Hello First-time Travelers!

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Are you going on a trip to a particular place for the first-time? Will you be setting foot in a foreign and unfamiliar soil? Rest assured that you have fellow travelers on the road who are embarking on new journeys.

I have been to many places, and the first time I stepped into unfamiliar territory I had to feel my way and rely on what I have on-hand especially when all I had were travel books, maps and print-outs from the web. My friends and I make our own itinerary. It is truly advisable to check out anything about the place before going on a trip.

Yet, you need not necessarily hire a travel agent or tour guide to get you around every time you visit a place for the first time. A little help from locals can add spice to your first-time travels. It can give you the freedom to explore the place and enjoy the feeling of not spending much, based on my own travel experiences.

You can take my word on some tips and information on the places I visited but feel free to be creative and be adventurous. I may offer some advice here and there but, as they say, “experience is the best teacher”. So, read on and find out more about my first-time travel adventures.

I want to make things easy for you. If you want to view the articles I wrote in this site, click the Table of Contents tab.

Photos used in this site are taken by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

A “Bitter” (Better) Way to Help Negrenses

As July ushers in, the rainy season has arrived in this part of the globe. Being in the tropics, where it’s warm and sunshiny all year round, and in an archipelago, where sea travel is a common mode of transport, the heavy rains and typhoons are not welcome visitors especially to beach lovers and travel junkies. Rains are fine as long as they don’t disrupt one’s itinerary. I, for one, was planning on a road trip to the southwestern part of the Negros Island but had to cancel it due to bad weather.

Philippines, an archipelago and a tropical country, has many beaches.

Philippines, an archipelago and a tropical country, has many beaches.

Apart from beaches and warm weather, another thing to enjoy in the tropics are the fresh tropical fruits. Those who are from the other side of the world who want to enjoy a vacation in the Philippines and other parts of Asia delight on consuming these fruits. And when you happen to be in Negros Island, you will surely want to taste the freshly squeezed sugarcane juice or go the local way of chomping on sugarcane.

Tropical fruits are plenty in the Philippines.

Tropical fruits are plenty in the Philippines.

However delectable these food are, it is always good to go easy on one’s intake especially on food with high sugar levels (I’m not sure on the sugar level of raw sugarcane, but having everything in moderation is precautionary). And if you think you went overboard and consumed too much of high-sugar content food, you can turn to an all natural solution to counter this concern.

Sugarcane abound in the Negros Island. Sugar is one of its primary products.

Sugarcane abound in the Negros Island. Sugar is one of its primary products.

I recently met executives of Nattural Quality Corporation (NQC) and they shared their advocacy on wellness and healthy lifestyles. Among their products are Ampalaya Plus, formulated for diabetes; Ampalaya Plus Junior, version of Ampalaya Plus Capsule for children ages 7 and above; Delite Herbal Tea, tea form of Ampalaya Plus capsule; Renalin, supports kidney health; Slenda, for weight loss and obesity and Enduranz Capsule for Men, for male infertility problems and promotes men’s health.

Go Natural with these products from Nattural Quality Corporation.

Go Natural with these products from Nattural Quality Corporation.

Ampalaya is bitter gourd, known for its bitter taste. Not a favorite of many, especially children, but it has medicinal qualities and great nutritional content. It can help level sugar in our body. Recently, NQC started a promotional campaign, dubbed as the “Gusto Kong Makatulong” (I Want to Help) promo that will help residents of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the two provinces in the Negros Island. What better way to combat diabetes than to begin a campaign in the sugar capital of the Philippines, right?

Their campaign, in partnership with radio stations such as MOR, Love Radio and Aksyon Radio, will benefit three Weekly winners of P1,000.00 from each partner FM Station for the months of July and August and three Grand Prize winners of P5,000 (one from each partner FM Station). My fellow Negrenses who are interested on this campaign can definitely join by following the mechanics.

If you are planning a trip to Negros, understand that the people are not just sweet and friendly but we also have a sweet tooth. If you share this sentiment, then, probably you’d want to try a “bitter” solution to moderate your blood sugar level. You might just want to give ampalaya or bitter gourd a try.

How to be part of this promo. It is NQC's way to help Negrenses.

How to be part of this promo. It is NQC’s way to help Negrenses.

For information on Nattural Quality Corporation, visit their website www.gonatural.com.ph or check out their Facebook page.

Your Stay, Your Rule at The Inns Bacolod

Different kinds of travels demand different kinds of needs, such as your accommodation, for instance.

