Category Archives: Adventure

The Great Singapore Adventure: Day 5

Continued from The Great Singapore Adventure Day 4.

Our last day came on a rather somber tone, what with the events of last night hanging over our heads. Plans of heading to the Philippine embassy was scrapped due to the lateness of the day, so it was decided that Nez and Everlo would go to the Singapore Tourism Board while everyone can do some sightseeing.

I didn’t really have plans for the day, as I was quite hesitant to go about on my own. I still haven’t done some things on my list, namely: eat Hainanese chicken, go to Funan, find some Pinky St. toys and explore Kinokuniya. We headed off to Orchard Road.

Orchard

Orchard reminded me of Ayala and Buendia Avenue. Only instead of offices, the street is lined with malls and shopping centers. Our first stop was the Louie Vuitton shop near ION, where we bought a bag for someone back home.

It’s my first time to enter an LV store. I’m not a fan of such designer labels, and I’m quite intimidated by them. A friend related a story of how her mother went to one LV store and the attendants looked down on her like she couldn’t afford to even buy the cheapest item (she can, and more). I was worried that we’d have the same treatment, especially since the attendants looked like they were earning more than I am.

However, we were warmly greeted as we entered the store, and someone immediately came up to us to ask what we wanted. She immediately showed us the bag, answered our questions and even helped facilitate a certain request. In less than thirty minutes we were done.

It was nearly noon. We just walked along the street looking at shops, stopping at a $1 ice cream stall. I spotted a Kinokuniya sign and told everyone that I needed to go there for a few minutes. Since there was a line for the ice cream, they let me go.

My kind of store
The building happened to be Takashimaya, a branch of a well-known Japanese department store. I made a beeline for the bookstore on the 3rd floor, and immediately went to look for Dianne Jacob’s “Will Write For Food”. As luck would have it, there was one copy left. I grabbed it, browsed a little more a wished desperately I had more than $50 left to spend. Kinokuniya is massive. While it’s not as big as the Fully Booked flagship in Bonifacio High Street, the selection here is massive. I found several books that I’ve been wanting to get but could never find in any of the bookstores here. However, due to budget constraints, I had to make do with this one book.

I decided to do a bit of exploring, so I headed up another floor. Here there were toy stores that had a lot of Japanese character products (no figures though, it was mostly plushies and cartoon characters). The best place on this floor was the massive art supply store called Art Friend. 10,000 square meters of art supplies. I wanted to genuflect and weep. Deovir had nothing on this place. The section near the entrance alone had me gaping in awe for a few minutes. Fabric paints of various sizes and brands had me imagining the projects I could do. Sadly, as I was pressed for both time and funds, I had to leave empty handed. I did promise to myself that I’ll come back and splurge heavily here.

Note: I wasn’t able to take any pictures because I didn’t know if it was allowed.

Hainanese

Lunch was at the Food Republic at Wisma Atria. I like how it looks like it’s all hawkers but it isn’t. The prices don’t seem very far from the ones you see in hawker places, so we settled on having lunch there. I ordered some roasted Hainanese chicken, and discovered that drinks really seem to be sold separately here.

Verdict on the chicken hasn’t changed. I still prefer tinola.

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The Great Singapore Adventure Day 2: Malaysia

Continued from The Great Singapore Adventure Day 1.

The slight smell of curry wafted up my nose, making me think our room was near the kitchen. Being very tired the night before, I didn’t notice it, but now it somewhat bothered me. I got up, grabbed my camera and journal, and climbed back to my bunk bed.

I peered outside the cabin’s window. The sun was just rising, lighting up the sky. I estimated it to be around 6 AM or so. My bunkmates were still asleep, which gave me enough time to jot down my thoughts in my journal.

Cabin view

Soon, everyone was stirring. Someone was knocking on our door. It was Caryl, telling us that we should head down to the Mediterranean deck for breakfast. Right. We got ready, and I was surprised to see that it was already around 8. I had forgotten the difference of the sunrise and sunset.

Breakfast was buffet, and while I was admiring the pastries, one of the cooks greeted me “Magandang umaga.” I kid you not about the number of Pinoy crew on board Virgo. I think they outnumber the other nationalities combined. It’s easy to identify them though, not just by their looks, but also by their name tags. Aside from names that you can easily recognize, the word “Philippines” is written underneath it. In fact, the entire staff had their home countries written underneath their names. The staff is generally friendly and accommodating.

