The Style Mermaid by Kisty Mea

The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • El Nido Travelogue
Every wanderlust has their own lifestyle and preference, so you either fall in love with El Nido or with Boracay. And in my opinion, both El Nido and Boracay offer a different kind of relaxation: Boracay is commercialized, while El Nido is more… provincial. 
Anyway, we only had two days to enjoy El Nido, so we did not waste any time and booked their two best-selling boat tours: Tour A and Tour C. Here are my thoughts about the tour:[[MORE]]
Tour A: Lagoons & Beaches
For Tour A, the hotel chose a pretty decent travel guide. There were eight of us, so they got us a big boat. The tour guide was also quite knowledgeable and considerate. 

Seven Commandos Beach is named after the 7 remaining Japanese commandos who lived in the island after World War II. This is honestly my favorite from the tours because of its pristine beach and waters. Perfect place to bask under the sun. 
Shimizu Island has this stunning limestone cliffs. This is where most of the tourists each their lunch. But since our boat was big, we had the chance to eat on board, and rest. 
Secret Lagoon was our least favorite from the tour because 1) the island was surrounded by rocks and corals (Better use a kayak to avoid injuries) and 2) the lagoon was muddy… reminds me of an uncleaned toilet. :( 
Small and Big Lagoon were simply breathtaking. In case you want to know, the second and third photo were taken inside the Small Lagoon. The fourth photo was the Big Lagoon, though the awful glare from the sun made it difficult to capture it’s wonderful beauty. Trust me, the Big Lagoon looks like a scene from Jurassic Park! 

Tour C: Hidden Beaches & Shrines
I’m not entirely sure we got our money’s worth with this tour. First, the current was really strong that day. Second, we were eight people (4 tourists and 2 guides) riding a small fisherman’s boat (see 8th photo). Overall, my experience with the Tour C guide was slightly traumatizing and less enjoyable. 

Matinloc Shrine is a sacred monument that was built in 1982 in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary. 
Tapiutan Island provides a wonderful opportunity for you to snorkel or scuba dive while your guide cooks your lunch. JP said that if I went further, I could’ve seen the colorful city of corals and fishes. Since this is where tourists have lunch, somebody should enforce CLAYGO. There were so much junk on the beach, it was impossible to walk barefooted. 
Hidden Beach is a 100-m white sand beach behind a huge limestone that separates its shallow waters from the ocean. A lot of hermit crabs live here.
Now, this is where the “fun” began. When it was time to leave, the guide told us to wear a life vest because a life buoy will pull us towards the boat. Sounds easy, right? NO IT WASN’T. The other guide (who was on the boat) was literally pulling us towards the deeper parts of the sea. Even if I was wearing a life jacket and holding real tight on the life buoy (and on my iPhone), I still felt like I had to fight for my life because the currents were really strong. 
After that, all I wanted to do was go home.

We only booked the tour through the hotel. The price includes a towel and lunch. We had to pay extra if we want to use the kayak and mask. I highly recommend you request for a big boat and rent a kayak for every tour, especially if you have kids with you. 
All of these are taken with an iPhone 5, edited with the fantastic VSCO Cam app. You can view the rest of the photos on my Instagram gallery or on my photo blog.
P.S. Don’t forget to read my quick guide to El Nido, Palawan!

El Nido Travelogue

Every wanderlust has their own lifestyle and preference, so you either fall in love with El Nido or with Boracay. And in my opinion, both El Nido and Boracay offer a different kind of relaxation: Boracay is commercialized, while El Nido is more… provincial. 

