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Split into two groups - the banca cruise people and the whal


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large_1840343_14910220723950.jpgThe banca cruise people in relaxation mode. Photo courtesy of CathyApril 6, 2016. A few weeks before our arrival in Cebu [Cebu-travel-guide-1293094], Anne had contacted her travel agent to assist us with tours for the third day. The choices were to take a banca (outrigger) cruise around the islands surrounding Mactan (Olango), which I call the "relaxed" itinerary, or to go south to Oslob [Oslob-travel-guide-887608] to catch the whale shark interaction. Naturally, the ones who have done the whale shark interaction in the past chose to go for the relaxed itinerary, except for me (since I was the lead for the whale shark group). We had a longer itinerary and schedule, because at the last minute we made accommodations to go to the Kawasan Waterfalls which was on the other side of Cebu Island, instead of the smaller waterfalls not far from Oslob.large_1840343_14910220745586.jpgThe whale shark people in interaction mode. Photo courtesy of JillanaThis meant earlier departure as well as a much later return to the city, aside from added tour costs.

Anyway, we left Quest Hotel about 530AM, slightly delayed because Kimbert said he\'d just freshen up in his room, only for us to find out later that he just fell asleep without warning. I was surprised because the five of us \"No Sleep\" karaoke people (aka Maroon 5) had decided we will wait for the others at the lobby.

The drive to Oslob takes about 3 hours on average. As long as we were able to avoid the early morning rush hour traffic in Cebu, we were fine. We got to Oslob but our driver brought us to a different resort, not the one I was familiar with where there usually are hundreds of eager tourists waiting to see the whale sharks. It was good that this resort had facilities for changing, and they issued tickets on behalf of the government agency in charge of the whale shark interaction.large_1840343_14910220702064.jpg

Going to see the whalesharks is usually a 30 minute experience. First they issue you life jackets, warn about using sunscreen (not allowed as it is toxic to whalesharks), and then you get onto the small bancas. They form a line, first come, first served and about 3-5 at a time in the waters where the whale sharks are. 30 minutes is good enough to catch at least 3 whalesharks, some of which can reach the length of a small bus! The strong swimmers (Jillana, Lauren) were able to swim further out with their GoPros to take closer photos with the sharks. These were being fed at the surface by a fisherman (who is now dubbed whale shark interaction officer), just like the way a pet goldfish would swim and chase the food.

Once we were done with the interaction, we went back to the resort, showered and changed for the next trip - which was nearing noontime, and thus time for lunch.large_1840343_14910220673908.jpg But there weren\'t any interesting places to eat nearby. We were told by the van driver that he could bring us to a recommended restaurant ... knowing this was a ruse for him to bring us to a place where he will earn commission, surprisingly we obliged because we were quite hungry and aware that there were few places to eat along the way. It turns out that the detour was another 30 minutes further away from the falls, and counting in the return trip, that means we would have wasted another hour! Anyway, when we got to the place we hurriedly placed our orders. The food took a while to arrive, and it wasn\'t cheap at all. Good thing it tasted fairly OK, no major complaints about the food quality and flavor.

We ended our lunch about 215PM and hurriedly left for the 30 minutes back to Kawasan Falls [Kawasan-Falls-travel-guide-1321383].large_1840343_14910220821080.jpg Finally, getting to the destination, Lauren sprang to life! She was obviously very excited, and left everyone in the dust behind her on the way to the falls. In the next 2-3 hours, she was able to try practically all the various levels and came up with her own recommendation of which is the best one for splashing (the topmost one, apparently). Most went for a swim except for me and Masayo, who were relegated to watching the belongings of the others on a hut at the lowest level falls. Not bad, I realize that I somehow prefer quiet and relaxation after a whole morning with the whale sharks, not to mention going around the southern tip of Cebu Island to get to the western side.

