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Filipina Explorer is a travel blog that believes in the power of stories to connect us to the world, shape ideas, and move us to action. Read these stories from the archives.
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Hi! I'm Gretchen, a travel writer based in the Philippines. I created Filipina Explorer in 2009 to document my journeys through places, parenthood, and word weaving. This blog is a collection of those stories and everything in between. (Photo by Martin San Diego)
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9 Awesome Things to Do in Coron


Image by jahcordova 



Most Filipinos and tourists light up at the mention of Coron. After all, this limestone-studded island is the most beautiful place in the Philippines, and boasts of seven lakes. It is home to some of the loveliest white sand beaches in the world with clear blue waters. 

You are making a big mistake if you still haven’t placed Coron in your bucket list. It looks like a smaller and quieter version of El Nido. This sleepy fishing town is fast becoming a tourist magnet, and most travelers prefer to book Jetstar air tickets for their flights to Coron.

Coron and its natural wonders simply defy logic and force you to question if you are truly in paradise or if it;s a dream. Get ready for nonstop adventures that take you to hidden lagoons, underwater mountains, and otherworldly reefs! So, go ahead and book cheapest flights to Coron and plan a wonderful trip to paradise.

Here are some to the top things to do and enjoy while in Coron.
  • Admire sunset at Lualhati Park. Make your way to Lualhati Park for an amazing sunset experience.  Do not miss this chance as it is indeed one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in Coron. Do not forget to bring your camera!
  • Enjoy Coron Bay. Coron Bay is made of a breathtaking mix of tall limestone cliffs. It boasts multiple shipwrecks and natural reefs. This is what makes it a perfect spot for divers and snorkelers. Just locate the best spots for diving and swimming to enjoy the bay.
  • Visit Kingfisher Park for natural life. Get ready to investigate tons of natural life, and countless species of birds in the mangroves of Kingfisher. The flora and fauna species found here are endemic to Palawan, which means you can only see them here. Take a local tour guide with you to get a closer look at the wildlife.
  • Explore Twin Lagoon. Do not miss the opportunity to see Twin Lagoon during your island hopping tours. You are sure to get blown away by the towering cliffs surroundingyou  and the abundance of fish below. You can swim in the two lagoons during low tide.
  • Dive in Barracuda Lake. Get a chance to see mysterious underwater rock formations by diving in the famous Barracuda Lake. This is indeed an incredible dive spot where you can dive deep down to see those underwater rocks.
  • Soak in Maquinit Hotspring. Maquinit Hotspring is one of the few saltwater hot springs in the world. Sitting in those natural hot waters amid a mangrove forest is a soothing experience. As the pools produce therapeutic waters, the experience leaves you feeling relaxed.
  • Wreck diving in Sangat and Lusong. Wreck diving destinations are very popular in Palawan. In Sangat and Lusong Islands, you can spot submarine chasers and a number of ships and gunboats that sank during World War II. As those ships are well-scattered, you get a different experience every time you dive in a different spot.
  • Experience Coral Garden. Dive in Coral Garden at depths of 40 meters or more.What Coral Garden offers you is a crystal-clear dive and the chance to see the protected reefs. It is home to rich biodiversity. Note that this activity is meant only for the experienced divers, but for non-divers, you can snorkel and still have a good glimpse of the corals.
  • Stay in Sanctuaria Treehouse – If you want a unique experience in Coron, why not stay in a treehouse? Well, all you need to do is head towards the Sanctuaria Treehouse and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Enjoy the sweeping view over the mangroves, and spend some laid-back time in your treehouse.

Sexual abuse destroyed me. Motherhood saved me.


As a child, I was shy but did well in school. I played and hung out with friends regularly. On the outside, I was pretty much your average kid. But what many people didn't know - and don't know until now - was I was raped when I was five and molested by different men on separate occasions: between the ages of 4 and 8, twice as a teen, and once as an adult. Eleven out of the 13 perpetrators were people I know and trusted. These happened in places deemed safe and non-threatening. 