Anyway, we only had two days to enjoy El Nido, so we did not waste any time and booked their two best-selling boat tours: Tour A and Tour C. Here are my thoughts about the tour:

Read more

The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • Guide to El Nido, Palawan
El Nido is considered to be one the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines, so it seems fitting for JP and I to celebrate our five wonderful years of being together here. But planning a trip to El Nido was no easy feat. In fact, if you don’t have the cash to burn, the trip can be such a hassle. But that’s okay because my JP and I had fun. :)
I’ll probably share my photos and personal thoughts on my next post. In the meantime, if you’re planning to go El Nido this summer, I hope this quick guide will help you out. Enjoy! :)
[[MORE]]
Getting There
There are two ways to get to El Nido: a jet for PHP6750/person… ONE WAY trip only. So that’s roughly PHP13,500 for a two-way trip. Insane, right? But what are the benefits? The jet will land closer to El Nido and the travel time is just one hour from Manila.
The cheaper way is through a shuttle van from Puerto Princesa. It’ll take you 5 hours, with two stopovers, to get to El Nido but it’s 10x cheaper. One trip cost PHP600/person. A total of PHP1200/person for a two-way trip.  
What To Do?
There are four boat tours in El Nido to choose from. According to our hotel, Tour A and C are their best-selling tours. Other activities are motorbiking, diving, and trekking.
Expenses
El Nido doesn’t have any ATMs, and only a number of establishments accept credit cards. Here is the list of expenses during our 4-day stay (technically, it was just a 2-day vacation because we had to allot the other 2 days for land transfer): 
Airfare & Hotel

Hotel (Ipil Suites) - USD299.46 / PHP12000 Hotel includes breakfast and free wifi. Rooms are clean but there are no TV and hot water doesn’t always work. 
Airfare (PAL Express) - PHP2100/person 

Expenses (Per Person)

Shuttle (PPC-El Nido) - PHP600 
Lunch (Stopover) - PHP120
Eco-Tourism Development Fee (Valid for 10 days) -PHP200
Tour A - PHP1400 
Kayak (Tour A) - PHP700 
Mask and Fin Rental (Tour A) - PHP100
Tour C - PHP1400
Mask and Fin Rental (Tour C) - PHP100
Shuttle (El Nido-PPC) - PHP600
Lunch (Stopover) - PHP115
Accumulated Snacks + Water (4 Days) - PHP150
Domestic Terminal Fee - PHP100TOTAL: PHP 5485

Dinner Dates for Two 

Dinner @ Beachfront (Unknown Resto) - PHP510
Dinner @ Art Cafe - PHP1150 Although their food were tasty, the serving was really small and the side dish is billed separately. Expensive.
Dinner @ Sea Slug Resto (Beachfront) - PHP1000 Affordable with really big serving! The Sizzling Chicken w/ Rice cost PHP300 and Beef Steak Pinoy with French Fries was PHP250 only. If we did not order the Calamares and Choco Crepes, the total bill should’ve been PHP680 only.  TOTAL: PHP 2660

Things To Know
There are no ATMs in El Nido and only a few accept credit cards. If you need cash, ask someone to do a money transfer and remit them in pawnshops. 
Electricity is from 2:00PM until 6:00AM. Check with your hotel if they have a generator. 
There are health centers and private doctors but no hospitals. 
There’s a PHP200 Eco Development Fee (valid for 10 days) that you need to pay before you can do any of the boat tours.
Resources
The Internet made it very easy for me to plan and prepare the trip. Not to mention, most of their tours are guided and all you have to do is book it. For more information, I recommend you visit the following links:
http://www.elnidoboutiqueandartcafe.com/
http://goseasia.about.com/od/philippinestopattractions/tp/el_nido_palawan.htm
http://www.adaphobic.com/philippines/palawan/a-complete-travel-guide-to-el-nido-palawan/

Guide to El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is considered to be one the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines, so it seems fitting for JP and I to celebrate our five wonderful years of being together here. But planning a trip to El Nido was no easy feat. In fact, if you don’t have the cash to burn, the trip can be such a hassle. But that’s okay because my JP and I had fun. :)

I’ll probably share my photos and personal thoughts on my next post. In the meantime, if you’re planning to go El Nido this summer, I hope this quick guide will help you out. Enjoy! :)