As Mark was part of the relaxation group, he couldn't get over the fact that the weren't able to find that craft beer brewery the previous day.large_1840343_14910220611977.jpgBrian with a flower on his right ear under the pink lights. Anne is laughing in the background. Photo courtesy of CathyTo make up for it, after their dinner at Cafe George, Anne brought them to the Monastery Brewery, which is a place that serves craft beer and has live band music. Oh for the time we were traveling back from Kawasan Falls to Cebu City, WhatsApp messages with them making us envious were flying back and forth. I teased Brian, telling them that what Kremheild said about "no dress code in Monastery, very casual" meant "no short shorts and sleeveless shirts" hahahaha. True enough, Brian liked the place that he even went up on stage to do lipsynch with the music playing, flower on his right ear under the pink lights.

So the whale shark group finally arrived at Quest Hotel at 945PM, with barely a few minutes to spare before the Ayala Center Mall across the street starts to close, so we (me, Lhea, Kimbert, Joe and Noel) hurriedly went out to find a bite. We found a place that was still open while the rest were closed, had our dinner, and then went back as tomorrow was a big day, this time to go to Bohol [Bohol-travel-guide-1292834] to meet the tarsiers!

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Touring Cebu City and Karaoke night part 2


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large_1840343_14760863972058.jpgin Anne's van going around Cebu CityApril 5, 2016. On our first full day in Cebu [Cebu-travel-guide-1293094], the group was divided into the early ones and the later ones. We only had one van courtesy of Anne, so we had to see who were already done with breakfast and those who were still enjoying it. As such, I stayed with the later group since breakfast was quite good, whereas the others from the hotels across (Ime, Cathy, Noel plus early ones from Quest) were first to go to the Basilica Minore to visit Sto. Nino and Magellan's cross.

Finally we who were left behind get on the van for the second trip, get dropped off at the Basilica while I tell the driver to wait for further instructions before we go to Fort San Pedro. We the second group caught up with the first group and visited Magellan's Cross, of which the original (dating back to 1521) was encased in a tindalo wood cross in it's own enclosed gazebo.large_1840343_1476086403881.jpgwith Masayo and Jon. Rhea is missing from this pictureBecause many of the ladies (aside from Brian, of course) wore short shorts, they had to cover their modesty when entering the Basilica with colorful flowery makeshift skirts, provided free at the entrance. The Basilica probably has had tons of short shorted visitors, who probably attracted more attention than the saints surrounding the walls of the church.

Because I told them about the story of the Santo Nino, they HAD to see it up close. Including Brian, a non fan of museums and churches. Brian obligingly tagged along, having a good discussion with Joe and Jon towards the back of the line. The initial churchgoers got turned off by the length of the line, but when I told them we have enough time to visit the Santo Nino up close, they didn't object. There were various paintings and museum displays along the path leading to the Santo Nino, which helped as conversation pieces.large_1840343_14760864261208.jpgguess who was wearing short shorts!When we finally got to the statue, Brian took photos like paparazzi, unaware of the "no photography beyond this area" sign. Good thing he wasn't called aside and as a result, he had the most interesting photos that morning.

After visiting the replica statue of the Santo Nino (the original is supposedly locked inside somewhere), we headed for Fort San Pedro, one of the oldest structures of Cebu City. We took a few photos, refreshments and hid under the shade since it was quite hot already. In the meantime, I was waiting for Anne to drive over, since she had just flown in from Bacolod City [bacolod-city-travel-guide-1313868] having attended a wedding the previous day.

Once Anne finally arrived, we decided on our next move.large_1840343_14760864099619.jpg Mark was the eager beaver and suggested that they take a beer lunch at somewhere where he saw the day we landed in Cebu - many gladly followed, not knowing they had stumbled onto a wild goose chase, In the end, they weren't able to find the place they wanted (apparently becaue Mark saw it in the evening, and it was still closed during lunchtime), so they ended up in the swimming pool of Quest Hotel, laxing on the chairs and having their beer (from the hotel).

The rest of the group who were lucky to join Anne headed to Ayala Center, where some of them got delayed in traffic before Anne and I finally met them for lunch at the dimsum shop. Since both of us had gone ahead of the rest to check on the evening's karaoke venue (not to mention they had to take separate trips from the beer lunch group, it was quite a bit before everybody got settled in.large_1840343_14760772603541.jpg On our way back to meet the crowd, Anne and I decided to check out massage parlors since I knew some of them would be interested in a relaxing and soothing massage. So Masayo, Merlina, Noel and Lhea went for a massage, but since Anne and I had to confirm the karaoke venue at another location, we ended up not being able to catch up with the four who had gone ahead. So we went to another massage parlor instead, which happened to be located nearer.

