Weekend With Balloons

A month  ago, I was tagged by my best friend in a travel agency’s post. The post is about their offer for the upcoming Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.Since I’ve always wanted to attend that even because of the good things I’m hearing about it, as well as the beautiful photos I’ve seen from the previous years, I asked her if she wants to go and she said yes. I started to make arrangements, buying tickets online and coordinating with my friends. The six of us (me, my best friend, her daughter, our other high school friend and her husband and kid), went to the event. We were all so excited to see the hot air balloon.

We decided to go on the last day of the event, which  is a Sunday. We left Manila at 1:30 AM, and arrived at Clark by 3 AM. We were surprised by the swarm of people at the entrance.

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At the entrance

We got inside at around 5 AM. However, it wasn’t that easy to get in. The queue was slow, and there were people pushing us. There were some people who went back to go to another line. Me and my best friend got separated from our group, and we found ourselves being pushed to another  line, which is for tickets. I almost fell on the ground when someone pushed me, good thing I was able to balance myself.

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Once we got inside, my best friend lined up to the portalets, while my other friend decided to buy some food. I waited for my best friend, and while waiting, I got to see the early exhibition of the paragliders. It was almost daybreak when the program started, and we got a glimpse of the balloons.

I wasn’t able to take much pictures because there were a lot of people  on the event ground, and I was too tired from standing and walking for almost 4 hours. I couldn’t even get in front to take a closer look at the balloons. After taking a few pictures, I decided to rest. Luckily, my best friend found a seat inside the snack test, so we just sat there while watching the balloons while we ate breakfast.

Sorry for the crappy pictures.

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We decided to go to our next destination at 7 AM. However, if there is a traffic going inside the event early that morning, the human traffic going outside was terrible. There’s only one gate for the entrance and the exit. We weren’t able to get to the parking lot right away, and had to stand at the exit for 2 hours. The problem is, there is a bottleneck near the parking lot. There were more people going inside, and the pathway is too, and to think there’s only one entry and exit point.

We got to the parking lot by 9 AM, but we were only able to exit the lot by 11:30 because, again, a lot of cars were leaving. We were too tired to go to our next destination, so we decided to have lunch at Yu Ganne, which serves unlimited Sam Gyup Sal. I’m not a fan of Korean food, but hey, it’s unlimited meat.

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After our lunch, we went to Duty Free to buy some chocolates, then we headed home.

It wasn’t really a good experience, but my eyes feasted with the sight of hot air balloons. I wished that the organizers did organize the event on the last day. There should have been a different gate for the entrance and the exit, so that there won’t be any hassle in going and out of the event.

They said that this is the last hot air balloon fiesta, but it’s not true. There will still be another next year, as per our sources, only it will be more organized (wait, what?) as this year, they only got a month to prepare. I’m not sure if the rumor  surfaced because the owner of the venue has other plans to use it.

Will  I be going to the next hot air balloon fiesta? I think I’ll pass, unless it becomes really organized. Although there was a lot of hassle that day, I did enjoy spending the whole day with my friends.

Misadventures: Going Solo in Ilocos – Day 3

It’s our last day in Ilocos. It’s a Sunday, and the next day is Monday. Only means one thing – time to face responsibilities and stress once again.

We had breakfast at 6 AM, checked out from our accommodation (we just left our room keys on the table). We drove back to Vigan for our last destination for our tour – Bantay Bell Tower.

Along the war, we stopped by to buy onions and garlic. I didn’t buy any of those, but I did buy a lot of goodies on our second stop – Four Stars.

The first thing that caught my attention when I got out of the van is the stall that’s selling bagnet and Vigan longganisa. Since it’s in my list of goodies to buy, I checked their products.

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Crispy but full of cholesterol

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Garlicky and savory, just the way I like it

I was expecting bagnet to be expensive, but it’s only sold for Php 190 each! I bought 2 for supplies. Vigan longganisa is Php 120 per dozen. Because it’s not everyday I will have access to this longganisa, I bought 3 dozens. I cooked it the next day, and oh boy, I’m in heaven smelling and tasting this glorious food.