Business trips often take a whole day of meetings and conferences and it is appropriate if your stay is in a business or luxury hotel, where these activities happen and where there are facilities that can cater to your official needs.

But if you’re on a tight budget and you prefer to spend your money on experiences and options that will immerse you in the local scene, you sometimes choose hostels or inns.

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The Inns by the Oriental, which opened its first property, located along San Juan St. in Bacolod City, provides you options, be it for business travel or backpacking or somewhere in between. Since it is situated at the heart of the city, right at the downtown area, The Inns is accessible to malls, shopping places, church, and interesting attractions.

Hip, Modern Hotel

One thing I really love about The Inns is its vibrant teal green color theme. The color is interesting as it exudes a relaxing feel yet an adventurous vibe. The lobby is like your home’s living room – very inviting and casual.

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Understanding the varying needs of different types of travelers, The Inns has come up with options where you can customize your room package. You can choose from a Quick Nap of 3 hours or 10 hours of stay or 24 hours or the regular rate which includes breakfast, soap, shampoo, dental kit, tissue and bottled water. But you have the option if you want to avail of the other amenities or stay within your budget.

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Every room has comfy beds, television with cable, wi-fi, air conditioning, clean towels, hot and cold shower, electronic keycard, and IDD and NDD telephone system.

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There are also different kinds of rooms – Zingly, Perky, Snappy, Churpy, Bouncy, Groovy, or Sprightly – depending on the size of the room and the type of beds available.

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The Inns is managed by The Oriental hotel chain in the Philippines that has properties in Legazpi City in Albay, Leyte, and Bataan.

Relaxing Stay

At the second floor of The Inns is The Spa which offers various types of massages – Oriental Signature, Bamboo, Krapok Herbal, Swedish or Shiatsu. You can also get a Body Scrub or a Glutathione Body Scrub.

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They have common rooms good for three, a room for two and a VIP room with Jacuzzi.

Filling Meals

At the ground floor of The Inns, the Hot N’ Juicy Seafoods and Ribs finally opened its doors to diners. We were few of the lucky ones to have first dibs on their menu.

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We were afforded the experience of eating with our bare hands while servers placed plastic on our tables so we could have an improvised boodle fight. Should you plan to eat at Hot N’ Spicy, don’t be afraid to enjoy the experience. But, remember to wash your hands well before eating.

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You can choose from five seasonings or dips: Louisiana, Cajun, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper or Hot N Spicy. You can also opt for a particular spice level: Baby Spice, Mild, Medium, Spicy, or Extra Spicy.

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I really enjoyed their Ribs, Mussels, Tiger Prawns, as well as the Chicken and the Liempo dishes. They gave us buckets where we could put the shells, bones, and leftovers.

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We were served with glasses of Sangria, aside from the iced tea given to each one of us.

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It was an enjoyable visit at The Inns. As a traveler myself, it is something that backpackers and business travelers will consider because of its flexible services and packages. After all it’s “Your Stay, Your Rule.”

For more information about The Inns by The Oriental, visit their website or Facebook page.

Villa Iska: A Kingdom on A Sand

Since I got home in 2014, I never had the opportunity to go out on a swim, especially in the beach. I miss my travel buddies with whom I constantly plan our yearly excursions. We make it a point to travel each year to one destination within the Philippines and one destination abroad.

Alas, with work and family catching up on me and with no travel buddies to fill my calendar, I realized that a visit to the beach has been long overdue. Summer in the Philippines has come to an end and the rainy season has been on us.

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My birthday this year fell on a Saturday so I made a rushed plan to celebrate it in a beach. The nearest one in the city is Punta Taytay and I picked a new resort called Villa Iska.

A Kingdom By the Beach

It is easy to commute going to Villa Iska. Once you get to the heart of Bacolod City, you can ride at the public plaza or at the SM Mall a jeepney plying the Punta Taytay (or Pta. Taytay) route. The jeepney will pass by in front of Villa Iska. For those who plan to bring a private vehicle, there is a parking space available across Villa Iska.

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You will never miss it. The gate looks like a fairy tale castle out of an animation film. The whole compound is covered with white sand and the rooms have colorful walls with Little Mermaid murals. Kids and the kids-at-heart will surely love to spend a day or two here.

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Villa Iska has two pools – one for adults, that seemed like an infinity pool overlooking the sea, and a kiddie pool, with a water shower from three giant mushroom figures. The adult pool is three to six feet deep while the circular kiddie pool is only two feet deep.

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Sadly, there is no beach for us to swim on. The area is closed from the beach because the one in front of the resort is used for oyster cultivation. Thus, it is not a good area for a swim by the sea. Still, we were content wading through the pool with the view of the sea in front of us and the fresh sea breeze we enhale.

