Build a theme park and they would come. This is what Marcus has been doing on Roblox this past few days. With a bigger and better TV for his XBox, the games have been more vivid, been larger than life like Theme Park Tycoon 2. He was never this focused on this game.
For days this week I would wake up from a night shift slumber hearing him and his mother exchanging ideas on how to improve his theme park as he tries to compete with others online. Man, his park is impressive. In fact, he tops others by several number of AI guests lining up his rides and trust me, the Ultra HD screen makes first person perspective dizzying enough for an old guy like me. But it’s just another video game for Marcus, still seated the whole day and he could only imagine what a real theme park looks and feels like.
Thanks goodness, Enchanted Kingdom is just an hour away from home. It’s a longstanding plan to bring Marcus there but his recent interest in roller coasters, drop towers, and other thrill rides made us agree that this time is the right time for us to be there. It took only a short question from me and a nod from wifey, budget constraints dismissed, and we saw ourselves on a Saturday afternoon driving to Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
It’s been years since wifey and I last visited Enchanted Kingdom. The park’s entrance fees have doubled to P900 per person, P600 for persons with disabilities. It almost emptied my wallet. The park was packed as anticipated so one immediate challenge was Marcus’ access to the rides. I can still carry him but the question is if the attendants would approve it.
Up, Up and Away ride would’ve been Marcus’ first and only ride. The staff allowed us to bypass the queue by entering through the exit gate. All the next rides, however, weren’t as PWD-friendly. We checked Roller Skater, Jungle Log Jam, Fun Kart, and even the seemingly easy Swan Ride but these have regulations that prohibit people like Marcus to ride any of it. Bummer.
All is not lost though. Enchanted Kingdom has something for PWDs. Rialto for one had an Ice Age feature film that got Marcus screaming and laughing. Then the park’s Agila, The Experience theater made up for all our disappointment.
Exclusively housed in the theme park’s inverted cone-shaped building, Agila offers an interactive experience (Eldar the Wizard in Hologram would fascinate even adults) that features the promotion of EK’s environmental awareness campaign. Agila’s main attraction is its huge theater with moving seats that add realism to flying with the eagle as it soars and sweeps over popular natural wonders of the Philippines. Marcus and wifey was able to get a short glimpse of how Palawan’s Underground River looks like. I’d pay 900 pesos again to experience Agila. It was worth it.
We arrived late in the afternoon so we ran out of time to test other rides, individually. Right out of Agila, Marcus let me ride Disk-O-Magic alone and next was Space Shuttle which opened again after the fireworks display. The Ferris Wheel would’ve been our last but it still has a long queue until the park closed at 9 PM.
Our Enchanted Kingdom day was a welcome change to our weekend routine despite the limitations. Getting Marcus out of the house to places that give adequate access to PWDs like him is always something that we look forward to. I know EK could do better by being more PWD-friendly. I now also wish that our country has a theme park for people in wheelchairs.
Mood 1/10 Honks! (Yesterday’s DQ ice cream made my day.)
We’ve all been there. For once in our lives we sat in a classroom checking our watches, looking out the window, doodling like each stroke matters, daydreaming in between, and wondering when our history teacher finally ends ‘his story.’ It’s the history subject as we know it.
History was inescapable and it’s a fact that those who don’t know history is condemned to repeat it or, at the very least, flunk it. So no matter how we dislike listening for hours about what happened in the distant past, we persevered to pass this subject among other demanding classes. I don’t exactly know but I suspect that it’s either the claustrophobic classrooms or our monotonous history teachers–or a combination of both–who’s to be blamed for our utter lack of interest in this subject matter. Whatever or whoever it was, we survived this class anyhow and highly likely promised ourselves to never attend anything that has got to do with it ever again if possible.
Then came the History Channel. This cable TV channel presents engaging documentaries and shows for all audiences, not to mention no boring teachers. But some say there are flaws to the facts presented on TV, some say it’s commercialized history—not only on History Channel but those on TV in general. Fine, argument acknowledged. Not one learning setting may be perfect but no thanks, count me out of future history classes unless it is interactive and fun.
This is how History Channel changed the game. It puts a brand to the once bland subject, history. Because of this channel there is now better recall and mere mention of the H word attracts more attention than it used to.
So last weekend we became part of history. Thanks to a Facebook friend who is affiliated with our cable TV provider, we got two passes for the event for free and only paid for Marcus’ entrance. That Sunday we found ourselves inside a packed History Con 2017 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. It was the second year History Channel sponsored the event and this time they say was bigger, better, bolder.
More than its interesting exhibits, H Con 2017 made the experience a whole lot better with the warm treatment Marcus got from different people: ticket agents, bouncers, exhibitors, shuttle driver and even the janitor (the restroom was clean!!!) all did a superb job making Marcus enjoy the day.
Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Holiday but woke up early. Running is addicting, isn’t it?)
A very rare opportunity happened this last weekend. Thanks to family coming from San Francisco, our party of nine once again reunited in Palawan for a weekend experience that would likely remain in our memories forever. It was three days of ups and downs, of uncertain weather, of adventures we didn’t know what to expect but ended enjoying it nevertheless.
