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Joey Carlotta

47 Blog Entries
15 Trips
228 Photos


Northern Luzon Loop (CANCELED)
2007 Carlotta X'Mas Family Road Trip
Previous Trips - Visayas
Previous Trips - Ilocos
Previous Trips - Batangas and Mindoro
Previous Trips - Laguna Lake Loop
Bohol Beach Club
Baguio Via Cabanatuan & Alternatives
Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx)
FOOD TRIP (An On-going Adventure)
Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
Northern Luzon Loop (Take 2)
Sunday Drive - Taal Lake Loop
Mindoro Day Trip
Bolinao – Subic – Mariveles

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Day 4

Manila, Philippines

By noon on our last day we had finished with business and it was time to head home. We could have stayed on a bit more but I wanted to avoid the rush hour traffic on EDSA. These last few kilometers always takes a toll on me specially after a long trip and several days away from the comfort and familiarity of home. There was a slow down near the exit of NLEX because of an overturned truck but EDSA, Coastal Road and Zapote-Alabang proved light and I was relaxing on my LA-Z Boy by 4 PM.

I start to feel the aches and sores from the drive coming on as the adrenaline from the drive recedes but it is with a sense of satisfaction as I review the details of the trips. We achieved our intended objectives plus a good time was had to boot. Personally, I traveled a new road, visited a new place and saw the changes or lack thereof in the places I had been to before. All in all a very satisfying and productive trip.

Getting back to those tricycles, please heed this word of caution. It was not bad enough that they were going about 5 kph on a national road, I noticed that they would intentionally put on their brakes to further slow you down. When waiting for oncoming traffic to pass before overtaking these menaces, your tendency is to tailgate the pests. Don’t! They will time it to slow down further right when you are about ready to pass them. You will be fortunate if you have quick eyes and reflexes and these will only work with the tricycles that have working tail lights. I noted that in most stretches there are narrow outer lanes which would appear to be intended for the use of these tricycles but they insist on staying in the very center of the road. This is a very dangerous problem which I think demands the attention of the concerned authorities. These are accidents waiting to happen if they haven’t happened already. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE ABOUT THIS! BAN TRICYCLES FROM NATIONAL ROADS!

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on November 21, 2008 from Manila, Philippines
from the travel blog: Bolinao – Subic – Mariveles
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Day 3

Mariveles, Philippines

With business taken care of early and no other meetings scheduled until later in the day and early the next, the team and I decided to take a side trip to Mariveles in Bataan. We gathered that the drive would be 2 hours to get there. We left Subic at 10 AM exiting the Tipo Gate and entering the SCTEX for a short hop to the Dinalupihan exit.

This is one heck of drive. There road is highly elevated allowing magnificent views of the ocean on your left and ahead while on your right you see the majestic peaks that make up most of the backbone of the Bataan Peninsula. The road was not particularly great and this was obviously due to the many fuel tankers coming to and from the refineries. The Death March markers guide you all the way. In an hour and a half we were on a zigzag road heading down to the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZA).

After looking around and deciding that there were no promising hotels or resorts in the area, we spotted a trade fair in the office grounds of the BEPZA. Being with two women, we just had to stop. What promised to be export overruns of the factories in the facility there turned out to be junk from China available in Divisoria and most tianges in Manila. Still, the girls came out of there with bags of supposedly Christmas shopping. We had lunch in a seaside restaurant and were on our way back by 2 PM.

