Essential Travel Guide: How I Earned 8 Passport Stamps – Manila to Kota Kinabalu to Brunei

The ultimate travel goal is to fill your passport with stamps within the year. Honestly, I never thought of it as possible with the limited funds that I have. Thank goodness to fellow travel bloggers, I discovered the hack to earning 8 passport stamps just by travelling 2 wonderful countries, Malaysia and Brunei.

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stamps, stamps, stamps

I left Manila bound for KK Friday night with clothes to last me for a week. My plan (aside from the 8 passport stamps) is to enjoy the place to the fullest with just 20k Php in my pocket (homestay and airfare excluded). If you have been following my blog, you would know how impulsive I am when it comes to food…so that in itself proposes a challenge.

First Tip: NAIA TAX. The last time I went out of the country (which was like 10 years ago) the terminal fee was only Php 500. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out that we have to pay a whooping Php 1,620 for airport tax! I paid 3x more! With no other choices left and with a heavy heart, I took the money from my budget.

The flight from Manila to Kota Kinabalu via Cebu Pacific leaves at night. Do not forget to check-in immediately as the line for immigration can be long. Also, travel light! If you are not planning to purchase check-in baggage, Cebu Pacific only allows 7kg as hand carry allowance.

 

 

When we arrived at Kota Kinabalu, immigration was easier. We were out in no time!

Second Tip: Purchase a local sim card. The one we got was a little bit pricey. However, we enjoyed 7 days of data and unlimited texting for around Php 300. We were amazed, as well, at how far the coverage is. Imagine being in the center of the ocean, heading to Brunei but still able to update our Instagram account!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, at this point, you have 2 passport stamps.

Third Tip: Take UBER! Update your Uber apps and book from the airport to wherever you are headed. It’s waay cheaper than the taxi cab in Kota Kinabalu plus we got really lucky with the promo code UBERRAYA. That was 14 trips with 4 RM off!

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Meet Jonathan, our Uber driver!

If you are headed to Brunei, you have to go to Jesselton Ferry Port. First trip is at 8AM. Head to counter 4 as soon as it opens and buy your tickets.

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PASALUBONGS GALORE!!!

Fourth Tip: You will be riding 2 ferries to get to Brunei. The first leg will be Kota Kinabalu to Labuan Port, and the other would be from Labuan Port to Muara Port (Brunei). Double Power (Counter 4) offers a package for the transfer. It is more economical plus it saves you the hassle of falling in line again in Labuan Port to purchase the ticket to Muara Port.

Ticket Computation KK to BSB

saves you 6 RM! WHOOO MATH!

In our case, since we arrived really early in the morning and short of Ringgits, we just purchased the ticket from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan and had our money changed before we rode the ferry to Muara.

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You will be arriving in Labuan port at around 11:00 AM. The ferry ride from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan is a long one. The waves can be really cruel as well and if you are the type to get seasick, this is not for you. Now you might ask, what will you be doing to entertain yourself for 3 hours? They will be playing a movie during the whole trip, don’t you worry! It may not be your current box office but, hey, you can live with that! They will also be serving Maggi noodles for 2 RM. I am officially in love with Maggi Curry!

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you will be given a seat number but, hey, it’s free seating!!!

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After eating my cup noodles and watching the first few minutes of Journey to the West, I slept like a baby on a very violent crib. When I woke up, we’re finally docking in Labuan.

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Fifth Tip: Have enough Ringgits! Do not make the same mistake we did. Aside from spending more for the ticket, Labuan, like all ports around the world, houses some shady characters. When we had our money changed at Ranjit Store (most trusted money changer in the area. the lady working here is also very patient in explaining the computation of the exchange), there were a group of guys “hanging around” outside the store peering on the tourists inside.

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Once you are in Labuan, the first thing you might want to do is buy your ticket to Muara, Brunei. There were instances where in tickets were sold out. If that happens to you, you would have to leave at a later schedule which will get you to Brunei late and chances are, buses will no longer be available in the city. Do not risk it, if I were you.

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buy your tickets ASAP!

Since man cannot live on Maggi alone, we scouted for good places to eat near the port. We found Fook Yuen Cafe and Bakery where we were surprised as one of the staff called us in Tagalog. We met Jenny and she assisted us in getting our food. She was very accommodating and even scolded her boss to speak to us is Tagalog. She also relayed to us how she was born to a Filipino family living in Labuan.

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Thanks so much Jenny for assisting us and adding more to our lunch! We were so full!

