Address: Mogpog, Marinduque (about 182 km from Ninoy Aquino International Airport). From Balacanan Pier where the ferry from Lucena lands, take a tricycle to Paadjao Falls. After a few minutes ride past Central Mogpog towards Santa Cruz, you will see a sign on the right saying 2 km to Paadjao from the main road. Do note that there is no sign at the point where you are supposed to take a right and start walking to the falls. I didn’t note exactly how long it took from Balacanan Pier to Paadjao Falls itself, but I’m guessing it took more than an hour on a tricycle.
Admission: Free
Hours: Open all the time, but there are no lights to guide the visitor when it gets dark.

On my second day in Marinduque, I rode a jeep from the provincial capital, Boac, back to Balanacan. The distance was about 22 km (14 miles), but it took more than half an hour. The fare was P50 (a little over U.S. $1).

I met Kuya Dante Molpog who runs a store just outside Balacanan Pier. I told him I wanted to go to Paadjao Falls. He didn’t know exactly where it was, but he was willing to find out and give me a ride. [If you want a tricycle driver who is friendly and fair to tourists and who loves what he does, Kuya Dante is your man. You can reach him through his cellphone: 0930 579 9781 or 0921 562 0098. Born and raised in Marinduque, he knows this island province inside and out.]

As I wrote above, the path to Paadjao Falls was not easy to find. Kuya Dante kept driving his tricycle towards the top of the mountain. On many occasions, I got off my seat and pushed the tricycle, as the climb became too steep. It was way past 2 km from the main road. Either the sign was wrong, or we missed the path to Paadjao. Seeing that we were lost, villagers on the mountain slope told us to go back to where the bridge was. We made a u-turn and eventually saw the bridge the villagers spoke about. What an adventure! Walking a bit further, Kuya Dante and I found another bridge. Here are pictures of the second bridge.

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When I heard the sound of falling and flowing water, I knew Paadjao Falls wasn’t too far.

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This was the view from the top, which wasn’t very exciting.

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So I decided to go down. Because it rained the previous night, the rocks were a bit slippery, and the ground was muddy.

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As I was taking these pictures, Kuya Dante learned that there was a second waterfall. But we had to walk further up to see it.

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What is great about this place was that were no tourists! It was just me, Kuya Dante and occasionally some villagers passing by. Kuya Dante also found out that there was a third waterfall at the top. Carrying two cameras and a tripod, I didn’t want to risk dropping a camera into the cold water. I decided to go down instead. Here was what I found.

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I wanted to stay for a bit and enjoy the view, but I was concerned it would rain heavily again like the previous day. As Kuya Dante drove me back to Balacanan Pier, I asked him to drop me off at Mogpog Market. I bought a huge red snapper weighing 1.25 kg (2.8 lbs). Kuya Dante offered to cook the fish at his house. I met his wife (who is a school teacher) and his three children. I was told the middle child contracted dengue early this year. Kuya Dante took him to a private hospital in Lucena, and the child recovered.

This was another day of what seemed like endless hiking uphill and downhill. In this part of the world, there are often no road signs or detailed maps to guide visitors. For some people, this is a nuisance. For me, the rawness of the place indicates I was about to experience 100% adventure. Thankfully, I didn’t see venomous snakes — only fresh air around me and the sound of the leaves as the wind gently passed through the coconut trees.

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Address: Cagbalete Island, Mauban, Quezon. Mauban is about 142 km from Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Cagbalete Island is about a 45 minute boat ride from Mauban. Only two trips a day, P50 per person each way. Private boats will also take you to the island at a cost of P1000 each way.
Places to stay: Villa Noe (0915 703 2334), Dona Choleng (0998 352 0544), Joven’s (0917 984 8505), Villa Cleofas (0917 839 5852). I learned that these resorts are owned by the Pansacola siblings. Basic amenities only. Bring towel, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Private bathrooms available for extra cost. No power during the day in the entire island. In the resorts, generators are turned on from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. only.

Cagbalete Island is located east of Mauban, Quezon. Actually, Cagbalete is part of Mauban. You will need to take a boat to reach Cagbalete from Mauban. Do not go to Mauban Port unless you have paid the environmental fee in a different part of town! The tricycle driver would know where to go. The tricycle driver, however, took me to Mauban Port without securing an environmental permit — presumably so he could charge me more. He was reprimanded by a town official when she learned about my case.

The boat ride takes about 45 minutes and costs P50 per person. If you prefer a private boat, it costs P1000 for the entire boat for the one-way trip to the island. I didn’t want to take a private boat, as it is much smaller, and I didn’t want to get hit by massive waves, especially when I was carrying my cameras.

The next morning I woke up early to see the sunrise from one side of the island. This was what it looked like minutes before sunrise.

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I have to tell you that what I saw was a gazillion times better than what the picture shows…. It’s rather unfortunate my camera can’t capture entirely the magnificence of the view.

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It didn’t take long for the sun to reveal itself, initially as a small dot on the line that separates sea and sky. It felt like watching a world-class megastar appear on a Broadway stage. Words were inadequate to describe the grandeur of the scenery. Truth to tell, I couldn’t help the tears…

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It is difficult to comprehend that all the brightness you see in the picture comes from that small circle of light rising from the horizon.