I subconsciously compartmentalized these memories. They festered inside me. The effects of sexual abuse did not manifest until I was around 15. I never even remembered anything about the rape until one night in bed, when I was 17, the details suddenly surfaced. They were sharp, vibrant, and stinging.

I lied awake for hours - confused, crushed, and crying helplessly. 

I didn't tell anyone until I was already 22. I lived day in and day out carrying shame, guilt, and a misplaced burden of responsibility. When I was 7, someone caught a man grabbing my vagina and commented, "Siguro gusto mo kaya di ka sumigaw (Maybe you liked it that's why you didn't scream)." I thought maybe if I called for help, pleaded, or resisted enough in any other occasion, I would not have been sexually assaulted. I had a hand in my own circumstance. 

It was a lonely path to tread. I learned that it hurt to smile. Every time I went home from school - and later on, work - I locked the door behind me and didn't look back.

In an attempt to gain control of my life, I dove into a sea of destructive habits: binge drinking, eating disorders, underperforming in school. I began inflicting harm to myself using any object I could get my hands on: rulers, blades, shards of glass, pens. To let the pain bleed.  Initially, it did. The sight of crimson blood on my skin rendered instant relief and adrenaline. "Now the pain is symmetrical inside and out," read one of my journal entries. 

But the following day or two, the pain would swim right back into my bed. So I hurt myself some more until I had to wear jackets and pants at home in the sweltering summer heat to hide the wounds on my arms and legs.

During the semester I was about to graduate from college, I found out I flunked two major subjects. That meant I wasn't going to graduate.  My family expected me to be a doctor. I was supposed to take care of them after pre-med. 

I wanted to move on, but I was tired taking on what seemed like a pointless fight. I had a world purposely built for me, and now that world is no longer possible.

The last thing I wanted was to disappoint or hurt anyone. They deserve better lives without a fuckup like me. I texted a friend, saying, "Please tell him I love him, but I can't do this anymore. I'm so sorry."

I swigged a bottle of beer, along with a handful of pills: six paracetamol, two anti-anxiety medications, a sleeping pill, and others that I no longer remember. At six in the evening, I passed out in my bedroom. 

Sunlight seeped through window cracks. I squinted, lightheaded and dazed. Was I in a dream? Am I finally home? 


I turned and saw an empty beer bottle. Pills and cigarette ashes on the floor. A chipped cherub figurine. Tens of unread messages and missed calls. It's been 12 hours and apparently, I am still alive. 

I shivered with anger. All I wanted was to find peace. Instead, the Universe threw me back into chaos. I violently chucked books in the air and gave the heavens the dirty finger. "Why do you have to keep me alive? You are a sick sadist."

My phone rang. On the other end of the line was a familiar voice. "Napakababaw ng dahilan mo para magpakamatay. Para hindi ka lang naman ga-graduate (Your reason for attempting suicide is so shallow. You're not graduating, that's all)," it said. 

Maybe it seems silly and irrational to take one's life for things that can still be rectified. But it was the only rational way for me to find comfort. It was not just one thing that drove me to the edge. It's a series of small burdens, with school problems as the tipping point. Back then, I wasn't aware that everything - the band-aid solutions, the misery, the rebellion - pointed back to sexual violation. That to take back my life, I have to address the root cause. 

Every over-the-counter medication and tool I used for self-harm were confiscated. "You will live."

So lived I did, day after day until they turned into years. I nursed wounds, ill-equipped for the battle - without medications, a shrink, an ear. I got married and became more preoccupied with work and house duties. Yet, some days remained terrible that I wanted to sleep through them and never wake up. No kind of relationship could fix me. Maybe you can be happy, but not really. Maybe happiness is a fish, and it's like a lottery on who gets to bait the fattest one. Maybe everyone's fish is supposed to be mediocre. 

I was on a plateau until I gave birth to my daughter at 28.

