Laiya beach was a recommendation I got from some good friends in The Philippines.
Even if I could not find any relevant information about Laiya in the Lonely Planet, I decided to give a try (after all, there are a lot of places not mentioned in travel books).
So just after my visit of Taal Volcano in Tagaytay (link here ..), we decided to head to the South coast of Luzon in the Batangas province and look for Laiya beach. At that time, I didn’t have any expectations, I was guided more by the curiosity and also the possibility to find a relax place to stay before to travel further in the Philippines.
As usual, I was travelling with a private jeepney, I was carrying some food supply with me (just in case I could not find any food at Laiya..).
After reaching Batangas city, I made a quick stop in the city to buy additional supply (drinks, snacks ..) and then I was hitting the road again. It took me a while to find the beach but I made it and honestly speaking, it was worth the effort.
The water at Laiya was pristine and you could walk far in the sea before to get the water reaching your waist, the beach was nearly empty (it was not the peak season yet …). If you like busy and crowded place such as Boracay for instance, I believe this place is not for you, instead if you like places outside of beaten track and enjoy quiet and laid back location then I’m sure you may like it.
During my stay, I ate mainly seafood (crabs, squids). There are some fishermen around and I was able to buy fresh and tasty seafood at a very low price. I used a local barbecue to prepare them.
I spent 2 nights in Laiya and it was time for me to carry on my journey in The Philippines..
For the one who are interested, I stayed in this resort
Note: Below, I inserted the instructions about how to reach Laiya by road, if you see any errors in my description, feel free to let me know and will update this post. Good luck !!
How to reach Laiya beach from Manila:
- Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx),
- Take the exit 50 (direction of Batangas, Legaspi),
- Drive around 7 km
- Turn right towards the Star Toll Way entrance.
- Once you reach Star Tollway, you would need to drive all the way to Lipa City
- About 20km later, take the Tambo/Lipa Exit.
- Turn right and drive towards Lipa City.
It becomes a bit tricky here:
- Just before the Mcdo, you will see a Y-intersection, take the right side towards C.M. Recto Avenue.
- On C.M. Recto Ave. you will turn right at the corner of the Mercury Drug store and you will find yourself on P. Torres Street..
- Drive about 8.5 km towards Padre Garcia town.
- When you see the road sign pointing to Padre Garcia, go on the left turn.
- Once you pass the Padre Garcia Town Market, you will turn right and drive about 4.5/5 km. At this point, you are about 19km from San Juan. Keep driving.
- You are nearly at destination.
- Once you see the Batangas Racing Circuit, take left, the road will bring you directly to San Juan Town.
- You will pass the Dunkin Donut and Park n’Go store then you should reach San Juan Municipal Hall.
- Straight after San Juan Town hall, turn right. At this point, you are finally on the main road of Laiya.
- Just follow the main road. After a while, you will start seeing various beach resorts.
If you have been to Laiya, feel free to share your impressions by leaving a comment.
Taal volcano is certainly one of the most popular volcano in The Philippines.
Follow me in my journey to the top of this volcano. As you know probably, volcanoes in The Philippines are numerous, some are more active and dangerous than others, but there all have in common one aspect which is their fascinating beauty. Today,there are still 25 active volcanoes in The Philippines.
In this post, I want to discuss about one in particular, Taal Volcano. Its last eruption was in 1977 and up to now the volcano still show signs of activity.
Some facts about the volcano:
Note: The activity of the volcano is monitored by the Philippines Institutes of Volcanology and Seismology (their main task is classified volcanoes in the Philippines in 3 categories : active/potentially active/inactive but also monitor any volcano in the Philippines having seismology activity and finally the Institute is also issuing warnings when it’s necessary).
If you are interested about volcanoes, I recommend you to go to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Tagaytay (located at Baragay Buco). Admission is free. Open 8am to 5pm.
Access to Tagaytay from Manila (based on the info I collected):
Example: From Baclaran, take a bus going to Nasugbu or Mendez), below LRT, Manila.
A day trip or a night stay in Tagaytay:
Well, it’s up to you, both scenario can be considered. My suggestion will be: leave Manila early in the afternoon, so you can reach Tagaytay end of afternoon and see a fantastic sunset on the Taal lake and spend a night there. If you are an early bird, you can eventually see the sunrise on one of the most popular volcano in The Philippines.
