You can enjoy Boracay on a budget. But, you can enjoy Boracay more if you have extra budget.
Having been on my favorite island for three consecutive years, with the latest being the most outrageous of them all, and I mean that in a good way, I finally know why people would spend so much to experience island adventures. After trying four of them I realized that they did make our trip much more exciting and memorable. If you have the means I say you should try them too and here’s why.
It’s a surreal experience to be underwater
I have never been underwater, which means I never tried scuba diving or I was never murdered and thrown on the water with a heavy material to keep me submerged (hehehe…). I’m not exactly a good swimmer so I was not excited at all when we found out we’d go Helmet Diving, which is one of the most popular adventures in Boracay.
A feeling that I did not share with my fellow bloggers. They were all excited, each one wanting to go first. Our adventures for the day were handled by Stingray, who by the way offers insurance to their guests. The guide though was happy to report that since they started operation, they have zero accidents. Now that’s a relief.
Despite my halfheartedness I was the third person to go down the water, not from excitement but from wanting to get it done and over with. But first, let’s talk about how it works.
You will be able to breathe underwater with the use of the helmet. It’s a square-shaped heavy object that you put over your head. It is attached with an air compressor. The pressure keeps the water from entering the helmet and it also allows you to breathe. The entire activity lasts for only 15 minutes.
Are there special requirements you might ask. Well, nothing.
- You don’t have to know how to swim (in fact, there’s no swimming involved here)
- You don’t have to be in your bathing suit (I was wearing jean shorts and cropped top)
But are there some rules? Well not really, but you have to be careful of course. Here are some of the things to remember when you’re underwater:
- When your ears hurt from the pressure, do the equalizing trick. Just pinch your nose then exhale with your mouth closed. It should release the pressure.
- If you are not feeling well and you want to go up, signal the divers with the thumb up sign.
- When you’re okay then put up the okay sign.
So what happened? Well, the boat has a ladder that goes all the way down to the seabed. You step down and when the water is already on your chest level, the helmet will be put over your head. Then you have to climb down until you reach the ocean floor. There are divers to assist you so don’t panic. And once you’re down there you might expect to feel a little dizzy. But you may also enjoy the view and boy was it fantastic.
There were fishes everywhere and it felt surreal to be in their world. The divers gave us pieces of bread to feed the fish wish. You hold up that piece of bread and watch them nae nae… I mean watch the fish consume that piece in 60 seconds. It was fun, like feeding fish in the aquarium only this time you are also in the aquarium.
As much as I liked it, I wasn’t able to thoroughly enjoy the experience because first, the helmet is too heavy. In fact, I had to support its weight with my hands because it was digging into my shoulders. Also, despite doing the equalizing trick, I suffered from a little headache that refused to go away. The only thing that stopped me from giving that thumbs up sign is my pride, I didn’t want to be the ninny who went up too early. But as soon as I saw the diver motioning for us to go up, I was the first one to approach him.
Would I recommend the activity, yes. I think it’s interesting and for what it’s worth, it felt surreal to be in the company of fishes. I liked the idea that humans cannot live underwater, but we found ways to at least enjoy it by doing some water activities. Would I repeat it, nope. I think once is enough.
Being up in the air is strangely soothing
I am kind of afraid of heights; kind of because I can be up on the building or ride a plane and not suffer from vertigo, but take me on a Ferris wheel and I’d be crying like a baby. I was also petrified when I rode the skycycle in Boracay last year. My fear had me thinking twice about going parasailing. Prior to that I was suffering from seasickness. I wasn’t the type who gets seasick, but the waves were so rough on that day, I was dealt with a terrible headache. I puked a little when I could no longer hold it in.
Because of that, my friends thought I wouldn’t go parasailing anymore; they thought wrong. This activity is worth PHP 1,700 (USD 36.52) and it would cost you more if you are doing it alone. Afraid or not, there was no way I’d let go of the opportunity.
We came in threes and my buddies for this activity were my blogger friends, Erwin and Jerny.
It also lasts for 15 minutes. First they strapped us in, I was positioned in the middle. Over our head is the parachute/kite and it’s the very thing that allowed us to fly up in the air. It’s attached to a long tow rope that is connected to the boat.
Before we knew it, we were over 800 feet off the ground, or the sea rather. Just like my “unsure” fear, I also had unsure feelings about it. For one, I remember feeling unusually calm when we were up there. It was just so peaceful and contrary to my expectations, the wind didn’t whip our kite so the experience was basically still. At the same time, I was also feeling a bit paranoid because you know, sometimes imagination runs wild. I imagined the harness breaking like that scene with the raccoon at Ace Ventura. And when that happens, goddang it’d be a free fall. I knew I was wearing life vests but I still wouldn’t want to plummet to the sea.
