Author Archives: iamstarfreak

Sagada, Mountain Province: Coffee Heritage House

Sagada, Mountain Province: Coffee Heritage House

We went to Sagada last 18-20 February. The place is beyond words -breathtaking!

We searched every homestay, hostel and hotel before our trip because we initially want to go over the holiday (Chinese New Year). There are no vacancies, thus we have to move our travel period to Sunday.

We checked Coffee Heritage House (CHH) and besides the good reviews, we’re also drawn by the nice pictures of the place.

Here’s an honest review, please note that these are just facts that could aid fellow travellers.

1. Reservation/Booking

We searched online but since I don’t want to book using our credit card, we called the mobile number posted in their website. We were able to avail the 25% discount posted for private room. That includes 3 persons (including our 9yo son), while our 7yo stays for free (bed sharing). Booking includes free continental breakfast. We settled 50% downpayment through online bank transfer. Upon our arrival, we were asked to settle the full amount since they were not informed about our downpayment. That’s the time I learned that all their online transactions are handled by, so best to keep a copy of your deposit slip or in this case, screenshot of your online transfer. The issue was settled after a while, so no big deal. Price range is around P2000/night for private rooms. P1000/BED for dorm type rooms.

2. Hostel/Room

The hostel/building is cozy. You will find the pantry & lobby in the 2nd floor. There’s a fireplace, which they light up every night. Everything is generally clean. You have to take off your shoes before entering, there are slippers available though. Bonfire area available and can be used at night.

The private room is cement finished, paint on one side of the wall only. Not sure if it’s still in the works. Dont expect too much, there are no room amenities (eg. TV, WIFI, radio, AC, etc.). Just beds and lights, some makeshift (cement finished) table corners where you can place your bags. Toiletries not available, not even hooks for towels inside the room.

Note, this hostel only have shared toilet & baths, regardless if you booked a private room or dorm type rooms. I checked with their reservations officer and she said they have around 10 T&B. We didn’t experience queues since there were few guests that time and we take showers late at night. Hot shower is available, but you have to control and set water volume to low (heater unable to heat high volume of water). No hot water in the tap. T&Bs are generally clean, can be messy at times so be respectful to your fellow guests and clean as you go.

Bed can pass hotel quality, comfortable matress and pillows, sheets are clean. However, we woke up the 3rd day with bedbug bites. My hand’s still swollen and itchy while typing this blog (picture added under customer service).

Room can be hot in the morning, unable to check fan availability, you can opt for open windows but it can be dusty when the wind blows hard since the private room windows are ground level. Hard to open windows at night (no screens) cause there are lots of insects, considering this place is surrounded by trees.

3. Location

Far away from the town proper and far means around 20mins away. If you don’t have a car, you’d need to walk from the main road as there are no means of transportation going to the hostel. If you have a car, note that there are rough patches so if you’re driving the “lowered” one, that might be a problem. Main road to hostel is dark, you have to rely to your headlights or lights from the houses at the side of the road. Note: one way, so slow down when passing curved roads. We learned from our tour guide that this is part of the farm-to-market road of the Gloria administration.

This place is perfect if you want to stray away from the city buzz and explore the mountainous side of Sagada. I also observed that it’s way cooler here compared to the town proper. Really quiet and peaceful at night.

Open parking is available around several meters away from the building. If you arrive late at night, flashlights will help since the surroundings are not well-lit or no lights at all.

4. Food

We were dead hungry after our 13-hour trip, so we had lunch first. Menu is limited so if you’re staying for a couple of days, you can opt to go out and try other restaurants. They have all-day breakfast which comes with meat-veggies-black rice. Food tastes fine but a bit pricy running at P220-P250 per order.

There are welcome drinks too but limited to choice of coffee or mountain tea.

We also tried some of their pasta which comes with toasted bread, price range is the same. Etag carbonara is a must try since they use traditionally preserved meat which is known to the Mountain Province.

Breakfast is free. Continental breakfast includes toasted bread, egg, choice of 2 spread (try their bugnay spread which is made from wild berries). I forgot to take pictures!

If you’re a coffee lover, prepare to splurge P95-P150 for a (small) cup of coffee outside your breakfast set. Pantry also closes 9pm, no more orders after that, keep snacks that you can nibble at wee hours.