Breakfast: Round 1

Members of our group slowly trickled in to have breakfast. We were discussing last night’s adventure, where one cousin was missing for a few hours (he fell asleep inside the movie house), and our plans for the day. Someone wanted to go around Malacca which was one of the ship’s stops, but it turns out that because we woke up late, we actually missed it. So plans for a quick stop at Kuala Lumpur was made.

But first, we make use of the ship’s ammenities. We went exploring first, checking out the various places, restaurants and services the ship had. There was a library (which I ironically wasn’t able to visit!), a spa and beauty wellness center, a gym and a dance hall/bar. Of course, there’s an onboard casino which Resort’s World is known for.

Everyone wanted to try the pool and the slide. As I didn’t really like swimming with a lot of people around, I said I’ll just go for the slide. It shouldn’t be scarier than the one in Fontana, but there was a part that was hanging over the boat. Not only that, you’d be sliding through clear glass. If you were going slow you’d be able to enjoy the view of the sea twelve stories below, but generally, you’d be going too fast to appreciate it.

I went for two rounds on the slide before I decided I was good.

Hello, Malaysia
We decided to skip the tour the ship was offering. At SGD 77 per person, we would rather explore on our own and use the money to buy souvenirs. We docked at Port Klang and from there, took a cab to Kuala Lumpur. The trip took one hour, sort of like from San Pedro to Manila.
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The Great Singapore Adventure

Mga Kasabwat: 16 people, ages ranging from 14 to 90.
The Challenge: To survive in a six day trip to Singapore, including a three day cruise on board the Star Virgo and a jaunt in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Challenge accepted
Early this year, I was toying with the idea of going somewhere abroad. I figured it was about time I step out of the country, even for a bit. Someone offered me free tickets to any Asian destination, and, I told my best friend Carmenez. She invited me to join her family on their planned trip to Singapore.

I never got the free airplane ticket, but I got something else. I spent the rest of the months between February and June saving up all that I can for the trip. Then Nez said we’re changing our departure to earlier dates because we were going on a cruise.

How’s that for someone who has never stepped out of the country? My first trip abroad comes with a sea cruise. It was hard not to be excited, but with a tinge of apprehension. Just days before I was to leave, friends told me stories of how some people were denied at immigration. Then there’s the recent incident of two Pinays who went through bad treatment in Bali, Indonesia. I was assured that I shouldn’t worry, but I couldn’t help it.

Finally, the day arrived. I packed my bags as best as I could (I seriously had no idea what to pack) and rushed to my best friend’s house. The scene was quite like that of Home Alone I, where the entire family was scrambling to get ready for a trip and not leave anyone behind. It took us about thirty minutes to get checked in at the airport, and immigration couldn’t seem to believe that all of us were going. Think of it as Amazing Race, only instead of competing in teams of two, we were all working together as one big team. Chaos, I tell you.

Our passports

Worst Seat Ever
It’s a common knowledge that the worst seat you can get is near the wing, if you wanted a good view. I still think that our row had the worst seats in the history of modern aviation: last row, with no window at all. Therefore, no admiring of the Manila and Singapore skyline for me.

Touchdown, Singapore
My excitement of my first trip abroad was dimmed by exhaustion. We arrived at 1:55 AM, and had until 6 AM til we can check in our bags at the cruise center. Most of us had been awake since 6 AM Tuesday. We made the best of our situation by finding the best positions for sleep. It wasn’t an easy thing since the airport seats were hard and not really meant for lying down. I don’t know how I did it, but I got an hour or so’s sleep.

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Huling hirit

Summer was still in full swing when Ryan broached the idea of having a picnic-slash-toy shoot at UP Diliman. Unfortunately, our schedules were full that it wasn’t until last Sunday were we able to finally get together. It had rained the days before so we were worried that it might rain on that weekend. Thankfully, the sun was bright and shining, so our picnic plans pushed through.