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I also bought chichapop and cassava cake as “pasalubong” for my neighbor and team mates.

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I bought the chichacorn and panocha in Bantay Bell Tower

We already left when our guide told me they have toasted pastillas. I regret not checking out their other products because I want to stick to my budget.

After buying our goodies, we went to Bantay Bell Tower.

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Since it’s located in the church, I stopped by the church and made a short prayer.

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This bell tower is really picture worthy. When I look at it, I felt like being taken back in time.

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Of course, it’s not enough to take pictures of it’s facade. I heard the view is spectacular from above, so once again, I braved going up the tower. I reached the second floor, but I did not dare to go further to where the bells are, because I don’t think I can even do it without my legs shaking.

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From here, you can seethe view of the whole city. It’s a wonderful sight, seeing the city below under the blue sky.

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After Bantay Bell Tower, we passed by Marcia’s Delicacies. I thought we won’t pass by the store, so I already bought the cassava cakes at Four Stars. Anyway, I bought a box of cream puffs instead.

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This just got out of my fridge

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We went to Vigan city proper one last time to explore the place and to have lunch. We took a few pictures of the place.

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Only picture I have of the plaza

We took our lunch at Chowking. We were planning to go back to Calle Crisologo to take more pictures, and buy more souvenirs and goodies, but time did not permit us to do so. By 11:30 AM, we were now on our way back to Manila. After a few quick stops, we reached Manila around 7:30 PM.

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The long way back home

If I had known that travelling like this could make me more relaxed, I should have done it way before. It’s nice to go on your own from time to time, to be more independent. I made new friends in this vacation, which is nice because I have always been too shy. Somehow, this vacation also helped me to reflect on myself – on what I can do and what’s my limit. This travel also helped me enhance one of my favorite things to do, which is photography (and also blogging).

There are things I never thought I would be able to do, like going up to the lighthouse and the bell tower, and rising the ATV. These things  had somehow made me feel alive. The experience I gained from this trip will forever change me to be a better person. It made me know myself much better.

I went to this trip to be able to move on. I know it won’t take away my loneliness right away, but this is just the first step.

Again, I would to that The Travelgram PH for the wonderful Ilocos trip.

I’m starting to miss this place. I know one day, I will be back. But for now, there a lot of new places I still have to explore.

 

 

Misadventures: Going Solo in Ilocos – Day 2

Day 2!

I woke up 4:00 AM to prepare for the day’s tour. We left Laoag to Pagudpud at around 7 AM that Saturday. It was a 2 hour drive, so we can still take a nap on the van. We arrived at Blue Lagoon around 9 AM.

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It was cloudy when we left for Pagudpud. Seems like it will rain later on. When we arrived in Blue Lagoon, the weather and temperature is just right – the sun is not scorching hot, it’s cloudy, and there is no rain yet.

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We went to a beach resort right next to Hannah’s Beach Resort. We paid Php 150 for the entrance, and we stayed at the free cottage. When we arrived at the beach, there were already a lot of vendors roaming around, selling souvenirs and food. And because I love food, I bought something to chew on.

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Best carioca I ever tasted

I bought carioca, which is a rice cake rolled in sugar and skewered in bamboo stick, from one of the vendors for Php 10. Unlike the carioca being sold here in Manila, the carioca I bought is not chewy and not too sweet. It’s not drenched in sugar and it’s soft that it almost melts in your mouth the moment you take a bite.

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I have never seen such a bluer sea than this. The view is very relaxing and calming. There were a lot of tourist that came in that day, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the blue sea.

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Panorama view of the beach

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Lone rock in the middle of the sandy shore

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Mandatory feet shot on the sand

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Mandatory name on the sand shot

I decided not to join the rest to swim, as I wasn’t in the mood. Instead, I just enjoyed the view after taking pictures, and just strolled along the shore, and dip my feet and legs in the water. The wave is quite strong, so I had to balance myself, but I kept sinking into the sand.

