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Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mundane Things Turn Extraordinary in Baguio

Many Filipinos say that Baguio has changed a lot. Who am I to say the same thing? I am not a native of Baguio and I’ve been there for only three times. First in 1998, second in 2010, and my recent was in February of this year. I was only 11 years old when I first visited Baguio. I was not a keen observant back then, so I couldn’t make a vivid comparison of its transformation decades ago from our present time. But basing it from the information available in the internet and periodicals, and from my friends’ testimonials, Baguio is not what it was like before; its weather has become erratic and its population has ballooned.

Erratic weather and inflating population are not surprising manifestations. All places in the Philippines experience the same occurrences. Climate change is very palpable and Filipinos are almost 100 million nowadays. With gruffly climbing population and irrepressible effects of climate change, Philippines’ tropical season is warmer. Now, where will these people go? Most of them will find a cooler place. For some, Baguio is the most ideal.

As of last year, Baguio’s population has reached more than three hundred thousand compared to its city-plan ideal population which is only twenty five thousand. We cannot spare Baguio from population growth, but what’s more distressing is we cannot also spare it from climate change.

On a brighter side, despite of that unpleasant reality, I still find Baguio appealing. I went to Baguio on February 26, 2011 for Panagbenga Festival. Aside from getting mesmerized by the parade of flowers, I was also captivated by mundane things such as coffee, food, and nightlife that turned extraordinary in Baguio.

Panagbenga Festival

The highlight of Panagbenga Festival is the float parade. It usually falls on the last weekend of February. This festival is considered as one of the most jovial in the Philippines. The local government of Baguio, as well as the national government thru the efforts of the Department of Tourism (DOT) show incessant support on the said celebration. In fact, I saw DOT Sec. Alberto Lim spearheading the event. For me, that is a good sign that the Philippine government gives priority and utmost importance on the promotion of tourism in the country.

Pictures below are part of the month-long celebration of Panagbenga Festival. I only posted my favorite floats for the float competition, and landscapes for the landscape designing competition.

The whole area of Session Road turned into a raging crowd of tourists on early morning of Sunday to see the presentation of various majestic floats engulfed with different kinds of flower. I was in total amazement when I saw the float emerged from one corner of the road one by one. People cheering and expressing their admiration and excitement were unstoppable. I also joined them on several occasions. Crowd even grew wild when floats carrying prominent local artists surfaced.

Coffee

I usually start my day with a cup of coffee, but it felt wholly different when I tried that morning ritual in Baguio—I tend to ask for more. One thing that makes “my coffee moment” extraordinary in Baguio is the weather. Hot drink and cold weather just blend impeccably. I’ve been to various coffee shops in Metro Manila— most of them are located in big shopping malls—but none of them perfectly blend with the place except Baguio.

FoodOne of the best things I love and will always look forward to in Baguio is their great foods. My 200 bucks went beyond my expectations. Here, it’s easier to find food chains and restaurants with good quality food. Plus, you’ll see the worth of your money since most of them serve at a cheaper cost. Of course, you should make a good pick. My favorites are 50’s Diner and Café by the Ruins. The former offers big servings of food while the latter, aside from delectable delicacies, bestows impressive ambience—perfect for couples or those looking for a quiet place. These two food outlets shall not be missed.

I also enjoyed eating vegetables in Baguio because it always comes free as a side dish (haha), and tastes so fresh. Seriously, I started to become a foodie when I was here.

Night lifeWhat crosses my mind whenever I hear the word night life are bars, disco clubs, drinking sessions, and all-night party. Night life is not the term for people who always go for movie, coffee, and talks. Most of the time, it has been associated to flamboyant, loud and liberated individuals who never missed a party; those who have been celebrating sprightly nights almost every day. In short, it’s not the term of boring people. I’m a person not fond of going to bars. Invite me to a movie date, dinner, to sit for a cup of coffee, or sing at a video-oke house, I would prolly entertain, not for a drinking session or party.

At last, when I was in Baguio, I found the word night life suited for me. One factor that makes the place ideal for clubbing is the weather. Since it’s cold in Baguio, bar hoppers do not get easily drenched in sweat, making them more comfortable in enjoying the moment.

When my friends and I went to a bar, I did not expect that I would enjoy spending my night with the crowd. It was one of my soothing nights with them accompanied by live bands. Though there is no dance hall, still, the air was filled with voices joining the bands as they sing while others were busy chatting with their buddies with a cup of coffee, juice or beer.

I appreciated the night life in Baguio—simple, boisterous, but peaceful. Also, I realized that Baguio is home of great singers.

For me, these mundane things— coffee, food, and night life—turned extraordinary because of the weather. In fact, it is one of the main reasons why tourists keep on visiting Baguio, especially during Christmas season and summertime. Mines Views Park, Botanical Garden, The Mansion, and strawberries are not just what we are lusting for; we desire more of the consoling atmosphere it provides. This gem of Baguio shall be kept and passed on to the generation’s next. If climate change is the adversary of the distinct feature of Baguio, let’s find ways to trounce it. We can find ways. We shall.

Posted in TRAVELS | 4 Comments

Manila Photo-walk: Unveiling the Faces of Quiapo

Every picture tells countless stories. Yes, countless! Pictures vanish in time, or have the tendency to become extinct, but their stories remain forever.

Just after the sun smiled and spread its luminous horizons on early Saturday morning of January this year, I am already wide awake preparing to meander at the frantic and chaotic streets of Manila. With my camera (Lala), backpack and cap, all systems go for my Manila photo-walk. Destination: Quiapo.

I had tragic experiences in Quiapo way back in college. My brother’s phone, which I just borrowed, was snatched in Quiapo. I was almost stabbed in a holdup twice in Quiapo. However, in spite of those harrowing things I had encountered, I realized that there are deeper certainties prevailing in Quiapo; it’s not just an abode of mad minds and vindictive individuals—the way many perceive it to be—but Quiapo is also a nest of those who persevere, hope, and believe that life will get better.

Through lenses, I captured the stories of people who tirelessly fight the odds in Quiapo everyday.

Quiapo Church is one of the famous churches in the Philippines and one of the most populated in Metro Manila. Believe it or not, people from all walks of life visit this church. They come to worship our Creator, offer their prayers, and express their hearts’ desire.

Just in front of the church is the renowned Plaza Miranda.

Black Nazarene

I attribute the prominence of Quiapo Church to the Black Nazarene or Poon Nazareno. Every 9th of January, devotees of Black Nazarene gather along the streets of Manila and around Quiapo to express their perpetual faith and join the procession to fulfill their yearly vow. I always label that day as “Maroon Day” in Quiapo. Believers who join the procession wear maroon, walk barefooted, and wipe the image of Black Nazarene with their handkerchiefs or towels while some tightly grasp the rope attached to the replica. Many believe that Black Nazarene can make miracles.

