Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Weekend in A Zambales Paradise

Based from my camping experience in Anawangin Cove - December 1-2, 2007

Last weekend I got the opportunity to camp in one of the most beautiful place in the Philippines – Anawangin Cove. It’s tucked between two mountains along the shores of Iba, Zambales. The only sign of modern times are the people who camp along the area, the water pump and the toilets inside the caretaker's version of a restroom . There are no faucets, electricity, telephones and cellphone signal. You can go here for a weekend and literally disappear from the face of the planet. The island is accessible in two ways. The first and most common method is by hiring a boat from Pundakit Beach and asking the boat to pick you up at a designated time. Don’t worry because they really keep their commitment and they do come on time. The second one is by trekking your way to the cove from Pundakit beach, which would take you a minimum of three hours (that is if everyone in the group had enough exercise). Since our group comprised of three virgin campers, we opted to ride a boat.

Saturday morning

We left Olongapo at 4:30 AM via an ordinary bus bound for Sta. Cruz, Iba. The ride took about 45 minutes. Our group got off at the town of San Antonio and boarded two trikes for Pundakit beach. From the bayan, the trike ride is around 30-45 minutes.

The trike driver also offered to arrange a boat to take us to Anawangin Cove. We gratefully agreed and it turned out to be the worst decision, we took in the trip.

Based from my experience, I recommend that you make the boat arrangements with the people along the shore area. If a tricycle driver offers to organize it for you, it’s best not to take the offer. It’s easy to negotiate with the boatmen along the area anyway. It’s because the trike driver usually earns money from what you pay, therefore the price tends to be a little higher. I was only expecting to pay 700 pesos for 4 people based from the research I’ve done. I saw that boats are only around that price as of September 2007 but since we made a mistake of taking the trike driver’s offer – the price went up to 1000 pesos for 3 people. Since we were 6 in the group, we paid 2,000 pesos for 6 people – that’s for two small boats. We managed to negotiate a visit to Capones island with the 2000 peso fare so I guess it wasn’t so bad. The downside was waiting for the boat to get ready. Geez, we waited for 45 minutes before we boarded the boat. They even asked us to give a down payment of 300 pesos for gas. While waiting for the boat, Fernan tested his professional camera on us. We settled along the shore and admired the view. The waves along Pundakit were raging. It wasn’t that big but it looked strong enough for surfing.

After 45 minutes

When we boarded the boat, the fierce waves had not subsided. It was a bumpy boat ride which none of us mind because the view was amazing! It was unbelievable. All the negative vibes I had incurred because of the trike driver and having to wait for the boat slowly crept its way out of my system. Sitting in front, the ocean water kept splashing on me but I didn’t care. I loved it. We saw several islands and rock formations along the way. Everything looked so serene.

After another 45 minutes

As our boat approached Anawangin Cove, everyone had smiles up to their ears. The place is breathtakingly beautiful and unspoiled by capitalism. There were a lot of campers around, as in a lot, but the place is big enough for everyone. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t have it for ourselves. Most of the people are quiet but occasionally, you would feel like throwing some people back to where they belong because they get rowdy.

We saw another group from work – Vince’ group. They invited us to set camp near their area. The previous spot we took had neighbor tents which were a bit too close for comfort so we gratefully accepted the offer. Our group composed of my close friends from work - Tina, Fernan and Olay (virgin campers) ; Glee (also from work but I’ve climbed with her in Manalmon) and Laurence non-work friend. He’s Glee’s SO –significant other, ndi pala sex object as I originally thought what SO meant, hahahaha). We were supposed to be 14 but batch two couldn’t make it (We missed you Paris).

After setting camp, we ate brunch. None of us had cook sets so we ate everything straight off the can. We had tuna, corned beef and sardines. There are no stores in Anawangin so it’s a good thing we brought ample supplies.

After a nap, we went swimming by the beach. We were told that there are baby sharks in the area but so far, there hadn’t been any attacks on humans. I love sharks but I’m also afraid of them so I didn’t dare swim far. There seemed to be a lot of sand in the area where we swam so the visibility isn’t so good.

After swimming, we decided to trek on the left side of the island. The mountaineer in me couldn’t resist climbing the mountain on the other side so me, Laurence, Glee, Fernan and Olay went up the unbeaten path. Since there was no trail, we created our own. I went first. The first part of the climb consisted of bouldering 15 feet from the ocean. There was no room for error because the mountain was quite

steep and our jump-off was filled with sand and pointed boulders. After we got through the rocks, there was a small area where you can view the cove and the vast area of ocean near it. Amazing! After taking some pictures, we proceeded to climbed higher. This time, Fernan went down to join his girlfriend Tina.