As I watched her grow, the darkness dissipated inch by inch. I didn't understand how or when or why, but the world became sunny again. I started looking forward to waking up. I can breathe easy. Everything felt lighter. Whenever I walk roads, it is no longer aimless and hazy because she is walking beside me. I can charge into the world with might and courage.

Suddenly, taking care of someone did not feel like a conundrum. It is a joy. A privilege. A purpose. A legacy. To know something so pristine can be birthed by a soul that's been tainted black; that my time with her is fleeting made me appreciate mortality.

With her, I found a reason to live. Not just survive, but truly live with hope, love, freedom, and trust in humanity - things that were so elusive before. And all it takes is a smile, a hug; a tiny voice uttering, "Mama", "I love you", and "You are the best gift God gave to me". 

My daughter and I have bad days when money is so tight that we share a couple of fried eggs or instant noodles for a meal. There are rare occasions when I don't want to talk to people for days to a week. But I go through them knowing I will still come out alive and stronger not because as a mother I need to, but because I want to. Because I now possess the certainty that after those brooding days, I have her to come back to and a life whose every second is worth living.  

Some find redemption in career success, friendships, intimate relationships, or religion. I found mine in the purest and most unconditional love. It turns out that sometimes, it's the children who save their parents, not the other way around. When I look back at the morning I questioned why I had to be kept alive, I am relieved that I now know the answer. And I am eternally grateful for this second shot at life. There are parents who, despite their great love for their kids, succumb to mental illness - sometimes with grim outcomes.



I want to tell you that if you suffered or are suffering from abuse, depression, or both, you have the right to be happy. But more than anything, you have the right to forgive yourself. You should not account for a fault that is not yours. Your abuser does not deserve to steal one more second of your life. They have stolen enough. They have scarred you, but your scars do not define you. 

Know that it will be a long, dark, and seemingly endless road. But if you fight and hang on a little more, even though it won't be easy, it will get easier. Things will not turn out to be the best, but they will be better. I hope you find your light and hold on to it, no matter how faint its rays are. You deserve to see that the world isn't as fucked up as we think it is. As I can attest, happiness and redemption are possible at the end of that road, if only we hold on just one more day.


All photos taken by Martin San Diego

7 Small but Useful Items to Have on Hand When Traveling

If you are planning to take a trip, then you are probably in packing mode. You are deciding what you need to take with you to make your trip successful. If you are looking for specialty items, there are some great ones out there for travel. And most of them are small and easy to take with you. They can be especially useful for travel abroad.

Read on to learn about 7 small and helpful items that you'll want to have on your next adventure.


Dependable Case

If you go anywhere, especially out of the country, your phone can be an important lifeline. If you get lost, your GPS can help guide you to your next destination. You can use it if you need to contact someone. Not to mention its creative uses, like snapping photos of exciting spots.

To protect your phone while traveling, you should invest in a good case. For example, the new protective cases at getcasely.com could be perfect for your trip. You are sure to find one that fits your style in addition to providing a sense of security, just have a good look around.

Portable Batteries

When you are on the go, you don't always have time to sit down and charge your phone and other electronic devices. It can also be difficult to actually find a place to do it outside of a your hotel. If you carry around a portable battery or power bank, you can use that instead. Just remember to charge them up again after you have used them!

Document Organizer

To travel safely and effectively, you must have all your proper documentation. This includes things like passports, visas, and government issued IDs. You may want to consider purchasing a special organizer. You can find document organizers in a variety of sizes and styles. They do make small ones that are easy to bring with you. Most importantly, make sure that whatever you chose is able to be secured.

International Adapters

When you travel to a different country, it is a good idea to bring an adapter. The outlets in your hotel will likely be very different from your ones at home. Being able to plug in your devices is important. You can purchase adapters for each country that you go to. They also have large adapter blocks that include a range of different adapter types.