I had to secure permit first at the administrator’s office before I was able to take photographs inside the church,. I was very careful not to disturb people showing their adulation, so I took photos in the most modest way I could.

This person had first strike my senses. It seemed to me that he is sincerely sharing his new experiences to our Almighty Father. If the intentions of most people who go to church are to alleviate their worries and ask God to solve their adversities, I found his different. He is there to share good news.

This person is in deep sorrow. I observed atonement while begging for forgiveness in his gestures. He touches all four corners of the glass that shields the life-sized statue of the Black Nazarene.

If the first two pictures showed joy and pain, this picture displays hope. The man carrying a wooden box surrenders everything to Him with hopes that someday, he would be able to find a good paying job while the person beside him asks for God’s help in providing a decent living for his family.

Outside the church, I noticed how people make a living. Most of them are grappling to sustain their everyday needs.

This man, with his Ipod on, fell asleep while waiting for parishioners to buy his cigarettes and candies.

I wandered across Plaza Miranda until I got propelled and heartened by this old man. After seeing him sits under the scorching heat of the sun, and positions himself where church goers usually pass by, I was swiftly jolted by the urge to help him. I offered aid by trying to assist him to sit properly, but he refused. So I just dropped a few coins in his plastic bottle. His life depends on that small plastic bottle. I think he also hopes that he ends his day with his bottle full.

After a couple of minutes, I saw him peeling an orange. Several minutes passed, but no one cared to drop a coin in his plastic bottle. Then I just found myself murmuring that old people don’t deserve to be treated this way; if they don’t have families, at least, our government should nurture them. Life is cruel for some.

When I took a few paces away from the old man, I witnessed how vendors manage to smile despite of their current plights. I was reminded again that Filipinos are really happy people.

This old lady shall serve as an inspiration to those who think they are too old to work hard or too young to look for work. Though she’s shaded by umbrella and supported by chair, she still prefers to sell Sampaguita at her age. One good thing about her is she always smiles to church-goers and bystanders; thus, making it easy for her to deliver her sales pitch.

If the old lady is situated in front of the Quiapo church, this vendor roams around the vicinity to sell Sampaguita. Her alacrity caught me so I ended up buying a bundle and offered it to the Black Nazarene.

Aside from candles, replicas of Christ, Sto. Nino and scapulars, other merchants also offer treatments for illness, which some believe, brought by witch and gnome. There are a lot of quack doctors and faith healers in Quiapo too. Magic potions or gayuma are also available in some of the stalls in the area.

I spent my whole morning in Quiapo and had banged by lots of realizations in life. I may not be able to help my brothers and sisters who need it most, but sharing their stories is one way to show how some people like them persevere despite of hardships and misfortunes in life. Amidst the hullaballoo in Quiapo, I found appeasement: I am way privileged than most people making their lives in Quiapo. Their stories are bitter now, but I hope, someday, they will find the life they always yearn for.

This photo-walk inspired and gratified me.

Posted in TRAVELS | 4 Comments

Talipanan Beach, Puerto Galera

One of the communal clichés I always bear in mind whenever I travel is, “Expect the Unexpected.” I know that some place would “wow” me and some would disappoint me. But no matter how good or bad they appear to me, I always make sure that it would not defeat one of the purposes of my travel— to find what’s extraordinary on a certain place. It could be the place itself, people, food or culture.

THREE PLACES TO GO IN PUERTO GALERA

1ST– El Canonero Diving and Beach Resort

My friends and I planned this trip three weeks ago. As the one in charge of the nitty-gritty details of our travel, I had to read several reviews and blogs and consult some trusted persons about the area. Since we are looking for a placid place that would satisfy our thirst for isolation and bring us away from the hubbub of the busy Iife in the city, it was our commitment to find a secluded area in Puerto Galera, if not secluded, at least not jam-packed.

Somewhere at the shores of Talipanan situated a resort that captured our gaze and attention— El Canonero Resort. It is located at Talipanan, Puerto Galera. El Canonero  is second to the last resort that reposes along the long semi-white sand beach of the whole barangay.

We inquired on five resorts at Talipanan, but among them, this is the only resort that has a swimming pool. This is a good alternative for us since we don’t want to spend all our time swimming at the beach especially at night.

The resort looks very elegant at night

If chicken-crow is the common alarm clock of people living in provinces, here, you will be awakened by dynamic waves. It shall be followed by taking your favorite hot drink in the morning while gazing at the sea.

Conversely, beach sand is kinda bizarre because it’s very fine at the shoreline but rock-strewn once you dip in the water and move towards the deeper part of the sea.  Thus, giving us ample time to appreciate more the long walks than swimming.

Resort room is very affordable. It would only cost a group of 4-5 P2,500/room for overnight stay. We got it at a lower price though (thanks to my bargaining skills). It is air-conditioned with TV and personal refrigerator. We were also surprised that the resort provided us free soap, shampoo, toothpaste, coffee, and tea. It was more than what we expected and something we couldn’t refuse.

Having our breakfast at Bamboo ResortHaving our breakfast at Bamboo Resort

El Canonero also offers variety of foods to the visitors. There are Filipino dishes, but mostly are Italian. One complete meal costs around P300-500. The resort owner was very generous and accommodating to us because he allowed us to pick the dishes we want to consume, even if some weren’t included in the menu. For three meals, we only paid P900/each. Their pizza is a must-try. Generally, foods were good but the service of the chef was unsatisfactory because she kept on frowning at us most of the time on our reasonable requests. She even suggested what we should only eat. One of our conversations with her went this way: “Us: Gusto po namin ng pork sinigang for lunch. Chef: Frozen po ang karne ngayon eh. Mag pasta nalang po muna kayo.” We could have ranted, but since she’s going to prepare our food, we pretended that everything was okay. So we ended up dealing with the owner everytime before taking our meal, so he’ll be the one to give commands to his chef. If you’re looking for cheaper foods, I suggest you dine in at Bamboo resort; it’s just beside El Canonero.

We admired most the location of the resort. Overlooking the beach from our room and dining area served as panoramic view in our eyes while its rumbling waves gave music to our ears. The place seemed to cuddle a lonely soul.

El Canonero resort is the perfect place for people in quest of serenity. Unlike White Beach, this place is very quiet which gives someone a feeling of being away. Including us, there were only two groups of Filipinos booked at the resort. Most of the visitors in the area were foreigners. That too, gave us a feeling that we were in a foreign land—somewhere far.

2ND– Talipanan Waterfalls

Talipanan Waterfalls is just a 25-minute trek from El Canonero. Guide fee is P100 each person. If there was something very interesting about the trek, that’s passing through the “Mangyan Village.” Mangyan is the collective name of indigenous groups inhabiting Mindoro Island. I have a friend who is a Mangyan but it felt different when I saw them in pact and flocked in a small community. Their community brought me to an old and unfamiliar land. I observed that most of them still live in Nipa huts.