5. Customer service.

If you’re looking for hotel type service, this is not the place for you. No room service. No special treatment of that sort. Sometimes, staff won’t even smile at you if they meet you at the corridors. You can say it’s pure accommodation, service is available in the pantry area only. Best to manage your expectations.

Front desk is okay, I cannot say that we had a warm welcome, just so so. When we arrived, no one helped with our bags even though they were joking around by asking the other staff to help my son with his load. Front desk officer helped though when we were about to enter our room. They were able to arrange a simple request and got us a tour guide.

When I feedback about the bedbug bites and showed them my hand as well as my son’s finger, the desk officer apologized but such a drawback to say that “they do not have control over the insect”, which I think can be improved by saying, “but rest assured we will check or clean the room”. After all that is our last day and they will benefit from the feedback.

Overall, this hostel is okay in terms of peace and quiet. But customer service can still be improved. Lighting and road condition (rough with chances of “balahaw”) can also be improved in the parking area.

Rating: 3/5

Coffee Heritage House
Sitio Nadatngan, Brgy. Madongo
Sagada 2619 Mt. Province


Apple OS X Lion: Yellow Highlight for Mac Mail

Apple OS X Lion: Yellow Highlight for Mac Mail

Just like many other Mac users out there, I find myself searching for an answer since this simple highlight function is not available in the Mail app.

Searched through the internet and there are possible solutions like this one (credits to the owner), but unfortunately it did not work for me.

I’m using OS X Lion (version 10.7.5) and Mail (version 5.3). So I came up with this temporary solution that would work just fine.

In Word, try composing an email signature, add a short word to highlight yellow (or any other color that you want). Highlight and copy all text.

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In Mail – Preferences – Signature, create a new signature and paste the text that you’ve created in Word file here. If you’re working with more than one email, note that you need to drag this signature under your desired account. Save changes made after.

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Now create a new email and pick the signature that you have just created. You can actually set this as your default email signature.

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You can now start typing the text that you want to highlight. You need to start typing after the last letter of the highlighted word so the format applies to the next text. You can just delete the unnecessary letters. In this sample, ‘Hi’ can just be deleted after.

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In case you want to remove the highlight, for example you want to remove the yellow color in the word ‘Hi’.

Highlight the word, right click and go to Font – Styles.

Choose Default – Apply. You should see the highlight removed after.

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So there you go! Hope this simple trick helps. Absolutely better than nothing. This worked for me, hope this helps someone out there too!

Vigan, Ilocos Sur: Vigan Empanada

Vigan, Ilocos Sur: Vigan Empanada

I was really excited about this when we confirmed our Ilocos itinerary last May 2015. I’ve tasted several empanadas here in Manila. Which is too orange for me. The crust could be thick thus starchy and would sag once cold.

I was keen to taste Batac empanada but didn’t get the chance as we’re too early on site and the stores are still closed then. The color of their empanada resembles the one that they offer in Manila, I’m not sure about the taste though.

If you want to try Vigan empanada, head out to Plaza Burgos and pick from the long row of empanada stores just at the foot of the plaza. We got confused looking around where to eat, so we picked the one with most patrons and asked the locals if it tastes good!



The Vigan empanada has a thin crust with only a slight hint of yellow and is super crunchy. It has another Vigan delicacy inside, their longganisa with vegetables and fresh egg cracked right before they fry it under high heat.


Vigan empanada

It’s a staple merienda in Vigan at an affordable price of (around) P35.00. I really wish I can make this at home!

Notes that can come handy, it can be very hot in this area since all stores serve freshly cooked empanadas. There are some electric fans within the shared dining area. Drinks could be overpriced.

Again, traveled last May 2015. Details may vary.

Ilocos Sur: Baluarte

Ilocos Sur: Baluarte

Part of our Ilocos itinerary was to go to Baluarte. We traveled May 2015, so do further research as details may have changed over time.

The place is owned by a politician, Chavit Singson. It can be described as a zoo, however there aren’t much animals to see that time since some parts are still under construction. There’s no entrance fee, all you need to do is register yourselves upon entering.


Exotic birds

Colorful exotic birds will welcome you, you’ll be surprised that they do not attempt to fly away and just stay in their makeshift branches.

There’s a big area with a couple of deer and horses. Which will cater you to big dinosaur statues, a favorite spot of tourists for photo ops.