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An elevated watch area is located at the corner near the beachfront that provides a great view of the sea and the whole resort. The silhouette of Guimaras and Iloilo islands across the strait could be seen from that point.

A Secure Place to Rest and Unwind

Many of the private resorts with open access to the beach are prone to vendors, beggars and burglars getting inside the property. But not with Villa Iska. The only entrance is the gate in front, with security guards stationed to watch every person entering it. There is a small port at the sea area but is closed most of the time.

Cottages are also secured as they have small doors to keep strangers out. Each cottage has a phone that connects to the administration office and the restaurant.

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No need to worry when your little ones go off dipping in the pool. There is an assigned lifeguard to watch over them. A floater is also on standby in case something happens.

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The pool area is also separated from the rooms, providing overnight guests some privacy while day visitors enjoy the sun and water while music is played at the tree house.

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It would be even better if Villa Iska is able to expand and provide a bigger space for more activities. It has been operating for only a year (it opened in 2014), so there are still a lot of things they can improve on, whether its amenities, facilities, or service.

I’m glad that during my birthday, we all had fun, including my aunties, cousin and nieces. How much more for kids who would pick Villa Iska as a place where they will celebrate their special day.

For more information about Villa Iska, visit its Facebook page.

The Nouveaulution of Fashion Tourism

“This is not just a fashion show. We want to showcase local products and local talent. We hope that through Nouveaulution, people will come to Bacolod City for fashion. It’s what we call fashion tourism.” These are the words of Nouveau Management owner Kez Pedroza during the press launch of Fashion Nouveaulution.

Kez Pedroza and her team during the press launch.

Kez Pedroza and her team during the press launch.

It’s a new concept in traveling. We often travel to another place for pleasure, to visit friends and relatives, to commune with nature, to participate in a business activity, to witness a festival or major event, to take part in a sport tournament, or to revisit history. But hey, don’t we also travel to shop? Imagine the many major sales and shopping events held in cities around the world to draw people to their place.

Shopping events can be a form of drawing people to a place.

Shopping events can be a form of drawing people to a place.

Pedroza and her team has a big dream and with the event they are mounting in the City of Smiles, they hope to put Bacolod City and the province of Negros Occidental in the map as a fashion place to visit.

A preview of Fashion Nouveaulution during the press event.

A preview of Fashion Nouveaulution during the press event.

Take for instance the world-class silk made at the Oisca Sericulture Farm in Bago City (which I still have to visit). Or the elegant bags made of “banig” or woven leaves and the many local fashion accessories and products by members of the Association of Negros Producers.

Fashion products available during the event.

Fashion products available during the event.

So, will Fashion Nouveaulution revolutionize fashion in the country? It’s for us to find out.

Models strut their moves at the catwalk.

Models strut their moves at the catwalk.

Fashion Nouveaulution is happening on June 26-28, 2015 at the Orange Gallery in the Art District, Mandalagan, Bacolod City. It will have three days (and nights!) of fashion shows, fashion and art trade shows, and the Nouveaulutionista Boutique. For more information on this event, visit their Facebook page Fashion Nouveaulution.

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Your Traveler’s Feet

A traveler’s pair of feet is a necessity in one’s quest for exploration. I love to feel the coarse sand under my feet as I walk barefoot at a beach. I feel the stones and the water current massage my feet when I hiked the falls of Baler, Quezon. I stretch my foot muscles whenever I climb a hill or an elevated place. My feet take me through the streets and back corners of Hong Kong. They keep me going as I shop in Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market. They help me wade through a school of fishes as I snorkel the waters of Palawan and Anilao.

Happy travelling feet.

Happy travelling feet.

My feet has taken me places and as much as I enjoy commuting or riding a train or bus, my feet are often more reliable in bringing me to my destination and to places I’ve never been.

It was a delight to receive presents, like my Skechers and Havainas, that will put my pair of feet into good use.

Get pampered at Beauty and Butter.

Get pampered at Beauty and Butter.

Yet, it was even a bigger pleasure to have them buttered up and pampered in a place where they put premium on relaxation and cleanliness.

Relax in the midst of all these colors.

Relax in the midst of all these colors.

Beauty and Butter has become my favorite place to have my feet get a beauty treatment. First my Buttercup, or Nail Technician, soaked my feet on warm water. Then, she applied a washing agent, had it scrubbed and masked it before she wrapped it in plastic.

Before the pampering: my feet soaked in warm water.