There is the various type of accommodation for all kind of budget. You can also picnic in some parks available on the ridge. If you plan to stay for the night, I recommend you to have a dinner at Antonio’s restaurant or at Josephine..
Don’t forget, as you are in the area, to eat the local delicacy which is a buco pie from the outlet “Colette”.
Tagaytay is located 640 mt above sea level. When you come from the hot and stuffy Manila, there is no doubt you might enjoy the cool breeze of the South Sea of China (average temperature is around 23 degrees celsius) in Tagaytay.The city lies on a long and narrow ridge of around 20km that overlook the Taal lake (the ridge is part of the volcano complex called caldera).
The volcano can be seen from the ridge of the city of Tagatay. The view is magnificent because you have the complete panorama of the volcano complex in the middle of the Taal Lake. Perfect time to watch the volcano is during sunset or sunrise.
Once you are in Tagaytay city, you will be approached by many touts that will offer you boat rides or packages, of course they take a commission. We decided to refuse their offer and deal directly with boat owners/operators.
From the ridge, until the harbour, you will need to take a tricycle (very easy to find…or they will find you). Once you find one and agree on the price (back and forth, expect to pay around 200 pesos), you will start your journey down all over the ridge through a large number of zigzags until the bangkas area. The downhill is very enjoyable, it takes around 15 min, I wished I could have taken some pictures.
Right in front of us, we had one of the most famous volcano in the Philippines. Taal volcano is in the middle of the island, and on the right side you can see a cone which is the dormant Binintiang Malaki volcano.
We met a boat owners/operators, and we start discussing the different offers she has in her catalogue.
We finally agreed on the following package: 4000 pesos include boat + meal for 4 people and a guide. At that time, we were asked to take horses, we declined it so the owner told us it was fine but we will surely be asked on the island by horses owners to hire them (and she was right …).
Boat: no choice, you need a boat to cross the lake in order to reach the volcano island. The trip by boat was a great fun. Keep in mind the lake can be agitated and expect to be partially soaked if it’s windy.
Horses: you will be pushed to take horses to climb the trail until the top of the volcano. About the trail itself, you can easily do it by walk (the trail is very dusty, so expect to have your feet dirty with ashes and dust on the trail…). By walk, it will take around 30 min to the top and the level of difficulty is easy.
Meal: I have to say, we have a fantastic meal once we were back from the island. Great diversity, fresh products (fish, veg) and in abundance (you have a shot in the gallery below). The lake is producing great fishes, you should give a try.
I found the price of the package decent and fair !
On the island:
After crossing the lake and reaching the volcano island, lot of horses and their owners are waiting. Some of them approach us and proposed us to take horses.It become rapidly annoying. I could have taken horses, it was just a couple of pesos after all, but we sticked to our decision.
Why I refused to take a horse:
Factor 1: I simply don’t like to be forced to do something (it’s my nature). I got all kind of excuses (the trail is very difficult, I will be tired, it’s too hot).
Factor 2: Horses are in very bad shape. Their owners are unfortunately not concerned about the health of their horses. Those poor animals are filthy, and some of them you can see signs of malnutrition….
How useful is the guide assigned:
To be honest: none. He just there to bring you up, don’t expect any knowledge in volcanology or geology. In short, the guide is the local person, who received a commission to bring you up and down and make sure you don’t get lost (there is only one trail, there is no possible way to get lost). My recommendation is: DO NOT TAKE A GUIDE.
Note: It might be useful to have a guide only if you go a full day trek around Mt Tabaro for instance.
After reaching the top of the Taal volcano and enjoy the panorama , you can peer inside the crater and you will see a turquoise lake with spots of sulphur on the edge (you may notice the smell of sulphur gas, it might remind you some rotten eggs), I find it very impressive, mainly due to the fact the volcano is still showing signs of activity (it’s alive ).
Going to Tagaytay and see one of the most famous volcano from The Philippines was a fantastic experience, the scenery from the ridge is magnificent and should not be missed.