A little hike more and you’ll see peacocks, swans, plus other animals which I don’t exactly remember (sorry). You’ll have to pay a fee if you want to see the tiger, which is not available for regular viewing.

There’s also a cooperative store inside that sell souvenirs. You can check this submarine too, quite interesting if you haven’t seen one.


The last part of your hike would be Chavit’s museum where he displays the head of taxidermied animals he killed from his hunting escapades.



Overall, this is something to check out especially if you have kids that would appreciate seeing live animals that they have read from the book, after all you can enter for free. But if it’s not your thing, then you can remove it from your itinerary.

Note that may come handy, it’s freaking hot out there (during that time) with lots of tourist, so bring water, towel, hat or fan to cool you down while walking. You can also try their bamboo juice, very delish!

Traveled May 2015, details may have changed.

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Saud Beach

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Saud Beach

Summer is here so I thought of sharing our Ilocos trip last May 2015.

During our Pagudpud leg, we stayed at Saud Beach and checked in at Chalet Bami.

We went to the beach around late afternoon after the much needed rest since we’re very exhausted from the long travel from Manila and numerous stop overs to see tourist spots en route to Saud.

This part of Pagudpud is more crowded or jam packed, accommodations vary from hotels (I didn’t see posh hotels), transients and even quite a number of home stays (private houses which offers a room for you to stay for a low cost).

The beach is around 2-3 minutes walk from our lodging. Not a problem at all. You will enter a gate leading to the beach.  I was surprised how white and fine the sand is!


Fine white beach. Lots of sea weeds.

But here’s the catch, when we went last year the waves are huge. There were lots of sea weeds floating and being washed ashore. And when I say lots, there are piles of sea weeds everywhere. The water though is not clear nor blue, but it may be because of the strong waves which stir the sand causing it to look a little bit roily.


View of the windmills from afar.

Since we have kids with us, we didn’t swim further away from the shore and instead we just built sand castles and played in the sand.

My favorite part? What can be more beautiful than watching the sunset in the beach!


Notes that may come handy:
Best to keep an eye on your kids, waves are huge.
No entrance fee, more of a public beach.
There are stray dogs in the beach, though I think they are used to the everyday crowd.

Traveled May 2015, details may vary.

Ilocos Sur: Bantay Church Bell Tower

Ilocos Sur: Bantay Church Bell Tower

We traveled to Ilocos last May 2015.

Part of our Vigan itinerary is to go to Bantay Church Bell Tower which is located within the compound of Saint Augustine Parish Church or more well known as Bantay Church.



The compound is spacious. There’s a lot of people when we went there though, so you have to wait in line to take a picture against the bell tower. We were not able to go up the belfry itself since it’s very hot at that time and we have tagged along kids with us.


The church itself is very old. I did some research and it is said to have been built from the 1500s. You can very well see from its stone walls that it has stood the test of time.


You will also find Chapel by the Ruins at the back of the church. It’s an open area, more of a garden where one can meditate in peace.


After our tour inside the church, we went straight to a small ‘panciteria’ just right outside the gate of the church. They sell pancit delicacies of the north. We tried batil patong, it is very delicious and affordable! This large bilao which is already good for 6-8 persons only cost us under P200.00.


Notes that can come handy, parking is available and there’s a working toilet inside the church’s compound.

Again, travel happened May 2015. Details may vary from present time.

Vigan, Ilocos Sur: Dancing Lights

Vigan, Ilocos Sur: Dancing Lights

One of the many interesting sights during our Ilocos trip last May 2015.

The Dancing Lights of Vigan is located at Plaza Salcedo, where they hold it every night. There’s no entrance fee, so better go early as the place is jam packed before the show starts at around 7pm. We were a bit late but still lucky to find a place right at the edge of the fountain area. Scout a higher spot for best viewing experience.


The plaza was renovated into a huge fountain area, dancing fountains synced with music and lights. Music varies from slow, upbeat, novelty and classic songs. While the water and lights follow the beat. The show lasted around 30-45 minutes.


Plaza/fountain by day


Here’s a SHORT CLIP of the musical fountain show, this is just a chunk of the whole fountain area though.

Overall, this is a treat that you should not miss when in Vigan. A great way to cap the night.


PS. Keep an eye on your kids, place can be jam packed as mentioned.

Again, traveled May 2015. Details may vary.