ocean city 2014

boogie board

boogie board

The Alliance of the Two Hearts prayer group at Infant Jesus Parish usually plan beach outing each summer and this year we went back to Ocean City, NJ. The beach was just an hour away from us not to mention this seemed better than Wildwood. The group went to beach after we came back from Dominican Republic, which was great because we got to join them, coming from me who disliked the ocean or the sea. I guess, my reason going to the beach was my family first and then I got to relax and enjoy people watching.

We got to the beach early to get cheaper parking and to get a prime spot on the beach. We put up our umbrellas and tables, yes tables, for our food. If you could have seen our group carrying coolers and other stuff one would think that we were going tailgating.  The beach was not crowded when we got there but it did not take long. Click here or just click the picture above to see other photos.

 

punta cana DR day 5 vacation

sunrise at punta cana

sunrise at punta cana

Our last day in Grand Palladium at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, had come to an end. It was a nice vacation, it was not long and it was not short either. It was just right. Yes we were going to miss the open bar and the smorgasbord but we had to go back to our daily grind and start saving for the next vacation.

Since we had packed most of the stuff the night before, they had time to go to the beach one last time and enjoy. I still did not swim and all I did was just to be their personal photographer. I enjoyed the sunrise and the nice cool weather.

After the swim, we headed back to our rooms and gotten ready to checkout. But before we checked out we went for breakfast one last time, picked up our luggages and settled everything at the front desk. We waited at the lobby for our shuttle ride back to the airport.

Goodbye Dominican Republic, it was a great time and we hope to be back soon. Click the picture above or just click here to see other pictures.

punta cana DR day 4 vacation

zip line

zip line

Our last full day at Grand Palladium Punta Cana in Dominican Republic. It was a busy day for us, zip lines in the morning then spa in the afternoon.

After breakfast we had to travel about an hour and a half to Anamuya Mountain where the zip line adventure was located. The travel was okay except for the last half an hour because the mountain road was not exactly a paved road. It was a bumpy ride. Our guide was so informative by sharing things about Dominican Republic. He said that they have the largest gold deposit in the world. Their share the island with Haiti. The gasoline price is outrageously high and they use motorcycles as some sort of taxi. They have rolling blackouts except for tourist spots and they use bottled water for drinking and cooking and rain water for everything else. You will see tanks on top of their houses for collecting rain.

The zip line adventure was awesome. There were 12 stages and the crew were so helpful, they even rigged my goPro to my helmet. However, the videos did not come out the way I want them because instead of pointing level or down it was pointing upwards, bummer. You can click the zip line adventure to check out their website and additional information.

When we got back to the resort, the girls have a spa schedule while mine was still 7PM for a massage. But I had a duty to reserve for the elusive Japanese restaurant. I chilled in the room and decided to stop by the restaurant by 530 PM. When I got there, there was a great number of people in line. I was able to reserve for 830 PM dinner. Went back to the room to get change for dinner but need to stop by the spa for my massage.

We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant, hibachi style, and it was actually a let down. It was not even close to what we were accustomed to back in the States. I really could not tell why it’s always booked every night.

After dinner, we went to lounge in the lobby and had a couple of drinks before heading back to start packing up and sleep. Click the pictures above or just click here to see other pictures.

 

punta cana DR day 3 vacation

stingray bay punta cana

stingray bay punta cana

The scheduled activities for that day was swimming with the sharks and snorkeling in the afternoon. That morning we were free to do anything after breakfast and I suggested to rent a speed boat as was suggested yesterday. We went to the beach to rent a speed boat, it was $100 for two hours, and we needed two. However, we were not told to make reservation, hence, we were not able to do so.

Why the heck did I suggest the banana boat instead? What was I thinking, I don’t like the water because I cannot swim. Minutes after into the banana boat ride, the guy running the boat made a quick turn then the banana boat being pulled by the boat tilted and down we went. We were all wearing a life vest but mine was a tad bigger and I thought i was still sinking. Panic set in and I was so afraid. The guy did not even know that we were already in the water. Got back to the boat and my wife, daughter and sister-in-law decided to go back again to the banana boat and I stayed in the boat. Again, minutes later the guy did the same mistake again and they all fell in. I decided to just go back to the shore and ended the ride.

That afternoon, we went to go swimming with the sharks but I told them that I will not join them snorkeling nor swimming with the sharks. We boarded the party boat and brought us in the middle of the ocean where they have this huge fenced in structure where they kept nurse sharks as well as sting rays. I only went to touch the sting rays and went into the water (it was just shallow). The belly of the sting ray was so smooth and slippery and it was the direct opposite of its top part which was rough (like sand paper). They went to another tank where they can snorkel while the sharks swim under them. I was just taking video of them  as well as submerging the goPro to get a look at the sharks.

