Falling in love in The Little Amsterdam, Sirao Garden

/ July 17, 2017

Falling in love is one of the most magical feelings you'll ever encounter in your whole existence. Every little thing turns out to be more meaningful. Simple messages like hi, hello and good morning are like sun rays that brightens up your day. However, staying in love isn't easy as one two three because in a relationship, there are ups an downs. What makes it worth it is that you both are fighting and keeping everything up together.


I have been in a long distance relationship for almost three years. My boyfriend is working in Negros Island while I am here in Cebu, studying Medicine. It has always been a notion that when you are in Medical School, you can't afford to have a time for your partner. But hey! I am already in my fourth year yet we are still going stronger and fatter. It is just a mixture of understanding, patience and time management.


Last February, my boyfriend and I decided to celebrate the love month at Sirao Garden which is also known as The Little Amsterdam in Cebu. I have heard about this place for almost a couple of years and been seeing pictures in the social media. I thought that this place would be perfect for couples out there to go on a date and I was definitely right about it!


The Sirao Garden is filled with these colorful ornamental plants, the Celosia flowers. Celosia is derived from an ancient Greek word, "burning" because of its flame-like flower heads. These flowers come from the Netherlands, that is why it is coined as The Little Amsterdam and has become an official flower for Sinulog.


We were fortunate enough that the habal-habal driver we got was actually a good photographer. He was directing us where to stand and at what angle should we pose. He was also like a paparazzi because he got us great candid shots when we browsed through the gallery. Plus we really look cute with our mickey and minnie mouse couple shirts. You see, I am not fond of these sappy things but there's no harm in adding spice in our relationship.



Sirao Garden is really a cute picturesque spot even though some flowers are not yet full grown. There is also a hammock hanged under the tree where you can chill or wander through the sky. When you visit the place, I recommend bringing bug spray, dress light breezy fabrics and umbrella because it's might rain or it can be scorching hot.


Since we went to the place around noon, we spent our lunch in a little karinderya located near the garden. We both had bopis, corn rice and soft drinks and it was very delicious. It is fun discover new things spontaneously especially when you are with your special someone. This made me fall in love with my partner even more. The view, the simple lunch and the companionship during the trip? I consider it as a romantic date.


HOW TO GET THERE:

If you have your own vehicle, you can drive up the Transcentral Highway or drive up the Busay road until Ayala Heights. You can see a road to the right beside the Nature Park and follow the signs. Well, you can also have GPS if you are having a hard time.

Another option is that you can go to JY Square in Lahug and hire a habal-habal. They charge about 150-200 pesos for a round trip and you can even add 50 pesos if you want to pass by Temple of Leah. You can opt a cab going uphill but the driver will charge you 1,200 pesos for round trip.

or you can have your own alternative transport of choice from CK and J Car Rental.


Falling in love is one of the most magical feelings you'll ever encounter in your whole existence. Every little thing turns out to be more meaningful. Simple messages like hi, hello and good morning are like sun rays that brightens up your day. However, staying in love isn't easy as one two three because in a relationship, there are ups an downs. What makes it worth it is that you both are fighting and keeping everything up together.


I have been in a long distance relationship for almost three years. My boyfriend is working in Negros Island while I am here in Cebu, studying Medicine. It has always been a notion that when you are in Medical School, you can't afford to have a time for your partner. But hey! I am already in my fourth year yet we are still going stronger and fatter. It is just a mixture of understanding, patience and time management.


Last February, my boyfriend and I decided to celebrate the love month at Sirao Garden which is also known as The Little Amsterdam in Cebu. I have heard about this place for almost a couple of years and been seeing pictures in the social media. I thought that this place would be perfect for couples out there to go on a date and I was definitely right about it!


The Sirao Garden is filled with these colorful ornamental plants, the Celosia flowers. Celosia is derived from an ancient Greek word, "burning" because of its flame-like flower heads. These flowers come from the Netherlands, that is why it is coined as The Little Amsterdam and has become an official flower for Sinulog.


We were fortunate enough that the habal-habal driver we got was actually a good photographer. He was directing us where to stand and at what angle should we pose. He was also like a paparazzi because he got us great candid shots when we browsed through the gallery. Plus we really look cute with our mickey and minnie mouse couple shirts. You see, I am not fond of these sappy things but there's no harm in adding spice in our relationship.



