Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cacupangan Cave, Our Anniversary Fave

Do you like caves? I am so in love with caves, I feel that I was a mermaid once and I get energized just going inside the cave.......NOT! But my sweetheart loves caves. We go to Pampanga and there, he looks for caves. We go to Baguio, and he asks around where the caves are. We went to Kota Kinabalu, and what does he look for, yes, caves. And yes, he looked for caves in Las Vegas too, and the likely place he went was the underground drainage with giant squarish pipe-like 'caves' hehehe! That was an unforgettable experience for him too, but we got to stick to our blog title for now. I knew he was cave deprived so I helped him find a good cave.  We celebrated  our wedding anniversary by exploring caves.  Yes, we explored some itsy weeny small caves before we decided to consult the internet and voila, there are actually more caves to explore!   We went to the longest ever cave in the Philippines, the Cacupangan cave.

Where is Cacupangan cave? It is in the town of Mabini, about 11 kilometers from the busy town of Alaminos, Pangasinan, Philippines. From the highway, it is 5 kilometers to the cave. The sign, Cacupangan Cave from the highway is so small, so be on the lookout. If you're coming from Alaminos, look to your left. You will also see the sign just before you pass the cemetery. You have to turn left in the upward cemetery road. The road is of rough gravel, I was afraid our small car would get bounced out of the road. After about 1.6 kilometer of this road, turn left for more gravel road, about 1.4 kilometers more. You are now in Barrio Benmachia. You will see a gate at the entrance with entrance prices. We arrived at the place at about 10 AM, on a weekday. I guess this was early so no one was at the gate, although it was open. We went inside with our car and parked near the cave entrance. We found a young woman there and asked her if she could be our cave tour guide.

Her name is Nancy and she knew the insides of the cave like the back of her hand. She did not have flash lights, she wore flip plops, did not speak much English, but she got us through the cave. It is necessary that you have a guide as some parts of the cave are pitch black, although some parts have skylights through the holes of the cave. There are also several entrances that may confuse you and later you might wonder where your car is parked because you went out the wrong entrance and ended up in the 'wrong' barrio.  People are friendly, though, and everyone would be applying as your tour guide.
Things to bring when exploring caves:
1) Strong head flashlights submersible too, as there are parts in the cave that are 7 ft. deep.
2) Water for drink.
3) Comfortable shoes or sandals. Your feet will get wet. Some opt for flip plops if they don't like walking in wet rubber shoes. Choose footwear which allows your feet to 'grasp' the wet stones as you walk.
4) hat if you don't like your hair to get wet while walking. There are parts of the cave which leaks water
5) Wear a swim suit if you're inclined to swim across the water instead of walking at the sides nearest the cave walls.

The cave is long. The cave’s opening is at N16 deg. 03.261 E119 deg. 57.464. Don''t ask me what those mean, I am not a cave enthusiast. As usual in all the caves, there are stalagmites, stalactites, bats and guanos. I found out later, there are also snakes, eels, and other not so cute insects, whew!
According to Nancy, our guide, it would take approximately three hours to reach the end of the cave at Barrio Villacorte. Reaching the end, many people like to go back as the path is relative easier, downward instead of a bit of upward climb from Barrio Benmachia. The cave became more popular when a TV series about a mermaid, starred by the local actress, Claudine Barretto, was shot from the nearby Hundred Islands. Some parts of the cave was used as the home of the monster who is the mermaid's arch enemy. There is even a sign "Don't enter beyond thips point', inside the cave. Of course we did not heed it. I guess that sign is a warning for the TV crew, as going beyond that line, the water is seven feet deep. It was an adventure for us. My sweetheart would like to go back, with a bigger submersible flashlight and camping gears. Yes, Pricilla, we would be staying there overnight.

I hope I will be able to find my new close friend, Nancy when we go back there. Hayyy, of course I would go cave hiking with my sweeetheart. I could enjoy some novelty, like swimming inside the cave. Who knows, the bats' guanos might give me superhuman power, make me forever young, etc.

Visit these sites for more  info:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

While we were in Las Vegas, we rented this Toyota Yaris car.

Going down our hotel,  Binions, this is the view.  Is that an Asian woman at the right side?

On our 2nd day, Mike treated us to a buffet lunch at the Palace Station.

Dave calls this monstrosity.
Every day, every night it's tour time for Dave and me.

This is on on our way to the comedy show.
Dave's favorite hangout - comedy shows.
As you could see from my red face, I was drunk.  The three of us went for a roller coaster ride, the Desperado.  My lungs got tired from screaming.  The two young Americans who arrived earlier than us were thrilled to see me ride with them, the only rose among the thorns.  They gave me the thumbs up sign, but I could see the glint in their eyes.  Yeah, yeah, later I found out it's the thrilll of their life to be screaming of exhiliration.  I was screaming of fright and exhiliration too, hehehe.
 Every night, there's a play of light. 