Finally, when it was time to get back to the hotel, I told everyone to meet up in batches beginning 630PM, since we needed to make three trips to get everyone there. As usual, the gentlemen were left behind everyone else, leading Jon to fret that why wasn't he brought there ahead even though he was first to be at the lobby of Quest hotel at the agreed upon time.large_1840343_14760772581907.jpgRachelle, Arlene, Mark, Masayo facing away, Bhushan, Rommel chatting with Lauren and Jill, Reggie, Dexter, Ime and CathyThe venue happened to be a few kilometers away, and when Jon got impatient, he threatened to take a taxi (as if he knew exactly where the venue was). Anyway, the guys managed to convince him to join the last group in the van, but obviously Jon didn't have food or drink (I think it was more to the drinks) yet so that likely caused his impatience. Hahaha, I can perfectly understand him, I'd get irritable when hungry myself.

Finally, when every one was there, we had over 20 TravBuddies in attendance (with one who didn't show up), and it was a sumptuous dinner, courtesy of Anne that most remembered. I am also sure I bored them to dessert with my long talk about how the meetup came about, and how we enjoy so much the company of TravBuddies, even people we have just met a few minutes earlier.large_1840343_14760864319192.jpgthe No Sleep Group, aka Maroon 5 singing "This Love" at 226AM.This was no Carcar Lechon dinner, but something that allowed us to mingle better since the whole place was reserved by Anne for the TravBuddy group.

Finally, the most anticipated moment after dinner - Karaoke! I had given everyone instructions how to get to Cebu IT Park where the karaoke venue was, and after less than an hour, we had jampacked one room with about 15 or so giggling and excited TravBuddies, eager to recreate the Dirty Dozen at Red Box Makati the Saturday prior.

Past midnight, one by one, people started leaving for home or their hotels until the last people standing - who are notoriously known as the "No Sleep Band" - stayed on until the karaoke closed at past 3AM. Guess who they were?

Nolan, Lhea, Kimbert, Joe and Mark!

Since we didn't have much time to sleep, we decided not to sleep anymore when we got to Quest Hotel, because the one guy who went back to his room, fell asleep in an instant and had to be hunted down a couple of hours later for the trip to Oslob [Oslob-travel-guide-887608].

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TravBuddies descend on Cebu


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large_1840343_14642627685026.jpginside Anne's vanSo the flight was uneventful, and after chatting with Mark most of the time, landing time came sooner than it seemed. Prior to takeoff I had been messaging Lhea who was on the Philippine Airlines flight (she booked way later than most of us who were on AirAsia). When we got off the plane, I headed straight to the luggage claim area, since just right beyond that we were supposed to meet. I call Lhea only to find out that she's been there all along at a seat nearby, so we greeted each other huggingly as we haven't met in over a year since Lhea got her new role at work. I then introduced her to the rest of the group, and once we had all our bags (I don't recall any of us checking in a bag), I contacted the driver of Anne who was waiting for us outside. Likewise, Bhushan was busy looking for Rachelle, who had already been at the driveway waiting for him to exit the terminal.large_1840343_1477170230874.jpg Since we had more than enough seats, we asked both of them to join us although they had plans for the rest of the afternoon.

On the way into Cebu City, we passed by Banilad to have lunch at one of the food shops recommended by Anne. While waiting for lunch, Romel came over to meet the rest of the group, and they had a beer each (well, some had at least two). That got Mark and Jon excited since beer was quite cheap (less than a dollar) when purchasing from a food shop compared to a hotel or bar. After lunch, since all of us save for Bhushan were booked at the Quest Hotel, and so we headed right over to Quest once we were done. Bhushan said that they might follow to the evening venue, which I knew would happen since he was with a very resourceful local in the person of Rachelle.large_1840343_14642627883363.jpg

Upon arriving at Quest, we gave each other time to check in and freshen up, and agreed to meet up past 4 PM so we could leave early to go catch the sunset at TOPS. The ladies (Cathy, Ime and Fa) and Noel (who were booked elsewhere), came over and again we used the van to bring the remainder of the group to TOPS, which was situated on top of a mountain that had a great view of the Cebu City skyline.

