Half-Day Cultural Heritage Tour of Batanes (First Day)

July 19, 2012

Half-Day Cultural Heritage Tour of Batanes
(First Day)

If you stayed at Fundacion Pacita several years ago like we did, the package included a complimentary half-day cultural heritage tour of Batanes. The itinerary below is the complimentary tour we took at Fundacion Pacita in March 2010. We arrived in Batanes in the morning and took this tour in the afternoon. 

Since October 31, 2011, Fundacion Pacita phased out its complimentary tours. However, I still think this itinerary will be useful to those who wish to take half-day tours, combining a slow, relaxing morning with some sightseeing in the afternoon. The guide we used for this tour is Roger Doplito.

But take note: this half-day tour does not include all the must see sights on Batan Island, like Marlborough Hills. I still recommend that you take another half-day tour which includes Marlborough Hills. This tour is best taken in the afternoon of your arrival as a nice introduction to the Batanes you will see in the next few days. We also took another tour in the afternoon of the second day of our trip. More of that in a subsequent post.

Advantage of taking half-day afternoon tours
You don't need to wake up early and rush into sightseeing.

Disadvantage of taking half-day afternoon tours
You pay the guide twice instead of just once for the whole day tour. The van rental depends on the number of hours you use it. But the guide is paid on a per day basis. Everything however is negotiable. So perhaps you can negotiate a discounted rate with your guide, especially when you arrive during low season.

What is included in the complimentary half-day cultural heritage tour of Fundacion Pacita
The half-day tour is conducted the day of your arrival. It lasts from 2pm-6pm. The tour includes the ff:

1st stop: Radar Tukon
Our guide, Roger Doplito, explaining how this device records 
how sunny it is during different parts of the day. When the 
sun is out, the heat of the sun burns a path on the piece 
of paper inserted in the device.

Because of the strength of Batanes winds, hedgerows are planted to shield their crops from the strength of the wind. 
The crisscross pattern that you can see above are the hedgerows.

2nd  stop: Chanarian View Deck 

The Chanarian view deck has stairs you can use to get a closer view of the site. 
This is halfway down the steps.

The view below. 
You can still go further down if you want to.

3rd stop: Mahatao: San Carlos Borromeo Church

4th stop: Oldest house

5th stop: Ivana

Ivana Church

Ruins of the 1st Church of San Jose

Ivana Port with Jackstones

Honesty Coffee Shop
Outside Honesty Coffee shop

Inside Honesty Coffee Shop
The Rules inside the coffee shop

Vakul (Batanes headress) for kids
being sold at Honesty Coffee shop

6th stop: Naidi Hills

A Batanes woman wearing the traditional vakul

7th stop Basco lighthouse

Dinner at Basco lighthouse
Note: We paid driver and van overtime because we went beyond 6pm

Carmel Cars and Limo: Best Budget New York Airport Transportation for 6

Carmel Cars and Limo: 
Best Budget New York Airport Transportation for 6

When we visited New York in May 2012, I discovered that the cheapest airport transportation  for a family of 6 is Carmel Limo. We used Carmel Limo from Yonkers, NY (New York Westchester area) to JFK. 

Check out the New York Rates

Why use Carmel Cars:

1. It's the cheapest airport transportation for a family of 6
I normally use Supershuttle for my Los Angeles airport transportation, but in New York, Supershuttle is more expensive than Carmel Limo. 
For a family of 6, the total cost from Yonkers, New York to JFK (one-way) is $102 + tip for a total of $120, broken down as follows:
Mini Van good for 6 people is 89 usd, plus
Roundtrip toll to JFK ($6.50 per way) is 13 usd, plus
Tip (20%) is $18.
Take Note: For 6 people, you have a choice of a MINI VAN or an SUV. What's the difference between a minivan and an SUV? Why is the mini van fare $89 while an SUV fare is $168?
The answer is LUGGAGE!!! 
A mini van's trunk can only accommodate six (6) people and four (4) checked  luggage. In our case, we had six (6) carry on luggage and one (1) checked luggage. Two (2) carry-on luggage is more or less equivalent to one (1) checked luggage. So the dimensions of all the luggage we had were equivalent to four (4) checked luggage. 
Do not make the mistake of indicating less luggage than you actually have so you can order the cheaper mini van instead of an SUV. It will be more expensive and will cause delays to call for another ride in case your luggage s do not fit. 
This photo is from Carmel Car website.
Our minivan was color white.
This is just to give you an idea about luggage space at the bac

2. Carmel Cars has a wider area of coverage than other car service
Here is a list of covered areas: 
Other airports: Teterboro, Long Island/Mac Arthur, Westchester County 
New York City 
New York (Manhattan)
New York (Hotels)
Staten Island 
Out of Town
New York State 
New York Westchester 
Long Island
New Jersey State
3. Carmel cars is easy and reliable to book online. 
The confirmation number you get is easy to remember since it's the phone number you provided. And the cars arrive on time so it's reliable to book online. 
4. Carmel cars do not require prepayment of the fare when reserving and booking their cars online.
My review: 
The car we ordered came on time. In fact, several hours before our pick up time, the driver called us to find out the exact time of our flight to make sure that the pick up time we indicated in the online form is enough time to travel from Yonkers to the airport. He encountered horrible traffic in the morning because it was Memorial Day weekend so he was concerned that we may not have known that detail when we indicated the pick-up time. So more than arriving on time to pick us up, he made sure we arrived at the airport on time.