Day one. The three of us– wifey, Marcus, and I–arrived ahead of everyone in Puerto Princesa and were picked up by Munting Paraiso‘s shuttle for an early check in. We stayed in room number nine and sis and family would take eight. My mother, father, and elder sister stayed somewhere nearby, Paboreal, where we all converged for lunch before our first Palawan vacation activity.
Friday afternoon was spent on a subtle city tour. It was our first feel of the dizzying Puerto Princesa City’s streets. We passed by their baywalk, the crocodile and Mitra farms, Baker’s Hill, and a souvenir market. All these getting in and out of the van plus the unusually humid weather worked up our appetite for dinner. Our elder sister who previously visited Puerto Princesa reserved accommodation for us in one of the city’s popular resto called KaLui but since the place sticks to its 6 PM opening so we waited for an hour in their garden. It felt like an eternity. Good thing that the long wait was worth it.
KaLui is a Filipino-themed restaurant. Its structure, wooden furnitures, menu, and yes, its observance of an old-fashioned practice of removing footwear upon stepping inside the place made us feel like visiting a home rather than a commercial establishment. Our low-seating arrangement complemented the native dining experience. KaLui has interesting artifacts and even has a mini art gallery, and a restroom so clean that walking in barefoot didn’t matter. Too bad I didn’t return to take a picture of the restroom as I got busy tasting everything that was served on our table. Its local brew was nice as well but I soon learned it was pricey than San Miguel.
The sky opened up early Saturday morning and it felt like nothing could be accomplished that day. We all left for the Underground River tour anyway in spite of heavy downpour but without wifey and Marcus. Good thing our tour guide kept the rainy drive interesting for everyone including our foreign guests as he speaks good English and provides insights about the place. We reached the port after about an hour and 30 minutes.
Weather improved when we reached the ferry port. Only challenge left was to have our 82-year old father get on the ferry and deal with some slight bumpy ferry trip to the Underground River. All efforts paid off when we started getting a glimpse of the rock formations along the coastline. The main attraction would be more striking.
While the briefing on our way gave us some idea on what to expect, our senses were overwhelmed the moment we entered the cave. The Underground River is a spectacle and it is hypnotic. I find it also a blessing that my automated voice module didn’t work because all I heard were natural noises. The rhythmic splash of the paddle, the echo of the boatman’s voice, the sounds of bats flying all over the cave, and the water dripping from the cracks above with some of it hitting our hard hats every now and then. Darkness during the entire trip cut only by the lights from our and other boatmen’s helmet added to the sense of mystery and awe. Then there’s that distinct stink of guano. All elements combined beat any movie visual and sound effects. No question that the Underground River is among the seven natural wonders of the world.
Part of the tour package is a buffet lunch at Gusto Grill and Resto where the highlight would be the chance to try their exotic offer, the Tamilok. I learned that this local delicacy is a mollusk rather than a worm which explains why despite its intimidating length and texture it actually tastes like oyster. My father and I had one serving each and we could’ve taken more. Too bad our American guest didn’t dare touch it.
Sunday started just like the day before. Peaking out of our room’s native Zebra blinds reveals that we’re in for another soaky day. It’s a make or break day especially for wifey and Marcus who got left behind yesterday. I don’t want them to remember their Palawan vacation as just staying in the room and swimming in the pool so we braved the rains. Marcus was excited to do some driving adventure on our last day.
We headed to MAX Palawan with anxiety if the rain would let up. With Marcus in mind, quitting was an option if rain continues to pour hard. Fortunately, luck was on our side and it was like heavens just readied our day’s playground. After few minutes spent putting on our safety gears and a quick orientation, we got ourselves strapped in the dune buggy. My sister partnered with my wife in the other car while my in-law and their son got on their respective ATVs.
The track was rocky, twisting, undulating, and muddy. And we enjoyed it. It was wet and wild and exhilarating. MAX Palawan’s dune buggy allowed me to drive with ‘controlled recklessness.’ Marcus enjoyed his role as navigator and never cared if mud and puddle water came splashing in. That’s my boy, willing to get dirty to save the day. We definitely didn’t regret picking this forty-five minute adventure over snorkeling or scuba diving. MAX Palawan is on Facebook , check them out.
We beat the clock on our way back to the hotel. Barely clean after a quick pressure hosing just to remove the clumps of dirt, we settled in MAX Palawan’s van with most of us still wearing our clay-stained clothes. Thanks to the preparation wifey did in the morning, we were able to accomplish the fastest check out we’ve ever done. We transferred to a cheap hotel as we wait for our flight to Manila.
Our Palawan weekend was short and sweet. We didn’t really get to see the other popular attractions but the fact the we spent the weekend with family in a place we’ve visited for the very first time makes the experience irreplaceable. I also like that we were able to prove the advisories wrong. Philippines is still generally peaceful and its people and places could still create an experience that we could be proud of especially to our foreign guests. There will be a next time, we will be back.