Joiz, Ryan, Drew and I agreed to meet around 11:30 at Quezon Hall, Oblation. Unfortunately, we all had a mishap or two so we all met up around 1 PM. Joiz brought sandwiches, Ryan had brownies, I got Ilocos Empanada and Drew took care of the drinks. We made our way from Quezon Hall up to the Sunken Garden. Despite the shade of the trees, it was still warm. Later, I learned that June 4 was recorded to be the second hottest day in Manila this 2011. No wonder we were sweating.

So the afternoon was spent eating, drinking (softdrinks and water lang hehe), talking and taking pictures of our toys. Yes, that was a must. We watched a friendly soccer game between folks of two different nationalities, and pretty much just lazed the day away. When the day was ending, we went back to Quezon Hall to take pictures of Oblation, then headed to SM North to cool off.

Last hurrah before the rainy season hits, and how wonderfully timed it was.

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Getting the ball rolling

I haven’t picked up a paintbrush and did some serious painting in a long time. The stuff I did recently was similar to sketches. Now I know some folks would say that it’s better than doing nothing, but given that I’m the type who wants to do serious pieces, the little bits were really not much (sorry if that confused you).

I had been meaning to sign up for art classes, but so far the ones I saw were either really expensive or didn’t appeal to me at all. I was hoping for some summer weekend classes around QC or Ortigas, but no luck. A random visit to the UP CFA site showed a schedule of art workshops for April and May. Basic drawing, oils, acrylic and watercolor for P5,000. You can imagine my glee at this.

Unfortunately, I missed the first two, so I had the option of taking acrylic or watercolor. I decided to take the latter mostly because I couldn’t file VL at so short a notice for the acrylic class.

I eagerly signed up, and excitedly went to buy my art supplies. I technically had a couple of the ones on the list, but I decided to get some new ones. I got new paintbrushes (loving my Sakura 2 and 1 brushes), new paints, paper and so on.

I wasn’t quite sure what my expectations were. In most art classes I’ve taken in the past (both for summer and for school), we usually start off with a lecture on color theory and basic strokes and stuff. For this class, we only had a quick diagnostic sketch, then dived straight into painting.

Having previous experience with watercolor and how it works (behavior, mixing, application etc.), I didn’t have much of a problem. My problem was that I was mostly a theoretical painter: I’ve read a lot on how this is, how that is, what this technique does and so on, but I’ve yet to try it because I was so scared to fail.

Which is the main reason why I wanted to take art classes. I’ve still got a lot to learn despite my familiarity, but Im quite nervous to start. So I really appreciated the heads on style, rather than the classroom lecture most of the other attendees were expecting. It’s pretty much the same way I learned how to use Photoshop and HTML: I look for the specific task/effect I wanted, then learn the process. I pick up techniques along the way.

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Our instructor was chatty. He reminded me of a dentist in the way that he’d talk to us about all sorts of things while we’re deeply concentrated with our work. He’d offer us advice during our progress. A distraction, but sometimes welcome.

This was our process: Prepare the canvas by cutting the paper, mounting it to the board, then soak. Let it dry then sketch the subject, then paint it per section. I didn’t think I can do it, but slowly but surely, I was able to get it. Sure I made mistakes, but I had fun doing them. The painting isn’t really done, but it’s very close to. I plan to finish it this month. I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I’m happy to know that I can do it if I wanted to. 🙂

P.S. I really love hanging out a UPD. I want to study again!

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Easter Sunday

The fondest memories I’ve had of Easter Sunday was waking up really early to join the Salubong. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember my grandmother gently shaking me and my brother awake. We’d slip into our street clothes and even don some light jackets to ward off the early morning chill.

My Lola was active in the Catholic Women’s League, and it’s thanks to her (plus Super Book and Flying House) that I am familiar with Catholic traditions and Bible stories. While I’m far from being an active church-goer these days, I still find comfort in these traditions.

This year’s Easter Sunday didn’t fall into the regular route of the years past. I woke up late, missing the Mass (I try to make it a point to go during special occasions) and barely making breakfast. Still, I had a nice morning talking with Lolo, and I went around the house taking pictures.