The seaward view is dominated by Coregidor Island and the distant shore and mountains are actually Cavite. Coregidor Island is so close that you can hire a banca to get there. There are several spots along the road that advertise this facility. Heading back, the road level climbs again past the zigzag and there is a place to stop to take in a fantastic and unobstructed view of the island. The milestone for our stop was kilometer 7 of the Death March trail. There is a good concrete road heading down to the shore along which we parked. Behind you will be the equally fantastic sights of the mountain range of Bataan.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on November 20, 2008 from Mariveles, Philippines
from the travel blog: Bolinao – Subic – Mariveles
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Day 2

Subic, Philippines

After making all our calls it was time to head to Subic but a visit to the old church was in order. The Bolinao church was built in honor of St. James who has been attributed for protecting the town while the surrounding areas would get devastated by typhoons. Outside the church there is a monument commemorating St. Ordonico, an Italian priest who supposedly said the first mass in the 1300’s there in Bolinao debunking history books claiming the same in Cebu in the 1500’s. The church will be celebrating its 400th year anniversary next year and a fete is in the planning. I hope that the sons and daughters of Bolinao come to the aid of their church as the interior is in a bad state. It is such a shame for something so historic and worth being really proud of.

We left Bolinao at about 10 AM and were informed that the drive would take about 4 to 5 hours. As earlier mentioned we turned southward in the town of Bani instead of going all the way back to Alaminos. The interior roads in this part of Pangasinan are narrow but well paved making for a pleasant drive. The countryside is resplendently green and beautiful as we move inland again before returning by the shore in Zambales. We stopped in Iba for a leg stretch and a smoke midway of the leg and arrived in Subic at about 6 PM. Please note that there is a town before Olongapo named Subic and not to be confused with SBMA which is in Olongapo. It is still half an hour to an hour from the town to Subic to SBMA depending on the traffic which can build up as you get closer to Olongapo proper.

The beaches along this stretch are really great and it is a wonder why no big resorts have been established. There are a number of islands off the coast that make for good day trips and even overnight stays. Past Iba you will notice the profusion of pine trees on the dunes by the shore. Nearer to Olongapo there is Crystal Beach in San Narciso which is a surfing destination but definitely not a place to swim specially for children. There are rooms and cottages for rent right on the beach. Surfing lessons and boards are likewise available.

The problem with the tricycles in the Alaminos to Olongapo road is just as bad if not worse than the Romulo Highway since traffic is denser. I don’t know if these guys talk to each other but they all have same modus operandi of slowing to a crawl when cars behind them are waiting to pass. Better to keep a safe distance from these pests.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on November 19, 2008 from Subic, Philippines
from the travel blog: Bolinao – Subic – Mariveles
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Day 1

Bolinao, Philippines

I was told that the driving time to Bolinao using the Romulo Highway is 5 to 6 hours. Since my starting point is in Las Pinas, I added another hour to that. I had agreed to a meet-up time of 8:30 AM along EDSA with my team so I promptly left the house at 7:30. Traffic was relatively light on this departure for a change but I was still late for the appointed time by a few minutes. After a quick bite at Jolibee we were off by about 9 AM. After an hour or so we were exiting towards Luisita from NLEX where stopped for a cup of coffee and a smoke.

There is a further exit from NLEX coming out past Tarlac City but this will cause you to backtrack if you are going on the Romulo Highway. In any case, Luisita was an intended layover as it is such an agreeable place and a pity that they have not been able to make a real go of it. I enjoy the tree-lined streets and the expanses of sugar cane fields but you note a sense of abandonment and disuse. Robinson’s has taken over the mall and this will hopefully start to liven up the place. But in reality, a stop there is a must as it is the last Starbucks until Baguio and the end of civilization as some of us would prefer it.

It is a short distance from Luisita to the junction to Alaminos on the National Highway. It is actually a fork with a roundabout. The Grand Prix Hotel next to the Victory Liner station is a very visible landmark. Turning left on the fork and getting off the National Highway, you enter what I assume is the city proper of Tarlac. As you will often experience along this route, you will get to a one-way road with no signs to inform you what to do or where to go next. Turning right and then left on the first street, we crossed a major bridge after which we stopped to get directions. Fortunately it was a lucky guess and we were soon on the Romulo Highway and back in the countryside.