It was a good decision not to swim, because not only did it spare me from bringing home wet clothes which will make my bag more heavy, it also spared me from standing in the long line for those who are showering and changing clothes. Which means, more time to enjoy the AC inside the van.

After spending almost half  the day in Blue Lagoon, we passed by Bantay Abot Cave. From the road, we need to go down to be able to get there. Since I’m scare of heights and of going down, and because I know my capacity and that I will slip should I join them.  I did not join the rest of the group. Instead, I took pictures from where I am standing.

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After taking pictures, we went to Paraiso ni Anton. Our guide said that you can drink the water from the falls/well, and that you can make a wish, and it will come true.

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I drank the water from the falls, and it was really good. It’s like you’re drinking a cold bottle of water. The water is also clean and clear. They say that the water from here is miraculous, and can cure some sickness. I was planning to bring some water with me, but my water bottle is still full.

Our next stop is the Patapat viaduct.

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Patapat viaduct was constructed, because the only bridge they have in this area always gets closed whenever there is a landslide. To prevent that, they constructed the viaduct, with an allowance away from the mountain, so that if there would be a landslide, the soil and rocks would fall on the side instead of directly on the bridge.

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Just a few more kilometers away is Taiwan. You can almost see it here. Imagine how giddy I was when our guide told me we’re almost near Taiwan. How I wish I could swim right away there.

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Our next destination is the Bangui Windmills. It was installed in Ilocos in 2006. The windmills generates electricity, which is being transmitted in Visayas, contrary to popular belief that it supplies electricity in Ilocos. It is their solar panels that supplies the electricity in Ilocos.

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It’s also here in Bangui windmills that my group was able to buy souvenirs. As for me, I didn’t buy any souvenirs because I found one for free while taking pictures.

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This little rock is my souvenir

Our next stop is the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. Again, we need to go down to be able to get to the rock formation. And again, being the sissy that I am, I did not go down. I asked one of my new friends to take pictures for me though, while I much on the emapanada and dragon fruit ice candy. It also started to rain before any of us could go to the rock formation.

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I loved the dragon fruit ice candy. It’s sweet and milky. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how a dragon fruit is supposed to taste, but nevetheless, I enjoyed this pink treat.

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The empanada is a must eat treat in Ilocos. Inside this orange shell is egg, cabbage, and Vigan Longganisa. I had to take a quick picture of this one, since it’s too hot to hold, and even eat.

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Our last stop for the day is Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. This lighthouse has been existing since the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines. Before going here, we were reminded by our guide to be quiet when we enter the lighthouse, and not to open any doors, as the last time someone did that, they were possessed by a ghost.

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While everyone decided to walk uphill, I took a tricycle because my legs hurt and I’m already tired. When I reached the top, I was stunned by the overlooking view of the sea.

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I decided to face my fear of heights (and ghosts), and climbed up the lighthouse. It was the best decision I made, as the view is more stunning.

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I can actually feel my legs shaking when I was climbing up the lighthouse. Thanks to our guide, he helped me to get to the top.  Before I entered inside, I prayed.

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Since it’s cloudy and it just rained, we couldn’t see clearly the sunset.

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It’a another 2 hours drive back to our accommodation in Laoag. We arrived around 7:30 PM. We rested and got ready for our last day in Ilocos.

Up Next: Goodies, Bantay Bell Tower, Home

Photo taken using Sony QX10 and Sony Xpera C3.

Something New To Learn: Food Photography 101

I wanted to learn calligraphy, and so, I looked for workshops that’s within my budget. Then, I saw a post in Facebook about brush calligraphy from Tavel Factor’s Kapitolyo 101. I checked out their website, and then I saw that they are also offering a workshop for food photography. I scrapped my first plan, and signed up for Food Photography 101.

Our instructor is Mac Centeno. He has years of experience in food and product photography. Just before our workshop, he went to Canyon Woods in Tagaytay to do a shoot of their menu. He showed us samples of his shots, and we were very impressed and in awe upon seeing his works.