This is the view from our hotel at night.

And this is the view at dusk.

I so enjoyed times with Mike and his wife, Nancy

They are so sweet together,  and they make delicious food!

Richard is a character. 
Richard, our redhead friend brought us to an art show. Sorry, can't post more pics about it as picture taking is prohibited at the gallery. The paintings - modern, op art, impressionistic, etc. were all in the 3-storey building. The viewers are mostly artists, and some are just art enthusiasts like me :) The art viewers were art in themselves - they came in all kinds of "costumes" - Gothic, sexy, punkish, old fashioned metallic or casual just like us. I enjoyed some finger foods - Mediterranean style - hummus in pita bread, olives, cheese and crackers and some were able to swing wine. The greater adventure is that Richard's car conked out earlier and we had to push it. we meaning Dave, Mike, Richard and I. We were heaving and hooing until  African American guy pushed it hard until the car started with Richard inside of the car of course. Wow, that guy smelled so good!

Love Las Vegas?  Here's a good guide to max out your Las Vegas experience!

This review is from: The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2011 (Unofficial Guides) (Paperback)
We'll be in Las Vegas in early November. We're staying at the MGM because of a conference. While we are Las Vegas veterans, we still need to keep up with all the new things that have taken place. We like to keep up with the best restaurants, and this book has provided some insight and what to expect. This book is very comprehensive, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether you're a veteran of Las Vegas or you're a newbie. We'll be staying for about a week, and we're making lists of restaurants to try and places of interest, especially the shows. It's well worth the price.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kota Kinabalu in the Tropical Island of Borneo

Kota Kinabalu, a.k.a. KK or Api Api (fire),  as fondly called by the natives, is in the northwest part of tropical Borneo. As you know, Borneo is owned by three countries - Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.
Long long time ago, when blogging was not yet fashionable, just like most of us, Borneans were not in the habit of recording their history.  But according to relics found, as early as 640 AD, they had been doing business with the Chinese.  The Chinese are very  business-minded people, they probably traded Borneo's spices with Ciallis.  Aside from spices,  Borneo also  has gold, camphor, horn bill ivory, tortoise shells, etc.  A country like that  with so much to offer  attracted many invaders traders.  Aside from the Chinese, others also came - the Spaniards, the Dutch, British, and  the Americans. Kota Kinabalu was also called Jesselton before.  Don't ask me why.  I will not bore you with too much history and Geography.  Admittedly I'm having nosebleed already,  talking about history.   No offense to Borneo, I love Borneo.   The Philippines love Borneo, in fact we were claiming Sabah as ours. But that's another story.  Wikipedia has a wealth of information about Borneo and Kota Kinabalu.
So we flew there through Air Asia, bless them for their promos.
We stayed in Summer Lodge.  Dave had stayed there before and he likes  the place.  It's a backpackers' favorite.  The room rates are reasonable; the staff,  friendly and helpful.  It's also in the center of the business area, walking distance to  restaurants, hotels,  parks, banks, malls, government offices.
It also offers free use of computers and internet, free breakfast from 7-9 AM, with TV in the communal dining room.  One drawback, there's no bathroom and toilet in your own room, you have to share those with fellow guests. There are a number of them in each floor, though.  We did not have to wait or line up to use any one of them.
Isn't this cute that you have to remove  your slippers and put them on shoe racks before you go to common areas - cashier, dining table, living room, internet area.
In case you forget, there's a gentle reminder:

I like it too that smokers are not allowed in the main areas:
Speaking of cute, here's another:
The telephone is called helo? It figures......

Now to the great outdoor adventures:
1.  Padas White Water Rafting
Summer Lodge made the reservation for us.  We were fetched by the van at 7:00 AM. We then fetched other Padas enthusiasts in different hotels and proceeded  to Tenom town  where we had lunch.  After lunch, the trolley ride to Pangi.  
From Tenom town to Pangi is an unforgettable experience, navigating the railroad by trolley.  The guy at the left is our "driver".  You could guess how he uses the pole he's holding.  He uses it like a paddle.  Only one person could ride in trolley.  A trolley is made of about six or seven thin boards of wood, some have holes on them too. It's about twenty kms. of travel through the trolley.  It's upward climbing in some areas and downward in some, wherein the driver could rest and sit with the passenger. There were about seven trolleys for our group.
Upon reaching Padas River, we were offered light refreshment - sweet watermelon.  We were briefed by our team leader, who liked to be called  Spiderman,  from the River Junkies group. He was funny, strong and good-looking.  I later learned that he is one of the grandchildren of the Sultan of Brunei.

