I wanted to spend my birthday by the beach, so E and I decided to hit Cebu.
I only wanted to spend a couple of long, lazy days lounging by the beach (and/or a pool), but E turned the trip into an entire backpacking escapade, which we weren't prepared for, btw. For one, we were lugging around our maletas, which made land travel via public transportation difficult.


First stop, Cebu City.
We checked into Quest Hotel, a three star hotel located in the city proper just across Ayala Center Mall.

Let me just start off by saying that I'm not one to splurge on hotel accommodations. Fancy hotel rooms are for indoor lounging, and indoor lounging is for when you're not out of town!

First night in Cebu was spent relaxing and shopping in Ayala Center for canyoneering gear (inexpensive rubber shoes that can stand a mountain trek, rash guards, and a couple of dry sacks from Travel Club).

We had lunch at Abuhan Tres (disappointing) and dinner at Larsian, a market full of fresh seafood and grilled barbeque! That one ginormous rat I spotted casually hanging around one stall aside, I extremely enjoyed Larsian. The scallops were to die for.

Day 1 Expenses:

Quest Hotel (1 night) - approx. Php3,000.00
Canyoneering gear - approx. PhP8,000.00
Abuhan Tres lunch for two - approx. PhP830.00
Larsian dinner for two - approx. Php900.00

Next day, we boarded an early morning Ceres Bus at the South Cebu Terminal to Moalboal for Php113.00 per person.


This was where I originally intended to spend my birthday.
We checked into dreamy Club Serena and booked the Beach Front House.

Club Serena was very peaceful, whimsically decorated, and located quite a distance from the more populated hotels and the tourist-infested White Beach.
Check out the Club's romantic table settings:

Food was ordinary and nothing special. Service was slow. Don't go there for the food.
Go for R&R and quality time with your loved ones.

They also have a huge pool deep enough for scuba diving training (since Moalboal is popular for its diving spots).


We booked a boat for dolphin-watching at sunrise and snorkeling for Php3,000.00 through Club Serena. The package included boat rental for 4 hours, snorkeling gear, 3 snorkeling sites, a boatman and a guide.

Tip: There are plenty of locals that offer tours for much cheaper rates. Everyone, including cab and tricycle drivers, know of people they can recommend to take you snorkeling, hiking or canyoneering. Of course, service may not be as good or the guides not as professional as the ones associated with hotels. On the one hand, trust that the locals are familiar with the territory and know what tourists and travelers want. But on the other hand, it's always a good idea to research first and/or ask friends for local guides they can refer.

Our boatman said dolphins don't always come out at sunrise. But it was my birthday so I guess we got lucky. There were families of dolphins that came out to swim with our boat!

I didn't have an underwater camera at that time so I had zero photos of the schools and schools of sardines and other marine life we saw. We even saw a couple of pawikans swimming peacefully deep below us. It's clear why Moalboal is a diving hot spot.

After lunch, we checked out of Club Serena and boarded a tricycle to Badian where our canyoneering  guide was waiting for us.


We booked our canyoneering guide when we were already in Cebu City. Very last minute. We were lucky to be accommodated in spite of the peak season.

Our tour was PhP1,500 per person, inclusive of life vest and helmet rental, habal habal ride to and from the canyoneering site, and dinner at the end of the trek.

Our guide, Clyde (0936-852-9177 / 0927-896-0553), first took us to their house to leave our maletas and get into our gear.
Aside from life vests and helmets, Clyde and his group also have rubber shoes for rent (for chumps who think they can go canyoneering in slippers).

Canyoneering is more popular as an activity that involves jumping off of cliffs. In reality, we spent more time climbing and trekking through semi-jagged and semi-slippery trails (which is why slippers is not a good choice of footwear for this activity), and wading through streams, than jumping into water.

There are low jumps that are somewhere between 15 to 20 feet, while the highest is at 60-65 feet! There are also minor 5 to 8 ft jumps.

Being the sissy that I am, the highest jump I made was at about 20 meters. E, on the other hand, jumped every cliff, including the highest!!!

Tip: All jumps are optional. Don't let your guide force you into making a jump you're not prepared to make. Instead, you can choose to hike down the slopes.

At the end of the route is a small cafeteria near the famous Kawasan waterfalls where trekkers can cap off their day with simple lutong bahay meals.

Clyde told us that the trek is usually completed in 4-6 hours depending on the hikers' speed. E and I did it in 4 hours, about 2pm to 6pm.
It is best for bigger groups to trek in the morning rather than in the afternoon since they tend to take longer to complete the route. Starting out in the morning means less chances of having to hike in the dark after sun down.

After dinner, we rode a habal habal to our next destination, Oslob. We wanted to spend the night in Oslob so we can swim with the whale sharks first thing in the morning.

The habal habal ride was a long 40 minutes. It wasn't the fastest, nor the safest, way to get to Oslob but since public transportation become scarce as early as 6-7pm, the habal habal was our only option.

Tip: If your canyoneering schedule is in the afternoon, arrange for your ride back to your hotel or your next destination before you start your trek. It is extremely hard to look for public transpo once the sun sets.