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Nothing can stop it from rising…

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Every second, the colors change… It’s truly an amazing view.

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Minutes later… The sun is a bit shy today.

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I should say I deserved to witness the beginning of another magnificent day!

Unfortunately after I took these pictures, I had to leave the island. I had a flight to catch in Manila. I can’t tell you enough how difficult it was to bid this place goodbye.

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Address: Barangay Ilayang Banga, Majayjay, Laguna (about 102 km from Ninoy Aquino International Airport)
Admission: P80 per person. There’s also a cottage fee. For those who wish to stay overnight, rooms are available as well. Cash only.

To avoid Manila traffic, my brother drives to his office at 4 a.m. everyday. I asked him to drop me off at Taft MRT Station. Because there are no trains at 4 a.m., I took a cab from Taft MRT Station to Gil Puyat LRT Station, where there were plenty of buses headed towards south of Manila. I arrived in Lucban at about 10:30 a.m. The distance from Pasay to Lucban is less than 100 km, but the entire trip took over 4 hours, as I rode a bus from Pasay to Sta Cruz, Laguna, and from Sta Cruz, I hopped on a jeepney to get to Lucban. Part of the adventure was being able to experience traveling like the average person in the Philippines.

Lucban is known for its Pahiyas Festival held in May every year. I stayed at a hotel that was right in front of the Municipal Hall, as I wanted easy access to the town’s main attractions. After lunch, I asked a tricycle driver to take me to Dalitiwan. Lucban is in the province of Quezon, and Dalitiwan is in the province of Laguna. But for 150 pesos (less than U.S. $4.00), the tricycle driver was willing to take me to another province, driving uphill and downhill through winding roads in the pouring rain.

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These pictures were very difficult to compose. As I got closer to the falls, the lens got wet. So I had to take the picture from a distance. I want to go back here and take a shower!

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This was one of my favorite spots in Dalitiwan. Standing on the concrete, I felt like I was under a giant shower. It was sad that even at this place where one could imagine communing with Mother Nature there were graffiti on the stone walls.

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If I had a fishing rod, I probably would have befriended this guy and joined him. But I wonder what kind of fish lurks in these waters… Piranha? No, this isn’t South America.

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I had learned that the water in Dalitiwan comes from the springs of Mt Banahaw. It was rather unfortunate that it rained on that day. The running water was white when I reached Dalitiwan, but it changed to dirty white in a matter of minutes, as you can see in the pictures below.

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When it was about to become dark, it stopped raining! Talk about perfect timing…

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I didn’t have a Philippine mobile phone. I sent the driver a text message using my U.S. phone, asking him to pick me up at Dalitiwan. The poor guy made a mistake of replying to my text message. Because he was sending a message to the U.S., that one message must have cost him close to 30 pesos. On the return trip I paid him 200 pesos to cover that cost. He probably didn’t understand why I paid him extra, but that didn’t matter.

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Address: Km 58, Lalakay, Los Banos, Laguna (about 60 km from Manila)
Phone: (049)827-0180, (049)576-3786 (landline), (0917)626-9594 (mobile)
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
Admission: P70 per person, P300 for picnic table. For those who wish to stay overnight, room daily rate is P4000. Cash only.

I keep coming back to this hot springs resort. On my mother’s birthday this year, my brother took us to this place in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. It’s at the foot of Mt Makiling (which is the source for the hot water) and is about 55 km from my condominium in Metro Manila. La Roca is really easy to find, as it’s on the road to Los Baños from Calamba. There are two swimming pools: the bigger one is for adults and a smaller one is for children. Guests can choose to stay overnight. It’s best to come here early morning or early evening when the outdoor temperature is below 30 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, we arrived at La Roca when the sun was at its peak. Wanting to make the best of the situation, I asked my brother to start taking infrared photos. Everybody was saying something about the hot water and the hot weather. I took a swim, though. I thought the hot water was therapeutic for my tired muscles.

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If you are lucky, you will see lots of flowers in bloom and lots of butterflies.

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And this is my nephew taking a dive; these are older pictures taken during our trip to this place in January 2012.

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On my second day in Rio de Janiero, I took a cab from where I stayed in Copacabana Beach to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese). Actually, the distance was about 4 km; I could have walked! I usually take a bus, but because I had to fly back to the U.S. that evening, it was important that I saved time. I had to visit this place, as it is well known around the world for its panoramic view of Rio.

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I can see Christ the Redeemer on the other side standing on the mountain tip.

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Here I could see the mouth of Guanabara Bay which meets the Atlantic Ocean.

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Brazil will host the Olympics next year. I’m glad I made this trip before it gets really crowded here. I have to fly back home tonight. This was just a weekend trip, unfortunately.

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Many wondered how I got to the zenith of Pão de Açúcar in a few minutes, given its height of about 400 meters (about 1300 feet) above sea level. Well, I kind of cheated: I took 2 cable cars. The first cable car took me Morro da Urca, which is 220 meters (720 ft) above sea level. Here are some pictures I took inside the first cable car.