They nurture pigs and goats, and have them tied on trees.  There is also a basketball court in the village that serves as a pastime of the youths. Most of them show politeness to the tourists by saying hi, hello, or by a simple smile.

You’ll pass at three small cascades before reaching the Talipanan Waterfalls. The water coming from its rocky hill is very clear and cold.

3rd– Coral Garden

Our second day in Puerto Galera was devoted for Snorkeling and Island hopping. Among other activities we had tried, for us, Snorkeling was the most rewarding. We were like in a giant aquarium playing with innumerable fishes of different kinds. Corals were very attractive in all aspects—shapes, colors, and forms. It was hard for us to believe that gleaming green, yellow, cream and purple corals were existing 10 feet below our boat.

It wasn’t my first time to snorkel, but having explored Coral Garden made me venerate Puerto Galera.

Our jump shot at Sand Bar Island. This is where we stayed after visiting the Coral Garden. One significant feature of the island is the presence of small portion of sands that divides the two islands.

Puerto Galera has a lot of options for visitors. If you opt to snorkel, dive, and kayak, I’m sure you would find a good place here. For party goers or those who want to experience the hyped night-life in the island, White Beach is there to harbor you. Fire dancing, stage shows and bars are some of the attractions in the area. But White Beach is not the right dwelling for us. It is very congested and commercialized for people wanting to unwind in a tranquil place.

My recent trip in Puerto Galera has backed and refuted some reviews I read about Oriental Mindoro’s hottest summer destination. I’m not yet a well-traveled person, but upon discovering that traveling is one of my passions, I have learned that in order for you to enjoy your travel, aside from bringing your close comrades and special someone, you have to find your comfort zone in a certain place. For some, comfort zone is best relished alone.

HEADS UP:

-Always bargain when you travel. You can get the best value of your money once you know how to negotiate. Even if you have a tight budget, you can still get the best deal in Puerto Galera. If you don’t plan to stay in a posh hotel and you want to spend your whole time at the beach without doing other activities such as diving, snorkeling and island hopping, P2,500-P300 budget for 2 days and 1 night will do. It would be lesser if you come in a group.

-Guide fee to Talipanan Falls- P100/pax

-Boat rent for snorkeling and island hopping- P2,000/boat

-Tricycle fare from Talipanan to White Beach- P100/morning and P150/night/ tricycle

GOING TO PUERTO GALERA THROUGH PUBLIC TRANSPORT

1-      Ride a bus going to Batangas Port. Bus terminals are located in Cubao and (LRT) Buendia.

Fare- P166.50

2-      From Batangas Port, ride a ferry boat. Before, boats only dock at White Beach, now it can bring you to Talipanan but with a higher fare.

Fare to White Beach- P250 oneway. P450 two-way.

to El Canonero, Talipanan- P300 one way.

Pls. be reminded that you have to pay environmental fee (P50) and terminal fee (P30) at Batangas Port. This is just a one-time payment.

From Manila, it would only take you 4 hrs to Puerto Galera.

El Canonero Diving and Beach Resort

Contact person: Giorgio Borello

Contact numbers: 0915-845-4399/ 0916-524-9510

Posted in TRAVELS | 14 Comments

Zambales: Anawangin Cove

I had my terrible experience, which later on turned out as laughing-stock of my friends, when I first visited Anawangin Cove on June 21, 2009.

My friends and I fearlessly navigated the sea of Zambales during rainy season; thus, making its water murky and treacherous. Unrelenting sea waves almost swallowed our small boats when we were sailing across its angry sea. Seriously, it was like a roller coaster ride in the water. It was also the first time my friends saw me in great tremor because upon stepping at the coast of Anawangin, I just stayed in one corner not wanting to leave the area until the water calm down. I even suggested trekking the mountain instead of sailing the sea (later on, I realized that it was a crazy idea because it’s more dangerous to do such). After a series of prayers, my friends were able to convince me to go ahead and sail across the next island. Apparently, I did not enjoy the whole trip in Anawangin  Cove and Capones Island. Fear was dominant. I didn’t just fear for my life. I can swim. I worried more for the lives of my friends in case unfortunate incident happened because I invited them to visit Zambales. Anyway, I already scrapped that experience. My friends should do the same. 🙂

That experience gave me more reason to visit Anawangin again during dry season. Gladly, I made it for the second time last week. And yes, it was love at second sight.

Anawangin Cove lies in San Antonio, Zambales.  It’s a 30-45-minute boat ride from the shores of Pundaquit. It is a beach enclosed by mountains. The existence of pine trees does not only add beauty to the place but makes the cove more rustic and enigmatic.

I decided to spend the whole afternoon in Anawangin after having a brief stay at Camara and Capones Islands throughout the morning. It was totally different from the first time I saw it. Murky water during wet season turned into glowing bright-green and blue. The entire sea was calm and appeared to be very accommodating to the tourists. Visiting it in March was a perfect timing because most travelers start exploring Anawangin in April—the official vacation month of students. Deviating from the peak season gave me more time to enjoy the serenity of the place and devour its gratis charm.

Behind the pine trees reclines a river that contributes to the stillness of the place. It stretches along the whole curve of Anawangin. However, there’s no portion where the sea and river intertwine. The beach offers its fine gray sand. Unlike other islands in Zambales, though it’s not white, Anawangin has the perfect beach sand. There’s no rough part. It’s powdery gray. There, you can play around and do other beach activities such as ball games. Seriously, aside from volley ball, I saw people playing badminton.  The salt water is very ideal for swimming, nevertheless, it also has erratic parts.

There’s no concrete infrastructure in Anawangin which for me is better in order to preserve the uniqueness of the place. Looking for shades is not a problem since pine trees are very abundant everywhere. This is also the reason why campers prefer to stay here over night.

Beach goers are certainly looking for a perfect getaway this summer. Include Anawangin Cove in your list as early as now. Go ahead. Be astounded. I’m sure you will appreciate it and maybe, also fall in love at first sight.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:

Make sure to make reservations before your trip. It will save you time, money and energy.  I attached the details of my contact person below.

1)      Anawangin is divided into several resorts. I recommend you stay in Mansayon Beach Resort. Entrance fee for day trip is P50 and P100 for overnight stay. So far, it’s the best resort in the area. Though all resorts are almost the same, Mansayon has the best location. Wooden tables and benches are also provided for free.

2)      If you don’t have a tent, there are tents for rent in a store managed by Ligaya Mansayon or in some resorts located in Pundaquit. If you already have a contact person, I suggest that you ask him to reserve tent/s for you. Do not expect for the availability of Aling Ligaya’s tents.