So I distracted myself by talking with my friends. And we talked like we were just hanging out at the balcony of a tall building. Eventually, I was able to conquer my unreasonable fear and I was able to enjoy the ride.
Would I recommend it? Of course! Would I repeat it? Hell yes!
Riding on the water’s surface is a surefire way to pump up your adrenaline
I remember the story of my friend whose friend met a little accident during the flying fish activity. Apparently, she fell on the water and that sort of messed up her hip giving her a permanent limp. I knew then that flying fish despite looking like it’s a harmless activity may in fact be dangerous.
Needless to say, I wasn’t excited to do it, but I still did it anyway. You should realize by now that I’d try anything despite my reservations. I’m curious like that.
Anyway, we sit atop this big inflatable raft and held on the rope in front of us. We were towed by the speed boat. At first, it was all okay, I even thought, wow this is enjoyable. But when the boat started gaining speed, I felt the force vibrate through my body. Soon, my hands were hurting from holding on the the rope and there was no way in the world I’d let go of that rope. I didn’t last that very long. Nope I didn’t fall on the water but when the boat stopped because one of my companions was begging to go back on the boat, I followed suit.
Would I recommend it? No. Would I repeat it? Nope.
ATV/Buggy Ride is exhilarating
After all those water activities we went back on dry land for another exciting activity. Last year, I tried driving the ATV and it was so much fun (and the weather was so hot too!). But when we went to the venue and I saw the buggy, I immediately informed our guide that that’s what I wanted to drive, notwithstanding the fact that I don’t know how to drive.
The activity was sponsored by Boracay Adventure World (BAW). When I learned that they have their own tracks for their ATV, my excitement grew. Last time, my friends and I drove the ATV on a paved road. This time we took the dirt road with slopes and sharp turns that made driving more challenging.
The buggy is not that complicated, it only has two pedals; gas and brake. I was lost in pure exhilaration the moment I started driving it. I know it’s not a car, but I think I now have an idea why some people like to drive. There is something liberating about mastering a machine that could take you to places. It’s an amazing feeling.
There is a roundabout where people can practice and that’s where I spent most of my driving. Yep, you read that right, that’s the only time I was really able to drive that buggy. in the beginning of the real drive, I lost control of the steering wheel, which careened the buggy off the path. Still, I was confident I’d get the hang of it but the BAW driver wasn’t as confident that he decided to take the wheel from me. Bummer.
I was terribly disappointed. While my friends were having the time of their lives driving their ATVs and buggy, I was on the passenger seat. Being a passenger and a driver are two different experiences; the former being the sucky part. Because I was merely a passenger I felt every bumps and I hated it.
So the best part of this adventure for me was not the buggy but our free time spent on a beach called, Bil-at. It’s such a beautiful beach with fine golden sand minus the crowd. If you avail of BAW’s adventure, you will have an opportunity to see this beautiful beach for yourself so I suggest you go get their service.
Going back, I told Jerny that I wasn’t able to enjoy the buggy ride because the BAW driver didn’t let me drive. He then told the driver to let me take over the wheel so that I could experience it; the driver agreed.
Suddenly, I was happy again, but the happiness was short-lived because I didn’t get to drive it long. It turned out, the beach was near BAW’s area. Bummer.
Would I recommend it? Yes. Would I repeat it? Most definitely.
In my previous Boracay trips, I didn’t pay mind to the locals who were scattered about the seashore, offering adventures. I wasn’t even curious, I just thought those activities are a waste of time and money. I didn’t get why some tourists would pay for such expensive activities. What I failed to realize, which happily I have now come to understand is that they were spending for experience. How many times can you go underwater and be with the fishes or fly through the air and see the magnificent view of Boracay from above? When you really think about it, these experiences are priceless because they make for unforgettable memories and interesting stories to tell.
What about you, have you tried any of these activities?
I was feeling stressed because my friend was questioning why we traveled so late in the night. She was already at the venue of a music festival called, Banahaw Tugtugan in Quezon. She had company, but she was waiting for us, hoping to hang out. I told her that I wouldn’t leave my other friend; the only reason she was late was because she came from school and she traveled all the way from Quezon City. It was a Saturday night, did I mention how horrendous the traffic was? I’m not sure how long the festival would be, but if I have to base it on the music gigs that I’d been in the past, 11pm is young. The best bands tend to perform in the latter part of the show.