Sirao Garden is really a cute picturesque spot even though some flowers are not yet full grown. There is also a hammock hanged under the tree where you can chill or wander through the sky. When you visit the place, I recommend bringing bug spray, dress light breezy fabrics and umbrella because it's might rain or it can be scorching hot.


Since we went to the place around noon, we spent our lunch in a little karinderya located near the garden. We both had bopis, corn rice and soft drinks and it was very delicious. It is fun discover new things spontaneously especially when you are with your special someone. This made me fall in love with my partner even more. The view, the simple lunch and the companionship during the trip? I consider it as a romantic date.


HOW TO GET THERE:

If you have your own vehicle, you can drive up the Transcentral Highway or drive up the Busay road until Ayala Heights. You can see a road to the right beside the Nature Park and follow the signs. Well, you can also have GPS if you are having a hard time.

Another option is that you can go to JY Square in Lahug and hire a habal-habal. They charge about 150-200 pesos for a round trip and you can even add 50 pesos if you want to pass by Temple of Leah. You can opt a cab going uphill but the driver will charge you 1,200 pesos for round trip.

or you can have your own alternative transport of choice from CK and J Car Rental.

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I have visited some of the islands in the archipelago already but Bantayan Island is making on the top of my list. I never thought that I would be able to call myself as an Island Girl when in fact I don't know how to swim in deep waters. But living the island life in a short span of time makes me think I am home.

As I was counting the remaining weeks and days before I offer myself to slavery in internship, I was thinking of giving myself a reward for passing third year. So, I choose the Island Therapy!

The Bantayan Island comes from the Cebuano term which means "A Place to Watch" because during the 16th century, the Moros or the Muslim marauders were able to find a way up from Mindanao to Visayas invading the Christian settlements. Since, Bantayan Island served as a natural barrier for entrance ubti the Visayas there were small watchtowers around the island as a lookout post for the invaders.

Amidst the bipolar weather during our stay, we had an amazing three days and two nights in the island.

WHERE WE STAYED:

1. Budyong Beach Resort, Sta. Fe


Since we are frugal travelers, we always opted on the resorts with good reviews in Trip Advisor as long it is within our budget. On the first day, we checked in at Budyong Resort and it is really perfect for those who wants to travel cheap. But I am giving a 2.5/5 rating because their cheapest room (P800) has a poor ventilation. Good thing our itinerary on the first day was to tour around the island the whole day. And in the evening, it rained cats and dogs so it wasn't that really hot in our room.


The only reason why I will recommend Budyong Beach Resort to others is that it has a captivating beachfront view with powdery white sand and it was well maintained. It is less crowded and it's quiet and very relaxing.

2. Kota Beach Resort, Sta. Fe


On the second day, we stayed at the famous beach resort in Bantayan Island which is the Kota Beach Resort or also known as the Camp Sawi. Since the first day we stepped on this island, the locals were always mentioning the places that were shot by the movie, Camp Sawi which was starred by Sam Milby and the other five female celebrities. Camp Sawi is said to be the place where the brokenhearted people go and redeem themselves from an awful break up. Well, that was the movie tried to convey.


Kota Beach is just located next to the Budyong Beach Resort but it is more expensive and rooms are very cozy. We got the deluxe room on the third row which is very cozy.

WHERE WE WENT:

Supposedly, this 3D/2N stay in the Bantayan Island was just a plain "staycation" but I realized that we'd miss out a lot of awesomeness if we just stay in one resort and be a potato. So, we rented a scooter for only 300 pesos/day and toured around the island.

1. Ogtong Cave



Our first stop was the Ogtong Cave Resort and I really thought that it would be the same like we saw in Camotes Island which is well lit, wide and less crowded. But this underground cave is an exact opposite. There was a full pack of one family and another bunch of circle of friends dipping in the freshwater. We paid 100 pesos each for the entrance fee. The Ogtong Cave Resort is actually an annex of Santa Fe Beach Club which is the pioneer resort in the island.

2. The Cliff


This is still part of the municipality of Sta. Fe and as I have remembered, this is the place where Sam Milby and and.. I forgot the name of the female actress, jumped off the waters. There is an instagrammable ruins beside this cliff which I wasn't able to take a photo.