3)      You will be able to use your phone only to take pictures or play music. There’s no cellular signal in the area. If you’re not with your special someone, forget him/her first. It’s the best time for you to enjoy your freedom. (Haha!)

4)      Save your battery. There’s no electricity in Anawangin. Most campers bring battery-operated lamp. Some bring super kalan or battery-operated stove so they could cook. There are firewoods being sold in the area for P120 per bulk.

5)      Bring enough foods and water if you’ll stay overnight. The water from water pump in Anawangin is not potable. If possible, do not buy foods in any stores in Anawangin to protect your pocket from harm. Prices of the goods are soaring than convenient stores. Example: 1.5-liter soft drink- P80, litro pack juice- P20, ice-P20, shampoo-P10. It’s always double the price of retail stores. Although I understand the store owners because the beach is isolated, still, for me, THE PRICE IS NOT RIGHT.  (Can Kris Aquino do something about this? Hahaha.. Kidding)

6)      There are comfort rooms in the area. No shower. Learn to fetch water from the pump. Deal with it and stop complaining.

7)      Don’t swim at night especially when you’re drunk. Again, no electricity. It’s hard to see people in the sea.

8)      There’s no corkage fee.

9)      Bring plastic bag and dispose your waste properly. Every visitor shall observe cleanliness in Anawangin.

Here’s the best deal I found:

Contact person: ALVIN BONAN

He’s also an owner of a small resort in Pundaquit.

Amenities: If you want to stay in Pundaquit, there are cottages available for P400-600. It’s a small Nipa hut, with bamboo bed (papag) and table inside. Shower rooms will be renovated next week, according to the owner. It was suggested by yours truly. Two video-oke machines are also provided.

Contact numbers: 0928-779-9849 and 0917-993-5166

RENTALS

TENTS: 2pax- P250, 4pax- P400

BOATS: (Round trip) From Pundaquit to

Anawangin Cove- P200-250/ pax

Capones Island- P200-250/ pax

Camara Island- P200-250/ pax

Nagsasa Cove- P300-350/pax

Taliyasin -P300-350/pax

Smallest boat can carry 4-5 pax. Largest or the ferry boat can carry a minimum of 20 pax. Kuya Alvin can also provide a service (tricycle) to pick you at San Antonio Market.

Prices are always negotiable so please learn how to negotiate. You can get the best deal if you choose to go to two or more islands.

HOW TO GET TO ANAWANGIN COVE

Using a public transport

1-      Ride a bus bound to Iba, Zambales or Sta. Cruz, Zambales. There are Victory terminals in Caloocan (Monumento), Cubao, Sampaloc and Pasay.

2-      Get off at San Antonio Market.

3-      From there, ride or rent a tricycle to Pundaquit.

4-      From Pundaquit, rent a boat to bring you to Anawangin.

Approximate travel time is 4 hrs from Manila to San Antonio through public transport. But it would only take you 3-3 ½ hrs if you have a private vehicle. Of course, it varies on the time of your travel.

(Date of travel: March 19, 2011)

Posted in TRAVELS | 3 Comments

Zambales: Camara Island and Capones Island

During summer, island hopping is always best done in the morning. It’s the best time to see the islands in perfect shape. I did not expect that all shades of blue and green are scintillating, until Camara and Capones Islands showed it to me.

CAMARA ISLAND

Camara Island is the closest and most accessible island from the shores of Pundaquit. It is just 20 minutes away from any nearby resorts depending on the ocean currents. Seas are usually smooth during summer. The island appears like a giant rock in the middle of the sea. It showcases white sand, splendor beach and huge rock formations.

There are two Camara Islands according to our boatmen. Most visitors make a quick stop at the bigger island and just pass at the smaller one. This place is not perfect for swimming if you’re looking for a beach where you can run along its shorelines with someone or make sand castles, but is a good venue for snorkeling. For me, white sand is not fine enough to match the perfection of the aquamarine water. Rough boulders and pebbles are very evident in the island.

This is my favorite rock formation. It’s the best spot to see the vastness of the ocean and waves smashing the island. Don’t look for trees because it’s not their place to be. Since trees are unavailable to give shade to visitors veering away from the sun, big rocks are there to accommodate them.

From Camara Island, you wouldn’t miss the picturesque contour of Pundaquit and mountains that surround it. It was a rare moment to see a scene like this— so rare that I had to stare at it for more than a couple of minutes before I realized that it was time for us to visit the next island.

CAPONES ISLAND

Capones Island is located 30 minutes from Pundaquit. With fine (and rough) white sand, emerald and blue water, and famous lighthouse, Capones Island becomes more popular than Camara Island. Most tourists wouldn’t mind going to the latter because the former has more to offer than just mere collections of giant rocks and sea waves.

More than the beach, Capones Island is known for its lighthouse. The 57-ft fortress was built in 1890 during the Spanish era. It was also first lit in the same year.

We arrived in Capones before 9 in the morning right after enjoying the rough sail from Camara for 20-25 minutes. Our boat wasn’t able to dock at the nearest place going to the lighthouse due to strong ocean currents so our boatmen dropped us at the far end of the island. The island harbors more trees and grassy areas. It looks like a colossal form of rock and has long elongated stretch compared to Camara.

From the moment we alighted from our boat, we started trekking the rocky foundation of the island. It took us 45 minutes before we reached the lighthouse, including rapid pauses to take pictures. Since the lighthouse is perched on top of the hill, aside from braving unsteady parts, we also conquered steep portions of Capones.

Trekking Capones would require someone to wear durable sandals and slippers or flip-flops because the pathways to the lighthouse are composed of rocks. Don’t forget to bring water. It is a must. You can bring your phones. There are cellular signals in the island—both for smart and globe. If you’re a traveller or photo enthusiast, there are best spots to shoot in the area. If you prefer to stay overnight, bring tent and enough foods. There are no cottages and stores in the island. You can rent tents and boats in resorts (small and big) located in Pundaquit.

Reaching the peak of the lighthouse was the highlight of our stay in Capones. It gave us 360 degrees view of the whole coast of Zambales that extends through the South China Sea. There, every angle was perfect. We witnessed how the trees swayed with the winds and how waves danced from one island to another. We also spotted how the hues of the beaches changed from blue-to-emerald-to-turquoise-and-to-royal blue. From North to South and East to West, everything was amazing.

Lighthouse shouldn’t be missed if you plan to visit Capones. You will miss the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment if you fail to hit its tower. If you want to catch your breath in awe, go ahead and make your way through the top.