This road presents a pleasant change from the countryside we are familiar with passing through the National Highway going to Baguio or La Union. The landscape is very green and wooded if not flat and completely planted with rice. The road is asphalted with stretches of concrete and in very good condition. Gasoline stations quickly become few and far in between so I suggest you load up in Tarlac if you are low or particular about your fuel. We also discovered that there are no ATM’s until Alaminos so cash up too for incidentals. Despite the pesky tricycles slowing us down on the road, the towns flew by very quickly and we finally got a view of the sea somewhere between Labrador and Sual. Sual is big of fish with numerous stalls selling fresh catch along the road. Watermelon seemed to be in season too.

The drive from Tarlac to Alaminos is about another 2 hours. Alaminos is the last major town heading the opposite direction from Dagupan and Lingayen. It is really quite small but relatively busy. A mall has gone up since the last time I stopped there 3 or 4 years ago for lunch at McDonald’s on the way to Subic from Baguio. They now have Chowking and the ever present Jolibee as well. All the major banks also have branches there including BPI where we got some money. In the heart of Alaminos is a junction with one branch going to Zambales, another going to Bolinao and the third going to the wharves where you take a boat to Hundred Islands which is a place I must revisit soon. On our way to Subic from Bolinao we take a turn in Bani to Zambales that would meet up with the road starting at this fork.

Alaminos to Bolinao is another hour and a half. We missed the turn to the resorts and stopped at the town proper where we saw this magnificently old church. Getting directions to the resort area, we promised to return to explore the church on the way to Subic. It was another 10 kilometer drive on mostly unpaved road on the way to Puerto del Sol, our first stop. We passed a number of small resorts and I was starting to get worried about the quality of accommodations here specially with our business in mind. Puerto del Sol turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise and nothing near what we expected.

Puerto del Sol is a statement of class and quality. The beach is not that great but the golden brown sand is a great combination for the view of the breakers in the distance. The pool makes up for the swimming you miss in the ocean and the surrounding gardens, arranged and trimmed to perfection, almost obscure the Mediterranean style clusters of rooms made up in simplistic elegance. This theme flows into the dining area which has that old home feel with matching décor and furniture. Staying here comes with a price but worth every penny if you can afford it.

We visited other resorts which paled in comparison but had a treat at the Bolinao lighthouse which was along the way. The short climb rewards you with a sweeping view. The lighthouse and the adjoining building are very old but there was no information to be had as it was completely deserted although the lighthouse itself seems secured and self sustained with solar power and all.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on November 18, 2008 from Bolinao, Philippines
from the travel blog: Bolinao – Subic – Mariveles
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Off to Calapan

Las Pinas, Philippines

The trip started as I took off from the house at 7:30 AM. I was to pick up 2 of my staff in Alabang at 8:00 AM but was delayed by the early morning traffic on the Alabang-Zapote Road where I had to drop off my daughter to take the bus to school. Normally, I would take the by-pass Friendship Route and make Alabang in 30 to 45 minutes. Passing the main road cost me almost twice the amount of time and my travel mates where more than ready to get on the road by the time I got to them.

Alabang was quite busy for that time of the day and we were glad to be getting on the SLEX. Unfortunately, the pace was slow-going due to the road work going on all the way to the exit to Sto. Tomas, Batangas. This work has been going on for so long and there seems to be no improvement nor end in sight. It almost appears that they are dragging it out. I just dread to learn how much more they will charge for toll after they complete the improvements.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on October 18, 2008 from Las Pinas, Philippines
from the travel blog: Mindoro Day Trip
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Ferry to Mindoro

Batangas, Philippines

It was short easy leg from the SLEX exit to the Star Toll entrance. The Star Toll was light and the drive was smooth all the way past the usual Lipa exit and onto the Batangas terminus. The stretch past Lipa is considerable and seems to go on forever is unaccustomed. After paying the toll you get to the roundabout, turning right towards Lipa and back to Manila, left to Batagas City proper, and straight directly onto the Batangas port which we took. You will come upon an overpass that you should take to the pier but of note is a sign directing motorist under the overpass onto Mabini where Anilao is.