Before the pampering: my feet soaked in warm water.

They washed, scrubbed and masked my legs.

They washed, scrubbed and masked my legs.

Red sparkling toes and a pair of feet ready to explore.

Red sparkling toes and a pair of feet ready to explore.

 

While I feel the cool sensation of my Keep Calm Footsie, she groomed my toes with a Love Thy Feet Pedicure. One thing’s for sure, Beauty and Butter use only properly sterilized nail care tools for my protection.

Then, my Buttercup finished it off with a red Zoya Pixie Dust to give my nails a total makeover. Now, I’m ready to explore some more. Come, let’s go walk, hike, jog and travel.

Closed for work as I am on beauty rest. :-)

Closed for work as I am on beauty rest. :-)

Get #butteredup and follow Beauty & Butter on Facebook, @beautynbutter on Twitter and Instagram or visit their website www.beautyandbutter.com. Beauty and Butter is located at the 3rd Floor of SM City Bacolod’s North wing.

All-Filipino lunch at Chalet Restaurant

It was a satisfying Independence Day celebration for me this year. It seemed that it was a day that granted me freedom from hunger, to be specific. I might not be in nearby Iloilo City, a sea away from my hometown Bacolod, where the President of the Republic commemorated the event; nor was I in Kawit, Cavite where the first republic was declared and the Philippine flag was first raised, yet I was at the rooftop of L’Fisher Chalet, an infinity pool ushering to the view of the seaport basking on my temporary freedom from work-related activities.

Chalet Restaurant at the rooftop of L'Fisher Chalet Tower.

Chalet Restaurant at the rooftop of L’Fisher Chalet Tower.

It’s one of the many beautiful places to be when in Bacolod. It has a good view of the port (with Iloilo somewhere in the horizon) but remains accessible to everything, situated at the heart of the city. And for this special day, we were invited to sample the new menu of the L’Fisher Chalet Restaurant.

Just outside the restaurant is the infinity pool.

Just outside the restaurant is the infinity pool.

I looked out the glass window as I waited for our food. Bacolod City is one place where there are no tall skyscrapers to block your view (as of this writing). It has a bit of everything while maintaining a quiet and steady pace of life. No wonder it has been eyed as a retirement haven by foreigners and overseas Filipino workers.

Beef caldereta.

Beef caldereta.

How appropriate for the Independence Day occasion that our lunch was an all-Filipino cuisine. If you happen to be in Bacolod, get a taste of authentic Filipino food at Chalet Restaurant. What’s more, it is offering a 50% discount on all food items every 11:30 am to 2:00 pm from June 12 to 30, 2015.

Seafood kare-kare.

Seafood kare-kare.

We began our feast with the beef caldereta. It’s a tomato-based dish with liver spread, potatoes and carrots. Another sauce-based dish, the kare-kare, which is lavished in peanut sauce and a pinch of shrimp paste on the side, was served. We tried two varieties — the seafood kare-kare and the beef kare-kare.

My favorite among the food items was the krispy pata.

My favorite among the food items was the krispy pata.

Bistek Tagalog.

Bistek Tagalog.

Relyenong alimango.

Relyenong alimango.

For those who like good food, notwithstanding the cholesterol content, the grilled liempo (grilled pork belly), krispy pata (deep-fried pork leg), bistek tagalog (beef steak), relyenong alimango (stuffed crab), and squid sisig (sizzling chopped squid) will grant you a filling meal. I think the Pinaputok na Tilapia (tilapia burst) and the Molo Soup were the healthier options compared with the rest of food served on our table.

Squid sisig.

Squid sisig.

Molo soup.

Molo soup.

Pinaputok na tilapia.

Pinaputok na tilapia.

Well, the fresh fruit juices and shakes were fantastic as we ordered cucumber, watermelon, ripe mango, and carrot juices. The desserts were also must-tries, especially the halo-halo prepared in a fresh coconut and topped with a scoop of ice cream. I had the leche flan with Macapuno and Mangga, topped with cherry to cap my meal.

Fresh fruit shakes and juices.

Fresh fruit shakes and juices.

Leche flan.

Leche flan.

Minatamis na saging sa langka (Sweetened banana on jackfruit).

Minatamis na saging sa langka (Sweetened banana on jackfruit).

And while you enjoy all these delectable food, you will be serenaded by a trio of classic singers.

Now, you have another thing to add in your “what-to-do-when-in-Bacolod” list — eat to your heart’s content mouthwatering Filipino food at Chalet Restaurant.

Go halo-halo!

Go halo-halo!