Recommendations:

Let me make it clear, Pundaquit is a barangay in San Antonio, Zambales. It’s also consumed by mountains and beach resorts. Pundaquit serves as a terminal point of the tourists going to Camara and Capones Islands, Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove, and Taliyasin. If you only want to have a quick stay on the above-mentioned, and you’re looking for a place with comfortable and air-conditioned rooms, modern ambiance and swimming pool, I suggest that you look for a classy resort in the area of Pundaquit. But, if you prefer to explore the beautiful beaches of Zambales, look for adventure and experience the relaxing setting of the coasts, it is best if you wouldn’t stay in Pundaquit and head directly to any of the said islands.

Like me, I know you also want to save money while being compensated with good service. I looked for the best deal before I pursued my trips in Camara Island, Capones Island and Anawangin Cove which I found stress-free because I’m from Zambales.

Here’s the best deal I found.

Contact person: ALVIN BONAN

He’s also an owner of a small resort in Pundaquit.

Amenities: If you want to stay in Pundaquit, there are cottages available for P400-600. It’s a small Nipa hut, with bamboo bed (papag) and table inside. Shower rooms will be renovated next week, according to the owner. It was suggested by yours truly. Two video-oke machines are also provided.

Contact numbers: 0928-779-9849 and 0917-993-5166

RENTALS

TENTS: 2pax- P250, 4pax- P400

BOATS: (Round trip) From Pundaquit to

Anawangin Cove- P200-250/ pax

Capones Island- P200-250/ pax

Camara Island- P200-250/ pax

Nagsasa Cove- P300-350/pax

Taliyasin -P300-350/pax

Smallest boat can carry 4-5 pax. Largest or the ferry boat can carry a minimum of 20 pax. Kuya Alvin can also provide a service (tricycle) to pick you at San Antonio Market.

Prices are always negotiable so please learn how to negotiate. You can get the best deal if you choose to go to two or more islands.

HOW TO GET TO CAMARA AND CAPONES ISLANDS

Using a public transport

1-      Ride a bus bound to Iba, Zambales or Sta. Cruz, Zambales. There are Victory terminals in Caloocan (Monumento), Cubao, Sampaloc and Pasay.

2-      Get off at San Antonio Market.

3-      From there, ride or rent a tricycle to Pundaquit.

4-      From Pundaquit, rent a boat to bring you to the islands.

Approximate travel time is 4 hrs from Manila to San Antonio through public transport. But it would only take you 3-3 ½ hrs if you have a private vehicle. Of course, it varies on the time of your travel.

(Date of travel: March 19, 2011)

Posted in TRAVELS | 11 Comments

Sagada: A Chase of my Dream Place

I started dreaming of visiting Sagada four years ago after seeing its tempting charm on TV and reading it on the web. Just last week, I fulfilled that dream. Candidly, while I was there consuming its opulence, I never thought I was in reality—I felt that I was still dreaming.

Last week was my first week-long out of town trip since 2006. When I say out of town, I exclude Zambales and Bataan. I started in Baguio to witness the over-publicized Panagbenga Festival then after three days, headed relentlessly to Sagada.

ROAD TRIP

In Baguio, the terminal of buses going to Mountain Province is located at Dangwa, dwellers call it “Dangwa bus terminal,” which operated by GL Trans. Earliest trip to Sadaga starts at 6:30 in the morning and 1:30 in the afternoon is the last trip. There are no air-con buses but let me stress that bus-seats are more comfortable compared to typical buses in other provinces (I hope you figure out how a typical bus-seat in the province looks or feels like). Bus departure is scheduled every hour. There are two bus stops before arriving in Sagada, first stop is at Morning Star in Atok Benguet; it’s two hours from Dangwa terminal while the second is another two hours from Morning star. Expect that it’s colder when you travel in the morning because of heavy fog along the roads.

Going across Mountain Province from Baguio wasn’t that easy, apart from burning your butt for almost six hours, you would neither torment yourself nor feed your eyes on the views waving from the left and right sides of the road. The perfect artwork of our creator (as I always dub it) and the appalling precipices on the whole duration of travel would literally take someone’s breath away. The bus is situated a meter or two before the cliff. Deal with it and savor the moment.

I, together with my travel companion, did steal several naps when we were on our way to Mountain Province— just naps, because we wanted to make sure that our eyes are full before reaching our main destination. It was also the time when missing a thing was a sin. And besides, how could we sleep if we were being enticed by the scenes beside us?

Some parts of the road going there were under construction, so making it rough, but most parts were smooth and cemented. Before reaching Sagada, we traversed the worst part of the road where we grappled with dust for almost an hour.

START OF THE ADVENTURE

DAY-1  CAVE EXPLORATION

We made it in Sagada at exactly 12:11 in the afternoon after taking the first trip from Baguio. Subsequent to our lunch was our first adventure of the day—spelunking. If you look at the dictionary, caving and spelunking are the same, but according to all tour guides, the appropriate term for cave visitors or tourists is spelunkers because caving is the activity coined for the person/persons who discovered the cave. Well, I observed that the difference between the two terms is being discussed by every tour guide to every group. So, in case you were asked about it, you know what to say by now.

We traversed the Lumiang “Burial” Cave and Sumaging Cave or the “Cave Connection.” The two caves are connected. Once you enter the Lumiang Cave, you’ll exit at the Sumaging Cave.

One tour guide will attend and assist two tourists at the same time and each will pay P400. The approximate time in exploring the cave connection is 4 hours depending on the endurance and pace of the visitors, some wander inside the cave for more than 4 hours because it’s hard for them to bear the strenuous portions of the cave or they come with large group, so the tendency is, they wait for their comrades to finish one challenge first before they can go ahead with the trail.

LUMIANG CAVE


Situated at the Lumiang Cave’s entrance are small coffins piled horizontally. Locals believe that their ancestors buried at its mouth are protectors of the abundant forests in the area. According to Jayson, our tour guide, there were almost 200 coffins before, but due to earthquakes and other calamities, some got obliterated. Moreover, before, coffins were hung vertically, upon the stretch of Christianity, traditional burial was given to them and people started to bury their elders laid back. The oldest coffins are there for more than a century while the latest was in 1986, about 25 years ago. Now, the residents learn to adopt traditional entombment in the graveyard. When I asked the guide why coffins are small, he said that deceased were placed inside in a fetus position. According their belief, we were first nurtured when we were fetus and we should return to our creator in the same form.

We reached the cave’s opening at 3:30pm and got out at 7:34 in the evening. The first entrance was very dark and narrow which made us skeptical whether to enter or just back out. We’ve chosen to enter and conquered the first ladder of the challenge. And our first step unfolded new story of the adventure we are looking for. It wasn’t spine-chilling inside, just very dark. The life of the whole trail was the lamp carried by our tour guide. There were portions where it’s a must to perform rappelling to avoid accidents. The presence of small holes also manifested most in Lumiang Cave where we needed to crawl, creep, and bend our bodies to its fullest. It’s not dangerous inside as long as you listen to the instructions given by the tour guide—such us when to bend your knees, when to use your left or your right foot and where to place your hands. I really admired how our tour guide was able to carry bag, camera, and lamp while leading us to the trail. Don’t attempt to enter the cave alone or without any guide. We were informed that a foreigner died when he explored the cave just by himself. Another fatality was recorded when someone went inside during typhoon season. When rainwater started to fill in the cave he got drowned. The best time to do spelunking is during dry season.