Munting Paraiso is good place for groups or individuals who prefer quiet accommodation as it has only less than 12 rooms and it is located 1-2 kilometers from the city proper. The way the streets going to the hotel are setup also made it appear farther.
Their rooms’ interior and exterior designs are good and I think each of it has a veranda with a native hammock where one could lazily hang out while waiting for their next adventure.
Lighting though is dim so reading books could be a challenge at night. We had a hard time assembling Marcus’ new Lego as we had to use cellphone lights to follow the instructions.
I also learned later that my sis family’s room has a foul smell which my in-law said could be a backed up drain which prompted them to transfer to another hotel the day we parted ways. So it seems like it wasn’t me smelling guano when I entered our room’s restroom coming from the Underground River trip. My clogged nose that weekend was a blessing in disguise.
Is Palawan PWD-friendly?
Trips are always a challenge with someone in a wheelchair. So strangers who offer help are always appreciated. One offered to carry my son’s wheelchair so we can see the bigger crocs at the crocodile farm’s elevated walkway but since I can still carry him I politely declined it.
The tour guide also assured that they could accommodate Marcus and his wheelchair had we decided to bring him along. The wheelchair may be left somewhere at the finish area of the Underground River tour.
MAX Palawan was also PWD-friendly. They picked us up and the wheelchair fit just fine inside their van. The buggy’s four-point harness also ensured a safe ride for a 9-year old boy.
I received a call from an unknown number while taking a siesta in D’ Lucky Garden Inn. It was from the airport clinic in Cebu. The caller advised that my mother got sick coming from Palawan and while waiting for their transfer flight to Bacolod. Good thing the doctor soon allowed her to be transferred to Mactan Doctors Hospital with my father in a wheelchair tagging along. I felt helpless that we can’t be there for them at that moment. My elder sister who got another airline eventually arrived there and took charge. They all missed their flights but were out of the hospital the next day with the doctor allowing my mother to fly back to Bacolod. Whew. Definitely a weekend to remember.
Mood: 2/10 Honks! (We’re almost back in shape. Marcus and I were nursing a cough while in Palawan.)
Summer vacation plans can be overwhelming. There’s that part when one wants to get that well-deserved pampering in a hotel and there’s that urge to get out of the urban jungle to be one with nature. Both though, however contrasting, have one general benefit to everyone–an experience that soothes the senses. Then ask anyone and more likely than not there would be that common element they have in mind that is synonymous to relaxation. Water.
Thank heavens, we need not split friends or family members into groups anymore just to satisfy everyone’s wish and there’s no need to burn gas just to drive farther out of town either. Located within Metro Manila is a haven called Hotel H20 which provides the best of both worlds. Whether you’re in for an overnight staycation (when did this word come into life by the way?) in a comfy hotel or if you’re looking for opportunities to interact with wildlife, this hotel has it.
Its name derived right out of our science subject, H20 stands for water–remember? Situated along the scenic Manila Bay area, and in close proximity to the historic Luneta Park, Hotel H2O offers its guests a variety of refreshing options. All it takes is some good online deal hunting skills which thankfully my wife possesses–whether naturally or out of necessity.
A fan of Metrodeal, wifey was able to find a good package once again just in time for a birthday celebration. Our kid, Marcus, turned nine yesterday and this time he wished for nothing but to see fish. His regular visit to the hospital’s saltwater aquarium during his therapy sessions must’ve been a factor . So imagine his surprise when we entered Hotel H2O’s room and for him to see one whole wall where different colorful fishes swim back and forth 24/7. This beats any Ultra HDTV entertainment, yes?
Our accommodation package includes access to Manila Ocean Park’s attractions that complete our son’s birthday wish like touching the once intimidating stingray in the Close Encounter with Sharks and Stingrays area. In the Oceanarium, we were surrounded by giant aquariums that made us all feel like Finding Nemo characters. It was a bonus that Marcus got to see the scuba divers feeding the fishes.
But Manila Ocean Park is more than just about water creatures. There’s Birds of Prey area where Eagles fly almost freely. Anyone who likes to see rare collection of toys would definitely want to see Yexel’s Toy Museum–the Iron Man set is must see. Then there’s the variety of jellyfishes that seem hypnotic as they move gracefully in their own aquariums. Our package does not include the Creepy Crawlies but the extra pay was worth it.
This is Marcus’ fourth visit to Manila Ocean Park though our first time to stay in H2O Hotel. He discovered that we skipped the bubbly pool in the Liquid pool area so being a fan of pools he would want to be back soon. Hopefully by then improvements would have been made.
Waves have crest and trough. That’s ups and downs. In summary, here’s our Hotel H2O experience.
P5000 was worth the package.
Bed and linen are clean and comfy.
Toilet fixtures are mostly functional
Most hotel staff are friendly and helpful.
For picky kids, the option to grab their favorite fastfood few walks outside the hotel is a big plus. I was out late night for a burger steak meal.
The attractions are PWD-friendly.
Shower area doesn’t have enough recessed floor and the glass door has gaps so it water leaks out of the enclosure.
PWDs would have some access challenge.
Don’t expect too much from the Liquid dining buffet.