Padas white water rafting which costs MYR170 per person including lunch,  is the  ultimate in white water rafting. It is classed as III - IV river, whatever that means. There is another one in KK,  the Kiolu River White Water rafting where you could go at half the price of Padas.  Many fellow tourists from the U.S., Europe and neighboring Asian countries attest that Padas is not surpassed by any other white water rafting places.  The water in Padas river is brown and muddy.  It's clean though.  Dave was concerned that because the river water is brown, it could be dirty and  there might be so many malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  Not so, the river is so volatile for the mosquitoes to stay and produce eggs.  Be afraid of crocodiles and cobras,  although we did not see any.

We were seven in a boat, and there's also another couple with us from Netherlands.   Padas river  rafting  takes about three hours, one way.  It is 200 kms. in length and holds seven exciting rapids.  I was so scared and excited, I didn't like to go, but I don't like to be left alone in the village.  The trip is A to B;  the group will not be going back to the village.

The locals named the rapids:
Headhunter rapids 
Scooby doo
Cobra Point
You could guess why they are named as such.   Like at the Merry-go-round, our raft went round and round until Dave was thrown out of the boat. He said it took a split second to be thrown out, he was paddling like a macho darling that he is, next thing, he's on the water with his paddle thrown away too.  Of course we rescued him and went back to get his paddle too.   Our team leader always warned us whenever we're nearing one of the rapids.
"Watch out, we're approaching Cobra Point. There are cobras on this area, so be very careful not to get thrown out!"  or
"We're approaching Lambada, the waves which are bigger and higher than  Summer Lodge,  will be swallowing us".  That's super adrenalin rush for you, so we paddled like our life depended on it.  It actually did.
To make the short story long, the husbands were all thrown out of the boat, so we wives raised our paddles to cheer, "Yayyy to women power!!!"
One other boat,  full of young and goofy Koreans,  capsized.  They intentionally had their boat spinning by paddling in all directions.  Fun, fun, fun......
Our team leader informed us,  "Chances  that you'd be thrown out of the boat or your boat will capsize is 50-50, and the first thing you do after this happens, is to smile, keep afloat, don't lose your helmet,  and be assured that Spiderman will rescue all of you".  Ain't he neat.
Going back, we rode in an antique train, circa 1800s and enjoyed the flora and fauna of the mountain we passed by with fellow passengers.
2. Poring Hot Spring
As the name suggests, it boasts of hot spring water:

One could share the hot spring water on the pool or you could soak in a bath tub alone or with your companion.  In the picture below, father and son:

There is another cool place to go inside the Poring Hot springs Resort.  Their canopy walk, 41 meters high, 158.7 meters long,  is a real chill.  In fact the Norwagian couple who were with us puked when they reached the other end.   

Dave, the daring one,  even shook the canopy his hands free!
Inside Poring Hot Springs, if you go upward, there is  waterfalls.

We went there for the view and to cool our feet.  Curiously, Dave felt something nibbling at his feet!  Looking down he saw a number of small fish eating away dead skins of his feet.  This is a new thing in  trendy spas.  You pay a high price for the fish to nibble at your feet's dead skin,  and here it is free.
4.  Butterfly farm
Dave does not ever get tired of butterfly farms, even when we went to hundreds of them before - in Tagaytay, in Baguio. He had to see the butterflies, because they were there. 
3.  Tour to see Rafflasia 
We were about to go to another spot, when the guide asked if we're interested to see a very unique flower.  Dave, a connoisieur of flowers, readily agreed. Rafflasia, we were told is the largest and the stinkiest flower ever.
At its full bloom, it's bigger than your toilet bowl, and  it closely resembles one.  After seven days it will be rotting and it would smell  like shit.

5.  Monsopiad Cultural Village, also called the Head Hunter's Village
Coming inside, you are given rice wine for a welcome drink.  They served the best rice wine, promise.

The tour guide, Crystal related how rice wine is made with the implements below.

These are the ingredients: rice, ginger, pepper (!), yeast.  the best tip she gave is: While making the rice wine, think only of beautiful and pleasant thoughts. lest your rice wine become bitter.  If it does, you could use it as a vinegar. 

Above is a bamboo bridge inside the Monsopiad Cultural village.
They have a cultural presentation inside their auditorium.  Dancers tell stories with their dances. They even had me dancing with them on stage. Their dances resemble Filipino folk dances, especially Tinikling where they use two big bamboo sticks  and you have to skip in between the sticks, being careful that you you're quick enough to take out your feet as the other two dancers will do their best to snap at your feet.  Of course, while dancing and worrying about your feet,  you have to appear joyful and  be graceful too.
We posed with the dancers. Yeah, it's blurred...don't blame me, it was not me who took this picture!
Why is Monsopiad Cultural Village also called the Headhunter's Village?  Here we go again with history.  Just ask Crystal, our tourist guide.
Okay, if I remember right, 300 years ago, there was a brave warrior named Monsopiad,  who defended his village from robbers and invaders by cutting their heads with sword.  To show the villagers how brave he was and to also warn other thieves, he'd hung all the heads in front of his house.  The birds ate all of the meat until only the skulls were left.  He then brought the skulls home to hang from his ceiling, making the spirit of the dead his own relatives.  He prayed to these spirits to protect him and his family and to bring him luck.  Below are some of the skulls.