Lumiang Cave is more challenging than Sumaging Cave, but the latter is more admirable. I tell you, challenges are bearable. If you are claustrophobic, I suggest you only try Sumaging and skip Lumiang. Anyway, you’ll be given two choices by the guide, it’s either you trail cave connection or just Sumaging Cave alone.

SUMAGING CAVE

In cave connection, Sumaging Cave exploration is considered as the FUN part. Most tourists prefer to ramble around Sumaging since it is less strenuous. We reached the boundary of Sumaging from Lumiang after two hours and stayed for another two hours in the former.  Here, we witnessed different rock formations—prominent were stalagmites. Some evident formations are the giant frog, giant turtle, King’s Palace which displays the Queen’s vagina, rock curtains, giant teeth, chocolate cake, elephants, dinosaur’s footprint, and water terraces. It looked like visitors were just playing inside. We also dipped in the water since mini-pool structures are scattered all over the cave. The best of part our stay here was when we plunged in the chest-deep water and when we rappelled at the 15-ft rock.

Making it happen was very rewarding. I can’t even count how many times I got tongue-tied with amazement.

Just a reminder: Wear rubberize slippers or flip-flops or any durable sandals. You’ll encounter sharp rocks and pebbles on the pathway, although there are instances where guide would ask you to walk barefoot because rocks are slippery. Also, wear comfortable shorts and shirts, preferably soft maong shorts, so you could easily move and stretch. I recommend reliable soft maong because most of the time, you’ll do butt-slide. I’m sure you don’t wanna get out with your shorts worn out. Don’t bring unnecessary baggage and let the guide carry your camera. Don’t throw waste inside to preserve the cave’s sanitation.


DAY-2 TREKKING

KILTEPAN AND MARLBORO COUNTRY

After acquiring muscle twinge from our cave exploration, Jessanie and I arranged a whole day event on our second day in Sagada. It was also our first time to bond with our fellow travelers, Trisha and Faith—both are Filipinos— and Mike, a Swiss.

We started our first trip to Kiltepan in the wee hours of the morning to see the sunrise. It is located in the middle of the forest where we were able to touch the smog. While waiting for the sun to shine (wow, seems like a song), tourists gathered around bonfire to warm up, the heat did not beat the frostiness of the area though. At exactly 5:30am, we started waiting for the sun, unfortunately, we did not capture its perfect view due to heavy fog, but for several times, it did display its horizons with intermittent yellow, orange, and reddish pink hues. We headed straight to Rock Inn for breakfast and for “orange picking.” It was another bad timing for us because planters already harvested the oranges.

We trekked Marlboro Country following our hefty breakfast. It’s an hour walk from the drop-off point. Of course, that includes taking of pictures, quick rests and informal talks. Besides, good sight of soaring pine trees and cold breeze overwhelmed the steepness of the track. When we finally arrived at Marlboro Country, we were caught in astonishment. In the middle of nowhere, the only things that appear are mountains, trees and wild plants— that’s how we described it. According to our guide, there are wild horses running at the mountain’s foot. They did not show up.

Marlboro Country is my favorite place in Sagada. For me, it’s a place to run and ease any trouble inside. I can scream, without anyone hearing it, except the trees.

BOMOD-OK WATERFALLS

Just half-hour shy before noon, the group incessantly hiked to Bomod-ok Waterfalls. It’s an hour walk from Barangay Aguid, the drop-off point. From Bomod-ok to drop-off point it took us 1 1/2 hours while passing through Sagada rice terraces.

There are several waterfalls in Sagada, and Bomod-ok is the largest. For the record, this is the first waterfalls I’ve seen in my entire existence. I do not consider the small falls in Pundaquit, Zambales as one because it only appears during rainy season. According to Mike, a Swiss traveler who had been in many places in the Philippines and around the world and had seen several waterfalls, Bomod-ok is the most beautiful, adding that its magnificence is highly praiseworthy and incomparable.

With its crystal clear water from the mountain and bluish green at its basin, we cannot just sit, take pictures, and be contented on merely praising its splendor; we felt the need to consume it. So, we hastily jumped off the water. The water was as cold as ice eventhough it was past 12 in the afternoon. Some of us tried to dive from the elevated rocky part of the falls. Faith and I had the same conclusion; it was like cliff diving— our highest dive so far.

DAY 3

ECHO VALLEY AND HANGING COFFINS

We spent our last day in Sagada for relaxation. We first stopped at St. Mary the Virgin Church, an Angelican Church situated a few meters before the gravesite. The church is very unique because it’s made up of piled stones. Speaking of gravesite, we noticed that instead of using candle in lighting the tomb, people burn logs.

From the Church, it took us 20 minutes before reaching the Echo Valley and Hanging Coffin. There’s nothing significant in Echo Valley except that it made us yell more because of the echo. It was nice hearing our voices bounced back.

Although I’ve seen hanging coffins in pictures for several times already, it felt different seeing it with my very eyes. Apparently, there was no attack of terror when I stared at it; it just brought me back to the old age. Locals believe that the higher the place of the dead is, the greater the chance for them to reach heaven. We wondered though how people managed to hang the coffins beside the rocky mountain’s cliff.

MUNICIPALITY

Sagada is only a small town situated in Mountain Province. The whole town appeared to me as two small streets in Manila in terms of dimension not in terms of population and number of houses. There is no bus terminal in the area; buses just stop at the waiting area of the municipality. It won’t be hard for travelers to look for lodging inns because they are dispersed along the two small streets of the town. Average rates of guest houses range from P200-300/day/person. I stayed at George Guesthouse for only P300 per night, with private CR and free wi-fi. Who could resist that offer? Most lodging inns also have dine-in restaurant.

Whenever I visit new places, I always make sure that I try restaurant’s specialty. I observed that In Sagada, most restaurants are cozy and have almost the same menu and offer big servings ranging from P120- P200 for a complete meal—that’s the average. In Log Cabin Restaurant, it’s P250-400. I haven’t seen any fast-food chain in the area.

Here are my recommendations:

1-       Rock Inn– They serve good breakfast and I especially loved their banana yoghurt. Their tapa and fried rice are also good.

2-       Yoghurt House- They offer good pasta—spaghetti and carbonara. Pls. do not try their beef menu, it’s bland and supple. According to some friends, their yoghurt cake is a must-try. I attempted to order it twice, but it wasn’t available.