The drive lasted an hour and the driver was very friendly and conversed with my husband the whole trip.

In conclusion: I will definitely use Carmel Car again when we visit New York and will recommend it to friends and relatives for its value and good service.  

American Taxi: Best Budget Chicago Airport Transportation for 6

June 16, 2012


American Taxi: 
Best Budget Chicago Airport Transportation for 6

In our recent trip to Chicago, I discovered that the cheapest airport transportation  for a family of 6 is the American taxi. From Chicago O'Hare to Wilmette, where our relative lives, the total cost is $50 + tip, broken down as follows:

Fixed rate from O'Hare to Wilmette: 29 usdplus
2 usd for every additional passenger over the age of 12, plus
8 usd added to the flat rate for a van request, plus 
2 usd airport exit rates (when you come from the airport) plus, 
1usd fuel surcharge

See the American taxi rates in your destination

Chicago Airport Express quoted us a rate of $80 + tip. Obviously, American taxi is much cheaper. However, one thing to take note of when deciding whether to take the American taxi of the Chicago Airport Express is the amount of luggage you have. In our case, we only had 6 carry-on luggage and 1 checked luggage. The American taxi van can fit 6 passengers but can only fit 4 checked luggage at most.

How to get the American taxi at Chicago O'Hare International Airport

1. Claim your luggage first.

2. On the same level of the baggage claim area, find a free kiosk phone near the exit door. You can use the free kiosk phone to call a taxi. Photo is shown below:

This free kiosk phone can be found at the same level of the baggage claim area,
near one of the exit doors leading to the area where you take your taxi.

3. Lift the phone, and touch the screen for suburban taxis. 
Note: this phone is not solely devoted to calling for taxis. It includes hotels so you need to touch the screen that will open the screen for suburban taxis.

4. Photo below shows the screen for the suburban taxis. As you can see, there are several American taxis indicated. The one with the X is not the American taxi I'm referring to in this article.

This is the screen that you see in the kiosk phone.
The one marked by X are not the real American taxi

The photo below is the Real American taxi:

The photo below are the fake American taxi:


My tip: To avoid confusion when you're actually calling them, bring a printout of the logo above or remember their telephone number 847-255-9600. In my case, i forgot to bring a printout and when faced with the multiple choices above, I got confused and couldn't remember the logo of the real American taxi. But the good thing is that I kept their number so I was able to compare their number with all the others and was able to filter and find the real American taxi.

5. Call the number, and tell them the following:
I am requesting a VAN TAXI, good for 6 persons going to (state your destination or give the telephone number of your destination)
6.  The operator will then assign you a taxi number. Don't forget your taxi number.

7. After the phone call, go to the exit doors on the same level and walk to the extreme right of the exit doors. Wait for the taxi number assigned to you to arrive.
Note: Exit Doors in O'Hare: 
Terminal 1- Door G; Terminal 2 - Door E; 
Terminal 3 - Door G; International Terminal 5 - Door E

The American taxi pick up lane is on the middle lane on the right side of the exit doors. See photo below:

Follow the arrows above 
to find the area where you can wait for the American taxi.

How to identify the American Taxi

1. The taxi has blue stripes on the side

2. The flat rates are shown on the taxi.

3. Check the logo and phone number

4. The taxi top sign shows " American"

The Best Room at Fundacion Pacita

April 26, 2012

The Best Room at Fundacion Pacita

The best room at Fundacion Pacita is the Idawud Suite. This is the terrace room on the left side of the main building. When you book online, one of the accommodation choices is terrace room (main building). There are 2 terrace rooms in the main building: the one of the left and the one on the right of the dining room area. If you're traveling as a couple, or just 2 in a room, the room with the best location is the Idawud Suite (sometimes called the Sophia, or the upper sunrise terrace suite). See the location of the Idawud suite in the photo below:

Encircled above is the location of Idawud Suite 

Why is the Idawud Suite the best room at Fundacion Pacita?

The private view deck in the Idawud Suite has both the view of the sea and the rolling hills.  
The other terrace suite is on the right side of the building and only has a hillside view.
This is the view from the personal viewdeck of Idawud suite


You can watch the sunrise from the comfort of your bed.
Since the window at the foot of the bed faces the east, you can watch the sunrise without leaving your bed. 

The foot of the bed is by the window.