Before the party boat went back to the shore, we stopped in the middle of the ocean and most of the people were led back to the open sea to snorkel. Then afterwards, the crew host announced it was an open bar and gave us some food to snack on. They opened up this big bottle of Mamajuana for us to taste. It was a mixture of rum, wine and honey, and it was strong. They claimed that it’s some sort of aphrodisiac. There were a lot of dancing while going back to the dock.

Click the picture above or just click here to see pictures taken during that day.

punta cana DR day 2 vacation

macao public beach

macao public beach

The second day was our first full day at the resort. I needed to give my resort voucher to the manager which I had to contact my travel agent. She was kind enough to email all the things I needed: the voucher for the resort and the voucher for the shuttle transportation from/to the airport. Went to the front desk after breakfast and sorted everything out.

We also talked to a travel agent at the lobby for other things we may want to do outside the resort. My wife and sister-in-law booked us for an adventure buggy ride that same day, swimming with sharks and snorkeling the following day, zip lining the next and for the last day a spa.

While waiting for the adventure buggy, they spent their time at the resort beach and used the kayak (included with the resort stay). After their kayak, they spent more time swimming and I just enjoyed my mojito strolling along the beach. If you want to save a lot of money, all you need to do is stay in the resort and avail of all that is included. All food, all drinks and all shows. Well you can eat the whole day and get drunk from sunrise to sunset if that’s what you want.

We ate lunch and grabbed some take out just in case we get hungry doing the adventure buggy. We got picked up outside the main lobby and we went out the resort and picked up several more people from other resorts nearby and we drove for half an hour. This was a case of getting something different from what was pictured or even stated by the travel agent. The buggy we used were not as great as in the picture, we thought we were able to get a decent buggy and drive it along the beach but no. We got to drive a crappy buggy and drove it along the DR public roads. Our first stop was the public beach called Macao. The beach was gorgeous, better than our resort beach. We parked the buggies and got to spend half an hour there, most of them swam. Then the next stop was the tobacco and chocolate plantation, we got to listen to a presentation then purchase some of their products. Then the last stop was to their self proclaimed best attraction, the underground river. This was a photo opportunity because they took pictures of you while you dove into the water which was dark and cold. Then we head back to where we started and board our shuttle back to our respective resorts.

We then prepared ourselves for dinner and it was an experience. There were buffet restaurants that you just need to walk-in while there were other restaurants that were sit-down, where you need reservations. The reservation was tricky, you needed to fall in line around 5:30 PM at a restaurant you wanted to dine in to get reservation. If the restaurant was popular then you need to be there earlier otherwise you will be fine.

We were unlucky to get seated at a Japanese restaurant hibachi style, it was one of the popular restaurant there. We just got lucky to dine in at a Greek restaurant, all of us in our group agreed that the only dish worth eating was the ceviche.

After dinner we went to the resort main lobby to listen to music and grabbed a few drinks before calling it a night. Click the picture above or click here to see other pictures. All the pictures were shot using GoPro Hero +.

punta cana DR day 1 vacation

grand palladium beach resort

grand palladium beach resort

This vacation was some sort of a gift for our daughter’s 18th birthday as well as high school graduation. We have planned this way ahead of time since she does not like to have some sort of an 18th birthday party like most of young ladies do. At first it was a trip to Rome or something but it proved to be expensive for five people (including their auntie).

My wife found a deal at groupon.com.  It was unfortunate, though, that our son was not able to make it due to summer class and we have to eat the cost even though we purchased travel insurance. The insurance did not include such excuse, contrary to what was explained by the travel agent.

This was my second air trip this year considering I don’t like flying a lot or should I say I don’t like flying at all if all possible. The flight was okay compared to the 14 hours flight from Chicago to South Korea.

Touching down in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic was an experience. After the plane touched down and parked we were ushered down the steps and waited for a bus to bring us to the terminal for customs and luggage. Lucky for us, I was able to convince my wife to travel light and just had one hand carry per person. But I always need to carry my camera bag with me regardless.

As soon as we cleared customs, which by the way we need to pay $10 per person, I realized that I made a mistake. I did not have any travel documentation from the travel agent, I found out that they were supposed to email those to me two weeks prior. We were able to talk our way through getting in on our shuttle as well as getting admittance at the resort.

After we settled in our rooms, well the ladies went to check out the beach before dinner. I went along and took some pictures, click here to see other pictures or the picture above.

3 may 2014

villa escudero

villa escudero

We planned to go to Villa Escudero last time we met at Cainta, Rizal. We were discussing about logistics on how to get there and who were going. On the day of, which was 3rd of May 2014, only the Aussies (7), Jhay and family (3), Theresa, JC, the Santa Rosa (4), and Cavite (3). All in all 19 people and can you imagine we all fit in one van.

The van came from Cavite then picked up the group in Manila (12) then picked up Santa Rosa (4). The drive that morning was not bad because we did make good time. We arrived in Villa Escudero (San Pablo Laguna) just before lunch time.