Grass was growing all over the place, so I carefully placed my foot on the ground before I put my full weight in to ensure that we don’t fall. The higher we went up, the better the view. We went as far as 15 feet away from the small summit but since the grass was very dense, we decided to head our way down. That is, after drinking strawberry daiquiri and eating potato chips. It was quite hot and I’m not sure which one was causing me slight dizziness – the wine or the heat, but I tried to ignore it and focus on our huge ordeal - how to get down. It would have been easier though very challenging to go down the same way we climbed up but none of us felt like going through the cliffs again so we tried to find a less steeper way. We were warned that there are wild tamaraws in the area that attack people so we were on the lookout for feces or any signs of them. At some point, I felt like giving up because I felt scared. We were creating our own trail and grass was everywhere. I was afraid of encountering snakes too but since there was no option to quit, I tried to forget my fears and focus – that and saying a prayer. I regained my composure soon and slowly, we were able to find our way down. Honestly, most of the time, I was on my butt because it was easier for me to feel the ground and remain balanced.

We saw a river where we got off and we congratulated ourselves for a great job. It was also Olay’s first climbing experience. We capped off our first climb with carabao dipping in the shallow river. It was so refreshing! After that, we ate again, took a nap and chilled.

The Second Climb

Our first climb lasted for just an hour so feeling unsatisfied, Me, Olay, Glee and Laurence decided to climb the right side of the cove. We discovered a little cave with some bats. Thank God bats are nocturnal! I saw some rocks near the cave which looked steady enough to climb and these served as our jump-off. It was steeper than the one we climbed on the left side of the cove. I was extra careful to watch my step because this time, I will get surely get killed for any mistake. Death and accident was not an option. I set my mind to cling for dear life (kinda irresponsible I know). Our jump-off was this rocky part of the ocean with aggressive waves. If I do get lucky and fell of the water, I will still get killed because my body will slam on the rocks.

Olay decided not to go and opted to trek along the rocky shore line. We agreed to meet on the other side. The first ten 20 feet consisted of bouldering. It was really more challenging than what we did earlier that day. I was scared but I love climbing more than I dwell on fear.

The trek was also scarier because the grass is taller and there are also some weird looking trees. The ground were we stepped on was unsteady and filled with more rocks. There was no sign of other animals which was good. We didn’t dare climb the summit because of the density of the grass. None of us brought any gear except our light packs which contained water, food and flashlight. Laurence led us on our way down. At one point, we ended up on a cliff because we couldn’t see anything due to the thick vegetation. Thank God we were pretty careful. When I noticed my legs hanging parallel to the ground, I quickly backed off on my butt. After trekking a few more minutes, we were finally able to descend the mountain.

We met with Olay on the other side. She told us that some locals who saw us trekking on the mountain (wearing a bright red shirt does pay off..hehehe) commented that not a lot of people venture on that part because it was too steep. Damn right it is! This side of the beach had a small shore and water filled with huge rocks so I guess this must be the spot where you can see corals and fishes.

We stayed in the area for 30 minutes then we headed down to the river to take a bath. Mother nature claimed my favorite goggles and I went back to camp feeling a little down.

A Mardi Gras Affair

The idea of having a Mardi Gras affair in Anawangin Cove came up when me and the rest of our so-called mountaineering org called ECOF (I’m too shy to tell you what it means) climbed Mt. Manalmon about two weeks ago. Me, Gay, Julienne and Glee agreed that we will have a themed socials night when we go to Anawangin Cove. It started as a joke which we ended up taking seriously. Unfortunately, our girlfriends Gay and Julienne couldn’t make it but we proceeded with the plan anyway. Me and Glee invited our friends from work and fortunately, they were up for a camping trip. We instructed them to wear colorful attires for the night and they agreed.

After dinner preparation, we started dressing up. Olay played some European music which we sang with – spewing words the way we hear it. We were sitted on a huge mat for our cold feast – tuna with skyflakes , Cadburry chocettes, tuna sisig, sardines, some wine, corned beef, canapés. We were all in a relaxed, drunken mood (although none of us were really drunk), enjoying each other’s company.