However due to its popularity and the proximity with Manila, the place is becoming over-exploited by tourism industry and its deviance and does not take into account the eco-system of the area.
I do recommend everyone to go there if you have an opportunity because after all, it’s not every day you have a chance to see an active volcano but don’t forget this eco-system is fragile and need to be respected cautiously.
I hope you enjoyed this post and find it beneficial, feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you want additional information. Thanks again for your constant support.
Until next time.
Jose Rizal is certainly one of the most popular icon in The Philippines
When I was in Manila a few months ago, I went to the Rizal Luneta Park. Well I know, it’s pretty much a “tourist spot” for everyone coming in Manila, but somehow, it’s “MUST SEE” place in order to understand who was Jose Rizal.
In the park, you have a full section dedicated to the national hero. One thing that striked me was the scene representing the execution of Jose Rizal. Each characters, made in metal (I presume), have on their faces the marks of intensity, fears, anger, sadness …The scene is absolutely powerful.
If you want to get more information about Jose Rizal, you may like to go to Fort Santiago, located in Intramuros, where there is a shrine dedicated to the national hero. You will find some of his writings but also a replica of Jose Rizal cel. This part of the museum is often visited by schools….
If you want to know more about the Filippino National Hero Jose Rizal, you can go to the two links below:
El Consejo de los Dioses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/José_Rizal
I want to finish this post by some popular and famous quotes of the national hero:
* “He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and smelly fish.”
* “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.”
* “While a people preserves its language; it preserves the marks of liberty.”
* “There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves.”
* “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”
* “The youth is the hope of our future.”
Over the last 10 years, I noticed a strong increase of Au-Pair coming from the Philippines in Europe. Having myself a kid of 9 years now, I was exploring at that time (when he was a toddler) with my partner the possibility to enroll to an Au Pair program but at the end we just found another way. The Au-Pair program provides an excellent way for families to have a nanny at home that can help them by taking care the kids and take part to the house-chores and who speak most of the time a decent English ..the Au Pair program is also by far a cheaper alternative for families living in The Netherland than putting your baby or kids at the crèche (you need to pay 1000 to 1300 euro a month 5 days a week and the quality is not always there). Au-Pair candidates are coming from various country (Philippines, Brazil, Russia, Poland …).
Being based in Amsterdam and traveling often I was surprised to see more and more Filipina in the Netherlands but I got totally surprised when few years ago I went to Copenhagen for a couple of days and had the strong feeling to be in Manila ..Filipina were everywhere …I found it totally unreal …Later on I read a few articles mentioning that 75% of the Au-Pair in Denmark and Norway are from The Philippines.
So I began to question myself about this trend such as: how lucrative is this line of business and who are the beneficiary, is it well-regulated ? My little finger was telling me that I will come across some blur areas ..
Overall, like everyone else, I’m used to see Filipino workers on boat (cruise or cargo) or in several airports from Arabian countries such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi (on duty-free shops) or working in constructions or in hospital (The Philippines has certainly provided the best quality nurses around the world) but I was not aware about the Au Pair program was a popular gateway for Filipina until recently.
Why Au Pair job is popular in Philippines ?
From Filipina standpoint :
- Decent salary (check this link: http://www.nannygps.com/aupair_salary.jsp#netherlands)
- Can help their family
- Opportunity to leave the country (The Philippines) and high possibility to settle down overseas
From the European family standpoint :
- Filipina au pair are reliable and most of the time well-trained
- Speak good level of English
An interesting paradox is the fact that the Filipino Government put a ban on Au Pair workers (the ban was put in place in 1998 after report of abuse of Filipino au pairs) and this ban is still active (at least for the Netherlands but it was lifted in 2010 for Denmark,Norway and Switzerland). So, how is it possible then that, despite that ban, there was and is still a strong demand of Filipina Au Pair in The Netherlands and that demand manage to be satisfied despite the Filipino ban ? The answer is rather simple : every agencies based in The Philippines providing Au Pair workers are by-passing the interdiction via some backshish (we are talking about 150 to 200 euros per candidate) paid to the authority of the airport of Manila. So my question is: Where does this money goes ?