This is the sunrise view from the foot of your bed


The Idawud suite is conveniently located beside the main dining room of the main building. 
You don't have to walk a long way to take your complimentary set breakfast. You just open the door of your room and you're at the dining room. The more expensive premier suite is located at another building a few meters away from the main building so it's a bit inconvenient walking far from one building to another to take your breakfast, especially when there are strong winds, which Batanes is usually known for. The premier suite has the same view as Idawud suite. But the premier suite is fairly isolated, especially at night. The staff is more accessible when you're staying in one of the rooms in the main building.

This is the dining room of Fundacion Pacita where the free breakfast is served.
The door on the left is the door of Idawud suite

Traveler's Review: Why I Love Fundacion Pacita

April 9, 2012

Traveler's Review: Why I Love Fundacion Pacita

....From our room

We can watch the sunrise and sunset while lying on bed. There's no need to get out of your room to enjoy the beauty of Batanes.

... From our private viewdeck

... From the garden


This photo is from the facebook page of Fundacion Pacita


For the amenities.
Aside from the usual amenities of airconditioning, private toilet and bath, free towels, daily housekeeping, they also provide complimentary set breakfast, drinking water, glasses, plates and utensils, and good quality toiletries. So you only have to bring your clothes when you visit Batanes and be within the 10kg weight limit of Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR)

For the service.
It's a small country house where the staff treat you as part of the family.

For the ease of booking
You get instant confirmation when you book online and they have a secure website where you can make your 10% downpayment via credit card to guarantee your reservation.

The room we got is a terrace suite (main building). There are 2 terrace suites in the main building but with different views. If you wish to get the same room as ours with the terrific view of both the mountain and the sea in our private view deck, request for the Idawud suite. It's the room on the left side of the building. Check out my post, "The Best Room at Fundacion Pacita, " for more details.

No other resort in Batanes truly compares to Fundacion Pacita's location and beautiful architecture. The privilege of staying in these beautiful surroundings is truly worth its expensive rate.

Contact info of Fundacion Pacita:

Skyjet flies from Manila to Batanes

April 6, 2012

Skyjet flies from Manila to Batanes

Check out this post How to book Skyjet Airlines to Batanes

What to Expect on a Prestige Cruise Manila Bay Sunset Cruise

February 7, 2012

What to Expect on a 
Prestige Cruise Manila Bay Sunset Cruise 

For the 6pm cruise, registration is from 5pm-545pm. Registration means writing down all the names and ages of the passengers for the manifesto. Each passenger's hand is stamped with the cruise logo to identify them as passengers.
My tip: Arrive early for the registration. The order of boarding is based on the order of name listed in the manifesto. There is no seat or table assignment. You choose your table upon boarding. So it's better to register early, so you board early and get to choose the seat you want.

Prestige Cruise registration desk

This photo is taken from the boat after boarding.
The registration desk is on the left.
The entrance to the boat is at the center.
The boat has three levels

This is the 1st level of the boat.
The buffet table is located here.
The toilets are at the back of the buffet table

This is the second level of the boat

My tip: 
1. Choose the second level for a better ambience.
Although the first level is where the buffet table and the toilets are located, the ambience is like you're in stowage.
The third level has an additional charge. 
2. If you want a clear view of the fireworks, choose the right side of the boat. But if you are in a big group, the only tables that will allow you to seat together are located in the middle of the boat.

During the cruise

When the boat starts to sail, a crew member
starts giving instruction on the use of the life jacket.

You line up on the first level to get food from the buffet table.
The buffet meal is just fair. It's filling but not spectacular.
A singer entertains you during the cruise.
From the boat, you can view the 7pm fireworks courtesy of Mall of Asia 

When the sun has set, the only view that you see is
the Roxas Boulevard skyline, which is not really that fantastic.

Length of the cruise: 
1 1/2 hours (from 6pm-730pm)
Other tips:
Best time do the sunset cruise: 
The sun sets early from September to December so this is not the best time to do the cruise. By the time the 6pm cruise starts, night has already fallen.
If you want to catch the sunset, do the 6 pm cruise from January to August or if you're doing the cruise during September to December, get an earlier time than 6pm cruise schedule.
Why do the sunset cruise
Do the sunset cruise if you just want to watch the famous Manila Bay sunset onboard a boat while cruising the Manila Bay. 
Don't do this cruise if you're expecting a romantic dinner. The ambiance is not conducive to romance, especially since the cruise is just a short 1 1/2 hour ride, and a great part of it will be spent lining up at the buffet table. 
For foreigners or balikbayans, this is a nice way to end the day after touring Intramuros and Luneta park or after shopping at the Mall of Asia.

The boarding area is at the back of Folk Arts Theater, near Gloria Maris Restaurant and the Coconut Palace. Just scroll on the map below to find the location.
My tip on where to park: Park at the parking lot across Gloria Maris restaurant. It's the parking lot nearest to the registration tent and boarding area. The other parking lots indicated on the map is a long walk to the boarding area.

Contact Information:

Prestige Cruises Inc.
Unit 01, CCP Bay Terminal,
CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd.,
Manila, Philippines

Tel/Fax No.: (02) 832.8967
Mobile No.: (0917) 525.5455
Email Address: manilabaycruise@gmail.com