Socials Night – After Dinner

It was a cold night and we were lying on the sand innocently stargazing by the beach when Vince came to us and invited us to join their gathering. We knew they were armed with hard alcoholic drinks and none of us were really up for it but when he mentioned they had lots of food and hot soup, we were all like “screw stargazing!”. They had a huge bamboo table set up on the sand and their foods looked yummy. There were 7 of them in the group. Aside from Vince, I knew Parky (Vince’ gf) and Ian because I climbed with them in Mt. Tapulao. The four others were people I met for the first time – Celia, Ron, Earl and Kim. All of them are experienced mountaineers and we were astounded with their gears. They were able to cook pasta, sinigang na baboy, sisig, rice, spiced salami. We were actually full but we ate some anyway. The drinking started. Ron was the tanggero. He also mixed the drinks. Honestly, I don’t enjoy drinking gin but just for the heck of it, we drank some. Their group was quite nice. They do tease us though for our novice camping equipment but we even find it funny ourselves. Actually, our tents are really novice but I’m proud of it. Me and Glee’s tent endured a 5 hour heavy rain but I know I couldn’t bring it on major climbs.

After what seemed like two hours, a lot of people were getting tipsy and tired so we called it a night. It was only 10:00 pm. Damn Ron.

Waking Up to A Beautiful Sunday Morning

I woke up during the middle of the night with a disturbing headache. Feeling a little hot due to the alcohol, I slept with my head near the opening of the tent flap so I took in some cold air up my head. I tried to dig my medicine kit for Decolgen but I realized, I wasn’t able to buy any. I tried to sleep again, trying to drown my headache by listening to ocean waves. After two more hours, I woke up again and I knew I couldn’t sleep anymore. I fixed myself and I headed straight to the beach and set up my sarong. OMG! The place is really amazing! The water is calm at this time. Not a lot of people were up. I saw around 4 people doing the same thing – staring admiringly at nature’s beauty.

I saw a fisherman pulling a rope by the shore. I decided to mingle with him. We talked, he’s quite nice. He told me how difficult their life is. I told him he’s still lucky because he can catch fish. Back in Manila, if you’re hungry, you can’t just go fish for food. I had fun talking to him and his wife. I learned a lot. I ended up helping him pull the rope tied to a net which contained fish they caught. It was very heavy and very difficult. The rope was very coarse and if you don’t pull carefully, it will rip your skin. I couldn’t imagine doing it every single day. My hands were red and hurting already but I didn’t want to give up. I only had to do it for several minutes anyway. These people do this for a living.

After pulling the rope, Manong (I forgot his name!) invited me to ride on their boat to see the fishes they caught. I agreed right away because it will be my first time to actually see how fishermen pull up a net from the water which has fish in it.

He was considerate enough to let his boat dock on the shore to pick me up since I was still wearing my jacket and Capri. We headed to farther part of the water to pick up the net. Geez, it took so long to pull it up. After a few minutes, they were able to get the entire net from the water. Sadly, they were only able to catch a few pieces and they were all small fishes.

A Shark Experience

When the fishermen placed the net on the floor of the boat, I saw several species of fish – sting ray, squid, swordfish, another fish, butete, and guess what – a baby shark! I’ve wanted to see a shark in real life and I got so excited when I finally saw one. I wasn’t really sure what type of shark it was. I’m not crazy about their anatomy, I’m more interested with their behavior, how they attack, how they prey, etc. The baby shark was around 14 inches long. I got the chance to hold it when it was weak already. Its skin felt really smooth and not scaly at all. Sorry, I know you’re supposed to return it to shore but I couldn’t knowing that there are people swimming in the area – and of course, I was also concerned of my personal safety.

Stop-Over to Capones Island

Our boat picked us up at 10:00 am to take us to Capones Island. Despite ghost stories we were all adamant to visit this place because it was just near Anawangin. The boat ride to Capones was very rough. If you’re not gutsy enough, you will really freak out. Not before long, all of us in the boat were already soaked to the bone. It was that rough! We were practically galloping in the boat. It was fine though because we were planning to swim anyway.

From Anawangin, the boat ride to Capones only took around 20 minutes. As we approach the island, we were welcomed with views of crystal clear ocean water filled with corals and colorful fishes. As soon as we docked, I immediately removed my shirt and took a dip. I had to borrow Olay’s goggles since I had lost mine back in Anawangin. I saw lots of ocean creatures. It was amazing!

We stayed for less than an hou
r and went back to Pundakit to take a bath. Our boatman led us a public pump inside a barangay and we all took a group bath. Hahaha! What a perfect way to cap off a great weekend.

The Mad Dash to KFC

Greatly missing cooked food, we headed off to Olongapo to take our lunch in KFC. You should have seen the food we ordered. It was enough to feed a small army.

