Sunday, February 19, 2017

Soloviento: A Sanctuary

This place is straight-up cold. No, not the rapper talk kind of cold. We mean "brr" cold. Like it was da bomb, yo (okay, enough). Anyway...

After a grueling bike ride, we're in Caliraya, woohoo!


After biking for some five to six hours from Muntinlupa to Caliraya, Soloviento was the perfect place to rest our weary (and shaking!) legs.

But after spending just a few minutes there, we found out it was so much more than just a resting place. So much more.

You start your Soloviento adventure with a barge ride (don't worry, the almost five-minute ride is very smooth and wave-free) and will be welcomed by this sweet (sometimes suplado) little Jack Russell Terrier named Bingo (his official designation is Guest Relations Officer -- again, don't worry, the resort is still managed by humans).

Waiting for the barge.

Bingo welcoming us to the barge and to sanctuary!

Pictures and videos certainly will not do justice to the place so we still encourage everyone to experience what the place has to offer for yourselves. THEY HAVE A LOT TO OFFER, believe me. Plus you really won't feel the cold air via photos and video snippets, will you?

Okay, so it's like that always-fun lake house you've only seen in American movies (no, not where Freddy Krueger makes an appearance and kills everyone!) but always wished you could go to and have that strawberry jam sandwich or marshmallow over the bonfire with the family or that cold beer in can.

Now you have a chance to actually live that dream here in the Philippines and it only takes around two to three hours travel time from Manila (or five to six via bike!).

Soloviento, according to its website, is a lakeside watersport eco-resort and campsite.

Let's take a crack at describing each of those words.

Lakeside


Yup, the lake surrounding the small patch of land (okay, not that small -- about over a hectare big) is there and it's as calm as ever. Accommpanied by the ever-present cool breeze, if you're not too careful, you can be lulled to sleep in a matter of minutes. Sleeping for one whole day is allowed (it has been done before).





The only thing warm in the place are the people who run it -- the staff and the owners. They know how to make you feel welcome but at the same time they also know not to chat you up too much so you can enjoy what the resort has to offer (or sleep).

Watersport Eco-Resort


If you're the adventurous type or just want to try out new water activities (peeing is not a water activity), the resort offers rental and lessons on Windsurfing, Kite surfing and Stand Up Paddleboard. You can also hop on a kayak and drift by the lake. How about trying your hand (literally) at fishing?

Check out the rates for all their activities below (lifted from their website):

3-person or 2-person kayak     Php 300/hour
Stand-up paddle board (SUP)     Php 500/hour/person or Php 1500/day
Fishing rod w/ line, hook, sinker     Php 50/hour | Php 200/day (Php 500 pole breakage)
Leisure Boat Ride (12 people max)     Php 2500/ hour
Windsurfing lessons     Php 2500/pax/day (inclusive of all equipment and instructions)

Even with some visitors kite surfing or doing stand up paddleboard, the lake AND the place stays calm. Perfect for that "I deserve a quiet weekend" vibe.

Campsite


The sprawling land can house several tents (you can bring your own or you can rent from them) or you can rent rooms or campers or stay on dormitory-type accommodation.

Want to go camping but afraid you'd have to dig once nature comes calling? Well, have no fear. They have shared bathrooms (separate ones for male and female) that are as clean as the bathrooms in your own houses (maybe cleaner).

The camp still has the original camper that the owner and father used as early as 20 years ago for their own family camping trips also in Lake Caliraya. Amazing.



My biking buddy and I stayed in a camper that was good for four. It featured two double beds. My friend was snoring two minutes after saying "good night". Yup, they're comfortable too.



Oh, and no air-conditioning is needed. The fans do more than their fair share (we didn't even turn our electric fan on).

A fair warning though. Bring jackets or jogging pants or that new mermaid blanket you secretly bought last week as it really turns cold especially at night. Oddly enough too, we didn't feel any mosquitoes in the area.

The rooms also have ample outlets for you to charge your devices.