We took a bus at Buendia and traveled for over 3 hours to San Pablo, Laguna. The traffic was a thing of nightmares. My friend, Lou, asked me if it was safe to ride on the bus. I turned my gaze to her and saw the worried look on her face.
“It’s your first time to ride a bus?!” I asked in disbelief.
She nodded in confirmation. Lou comes from a well-off family and she looks the part, but she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I assured her that it’s safe; her paranoia is perfectly understandable. Incidentally, it was also her first camping trip. In my mind, I hoped I was being a good influence.
All in all, there were 6 of us. We met our 7th member at San Pablo and from there we hired a jeep. Bangkong Kahoy Valley can be found in Dolores, Quezon, about an hour away from San Pablo. As the name implies, it is a low area between the hills. Given how late it was, some jeepney drivers weren’t inclined to take the journey, but we managed to find one who was willing. We had to pay PHP 1,500 (USD 32.34), that’s about 214 pesos per head. I personally believe that it is overpriced, but we didn’t have much of a choice.
The driver, for some reason, took the wrong route because he didn’t know he was supposed to take us exactly to Bangkong Kahoy. Apparently, he thought he was taking us somewhere in Dolores. That’s about 30 minutes wasted and he even had the audacity to ask us for more money when we finally reached the destination. I told him that that’s all the money we had and we agreed on 1,500 pesos (USD 30.14) so that’s all he would get. It was his fault we got lost anyway so why should we give him additional payment?
We had to cover the rest of the way on foot because the jeep could no longer fit itself on the narrow path. In the city, when it’s dark, it’s really dark, but in the province, the moon is enough to illuminate the surroundings. My friends were impressed, even Cathy who was born and raised in Pangasinan. I remember having the same sense of awe the first time I experienced it in Romblon years ago.
We heard the music and we were drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It’s been a long time since I watched a gig so I was dying in anticipation. If there was one beautiful thing that an old flame brought into my life, it’s the Filipino indie music, and once I discovered them I was hooked. These artists veer away from the mainstream. They write and produce their own music and play them in obscure bars. Their music is poignant, unconstrained, and rebellious and they speak to me, I was naturally excited.
Do you know those times when you can literally feel the vibe flows through you the moment you step into a room? That’s what I experienced when we entered Bangkong Kahoy. Even my friends were in high spirit, completely taken by the ambiance. I previously attended another music festival in Puerto Galera, the Malasimbo Lights and Dance Festival where most people are noticeably young and wealthy. The Banahaw Tugtugan crowd is more simple and artistic; just my kind of people, I thought to myself.
After we paid our PHP 350 (USD 7.55) entrance fee, we had our super late dinner at the in-house cafe. Next point of business was pitching our tents, Cathy’s new friend, a towering British guy named, James, helped us with the task. Once we’re settled, we laid out our mat on the damp grass in front of the stage where the bands were playing.
We watched Talahib perform, an ethnic folk band with 9 members (yes, that many) and I was in a trance. They were dressed in clothing with ethnic elements and patterns, some members played traditional musical instruments like gangsa, djembe, and kubing, and the female vocalist has long wavy hair, which swayed ever so gently as she danced gracefully on the stage.
The sad thing is, I was exhausted and cold. It was in the middle of summer but Bangkong Kahoy seemed to be in a different place. It was as cold as Baguio in January. I retired to my tent ahead of my friends, the music lulled me into sleep.
The next day, we were up early and the beauty that was obscured at night greeted us in the morning light. We were enthralled.
We had our breakfast and soon after, took a walk to fully appreciate the place.
Pipay had been there before so she became our instant tour guide. We passed by a garden that grows raspberry. Nobody forbade us to pick some of them so that’s what we did. Pipay advised to pick those that are big and very red because those are the sweet ones, she was right.
The land that Bangkong Kahoy owns is huge and expansive, covered with plants and trees. We continued our way to a dirt road that led to this off-beaten path where we found an unfinished building that looks like a gazebo. We entered and there we spent almost two hours talking, taking pictures, and pretty much enjoying the beautiful view. It was one of my favorite moments at Bangkong Kahoy. The place offers a beautiful view of Mt. Banahaw and it could have been more had they finished its construction. On why they stopped building, I will never know, but even in its incomplete state, it was beautiful.
