Palawan | The Crystal Clear Lakes in Coron

There is one place in the world that never ceases to amaze me – Palawan. It is the ultimate tropical escape. I love all areas of Palawan but Coron has always drawn my attention because of it’s two crystal clear fresh water lakes that hide behind tall rock formations, Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake.

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Barracuda Lake is every free-diver’s dream because it plummets from the surface following the beautiful walls of rock to dark depths. The fresh water allows your body to sink quickly like you were wearing weights. See my video below or click here to see how easily I sink in Barracuda Lake. The air in my lungs help me float but once I release air slowly I gradually sink faster and faster. The underwater video and photos were taken with my GoPro Hero 4.

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It’s great to snorkel in the area and even better to scuba dive. It feels as if you were exploring the moon. There are also these cute little flute fish that stroll past you when you’re in the water.

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After the underwater adventure, it’s nice to grab a life jacket and float out to the deeper end to get a 360 view of the entire lake. This is where I like to lay back and relax. It’s fun in a scary way not knowing exactly what is below you. Since they say there are Barracuda in the lake, don’t wear anything shiny because they might think you are the silvery fish that they prey on. Well, I’ve worn shiny things in that lake before but nothing has happened to me, yet!

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To get to Barracuda lake you take a short wooden staircase up and through the rock formations. Kayangan Lake is a higher hike, just a 5-10 minute walk up the steep mountain where you can take a beautiful shot of the view from the top, then climb down to the lake.

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Each lake has a wooden walkway for people to sit, hang out, or put their things while in the water. This site leaves you feeling relaxed and full of wonder. Even though you know many people come to this lake every day, it still seems like you have just discovered one of the most incredible places in the world.

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Coron Tour Tip:

Book a banka boat tour and make sure your package consists of Barracuda Lake, Kayangan Lake, Black Island, and one of the sunken shipwrecks. If you have to choose between lakes, I suggest making Barracuda Lake your top priority. It’s definitely worth it! Before getting on the boat, rent fins and masks with a snorkel because you’re going to want to see the beauty beneath the surface.

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Fresh Food from the Wet Market

During your day tour, you’ll need to take a break for lunch. There won’t be any restaurants on the islands so head to the wet market in Coron Town before boarding your boat. Buy fresh seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables. I always like getting Crab, Prawns, Fish, Pork (Liempo), rice, squash, carrots, zucchini, and mango. Buy soy sauce and mix it with Calamansi for a delicious dipping sauce. The boatmen can grill your food at any island you wish to stop at. I usually look out for the white sand beaches with huts and tables. Freshly grilled seafood on a tropical island is the most satisfying way to eat!

Coron Shipwrecks

Once you’re done eating, it’s time for more exploring! I usually head to one of the Coron shipwrecks. There is a shipwreck near Barracuda Lake that is shallow enough for snorkelers to see. If you’d like to go scuba diving, there are deeper and larger shipwrecks to explore in the area.

If you stop by Black Island, there’s a small cave that holds a little pond of water situated behind the beach.

All of the sights and experiences you can have in Coron are mesmerizing and thrilling. I’ve been there several times and it always seems like the photos I have taken or the memories I have never do justice. In my opinion, Palawan is one of the top destinations in the world and I plan to return many times.

Julia Quisumbing

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Swimwear – The Minimalist Look

I grew up in the Philippines, so I naturally go to the beach a lot since I’m surrounded by 7,107 islands. Since I was a child, I swam in pools, snorkeled in the ocean, made sand castles on the beach, and was constantly in a swimsuit getting sunburnt. Once I became a teenager, I became a licensed PADI Scuba Diver and enjoyed free diving as well. The ocean is naturally beautiful and doesn’t need much to be. It’s blue with pops of color from lively coral. I like to blend into nature and the way to do that is by wearing a simple solid color or shade. None of this rainbow or patterned swimwear! I like wearing black, grey, white, nude, or pastel colors that are pleasing to the eye.

 

Recently, I bought minimalist swimwear from Mimosa Swimwear to wear during my beach travels around the Philippines. I believe that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Check out their Instagram! – @mimosa.swimwear.

 

Mimosa Minimalist Brazilian One-Piece

$27.99

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Mimosa Neoprene Bikini

$33.99

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Mimosa Solid Minimalist Bikini

$24.99

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Julia Quisumbing

 

Kenya Safari Trip

I grew up watching Discovery Channel and National Geographic because my dad is a nature freak so I became an animal lover. Going to Kenya was a dream come true! Whatever you think Kenya is like, it’s even better!