Read more

The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • {CLOSED} #InstaxMini7SGiveaway
Hello my little mermaids! Yana e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago regarding a giveaway and we are both so excited to have come up with a great one for all of you.
Here are the prizes for 4 lucky readers:
A Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s (Pink) + 1 pack of 10 films 
How To Be An Explorer Of The World by Keri Smith and a Gel Pen Pack from Smiggle 
Blogging For Creatives and Journal from Kiehl  
A brand new white skater skirt
Note: The Instax isn’t brand new BUT it’s in good condition and works perfectly. You may see actual pictures here. 
This giveaway is open to Philippine residents only and shall run from December 08, 2013 to January 08, 2014. All entries shall be monitored through Rafflecopter.
And the winners are: [[MORE]]
A  Rafflecopter Giveaway
Instax Mini 7S Winner — Anna Esguerra How To Be An Explorer Of The World by Keri Smith / Gel Pens from Smiggle — Gem Princess Sardeña Blogging For Creatives and Journal from Kiehl — Luisa LinganWhite Skater Skirt — Dianna Guillen

{CLOSED} #InstaxMini7SGiveaway

Hello my little mermaids! Yana e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago regarding a giveaway and we are both so excited to have come up with a great one for all of you.

Here are the prizes for 4 lucky readers:

  1. A Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s (Pink) + 1 pack of 10 films
  2. How To Be An Explorer Of The World by Keri Smith and a Gel Pen Pack from Smiggle
  3. Blogging For Creatives and Journal from Kiehl 
  4. A brand new white skater skirt

Note: The Instax isn’t brand new BUT it’s in good condition and works perfectly. You may see actual pictures here

This giveaway is open to Philippine residents only and shall run from December 08, 2013 to January 08, 2014. All entries shall be monitored through Rafflecopter.

And the winners are: 

Read more

The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • How You Can Help The Philippines
Typhoon Yolanda (International code name: Haiyan), the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has hit and left my home country—specifically the Visayan province—with total devastation. My country receives more than 20 storms a year but it has never been this dire.
Based from the news I’ve read and my friends have told me, the City of Tacloban and nearby areas is like a setting in a zombie apocalypse movie. There’s no electricity, water, communications and even food to go around. A lot of the victims have been starving for 3-4 days because it’s too difficult to send relief goods, and many had to resort to looting. Many people are still missing and dead bodies are scattered everywhere. It’s just too heartbreaking.[[MORE]]
Donations Needed
With this in mind, I decided to collate a list of websites and resources where you can donate. At this point, any kind of donation will be most helpful.

If you want to send clothes, please sell them at the Katipunan #baHAIYANihan because 100% of the proceeds will be used to post-Yolanda rebuilding efforts. And please donate medicines that still hasn’t expired. 
International Help
If you live outside the Philippines, you can refer to the following organizations to help in the relief efforts. (Compiled by HuffingtonPost.com)
World Food Programme WFP has allocated an immediate $2 million for Haiyan relief, with a greater appeal pending as needs become apparent. The UN organization is sending 40 metric tons of fortified biscuits in the immediate aftermath, as well as working with the government to restore emergency telecommunications in the area. Americans can text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10 or give online. Learn more here.
Red CrossEmergency responders and volunteers throughout the Philippines are providing meals and relief items. Already, thousands of hot meals have been provided to survivors. Red Cross volunteers and staff also helped deliver preliminary emergency warnings and safety tips. Give by donating online or mailing a check to your local American Red Cross chapter. Learn more here.
The Philippine Red Cross has mobilized its 100 local outposts to help with relief efforts. Learn more here.
AmeriCaresThe relief organization is sending medical aid for 20,000 survivors, including antibiotics, wound care supplies and pain relievers. AmeriCares is also giving funds to local organizations to purchase supplies. Learn more here.
ShelterBoxShelterBox provides families with a survival kit that includes a tent and other essential items while they are displaced or homeless. Learn more here.

