Freshest Footprints

How TravelBook.PH Saved My Naga Trip

It could have been a total mess after I discovered I only have below P500 balance in my bank account. That very morning, we needed to reserve a hotel room for our two-night stay in Naga.

Growing impatient, I could no longer wait for Metrobank customer hotline to ask why my bank account had been drained (I did not know I was billed that morning for our advertising campaigns). 

How can I book a nice hotel if I had no money in the bank? Thanks to one of the advertisements I saw on Facebook.

Four hours before we could reach our destination in Naga City, I launched the travel booking app and explored a list of hotels and inns in the Camarines Sur city.

I have to admit that I do not use the booking site because most of my business trips are prepared with bookings arranged directly with the establishment wherein credit or debit card details are a need. This time, I had no money in the bank so an alternative is a need.

After I keyed in Naga City, a list of hotels and inns appeared. Both affordable and expensive accommodation options are displayed on the screen. Because I wanted to see other options, I downloaded another travel booking app. However because the hotels and inns there are expensive, I got back to the TravelBook.PH platform.

Since the map of each hotel is available to check, my companion whose parents are from Bicol examined the location of my choice. I picked O and S Residences in Barangay Bagumbayan Norte.

Most booking sites ask for credit or debit card details to get booked or reserved. However to offer a new level of convenience, TravelBook.PH has come into terms with select hotels and inns- including O and S Residences-  for a no credit card needed- pay at the hotel privilege.

I logged my details and booked right away upon verification that there is a room available for us. The pain in the butt is over as I breathed deeply knowing I will no longer worry about looking for a hotel in Naga when we reach there.

How to Use TravelBook.PH

1.    Download and install the app free from PlayStore or AppStore
2.    Register an account.
3.    Key in the location of the hotel you want to search in. A mark appears if the hotel is available for the no credit card needed feature.
4.    Use the map to know where every hotel is located at.
5.    Book by entering your details.
6.    When at the hotel, inform the staff that you booked through the platform.

Why I Choose TravelBook.PH Over Other Hotel Booking Apps

1.    The choices are budget- friendly.
2.    The app is idiot-proof. Even a granny can use it!
3.    It shows the map of every hotel.
4.    It shows ratings of every hotel to be guided with your decision-making.
5.    Pricing is very transparent. What was shown to us by the site was what was billed to us.

O and S Residences was our home for three days and two nights while conducting our Facebook Boosting sessions with Leuterio Realty agents. I left Naga City thanking my friend Pia for introducing TravelBook.PH to me.

When booking on TravelBook.PH, use this code: 0243

If you want to check out O and S Residences, CLICK HERE. Watch out for my review of the place!

A Piece of Bicol Gold in Paracale

Standing on top of a guest inn in the small town of Paracale, Camarines Norte, a 360 view of the mining town in the Bicol peninsula can be seen. Small rectangular shapes float in the sea demands a little attention.

As a stranger in this town, I had to ask to know about the shapes. However the personnel from the Municipal Tourism Office quickly shared that the boxes are part of sites where kids enter holes into the sea to collect gold ore.

Interestingly, Paracale is a first class municipality that relies heavily in gold mining. In fact, we passed by Uni-Dragon Mining and Development Corp. when we toured the rest of the town.

A Stone Church: The Lady of Candelaria 

Established in 1611 by Franciscan friars, the Paroqia De Nuestra Senior De Candelaria Church has served an important role in Christianizing the people of Bicol.

This year, the church is celebrating its 405th anniversary. In visiting old architectural structures like this, I usually look for the original wall or material. And in this church I think the back portion of the church still utilizes the original bricks.

Above the choir’s deck, a small hole leads to where the old bells are garaged. One of the bells has cracks already and if you are a museum-goer, you will surely love examining the parts of the bells.

We were led to a safeguarded room inside the church’s compound sits the Our Lady of Candelaria figure. This is the original figure which is made from pure gold so a CCTV camera monitors the room to avoid anyone from stealing it. However this room is not open to public on regular days.

