In traveling, it it’s always a question of whether you have money or not. When I first started traveling and my friends used to tell me “Hey, why didn’t you take me with you?” I would then tell them – “Why, if I asked you to come, would you?” and then they’d immediately laugh and say “Probably not, I don’t have money.”

Well, yes, I guess to travel, money is an important issue especially if you’re not comfortable going hard core. However, since finding out and meeting one of my travel idols – James Betia of Journeying James, I’ve taken a different insight into budget traveling and I truly admire how he’s proven I don’t have to be a governor or an actress to travel to beautiful places.

One day, James, who is from Los Baños (Elbi or LB) offered to take some bloggers on a day tour of not more than P500 around Elbi on May 8. I’ve been to Los Baños before and I never thought much about the place or that there may be something more in Elbi. So, I signed up, after all, I’d get to meet other bloggers like Ivan of Batang Lakwatsero, Chin Chan of Juanderful Pinoy, Eileen Campos of Possibly Pinay and Lloyd of The Lostboy Lloyd and as an additional note, learn a little from James, who I had previously met at Club Manila East.

The Challenge:

I can be a big spender. I’m not very assertive myself so sometimes, when my shyness takes over, I end up spending too much. Today’s challenge was that I had to spend only P500 for the whole day – supposedly just for the expenses in Elbi, but I also secretly wanted to spend just P500 from home as well.

We were supposed to meet up in Buendia at 5am, so I left home at around 4am and rode an FX all the way to Buendia (there is a station in Cubao going to Los Baños but I was meeting with Ivan and Chin Chan at Buendia. I arrived at Buendia Station at 5am and looked around for Ivan and Chin Chan. They weren’t replying to my texts and I had no idea how they looked. A few minutes more and I’d be scared of being alone, I’d become lazy and I’d take the next FX back home and back into my soft, comfortable covers. I’ve learned that if I just do it – if I just go without second guessing or thinking back, I’d actually be able to do what I want to do without being scared or feeling paranoid. Before I could start second guessing or scaring myself not to go, I hopped onto the next bus that was headed to Sta. Cruz and sat down – alone. As soon as I had taken my seat, I was glad the bus roared alive and prepared to head out of the driveway. Good, I thought. I won’t have time to back out now.

It’s a good feeling – being alone on the road and it isn’t always that I get to experience that. Whenever I do, it’s a feeling I always appreciate even if it takes me quite awhile to take that first step.

The bus ride to Los Baños took only about 2 hours or less. I was awake the whole time, even if I was becoming slightly drowsy from the cool air-conditioning and the nice seats of the Green Star bus. I watched the bus go along the roads of SLEX and into the provincial roads leading to Laguna. Just before 7am, I arrived at the Los Baños crossing and headed to Jolibee where James, Eileen and a friend were already seated. I ate breakfast first and talked with James and Eileen while waiting for Ivan, Chin Chan and Lloyd.

When we had all eaten and was ready to go, we headed to our first destination – the Laguna Lake Boat Tour. I’m not a fan of lakes – especially after the boatman at Taal Lake had told us the story about the snakes living in it. It wasn’t a good day to tour the lake though, the current in the lake was a little rough and Chin Chan was getting queasy. Luckily, I do know how to swim – but I was more worried about my camera getting wet.

Laguna Lake Tour

The boatman gave us a little tour of the places that were currently hiding behind some dark clouds. Just before we headed back into shore, we headed into a tiny peninsula hidden somewhere from the shore to the mountain that bordered the short piece of land. In the tiny piece of land was a natural hot spring, Malacoco Hotspring, naturally formed into a square pool where some young boys bathed.

Malacoco Hot Springs

I didn’t know there was a hot spring in Los Baños, all the more, right in the Laguna Lake. Curious, how the water suddenly turned warm as we docked into the peninsula. As I dipped my hand into the square pool and felt the warm gush of water – it was truly amazing to see something so natural right in the middle of nowhere.

By the time we were leaving Malacoco Hotsprings, it was already drizzling a bit. The boat tour cost P50 each. From the fishing village we had docked into and Eileen had once played basketball (you go, girl!), we rode a tricycle to Paciano Rizal’s House (terribly, terribly sad that I didn’t know he once lived in Los Baños).

Paciano Rizal's House

Paciano Rizal is the brother of Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero. It could also be assumed that Paciano Rizal was the wind beneath Jose Rizal’s wings because he is the reason why Jose Rizal was able to study abroad.


Paciano Rizal's House

Located near the municipal building, the house – turned museum but is still currently lived in, consists of antique belongings of the Rizal family, authentic items the Rizal brothers had once owned and even Paciano’s death bed could still be seen inside the house.