Please see rates for their accommodations below:

Entry fee (per head)     Php 260/night | Php 160/day trip (50% for children 5 & below)
Fan-cooled room (sleeps 3 to 4) Php 2100/night (waived entry fee)
Add-on: extra bed in dorm-style room Php 550/night
Fan-cooled camper (2 double beds; sleeps 4) Php 2600/night (waived entry fee)
Bed space in dormitory room     Php 550/night (waived entry fee) – subject to availability
2man tent for rent, sleeps 2 max    Php1,200 (waived entry fee for 2)
3man tent for rent, sleeps 3 max    Php1,600 (waived entry fee for 3)

Parking fee     Php 100/night | Php 50/day trip
Late-night barge pick up (after 10 PM)     Php 500

*Entrance includes 5-minute barge transfer from the Soloviento parking lot, and use of communal campground and shared bathrooms (hot water, separate male/female). A downpayment will be required to confirm a reservation.

Forgot to take photos of the rooms but visit their page (click here!) for more detailed descriptions of the accommodations.

Please see other charges below so you won't be surprised once you get there or once you get your bill:

Bonfire (weather-permitting)     Php 300 for wood, set-up and lighting (you need to let them know in advance)
Kiteboard rigging (pumping, packing away)     Php 100 per kite per day
Camper set up: Coleman-type (set up, close down)    Php 500/visit
Camper set up: Caliraya-type (set up, close down)     Php 300/visit
Electricity hook-up for camper     Php 100/night

Tent use on campground      Per person: Php 250 plus Php 500 consumable for food and drinks per night; one personal meal may be brought for a true camping experience but other meals must be taken at the clubhouse.


Food


Everything we ordered tasted good. So good that we ordered one pizza each (judge us, we don't care, burp!).





You have to try their steaks too. So filling.

I also couldn't pass up their Bacalao once I saw it on the menu. I'm actually imagining it right now as I type this. Sigh.

It was also great having a few beers with the owners who didn't mind entertaining all our questions regarding the origins of the place.

Food will set you back maybe an average of P180 to P250 per meal. Each peso definitely worth it.






I'm trying to think of a better word for "relaxing" but all that pops up in my head as I recall our stay there is "sanctuary".

Soloviento is a sanctuary. A place where you will feel safe and away from harm. Away from everything that is wrong with the city. It is our own respite from the craziness that is Metro Manila.

So let's all keep this place sacred.

Lastly, there's a frame by the clubhouse that says "Relax. You're on Lake Time."

Yup, we truly were and we can't wait to transport to Lake Time once again.

Visit their website soloviento.ph now!


Watch this short video I made of our Soloviento trip:)

Click here Soloviento.








Monday, February 6, 2017

Muntinlupa to Soloviento Ride

Motherfucker.

The one word that described our weekend biking trip to Caliraya.

Could be positive or negative but yeah, it was a motherfucking ride.

I'm pretending I'm writing for The Rolling Stones so I'm going to swear whenever I want to. Fuck that.

Anyway, back to the motherfucking ride.



Maoi being Maoi.


It was a smooth and rather uneventful ride for the first 60 or so kilometers from Muntinlupa until after Pagsanjan. Then this motherfucker of a climb appeared. All 6 kilometers of hugging mountains of it. Oh, Lumban.

Our plan of "biking" turned to "walking". Again. All 6 kilometers of it. Uphill. With our bikes. With our stomachs. With our egos nowhere to be found. We were so tired already from the 60 kilometers or so ride that we weren't able to pedal anymore.

Okay, we're newbies and couldn't do it but shit, the uphill was again (say it with me)...a motherfucker.



My officemate (okay, friend -- guys, we're only friends no matter what you see in the videos) Maoi biked all the way from BF Paranaque to our village in Muntinlupa so he had a 10 kilometer head start on me. Solid guy. Hard. Firm. Anyway.

The plan was to ride all the way to Caliraya, spend the night there then bike back to Manila the next day. We weren't crazy enough. We had to rest our legs. And our asses.

So following the Strava route of a co-Bikepacking Philippines Facebook Page member (thanks again sir JT!), we were off.

The route said to just go straight on the National Highway.

Just straight all the way. How can we fuck this up, right?

Nilagang Buto. Pfft.


Well, aside from Maoi forgetting his slippers and us eating Nilagang Buto (the attendant said it was spare ribs) in one of the many carinderias we passed by, we actually didn't fuck it up. Again, we didn't die! Thank you, Lord!

Follow the map!


Maoi being Maoi (he's old school -- well, because he's actually old), we actually didn't need the Strava route. He wrote landmarks on paper. Yup, just like how we used to do it before Waze and Google Maps. And we weren't afraid to ask people if we were going the right way (Filipinos are so helpful by nature -- most are anyway). People were curious and amazed at what we were doing when they found out where we came from. Some people probably thought we were idiots. We are.