In Malaysia, it is a common practice to just provide customers rice and it would be up to them to scoop their viand. Basic price of a viand in Fook Yuen is 2.50 RM. I scooped a good amount of Fish Curry and it’s sauce. To top it off, I got myself fried egg! My partner ordered Chicken Rice (which is a resto favorite) and was not disappointed by the size of the chicken. Everything we ordered (plus 2 cans of soda) only costs 14.80 RM which is around 175 Php! This is the price of a Starbucks Venti!

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Chicken Rice and Fish Curry with Egg! (and lots of rice!!!)

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had to buy contacts solution

After we were done eating, we headed back to the port to prepare boarding. As Labuan is considered an international port, there is Duty Free!!! This is the perfect place to buy your pasalubongs! Here, you can purchase bundled chocolates per brand. Of course, I opted for Cadbury!! I paid 20 RM for a bundle and that’s approximately Php 240!

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Pall Mall looked sosyal here and the price is sosyal, as well.

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There is an immigration in Labuan. Here we met the unexpected.

Sixth Tip: Apparently, if you are travelling by ferry and you are a Filipino, you would need to have a show money of no lower than 300 Brunei Dollars. Without it, you are not going to be allowed to cross boarders. What’s worse is that if you challenged your luck and went to Brunei, disregarding the advice of the Malaysian immigration, you get deported to the Philippines. This means, you will no longer be allowed in the country of Brunei.

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We honestly didn’t have that money. Well, we did before we paid for the terminal fee in NAIA, the food, and the ferry ticket. As we were trying to contact people who can help us, at the same time planning our trip back to Kota Kinabalu, help arrived in the form of Bhing Harris. She is a fellow Filipino from Davao whom we shared a conversation with together with her niece, Hope, while we were waiting to board in Labuan. In the calmest of calm, she handed me and my partner 300 USD each and declared to the immigration officer that we are travelling with her. She said no need to worry and to return the money to her once we’re done with the Brunei immigration. We can never thank her enough for trusting and helping us. Up until now, we cannot believe that someone can easily hand over money to strangers just to help them!

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Hope and Bhing Harris! Thank you so much! Without you, our trip would not have been possible!!!

At this point, my passport got chopped which gave me a total of 3 passport stamps.

The travel by sea from Labuan Port to Brunei is relatively smoother via Express Kinabalu. It is the equivalent of fast craft here in the Philippines. We arrived after 1 and half hours to Bandar Seri Begawan and underwent immigration again. We were asked for our purpose of travel and how much money we have. We declared everything including the money lent by Bhing, plus the Ringgits and Pesos we have.

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Meeting people while travelling is the best part. It was a pleasure meeting you Hope, Bhing, and Chinn! I hope our roads would cross again.

As soon as we passed immigration, hello 4 passport stamps!!!

To read about our stay in Brunei, click HERE.
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My Seventh and Final Tip: Brunei buses will be in operation only until 6PM.  After which, you have no means of transportation. For the locals, this is not a problem as almost everyone owns a car. Yep, you are now in a rich country! For you, if you have no problem with walking kilometers, then this should not be a problem. We walked 8 kilometers during Hari Raya because we were so happy buying food at the night market.

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Meet Chin! She is a fellow backpacker! She is super brave travelling alone!

Going home, we missed Express Kinabalu’s first trip. We ended up riding Shuttle Hope which is Brunei’s equivalent to our RO-RO. Honestly, this form of transport is better than Express Kinabalu as it has more comfortable seats and brighter atmosphere. We were also able to see the massive offshore oil rigs in the seas of Brunei which is a rare sight for us Filipinos!

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OIL RIGS!

Exiting Brunei earned us 5 passport stamps.

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We alighted in Manumbok, headed our way to Labuan to get our exit stamp out of the port (6th stamp!) and rode the final 3-hour ferry ride back to Kota Kinabalu.

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Root beer and Maggi! Simple joys of backpacking!

My 7th and 8th passport stamps were gained exiting Malaysia and returning to the Philippines.

The experience was worth the long trip. Experiencing 2 different cultures in 7 days was more than I bargained for. We were also fortunate to have experienced Ramadan and Hari Raya in Brunei which is the solemnest that I have seen in my lifetime. The travel taught me patience (this is an obvious one- the trip was not easy!) and respect for other customs.

—and if you must ask if my 20k was enough to land me home safe and sound–and comfortable–in the Philippines, you would be surprised about the things we get to do in both Brunei and Kota Kinabalu with that budget! Watch out for my next blogs!