CAPTURED FOOTPRINT: Stories have it that the church is built on a former cemetery site.

An Evening Dip in Pulang Daga Beach

One of the best things to do to seal the day is to go to the sea and walk barefoot on the sand or dip in the warm seawater. This is exactly what I did for the last stop in our Paracale Tour- Pulang Daga Beach.

Pulang Daga means ‘red soil’. Pulang Daga in Las Pinas in Metro Manila immediately crossed my mind.

The beach’s higher ground is covered with carpet grass which is unusual yet it looks lovely. A small group of young adults squat on the ground while drinking liquor and laughing out loud.

The lower beach ground is raw white sand. I brought out my rush guard and headed to the sea for some fun before the last call is launched.

Authentic Bicol Dishes at Candist’s Kitchen

Our dinner at Candist’s Kitchen was more of an academic, food tour than a simple meal for a hungry soul like me.

CAPTURED FOOTPRINTS: I have learned the secrets about Sinantol and Bicol Express, two of my new favorites. 

Sinantol- After cooking it, leave it for one day before serving it. The flavor gets thicker. To control the level of saltiness, dip grated santol in water and squeeze it. For faster removal of the salt, use hot water.

Bicol Express- The authentic Bicol Express uses "ballaw", paste   made from shrimp.

If you have more questions about the Bicolano Cuisine, contact the restaurant at 0945.256.4230 or PM them on Facebook.  

When we headed back to Metro Manila, I spent my time looking for ballaw in the Public Market. It costs P200. 


Here are old photos of Paracale placed on the wall of the guest inn that we climbed for the 360 view of the town.


CAPTURING FOOTPRINT SPECIAL NOTE: This article is published through the efforts of the Camarines Norte Provincial Tourism Office headed by Mr. Bong Palma in cooperation with the Municipal Tourism Offices, Katooga PH, and private individuals sharing the same advocacy of boosting the tourism industry of each town in the Bicol province.

Beyond the Seven Islands of Mercedes

Hopping the mythical seven islands, also known as "Siyete Pecados", in the town of Mercedes is a cool idea after feasting your eyes on the white sand of Calaguas Group of Islands in the nearby town of Vinzons.

Historically speaking Mercedes was originally part of Daet, which is the capital of Camarines Norte, but it separated as another town. Its name is based on Dona Mercedes who spent her years in poor communities.

While waiting for the final signal that we could start our island hopping adventure, we met a beautiful Japanese lady who is a volunteer in the town. She helps the local tourism authority manage and guards its natural resources.

Local Color: Fishermen At the Mercedes Port

Huge containers of fish carried by locals are piled inside the station ready for the day's commercial operation. Middlemen approach the farmers and seal agreement while unloading the fishes to the ground to show the exact content of the container.

The locals speak both Tagalog and Bicolano. Different colors of fish were before my eyes and I could hear the locals give the name of the fish but none registered in my mind.

I saw a strange animal and confirmed it was whale—that’s on top of the whale meat dish I ate that morning in one of the karinderias near the port.

It was raining in the early hours of that day and were aware that the islands may not look their best. 

After waiting for our food to be cooked and a confirmation from the Coast Guard that we can go island hopping, we jumped into the boat and sailed to the rough seas.

CAPTURED FOOTPRINT: For island hopping packages, reservations should be made three days before the set schedule. This helps in coordinating with different authorities to secure tourists. During stormy days, the itinerary and route may be changed depending on the situation of the sea.

Rain Vs. Apuao Pequena & Canimog Islands

From the port, it will take 35 minutes to Aqua Pequena which is known as diving site. It was raining so I spent the entire trip covering my face from the seawater splash and the dripping rain.

We passed by Canimog Island which has a lighthouse on top. Trekking to see the lighthouse may not be a good idea on a stormy day so we decided to move on to the next island.

At Apua Pequena, a couple was busy doing their pre-nuptial photoshoot in the 80-hectare island’s perfect spots. We wondered around the island while beating the coldness of the day while I was busy wondering why the weather was not that kind to us.