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Then from Morro da Urca I took a second cable car to the very top of Pão de Açúcar. What you see in the picture below is the second cable car.

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Of course, mountain climbing was an alternative, but given my present weight I ruled out that alternative even before the Delta 767 aircraft landed in Rio de Janiero.

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This is an example of infrared photography. I always want to capture different wavelengths of infrared light using my camera — because I’m curious about what our human eyes don’t see. Infrared light is not visible to us humans.

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This is a place where mountain ranges face the Pacific Ocean.

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I took this picture on my 2nd day in Baler. As you can see, I got a magnificent view of the bay on Ermita Hill.

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According to a story known by among the townsfolk, in the 1700s a huge tsunami hit Baler, and people who climbed to this place were the only ones that did not die from the calamity. The entire town of Baler reportedly was engulfed by the cataclysmic tsunami.

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Taken in infrared light…

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I am fascinated with infrared photography, as I like to see that which my camera can see but isn’t visible to me.

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The path to the top where the giant cross was placed was deceptive. Initially it looked like this — wooded and effortless. Towards the top it was still wooded but steep and effortful.

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The climb to the white cross involved nearly 300 steps. When I reached the top, I saw this child praying on Ermita Hill. I asked him what his wish was. He said he wanted an ice drop. I made sure his wish came true.

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When I arrived at Davao Airport, I had not made detailed plans prior to my arrival. I went online using my cellphone, looked at Google Maps and saw that the ferry terminal is quite near the airport. So I took a cab to the ferry terminal, and my plan was to cross Davao Gulf towards Samal Island.

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Taken in near infrared light, beyond the visual spectrum…. Our eyes can detect light at wavelengths in the visual spectrum. Other wavelengths, such as infrared and ultraviolet, are not visible to the human eye.

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When the ferry arrived in Samal Island from Sasa Terminal in Davao City, I looked around for a tricycle driver. In Davao one doesn’t worry about people charging exorbitant rates. This is a safe haven for tourists, and I mean every word of that. The tricycle driver who drove me around Samal Island suggested that I sail to the other side of the island — a four-hectare marine reserve in Barangay Adecor, Kaputian District. There I could snorkel and see lots of giant clams of varying colors and sizes. The cousin of the tricycle driver had a boat that I could rent. I’m always open to adventures like this. So I agreed. He sent his cousin a text message, and within the hour the cousin arrived with his boat. When we arrived at where the giant clams were, I started talking to the people who maintained the area. I couldn’t help getting very curious about the place! I learned that four types of species of giant clams — Tridacna gigas, T. squamosa, T. derasa and H. hippopusas — were brought here from Western Luzon. (I vaguely remember it was Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan, but now I’m no longer 100% sure.) The Giant Clam Sanctuary has been maintained by researchers at Davao del Norte State College. Through their tireless efforts, the giant clams now number over 3000. If only I had an underwater camera, I would love to share the images with you! While I was busy snorkeling and enjoying the colorful giant clams, I asked the two cousins to take the boat to buy fresh fish at a nearby market. When they came back, I was ready for lunch! We sailed to the small island you see in the picture. There we had grilled fish. It was definitely a fun and educational day!

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Address: 3084 N. Dillard Road, Birdseye, IN 47513 (115 miles from Indianapolis Airport)
Phone: (812) 685-2464

From Lake Monroe, I decided to drive south for about 60 miles. After an hour or so of driving, I reached Patoka Lake, which is the 2nd largest reservoir in Indiana. (Lake Monroe is the largest.) At this place, I was able to find a parking area right in front of the lake. I was lucky, as often when I find a great view I can’t find a place to park. I was looking for fall foliage, and, yes, I found it here, too!

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Address: 4850 S. State Road 446, Bloomington, IN (52 miles from Indianapolis Airport)
Phone: (812) 837-9546

Lake Monroe is about 64 miles (103 km) southeast of Indianapolis and about 10 miles (16 km) from Bloomington. Like many lakes in America, Lake Monroe is man-made; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the dam to prevent flood damage downstream. Lake Monroe is also the primary water source for Bloomington. But I didn’t fly all the way to Indiana to drink the water at this lake. I came here for the fall foliage. As soon as I got out of Indianapolis Airport, I didn’t waste time in getting to this place.

Facing the sign.

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From the top.

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When I arrived at Hoosier National Forest, I was disheartened to see that it was past foliage peak. But I don’t give up easily. I drove around the lake, and I started seeing patches of good color. Not a lot, but whenever I saw color I made sure I found a safe place to park the car and took a picture.

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I don’t know much about botany, but I do know that I am fascinated by deciduous trees and shrubs. They lose all of their leaves for part of the year — typically during the fall season. In the English language, I would be referred to as a “leaf peeper,” and I don’t like to be called as such. Can you believe that leaf peepers call their gatherings as “Leaf Peepshows”? What a smutty word. I’d rather describe myself as a “fall foliage chaser.” In Japan, 紅葉狩 (momijigari, literally “hunting autumn leaves”) is a respected tradition of traveling to areas with lots of deciduous trees showing off their glorious colors during the fall season.

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This was on the other side.

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