Mobile Hotspot

When traveling in large urban centers, it shouldn't be too difficult find and use free Wifi. Being connected to the internet is useful for communication, navigation, and more. If you think that finding free Wifi might be a challenge, consider bringing a mobile hot-spot. They can be set up and used like a normal connection.

Water Bottle With Purifier

Having access to clean water is extremely important when traveling. You need to be able to stay healthy and hydrated. You can even purchase a water bottle that has a built in purifier. To use it, just fill your water bottle up at almost any spot. Then, you will be be able to drink clean, filtered water while on the go.

Photo Accessories

While you visit new places, you may want to take some photos to remember them by. If you have a nice camera that you use, you can easily take it with you. Just make sure to keep it safe. You can also attach special lenses to your smart phone to take different kinds of photos.

These are only a few small and useful accessories for your trip. You may find something even better suited for you!

Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay Gets a Facelift; November Launch Eyed

As it gears up for a grand launch in November, an all-new hotel in Tagaytay promises a tranquil stay and premium hospitality: Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay.


Envisioned to be a premium vacation getaway, the hotel elevates the usual Tagaytay  experience with nostalgic elements, impeccable design, and unparalleled service. It sits on the same property as the old structure of the same name, and was expanded and rebuilt from the ground up by a team of experts in design and construction.

Spearheaded by engineer Rick Gumabay and architect Robert Ramos, the hotel’s design flawlessly combines sentimental pieces of the old structure with functionality fit for today’s modern travelers. It delights guests with barn-inspired architecture, seamlessly merging steel with warm hues of wood and complemented by cozy cushions and golden lights.


“Guests who will enter Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay will immediately feel the warmth and hospitality of our place.  It is the start of a journey to tranquility, where time stands still and where the stress of life and work are left behind the door,” said Nilda Diaz Serrano, Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay’s Corporate General Manager. A seasoned hotelier, Diaz Serrano leads the team with more than five years of hotel and resort experience in China and the Philippines.

Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay Corporate General Manager Nilda Diaz Serrano

 
A HEART FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Integrating green practices, the hotel houses a pine tree which is perfect for capturing IG-worthy selfies. Repurposed items, such as metal pipes and corrugated steel, are also used as design elements for guest room, underscoring Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay’s commitment to sustainability.

ROOMS


The hotel boasts 44 well-appointed rooms with high ceiling, each with its own unique design. Wood and steel dominate the space. Rooms are equipped with a balcony that overlooks the pool.


 “We are very proud to present the rooms. We guarantee not only a peaceful stay but also a very restful experience for the entire family. The rooms are spacious and modern, yet there are design elements that make it warm and cozy,” said Nilda.

POOL


For leisure, guests can bask in an outdoor Jacuzzi anda a refreshing lap pool, which is spacious enough to accommodate more than a hundred guests.



RESTAURANT


One need to look far for exceptional fare as the hotel has Dekada, a Filipino restaurant managed by the team behind SumoSam. Dekada specializes in heirloom recipes that date back to the Filipino heroes’ era.

FUNCTION ROOMS


Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay has four function rooms and one main ballroom that can cater to any corporate, government, association, and social event. Situated on the third floor, the ballroom offers panoramic views of the Taal Lake.


HEARTFELT SERVICE


What makes the Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay experience more heartfelt and memorable is its staff. Trained and always at the ready to serve, the hotel’s team never fails to render service with a smile and go the extra mile to ensure guests take home unforgettable memories.


STRATEGIC LOCATION


Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay is ideally located just beside the main highway of Tagaytay, accessible to both private and public transportation, making it easier and economical for families and friends to reach.

To get here, guests can take a Nasugbu-bound bus from Manila.



Royale Parc Hotel Tagaytay is located at Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, Silang Junction West, Tagaytay City.  

For inquiries and reservations, call 0923-0889055/ (02) 984-1297 / (046) 402-1980, or email sales.royaleparctagaytay@gmail.com. You may also visit their Facebook page here.

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