Friday, November 25, 2016

Maligcong, Bontoc: Living, Thriving Treasures of the Land

Wild edible mushrooms of Maligcong
It took awhile before we were able to identify the names of the mushrooms we ate and the plant for the tea that we regularly enjoy in Maligcong.  Thanks to the kind people on the FB groups of Philippine Wild Mushrooms and Philippine Biodiversity, we now have a name for these living treasures.  UP professor, Rolita Vijandre Spowart, was very generous in identifying the mushrooms Tylophilus, Amanita stirps Hemibapha, Amanita vaginata, and Russula virescens; further confirming that these were indeed edible (not that we didn't know that for I ate so much of them in trips past).  My friends, Suzette and Tina, would walk for hours to the mountains and keep an eye for the fungus growing in the undergrowth, often spotting what I myself would have to strain to see.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Traveling Smarter: Away for the Pinoy Holidays

A friend came up to me recently saying he would have to move his trip down south to next year. Why? "I can't find cheap plane fares," he said. "And I have to find good value accommodations anyway," he added. Well, it's no secret that Pinoys take their reputation for having the longest December holiday celebration seriously. That makes experiencing how Christmas is celebrated in different places in the country well worth the traveling. Could be chaotic if you don't plan in advance. But if you do, it could be downright enjoyable.

These days, you can just surf the Web and book online on sites like Traveloka.com for your flights and accommodations.  This saves you the hassle of calling or physically visiting the ticketing office.  DIY travelers never had it so good than in the good ole days when planning your own trip is an exercise in patience.  Research all the numbers of the airlines.  Call each one for trip skeds and fares.  List down everything and come up with a comparison chart of sorts.  After choosing, visit the ticketing office to pay and get your tickets.  next, research the names and numbers of possible accommodations in your destination.  Call up each one, list down all the details.  Again, come up with a chart so you can compare.

Now, how do you make sense of traveling during the Pinoy holiday season

PLAN EARLY. In the age of bucket of pricing the earlier you book your flights, the more chances you have of getting a better deal. Also remember that December is the peak travel season in the Philippines when overseas Filipino workers arrive en masse to enjoy the holiday break. Some people book as early as half a year to a full year ahead so if you can only follow one piece of advice, this should be it. 

PLAN AHEAD.  The same thing goes for accommodations. Those empty rooms at hotels and inns in late summer can quickly fill up during the December holidays. Booking early means not only getting a room but also the possibility of getting nicer digs at lower prices. Based on personal experience, it's easier to get a room through walk-ins if you're traveling alone but if you're traveling with a group, it's harder to take a chance. 

PLAN YOUR MOVES. Of course you would have to move around to enjoy your vacation and see the holiday sights. Advance planning extends to getting rental vehicles and transport, even guides if you need one, the earliest time you can. 

BE DISCRIMINATING. I'm a somewhat easy-to-please traveler myself (clean bed, clean t&b, quiet place) but I certainly would like to get a honest-to-goodness deal. Things like "Was the price quoted the final price?" or "Do I have to allot an allowance for add-ons like taxes or surcharges?" matter a lot especially if I'm traveling on a tight budget which is almost always the case. What I mean by being discriminating is to take a closer look at offers for what seems like a bargain may not be so when all the other hidden charges add up. It's a lot like the labels in your packaged food stuff and medicine -- it really pays to read the fine print to know exactly what you are getting and how much less you are paying. 

Traveling around the Philippines during the December holidays can be fun as Pinoys celebrate the season in a hundred different ways -- from the downright simple to joyously opulent. A little planning can go a long way in making the season a merry time to pack your bags and travel.

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