dessert:

Churros with Lindt Dark Chocolate Dip (Php156) - 127851127851127851127851
Yum. Yum. Yum.

Sweet Revenge Molten Lava Cake (Php 195) - 127851127851127851127851127851
TO DIE FOR!!!

So yeah, the dessert was the redeeming factor. It wasn't a complete waste of time. I commend them for innovation and originality but you shouldn't go there to eat meals. It's an after party place. Take it from it's name, Masters of Chocolate, go there to eat Chocolate!!!

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El Pinoy Dive and Leisure Resort

4.0 Stars
Hotel
10

El Pinoy is the perfect family getaway. Just a three-hour drive from Manila is paradise waiting for those who want to get up close and personal with marine life or just enjoy time away from the busy city.

It's strategically situated at the far end of the stretch of dive resorts in Anilao. Upon entering the establishment, you are welcomed by a steep path that slowly opens up to a magnificent view of the Batangas Bay. You'll take notice of its Filipino themed design that makes it homey and warm. The simplicity of white paint and wood accented by bright ethnic prints is what you could describe as classy and sophisticated.

The rooms are cozy and above ordinary. What makes them extra special is the unparalleled and unobstructed display of the bay against Maricaban Island that welcomes you in the morning. Such a postcard perfect sight is enough to make you stay there forever and snuggle in the ultra-cozy sheets. But although the guest rooms are well designed, I'm afraid they left little room for imagination on the bathrooms. They were but plain and borderline mediocre.

I enjoyed the amenities most of all. They had all sorts from board games and offered more physical demanding alternatives, such as kayaks, a billiard table, and a pingpong table, all at the guests’ disposal. but I think we could have enjoyed them more if the staff weren't casually walking by us in their sleepwear after work hours... I mean, wth?

The food wasn't commendable. They served basic seafood as expected of a dive resort. I would say I found the breakfast buffet to be rather appetizing but I hope they had found a way to serve less of the packaged stuff.

Over all, the brilliant architecture won me over (that's why this gets 4 stars hehe) but the food and service can definitely do better.

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