Days 2 and 3 Expenses:

Ceres bus from Cebu to Moalboal - PhP226.00 (PhP113.00 per person)
Club Serena for 2 nights - PhP4,354.65
Club Serena Boating and Snorkeling - PhP4,000.00
Club Serena Kitchen (2 meals for 2) - PhP2,667.00
Canyoneering for 2 persons- PhP3,000.00


Our Oslob hotel was BCD Hotel, right in front of the whale shark interaction site. Our room was small and basic, but clean. Considering that the hotel was conveniently located and we booked our room late, we had no complaints.

We got up early morning on the next day to swim with the whale sharks. It was an amazing experience! Some of the whale sharks were babies, I believe, and no larger than a small bus. They were gentle and docile. One overly comfortable whale shark even swam underneath our boat and grazed my legs with its fin.

After checking out of BCD Hotel, we rode another bus en route to Car-Car for some choice lechon and chicharon before heading to the airport. My favorite part of Car-Car was the free samples of lechon handed out by different stalls. When in Cebu, right?

Day 4 Expenses:

Habal habal from Badian to Oslob - PhP800.00
BCD Hotel accommodation for 1 night - PhP1,500.00
Swimming with Whale Sharks - PhP1,000.00 (PhP500.00 per person)
Bus from BCD Hotel to Car-Car - PhP200.00 (PhP100.00 per person)
Car-Car Lunch - approx. PhP300.00
Bus from Car-Car to Cebu - PhP300.00 (PhP150.00 per person)
Cab to Mactan Airport - PhP280.00
Baguio is a good 4 to 5-hour drive from Manila, so when E and I go for a visit, we make it count by hitting as many foodie finds as possible. I love going around and checking out new flavors in the city. There's always some new joint popping up making food bloggers re-do their lists of top restos in Baguio, which only makes it easier for me to map out an itinerary.

Here are some places I've enjoyed in Baguio-- from blogger recommended to accidental finds.

1. Cafe By the Ruins
Pinikpikan, Scones and Ernie's Camote (camote bread), Baguio Bounty Salad (with strawberry vinaigrette), Baguio Bagnet (served with padas bagoong), Chocolate de Agua, Iced Tea
First up is the crowd pleaser Cafe By the Ruins. Long queue aside, I enjoyed everything about this place. Festive but quiet ambiance, attentive servers, and really good food!

I especially loved the clean taste of their Pinikpikan flavored with watercress and celery, and their super soft camote bread. Not a fan of the Baguio Bounty Salad because I didn't like the strawberry dressing, but I appreciated that they didn't scrimp on the shrimp, chicken and fruits in the salad.

2. Baguio Craft Brewery

As a beer lover, Baguio Craft Brewery is hands down my favorite spot in all of Baguio. From the varied selection of beers to the bar grub served with impressive flare, this place has got me coming back for more.
Over our multiple visits, I noticed that their menu changes periodically. Is that intentional or just an availability issue?

 I love that they are not afraid to kick up the heat in their food. Way too many restaurants are hesitant to bring the heat on even for food marked "very hot" or "extremely hot" or whatever. But Baguio Craft Brewery packs on the heat and I love them for it.

3. Tsokolateria Artisinal Cafe

 This is a cozy and intimate al fresco-only restaurant located along a downward sloping compound in Upper Session Road. They are primarily a hot choco place, but their food menu piqued my interest as well. Unfortunately, we were too full from an underwhelming dinner at the nearby Hill Station to order anything more than the Sili Labuyo Choco Blend. The chocolate was rich, thick and leaves a nice heat as it travels down your throat.    
Sili Labuyo Tsoko Blend

4. Canto Ketchup Community's Lomo Ribs
Lomo ribs, hot chocolate, lychee gulaman
As recommended by every other food blog, we ordered the Lomo Ribs. It was juicy, tasty and nothing short of wonderful. I'm not even a fan of any kind of barbeque sauce, but this just hit the spot for me.
Their drinks were pretty, but a huge disappointment. For one, their hot chocolate is without a doubt, just a packet of Swiss Miss. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, but since they are in Baguio, I never would have expected them to resort to commercially available chocolate powder.
The lychee gulaman tastes nothing like lychee or gulaman and tasted exactly like sugar diluted in water.

5. Sage
Creamy Bulalo Steak, Baked Shrimp with Garlic and Herb Cheese
I wasn't too keen on trying this restaurant because I wanted to try the more laid back, more Baguio-unique establishments. But Sage turned out to be a gem, and I'm glad we tried it.

I loved my baked shrimp and pasta. The shrimp was cooked to perfection (at least by my standards) and the pasta was al dente, but served a bit too dry. The meal wasn't perfect, but the attentive servers, charm of the place made up for it. 

6. Ili Likha Artist Village's Lihim ni Maria
Lihim ni Maria
This treehouse is home to several small stalls that sell an assortment of food and drinks. We came here for Balbacua and Urban Kamote's Balbacua which was highly recommended by some of the blogs I follow.
Turned out, I'm not a fan of Balbacua. We did find something delightful here though. Lihim ni Maria is green glop that's not very pretty, but is totally wonderful. It's a concoction of basil and mint, and is like a shake version of mojito.