The port area of Batangas is quite impressive. It is modern and very clean. With a bit of asking for directions, we found the secured parking lot beside the ferry terminal. The SuperCat ferry was just leaving as we entered the terminal but there was a 10:00 AM ferry with another company. The people there swore it was faster but it sure looked older and did not exactly inspire confidence. In any case, we had no choice because the next SuperCat was leaving much later.

We were actually planning to bring the car over by Ro-Ro (Roll On – Roll Off) but decided against it as the hotel was picking us up from the Calapan pier and there was really nowhere else to go. This was a good thing because the Ro-Ro ship we saw was literally a rust-bucket if you ever saw one. It also took the Ro-Ro boats 2 hours to get to Calapan as compared to the 1 hour of fast-craft ferries.

The ferry ride was uneventful and quite pleasant. The remaining coastline of Batangas is dotted with a number of oil refineries. They are quite a site at night as they are all lit up and there is usually flame coming out of some smoke stacks or vents. The seas were very calm and there was very little motion except between tip of Batangas and Verde Island and between Verde Island and Mindoro. The body of water between Batangas and Mindoro is called Verde Island Passage and connects the China Sea with the Pacific Ocean. Acting as a funnel of sorts, the currents can be brutal. I have seen both sharks and dolphins on previous crossings. On one particular night crossing we were treated to phosphorescence all the way.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on October 18, 2008 from Batangas, Philippines
from the travel blog: Mindoro Day Trip
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Mission Accomplished

Mindoro, Philippines

We arrived in Calapan 11:00 AM on the dot. The port area is much smaller than Batangas but just as modern and clean. The hotel shuttle was waiting for us and it was a short drive by-passing Calapan proper which we unfortunately did not get to see at all. The Filipiniana Hotel is the only hotel of note in Calapan if not the entire Mindoro. It was formerly a Microtel hotel and the first one in Asia for that matter. The owners have since taken over management of the hotel headed by Arnold Valencia.

We got to know our host and prospective business partner over a nice lunch and got down to business right after. After a bit of negotiating and a lot of banter, we were done by 2:30 PM, signed contract and all. By 3:00 PM we were on a SuperCat headed back to Batangas. How I wish I had more meetings like this. I hope to be able to visit again to see more of Calapan and possibly have a drink with Arnold who is a real nice guy.

The SuperCat is newer than the ferry we took in the morning. The only downside is that they stuffed too many seats in the cabin making for a tight and rather uncomfortable ride. In any case, we slept most of the way back and were in Batangas by 4:00 PM. We wanted to have a snack before hitting the road but that would have meant going into Batangas City which did not appeal to any of us. We decided to just push on and have an early dinner in Rose and Grace or in Leslies in Sto. Tomas.

The Star Toll was just a light as the morning drive and we were in Sto. Tomas by about 5:30PM. Unfortunately, this is the hour when most factories along the road let their employees off so the traffic was heavy and the drive very slow. The restaurants we planned on eating in were on the wrong side of the road and it was going to be a real hassle crossing the traffic on the national highway so we decided to push on a have dinner in Alabang instead. Even more unfortunate was the even heavier traffic on SLEX. We each had a cup of coffee in one of the gasoline stations about halfway to Alabang and finally rolled into Festival Mall by about 8:00 PM. We had a bit of a feast at Serye to reward ourselves and I was home before 10:00 PM, tired but satisfied from the otherwise pleasant jaunt and a mission accomplished.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on October 18, 2008 from Mindoro, Philippines
from the travel blog: Mindoro Day Trip
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Drats! Foiled Again!