Of course this is is where the famous Noel expression "Where's the sunset?" came from. They were all so excited driving up to TOPS and enjoyed taking photos, as well as more beer for some of the guys. When it finally came, Noel was shrieking "there's the sunset!" in his squeaky voice, that it amused everyone without end. We spent at least a couple of hours talking, enjoying the view, and catching up on stories from the previous meetups.large_1840343_14642627849620.jpg Eventually Bhushan and Rachelle had caught up with the group by sundown. For the first time people to meet (Kimbert especially), it was an opportunity to make great friendships. And when the evening was young, Jon and I started looking for the airplanes that would land and bear the rest of the group, namely Brian and Merlina, and then Masayo in a separate flight direct from Osaka.

When it was dark we headed down the city, and looked for our dinner venue which was the House of Lechon. Kremheild was already waiting for us once we got there, and had reserved a long table good for over a dozen people. We ordered the famous lechon from Carcar, in both original and spicy variants (I think over six kilos total), plus a few other famous Filipino dishes.large_1840343_14771702381326.jpg One thing the foreigners would have probably noticed is that Filipinos like to eat roasted, grilled, fried fatty and salty food, plus with a whole lot more variation of sauces (soy sauce, liver sauce, vinegar with chilliest, and so on). Joe and I were happy with the spicy variation of lechon, not to mention we had little competition from most of them who didn't like spicy food.

While the others had been enjoying the dinner, I sneaked out of the restaurant to pick up Masayo from Quest Hotel as she had already arrived and taken the taxi from the airport. We eventually parted ways after dinner, but there was this one particular group who wouldn't be swayed by knocking off earlier than 11. So we went over to a rooftop bar in the Ayala Center and continued with a couple round of drinks. Finally, when the rest were tired, we all headed back to our hotels but then a core group of die hard night owls stayed on until past 2AM, merrily chatting in the room of Lhea and sneaking in and out of the hotel.

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The excitement going to the airport and on the plane


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large_1840343_14642627829809.jpgComing from the long drive (for the group in my van) from Tagaytay [Tagaytay-travel-guide-1310742] the previous evening, I'd expect some challenges for a number of people. First would be Maine, since she was supposed to have an online learning session about 830 in the evening - she didn't make it. Next was Noel, whose flight to Cebu [Cebu-travel-guide-1293094] was scheduled just around midnight - while he arrived at his place a little past 9PM, he was able to grab his stuff and scurry off to the airport, and then the flight was delayed - so he made it.

Now the rest were to travel in the morning on the earlier flight of AirAsia, namely Cathy, Ime and Fa.large_1840343_14642627803145.jpg They were up and about early in the morning and had no issues with their flight to CEB. Now the bulk of the people were with me, which included Joe, Kim, Bhushan, Mark and Jon (who would be coming from his airport hotel). Kim had just booked his flight online early evening of Sunday, so we (especially Joe) were excited about his joining at the last hour. Mark had likewise booked his flight, so we expected things to turn out OK (unless he overslept). But we didn't expect a surprise coming ...

I told Mark and the rest to meet us at Dusit Nikko Hotel, which was at the fringe of Ayala Center and nearest to the main thoroughfare, Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (better known as EDSA). The reason being that I would like to avoid the incoming traffic of Ayala Center, especially if I were to pick up the boys who stayed at the P Burgos hostels.large_1840343_1464262773215.jpg If I did that then probably all of us would have been late because of the rush hour traffic Makati is notorious for. So Kim, Bhushan and Joe were having a minor "finding Bhushan" session, as they were messaging each other on WhatsApp and couldn't decide where to meet before heading to Dusit Nikko Hotel. Finally they sorted things out and arrived way ahead of the rest. Now Mark was becoming a concern, as he wasn't there yet and not responding to messages on his phone. Finally when the messages got through, I gave instructions where to be dropped off - which the driver of the taxi ignored, as he still brought Mark to the driveway of the hotel and not the street curb where I expected to meet them.