UNICEFAnticipating that children will likely be among the worst affected by the typhoon, UNICEF is working on getting essential medicines, nutrition supplies, safe water and hygiene supplies to children and families in the area. Learn more here.
Salvation Army100 percent of all disaster donations will be used for relief efforts and “to immediately meet the specific needs of disaster survivors.” Text TYPHOON to 80888 to Donate $10 or give online. Learn more here. 
Within The Philippines
Donate to Philippine Red Cross via SMSText RED AMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4143 (Smart). Example: RED 100 You can also donate online using your credit card of Paypal.
Google Person FinderIf you’re looking for someone, please use Google’s Person Finder. The Food For A Cause OperationIf you’re in Metro Manila, you can join the food for a case where 100% of their proceeds will go to the victims and relief efforts.
Relief Operation Centres This is a huge list of open relief operations centres and online donations for both locals and overseas. Please refer to this list if you want to know where you can volunteer. 

I would also like to thank for the donations and relief efforts our fellow countrymen and other countries are doing. Please don’t stop helping out. Right now, our country needs all the help we could get. Thank you. 

How You Can Help The Philippines

Typhoon Yolanda (International code name: Haiyan), the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has hit and left my home country—specifically the Visayan province—with total devastation. My country receives more than 20 storms a year but it has never been this dire.

Based from the news I’ve read and my friends have told me, the City of Tacloban and nearby areas is like a setting in a zombie apocalypse movie. There’s no electricity, water, communications and even food to go around. A lot of the victims have been starving for 3-4 days because it’s too difficult to send relief goods, and many had to resort to looting. Many people are still missing and dead bodies are scattered everywhere. It’s just too heartbreaking.

Read more

The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • Manila Adventures
by Kisty Mea & Maine Manalansan
I’ve been living in the Philippines most of my life (22 years and 51 weeks to be exact). I grew up in Manila but when someone asks me what to see in my city, my usual answer is “I don’t know”. Heck, I can even give you an itinerary if you planning to visit Singapore, but never Manila. I’m so engrossed in visiting another country, immersing myself in their rich culture and history, that I’ve completely forgotten to appreciate my own land…
Until now.
When in Manila, you should…[[MORE]]
Start your day with a morning exercise at the CCP Complex. There are tons of morning activities available there for free. If exercise is not your thing, you can skip and indulge yourself in your hotel’s buffet. 

The monument of the country’s National Hero
Afterwards, go straight to the Intramuros/Rizal Park area. Take a photo with the Kilometer Zero and the national hero’s monument, Jose Rizal, in the background.


Manila’s Walled City
To totally immerse yourself with Manila’s diverse history, sign up for the “Walk This Way” tour by Carlos Celdran. For rates and schedule, visit this website. 
What I love about Manila’s tourist spots is their proximity to one another.  From Intramuros/Rizal Park, ride a jeepney (a must for tourists, you won’t see that kind of transportation anywhere else!) that will take you to Binodo.
Binondo is most commonly known as Chinatown due to the ethnic Chinese people living in the area. Chinatown Manila is apparently established in 1594, making it the oldest in the world [source].

Visit the Binondo Church (you won’t miss it!) and pay homage to the Basilica’s patron saint, Lorenzo Ruiz. San Lorenzo Ruiz was the first Philippines’ saint and canonized in 1987. The Church was consecrated in the late 1500s to convert the Chinese to Christianity. 
From here, you can either walk to the long stretch of Ongpin St. or ride a Kalesa (horse carriage) to roam around the area. You’ll see a lot of Kalesa parked outside the church. 
Ongpin is this street with the red-green Friendship Arch between the Filipinos and Chinese.The street was originally called as Calle Sacristia and was renamed in 1915 after Roman Ongpin, the first Chinese-Filipino to wear the Barong Tagalog, an embroidered formal garment. 
Since Ongpin street the heart of Manila’s Chinatown, it is full of restaurants, apothecaries, jeweleries and other imported goods from China.