Let’s talk about numbers for a while:
Price to join an AU PAIR program (in short, how much a Filipina need to pay to enroll to the Au-Pair Program):
- Before you are matched Au-Pair candidates pay the following:
* 40,000 pesos for the TESDA accredited Household Services NC II/YES au pair certified training, by Cultural Assistance Training Center Inc. in Makati.
* 1,500 pesos for a medical examination
* 500 pesos for a passport
Total : 42.000 Pesos (+/- 750 euro)
- When you are matched you pay the following:
* 3,000 for legalisation of papers
* 60,000 Cash bond – totally refundable after you finish your year as an au pair
Total: 63.000 Pesos (+/- 1120 euro) but 1060 euro will be refund
* This is an example I took from a reliable Au Pair Agency based in the Netherlands.
Backshish to pay at Airport : 150/200 Euros (to be paid by the Au Pair candidate)
How much a family in Europe need to pay to join the Au-Pair program (what does it include..): the host family need to pay some administration fee to the agency (it can vary from one to another …we are talking here about a few hundreds Euro)
How much an Au Pair/nanny earn:
In Denmark, an au pair is earning +/- 2500 kroner with free board and lodging (equivalent of 20k pesos)
In the Netherlands, they are earning on average : 300 euro with free board and lodging (they earn more if they stay illegally, their salary tend to be around 600 euro a month but of course it implies all risks of being caught by authorities …)
In Belgium, they will earn +/-450 euro again with free board and lodging.
In order to augment their monthly “salary”, many nannies are willing to work a couple of extra hours “un declared” by cleaning houses for instances. For instance, it’s very common in Denmark for nannies to clean a few houses a month in the neighborhood where they live and consequently earn some extra kroner (how much per hour) …It can become quickly an interesting and lucrative business (it’s a deviation of the Au Pair program but difficult to regulate).
Limitation of being au-pair : TIME, their stay are limited so therefore it’s very important for nannies to earn as much as they can while they have the Au Pair status.
I had a discussion with a Filipina who stay in the Netherlands and in Denmark as Au Pair and she was sharing her experience with me (see below):
What are the advantages for a Filipina to enroll for an au pair program ?
To participate in an Au Pair program is an advantage and i think the program is now compulsory under 2010 new regulation. Check http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/global-filipino/10/29/10/filipino-au-pairs-can-now-work-3-european-nations for more information.
Au pair program helps avoid all Au Pair candidates from having culture shock. Being in this kind of program will make oneself ready and aware about a lot of things in the country of destination. For example, from the fact that the weather are totally different, cold, etc. Not just mind preparation, but also, for an au pair to get an idea what kind of clothes to pack. In the program they will be taught as well how to deal with the local people. What local people’s expectation and a lot more. They will be given a language lesson as well (if they will be destined in a non-english country). This will be very useful if an Au Pair would like to go out, meet other friends, or go visit another city. You will be able to find your way on train stations, bus stations, city center, etc.
How long is the training program last ?
The program last depends of the agency (Yes Au Pair batch 2006 is one month, this includes History, Language, and other activities such as cooking, swimming, cycling, fitness, or something that your host family requires).
My training was about 1 month.
How much as au pair do you need to pay to the agency to be registered ?
Is there a selection to join the program or it’s open to anyone ?
Under the POEA guidelines, a Filipino Au Pair should be between 18 and 30 years of age, unmarried and without any children, placed under a cultural exchange agreement with the host family for a maximum stay of 2 years for the purpose of immersion in cultural and language training.
During the employment, the au pair should be enrolled in a school to learn the language of the host country. They should live with the host family and treated on an equal basis with the members of the family.
The Filipino Au Pair should be given pocket-money and share in child care or light household chores and other responsibilities before agreed upon in a contract between the au pair and the host family.
Why did you choose to enroll to an au pair program
I chose to be part of the program as it was compulsory by my agency and that it was for me the easiest way as I don’t have to worry what will be the next step of the process. Agency will help you with the step by step procedure.
Is there any obstacle for leaving the country (The Philippines) because Au Pair are banned in The Philippines ?
Yes, cause The Philippines NAIA employee (not all of course but a lot) will try to give you problems just to get some money. This happens whether you are an Au Pair or just another kind of traveller.