Paciano Rizal's Shoes

Paciano Rizal's Living Room

Paciano Rizal

There is no entrance fee, however, a donation is very much appreciated.

By the time we left Paciano Rizal’s house to go to the Agua Santa Spanish Bath Ruin, it was already raining – quite heavily. Even if our next destination wasn’t located too far from the house, we were forced to take a tricycle because of the pouring rain. Darn. No pictures for me.

Agua Santa Resort

The Agua Santa Spanish Bath Ruins was once the Agua Santa Resort, a mansion-like resort that had once catered their bath house for wealthy people. However, today, only part of the structure is left standing and the ruins of what had once been a natural springs bath house is now just an old building with a lot of memories.

Bath House Ruins

If only the local government would provide funds to renovate the structure and maintain it for future visitors…

Due to the pouring rain, we couldn’t go to the Mt. Makiling Flat Rocks (boo!) so we decided to head off to IRRI and UPLB instead. I’ve only been to UPLB once but that was only inside the Botanical Garden. James and Lloyd, who currently studies at UPLB toured us into their school. Like most other UP campuses, UPLB had a mysterious atmosphere with old buildings and wide fields that had once been my dream before it crashed and burned after the UPCATs.

Ice Cream Stop

It was still a little too early to have lunch so we stopped by at an ice cream parlor in UPLB. We ate some banana chips and then I ordered a small chocolate ice cream cup for P12.

Ice Cream Stop with PTB

We filled in what should’ve been time at the Flat Rocks with some laughter, stories and enjoyment with the bloggers, while at the same time, waiting for the rain to pause so we could take a jeep going to IRRI or the International Rice Research Institute (again, I never knew existed in Elbi, nor even in the Philippines).


We were going to eat at IRRI and despite picturing a small canteen, the canteen was more like a restaurant with a buffet type of serving in a cold, cafeteria type of area.

IRRI Canteen

By lunch time, the place was looking more and more like a restaurant with foreigners eating. My lunch cost P45 with soup and water.


As we ate, we talked some more, both Eileen (an alumni of UPLB) and Lloyd shared stories about their school. While we ate, I couldn’t help noticing how hard the rain poured outside and it was a shame because I thought the rice fields would’ve been so pretty during sunshine.

IRRI Rice Fields

IRRI Fields


Once the rain had stopped a little, we headed to the Philippine Carabao Center where we tried their Milk-O-Jel, a type of Jelly that had texture like lecheflan and kind of tasted like lecheflan only that the carabao milk had a stronger taste.

Philippine Carabao Center

I’m not a fan of milk, so I didn’t enjoy the Milk-O-Jel. I did appreciate the experience though.

Fertility Tree

After that, we toured the school on foot. Along the way, we passed by the Dao – which is one of the oldest trees in UP, and the fertility tree – named because of – well, you get why it’s called that.



We also passed by the Baker Hall which had once been a prison. According to our tour guides, the place, or below the building that currently featured multiple ads for different sports had once been a torture chamber for prisoners. Having a really wild imagination – that’s totally awful.

Baker Hall

Before ending our tour, of course, we headed to buy Lety’s Buko Pie for P150, which was the best buko pie in all of Laguna – according to our tour guides – and they were right!

Since we had to miss out one of our itinerary destinations, by 3pm, we headed back to Manila.


Now, the big question is – Did I make my P500 cut?


List of Expenses

Tricycle to Mariwasa    11
FX to Makati            40
Bus to LB               99
Jollibee Meal           85 (optional)
Tricycle to Lake        10
Boat fee                50
Trike to Paciano house   9
Donation for the house  20
Tricycle to Agua         8 (optional)
Jeep to UPLB             8
Ice cream               12 (optional)
Jeep to IRRI             8
Lunch                   45
Jeep to Carabao Milk     8
Mill-o-Jel              15
Lety’s Buko Pie         150 (optional)
Bus to Manila           89.5
MRT Magallanes to Cubao 14
LRT Cubao to Santolan   11


          Total Cost =  P692.5 (yeah right. I wish!)


But without all the optional expenses and if I take out all my personal expenses like transportation to the bus stop I have spent only


Tadadadum-dadum! P361.5

                                                WINNER! 🙂


While I didn’t win in my expenses of P500 all the way from Cainta (I didn’t really think I’d make it with P500), James was right. I could tour Elbi with just P500 in my pockets – and even have change!


***Note: The numbers in the list won’t straighten. Lol. ***

Brenna is the sole owner of The Philippine Travelogue, an online journal of her travel adventures and experiences. Brenna is a freelance writer, online marketing and social media specialist and a blogger with a constant itch for adventure and thrill. For inquiries, suggestions and invitations please send a message.

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