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Our instructor in action

 

Joining him is Tonette Asprer, a well-known food stylist. Part of our lesson is to learn and know how food styling is done. She showed us how she prepares the food to be shot.

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How to make an ice cream?

She styled 3 dishes – pasta, chicken and ice cream. She showed us some tricks on how to make the food look good in billboards and advertisement. She told us the rules of food styling

  • It doesn’t have to taste good, it has to look good
  • Don’t eat what you style

Some of the sample food she prepared are not really thoroughly cooked. For example, she simply boiled the chicken, until the skin looks good enough to paint on (yes, paint.) The pasta she prepared is half cooked, and cooked in oil. Like a make up artist, she have a lot of tools and what-nots to make the food look good. And in a shoot, the food needs to be retouched from time to time.

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Looks delish, right? But you can’t eat this

A food stylist and food photographer always work hand in hand. The output of the photographer would depend on how realistic and mouthwatering the food the food stylist prepared. Sometimes, due to budget constraints, its the food photographer that would end up styling the food.

Mac taught us how to take a good food picture. It doesn’t matter if it’s through our mobile phone or DSLR camera. Here are some bullet points of what he had taught us.

  • Lighting is very important in food photography.
  • Light source should always at the back, and you should use a reflector in front.
  • Shoot the subject to where the light is.
  • The reflector to use can be any piece of white paper or board. You can even use a tissue as a reflector. It just needs to reflect the light from it’s source.
  • Don’t shoot directly in front of the food, as you will lose the shadows and highlights, which makes the food look good.
  • Arrange the food neatly
  • Never use flash when taking a picture of your food, as the output will be much whiter
  • Take a photo as if it will be the final layout in the magazine, and you will have minimal editing to do.

We had our hands on practice on one of the restaurants/coffee shop around Kapitolyo. We went to United Coffee to test our skills, and ordered different kind of coffee for our practice shots. Here are some of my best (I guess) shots, taken from my Sony QX10

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The best part about this is we get to eat what we shot! And of course, I met new people and found new friends, aside from learning something new.

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Hopefully, they will offer a workshop on food styling. But for now, I’m signing up for their calligraphy class.

 

Quick Stop At Tagaytay – Josephine’s and Rowena’s

Before going home to Manila, we made a quick stop in Tagaytay. It has been years since I last went to this place, so I gave it a go. My mission here was to buy some goodies at Rowena’s, and to find an affordable honey.

We were able to find a bottle of honey along the way. If you frequent Tagaytay, you’ll usually see vendors selling fruits and other goodies along the road. I bought a bottle of honey for Php 150. It was a deal, because I also bought a bottle of honey for my Team Lead.

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Then, our next stop is Rowena’s Tarts. If you want to buy “pasalubong” from Tagaytay which is not Collette’s then this is the place to go to. I was planning to buy blueberry cheesecake tarts, but I preferred the sylvanas.

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Sylvanas are Php 200 each pack, and I bought two. I saw a wine with nice bottle, but I didn’t buy it. Maybe next time I’m around the place.

Next stop is Josephine’s. We didn’t eat lunch before leaving Club Balai Isabel, and only ate pizza. So, we indulged ourselves to their great tasting food.

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Lechon Kawali

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Kare Kare

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Baked Tahong

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Seafood platter

We sat right in front of the overview. It was a very relaxing combination – Good Food + Beautiful View = Relaxing afternoon.

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Bulalo Stop at Rose And Grace’s

On the way to Club Balai Isabel, we had a quick stop at Rose and Grace’s Bulalo in Sto. Tomas Batangas for an early dinner. We were all hungry by the time we arrived. Of course, we are in Batangas, and of course, we need a taste of Bulalo.

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We ordered a big bowl of Bulalo. Unfortunately, the bowl served to us didn’t have any bone marrow.

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Then, we also ordered two servings of grilled tuna belly. I was amazed at how big the serving is.

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I already took a piece to eat before I realized I had to take a picture of it.

The food is great. Although we were a bit surprised by the price of tuna, but it’s worth it because of how big the serving is.