TERIMA KASIH, KOTA KINABALU & BRUNEI!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Want Workshops: First Aid for Furkids

Being a Fur parent is sometimes as hard as being a real mother or father to a child. The financial obligation is there, not to mention the effort and emotion you invest on them. Another thing that you need to ask yourself if you are planning to have a pet is, “What to do in times of emergency?” It’s a good thing that We Want Workshops came up with a seminar entitled “First Aid for Furkids” last May 20, 2017 at Ortigas Library.

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We Want Workshops or WWW invited Dr. Marc Joseph Domingo, DVM to host the said event. He started discussing essentials such as putting together a first aid kit for your pets. The furparents who attended were very eager and listened intently right from the start.

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The interesting part was when Dr. Macky classified the table food pets needed to avoid. Questions were thrown here and there such as the safety of “sawdust” or meat shavings or if the dog ingested something unintentionally, what would be the best thing to do. As a fur parent, myself, I understood every inquiry that was thrown and I appreciated the patience of the veterinarian in front of us, answering each questions intricately.

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Rodeo Club Philippines also attended and shared with the attendees the goals of their organization. Not only are they enthusiasts of the sport, they are also a group of veterinarians bound to help and save animals in need. We Want Workshops invited the organization as a sponsor to discuss their cause and also spread awareness that a Veterinarian’s job is not only glitz and glamour but requires a certain dedication.

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Right before the event ended, winners for the Best Pet was awarded. Weeks before the event, We Want Workshops held a photo liking contest wherein pet owners can show off their beloved furkids. Xyrus Ivan Mabini Castillote and R Patrick Reyes won and got a free invite to the event plus a blown-up and framed photo of Chichi and Esper.

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Dr. Noel Manalo also sent a message via SMS expressing his regret of not being able to come. He is also known as the “Vet ng Bayan” as featured by I-Witness, a show on GMA News TV. He was also a sponsor but sadly could not make it because of his prior commitment of going around the Bicol region offering free veterinary care to those living below the poverty line but still is compassionate to their four-legged friends.

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Lunch also was served right after the event and what could be better than seeing people with common interests share a thing or two with each other!

It was a fun and knowledge-filled Saturday morning from We Want Workshops and as everyone bid their goodbyes to one another, each knew that they are a better pet-parent than they were yesterday!

***For events and workshops information, you can visit We Want Workshop’s Facebook Page!

 

 

Rambull’s Bakahan sa Tanay: For the “COBOY” in You.

The road of Tanay, Rizal is often ventured by the adventurous. It is the portal to many natural wonders such as the Daranak Falls, Palo Alto Falls, Masungi Natural Reserve, Calinawan Cave, and so much more! Tanay is also known as the refuge of art and culture. You will see man-made wonders like the 71-foot high statue of the Queen of the Holy Rosary, the Tanay Church, and a dozen more art galleries that prove how the people of Tanay are not only talented but persevering in the preservation of their work. The roads of Tanay Rizal can also induce an elaborate feeling of hunger. Really! And what would be more strategic than finding Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay along the road’s shoulder?

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Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay is so hard to miss. The place looks like a saloon that just popped out of a Western Cowboy movie.  With it swinging doors and an endless display of cow skulls, you would know from the outside that you are in for a treat. Plus, it is so hard not to be drawn to it with its numerous vehicles parked outside. That in itself is a sign that they serve good food.

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We were seated on the far right side of the restaurant. The place was buzzing with excited chattering and we were all caught in anticipation. We stood in line and patiently waited for our orders to be taken. Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay adopts the turo-turo restaurant format. This adds to the place’s appeal. You can see the food about to be served. I was staring at the Balbakwa for the longest time!

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We ordered Bulalo, Beef Steak, and Kalderetang Kambing. The taste was absolutely commendable. We even concluded how the meat is slowly cooked under crisp firewood. It almost melts in your mouth! We paired it with a tower of iced tea and were more than gracious for the good food.

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Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay offers both the healthy and the mouthwatering. Just beside the Lechon station is an ad about Lemon Grass and its benefits. You will also see the seedlings that they are tending in their backyard.

I loved how the staff is always jolly and willing to help. We gave them a generous tip and I suggest you do too!  We also found out that they also compete in the annual Tanay Rodeo Festival and that in itself is another reason to admire them!

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The next time that you are bound to Tanay, take 5 and visit Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay. You will not regret it! It is slowly becoming a tourist spot so assure yourself a seat and savor their hearty Bulalo and Balbakwa!!!