We returned to the cafe for lunch. Bangkong Kahoy offers mushroom burger and raspberry shake, both are made from the ingredients that they grow themselves. I was skeptical about buying the raspberry shake as I don’t really like sour drinks. But my friends were so impressed by it I just had to try it. And it was delicious! The sour taste I was dreading was minimal, it was sweet but not too much. It tastes more milky than anything else.
Leaving such a beautiful place is bittersweet and I think my friends and I shared the same feeling. We left Bangkong Kahoy sometime in the afternoon and had to walk the dirt path for over 20 minutes to ride a tricycle.
Next year I have two things to go back to, Banahaw Tugtugan and Bangkong Kahoy. If you too like great music set up in a lovely place, you might want to go there too.
Lately, I do not pass up on food blogger events because of the GCs. They are given for free to invited bloggers and they are usually worth PHP 1,000 to PHP 2,000 (USD 21.68-43.35). Don’t judge me, these gift certificates have fed me in my two months of being jobless. Anyway, I had an invite that I had to pass up because of an engagement with some friends. I love my friends but at back of my head, I was like, “Sayang ang GC.” I know, pathetic, but really when you’re jobless you shrink your pride just a little bit because pride doesn’t put food on the table. But it’s done and I enjoyed the company of my friends anyway and there are other blogger events in the future. Then a few days later my friend Richie (ThePickiestEater) messaged me asking if I wanted to join him during his shoot (he has a Youtube channel, by the way, check it out, it’s awesome). When he said that it’s Salvatore Cuomo, hope is renewed. You see, it’s the same restaurant that I was supposed to go had not friends happened.
I like to call myself a medyo-budget traveler, which means some aspects of my trip would be budget-friendly like the accommodation, but I wouldn’t mind spending for the “experience” part of the trip e.g. tour and food. 50% of my budget for a trip is spent on accommodation so as much as possible, I like to keep it cheap. So long as the place is clean and decent, it’s good enough for me. But I’d be lying if I tell you I don’t dream about staying in one of those luxurious lodgings and Boracay has many of them. But I wondered, why do the rich people pay so much for a luxury accommodation when they’d be spending most of the time outside anyway? Was I missing something? In my recent trip to Boracay, I think I found a piece of the puzzle.
It had been a long travel by sea and though I was able to sleep it felt like I didn’t. This time, I didn’t have to travel all the way from Kalibo because the ship docked at Caticlan Port. So we walked out of the port, went out around the back towards the entrance like we were playing a game. My patience was wearing thin from all the waiting but of course, I didn’t voice it out because it was all justifiable; I was traveling with a group, it was a sponsored trip, and some things needed to be coordinated first. Finally, we boarded this boat that would take us to the island. In my previous Boracay trips, I took the service of Southwest Tours for the transfers. On this trip, we were assisted by Island Star Express.
Prior to this trip, JR, our main contact from Travelbookph—one of the main sponsors of this trip—had been sending us teasers of the place where we would stay. The photos were enough to impress me but it turns out they were nothing compared to the actual. Remember when I said I was feeling lethargic? Well, I was jolted back to life the moment I saw Villa Caipirinha.
Villa Caipirinha, named after a Brazilian cocktail, is one of the luxury private houses of Cohiba Villa. It’s located on Diniwid Hills, about 20-minutes away from the white-sand beach of Boracay. Do not worry about its distance to the beach because the Villa offers van service to get you around the island. Personally, I didn’t mind going off the touristy area because Boracay is more than just its pristine white sand beach.
Villa Caipirinha has 7 double bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. It is big enough to accommodate up to 16 people. These bedrooms are grand and spacious, with a kind of bed that would make you want to sleep forever. I took photos of my own but not as beautiful as those that were taken by one of the bloggers I was with, Justin Vawter so I secured his permission to use the pictures in this post. Anyway, each bedroom has a theme color, painted on the wall against the bed. I find this interesting because the colors gave the bedrooms a some sort of identity that makes each one unique.
The best part of this villa, in my opinion, is the living room that opens to an infinity pool with a Jacuzzi. It also offers a spectacular view of Boracay. It’s so beautiful that’s where we hang out most of the time. The pictures below show the night and day view.
When you stay here you will be assisted by four full-time staff who do the housekeeping and food preparation. Never in my life have I felt this comfortable and important in an accommodation. The food that they served was also good and whatever we wanted, the staff was willing to give or prepare for us. It was such an incredible experience.
Other amenities include a fully functional kitchen, a dining room, an entertainment area with a huge flat TV screen, projector, and sound system, and a pool billiard.