The Gang

To the rest of the ECOF who weren’t there – Gay, Julienne, Erwin, MJ….and our yet to be inducted recruits – NK peeps….hahahahaha , it would have been perfect if you were there to share this great experience with us. We missed you! See ya next climb.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Climbing Mt. Manalmon

I  enjoyed Mt. Manalmon because in less than 24 hours, we were able to :

Cross on cable wires suspended 20 feet over the Madlum river which according to locals claims at least one life annually. The cable wires was around 75 meters long. We had to cross this or we walk 1 KM to the Madlum caves. We decided to take the road less traveled and do the cable crossing. Geez, that road was less than an inch thick.

Do some spelunking on Madlum cave – a historical site where a shrine of San Miguel was retrieved. The cave also served as a hideout for Japanese soldiers during WWII. According to our guide, this is also where 9 Filipino soldiers successfully assaulted around 300 Japanese soldiers.

Bouldering – Wohoo! I had a great time doing this. Outside the Madlum cave overlooking the river, we spotted some boulders and climbed on it.

Ride a bamboo raft and clung for dear life. We needed to cross Madlum River to get to the jump-off of Mt. Manalmon and we had two options – cross using a raft or two - cross the river through the cable wires again. Hmm..not in a hurry to do that again. Unfortunately, the bamboo raft was done hastily and was not stable enough to support 7 of us plus our guide and our heavy backpacks. None of us got to relax during the ride because we had to continually shift positions to keep the raft steady. We were all in a tensed mode because slight movements caused the raft to sink in one portion.

Carabao Dipping in Madlum river. Yes Carabao dipping not swimming because the current was a bit strong so me and my friends just immersed at the shallow portion near the rocks. None of us are strong swimmers.

Get a feel of the Military balikatan exercises since it was the same trail they used for training.

Last but not the least – Weird Experience : (I have at least one for every travel) Me and another friend – Laurence got interrogated by a soldier who was holding an armalite. He didn’t point it to us directly but it was positioned in a threatening manner. We had just finished registering at the Barangay tanod wife’s eatery and this soldier called on us. As we walked towards him, he suddenly took out his armalite and asked us “Ano bang pakay nyo sa bundok na yan?” We told him, we just wanted to climb it and he said “Yun lang? Aakyat lang kayo tapos babalik uli?” We said yes. Then he accused us of being activists. Hello!!! I know my legs are muscular but I wondered how he came up with that idea… our clothes were pretty normal and none of us wore anything that would suggest our involvement in any leftist group…Anyway, after laughing at his accusation, he let us go. If he only knew, I don’t get intimidated with big guns..I happen to find it sahhhxyyy! hehehe

Updated Mt. Manalmon IT - Based from Nov 2007 Climb

November 17, 2007 Saturday--------------------
6:30 AM Assembly (Baliwag Bus station, Cubao)7:30 AM ETD – Baliwag Terminal9:30 AM ETA - Brgy. Kamias, San Miguel, Bulacan TIP: Ask bus conductor to drop you off at the Tricycle Terminal in Brgy. Kamias. This is near the highway where you will get off.
9:35 AM ETD – Brgy. Kamias TIP: Along the way – you can ask the tricycle driver to make a stopover at carinderias where you can buy food and additional supplies.
9:35-9:55AM – Buy Supplies and food
10:40 AM – ETA : Madlum River
10:40 AM-11:00 AM : Ask the locals for Mang Carding. He lives in a house across the Madlum River which you need to cross either by walking through cable wires suspended 20 feet over the river or by borrowing a raft from the locals. Luckily, Mang Carding found our group by the river but we had to cross the cable wires anyway to get us to the Madlum Cave. A less adventurous option is to trek your way to the Madlum cave which is around 1KM from Madlum river (I’m not sure if this is still open though). Mang Carding was also nice enough to carry our packs across the river since we could barely keep our bodies stable through the wires.

11:00AM-12:00PM – Cross Cable wires over the river to get to Registration Area
12:00PM-12:10PM – Register in Mang Carling’s house, pay guide fee to Madlum Cave and leave packs
12:10PM-12:40 PM – Explore Madlum Cave
12:40PM-1:40 PM – Bouldering outside Madlum Cave
1:40 PM-2:40 PM – Eat lunch, rest in Mang Carling’s house
2:40-2:45PM – Trek to Madlum River
2:40 PM – Ride Raft to jump-off (Mang Carling is also our guide who led us to the summit)
2:40PM-3:15PM – ETA : Madlum river extension, Stopover to swim
3:15-4:15 – Swim
4:45PM- ETA : Campsite Near Summit

November 18, 2007 - Sunday------------------
7:00 AM Wake-up call8:00 AM Breakfast9:30 AM Break camp11:00 AM ETA Madlum River - Jumpoff
12:00 PM ETA Take a Trike to Bus Station
12:45PM-1:15PM Stopover at Resty’s Carinderia for Lunch
1:30 PM – ETD: Ride bus to pasay
4:00 PM – ETA : Cubao

Actual Expenses : Bus : Cubao to Brgy. Kamias, San Miguel, Bulacan – 100 pesos (one way)

Tricycle from Brgy. Kamias to Madlum River : 200 pesos (for 3 persons); 60 each for 4 people); you need to make arrangements with your tricyle driver to have you picked up on your way back since tricycles seemed to be rare in Brgy. Madlum.