3. Fort of Kota Park



Kota means fort and this park is an old Spanish Fort in Barangay Lawis, Madridejos. This is located in the northernmost edge of Bantayan Island which served as a camp and a watch tower to protect the place and its people from the Muslim invaders. It was said that the fort was turned into a cemetery until 1950's which gives an eerie ambiance when your walk through the walls.

4. Madridejos Man-Made Forest


As you enter the Municipality of Madridejos, you'll be greeted by their stunning man made forest. This reminds me of the man made forest we encountered in Bohol.

5. MJ Square, Sta. Fe



MJ Square is our go to place and I tell you, your Bantayan Island experience won't be complete if you haven't tried Panyangs. We were surprised when we ordered the buy 1 take 1 back ribs and the native chicken tinola because after consuming everything, we were in a 5 second food coma. It was very delicious. This is also the place if your want to chill and grab a bottle of beer for a night.

The means of transportation going to the island is by taking a bus from North Bus Terminal in Cebu which heads to Hagnaya Port in San Remigio with 4 hours travel time. From the port, there is a Roro going to Sta. Fe with a travel time of 1.5 hours.

There are still a lot of things to do in the island like island hopping, sky diving and other places to visit. But since our main purpose in the island is to rest and relax, I believe we will be having a part two anytime in the near future.

This banana-shaped island off the coast of Cadiz City has been another popular destination for both local and foreign tourists. The term Lakawon is derived from a Cebuano word "lakaw", or "to walk". It was said that it may have gotten its name because during low tide, you can literally walk a long distance to or from the main island. You can even walk around the island within half a day for this only measures around 16-hectares.



Lakawon Island is 48 kilometers north of the City of Smiles, Bacolod City with an hour and a half travel time. It is located along the Guimaras Strait and it can be accessible by a 15-20 minute boat ride from the port of Brgy. Cadiz Viejo, Cadiz City.


 There are sari-sari stores and stalls around the port for the tourists to freshen up or go snacking while they prep up for their short ride to the island. And of course, coconuts or "butong" are abundant in this tropical
country.


The waves during the ride were a bit rough and I suggest bringing waterproof bags because there are times that you next blink is a big splash of sea water. After the 20 minute ride, you will be greeted with the famous boardwalk of the Lakawon Island and its crystalline, pristine blue waters. 


Everything looked pretty surreal. We all know that Lakawon Island is the talk of the town recently. It was claimed to rival the country's summer capital, Boracay which is a famous island resort off the coast of Aklan in Panay. But basing on my observations, I could say that there is a smaller influx of tourists most especially foreign tourists. Well, maybe because it's a newly discovered summer destination.


There are umbrella huts, canopy tents and family cottage neatly aligned along the shore. They are in different prices and since we opted for a package which only costs 680 pesos/head from a travel agency, we stayed in a canopy tent. It was scorching hot and I suggest that you don't take it! Haha. My mom kept on telling me that the view was better if all were just umbrella huts.


I love that there are bean bags of different colors scattered around the island where you can do you can bask under the sun. You can drag it in your hut if you want to take a nap for a little while and doesn't want to get toasted. They are limited and it's a first come first serve basis, so better yet keep an eye on your favorite color.


There are spots that are very picturesque. The swing, this spot in the picture which looks like you are a princess and the boardwalk are very perfect for your summer ootd and instagram feed. I can sense that there is a touch of millenial taste on this one. 


While we were waiting for our lunch to be served, we strolled around the island and see what it looks like on the other side. There are Tropical Bamboo House along the way which is the cheapest accommodation of the resort. It is a fan room with a private bathroom and it is good for 2-4 people. There were houses that were left open that's why I was able to take a little peek from the inside. 


If you are a frugal traveler and you are with your significant other, this bamboo house is enough for the both of you. I have tried fan rooms in some of my travels and I wasn't sweltering in the inside. 


The other side of the island was an exact opposite from the side where we docked. However, I don't recommend swimming on this part because it wasn't clean and no one would notice you during emergencies. On this part, you are already facing the Panay Island which means I am near to Isla Gigantes! Haha. Or not.


Going back to the more populated portion of the island, we found a starfish! We loved to take it home and preserve it but then I remember that they are living things. The starfish is alive! And one thing I learned back to the days when I was teaching English classes to some Japanese, is that sea creatures or other animals shouldn't be disturbed. You can look but you can't touch. Huhu. I am sorry starfish, I picked you one time.