After zooming past those colorful and smoke-belching jeepneys, cars-disguised-as-buses and millions of unruly motorcycles along the National Road, we were feeling pretty good about this trip.

Me, personally, I had my mind set on our destination already. I was excited to see Soloviento. My legs were more excited, I think. If they had buses for just body parts, my legs would have been first in line -- well, after my butt.



The ride was pretty smooth. We couldn't believe it almost didn't have uphill. It was all straight. As straight as Maoi and me. Yeah, okay, there were some "kembots" (again, like Maoi and myself).

Maoi enjoying his Yumburger courtesy of Smart Perks.


We stopped several times along the way for "map check" time and for BJ's (buko juice!) and even for some Jollibee care of my Smart Perks Loyalty Points (please text POINTS to 9800 if you're a Smart subscriber to know how many points you can use to get those Jollibee, Red Ribbon and Family Mart items, among others). Shameless plugging. Hi boss! Hehe.

So after munching on my Chickenjoy and Maoi on his Yumburger, we started pedaling again.

We left Muntinlupa around 6:30am and by the time we got past Los Banos, it was maybe around 9 or 9:30am already.



The very light saddle (from Larga) and manibela (from Pac Gear) bags were also very sturdy and didn't cause any problems. It was like we weren't carrying anything on our bikes aside from our balls (also not heavy, by the way). The bags also accommodated (yes, people, its double "m") all of our stuff for the overnight voyage, and then some.


The ride was also mostly against the wind so there was a bit of difficulty but it was manageable all in all.

It was also great seeing several bike shops along the way. For peace of mind, at least. Good thing we never needed to visit one although I had some issues with my front gears. No biggie though.

We also stopped and said our Thank You's at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Pagsanjan. Thank you again Lord for keeping us safe!

So the uphill was several kilometers after the church. We should have prayed harder.

The residents by the road who saw us had amusing smiles upon seeing us pushing our bikes uphill.

I wanted a glimmer of hope so everytime I saw a resident hanging their clothes or just sitting by the roadside (I love life in the province!), I would ask them if we were near the top already. All of them smiled or shook their heads.

"Nakow, malayong malayo pa kayo!"

Every. Single. Person.

I was wishing one of them would lie already.

Smiling but really cursing inside.


The climb itself took us around an hour-and-a-half to two hours. Motherfucker, right?

The thought of turning around and saying "Sayonara" to Soloviento probably came up even more than the times we pedalled the climb. But we were determined. And we already paid a downpayment. So we were determined. Haha.

The cool breeze and the chill vibe when we finally reached the top was very much appreciated. After the almost 6-kilometer fucker of an uphill was a maybe two kilometer downhill before it gets flat again.

Better Lake Than Never


When we finally got to Soloviento, after almost 9 hours of being on the road (six hours on our bikes), our legs were ready to  give in. If they had power to still kick someone, I figured it would kick myself.

After syncing Garmin with Strava.


Weird but Strava only registered around 70 kilometers. Maybe it paused during our pushing session? Good thing Garmin was there to record maybe a more accurate ride. All 82 kilometers of it.

The wind was so relaxing, I could have slept right then and there by the entrance of the resort. Instead, Maoi and I ate one whole pizza each!

I'll post a separate (and a more PG 13) entry about Soloviento soon.

Bingo! Soloviento's Guest Relations Officer.


For now, allow us to revel in the fact that we pushed (literally) ourselves to our present limits and more or less succeeded.

Happy Campers!


Oh, we just biked some 18 kilometers on our way back (we had to take revenge on the uphill by going downhill of course!) and rode a bus to Alabang. Egos packed safely in our saddle bags but knees, back and thighs safer.

We know this is just nothing compared to more seasoned bikers out there (taas kamay kame sa inyong lahat!) but this is an achievement in our books.

So here's to pushing (not literally anymore, hopefully) ourselves even more in the future!

Motherfucker.

That was one motherfucker of a bike ride.



Please watch the video of the Motherfucking Ride here:

https://vimeo.com/202622920

Ride safe, everyone!





Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bikepacking to Tablas Island, Romblon

"Ano, ano?"