Bus : Brgy. Kamias, San Miguel Bulacan to EDSA Boni – 107 pesos (there are buses to Cubao and Pasay plying the highway before the tricycle station in Barangay Kamias)
Entrance Fee to Madlum cave : 150 pesos for 5-7 people
Guide Fee : Overnight – 600 pesos for 5-7 people;

Tips and Trail :

TRAIL: We climbed November 2007 and the trail was very slippery. It’s 70% uphill. Mang Carling, our guide said that the old trail was close already and the one we used was the trail for the military Balikatan exercises. Whoa! No wonder some parts of the trail seemed like nobody has stepped on it in years.

Prepare to get your shoes wet because at some point, you will need to cross a river, which won’t take 10 minutes but better bring sandals too. Most of us wore shoes which was useful in several instances where we needed to cling on branches, boulders and vines to support our weight going down.

GEAR : Make sure your tent is waterproof especially if you’re climbing during the rainy months. Two of my friends bought the 2-person Coleman Weatherlite tent and it got through 5 hours of heavy rain which we all successfully went through. It’s light, cheaper than your usual tents (around 2,600 pesos – Paris correct ba ako?) and very spacious. The 2-person capacity is based on American size so it can fit as much as four people if they’re petite. You can also get lucky and buy a cheap tent like mine which is less than 2,000 pesos. Just check if the flooring and walls is waterproof and if the material can hold the wind. I was advised by my friend to avoid using poles made up of fiberglass because they can shatter and is hard to repair – you wouldn’t want to deal with that when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

WATER SOURCE: The nearest water source from the campsite is the river - about an hour away, if I remember correctly.

CAMPSITES : The nearest campsite near the summit is actually less than a minute away from the summit. It’s in a small grassy area which can fit about 6 tents. It’s just a small area. I also saw a flat land which can fit more than 20 tents – 30 minutes away from the summit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What Football Taught Me

 I discovered football  when I was 13 years old. It was a weekend and I was in school for a project. I was walking in our building and from the veranda, I saw uniformed kids in the football field. At first it was just the colors of the uniform that caught my eye – dark blue, neon green socks. Then when the game finally started, I instantly felt attracted to football. I’m not sure what it was – maybe it was the way they pass the ball with their foot or how they move aggressively towards their opponents but I knew it was the kind of game I wanted to play. I stared at the game intently for a few minutes and then it was time for me to go and work on our group project. 

After several months, football tryouts were held. At first I was hesitant to join. I didn’t know crap about football but I wanted to learn how to play it. Plus, I have phobia on athletic teachers. I hated PE since I was a kid because my previous PE teachers were all mean. It was traumatizing for me. They would correct me bluntly about the way I do jumping jacks, etc. Geez, give me a break. It was just grade school PE! Anyway, what gave me guts to go to the try-out were two things a. My friend Valerie who was also trying out told me that the coach was really nice b. I wanted to play soccer so badly!

One afternoon, in my sneakers, I finally showed up at the football field and met with the rest of the team. Instantly, I felt at home. Not a lot of teens showed up and there were several seniors leaving the team after graduation so almost all of us who attended the tryouts were accepted in the team after undergoing rigid training. My flawless, white legs slowly turned into dark brown with scars. My calves went from plump to firm to muscular. My pale complexion got burnt too but I never regretted joining the football team. It taught me to always fight for what I want, to be assertive and aggressive, to be more passionate, to protect my teammates and to overcome fear – to face every opponent – no matter how taller or bigger they are.

For me, football is not only a game of intelligence (utakan?! Hahaha) and strategy, it is also a showmanship of passion and bravery. If you don’t get what I’m trying to say, try watching one football game so you can see the way football players struggle for each goal. It’s really very attractive and fast too. Some people say that they feel bored with football because it takes too long to score a goal but what they miss seeing is the beauty in the way each goal is scored. That’s why it takes long.