What is special about this island? Pine trees grow as if it was in Baguio City.

Entrance  Fee
Day Tour: P55 
Overnight Stay: P100 

CAPTURED FOOTPRINT: The owner of the island wants to preserve the island first before opening it to the mass. 

Lunch at Apuao Grande Island

Once upon a time Apuao Pequena and Apuao Grande islands were separated by water so one has to use the boat to the cross the two islands. However one day, a sandbar started to surface from the sea connecting the two.

We walked along the sandbar to get to the  Apuao Grande Island. The island has young pine trees planted meters away from each other.

From where we were swimming, we could see the other islands covered in fog. We ate lunch inside a hut and explored the island’s surroundings before getting back to the boat for home as we cannot pursue the other islands due the weather condition.

Tinapa Pasalubong from ZDP Smoked Fish House

Tinapa is preserved fish through smoking. Most Filipino families eat tinapa in the morning alongside egg or hotdog.

In ZDP Smoked Fish House, pails of fish are transported from the port for processing. Galungngung, a variety of fish, is what was being processed when we entered the smoking house.

The fishes are carefully laid on a circular basket. The basket is placed on top lid of the smoking fireplace-- the smoke from burning wood chunks and dust are funneled to the basket that contains the fishes. In two to three hours, the fish are dried and preserved ready for someone's table the next meal.

Heavy Snack at Mamita's

The owner of Mamita's was once the Municipal Officer of Mercedes but now a councilor. To welcome us to her town, she fixed us some heavy snack.

Inside Mamita's, photos of what to visit in Mercedes highlighting the seven islands decorate the walls. While staring at the photos, I was also thinking of my schedule so I could get back to Mercedes as soon as a week-long leave in 2018 is possible.

The Seven Islands
1. Caringo Island
2. Canton Island
3. Apuao Grande Island- DONE!
4. Apuao Pequena Island- DONE!
5. Canimog Island- DONE!
6. Quinapaguian Island
7. Malasugui Island 

Where to Stay in Mercedes

Refer to this list from the Municipal Tourism Office: 

Villa Criseldas Hotel, Resto Bar and Resort
Ms. Gliezel Napili
Brgy. 1, Mercedes, Camarines Norte
+63 915 868 4692

Palms Farm Resort
Irene A. Verboom
Brgy. Cayucyucan, Mercedes, Camarines Norte
+63 927 587 1001 +63 917 500 6639 +63 49 545 1683

Khrystal Beach Resort
Brgy. Cayucyucan, Mercedes, Camarines Norte
+63 919 462 7383

San Miguel Bay Resort
Brgy. Matoogtoog, Mercedes, Camarines Norte
+63 939 442 8064 +63 907 958 0549
Apuao Grande Island, Mercedes, Camarines Norte
+63 927 428 3211

How to Get to Mercedes

By Land (Philtranco, DLTB and Superlines) 
8-10 hours- Bus from Cubao/Pasay, Mero Manila  to Daet, Camarines Norte
15 mins- Jeep/ Trike from Daet, Camarines Norte to Merdeces

By Air (Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Philippine Airlines)
45 minutes- Plane from NAIA, Pasay to Pili Airport, Camarines Sur
15 minutes- Bus from Pili Airport, Camarines Sur to Naga City, Camarines Sur
2 hours- Jeep from Naga City, Camarines Sur to Daet, Camarines Norte
15 minutes-  Trike from Daet, Camarines Norte to Mercedes Camarines Norte


Ms. Nanette Ibasco
Municipal Tourism Officer 
+63 54 444-1261 
+63 54 444-1151

+63 54 444-1261

For more information about Mercedes, follow me on INSTAGRAM

CAPTURING FOOTPRINT SPECIAL NOTE: This article is published through the efforts of the Camarines Norte Provincial Tourism Office headed by Mr. Bong Palma in cooperation with the Municipal Tourism Offices, Katooga PH, and private individuals sharing the same advocacy of boosting the tourism industry of each town in the Bicol province.