3-       Log Cabin– They serve buffet every Saturday night only for P350. From Sundays to Fridays they only offer regular menu. Try their menu which comes in set A to E, it’s a combo meal. Pork chop and pasta are good and very palatable. (My favorite)

4-       Bana’s Cafe– They offer delectable meaty spaghetti.  But their carbonara is plain.

5-       Alfredo’s Cabin– Their pansit bihon is tasty.

In Sagada, it’s easier to make friends. You will make friends because except for the cave exploration, tour guide fees are charged per group, so the bigger the group, the lesser the contribution of each member, or making friends will come naturally since kindliness of locals and other tourists (mostly are foreigners) is contagious.

My three-day visit in Sagada is worth reminiscing and documenting. This travel taught me two things: First, living in simplicity is the most luxurious way to spend one’s life. Second, great things in life, aside from free, are unexpected. I hope every Filipino will find time to visit this place and experience the abundance of Mountain Province.

Truly, Sagada is incomparable. It is like a box of treasure. Anywhere you go, you’ll always be surprised and amazed.

HOW TO GET TO SAGADA

From Baguio

1- Buses are located in Dangwa Terminal.

2- Ride a bus bound to Sagada. Fare is P220.

3- Get off at Sagada Municipality. Trip is almost 6 hrs.

From Manila

1- Ride a Florida bus  en route Banaue. (9-hr ride. Fare is P400. FLORIDA BUS LINES- 810 Lacson Avenue Manila Metro Manila, Phone: +63(2)7314473)

2- Get off at Bananue. From Banaue, ride a jeepney going to Bontoc. (2-hr ride. Fare is P150)

3- From Bontoc, ride a jeepney going to Sagada. (1-hr ride. Fare is P40)

(Date of travel March 1-4, 2011)

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Zambales: My Fifth Glimpse at Pundaquit

Most Filipinos consider the month of March as the official advent of summer phase in the Philippines. But with climate change which is very visible and indomitable nowadays, it’s hard to tell whether or not summer would come on its usual visit. As adept weather forecasters say, “we will experience wet summer this year due to climate change,” which for very apparent reason is such a no-no to most of us who always look ahead of sunny season since it is the only time where we tour beaches, hop from one island to another and visit other summer destinations around the country with our family and friends. (I curse climate change to death as the major spoiler to a supposedly feisty season).

Aside from being tagged as the “love month,” February is deemed as the country’s soggy period. Just when everybody feels like it’s the best time to visit high places, I pushed the green button for early summer and headed straight to my province— Zambales.

Pundaquit beach is located in San Antonio, Zambales—second town from my hometown (Castillejos) and fourth town from Olongapo. Pundaquit is one of the barangays in San Antonio. In Zambales, when you say Pundaquit, most locals refer to it as beach. Maybe it’s because of the fact that the barangay is sustained by body of water. So when people say “let’s go to Pundaquit,” it’s tantamount to saying “let’s go to the beach.” (I think most Zambaleños would adhere with me). This is not the most accessible coast from my place (Castillejos). It takes 25-40 minutes to traverse it, depending on the mode of transportation. Even if various resorts in Subic entail only 15 minutes of travel; still, I would prefer to go to Pundaquit because beach resorts in Subic have been commercialized and modernized. Unlike in Pundaquit where most resorts are like residential areas paraded with nipa huts which give you a feeling of tranquillity and isolation. But, there are also first class resorts in the area (e.g. Punta De Uian, etc.).

For someone like me who robustly appreciates the abundance of nature, it would always be a pleasure to see body of water deluge with mountains and trees. It doesn’t offer white sands and turquoise-like water, but it proffers natural glow which makes you feel away from pollution and anxiety. How could you not be amazed on a scene where sea waves directly hit the rocky mountain’s foot before it reaches the shore? How could you not be mesmerized to the perfect view of the sunset? Pundaquit also serves as terminal point of the tourists hankering to see Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove and Capones Island. From Pundaquit, it takes 30 minutes to reach Anawangin, 45 minutes to Nagsasa, and 25 minutes to Capones.

With fine and greyish sand, the sea water is abruptly deep few meters from the shoreline. Resort owners describe it as “biglang lalim” and warn visitors who do not know how to swim not to go farther to avoid any undesirable incidents. It’s not like any other beaches where even if you’re already 10 meters away from the shore, water level remains chest-deep. But this is absolutely the perfect beach for swimmers and surfers who look for added adventure during their stay. The primary source of income of people living around the area is fishing. So expect that while you’re swimming, fisherfolks flock the area taking advantage of the vast sea to catch fish which is very visible in the wee hours of the morning. It somehow benefits picnic goers craving for fresh fish since vendors sell it at very reasonable prices.

I found out that February is a good month to visit Pundaquit due to relatively cold weather (just to get rid of Sunburn) and the mountains surrounding the barangay appear on its magnificent shape with its gleaming green and brown hues. I visited Pundaquit last weekend and recorded it as my fifth.  I tagged my cousins along to spend breakfast with me at the beach. Just twenty minutes after we left our home, heavy rains started to pour. And five minutes upon our arrival, the sun said hello.

We stayed at Sunset View Beach Resort, my uncle’s resort (he’s my dad’s relative). The resort has several cottages made up of Kawayan. There are two big rooms for visitors who want to stay overnight, one is air-conditioned. They call it family room. Getting a free stay is one of the advantages of having a relative that owns a resort.

Pundaquit never fails to astound me whenever I have the chance to drop by and I surely love to go back over and over. I hope the inhabitants in the vicinity would preserve its splendour and keep the beach untouched by modernity. I believe it is better keep that way.

—————————————————————————————–

As expression of gratitude to my uncle who always offers his humble abode and resort to us, I’m leaving here his contact details. They have big boats that can accommodate tourists who plan to visit Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove and Capones Island.

Contact person is Lito Pastelero. Contact numbers: (0915-535-9463 and 0920-877-5088).

Entrance fee: P50/head

HOW TO GET TO PUNDAQUIT

Using a public transport

1-      Ride a bus bound to Iba, Zambales or Sta. Cruz, Zambales. There are Victory terminals in Caloocan (Monumento), Cubao, Sampaloc and Pasay.

2-      Get off at San Antonio Market.

3-      From there, ride or rent a tricycle to Pundaquit.

Approximate travel time is 4 hrs from Manila through public transport. But it would only take you 3-3 ½ hrs if you have a private vehicle. Of course, it varies on the time of your travel.

Date of travel: February 5, 2011



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Subic: Tree Top Adventure

Long break is over. Last month was my busiest and at the same time, my most memorable. That explains why I blog my Subic jaunt just now. (Wow. What a classic excuse.)