Kalesa. Philippines’ version of a horse drawn carriage.

Possible routes from Binondo Church to Sta. Cruz Church. The blue arrow is what Google Maps recommend you to do. But I recommend taking the whole stretch of Ongpin instead.  (view larger image)
At the end of Ongpin, you’ll stumble upon the area of Sta. Cruz. You know you’re in the area once you see this big old-looking fountain with a Church nearby and an old building with Plaza Fair signage on it. :p
You should take time and appreciate the architecture of this place. Aside from that, you can also do a little bit of shopping here. :) 


From Sta. Cruz, you should make your way to Quiapo.
If you’re a photographer lover, it is a must that you walk along by Hidalgo Street. Hidalgo St. is a photographer’s haven. You can buy new and old, digital or film cameras and accessories here, and have broken cameras repaired. To get there, just ask the locals where SM (a department store) is. Just enter SM and exit on the other side. ;) 
After shopping for your camera, just follow the path full of people selling vegetables and other stuff. That road will take you to Plaza Miranda and Quiapo Church. 

Quiapo Church and a glimpse of Plaza Miranda
Quiapo Church is the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and is one of the main churches in Manila. They hold a procession every New Year, Good Friday and January 9th. If you happen to visit on those dates, it is better not to go to Quiapo due to the congestion of the crowds. 
Plaza Miranda is a public square in front of Quiapo Church. The area is full of fortune-tellers and vendors of lucky charms and amulets. Some vendors also sell flowers, fruit and vegetables. My friend and I had our fortunes told a few years ago and true enough, we did end up living in a foreign country. Indulge yourself with their fortunes and who knows? It might come true. :)
From here, you can either ride the LRT or Jeepney or cab that can take you back to the CCP Complex and visit SM Mall of Asia, the 3rd largest shopping mall in the continent. You can either shop to your heart’s content or have an early dinner by the bay side and watch the sunset. 
Alternative Itinerary:

Double Exposure of Manila 
Now, I believe visiting Binondo-Sta. Cruz-Quiapo is a great way to know more about the Filipino culture but if you have kids or you’ve been there before, you can opt for visiting our museums and other tourist attractions such as the National Museum, Museo Pambata (a museum for the kids and kid-at-heart!) and Manila Ocean Park. All of them are located near Rizal Park. :)
After a long day, you can choose to snooze the night off or go to Resorts World Manila to watch a movie, play at the casino or party in Republiq. :) 
And that concludes my City of Manila itinerary and it’s good for a day or two trip in Manila. If you happen to say in the country for more than five days, don’t fret because there are 16 more cities and at least 2000 islands to explore. You’ll never run out of things to do in the Philippines. ;)
I  hope you like this itinerary as much as I did making it. I might make a Part 2 but in the meantime, you can help me win a spot for the Big Blog Exchange contest. If chosen, I’ll be one of the few bloggers who gets to represent the Asia Pacific region! :) Just visit this page to vote. Thank you! <3 
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In your opinion, what is a must-see place when in Manila? I would love to hear your recommendations! Drop your thoughts in the comment section below!

Special thanks to Maine Manalansan for letting me use her film photos. Check out her blog and Flickr if you like everything about art. ;) 

Manila Adventures

by Kisty Mea & Maine Manalansan

I’ve been living in the Philippines most of my life (22 years and 51 weeks to be exact). I grew up in Manila but when someone asks me what to see in my city, my usual answer is “I don’t know”. Heck, I can even give you an itinerary if you planning to visit Singapore, but never Manila. I’m so engrossed in visiting another country, immersing myself in their rich culture and history, that I’ve completely forgotten to appreciate my own land…

Until now.

When in Manila, you should…

Read more