Plants are among my favorite subjects, since you didn’t have to pose them or worry about how they look (they’re always pretty). Plus, there were a lot of flowers in bloom, so it made for an interesting subject. Originally, I was going to take photos of Danbo, but he got tired fast.
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My Lola was an avid gardener, much like her mother. She used to have a lot of orchids and bougainvilleas around the house. As a kid, we’d help her trim them or water them in the afternoons. I usually would pick the latter duty because I knew that digging through the plants would mean meeting up with a worm or two.
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Still, I learned a lot during those hot afternoons. Lola was a patient teacher, and if we made a mistake, she didn’t get angry. I had a healthy respect for plants and animals, including my much hated bugs, insects, worms and frogs.

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I hope you had a wonderful Easter. I’m grateful for mine. It’s always a great time to reflect and be thankful.

The Lost Film

You’ve heard stories of how people randomly find something someone lost, and how this becomes the start of adventures and all sorts of events that can be life-changing. Or not.

Todd Bieber (hopefully no relation to Justin) had one such adventure. During the blizzard last December, he took his skies to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. There, he found a roll of film.

He developed it, and decided to search for the owner of the film. He posted the pictures online and hoped that someone can tell him who they were. More than 800 messages poured in, but he finally found the one who owned it.

Here is Todd’s story.

His adventure was wonderful. His trek across Europe is enviable and admirable. Goes to show that there are still plenty of good people in this world, and it is possible to connect with them all.

What’s your adventure today? 🙂

Bicol Trip 2010: Day 2

We had gotten several instructions on how to get to Cam Sur. King’s instructions was the clearest one we had (plus, I wrote it down). So we went to the terminal beside Pacific Mall (near the SM Savemore, which IMO should be SM Savepoint, like in RPGs) and boarded a van for Naga. We were just in time for the last three seats. Fee for the full trip is P150 per person, but since we were getting off at Pili, it was only P130. Just tell the driver to let you off at the CWC crossing.

The trip is roughly two hours, about half of which I spent sleeping. It was rather uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind it much. The driver let us off the crossing, and we took a trike to the CamSur Watersports Complex. It’s inside a compound that’s houses several government agencies, although much of the area is being developed into several resorts.

We decided on signing up for half day use of the cable park. Since it won’t open until 10 AM, we had roughly two hours to kill. We did so by taking beginner lessons on wakeboarding at Winch Park.

Ideally, we were told that first timers should go knee boarding before trying wakeboarding. This is so that you’ll have an idea on how to balance yourself on the board, as kneeboarding doesn’t really require much effort compared to wakeboarding. Since the park is closed, we opted for wakeboarding basics.

Feeling athletic
I consider myself a fairly athletic person, having taken up taekwondo and archery in the past. Still, prefer less strenuous sports, and although I do like to swim but I’m quite intimidated by water. First thing I asked was “Are there life jackets?” then “How deep is the water?”

Let me just say that it is not a fun experience when you lose your balance and hit the water… at first. After a while, it just gets frustrating because you see everyone (your brother, mostly) crossing the water easily after one or two falls. Still, the moment where I was able to complete a round was really exhilarating. Sure, I wasn’t fully standing, and maybe I still had some issues with how to properly balance myself, but it was so worth it. After a while I was also able to try standing up slightly, then making a turn.

I also realized that I was able to start off with no problems when the operator suddenly ran the machine while I was still chatting with the instructor. Better because I wasn’t tense with expectation?

Miks started on the cable park earlier. He was able to complete one round by the time we got there. Nez immediately tried kneeboarding, while I decided to pass it up in favor of catching my breath. Around this time, other guests were arriving, including several Australians who seemed to be wakeboard enthusiasts, judging by their equipment and physique. Thank God for shades, because I couldn’t stop ogling at them.

The half day rent on the cable park includes free use of the swimming pool, which we took advantage of while waiting for our food orders.


Food tripping again
We didn’t have breakfast so I was truly starving by the time noon rolled in. CWC had its own restaurant, which was pretty much the only place you can get food from inside the compound. Price-wise, most dishes fell below the P200 line. I had an order of Filipino breakfast (tapsilog) and a side dish of hakaw. Miks had this ground pork dish (the name escapes me) while Nez had some sort of rice toppings. Oddly enough no one thought to take photos of the food, probably because we were so hungry.

I wanted to take home CWC’s menu which was shaped like a wakeboard. Miks and I asked if we could get it, and they said no. Too bad.