We parked the van and we went to get our ticket. For a day pass it was P1400 per person, which included the pool use and the raft use, the cultural show and lunch buffet, roughly $32 US. Jhay and I initially thought that it was KKB (kanya kanyang bayad), dutch treat, however, Tita Rosita told us that she will pay for everybody and gave Jhay the money. Thank you again Tita.

Of course even before we went inside the villa grounds we took pictures and I guess it was an experience for the Australians to ride in a cart pulled by a carabao (water buffalo). Don’t know if they noticed that the carabao walked towards the cart and positioned to where it should be to pick up the harness to pull the cart, it was pretty awesome.

It was my first time to go there and it was an experience to eat lunch where your feet are submerged in water. The water flows from a river above that powers a small hydroelectric plant.

After lunch we watched the cultural show and opted out from swimming. Instead some of us took the raft ride, it was a two person raft and you paddle around the body of water. I rode with my cousin Lolita, cousin Jhay was with his wife Bless, and my brother with cousin Charmaine.

The worst part of the trip was heading back home. It took us forever to get home because of traffic. It felt an eternity and when they dropped us home in Santa Rosa it was already almost 9 PM and they still have long ways to go.

Click the picture above to see others or just click here.

26 april 2014

sunset

manila bay sunset behind sofitel

It has been 22 long years since I have not seen my Tita Sita as well as my cousins Charmaine and Lolita. With my Tita was his husband, Bruce. With Charmaine were her husband, Peter, and two lovely kids, PJ and Serenity. Lolita was by herself. They all flew yesterday and they were all staying at Sofitel except for Lolita who was staying at another hotel nearby.

I arrived at the Manila International Airport close to midnight of the 25th of April 2014. I left Philadelphia 7:00 in the morning of the 24th of April 2014 then connected to Chicago to Seoul, Korea then Manila. The total flight time was about 20 hours. We have to circle for about half an hour above Manila before we landed. The landing could be better because the plane was trying to level itself until the touchdown. It felt like the plane would have tipped over during landing, either the pilot just got his license or it was windy.

Once you walked through the tarmac, the heat and humidity heats you. Damn! I was still wearing my hoodie from the flight and I had t quickly take it off. Then the dreaded crowd to the immigration, it took almost an hour to clear customs, I don’t know why but I guess there was just no organization or everybody just arrived at the same time. After customs was the baggage claim. Another hour or so was wasted. One of the passengers who was making the connection to Davao was yet to see his bags.

I was walking down the ramp to the exit around 2 AM. I was looking for my parents, who were picking me up that time. There was a mad dash to the parking exit and we were able to clear that ordeal after more than half an hour or so. We had to pay the penalty because my father misplaced the parking ticket and that was an automatic 500 pesos plus the 100 pesos parking fee (about $15 total), it was not bad but in the Philippines that was a lot of money.

It was still about an hour drive away to get home but we have to stop to grab some quick eat. When we finally got home, I unpacked and slept because a few hours later we will going to see my Tita and cousins from Australia at Sofitel.

The picture above was taken by the pool side of Sofitel hotel. The first thing I noticed was the stench of the bay (it was the smell of the bay plus the pollution). No hotel guests swam in the bay, as expected, but I could not say the same thing for others who reside near the bay.

The hotel was built on a reclaimed area where Imelda Marcos built the Manila International Film Theater back in their time (which I believe was no longer used). There were a lot of stories about this theater but that will be for some other time. I think they need to build in reclaimed areas because Manila is already crowded, they need to tear down a lot to build hotels like Sofitel.

Click here  or click the picture to see other pictures I took that day.

lady of czestochowa

our lady of czestochowa church

our lady of czestochowa church

This posting is long over due because I have taken this picture October of last year. Our prayer group suggested to visit the church of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA. Some were able to make it and attended the mass and afterwards ate at their cafeteria to sample the Polish dishes.

It was a huge place. They have a living Rosary, station of the cross in front of the church, a museum and cemetery. After lunch, I did take the obligatory shots with family and friends, then I went on my own to survey most of the church grounds. Click here to see other pictures.

 

jim thorpe

jim thorpe

jim thorpe

This is my second time to visit Jim Thorpe, actually the original name of this place is Mauch Chunk. The first time I visited this, my wife and I stopped by from Eagle Rock before driving home, we went to a small museum in the town and watched a video about the town’s history and how the name came to be. We just strolled the town for a little while and my wife did a little shopping.

The picture above was taken during a train ride which we were not able to do the last time we were there because it was closed for the season. It was not a perfect weather for the ride since it was cloudy and rainy but we we have to make due with what we had. I will probably go back there because there was so much picture opportunity, specially when you are on foot.

The picture was a composite of a single shot processed two ways. One was converted to black and white and the other was colored enhanced. Then used onOne software to process in Perfect Layers, I just did a simple mask to show the colored layer underneath. Click here or the picture to see the rest of the pictures I took.