With that question and the plan was hatched (we're such idiots, a simple question and a look serve as a dare or a challenge). 

We were going to Romblon. And bring our bikes with us. Yup, we were rebels.

After watching a video about Romblon on Facebook and finding out we could RoRo there, we were convinced. Plus we wanted to look for Maoi's abandoned love child from the 90's (an inside joke but feel free to ask me about it).

Okay, planning starts now. #RoRoRomblon, here we come! Or #LetsGetReadyToRomblon? Whatever. We were on our way to find our marbles!

First, the participants. Maoi didn't want just the two of us. He was afraid I would hold his hands in public (I actually did. Please see in the video).

"Baket, kinakahiya mo ba ako?!", I asked. 

This was returned with a look that confirmed yeah, he was ashamed to be seen with just me. Thanks a lot, Mao. 

We then thought of former office mates who might be interested. Jing's wife just gave birth to a cute little boy so he was going to sit this one out. 

Enter Hans. He was thrilled with the idea and immediately and excitedly said yes (poor boy, I don't think he has that many friends). 

Let's go!

A thorough research then ensued.

How do we get to Romblon? Where do we store the bikes? Which of the three islands do we visit? Will my wife allow me (thank you again, my baby!)? When's a good time to take our leaves? Will the boss allow us knowing we could possibly die because it would just be us and she knew we have troubles just deciding where to eat lunch much more plan a trip? She only said one thing: "Walang mamamatay ha?!" 

Anyway, after going through several websites and blogs and messaging people, everything was set. Well, Hans had to buy a bike first (great deals online!). After that, it was game on! 

We booked our 2Go tickets (around P1,400 each, one way, for a cabin -- thanks again, Mao for booking me in a different cabin from you guys). We booked our hotel room (Harbour Chateau in Odiongan - P1,500/night) and also booked our Calatrava tour (Deo's Islands Adventure Tours). 

We mapped out the trip. We chose Tablas Island since this was the biggest of the three and most developed and we figured there were more paved roads to bike on (paved didn't equate to flat roads, unfortunately).

Several meetings and back and forth Viber messages (yes, Shoe Mart Maoi knows Viber!) after, the day of departure finally came!

The organized and OC Manuel's Excel sheet though couldn't prevent work from interfering that day (work always gets in the way of everything!) and we were late getting to the Alabang Provincial Bus Terminal. We weren't going to make it to our 9pm 2Go ferry. 



The next bus came (Alps buses to and from Alabang and Batangas arrive and leave every 30 minutes for 24 hours according to a call Maoi made to their office) and we loaded our bikes inside the cargo area of the bus (we paid an extra P100 plus the P137 fare). It's best if you are the first ones on the bus so you'll have room for the bikes. We didn't have to take out any tires (on our trip back via Dela Rosa Liner, we had to remove our front tires but we weren't charged anything).

We knew we were going to miss our ferry even more when we realized the bus was passing Calamba town and not straight via the Star Tollway. Good job researching again.

Hans looked at the 2Go website and saw that there was a 10pm trip to Romblon Island. Okay, we would just proceed there and just ride another ferry to Tablas. 

We got to Batangas Port at around 9:30pm and quickly (yup, on our bikes) proceeded to the 2Go ticketing counter. I asked a bald 2Go employee who was smoking by the terminal fee window if the 9pm ferry to Odiongan already left and he said yes. We were doomed.

We quickly went to the ticketing counter and asked if we could just upgrade our Odiongan ticket to a Romblon ticket. The lady behind the counter quickly got up and said that the 9pm ferry was still there! Wow, we made it (I will never trust bald people again -- Hello Hans and Maoi).

The kind ticketing lady asked the security guard to assist us as she radioed someone to say there were three more passengers and that we would have bikes with us. 

Manong guard was so kind and escorted us to the boarding area after we paid the P30 terminal fee. 

Somebody then just told us to remove our front tires so we won't be charged extra for the bikes. So we did and we were able to board at once (thank you also to the nuns who were boarding at the same time we were -- God heard their prayers and nadamay kame!). 



2Go has neat bunkers in their cabins (thanks again, Mao for booking me in a different cabin -- I will bring this up forever) and we just ate our free dinner (and drank a couple of beer in cans) then went off to bed (we were asked to put our bikes by the Smoking Area). I then locked myself inside the bathroom (damn you, Maoi!) for 15 damn minutes because of the damn lock (what is it with me and locks and keys these days?)!