Aww..I miss football. It’s so hard to find people to play with now that I’ve moved to a bigger city. I joined the office football tournament but I will have to miss it this Sunday due to commitments I made in advance. Oh well. Beach football is coming up next summer so it shouldn’t be long until I get to play again. Yo Rufangssss…san na kayo?! Miss you guys...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Version of A Great Weekend

Last Saturday, I went to Ultra for my usual weekend jog. I was really excited to go because I only get to jog there twice a week. I considered it as my version of quality “me time” because for most of the week, I’m never alone. However, as I approached the back entrance, this tall, muscular guy in black shirt blocked the gate and asked where I was going. I found it weird because they don’t normally have bouncers by the pedestrian entrance. I considered walking past him but he is almost twice my size and he looked like he can throw me back to my house. As confident as I could, I told him I’ll be going to the track and like a secret password he let me in. He must have thought I live there since there are dorms in Ultra. Much to my disappointment, it turns out that the track is closed to the jogging public until December 5 because there were several events being held. I felt really crushed. I have been looking forward to go there all week. I loved sitting on the cement, watching the sky, the grass, the soccer players, the tall buildings and most of all - the male swimmers by the pool (hahahahaha). It’s one of those places where it doesn’t matter if you’re sweating profusely or if you’re all muddy.

Defeatedly, I sat down by the bench and thought of my plan B. I really wanted to run so badly but I didn’t know where. I thought of running around Ultra but quickly dismissed it since there seemed to be a lot of cars coming in and I didn’t feel like dodging those. I sat on a bench and sent text messages to my friends to rant because I was really pissed - so much for my “Me Time”. Suddenly, ideas breezed through my head – Plan B – I’ll try wall climbing (which is in Power Up near Ultra. FYI – I’ve been wanting to try wall climbing for the longest time but I’ve always placed it at the back of my priorities. I figured that it was the best time to get started when I was really driven for some action. Never mind that I have never tried wall climbing or that I don’t know exactly what belay meant. I’ve climbed trees, cabinets, appliances and oh yeah – mountains. Wall climbing should feel familiar to me. Hehhee..wishful thinking..tsk tsk

Plan C – I’ll text my friend Mau and ask if he wants to go to Sunken Garden in UP Diliman and jog there instead. Freak! I just wanted to sweat! Kahit anooooo naaaa lang! I received a text from Mau a few minutes later saying that he wanted to jog with me. Hmmm…. At least I can laugh and talk to someone else. I decided to go with him so I walked another kilometer to the nearest MRT Station, squeezed my way through the Saturday crowd of commuters and rode another jeep to UP. Geez…so much effort just so I can run. I reached UP in about an hour and it was dark already. Again, I was disappointed. I was really hoping to run while the sun is setting and gaze at nature after my jog. With darkness overpowering the Sunken Garden, the only natural thing I would be able to witness is procreation. Even so, I had a great time with Mau. I jogged, he walked. We were able to circle the Sunken Garden for 50 minutes straight at a turtle’s pace. We laughed and talked about our lives and our plans for the future. It was really stress-relieving. It’s really true that the best things in life are free. I’m normally a happy person and the best moments of my life involved all those instances where I spent talking and laughing with those closest to my heart - over a cup of coffee, on the pavement while running, during a climb, in the pool, on the dinner table, in the soccer field, and wherever!

Thank you Lord for these relationships.


Went to Sunken Garden again to jog. I guess my warm-up wasn’t enough because after 20 minutes, my knees started to hurt pretty badly to the point that I was limping already. I would stop a couple of times to stretch and run again (not sure, if that was a good idea though). I was actually planning to run for 60 minutes but I realized it was not going to happen that day. Instead, I aimed to last a few more minutes until I reach this particular post – stretching my limit as far as I could. My knees were really hurting a few meters before that post but I had already set my mind to reach my little goal. I was not going to give up. I realized during the run that if I focus hard enough, my body and mind deviates from the pain. Olympics mode?! Hehehehehe! I really went at it and after a few more seconds, I finally reached my little goal. Wohooo! I realized that this calls for a little celebration despite being alone. Salivating and sweating, I bought fishballs and buco juice at a nearby stall and sat on the grass at the Sunken Garden to eat. Ahhh..sarap! Finally I had my “me-time” for the week. A few hours later, I met with friends and we went to Metro Walk to eat barbeque in Yohoo – one of our favorite places to eat – casual ambiance and great food - the best!