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I arrived in Nairobi City and took a shuttle through traffic to the local airport to take my flight to Maasai Mara. I flew out on AirKenya and said goodbye to the city and civilization. It was exciting flying over the vast African land because I could see herds of animals below. I landed on the Mara Serena Air Strip and I got an idea of how the rest of my trip would be as I dragged my luggage through the reddish dusty gravel – wild, free, and covered in dust! My destinations would be Maasai Mara and Amboseli for my Kenyan trip.

Safari

Every day, our guide would take us out on a game drive in our jeep. We would do 2-3 game drives a day; morning and afternoon, always returning to the lodge for a meal. I spent around 10 hours of the day in the jeep, which sounds boring but was actually incredible and exciting. These game drives were my opportunity to see the animals and find the “Big Five”; Elephant, Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lion, and Leopard. I felt like I was in a discovery show because I even found the same pride of Cheetahs that were filmed in a documentary on BBC. My favorite moments of the trip was when I’d spot a mother elephant with a very tiny baby. It was amazing to see them together roaming the land for food and water. We were also lucky when we found a Leopard in a tree on our 3rd day, it was such a beautiful and elegant animal. One of the top moments of the safari was when the sun was going down and we found a beautiful pride of lionesses with cubs. The light was no longer harsh and provided a romantic setting for the experience, and I was able to get beautiful shots.

After seeing the big five, my next goal was to see a predator kill an animal. I know it sounds wrong, but in Kenya it’s nature being natural. I saw lions kill a zebra and feed their cubs and pride. There was a drought in the area, almost no plants in sight, and part of this was due to the large amounts of herbivores. The lions are a key part of the ecological balance.

I was happy to discover that Kenya wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be. The mornings and nights were cold and the afternoons were hot. If you plan a trip to Kenya and wonder what clothing to bring, please read my blog “What to Wear in October in Kenya” to get some ideas.

I thought there would be areas where I could walk around in the safari but I was sad to discover that we could never leave the vehicle, our guide said it was dangerous and against rules. I questioned why I couldn’t exit the jeep in an area that seemed open and safe. A moment after I had this thought and as we were driving with no view of animals, a ditch showed up on the side of the road, and inside the ditch was a very large hyena hiding. I thought to myself, “Oh! That’s why.” And realized I probably shouldn’t be strolling around freely here because one bite from that hyena could kill me, and that wasn’t the largest predator out there. We had to return to our lodges before dark in case we came across poachers.

I brought my Canon 70D camera to capture as many animals possible. I wished that my lens was longer and promised myself that the next time I go on a safari in Africa, I would have an extremely long lens and take National Geographic level photos! Instead, I always had binoculars around my neck to get a better view of the animals in action. I can’t imagine anyone going on a safari without binoculars, it would be so frustrating!

The Maasai

While I was in Maasai Mara, I visited a village where families of Maasai lived. As I saw women walking around hunched over carrying pounds of firewood on their backs, I asked the son of the Chief Maasai what the responsibilities of the women were. He told me that they do chores such as cooking and milking, building and maintaining the houses as well as fetching water, collecting firewood, raising the children, milking the cattle and cooking for the family. So then I asked, what the men do and he said they protect the village and deal with trade. At the end of the experience through the village, we were brought to an open area in the back of the houses where the women were sitting on blankets with a spread of Maasai art and accessories for sale.
Not only were the women in charge of everything in the village, they were also in charge of creating products and selling them to create income.
I felt sad to see the men joking, laughing and sitting around while the women were hard at work. There was no balance in genders in this type of community.
As I spoke to some of the Maasai women, I learned of how strong, independent and inspiring they really were with the situation they were born in. I was extremely impressed by them.

Nearing the end of the trip, all of my personal problems and stress seemed to dissipate. Nothing seemed important anymore and I felt extremely relaxed and happy. I never thought that all I needed to have a clear head was to go, see, and experience what real struggle is in the real world – The circle of life.

Julia Quisumbing

My First Investment

I’ve always wanted a stable income but for an entrepreneur, that’s rarely the case in the start. The only time I’ve had a full-time job was when I was an intern working in Ritz Carlton Barcelona. After that I swore I would never work for another company again. I’ve been modeling since 2013 and that has been a great experience for me. Modeling gave me a great income with a lot of freedom. The only problem was that I never knew how much I would make every month. That lack of stability drove me crazy. I decided to put all of my income into an investment.