7. Hill Station's Death by Chocolate
Death by Chocolate
Hill Station is a crowd favorite that just miserably disappointed me. From the service to the food, everything was just a huge miss for me. I found the servers impolite and generally inattentive, and food takes forever to be served. And note that this was around 6pm, early dinner time where not a lot of people are coming in yet. In fact, the restaurant was close to empty when we came in.
The best and only thing i enjoyed during our first (and most likely last) dinner here was their very popular Death by Chocolate -- a luscious, creamy, smooth and properly gooey rich, dark chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream. It was so spectacular that I will probably go back to Hill Station not for a full meal, but only for this.

8. Tea House's Chona's Delight
Chona's Delight
Another chocolate dessert to die for! Two layers of smooth chocolate cake with generous dollops of cream in between. It might look like a huge mess unceremoniously crammed into a clear plastic bowl, but I loved it so much I came back to Tea House before heading back to Manila to get 3 more!

9. Solibao's Puto Bombong
Puto Bombong
Freshly-made puto bombong served with butter and sugar melting all over its warmth. While I'm generally not a kakanin person, I thoroughly enjoyed snacking on this. 

There was a time when my NC35 normal to combination skin started becoming oily and I decided to try switching temporarily to powder foundation. I went to MAC and told the MUA that I was in search for a "powder foundation with light to medium coverage".

On the box, this product is described as a "silky, mineral-rich powder foundation that brushes on to deliver medium buildable coverage and a radiant look. Gives skin a smooth, natural dimensional finish with exceptional luminosity and a velvet-smooth, comfortable feel." -- While I've developed a liking to this product, the description is completely misleading.

This loose powder gives extremely light coverage and did not cover the light red spots I have in the area around my nose. I tried to build up the coverage, but it ended up cakey and highlighted dry patches on my face. Even with a couple of layers, the coverage this powder provides is nowhere near medium.

I cannot call this a foundation simply because it barely covers anything and does nothing to even out my skin tone. Rather, I use this as a setting powder which I buff into my skin on top of a layer of BB cream. The light to medium coverage from my BB cream + the barely-there coverage of this loose powder give me the right amount of coverage and oil control I need for my every day makeup.

Another issue I have with this product is the packaging that is most certainly not travel-friendly. A little nudge can cause the finely-milled product to go through the built-in sifter and fly everywhere when the cover is lifted. If I absolutely have to take this with me, i just make sure to place it in a bag such that the container does not get flipped around while I'm mobile. On the daily, I just use a different powder for touch ups.

The Smoky Bastard bar is the best seats in all of Hole in the Wall! They sell local beers, no food, but they will gladly let you sit on their bar whatever grub it is you're chowing on.

I'm all about supporting local businesses and I love that Smoky Bastard carries local craft beers. During my very first visit when Hole in the Wall just opened, they only had around 3 beers. Now they have an entire lineup! Oh and they made my day when I found out they had Pedro's Elementary English Ale right when it first came out.

You'll want to sit at the bar. It can get very stuffy in the little nook where their tables are.

More and more I find myself gravitating towards neutral lip colors and these two from Mac are the ones I'm reaching for the most: Cosmo (Amplified) and Mehr (Matte).
While these are not really neutrals, but more on the pink side of the spectrum, I find both to be MLBB shades that's wearable everyday compared to my brighter pinks, reds and oranges. 

Left: Cosmo (Amplified) | Right: Mehr (Matte)

Cosmo is a creamy light brown shade that hints ever so slightly of peach with a yummy shiny finish that makes my lips appear plumper, while Mehr is a deeper blue-based pink. The difference in the two is pretty obvious (to me, at least) when I wear them on my lips. But looking at my photos, I was surprised to see that the colors look almost exactly the same! Makes me think that owning both might be a superfluity.

Left: Cosmo (Amplified) | Right: Mehr (Matte)

I love the creamy finish of Cosmo! It's a true MLBB that doesn't wash me out. It glides on smoothly and applies evenly. My only issue is that the color isn't as long wearing. But oh I am so in love with its shiny finish!

Left: Cosmo (Amplified) | Right: Mehr (Matte)
Taken under natural lighting

Mehr is a deeper pink that's a shade away from burgundy when applied heavily. The formulation feels comfortable on the lips and applies evenly, compared to other mattes from Mac like, say, Pink Noveau, which I find to be very drying and difficult to apply.

Left: Cosmo (Amplified) | Right: Mehr (Matte)
Taken indoors

I find Cosmo and Mehr to be MLBBs in spite of not being neutral shades because they strangely look like one's true lip color. They're not screaming divalicious shades, they don't wash you out, and they go with absolutely everything! 
I usually go for Mehr when I have a full day of meetings because it makes for a more polished and professional look, or when I have a ton of work and cannot be bothered with touch ups. Cosmo is my pick for days when I'll just be sitting around the office buried under piles of files.