This travel is part of my post-birthday celebration and my best friend’s pre-birthday celebration in 2010. Since we availed our stay in Morong, Bataan for free, our unconsumed cash were spent for side trip in Subic. It was a bang!

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) or commonly known as Subic is one of the mounting tourist destinations in the Philippines. Aside from its flashy resorts, various duty free stores, sophisticated restaurants, and affluent historical sites, Subic also offers new glee for the tourists through innovative parks and recreation such as Zoobic Zafari, Tree Top Adventure, and Ocean Adventure. These parks should not be missed, instead, should be hunted. Your visit is not worthy without sauntering at these attractions.

My Tree Top Adventure along with my friends gave me a meaningful experience. Forget about the Zipline and Cable car ride in Tagaytay because this adventure in mini-forest is a one-time shot. Apart from trekking, it now includes Canopy Ride, Jungle Survival Demo, Superman Ride, and Tree-Drop Adventure, its most recent revolution. Should you wish to hop from one tree to another without getting bruises and without worrying about the heights, this amazing action-filled ground is definitely worth a try.

Canopy Ride

We first tried the Canopy ride. It has four rounds ranging from 70ft down to 30 ft from the ground which would take 30 minutes including a stride on the hanging bridge. The first round made us a bit anxious due to our fear of heights. But conquering the “first time” always make the succeeding tries trouble-free— and yes, next rounds elicited enjoyment and easiness. The 30-minute experience granted us ample time to feel the cold breeze of the wind and gawk at trees’ towering altitude.

Superman Ride

Superman Ride is common to all as Zipline. I think it was named Superman because when you take the ride, you have to spread your arms and legs— and fly like a Superman. You can also choose your Lois Lane to ride on, or just go by yourself. Here, you would practice to fly 70ft above the ground. It was an awesome ride but it slightly hurt my waist due to pull of the safety gear attached around my body.

Lack of time cut-short our stay in Tree Top but it brought us undeniable delight while we go across our next destination. If you live near Zambales and craving for the same adventure I just had had, no need for you to look farther, this is the perfect place to go—exciting and pocket-friendly. Bravo to the brain/s behind Tree Top, you’ve utilized Subic’s rich forest economically.

Date of visit: December 12, 2010c

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Mt. Batulao, Nasugbo, Batangas

While I’m writing this blog, my muscles still twinge, my spirit is still high and various pitches of screams still reverberate in my ears. When I was looking for adventure, I never thought that Mt. Batulao will give me one big hit. My emotions reached its extreme when I was at the mountain’s foot, on its highest peak, and in the in-between hurdles I encountered in the whole duration of the climb.

Mt. Batulao is about 810 meters above sea level and stretches along the town of Nasugbo, Batangas. It is known to be the destination of the first time climbers (like me). According to some mountaineers who already made it to Batulao’s summit for quite a number of times, it’s one of the easiest mountains to trek. My experience would prove the same or otherwise.

At first, I had this perception that trekking a mountain is just as easy as running, where I exert effort, excrete a lot of sweat, and experience muscle pinch after. I did not expect that it would be a total breakthrough of my longing for an adventure-filled life—whether or not to undertake another mountain quest or just be contented on beach hopping and chasing new places around. Mt. Batulao is my first climb. And definitely, won’t be my last.

We arrived at Evercrest, the jump-off point to the mountain, at exactly 8:10 in the morning. The temperature was low, maybe because of Christmas season or the place is near Tagaytay. From there, we started trailing. We didn’t have trekking gears such as gloves, rope and tent which I think are essential in climbing any mountain. All we had were cameras, bottled water, and finger foods—enough to keep us going on the way. We decided to make it a day adventure unlike most campers who prefer to stay there overnight.

The mountain is engulfed by cogon grass swaying with the potent winds. It has two trails— old and new—new trail is believed to be easier and safer. Four of us were first timers, and two were experienced, so it’s better to traverse the new one. There are 9 peaks before reaching the highest peak or the mountain’s pinnacle. Among these peaks, I considered 1-6 as easy; 7-8 as average; 9 as difficult.

THE PEAKS

We can still sing while walking at the topsy-turvy trail of peaks 1-6. We can even crack jokes and at the same time, take time to relish the picturesque landscape right there at our very eyes—so bold and perfect. On trails 7-8, we started to feel the steepness of the mountain. There, the path is not only rough, but it also gets narrower as we continue our journey to make it to Mt. Batulao’s apex. Of course, we also allowed ourselves to rest in between peaks. Campsites for hikers are situated on peaks 1-7 where locals sell buko juice and soft drinks. There, you can relax, satisfy your thirst, and eat your food. That’s what we did. Our stamina and endurance needed time to recharge before heading on to the mountain’s final crest.

THE FINAL CHALLENGE

When we arrived at the most strenuous and challenging part of the trail, the peak 9, we all tried to answer one question—shall we proceed? When this question sink in, indomitable dilemmas strike us—that our lives were at risk once we attempted to cross the last trail. I, myself, ridiculously contemplated about dying; that one missed, I would die. I did not entertain that thought but it kept on crossing my mind. While I was thinking of proceeding or not, blurred scenarios started to occupy my mentality, like the “New Moon” movie where Bella tried cliff diving—in case I fall, body of water will catch me, or in case that happens, someone would wake me up from my nightmare. I just suddenly realized that it wasn’t a fantasy anymore but a real life scenario. I took a deep breath, conquered my anxiety and apprehension until I finally dropped the strong word, YES! Yes, let’s us proceed and go on with the trail. My fellow campers and I agreed to take an attempt of surmounting the final trail by keeping in mind that our adventure would be a disgruntled one if we fail to reach the top and if we choose to back out. It would defy the main purpose of climbing Mt. Batulao.

Peak 9 has higher slope and steeper. Left and right cliffs were ahead of us as we go along its path. We chose not to look down just to prevent ourselves from getting swayed by the heights—we were focused, determined and unfaltering.  We gave all our strength and our tightest grip just to survive peak 9. When we finally reached Mt. Batulao’s utmost peak, we all screamed at the top of our lungs (I think it was my loudest scream). Panoramic view on top appeased all the tension, panic and fright that occupied our minds before heading on. Nothing compares to the satisfaction we felt after successfully arriving at the mountain’s summit. We availed the opportunity to satisfy our quest for the best scene on top and uttered alternately  “Ang Ganda” (it’s beautiful) which made me think of “ DOT’s slogan “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda!”

Who would have thought we were able to make it?

Going down was easier because we knew then which parts of the mountain were more risky and challenging. We climbed Mt. Batulao for 7 and ½ hours, including our breaks and photo shoots. And to cap our one day escapade; for a job well done, Bulalo at Mahogany market in Tagaytay was a good reward.

It was the most memorable adventure I had so far. According to an adage, “first time is always memorable.” Go figure.

(Date of climb: November 27, 2010)

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