Las Pinas, Philippines

Typhoon Fengshen has just passed Manila, serving us a direct hit, and is on its way north. The rainy season has finally caught up with us, rather abruptly, and has once again dashed our plans to head up the mountain hinterlands. Stay tuned as there will definitely be a Take 3.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on June 21, 2008 from Las Pinas, Philippines
from the travel blog: Northern Luzon Loop (Take 2)
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The City of Smiles

Bacolod, Philippines

We were off to Bacolod after 5 glorious days of doing nothing and getting properly rested. The recent availability of wireless Internet access in the area made it just perfect giving me email and contact with the office. The trip to Bacolod took 5 hours on another Ceres bus. I never tire of the sights in Sipalay. The bus also entered the old mining town of Maricalum to pick up passengers there. Travelling this route, one must remember of sit on the left side of the bus in the morning and the right side of the bus in the afternoon to avoid the sun. Countryside soon gave way to commercial buildings and ox carts to tricycles the closer we got to Bacolod City.

It was pleasant being back in Bacolod after some time. To enjoy Bacolod one must learn to let go of the need to always be on the move and to do something common among city folks. This is the only way to go with the flow and the flow is slow, very slow. And to appreciate Bacolod one must like to eat. There is really little else to. The highlights of each day are the meals that one takes and it not uncommon to be discussing where the next meal will be had even before the current is finished. Definitely a place after my own heart. On this trip we had the chance to catch up with some old friends Toto and Leilah and we had dinner in a new place called Louise. I made an entry in FOOD TRIP about Louise as well as the L'Fisher lobby restaurant, Ripples.

I might also add that Bacolod is my favorite place to shop. They have all the regular shops in the malls but there are still the boutiques of old that I always check out. I got all my overrun Nautica shirts in a shop called Mix and on this trip got a pair of the lastest style of Sperry Topsiders which I have not seen in Manila in another called Pelts, both in the Robinsons Mall or Rob as the locals call it. With all the old houses and affluence of the past, Bacolod is also a good place to get antiques. For sure, these people have taste and style in a class of their own.

The trip soon came to end and it did not feel like we were gone for 10 days. It did not feel like we had done much but that was the whole point of the trip. Still, we had fun including the trip from Dumaguete to Hinoba-an. Getting back to Manila on a Saturday gave me a chance to regain my bearings before getting back to work. The trip was also intended as a break after the worries and emotional upheavals related to the illness and death of my mother so she was never far from my mind. Since my wife is primarily responsible for the care and welfare of the kids, I found myself with nothing and no one to worry about for a change. This left a big empty feeling within. A consoling thought is that she has gone ahead to a different kind of trip and adventure which we will all follow at some point in time. It was time to let go.

Happy trails!

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on May 28, 2008 from Bacolod, Philippines
from the travel blog: Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
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The Last Frontier

Hinoba-an, Philippines

Why this road has been left unpaved for so long is a mystery to all. Mind you, most of it is on the Hinoba-an side of the border. The seascape and mountain sceneries are fantastic but the ride was so horrendous that I was able to take only one reasonable picture while holding on for dear life. We were able to manage front row seats beside the driver and the experience was like riding a mechanical bull, going through ruts and potholes that would have swallowed whole a normal car. The fact that we were on a giant rattle trap did not help. Current efforts at concreting the road became more evident as we got closer to the town proper but these were only half the lanes and still too fresh therefore still unusable. Complete disregard has been given to the remaining unpaved road which made it all the worse. It was with more than a sigh of relief that we entered the bus terminal at last and not a minute later.

A short tricycle ride brought us to the home of my mother-in-law and we must have looked a sight as she could not suppress her laughter upon seeing us but was very apologetic for being the cause of our travails. We had endless glasses of cold water to clear the dust from our throats but it took several showers before I felt properly cleansed and fit. It took two days for me to recover any sense of feel in my rear and for the pain from the bumps and bruises to go away. We did not venture far from the house for the rest of our stay except to go for a swim in Happy Valley and to visit with some family of the wife. Being one of our regular vacation spots, I have written several other entries about Hinoba-an so I will skip further narative on the place.

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on May 25, 2008 from Hinoba-an, Philippines
from the travel blog: Cebu to Bacolod via Dumaguete
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