For dessert, we had banana split, which didn’t really stand out. The menu described it as four scoops with pili nut toppings. It was only three scoops with no pili nuts. There’s a cherry though. Later on we ordered laing pizza and it was good! The laing was well made so it didn’t overpower the tastebuds. Oddly enough, it mixed well with the cheese. Definitely well recommended!

On to Naga
We spent the remaining hours cleaning up, then took the shuttle to Naga. Our original plan was to go back to Legaspi after lunch, but Nez wanted to go to Naga, after seeing signs for the 300th anniversary of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

I have heard of it before, thanks to various relatives and a friend’s mother who is from Naga. While I’m not a religious person, I still think it warrants a visit, so I was game. When we got to Naga, we were confused about where to go. The trike driver who took us to CWC said that we should go to the Basilica where the Ina (as Our Lady of Peñafrancia is fondly called by her devotees) is housed. She will be transferred to the Cathedral the week after (note: it’s the week of September 13 to 17), before heading back to the Basilica. We again took a trike.

There were not many people at the Basilica, although there were a lot of construction going on outside, probably in preparation for the celebration in the coming days. Outside the church is a tarpaulin board where you can write your wishes or prayers. Nez, Miks and I all noted down our prayers. Mine was for my family.

The Basilica is fairly new. By this, I mean it wasn’t as old as Daraga church or some of the older churches we saw along the way. Still, it was pretty impressive. There were huge stained glass works of the various stations of the cross, letting the light flow from outside and casting a colorful glow in the church. The altar is big, reminding me of the church in Dumaguete. At the very top of the altar is the image of Ina. There is an entrance in the side of the altar to a prayer/devotion area, where you can touch the image through a small cubby hole while saying a prayer. We were lucky to get there before anyone else, so there were no lines.

As I said earlier, I am not a religious person. In fact, you can even say I’m somewhat skeptic of the Catholic Church, even though I am Catholic. Still, there was something about the place, and the devotion of the people there that touched me, and I couldn’t help but cry while I was there.

We went around a bit, with Nez going to the souvenir shop to get something for her grandma and offer a mass for her siblings, who are taking the bar.

We headed back to SM to look for a Starbucks so she can get a mug for her sister. Tip: there is no Starbucks in SM Naga, but there is one along the road to the Basilica. It’s right next to Yellow Cab, which is across a gas station in an intersection. I don’t know the name of the street.

The trip back to Legaspi took roughly two hours, again most of which I spent sleeping. Back in Legaspi, we decided on a quick dinner at McDonald’s (yes, we eventually gave in), then walked back to our hotel.

A funny thing happened while we were walking. A
lady behind me asked “Saan yung Tanchuling Hotel?” Apparently, she was also a visitor in Legaspi like us. Nez and Miks were ready to reply that they didn’t know, but I quickly answered with the directions. How did I know? we passed it several times before and I often retain information like that.

We all crashed pretty quickly after we arrived at the hotel. Our bodies were starting to hurt from the wakeboarding, and Nez told me that she had to get some cold canned drinks to put on her aching muscles. I doubted that we’d get up early the next day to get to Bacacay.

I still haven’t sent my postcards.

Bicol trip 2010: Day 1

My best friend Carmenez invited me on a trip to Legaspi, Albay. It had been years since I last stepped foot on my motherís home province and I jumped on the chance. A few days later, she asked if I knew of anyone else who wanted to go, so I took my brother Miks along.

The moments before the actual flight were rather tense. one reason was mostly due to my carelessness, and the other one was purely because of fate. But when the plane was in the air and we landed in Legaspi, we didnít really care and had a grand time laughing about it.

Day 1: Legaspi and Daraga
It was Miksí first time to ride a plane, and his first visit back to Bicol after twenty years. He was roughly two years old when he first visited, and hasnít been back since. He said that the plane ride was rather short (less than an hour from Manila to Legaspi), but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Upon landing, we immediately whipped out our cameras for a shot at the tarmac, even though we were asked not to take pictures in the runway. Since there were not much activity, the airport personnel was a bit more accommodating.

We were able to get a ride with someone Carmenez knew from work, so we arrived at our hotel pretty quickly. Sampaguita Tourist Inn is located along Rizal St., and is easily accessible through public or private transportation. Itís relatively cheap and clean. Our room had three single beds, one bathroom, a TV with cable, aircon and fan. itís the bare essentials, but for P750+ per night, itís very good. Thereís no WiFi in the rooms, but thereís a free connection at the lobby. Thereís also a restaurant on the first floor, but I donít know how the food is.