How much was your salary once you reach your family in Europe ?
How was your accommodation and conditions of work ?
Accommodation and condition were generally good. Of course host families are different from each other.
Is there a possibility to extend your stay in one family or move to another country ?
By the time I was an au pair, it isn’t possible to extend. If ever this will be allowed by the immigration, host families will need to pay A LOT which is not worth for a week or 2 weeks extension.
Can you explain your experience in Denmark ? How did you find a family ?
My Denmark experience is quite good. I found my host family thru connection while I was in The Netherlands
Did you sometime had the opportunity to increase your income by cleaning houses for example?
Yes, there is plenty of opportunity thru friends or even directly from your own host family.
Is it easy to find houses to clean in Denmark ?
Most of the time, it isn’t that difficult.
Is it the same in The Netherlands ?
Yes, about the same. You can even try to find part time job thru advertisement online.
Is there regular control in Denmark ? (checking black job ….) ?
Is there possibility to get extra income aside of your salary you get from your family ? is it a popular option ? explain ?
- Money paid to Airport authorities (where the money goes ? …it would be interesting to see how much under table money Airport authorities are receiving from Au-Pair but also regular traveler ….I heard several shocking stories of corruption in that Airport) .
- The fee received by the Au Pair agencies by each Au pair candidates (750 euro ++++), I would be very keen to see the cost breakdown and their profit margin
- Deviation of the Au Pair program that bring some alternatives for the Au pair to work in black (but at the end, I can’t say it’s a bad thing because when you are thinking for a minute, how much a Filipina need to pay to join an Au pair program and also the fact they might be the only source of income for their family, I don’t blame them).
Some interesting links:
Mt Pulag was absolutely a key point in the preparation of my itinerary for my trip to The Philippines.
This mountain (Mt Pulag) is the third tallest mountain in The Philippines (2922 meters) and is located in the Cordilleras in the north of Luzon. I was a bit curious about how mountains in The Philippines look like, but also about the hiking possibilities in that area !
I admit that I struggled a little bit in terms of logistic preparation (difficulties encountered in terms of finding information was the major challenge ).
The best way to reach Mt Pulag National Park, is to go through Baguio. From there, you have the option to go by taxi (expensive but faster at destination) or by local bus (cheap option but time-consuming). Arriving at 3AM in Baguio from Banaue (12 hours bus) with the night bus , I chose the taxi as I didn’t want to spend another 4 hours in a bus to complete our journey. It took us 2 hours to reach the entrance of Pulag National Park Office. But the effort was well worth it !
While waiting for the office to be opened (they were still sleeping when we arrive, so I suppose they are not used with early birds like us …), my partner and I decide to stop at one of the very few shops open, and make some supplies for the day. Needless to say we were also starving (which is not a good sign when you are supposed to start a hike of several hours ….) we, immediately, took control of the kitchen inside the shop and cook a very decent breakfast ! Luckily, the shop owner was very understanding and kind with us. Finally we were ready to hike to the summit of Mt Pulag.
At the registration office, aside of paying for the permit (15USD), we had also to attend a short course (10 min top chrono) that gave us a good overview of the park rules but also raise our awareness about environment and learned that the park was part of sanctuary (Mt Pulag is considered sacred). The course was compulsory …
Keep in mind that the registration Office is located at 11km from the entrance of the park. You can go by walk or chose to go by motorbike. There are a couple of young people riding motorbike who always propose you to bring you to the entrance of the park….(prepare your $).
We chose to go by motorbike and hum hmm it’s an experience I do not want to try anymore and I do not recommend to anyone …they are riding very fast on dirt track and believe me, mistakes are just not allowed, sharp eyes are needed while riding ..my legs were shakings …
I want also to mention the particular behaviour of young people living in that area (I’m talking about teenager who has motorbike). It’s a fact that once they see you, they consider you as a pack of $. They didn’t show any agressivity towards us, but we could clearly see there is a strong competition and jealousy among them.
At the entrance, it’s pretty straightforward, a guide was waiting for you. So we decided to go for the Ambangeg trail (the easiest trail of Mt Pulag) we didn’t take anything with us (we left our luggage at the Office), except a small bag for the day and we did not plan to camp up there, it was a wise decision as a large group arrived just after us with intention to camp.