They said that Lakawon Island is a counterpart of the famous Boracay in Cadiz City but I contradict on that notion. When I was walking along the shore, I realized that this place is somewhat similar to Moalboal. It is another white sand beach in the southern part of Cebu. It also dawned to me that even though I do not know how to swim, beaches and islands fascinate me a lot more than the amusement parks. 

Photo credits: lakawon.com.ph
If there is one reason why I want to come back, it will be this Asia's Largest Floating Bar. The TawHai Floating Bar. TawHai means "relaxed" and I bet this surely lives up to its name. I regret not taking a chance on this during my day trip after reading a lot of relaxing experience from other people. Though the entrance fee 250 pesos was costly for a frugal traveler like me, I think it is worth it. I am planning to go back in the future with my boyfriend and probably spend a night in the island.


Lakawon Island is still on the process of developing new accommodations and new amenities for the tourists who flock in the island. Though my Tita was in charged of this trip and we opted an all-in-package (which includes the food, trasnportation and the canopy tent), I searched for the prices and how you can get to Lakawon Island.

How to get there:

From Bacolod City North Bus terminal, you can hop in a bus going to Cadiz City for only 95pesos AC or 55pesos Non AC. Then tell the driver to drop you off at the Martesan Terminal and take a tricycle going to the Port at Brgy. Cadiz Vielo. A local told us that the tricycle ride costs 120pesos whether you are alone or you are in a group of 4. So you better hitch a ride to some tourist and split the 120 pesos. Then a pumpboat will take you to Lakawon Island, 250 pesos per person (roundtrip). Resorts's Entrance fee is 100 pesos.

TawHai Bar's entrance fee is 250 pesos per person with a free drink of your choice.The family cottage, canopy tent and umbrella hut costs around from 600pesos to 1,500 pesos. Corkage fee is 50 pesos per person but you can opt to order your meals in their restaurant.

I am not really good on this breakdown of expenses or costing whatever. My apologies if your are having a hard time reading the upper part. Anyway, my overall experience in Lakawon Island was excellent and I would love to go back and experience it all over again.
"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.", said the famous Chinere Philosopher, Lao Tzu. Well, I agree on this one because when you start to travel, everything becomes spontaneous and there are a lot of unexpected circumstances you'll encounter on you way. So as a good traveler, you must be flexible at all times.

Last 2016, my boyfriend and I decided to go on a road trip heading north. We live in a sock-shaped island which is the fourth largest island in the Philippines with a total land area of 13,309.60 km2. Dumagute City is located on the toe area of the sock and our destination, Sipalay City, is on the heel part. That is approximately 162 kilometers with a travel time of 4-5 hours by bus or car. It was a whole new adventure for us since it was our first time to do it together and realizations dawned to me on why we should go on a roadtrip for once. It can be with your significant other, family or friends.

read also: Discovering The Hidden Gems in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental

Here are my five reasons why you should go to!

1. Flexibility

Everything is spontaneous. You'll get to visit new towns you've never been and friends you've never met. This is an incredible way to explore and contemplate on panoramas of nature. You can stop any time you wan to take a picture, take a nap under the trees or taste different cuisines. If there's a sea or a lake nearby, you can go swimming with the locals. You have the freedom to go wherever you want and how long you want.

2. Roadtrip Playlist

A road trip won't be the best without your favorite songs on roll. It is very important to have your own copy in your phone or go premium with Spotify because there will be places with no coverage area (there is no data!). You can have your 90's music or even from your grandmother's classic music. You can also turn on to a local radio and discover new songs.

3. Catching up

And since there will be areas with no signal, you will be confined in small space for several hours. This is a great opportunity to bond and spend quality time with each other. This encourages to bring our deep discussions, laughter and flashback memories during the whole trip. There will be no gadgets, wifi and social media for this because everybody is busy catching up with each other. You are not "facebook-ing" but you are facing the real person!

4. Whole New Experience

If you've been used to traveling by air or by sea then this road trip sets a whole new experience for you. The travel time might take a little bit longer but what is important are the new memories you're going to stacked up in your box. There will be a point in your life that you'll look back this will give you the bliss and the contentment that you have done something incredible.

5. Appreciation of Life and Nature

A road trip gives you new opportunities along the way. New places, new experiences, new memories which all last for a lifetime not only for your self but for everyone on board. But not only these, you get to chase sunsets and sunrise that will leave us a sense of appreciation for all of the gifts that our Great Creator has given us.

read also: Chasing Sunsets in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental

How about you? Have you gone a on a road trip before?