 6.  Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
This is a 70-hectare park, also known as Lok Kawi Zoo.  Their aviary is fantastic, their monkeys which they call proboscis,  have high nose.  I told Dave, this is a Caucasian monkey, he looks just like you.  You will find all kinds of exotic animals there, like the elephants below.  There are also zebra, giraffes, tigers, lions, etc.  Enough now, lest I remember how the zoo stinks, even though it looked clean.

The aim of this park is to have the people realize that they must preserve the endangered animals, and to treat the animals right, not to cramp them is small places like cage.  True enough, the animals there were fooled that they are in their own natural habitat.  The place is so BIG, it takes time for you to look where the sound of the turkeys or pigs  come from.  The government spent RM30 million to fool these animals.
They also have botanical garden inside.

Time to go home, I am getting tired.
In an attempt to make small talk with our driver, Dave asked him how long Kota Kinabalu had been independent; how many local rulers or presidents have they had now; what  percentage of accidents happens in the street we're plying which the driver reacted by scratching his head.  I glared  at my husband and whispered, "Stop giving him quizzes, would you like us to be a part of accident statistics"?

Aside from enjoying the food in KK (I always enjoy food wherever I am, and please don't look for food pictures because I always devoured them in less than 10 minutes......then I realize I should have taken pictures first!), the fun part is ---shopping!

Their market is clean.

Many of their food is just like Filipino, but prepared in a different way.
I love so many things in KK, so even at the airport, I bought more goodies.

We are definitely going back to Kota Kinabalu. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

As Promised, Happy Halloween Everyone

As promised on the flipside of this  blog, here is Valentina:

Valentina or snake woman is the arch enemy of Darna.  Darna is a popular TV series now, played by Marian Rivera.  The number one villain, Valentina,  used to be her childhood best friend.  Valentina is played by Iwa Moto. Several other local actresses played Valentina before - Alessandra de Rossi, Celia Rodriguez, Pilar Pilapil, and Pilita Corales. 

Doesn't it sound familiar, your best friend could be your worst enemy.  
See useful websites where I got these info: and

Once thought of as the daughter of a farmer named Mulong and his wife- Ising, Narda is really the biological daughter of Mulong's Half-Sister, Prospera and her true love- Rafael.

When Prospera was pregnant with Narda she discovered a space craft that had crashed on her land one fateful evening. As she approached the craft, a dying alien (An Anomalkan) emerged and transported the seed within the alien's belly into the already pregnant Prospera.

The Anomalkan fled to earth in the hope of escaping the massacare of infants ordered by Queen Braguda of the Anomalka race.

Braguda's rampage was in response to a prophecy that predicted her death one day at the hands of another Anomalkan.   To prevent the prohecy from coming to pass, 

Braguda ordered the slaughter of all Anomalkan infants that could oppose her one day.  But one Anomalkan managed to escape the planet Marte and in doing so crash landed on Earth- a planet that could not sustain Anomalkans.

To help bring about the fulfilment of the prophecy, the fugitive Anomalkan transfered the seed of life growing within  by using a bizarre form of teleportation  and somehow bonded it to the womb of an Earth female named  Prospera. Under its new host, the 

Anomalkan infant would stand a better chance of surviving in Earth's atmosphere since it would turn out to be a hybrid of the 2 bloodlines.

After being made into a host for the alien seed, Prospera now carried 2 babies- one completely human (a product of her relationship with Rafael) and the other- a monstrous Anomalkan humanoid.

When Prospera gave birth, she discovered her human child to be perfectly normal and horrified at her alien one. Prospera carried her alien child to the spaceship in the hopes of killing it there but when the child suddenly shapeshifted to resemble a normal Earth-child, Prospera took it back home.

When she returned, her normal baby had disappeared. (who unknown to her was stolen by her brother Mulong to replace his wife's own baby who died in birth). Prospera who planned to name her human child "Valentina" now gave this name to her alien baby.

Mulong named the baby he stole "Narda" after the true Baby Narda who had died and had been replaced. Narda would discover her true origin years later after she defeats  Braguda and thwart the Anomalkan invasion.

Darna fans, is this the  Darna version of Angel Locsin or Marian Rivera?  I seldom watch Darna and I am not sure if they are following this script.

Dear gentle reader, what costume are you donning this Halloween?

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