Look at the wheel of the jeepney (they came all along from Baguio)! 4wd ! Rock& Roll !
The path is very easy and straightforward to Mt Pulag summit and I’m still wondering if the need of a guide is really justify….But well, it’s good business for the locals (who mostly belong to Kankaney and Ibaloi ethnic groups) as they are really living remotely and depending mainly of the agriculture and farming activities and having an extra income can always help !
Talking about the Kankaney and Ibaloi, you can clearly see they belong to “high altitude” people, there are strong similarities with Nepalese, Tibetan, Peruvian.
We slowly go up and scenery start to change, as you can see, trees are disappearing and Mt Pulag emerging:
At that altitude (around 1800/2000 mt), you see pine trees, baby bamboo, and flowers you won’t see at lower altitude. Temperature is slowly going down as well.
After a climb of 2 hours, we reach the Grass land, which is the last stage before reaching the summit. The environment changed completely (I understand now, while Mt Pulag is called the bald mountain). You should start wearing your fleece (temperature is about 10C degrees)!
Reaching the top of Mt Pulag didn’t show any major difficulties, but we were happy to reach the summit of Mt Pulag as we all had a very long day !
And of course, we had the chance to see a majestic sea of clouds
Now it’s time to go down. It took us 2 hours to go until the entrance of the park, say goodbye to our guide and Mt Pulag, but our day was not over yet, we had to find a way to go back to the village where the Mt Pulag’s office is located. We just didn’t want to go all the way down by walk (another 2 or 3 hours), so this time, we went down by truck, standing at the back of the truck !
Again it was a strange feeling, because the truck driver was telling everyone that he was about to go down to the next village and that’s why he was bringing us with him and for FREE (of course he requested a fee, but the money had to be given secretly), and I could feel the truck driver didn’t feel at ease. By going down with the truck, we met the young people who brought us with their motorbike, and it was clear they were not happy we were using a truck to go down.
The feeling is like being in a roller coaster (you must be ready to jump out of the truck if ever it goes wrong …), the driver really amazed me ! We reach the office early evening, and of course no bus to go back or taxi …we had no choice but to ask the hospitality of the Office ranger who kindly allowed us to sleep in their house/office. Yeah yeah ok, the fact we push a bit (tears in the eyes ..) helped certainly
Next day, back to Baguio with the local bus (only twice a day), it took us 4 hours, but it was fun ! Expect to share space with locals but also chicken, box of vegetables……Awesome experience ! Highly recommended without any shadow of doubt
Last but not least, I was happily surprised to see a National Park so well maintained, yes this place is not a heavy tourist spot and I hope it will stay as it is now.
Recommendations and tips :
- Accurate information can be found through this link: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/
- The hike itself is not difficult and can be achieved within a day, just make sure you eat and drink on regular basis and do a couple of stop and most important enjoy the scenery !
- You can surely organized your trip to Pulag by yourself (I noticed some agencies are charging way too much), just be flexible in terms of timing.
- A recommended contact is Albas Emerita (firstname.lastname@example.org) she is working as DENR Park Superintendent for the Mt. Pulag.
One last word and a recap :
Keep in mind that tourism has not touched yet this area, it’s still very authentic and charming but unfortunately some violence might occur among local people. The main cause of violence is jealousy ! Believe it or not, but I was told by our guide that a local man, who tried to promote tourism in the area and start having a good business (by organizing hiking …), was killed by his fellow compadre ….the reason : he was earning more money than others …
If you don’t feel safe by going on motorbike to the entrance of the park, then go by walk, it s 11km, but might be safer for you.
Last but not least, don’t be paranoid, but just keep in mind there is some issues impacting local people in this area and not foreigners, and feel free to check (while preparing your trip) with local officers how is the situation.
If you ask me, if it worths going in the Cordilleras and Mt Pulag, my answer is absolutely YES, it’s a fantastic area to visit, hiking possibilities are various, people are generally friendly and welcoming, by visiting this area, you will have the possibility to see another side of The Philippines often ignored.