After dumping our things and freshening up a bit, we headed out. Pacific Mall was our first stop, where we were told we can easily get rides to where we needed to go. A trike is P7 per person, but for some reason the drivers kept asking for P30 for the three of us. It wouldnít be so bad, but the total of those extra three pesos does make a difference.


Mall nanaman?
Pacific Mall is a Gaisano mall, hence the familiar uniforms of the department store ladies. The funny thing was it was only a few blocks away from our hotel, and we couldíve easily walked to it. It houses several familiar establishments like McDonaldís, Jollibee, Bench, Penshoppe and National Bookstore.

We had lunch at Graceland, all because we thought there were two Jollibee stores in the mall, thanks to the mascot Qweenie. For less than P100, you get a full meal. Miks and I had lechon kawali with Bicol Express, while Nez had porkchop with laing.

Right on the second floor is the store my friends and I know and love so well: Booksale. Since I was with the friend who introduced me to it, we just had to pass by. Iím sure my brother rolled his eyes as we made a beeline for it. I purchased a book for Lolo, while Nez hauled in some pocketbooks at P15 each.

We finished running our errands and headed off to the Philippine Ports Authority office, where Nez met up with people she knew from work. We took a trike from the mall, which then dropped us off in front of the Naval base. Unfortunately neither the trike driver nor the security guard we asked knew where PPA was, so we were off for a long walk. We made some wrong turns but eventually ended up where we needed to be.

Most of Legaspiís government offices are located in one compound. I saw the Civil Service, DOST, DOT, LTO, Commission on Audit, DILG among others. There were other government offices outside the compound but they were more like satellite offices.

The Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga

365/September 6: Cagsawa Ruins and Mt. Mayon

We headed off to Daraga to see the Cagsawa Ruins. The last time I was there, it seemed like it was just a big field with the bell tower in the middle of it. Now thereís a gate, where you have to pay the entrance fee, plus stalls where you can buy souvenirs. Inside the compound, we ran into King, a young man who took us around the ruins and told us the story behind it. He was also really cool to take pictures of us, and gave us information on where we could go next. If ever you do stop by the Cagsawa Ruins, look for King.

Our next stop was Daraga church, which sits on top of a hill. Daraga was celebrating its fiesta the next day, so the church was all spruced up. It had an amazing view of Mayon, and thanks to Kingís tips, we were able to get great pictures of the church and the volcano.

It was late afternoon when we got back to Legaspi, so we opted to go to Bacacay the next day, after wakeboarding in CamSur. Instead, we freshened up and went downtown to look for the bus terminal. Legaspi has a busy downtown district, the only thing I recall ever seeing back then was LCC Mall. We took a walk around but didnít find what we wanted. We poked around an ukay-ukay store, and I finally saw the post office, complete with a really odd statue of kneeling headless man. According to my research, it was originally found along the townís port area and is a memorial to a guerilla hero beheaded by the Japanese during World War II.

Legaspi’s night life
A short walk away is the Embarcadero, a waterfront development full of stores and restaurants, considered as the portal of nightlife in Legaspi. Much of it is still under development, and will house a hotel and spa as well as a IT park in the future. For now, it has enough to keep one entertained. We had dinner in Biggs Diner, one of Bicol’s popular food chain.

At first, Nez wasn’t impressed because it functioned quite like McDonaldís where you have to line up to order instead of sitting down then ordering from a menu. However, when our orders came, we didnít have anything bad to say about it. For the price, Biggís is well worth it. The servings are, well, big, and the taste lives up to the images that are posted on the menu board.

For a Monday night, there were a lot of people milling about. There was a boxing event, and there was a live band playing. Nez wanted coffee, so we looked around for a coffeeshop. No Starbucks or CBTL, instead, we saw La Mia Tazza. Like Biggís and Graceland, it is purely homegrown. Many of the drinks and the desserts have incorporated what Bicol is known for. I just tried tea, but I heard that they have drinks with pili nuts. My mom would love that.


We spent the rest of the evening listening to the band, then headed back to Sampaguita to rest as we had to get up early the next day.