Waaaahhh! I miss camping and climbing mountains. I miss packing my stuff and getting dirty. Can’t wait for this coming weekend. Manalmon – here we comeeeee!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mt. Pinatubo - With my Bare Foot

Our group had already been walking for about an hour. It was tremendously hot and although the trail was pretty much even - similar to walking on a beach with some gravel, everyone, with the exception of some tenured climbers, were just trying to make it one step at a time.  The trail was also getting boring since there isn’t much sight to see except mounds of sand. Mind you, I have high tolerance for heat, but the weight on my back was getting the best of me and I wasn’t wearing a cap to protect myself from the sun (another lesson learned).

Our group decided to rest on this area with flowing steamy water and slight stench of sulphur. I was pretty happy to see something else aside from gray sand so I gamely dipped my whole shoe into the water. I waded my foot in the water for a few minutes then it was time to go. After a few minutes of resuming the trek, I felt the undersole of my shoe  separating from the heel. Then it finally came off after a few steps! I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t have any adhesive or rope so I decided to walk with it for a couple more steps but it was making it harder for me  so I decided to wear just the socks. I didn’t want to burden anyone so I didn’t complain. Besides, nobody seemed to notice I was walking without a shoe. After several more minutes, I decided to take off my socks because the sand was scraping my feet. I had to endure stones, sand and the heat the whole way up the summit. I was pretty much walking by myself the whole way through since I couldn’t find anyone who walks the same pace as I do. I’m not too quick but I’m not that slow either.

When we finally reached the crater, everyone was exploring the place. I was just grateful to have made it without breaking down. I slumped in a mound of soil in exhaustion. When the tent was put up, I gratefully crawled my way into it. Most of my friends went swimming after a few minutes while I couldn’t muster any strength to do anything else. I got a little energized after resting, then when it was time to eat dinner, the wind got stronger blowing sand over our food. Since we were all hungry, we didn’t mind the food which got sand bits on it. Like after a few bites, you need to swallow it right away so the sand doesn’t get in between your teeth. This is what I love about mountain climbing, any food in your mouth tastes delicious.

We turned in early after that since mostly everyone was tired. I don’t really bring jackets on climb since I thought layering was enough. I soon regretted my decision not to bring any warm clothing. During the middle of the night, I woke up shivering so bad. It was incredibly windy and cold. It felt like someone was beating our tent. Since I didn’t have any clothes left, I decided to ignore the shivering but it was very difficult to sleep. After several minutes, I finally dozed off. I woke up early the next morning feeling very sticky. I remembered I wasn’t able to brush my teeth and take a bath the previous night. My hardcore football coach who slept in a hammock outside our tent was already up.

Most of my friends were still sleeping. I even saw that one tent had collapsed during the night and it looked like a giant blanket. My eyes surveyed the area. It was my first time to appreciate the summit. The crater is so blue. The weather was still a bit windy and cold. I immediately felt the urge to swim. I went down this small ravine for a dip in the crater. Coach Teng was there already washing some cookset. After psyching myself that it's safe, I finally decided to swim. The shallow area was not enough for me and coach who was dumping the water with rice and excess food from the pots he was washing. I had to swim away from him because the corned beef grease was clinging to me. Scared as I was, the water was worth it. It was cold but it felt clean. It smelled a little like sulphur but stress-relieving. I stayed in the crater for not more than 30 minutes. There wasn’t much to do but wallow in the deep water. Plus, I was feeling a little freaked out. I felt a bit paranoid that the water might start boiling minus a naked guy next to me like what happened in the movie – Volcano.

We went home around noon. Again, it was ultra hot but screw the heat, my dilemma was that I now had to trek my way down barefooted. I had slippers but I didn’t want to break it. I was going to wear it once we reach the jumpoff. So again, after 3 and a half hours, I walked barefoot. I got home late in the afternoon with weak knees, dead skin cells all over my body and a triumphant, stronger spirit. This experience was one I would treasure for the rest of my life, plus it made me a better mountaineer. I also learned that packing light does not involve forgetting the essentials such as cap, jacket, rope and adhesive. Oh and another thing - don't be stupid to dip your shoe in water that has sulfur in it.

Here's another blog where you can get information on Mt. Pinatubo.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trying Out Paintball in Global Gutz

My Team - me in shorts

It's shooting time!

I just got home hours ago from a teambuilding activity in Pasay city. Me and my officemates including our managers played paintball against each other. We were divided into two teams and we battled hard and rough under the hot sun. We started around 9am and finished at about 11am. It was my first time to play paintball and was a bit apprehensive about it at first. Believe it or not, it’s not about getting hurt that freaks me out, but the thought of causing pain to other people. You see, to play paintball, you will be using “guns” loaded with paintball pellets. It actually looks like a mini armalite. It uses air pressure to shoot out the pellets so it’s very painful when it hits you on the flesh. I don’t really feel like hurting any of them since I’m friends with most of them.