Oh, and the surprise came in our ultra last minute traveling buddy - Arlene.large_1840343_14642627712862.jpg Arlene and Mark had met previously before we had given the instructions on the rendesvouz place, and her flight was booked abot midnight of the day of travel! Well, my motto with meetups is, "the more, the merrier!" Surely Jon was in for a surprise knowing that there would be more than what he had expected heading to Cebu.

Of course there were some slight disappointments, especially those beyond our control. We were expecting Maricar (marix_sublime) to join us as we had talked about the timings for months prior to her vacation back to the Philippines, except that the flights were full and she got booked on a flight which would have made it near impossible for her to join us in Cebu. Well, you can't win all over to joining, but then again, you also get surprises in last minute confirmations!

We got dropped off by my van at NAIA Terminal 4 which is better known as the old domestic terminal, which is the smallest of all terminals without even an airbridge! We were quite earlier and had a lot of time to catch up (and Arlene to charge her mobile phone). Eventually Jon showed up at the pre departure area, lazily walking down as his hotel was a mere 5 minutes away. As we had quite some time to spare, people started looking for food and trying out the local delicacies. Eventually it was time to board the plane, and not as many hitches. Good thing it didn't rain, so we were able to cross from the exit gate to the tarmac to the plane (no bussing, just walked over to the parked plane). Kim took a few photos plus a video as it marked the start of another fun filled week.

We then took our seats on the plane, all of us except Joe entering through the rear door of the plane (Joe booked way ahead and got a seat in row 10, while the rest of us were beyond row 15). Mark was seated near me so we were the ones talking most of the time. When I got to look for my seat, I discovered that three people were occupying my side of the row! So being the usual assertive person I am on the plane, I asked the guy in my seat why he was seated there, while waving at him my boarding pass. It turns out that he was supposed to seat a row ahead, because somebody else had taken his seat and it turns out this person was not even meant to be on that flight!

So he was hurriedly called out by the flight attendants to deplane, and I asked him on his way out, "how did you manage to get on this flight?" He said he took a chance to take the earlier flight (ours), and he in fact managed to get through all the way onboard to the plane. As soon as he got off, I walked up to the head F.A. and told her, "Please make sure he has NO luggage on board, lest you know what this means..." Apparently he just had handcarry with him (hmmm...a student with only handcarry? they normally bring loads of bags filled with clothes and gifts), and then was in a hurry to fly back home. Well, I reckon that he'd have to pay a few hundred pesos for check in baggage, so he could have scrimped over that.

The whole episode got my security conscious hat thinking, and it was discussed by me and Mark for quite some time while we were waiting for our clearance to take off - which as usual, was delayed by at least 15 minutes because of the runway congestion at the NAIA. Once we were airborne, there was nothing much I could do, so I stopped fretting and just decided to enjoy the flight and continue chatting with Mark ... there were far more interesting things to talk about instead of a probably bomb threat onboard hahahaha.

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Tagaytay: fast pace group vs. no time pressure group


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large_1840343_14629091086892.jpgApril 3, 2016. Sunday. A day of rest and recreation for most Filipinos. As the Philippines is over 82% Catholic, attending Sunday mass is one of the days of this special day. It is a time for families to get together and worship and give thanks to their God. For the devout, this is one of the first things to do every Sunday. While traveling, it is always my priority to go to Catholic mass wherever I am although not all the time will there be a mass happening to fit my schedule. So I go to visit the church and admire its architecture and see how the locals interact. Every church in every country is unique, which adds to the interest. After all, it's just usually only an hour for mass, which is about the same time one would spend visiting a museum or walking around the central square of a town in a foreign land.large_1840343_1462942745194.jpgat Landmark foodcourt eating Jollibee (photo by Cathy)