Anyway, here are some highlights of the Tablas, Romblon trip:



- Of course, the biking. We wanted to bike from the hotel to the Looc Marine Sanctuary which was some 21 kilometers according to maps.me. We took a wrong turn and made the hilly trip into a total of 30 kilometers. The ahons were so punishing for us (we're newbies!) and we walked for a couple of meters just to get past some climbs. Our average speed was 10kph due to the hills. Fastest speed was around 41kph which was also a lot of fun. Biking through rice fields and by the shoreline was awesome. Also the fish sanctuary in Looc. It made all the climbs and walking worth it. Air in the province is really different. We were so tired we just got a tricycle (the one they use for transferring pigs) for our bikes and a separate tricycle for the three of us (we paid P500 for each).





- If you want to know about what Tablas Island offers, you have to book a tour with Deo's Islands Adventure Travels. Kuya Deo lives and breathes Tablas. Just tell him what you want to see and he will push for you to experience what you want in Tablas. With his Mad Max-like Toyota Lite Ace (which adds to the character of the tour), he will make sure guests of the island would want to come back for more. Aside from naming new tourist spots, he usually brings his guests to the never-before-seen sites of the island. He recently named a tourist spot (a cave and a small swimming area in one of the cracks of the rock formations) after a guest after she dropped her earring there on their maiden visit to the spot. He fondly calls it Pearl of Melody. I suggest you book him if you want to enjoy the richness the island and the surrounding water offers. In our tour, he brought along an American Peace Corps volunteer staying in Tablas named Bill and they dove several meters on what Kuya Deo calls White Rock. Bill dove 80 feet down--free diving! Amazing. Thanks again, Kuya Deo! You can contact him via islandguide.tablas@gmail.com, +63 999 002 0806 or +63 997 920 0270.







- We visited the Looc Marine Sanctuary (P100/pax plus P50 for the snorkeling gear) to play and feed the fish (there were a looot of them) but we were told by Kuya Deo and Bill that feeding the fish is actually bad for the corals in the area. Fish should feed on the corals and not be fed with bread as corals need fish to survive. Oops. 





- While there, we stayed in Harbour Chateau Hotel. It's just a kilometer away from Poctoy Port so it was a quick bike ride for us when we got there around 5am. Rooms (P1,500/night, good for three but I think the room can easily accommodate six since the there were three double beds). It's also by the beach so eating breakfast (free breakfast is Hotsilog) and having your morning coffee is an experience. Your stay is timed 24 hours so you can check in any time you arrive but need to check out 24 hours after or based on the time you arrived (basta 24 hours, you get it). Their pizzas are delicious too!



- Moving around the island, a group can rent tricycles as jeeps are hard to come by and usually have early last trips (sometimes as early as 3pm). You can text Kuya Arnel (0939-3781383) and/or Kuya Rey (we forgot his number-- Maoi lost it, actually) but you can look for him in the Harbour Chateau lobby. He usually hangs around the hotel for passenger pick ups at the nearby Poctoy Port). 

Next time we will bring along a responsible female friend (not Jing. Hans, ang sama mo). 

Because it was only us three guys who went on this trip, these things happened:

  • We miscalculated the time and almost got left behind by our ferry to Odiongan
  • We forgot to bring sunblock so naturally we weren't able to put some on during our bike trip (very bad mistake that we are paying for today -- ouch!)
  • Hans will never wear sando while biking under the intense heat again
  • We lost our hotel keys and had to be escorted by someone from the front desk everytime we wanted to enter our room
  • We forgot to bring toothpaste and had to do with Maoi's very small toothpaste (just one of the small things Maoi possesses)
  • We didn't check how to get home from Batangas Pier. Good thing we Filipinos are really helpful and people there gave us directions to Grand Terminal (there were buses to Alabang in the Pier parking lot but our bikes didn't fit their estribos so we biked around 5kms in the darkness...and up an overpass)

So we found out that Tablas was VERY hilly and might not be advisable for newbie rides (Odiongan to Looc). Odiongan to Calatrava looked more leg-friendly. Beer there tastes the same but we had to make sure so we had more than a couple. People there are very nice. We will definitely go back and explore the other islands as well. 

And hey, we didn't die!

Please see video of our trip below: