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Singapore City | Singapore

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Singapore City | Singapore

2011 backlog.

I was blessed to be chosen by the company as one of their delegates, that’s for a week long work-slash-training journey to Singapore last June 2011.

Departure from my own country, Philippines, was exasperating.  I was in the airport early enough to comply with the 3-hour requirement for travels abroad.  Check-in’s fine and travel taxes were paid in full.  Then I sat for hours. Immigration failed to give me a candy coated escapade for my first out of the country trip.  Armed and ready though, thanks for the stories that I gathered from colleagues.  Well anyway, going out of PH-even if I am a Filipino-was a dreadful story that I will write about once I get the chance.

Going back, aboard a Cebu Pacific aircraft, I landed in Singapore.  No fuss and frills.  A quick note that their Budget Airport’s quite muggy back then and I thought t’was a slight observation.  But behold, the weather’s more humid in SG than in PH.

We took an airport taxi but was pleased that even so, we were not charged more than what was in the taxi meter.  You’ll get printed receipts and they have GPS system installed.  The cabs look and smell clean too!

“Hi-tech” cabs

A work-related trip, but thankful that I was still able to wander around the city after duty hours.  We stayed in a HDB flat in Tampines where everything is accessible.  There’s a mall across the street and there are all sorts of business stalls below the building.

HDB flat @ Tampines

Mall across the street @ Tampines

Transportation

The MRT became our main mode of transport, it’s cheaper and is just a walk away from our flat.  Hopping from one place to another is easier via MRT as train routes are simple and accessible from tourist spots.  They have electronic ticket machines and prepaid train cards, the latter is more convenient if you plan to ride it frequently.  Note that the train’s jam-packed during rush hours and ridership varies from businessmen, locals, tourists and more.

Train routes are simple

Covered MRT railway for added security

MRT – electronic ticket machine

Shuttle services are available around Changi Business District for a few cents, just bring exact change.  On the other hand, there are free shuttle buses too from CBD to different destinations such as Tampines, Bedok, etc.  We took advantage of the latter obviously, but not only for the free ride but because MRT’s far from our office if you’re on foot.

Shuttle services in CBD area.

Other type of transport would include double-decker buses and if you’re lucky you can ride a Benz taxi.  Another thing to take note of, taxi rides are more expensive during peak hours especially if you need to pass thru ERP, such works as a toll collecting device.

Double-decker buses

ERP works as a toll collecting device

Food Finds

You won’t go hungry in Singapore, there’s a lot to choose from.  Observed that food cost generally varies from 3-5SGD or more depending on your selection.  If you’re on a tight budget, you can opt for their ala-carinderia eateries which offers good food in big servings for only 3SGD.

Ala-carinderia | cheap food finds.

We usually take our lunch in DBS food court which offers a wide array of food choices.  I personally liked chicken rice (around 3SGD).  The rice that goes along with it is quite salty, heard that they cook it with chicken broth.  Another favorite would be Tori Q (meal around 5SGD).  There are some canteens that offer Filipino dishes too.

Hainanese chicken rice

Tori Q | A must try!

They sell huge mangoes!

Soda from vending machines (1-1.50SGD).  Most stalls sell bamboo/sugarcane juice which is unusual in PH.  Able to spot a Yakult dispenser in Tampines that offer diverse flavors (70SGD cents each).  Sweets such as chocolates and ice creams can be bought around, but these caught my attention –a huge Hershey’s store and McDonald’s where an elder works as a service crew.  I’m not sure if it’s customary in SG but I have never seen an elderly working for PH fast foods.

Juice stall | How creative 🙂

Soda and Yakult vending machines

Craving for chocolates?

Elderly working in a fast food store

711 ala-sari-sari store

Money changers/ATM

ATMs are visible everywhere, but I did not try one so I cannot provide accurate information about this.  Money changers are all over as well.  It would be best to check the currency exchange rates first and conversion is more reasonable outside the airports (both PH and SG).

ATMs

Eye-Candy

Since I only have nighttime to do all the “happy” stuff, my destinations were limited.

All I have in mind is to see their famous landmark, The Merlion Park.  Nonetheless, I loved Marina Bay Sands too! I was able to go there even in the nick of time, the day before I went back home.  Best to go there during the night if you want to see the Singapore lights.  There goes the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Mall too.  What bothered me was the long walk that we had to take from the Marina Bay MRT station, it was worth it anyway.

The Merlion Park

Marina Bay Sands | Taken from the Merlion Park

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Marina Bay Sands Mall

Marina Bay Sands Mall | Row ala-Venice

View from Marina Bay

The Fullerton Hotel

View from Marina Bay

For souvenirs, go to Bugis Junction for pasalubongs if you’re running on a short budget.  You can spot good buys and items were fair enough for their price.  Go around the vicinity first and choose the best bargain, price range varies from one store to another due to competition.

Bugis Junction

Meanwhile, if you’re out to splurge and you’re after branded items, go to Orchard Road.  It looks like a whole stretch of “Ayala” filled with malls and establishments for me.  We were able to go inside Ion Orchard since you’ll be able to pass thru it from the Orchard MRT station.

Ion Orchard

Other sites that I saw are the Singapore Expo and the Singapore Flyer, from afar though.  Initially planned to go to Universal Studios and Night Safari but my schedule did not permit me.  Anyway, I can still do so next time. 🙂

Singapore Expo

Singapore Flyer | photo by Nash Frias

When all came to an end, I had to go back home after staying there for 6 days.  My flight was delayed due to bad weather, thus I was able to explore their Budget Airport.  Duty Free for those who would like to do last-minute shopping.  They have comfortable lounge areas with cable TV (sad to say the channel’s showing a kidnapping crime in PH then, a very awkward moment for me).  Computers hooked up with internet connectivity and internet cables for those who have their own gadgets.

There’s a lot to say about this place, this blog may not suffice.  I find Singapore an interesting place, very modern and disciplined.  If you’re looking more of mother nature, this place may not be for you.  Every place has its own charm and so Singapore.  I will definitely go back for more with my family next time.

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Note:  Places, directions and descriptions may not be accurate anymore.  Travel transpired last year, June of 2011.

Cebu City | Philippines ~ Part III

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Our last full day is pasalubong and city tour day! 🙂

1st stop of the day would be the Lapu-lapu monument since it’s very near our hotel and is also situated beside the rows of restaurant that offers Sutukilsugba (ihaw), tula (tinola), kil (kilawin).  Since it’s already lunch time, the sun is scorching hot!  I suggest you bring your own umbrella for protection and to do away with those people who offer umbrellas for a fee.  After several pictures, we picked the best sutukil restaurant that offers the freshest seafood around the area.  Glad we found an air-conditioned one, what a relief!

Lapu-lapu Monument

Choose the freshest seafood around Sutukil

I know the picture below isn’t really photogenic, we were dead-hungry that we forgot to take a picture of our very own seafood fiesta. 🙂  Ordered the raw ingredients and asked them to cook the following for us —sinigang na hipon, sweet and sour lapu-lapu, chili crab and buttered shrimp.  You may ask from mineral water, fruit juices, soda or even fresh coconut for drinks.

Seafood galore!

After the gastronomical treat, we headed to the Taoist temple.  This one is quite far from Lapu-lapu city, atop Beverly Hills.  It feels like we were in China!   A short walkway that is patterned to the Great Wall of China awaits you at the entrance.  The temple is open to visitors but always observe silence. Picture taking is not allowed inside the temple or if you are taking photos against their religious images.

Am I in China?

Facade of the temple

Taoist Temple

View from Beverly Hills, Cebu

The huge gate of the Taoist temple

I’m not sure if this would be accessible to commuters, cabs can take you here but it would be best to rent or bring your own vehicle.

Off we went to the city after this.  We passed by the Heritage Park, this is not a big park.  It’s actually more of a mural or a gated monument.  A few walks away is the Yap-San Diego ancestral house, dating back to the 17th century.  One can enter the house for P50 and see the antique pieces that they preserved overtime.  The structure itself is not in its glorious condition anymore.

Heritage Park

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House

Along the way, we spotted several architectures that is still intact despite their age.  The University of San Carlos is still operating at this time and has been lined up among the tourists spots of Cebu.  We stopped by Cebu Cathedral, the church is in its mint condition and they have a museum too.

Old buildings are still standing despite their age

Old buildings are still standing despite their age

One of the oldest universities in the Philippines

Facade of the Cebu Cathedral

After the sight seeing, we went to Tabo-an Market.  This market has a wide array of stores selling dried fish and squid.  They also sell dried mangoes and otap.  Prepare to smell like the sea here, it won’t matter though once you taste the fried danggit.  I recommend you buy otap at Shamrock store (near Fuente Osmena circle), they have the best otap and is relatively cheaper.  We bought our dried mangoes (small packs are sold around P40-50) at the mall since we were reluctant to buy from Tabo-an.  Do not forget to drop by CNT for their sumptuous lechon or roast pig.  They have a branch inside the mall and another one which is a short walk from SM Cebu.  Fret not if you forgot to since Zubuchon is now available at Mactan airport.

Prepare to smell salty

Dried mangoes are available at the malls

So that wraps up our Cebu trip, went home the next day.  Explore the Queen City of the South ~Cebu, explore the Philippines! 🙂

 

 

Cebu City | Philippines ~ Part II – Plantation Bay Resort & Spa

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The 2nd installment of my Cebu blog will mainly focus on Plantation Bay.  Since we wanted to go to Bantayan Islands for swimming, we’ve decided to celebrate my son’s birthday here.  We were budget-conscious travelers so we availed the Day Trip Package and picked Goldberry Suites as our main accommodation.  For P2000 per head, you’ll get to utilize the following amenities from 9AM-5PM –lagoons & pools, wall climbing, bicycles, nip floaters or kayaks, access to their game room, children’s center and shower rooms.  You are also entitled to a set lunch with a choice of drink, courtesy of Kilimanjaro Cafe.

We went straight to the registration area and were immediately attended by their staff.  The receptionist was talking in straight English even though we were obviously Pinoys, their resort’s policy maybe.  Payment settled, off we went to the pools!

We need to squeeze everything from 9AM-5PM

View from the reception area

Plantation Bay has man-made lagoons

Plantation Bay has several swimming areas –man-made lagoons, freshwater pools and beach.  We chose our best spot and went for a swim.  A friendly reminder, the man-made lagoon has decorative rocks that might cause injuries because they are not that obvious.  There are parts too that leads you to deeper areas of the lagoon, so it pays to keep an eye on your kids.  Kayaks are included in the package but for 15-minute use only.

Free 15-minute use of kayaks

Natural beach

They have a small beach, the natural one.  They prohibit swimming that time because there’s no lifeguard on duty.  The beach is clean and we easily spotted several kinds of fishes near the dock.  We took advantage of the jet ski and took pictures of the guys aboard it! 🙂

There are fishes all around

After several hours of swimming and exploring the different areas of the resort, we went to Kilimanjaro Cafe to claim our free set lunch.  Excited we were since we already researched about it and we already have our choices in mind.  We ordered different sets of lunches so we will be able to share and taste a variety.  So to start with the appetizers, bread and butter were served plus we had a choice of the following –mushroom soup, mixed green salad and chicken & beef satay.  I recommend the latter if you are a heavy eater, very tasty!

Appetizer ~ Bread & butter

Appetizer choice #1 ~ Mushroom soup

Appetizer choice #2 ~ Mixed green salad

Appetizer choice #3 ~ Chicken and beef satay

For the main course, they only offer two choices from –Lechon Kawali and Roasted lemon chicken.  The potato wedges are given in place of rice but since I wasn’t informed, I got both.  Thank you very much for the consideration! 🙂

Main course choice #1 ~ Lechon Kawali

Main course choice #2 ~ Roasted lemon chicken

They offer ice cream (strawberry, mango, chocolate) for dessert, we had ours but my husband ordered coffee instead.  No problem with them anyway.  For drinks you can choose from –ice tea, mineral water, soda, local beer and fruit juices.

Dessert ~ Ice cream (strawberry, mango, chocolate)

We were so full and we can’t hardly breathe after eating lunch.  So we rest a bit and went for a walk around the resort.  We spotted an E-jeepney and was thrilled to try it out.  The driver also took our group picture aboard the vehicle.  After our round trip, the boys tried wall climbing and we brought the kids to the children’s center.  The children’s center is air-conditioned, packed with toys and amenities that would cater the needs of the toddlers, babies and moms.  They also have a washroom and diaper changing rooms inside.

Riding the E-jeepney

Free wall climbing

Children’s center – has fully loaded amenities

Archery and shooting areas are available but for a fee, so we skipped them.  They also have a tennis court and mini golf area.  We resumed swimming at the freshwater pool and opt to spend the last hour in the game room.  Game room offers –billiards, darts, arcades and Wii area.

We really enjoyed our stay but everything has to end.  To conclude, their service and amenities serve your money’s worth.  So drop by Plantation Bay some time when you go to Cebu!:)

For inquiries, contact:

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa
Marigondon, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines
http://plantationbay.com

Cebu City | Philippines ~ Part I

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Cebu City | Philippines ~ Part I

July 2011 – We have decided to celebrate our youngest’s first birthday in the Queen City of the South, Cebu.  After grabbing a good deal from Air Philippines two months ago, the long wait is finally over!  Off we go the first of July!

The original itinerary includes Bantayan Islands, but we fear that it’ll be a wet season so we took it off our to-go list.  So our flight was scheduled at around 5AM.  It’s our first time to fly that early and the sun has not risen yet.  I’m glad we did and I’m going to share the view from our plane window.

Riding the plane to Cebu

We arrived past 6AM.  And how prompt can our hotel driver be?!  Glad we were to see him with a well-maintained van, a Mercedes-Benz.  We headed to our hotel, Goldberry Suites which is situated in Pusok, Lapu-Lapu.  The hotel is just 10-minutes away from the airport and 5KM away from the city proper.  Doubt came first, but was dissolved immediately after we entered our suites.  Whoa!  A king-sized bed, mini bar, working table, high-speed internet and LCD TV await us.  But what makes them unique was their glass-walled T&B, IMO.  The cleanliness of the room is commendable, since their rate is very affordable (let me repeat that, as in very affordable) we were not expecting something as good as this.  Customer service is also top-notch!  Hubby and kids were already enjoying the bed and I am loving my (temporary) workstation! 🙂

Glass-walled T&B

Loving my temporary workstation!

 After lunch, we headed to the town proper cantered by a rented van from Cebu Executive Rent-a-Car.  I’ve been to Cebu before but since most of my trips were work-related, I was not able to explore its famous landmarks.  Cebu is actually known for its buildings and monuments dating back to the Spanish era.  So first stop, the legendary Magellan’s Cross.

Magellan's Cross ~ Built 1834

Magellan's Cross

The Basilica del Sto Nino is just beside it, so we walked through the crowd and saw the huge area where you can light candles and offer a prayer.  We aren’t really Catholics but there’s no harm doing so, that’s why I lighted two candles for my two kids.  It was actually a common thing with Catholic churches but this one’s really huge.  We went inside the church and there are lots of images of Jesus and other saints.  Lots of people go to the Basilica thus the need for them to conduct the service inside and outside the church itself.  There’s a small museum which is free to the public, but taking photos is not allowed.

Light up a candle and offer a simple prayer

Free candles are provided for devotees

The church's facade

A few steps away the Magellan’s Cross lies one of the oldest BPI branch.  A proclaimed tourist landmark and was built 1940’s, we persuade our cousin who works for BPI to pose in the facade and beside their history badge. 🙂

One of the oldest BPI branch

About several minutes away is Fort San Pedro.  Stepping here is like stepping in Intramuros.  We only took pictures of the facade, there’s a minimal fee for those who wanted to wander around the fort.  While a mini gallery of antique stuff and pictures are free for public viewing.

Fort San Pedro

The facade of Fort San Pedro

We were already tired and it’s dinner time!  Hence we went to the popular Larsian BBQ joint.  Prepare to smell all smokey as a circle of BBQ stands and vendors await hungry travelers.  Since there are many to choose from, take your time and choose the best and freshest BBQs around.  The food is relatively cheap –pork BBQ is sold for about P5, rice “puso” is sold for P3 and the soup is free.  The thrilling part here is that they provide plastics for your hand, since there are no visible washroom around.  You can also request for utensils if you are not comfortable with that.

Lots of BBQ stands to choose from

Rice or "puso" sold for P3 per piece

Prepare to smell like BBQs

We went back to the hotel at around 8PM and prepared for the next day.  And that ends day 1 in Cebu.  🙂

The fire surveyor | God’s messenger in disguise!

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It was just another ordinary day of February.

I was working as usual, while my husband was playing with the kids.  A man knocked on our door and asked me to participate in a fire survey.  I do not like to be disturbed during work hours and knowing that it is just another fire survey are enough reasons for me to say no.

So for unknown reason, I entertained the guy.  Went out of the front door and talked to the man named Domer, a typical bubbly guy.  Okay and for as long as he is talking with sense and he won’t waste my time.  He carried out his drill and I listened intently.  The guy highlighted different samples of fire incidents caused by various fire hazards like candles, electrical appliances/plugs and the number one cause of fire in the Philippines (according to him), the LPG tank.  Several questions about the preventive measures that we are taking were asked and we discussed my awareness regarding the issue.  I said I was confident enough that our family and house are safe and nowhere near harm.  He asked for my permission to check our cooking area and again I said yes.

Confident enough, I led him to the kitchen.  He checked the stove, A-okay.  The LPG tank as he scrutinized is fine since it bears the quality markings and it has a ring-type handle.  The man told us that it is important that the tank is sealed when bought and the metal body should be non-corroded.  Very good, now I can really say that I feel safe and confident about this issue.

Oh, but wait!  We nearly dropped our jaws when he checked the LPG hose!  We were all shocked to see that it is already deteriorating.  One more spark of flame can send our house to ashes and take lives to say the worst scenario that can happen.  I felt a sudden flush of fear and an instant flashback came into my mind– I just cooked lunch about an hour ago!

He then pulled a new/sturdy hose and LPG safety device from his bag.  He was about to start a demo and gave several tips on fire prevention.  I won’t narrate this chapter in detail and to cut the story short, we bought the regulator for an expensive fee and he left.  After a few minutes, I realized that it was fast.  The device (even if it comes with the hose & clamps) is exorbitant!  I researched about it and find several links that says that it can be bought for only 10% of the price that he offered us.  Some say it was a scam, starting out as a “fire survey” just like how we were approached.

Alright, I think we were scammed!  But should that matter now?  We already have the safety device installed and paid the fee.  But I chose to cling to the fact that the man literally saved our lives!  The incident is a proof that God still works in His own way.  I wish to conclude that it was a blessing in disguise.  Since I never entertained surveys before (there are lots who came by and I never said yes).  I would never let anyone enter our house just because I am always suspicious and it is hard to deal with strangers nowadays.  And checking our LPG hose can be the last thing to enter our minds, but he came out of nowhere and it was even a weekend!

I do not want to overreact but I believe that God is there.  He sent someone to save us from danger.  Sometimes we just need to listen and open ourselves.  Truly God is ever faithful even if we are so hard-headed and we forgot to call on Him most of the time.  People need to accept that though we are in control over things, we still need God.  He is our Father and like a child we can always call up to Him and be in a relationship with Him.

This I share to everyone.  Open your hearts and see things in a different light.  For all we know, these people may be God’s messengers in disguise.

Baguio City | Philippines

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There were only few days left before the holidays when my family decided to go to Baguio. It wasn’t hard but instead impossible to get a hotel booking. So since we are a pack of ten, we opt to look for a transient house. I am the one in charge to look for a place and God knows how many sites I’ve already checked just to find one. Preference would be a budget friendly place, clean, near the town proper and it has to have the “Baguio” feel. So yes, we got one. Placed several texts and calls and then we deposited half of the payment to the bank.

The big day came and off we go! We left Manila at around 3AM and reached the zigzag at around 8AM. At 9AM, we were at Baguio’s famous landmark –the Lion’s head. Lots of travelers stopped to take a shot, Baguio vacation won’t be complete without it. We also dropped by the Kennon view deck, not much to see. But the view is worth one’s appreciation.

Baguio's famous landmark ~ Lion's head

Spectacular view of the mountain

City of Pines

As we are about to enter the town proper, we noticed lots of buildings, houses and construction along the road. They were blocking our view and it was far from what I remembered! Not to overreact but I would like to conclude that mankind has taken over the mountains. And did I mention how bad the traffic has been over the years??

When we finally reached Baguio Vacation Apartments at Pines Garden Villas, we were really relieved. Our accommodation is like a row of townhouses on top of a hill. Wonderful! They have a guard-house too, so you are secured 24/7. We booked a three bedroom villa (which includes a kitchen, living room, two T&B and a terrace area). So everyone went up and unpacked their luggage. At around 3PM, the fog is already touching the foot of the hill and we were so thrilled!

Baguio Vacation Apartments

Whoa, fog at 3PM!

Off to our 1st stop The Mansion and Wright Park. We took a lot of pictures and even asked Manong Taho to take our group shot. There are Sagada orange vendors and artists trying to sell their stuff along the man-made pond. The kids strut their horse riding skills and we wrapped the day with a hot Bulalo dinner, perfect for the cold windy night.

Wright Park

Second day is a tough one. We need to squeeze everything in one full day. First post, Lourdes Grotto. We aren’t really devotees, we just wanted to check out the place and brave the hundred steps of the grotto. After that we went to Tam-awan Village. Intrigued by the artificial Ifugao village on top of a hill, I ensured that this is included in our itinerary. My mom was not really thrilled about this place, but still I am happy to see it for real. There’s a lot of Bul-ol statues around and artistic stuff like paintings are in exhibit.

Lourdes Grotto

Tam-awan Village

Next station, the Philippine Military Academy. We came before lunch and I nearly forgot that we were in Baguio. The sun was scorching hot! So, that calls for a round of ice cream in the cooperative store near the parking area. My son was really amused with the old planes and helicopter displayed around the military compound. Other sites to see includes a chapel, tree house and old fighting machines.

Following a quick nap, we went to Burnham Park. My cousins along with my husband and my son rode a boat for rent and row around the lake. The sun was about to set at that time, but it was still fun. My mom and my sister looked around the thrift stores set up in tents beside the lake. Biking is another fun activity to consider. Though utmost care should be observed especially if you are biking beneath dim lights. There’s a lot of bike rentals to choose from at a fair price of P40 per hour –solo, big, small or bicycles with sidecars.

Philippine Military Academy

Burnham Park

Burnham Park

A sumptuous dinner at Rose Bowl completed the day. Their dishes are highly attractive. Rose Bowl has gained and kept its popularity in Baguio for several decades now. When you are around the town proper, consider going to Maharlika and the public market. It is more ideal to buy there than in malls or souvenir shops found in hotels or tourist destinations. You can buy an array of stuff — from silver works, blankets, walis tambo, Baguio delicacies like peanut brittle and strawberry jam. Souvenirs like key chains, ref magnets and the legendary Baguio souvenir –the man in the barrel.

Third day is going back to Manila day. We were trapped for hours in really bad traffic! We were surprised that what caused this traffic was the newly built SM Mall at Rosales Pangasinan. There were no police officers to guide those who wanted to take a turn to the mall. Then another line of traffic awaited in Tarlac, this time caused by a small intersection. It’s a happy thing that provinces are becoming more civilized. But I hope that they will also be able to keep up with peace and order. And so to put it, our ride home was really annoying and exhausting.

To sum this up, Baguio is still a place to be. But since it is not getting any better, I have decided to put Baguio at the end of my traveling list. I might consider going back some day but not soon. Change is constant but I hope that it will be positive changes. So, till we meet again City of Pines!

Note: Condition as of Dec 2010 ~ 6/10

Baguio City | Lourdes Grotto

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When you visit Baguio City, drop by their famous Lourdes Grotto.
Though in its glorious condition no more, the place is more maintained compared to other tourist spots around the city.

Catholics and even non-devotees go there to brave the steps of the grotto. Some say it has a hundred-step staircase (too bad I was not able to count it myself). When you get there, vendors will approach you and persist that you buy candles and flowers as offering.

Lourdes Grotto ~ Mirador Hill, Baguio City

Brave the steps of the infamous Lourdes grotto

Offer lighted candles as a sign of devotion

Kneeling benches

Halfway the high staircase, there’s a row of stores selling various souvenirs. Ranging from bags, key chains, knitted sweaters and many more. You can also ask native Igorots to pose with you for a fee.

Row of stores selling souvenirs

After your trip around the famous landmark, check out various silver works at Ibay’s which is situated right at the foot of the grotto. Other souvenir shops can be found beside it too. Not to mention an army of transient houses, ready to accommodate cluster of tourists especially during peak season.

Note: Condition as of Dec 2010: 8/10

Related Posts: Philippine Military Academy, Tam-awan, The Mansion & Wright Park