On our last day, we decided to have a pool party, well at least half of us did, the others were busy partying in Boracay. In between swimming and sipping our beers, we all agreed that we were lucky to have been invited by Travelbookph and Stop Sleep Go to join this trip. As a budget traveler, I don’t really stay in expensive lodgings hence I never really understood the rich why they have to spend so much money in a place just to sleep in. But after this, I think I now have a clue if not completely enlightened on why they do it apart from the fact that they can afford it. When I was at Villa Caipirinha I was in complete state of relaxation. I had no time to entertain negative thoughts but I had all the time in the world to be grateful. I was happy, comfortable, and invigorated. And isn’t that the goal when we take vacations?
So if you are willing to discover more of Boracay and you want to have that ultimate retreat from all the stress that had been zapping out your energy, I highly recommend that you book your stay at Villa Caipirinha in your next Boracay trip.
A few days from now I will be starting a new job at a new company in a new city. It pays better than my previous work, I would still be a technical writer, and it’s only on a 6-month project basis. And I am not excited about it, if any I dread it, the way I used to dread Mondays.
Two months ago I resigned from work and since then my life has become so much better. Suddenly, I was free to wake up whatever time I please, go to wherever without worrying if I still have enough leaves, and hang out with my friends without pulling a Cinderella so I’d still have enough sleep. The thing that I had been dreaming of everyday in my office’s desk; the total freedom of not having a schedule, not waiting for Fridays, not fearing Mondays, not worrying about the deadlines was suddenly a reality. And I was on a roll like a prisoner who was given parole. I did so many things that I couldn’t do when I still had work and boy I had a blast.
It is the happiest I’ve ever been in years. I went on trips; five destinations in two months’ time, focused my time on blogging, and freed myself from stress and worries. I didn’t have to ask for anyone’s permission, I didn’t have to answer to anyone, and nothing is more intoxicating than that.
For the first time in many years, I wasn’t stressed and I felt like the most fortunate bitch in the hood, living the good life that once upon a time was only a dream. I didn’t make room for my fears and worries. I didn’t obsess about where would I get money when my back-pay runs out. I passed copies of my resume to some companies, most of which were referred to by former colleagues and friends, but I didn’t wish to work for any of them. I went about the whole business of job hunting without being consumed about the need to be accepted. I went to interviews relaxed and free from expectations. If I got accepted, great, if not, it’s cool. Indeed, I felt bold and fearless and I loved every second of it.
Have you tried living this way? A life unrestricted and exhilarating? When was the last time you’ve taken a leap of faith? These past two months have been my leap of faith and I felt so alive and if I had my druthers I would love to keep this lifestyle forever. But despite not worrying I wasn’t blind about my responsibilities; I am sending my youngest sister to college, I have bills to pay, I am currently living on a temporary basis at my friend’s condo and I can’t live here forever. So despite being all happy and cheerful about my newfound freedom, at the back of my head, I knew I had to get back to work. I did try to find a freelance job and I even took some writing and editing gigs, but they weren’t really enough to sustain me.
I told my friends that I still want to become a freelancer full-time, but if it doesn’t pull through right now then I shouldn’t force it. Hence, I don’t want to close my door to going back to the corporate world. Sure, I still want the freedom, to own my time and to be my own boss, but if it’s not possible now then it’s okay. The important thing is I find a way to earn a living.
Then I found it. I accepted the job offer and I am now two days’ shy of doing it. I have wanderlust running through my vein and it is highly unlikely that I would ever stop traveling. But for now, I am going to keep still, go back to work, and schedule my trips according to my day-off. I am allowing myself to feel a little sad that I am going back to the old routine of waking up-dressing up-showing up to work.
But in the grand scheme of things, getting a job is a blessing, not a curse. I think it’s normal for most people, specifically travelers, to feel like they are dragging themselves to work. After all, who really wants to work? I’m sure if everyone has a choice, none of us would work our ass off and that we would all choose to be out there, explore the world, and not care about money, bosses, leaves, bills, and such similar things. But as an adult, there should always be a balance between reality and dreams; you should go out and get your dreams but don’t lose your head and forget about your responsibilities. There are means to do it; you just have to find what works best for you and believe me there is always a way.
So on Monday I am going back to work. I will do what I have to do, meet my new colleagues, write technical documentation, wear my OOTD-worthy clothes even if my officemates think I overdress. But I am a flamingo in a sea of penguins. I will always be different than everyone else and I am not ashamed of it. Maybe I will hate Mondays again and look forward to Fridays but that’s okay. I will do my job and I will kill it. And on weekends and whatever days available, I’d still respond to my wanderlust.