It so happened that Merlina requested me to join her to attend mass, which I gladly said yes. I was originally planning to bring her to a church in the more affluent area of Makati where there was 1030AM mass. But that required meeting her earlier than usual and because of the exciting and tense night before, most of the TravBuddies were still in dreamland early on Sunday. However Brian and Merlina were up early, so we agreed to meet at 1030AM at the same meeting spot in Greenbelt driveway since that was just a minute's walk away from Greenbelt Chapel (which wasn't a full sized church, but had interesting architecture because it was dome shaped and with no windows, just wide open sides with curved pillars to support the structure). I was worried because I had also woken up a bit late and didn't start moving right away.large_1840343_14629427569768.jpghuts overlooking Taal Lake (photo by Cathy)But with some stroke of luck, I was at the meeting place at exactly 1030AM. So we went off to attend mass while Brian and the others agreed to meet at a much later time, and eventually they decided on eating at the local Fastfood place, Jollibee.

After about an hour, Merlina and I were done and we were met by the now bonded "brothers from another mother", Kimbert and Joe. Reggie had joined us as well for mass. They (Kimbert and Joe) with the rest decided to walk over to LandMark supermarket to go to the food court to get to try Jollibee and ChowKing halo-halo. I waited for the rest and especially Mark who was surprisingly silent over the WhatsApp chatroom. Everyone had arrived already and he wasn't at all making his presence felt. So I told the rest to go ahead to Landmark while I hunt Mark down at his hotel, which was less than 5 minutes away.large_1840343_14629427643324.jpgBhushan with the girls (photo by Cathy's camera)I manage to get into the lobby and ask to ring his room, talk to him while he was still groggy, and mention that we will just be around until about noon since we plan to have Jollibee anyway. Once that is done I meet with Joe and Noel and we walk over to Landmark.

While at Landmark most of them order Jollibee burgers or Chicken while some order ChowKing Halo-halo, including Joe. In case many of you don't know, halo-halo is a unique dessert found only in the Philippines (although the Malaysians have ice kacang and the Thais have something similar) which includes a hodge-lodge of sweet ingredients. Every household and Fastfood joint has their own unique halo-halo, but ChowKing has one of the more popular and delicious ones - their ingredients include ube (purple yam), sweetened banana, at least two varieties of beans, leche flan (custard), sago and gulaman (gelatin), dried pinipig bits, lots of ice and mixed with evaporated milk, and the piece de resistance - a scoop of ube ice cream (or even two scoops).large_1840343_14629427709912.jpgNolan with the girls (photo by Cathy's camera)Because it is sweet, it appeals to children of all ages (including the adults who act like children). Earlier in the week Brian, Jon and I had halo-halo at a ChowKing in the Mall of Asia area, which most of us enjoyed including Jon who thought though that the sweetened banana was weird.

Because there would be eventually 12 of us going to Tagaytay [Tagaytay-travel-guide-1310742], I had to drive the SUV while our driver brought the van. That would mean more comfortable seating for the 7 of them in the van, since the last time we went to Tagaytay with TravBuddies back in December 2014 (with Christian, Solveig, Margunn, Peter, etc.), we were 10 and it was a bit tight. Sure I know TravBuddies don't mind squeezing into crammed vehicles with each other, but I was slightly worried that the van would lose power steering fluid (I had it serviced earlier in the week but the power steering leak didn't go away and even got worse), so I made sure we had lots of supply of power steering fluid just in case.large_1840343_14629427517075.jpgLizbee doing a model pose with photobomber Fa down below (photo by Cathy)We all divided the group into the van riding group and SUV riding group. Later on we would have to rearrange the seating arrangement because some people had to be back in Makati by 9PM (like Maine who had to do online work, and Noel who had to catch his flight to Cebu [Cebu-travel-guide-1293094] at 11PM).