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**Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay is located at Manila East Rd., Brgy. Plaza Aldea; 1980 Tanay, Rizal …Rambulls Bakahan Sa Tanay, Tanay, Rizal. **

 

 

 

 

Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo: Onboard Elegance

You have got to face it: no matter how traumatizing the movie Titanic was (imagine having the time of your life and then realizing that that was your last hoorah), you have dreamt of boarding a luxury ocean liner at least once in your lifetime. The sumptuous food, the glorious halls, the fancy cabins…you get to experience all that and it’s just half of the deal! You also get to travel to different parts of the world! Imagine how awe-stricken I was at the foot of Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo. My dream was coming true (well…sort of)!

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Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo made Philippines its home port. In its entire majestic form, the 13-story cruise liner with its wide array of restaurants, offering to take your palette around the globe; it’s wellness centers such as their spa, gym, salon; and even the electrifying sight of its 100-meter waterslide stretching out to one side of the ship, is simply a gateway to the places this pleasing giant can take you. I can only imagine how much time it would take to see all its corners! When we started with the elevator, it literally took me to a movie scene where the lift is giving you a full view of how fascinating the place is.

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The Mediterranean Restaurant is the main site for buffet. The area is spacious and is ideal for enjoying such gastronomic offers. What I like about the hall is the wide windows where you get to enjoy the view of the ocean while dining.

An Asian food trip is not complete without Peking duck and as we chanced by the Blue Lagoon, we saw the display that got us all excited! Another beauty of the Blue Lagoon is that you get to place your order on the tablet situated on your table—no more old-school hand-waving that we are so used on doing.

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The other restaurants in Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo are the Noble House (Chinese), The Taj (Indian) which boasted it’s no pork and lard-free menu, The Samurai Restaurant (Japanese and hello huge bottles of SAKE!), among others. All are equally pleasing to the palette! If you want dessert, they also have an in-house gelateria named Café Gelato right next to the pool. Strategic, right?

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And talking about the pool, all I can say is that it’s really a sight to behold! They named it the Parthenon Pool as it lived to its name of everything Greek.  From the mosaic tiles, the colonnade of columns with capitals, and even the Greek sculptures were everywhere! I personally love the violent rumbling of the Jacuzzi. It was relaxing and maintained its beauty amidst the harsh sunlight. The slide was also thrilling! Imagine rushing through its twist and turns while seeing part of the ocean rushing beneath you!

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There’s also a bar where you can enjoy live music and drinks. I personally appreciated the comfortable seats at the bar and those little tea sets display. It’s Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo’s way of showcasing the different cultures they welcome. The place and even the drinks is a fusion of both the Eastern and Western world.

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If you are also into shopping, you can purchase different goodies from all over the world. From snacks, chocolates, perfumes, and even plushies, they have it! They also sell memorabilia that will always take you back to the Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo experience.

The Cabins are also beautiful! From the suit to the Inside Cabins, Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo ensures that they cater all walks of life with the same kind of care and glamour and privacy.

Aside from food, the luxury liner also upholds entertainment to the highest regard. Inside the ship is the Lido Theatre where shows such as the 1001 Nights are featured. The show is a marriage between a musical and acrobat show and is as exhilarating as either of the two!

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The bridge of the ship or the place where the ship is commanded is also open to the public. You can see the captain and the crew doing their work. You can also see a variation of trophies given to Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo for every port they visit.

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Of course, the cruise will not be a success no matter how beautiful the facilities are without the hard work of the crew. Comprised of manpower from different parts of the world, they are the men and women behind the success of the cruise. There were a lot of Filipinos working at Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo and it’s so easy to assume that they could not be luckier enough to be part of this delightful journey!

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The grace of Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo is one that is undeniably hard to forget. Not all Filipinos were given the chance before to experience what goes on in a cruise liner. Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo is opening the doors to us with affordable rates that will leave you with memories to last you a lifetime.

**For more information about Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo and the cruises they offer, you can visit their website HERE.

 

BOOST YOUR BUSINESS: BE RETAIL’S NEW ONLINE SENSATION

Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) is a training company that understands the principles of Adult Learning.  Their approach has always been focused on letting their trainees experience what is currently being taught through facilitated hands-on activities. Their newest offer is both relevant and practical in today’s booming e-commerce. Let’s talk about bringing your business in the World Wide Web and making it viral!

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Social Media Marketing is a skill that today’s industry should master. No business is too small provided that they have established a significant social media presence. It is no longer a game of expensive TV ads. Targeting your niche is as easy as clicking the mouse. Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) will guide you through the process. Topics such as White Hat and Black Hat marketing, creating effective Instagram posts, engaging people on Facebook and turning them into patrons, will be discussed. Not only that: since BILCI value experience, the training is also a workshop that encourages you to execute what you have learned real time.

