Bicol Photo Diary: Panoramic views and the Deer Farm in Ocampo

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My visits to Bicol have always been very chill and relaxed, but last week we had quite a packed itinerary, thanks to fortuitous circumstances and some spur-of-the-moment planning! We went to several towns and this is the first of a series of posts about my longest (and most event-filled) visit to Ranie’s hometown — so far 🙂

I still spent Monday and Tuesday primarily at work, hogging a couple of couches in some neigborhood coffee shops. But on Wednesday afternoon, we piled into a couple of cars and drove through Ocampo’s scenic highways to visit the Deer Farm — who knew?! After rows and rows of rice paddies and small houses, there the deer were — serenely napping in groups unless they were feeling hungry for sweet potatoes. Entrance to this sanctuary is free, and it’s a great stopover especially if you’re with children.

It was the first of several newfound discoveries about Bicol on this trip. The weather was cool and the rolling hills were begging for selfies and then some. Ranie’s friend, Francia, happens to be a wedding photographer / videographer and she wasted no time in setting us up in various layouts for a very late prenup / very early honeymoon shoot — we were more than willing to pose anyway.

Before heading to our next destination (to be revealed in the next post), we drove through a highway that thoroughly resembles Tagaytay, except that there is nothing on each side of the road except tall grass and overlooking views of more rice paddies and coconut farms. We stopped at the side of the road to have lunch, and I was surprised with how cool the weather was, high up on those hills!

I must admit that though I’ve always known Bicol to be a beautiful, wide region, I’ve never truly understood or appreciated its vastness until last week. I got to experience both everyday life and “adventure life” and felt so good throughout that the idea of staying here for longer periods didn’t seem too intimidating or impossible. Now if only 4G were more available everywhere…


Two days, four towns: How barong shopping in Lumban turned into a Laguna mini-tour


We were in four Laguna towns Friday night and yesterday: Los Baños, Lumban, Pagsanjan, and Sta. Cruz. I guess this is our version of a pre-Valentine’s Day date?

In Elbi, handed over invitations to our former teachers/sponsors. Then we met up with some orgmates.

My first glimpse of Freedom Park in at least two years. My elbi days still count among the happiest memories of my life.
Ranie and I met for the first time in this classroom, for a SPCM class, 12 years ago. We sat in the back, were trying out for the debate org at the same time, and partners for our final project. But we didn’t start dating until more than a year after!
Had dinner with a few resident members of the debate society + fellow alumni Kyla (in purple). We caught up on a lot of stories over beer afterwards.

In Lumban we bought Ranie’s barong. He’s always been dead set on getting an authentic one, straight from the source. It was perfect timing as he had a 2-day workshop in UPLB (and I’m working remote / pretty much anywhere these days).

Some updated notes on getting a barong in Lumban: From Los Baños, Lumban is only 90 minutes away via the Sta. Cruz bus route, then a 10-15 minute jeep ride. After the 2nd bridge, you’ll start seeing barong and gown shops left and right of the National Highway.

I found sources online that the good destinations are in Rizal Street, near the city market / plaza. As for us, all Ranie had in mind were specifics of what he wanted (piña, intricate but not too fancy embroidery). We actually found it in the first shop we entered, called Magano. Ranie usually struggles w/ formal wear in his usual size (M) because the sleeves always end up being a tad short, but Magano had a M-L size (Medium-Large) that fit him perfectly. I also loved his choice as the detail was beautiful yet subtle — very pogi. 🙂 The barong only cost P3000 – that’s 50 to 70% cheaper than a ready made barong in Kultura or Rustan’s. It also came with 2 free inner shirts already!

To be fair, we did check out a couple more stores after our purchase, but Ranie was already v. happy with his barong. In one shop, I actually saw a work in progress of a barong being embroidered w/ the colado style, but then got too shy to snap a photo because we weren’t buying anything. It’s amazing that handmade traditions still find a way to thrive in this day and age.

My soon-to-be groom 🙂 This was one of the initial options, but Ranie’s final choice had a different color and design.

Since we wrapped up our errand pretty quickly, we did a bit of walking around Lumban’s streets. Lumban feels so quiet compared to other Laguna towns I’ve been to.

Posing among some columns 🙂
San Sebastian stone church, Lumban


Bumbungan River, which empties out onto Laguna de Bay
Ranie doing a bit of posing as well. 🙂

After an hour or so, we took another jeep to Pagsanjan, where we ate a late lunch at Calle Arko. The food was super affordable and pretty much good. The highlight of our meal was pako (fern) salad w/ white cheese and sweet vinagrette. Such a simple yet amazing dish.

Pako salad! So easy to make, yet so delicious.
The shop’s owner collects beautiful tea pots such as this one
Contemporary artwork complementing the antique decor and furniture. A bit gaudy, but charming nonetheless.

We asked the waiter where to get pako (my mom loves it). They told us they get it in Sta. Cruz market. Perfect, we thought, that’s where we’ll take the bus. So right after the meal, we took yet another jeep to Sta. Cruz market. But it was so hard to find pako in the afternoon — all the stalls have run out! We did find two last bundles with a street vendor. I grabbed it all.

Now, my body is aching all over and I seem to be nursing a slight fever. After two months of remote work + a couple of weeks of baby sitting in between, I am… exhausted. Funny because I left my previous job to be less so!

There is so much that needs to be done. Both in work and for personal life. I wish I could feel more steady, to appreciate the options and privileges I have and to maximize them so that I don’t slip into an overwhelmed state again.

For today I’ll try to rest. These photos will be a reminder of why I’m doing all of this, what it allows me to do, and why it’s worth it.

Rare Birds in Bintan!

What a way to start 2018! Spent last week in the beautiful island of Bintan in Indonesia  with my new officemates — though it’s weird to call them that since we live thousands of miles from each other and coordinate daily through Slack and Zoom.

Continue reading “Rare Birds in Bintan!”

San Juan

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There’s more the Surftown than surfing. During our last weekend there, we also made side trips to Ma Cho Temple, the plaza pagoda, and had the famous Ilokano halo halo.

Surftown Sidetrip

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48 hours of pure, stress-free magic ❤

Worked on our goofys and paddles too (will share once we actually get the hang of it).


The in-betweens. Baguio, September 7-8.

Nagsasa Cove, May 2017

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Hiking to the hilltop, Nagsasa Cove

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Capones Island, Zambales

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Mt. Daguldol and Laiya

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