So all of them were in the van except me, Merlina, Brian and those who were following late (Mark and Maine - again). I told Mark to just wait at his hotel instead of the meetup place, and when Maine finally answered her phone I told her we would pass by for her near her place in Makati. The rest of the group was to be led by Cathy and Reggie. Apparently on their way to Tagaytay they got disoriented and passed through a different exit at the expressway, so that meant that we in the SUV would be able to minimize the time gap since we took longer to pick up Mark and Maine.large_1840343_14629427679232.jpgBhushan again with the girls (photo by Cathy's camera)While I wasn't privy to what the topic of the day was in the van, in the SUV it was more intellectual stuff and travel - as Maine loves those topics, especially astronomy and science. No rush, as I knew where to pass going to Tagaytay. Cathy later on called to say that they went to the picnic grove and would wait for us there. We eventually arrived and met up with the group, although took a while to decide where to head once we gathered together as some discovered "chicharon" or pork rinds. This one though, while good, was too dry. Thus people ended up buying more drinks before heading down to the viewpoint.

While at the viewpoint, photo shoot mode dominated - all kinds of photos, courtesy of at least 5 cameras and one selfie stick. Once everyone was satisfied with the photos taken at the ridge of Tagaytay and the view of Taal Lake and volcano, somebody suggested the Sky Ranch which is more like a mini carnival a few kilometers further ahead.large_1840343_1462942774685.jpgMerlina with the guys (photo by Cathy)Hmmmm...not really a good decision as the place was packed with weekend revelers, and even deciding on where to eat became an issue. And now the pressure was building on some people to go home after dinner (well, Noel had a flight to catch...but of course, he wanted to make sure they got to see the sunset...which was the start of the famous sunset jokes). We ended up in a place that served pizza, chicken wings and the like. Despite the rush, people still managed to take photos. So now this was where we separated the "no rush" group vs. the "in a rush" group as it was already way past 6PM and it would take at least 2 hours to drive back to Makati. I won't put much details anymore regarding the "in a rush" group except to say that they were somehow caught up with bad traffic at the entrance to the tollway, and eventually Maine had to cancel one hour of online work.large_1840343_1462909111897.jpgAt Sky Ranch, Red Engine DinerNoel still made it in time for his flight, as traffic to the airport wasn't as bad despite the fact that less than 24 hours earlier, it was complete chaos when Terminal 3 was hit by a blackout. And besides, one of the reasons the rush group had to get back was that some of them weren't able to pack up for the following day's flight to Cebu, including previously undecided people like Kimbert who finally was able to book his ticket online in the evening using Brian's iPad.

So now that leaves us with the "no rush group" - Bhushan had exchanged places with Maine so he joined me, Merlina, Brian and Mark who stayed behind a bit longer at the dinner venue, and we were going to chill out in Tagaytay a bit as Mark had promised to treat me for coffee. Starbucks would have been one of the options as their store had a great view of the lake during the day or at night, but I wanted them to try the local coffee place which was very popular called Bag of Beans.large_1840343_14629091141639.jpg I remember from many years ago that Bag of Beans just started with a few tables in one small building just a little drive after the main Tagaytay ridge area, but it had now expanded the original place and added at least two branches. What I didn't know was that they had taken over a big house on the ridge and converted it into a fine dining restaurant called Charito, after the name of the owner. I saw the sign on the road on the way back and hurriedly pulled into the driveway. What we arrived at and saw was beyond my expectations - it was a very elegant place, good lighting and architecture, and it had just opened two weeks prior! So we drive up and park under the trees, walk to the main building, and choose a nice table somewhere near the ridge so we get both a view of Taal Lake and the building itself.large_1840343_14629091197555.jpg The photos will speak for themselves. Since we were full from dinner, we just ordered drinks, coffee and a couple of desserts. This was a place to chill out, talk about many topics, without having to worry about the traffic that was plaguing the other group that went ahead.

So finally past 9PM we decide to leave Charito and Tagaytay, and I drive back at a leisurely pace with far lesser vehicles on the road. However we did notice that the tail end of traffic was still very much alive once we got into Alabang [Alabang-travel-guide-1343942], and it took a bit longer than usual to get back to Makati. Not as bad as the other group though. I drop everyone off at their respective places of accommodation in Makati, including Mark at the meetup point from earlier in the day, as he said he would be the one to get the TravBuddy banner that Cathy forgot at Red Box a couple of nights before.large_1840343_14629092803074.jpg (Well I did bring another banner just in case). Tomorrow, Monday would be the big day for going to Cebu, and we were in for a few more surprises.

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Posted by NT01 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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