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With just 3 days to go, Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) challenges you to take that leap of faith towards success. For more information, you can contact them through their Facebook Page (hyperlink— http://www.facebook.com/BILCITraining) or you can simply email your inquiries at info@bilci-ph.com. Do not waste time in thinking twice about this opportunity and start making your business an Internet sensation!   

BUSINESS INNOVATORS LEARNING CENTER INC.: A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Social Media Marketing is one of the competencies a business entity should be skilled of. Today, it is no longer a game of neither who has the biggest billboard in EDSA nor who has the most high-tech commercial on TV. Making your business a household name is as easy as a click of the mouse. This is the same reason why Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) felt the need to have Social Media Marketing among their rich roster of course offering.

SMM

Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) is a training company that understands the principles of Adult Learning. Their approach has always been focused on letting their trainees experience what is currently being taught through facilitated hands-on activities. This way, the retention of knowledge is stronger and the trainees’ ability to replicate the skill is better. Learning Social Media Marketing requires this kind of approach. It is one thing to know in theory how to make it big online and another to actually be taking the first step toward it.

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The training, which will be held on March 18, 2017, will discuss a wide array of topics which will guide the participants in formulating their success in Social Media Marketing: from relevantly branding their business to the more technical aspects of white hat and black hat marketing. Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) promises that by the end of training, you will understand the concepts of how to make your business a hit in the World Wide Web.

Registration is still ongoing. For more information, Business Innovators Learning Center Inc. (BILCI) can be contacted through their Facebook Page  or you can simply email your inquiries at info@bilci-ph.com. Do not waste time in thinking twice about this opportunity and start making your business viral!

6 Places You Can Still Go to Celebrate Christmas Late

It’s a week after the Holiday Season and I’m pretty sure life has returned to normal for the majority of us. School has already started and offices are again on “business as usual”.

However, there are still some who wishes to extend the Holiday Cheer by whatever means possible– not removing their Christmas decors at home yet, still has “All I Want For Christmas is You” on loop, and craving for the sights and sounds of nostalgic Yuletide.

Fret not! I have here 6 places that you can still go to here in the Philippines to prolong the warmth and festivity:

1. Star City Snow World – Pasay City

In a tropical country such as ours, snow is a wondrous delight! It’s a good thing that Star City houses a Snow World, complete with slides made of ice, ice sculptures, and heavy duty sweaters. Believe it or not, you can access this for 150.oo Php only for unlimited same day entrance!

2.  Ayala Triangle’s Festival of Lights – Ayala, Makati City

Watch as Ayala Garden illuminate the night sky in a display of jovial, dancing lights to the arrangement of acclaimed artists and musicians of the country. The show runs every 30 minutes from 6PM to 10PM until January 8, 2017. The best thing about this is that it’s absolutely free!

3. Baguio Country Club’s Christmas Village  – Baguio City

One thing that overwhelmed me about this place is that it literally snowed from the sky! If you would like to have that photo catching a “snowflake” without leaving the country, then this place is where you should be. Together with the snow, a musical variety show also happens every 3o minutes. The Baguio Country Club’s Christmas Village is open until January 8, 2017.

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4. Meralco Liwanag Park – Ortigas City

Meralco makes wandering around the world in a night possible with their impressive display of lights and sights at their very own backyard. The Meralco Liwanag Park has replicas of the world’s famous landmarks all lit up, waiting for you to take that glorious Instagram-worthy photo! If you have not yet seen it, you have until January 8, 2017 to visit.

5. Casa Santa – Antipolo

Jolly old Saint Nicolas has been the icon of Christmas for a very long time. A household in Antipolo has taken this liking to a whole new level and turned their humble abode into a museum filled with Santa Claus collectibles. Casa Santa has grabbed the attention of the Philippines when it was featured on numerous shows on television. They are open every Saturdays and Sundays until January 29, 2017.

6. Marikina Grand Carnival – Marikina

The holiday season can also be associated to carnival rides, cotton candy, and booth games. This is what the Marikina Grand Carnival is all about: bringing you back the Perya feels. You can can still ride their Ferris Wheel and Caterpillars until January 15, 2017! Hurry!

 

At this point in time, you now know that you can still have that yuletide joy until almost the end of January! Cheers to you and I sure hope you have that spectacular moment of the season!

-Janni