Siquijor is one of the go-to-places that I would love to visit for a quick getaway. Not only expenses are cheap but the peace and beauty in the island makes your stay very worthwhile. Siquijor is said to be the third smallest province in the Philippines next to Camiguin and Batanes. In Spanish era, it was called as "Isla del Fuego" or Island of Fire because of the abundance of fireflies that swarm around the molave trees. And I believe that the larvae of the fireflies live only in clean flowing water and they love to enjoy the cool evening air. This means that Siquijor is one of the most preserve and cleanest province in the Philippines.

read also: SIQUIJOR 2014: STARTING THE YEAR WITH A GETAWAY


Siquijor has a land area of 327 square kilometres (126 sq mi) and a coastline 102 kilometres (63 mi) long and being the thrid smallest province in the Philippines, you can tour the whole island with only half day. In our case, we rented a tricycle which accommodates for persons for only 1,200 pesos. Actually, you can lower the price down to 800-1000 pesos if you know how to haggle. Since we asked the driver to fetch us from where we stayed and send us to the port the following, we paid the price that he told us.

1.  Capilay Spring Park


This is located in the town of San Juan and it is usually the first stop of your day tour in Siquijor. This is natural spring pool is situated at the heart of the town park which is in the southwestern portion of the Siquijor province. This has a pool with three chambers with colorful floaties to choose from. The upper pool is where the springs located, the second is where the swimming pool is then the third one is the laundry pool or also known as thte "river". You can have your snacks or lunch by the pool sides for there are kiosks if you want to spend the whole day in there.

2. Old Enchanted Balete Tree

In old folklore, people believe that balete trees are dwelling places for supernatural beings like kapre, tikbalang or white ladies. The old enchanted balete tree in the town of Lazi, Siquijoe is known to be the second oldest and largest balete tree in the Philippines. The first one can be found in Aurara province which is called as "Millenium Tree".


The special thing about this balete tree is that on its base is a cold spring that streams out into a pond which explains the tree's longetivity and size. You can sit on the edge and dip your feet on it while curious fishes nibble on your feet. Well, that's a free foot spa!

3. Cambughay Falls
Cambugahay Falls is located 2km north of town of Lazi and this is one of the favorite attractions in Siqiuijor. It gives you an astonishing view of cascading multi-tiered waters flowing once you walk down the 135 steps from the highway. These waters are 3 kilometers downstream forming a majestic swimming lagoons and rapids along the way before it ends into Lazi Bay.
You might think that the waters are deep for short people like me. I am 4'11 but there are parts that you can stand by your own feet. So there is nothing to worry about :)

3. Lazi Church and Convent


This 160 years old Lazi Church is also known as Iglesia Parroquial de San Isidro Labrado which means San Isidro Labrador Parish Church. It was established by Augustinians Priests under Patron San Isidro Labrador in 1857. The church was built with sea stones and hardwood by Filipino artisans and it was finished in 1884. The church bell was finished a year after.

The church was also known for its huge U-shaped convent was the largest convent built in the Spanish colonial era. The convent was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and was listed under the Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

4. Baha Ba'r


Baha Ba'r is situated in the heart of Maite Village which is 1km south of San Juan town and 8km from Siquijor port. This is one of the newest discoveries I had when I went back last 2016.The restaurant is designed and built to reflect the traditional island wood designs which is great for relaxation for the tourists. One of their best sellers in their menu is their home made ice cream which became my favorite.

5. Salagdoong Beach
Siquijor is also known for it's pristine crystal clear waters and white sand beaches. One of their famous beaches is the Salogdoong Beach which appears in different shades of blue as you go deeper. It is situated in Olang, Maria, Siqiuijor which is approximately 30 kilometers away from Siquijor Port.

The last time when we had an overnight stay in Siquijor, our last destination was Salagdoong beach it was scheduled few hours before our departure. So we had to wake up at 7 am and spent the whole morning by the shore.
And of course, the cliff diving. They said your Siquijor Adventure won't be complete if you don't go cliff diving in Salagdoong. Unfortunately, I wasn't gifted for that skill and I guess I am the only beach lover who doesn't know how to swim in deep waters.

Have you been to Siquijor? What are the places you want see and experience? :)