 

I was watching “Property Brother’s” and got inspired to buy a condo. I talked to my friend’s mom who owns the English Bakery in Boracay and who is a successful entrepreneur. In 2015, she told me about a condo building being built called Cedar Peak by VDARA Realty Corporation in Baguio city.

Units were being sold pre-selling with the condo turnover date of July 2017. I was intrigued that the condo building would be connected to a small mall with restaurants, banks, book stores, and more. The best part was that there would be a SM Savemore Grocery store on the bottom floor of that mall. It was also two blocks away from Burnham Park. I thought about it long and hard and decided that it was the best option for me. This was my first investment so I had no idea how it worked but I did know how to deal with contracts thanks to modeling. I chose to get a 27sqm studio unit, which cost 3 Million Philippine Pesos ($58,523). This was to my knowledge, a great deal because it was in the center of the city in a great location and across from University of Baguio. Location was everything. Condos in a good location in either Makati or BGC for the same size were pricier. I gave a large down payment with the money I made from one of my commercials. Every month for around 2 years, I paid P15k ($293). I had 2 years to save enough money to pay the exceeding amount. The way I saw it was I put all of my money in a bank (the condo), the property was my asset and I could have a stable monthly income by renting it out, then sell it in the future, getting my money back with some extra profit from the increased value.

 

In June 2017, VDARA called me up to pay the lasting amount to turn the condo over. I reluctantly paid because it hurt to give that much money away. I had to remind myself, “It’s a bank”. I drove 4 hours up to Baguio with my boyfriend Gui who supported me throughout this crazy experience. We drove through the winding misty forest up to Baguio. The city definitely had a different vibe and was calming. We arrived to Cedar Peak and saw that the building was created with such great material and quality. It was 2 blocks away from Burnham Park and right around the corner from Upper Session Road where you’d find tons of restaurants and shops.

 

The lobby was beautiful, modern, large and clean. I entered my condo for the first time and fell in love with the flooring, cabinets, and space. The mall connected to the lobby by a glass door had a great variety of restaurants, cafes, banks and shops. It was a great experience staying in the condo with a grocery store so nearby. It was everything you’d need in just a few steps. The elevators at Cedar Peak were fast and spacious.  I was so happy that I trusted my gut to get the place, even though a lot of people wondered why I chose Baguio; somewhere I rarely go. Honestly, it was just because I was young, inexperienced, and needed a better deal. I had no idea that I would be getting such a prime location with amazing quality.

 

 

My boyfriend gave me his refrigerator and mattress from his old house, which saved me about P20k or more. We spent about a week there struggling to furnish the place. I had to equip the kitchen with a portable stove, microwave, cutlery, plates, and more. I bought a bed frame, desk, wardrobe, curtains, Smart TV, TV console, and linen. I also installed a split-type aircon, water heater and customized shower rod. You can see the list of things that I bought here. Everything that I spent on the condo amounted to about P100k ($1,953). My friends were asking me why I was spending so much on the condo because I could just rent it out unfurnished with a cheaper rental rate or just furnish it simply. The reason was because I was told the average rental in the area would go for P15k a month, which made sense for a 27sqm studio in Baguio. I could not accept this amount since I wanted a faster return of investment, so I decided to try Airbnb. I once used Airbnb when I went to New York and new little about it. I didn’t know anyone personally who rented their place out on Airbnb so I could not ask anyone. I took a chance and started to fully-furnish my condo while decorating it to attract guests.

 

 

I still did not know whether I was going to do Airbnb or a regular rental. Confusion makes me impulsive, so the day I got back to Manila I posted my condo on Airbnb thinking that no one would book. I was so shocked when the next day I got a booking and I had to rush and find a housekeeper online. That month of July I made more than a full months rental in half the month. I got so inspired that I returned to Baguio to improve the design and supply extra linen and necessary items for a daily rental. The following months took me on a new journey of fulfillment and success. I will be sharing more stories and information of my Airbnb experience through this blog.

 

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Julia’s Cozy Mountain Condo on Airbnb

Now I am making about P40 – P50k ($780 – $975) a month on my small studio condo in Baguio. This is more than double the amount I was told I would have made with a regular rental. If this has inspired you to rent your place out on Airbnb I hope you could use my referral code when you make your Airbnb Host account, you can do so by clicking here.

 

I hope you have enjoyed my story! Please follow for more.

 

Julia Q.  Instagram_Icon_Large-300x300