I wore shorts for the activity which normally isn’t allowed but they had no choice but to let me play since I’m there already and me and my team organized the whole thing. We were able to play more than 3 rounds, my team winning most of the time I’m proud to say.

The finals
- it was me against two other guys. It was an elimination type (in Filipino - matira, matibay) and the two guys ganged up on me which led to my early exit from the finals. Hehehe..oh well... at least I lasted that long.

Battle Scars
I got hit on the flesh 4 times – once near my elbow, my right foot,  right leg and on my neck. Everything is pretty swollen right now. I look like I have boils. Two of those actually bled. The one near my elbow got hit at close range (two feet away) and it bled instantly. Part of my skin even got ripped off so now I have two wounds there. I don’t really mind. Paintball was really fun and despite all my injuries (trust me - it's me, not the sport, hehe), I still consider it as a safe activity.  They made us wear helmets, vests covering the upper body both front and back and pads on the arms. They provided a lot of referees to control the game. It was well-supervised.  I’m the only person who bled but there were four of us with major hits. Most of my colleagues got hit either on the vest or at the gun. When you get hit by a paintball bullet, it feels like your skin getting ripped off. It hurts for hours. Mine’s been hurting for seven hours already but it’s really worth the pain! It practices your competitiveness, instinct, decision-making skills, leadership, teamwork, communication, etc. It’s a must for highly competitive companies and sports teams. I love my account manager even more for thinking of this activity. She’s a paintball fanatic. After the game, we headed over to the Marina, a seafood resto fronting Boom na Boom. Food, service and ambiance were excellent so we had an even better time eating.

There were three of us who organized the paintball activity and I found it very easy to arrange since you only have to reserve the place, organize the teams and convince everyone to come.

Here are some information on Global Gutz:

Paintball Center : Global Gutz
Contact person and Owner of Global Gutz : Sunny Torres – 0918-9129177
Location : Inside Boom na Boom carnival fronting the World Trade Center in Pasay City

Fees :
Walk-in – 500 pesos/person (inclusive of referees, vests, padding, paintball gun loaded with 100 bullets)
If you’re reserving the place – 600 pesos/person (inclusive of referees, vests, padding, paintball gun loaded with 100 bullets)
*Paintball pellet refills priced at 3-5 pesos per piece

It’s also highly advisable to bring your own drinking water because all that action will make you thirsty. They have available restrooms for you to wash off the paint.

If you need a venue to eat after the game, there’s Marina and Pier One which is about 100 meters away from Global Gutz. Marina has great customer service, clean rest rooms, great food. I love it. Prices are a bit higher than your usual humble restaurant. For a group of around 23, we paid a little less than 10,000 pesos including EVAT and service charge.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Different World Right Here in Manila – My Tondo Experience

Last Saturday, quite early on a weekend - at 6:00 AM, I woke up to meet with the rest of the group from work. I didn’t really know any of them except that we all volunteered to paint a school library somewhere in Tondo. I was actually a bit anxious because I didn’t know anyone and I wondered how we’ll get along. I also thought of ditching the activity and just sleep the whole morning then hang out with my friends in the afternoon but I felt guilty. It’s not like me to be that selfish. Anyway, I really wanted to help out and experience the other side of Tondo. I know lots of well to do families live there too but some of the areas is unfortunately more famous as a breeding ground for macho sangganos, snatchers, murderers, avenue for domestic violence, child abuse and as deep as you can get type of poverty. I’ve actually been there a couple of times for work. I used to go to Makro North Harbor about once a month and I’ve never been robbed although I would often hear talk to people who knows someone who just got robbed. Anyway, I haven’t experienced going inside that kind of community I hear people talk about. I’m quite positive that although there’s a grain of truth to what they’re saying, it’s not as bad as people think.

I went to the reception hall at the 45th floor (our meeting place) thinking I was already late but I was actually the second person to arrive. This other guy came in first and oh man, I didn’t really like that guy because I find him so snobbish. Well, that was just my first impression of him. Later, I realized he can be nice and funny. He was seated in one of the blue sofas reading a magazine. I started talking to this girl who just came in. She’s so friendly, warm and talkative so we bonded instantly. The girl introduced me to the snobby, cute guy and he just sort of grunted a hi to me. The organizer came in next and I felt more at ease with everyone because they all seemed nice. This other girl came in - which I’ve actually met before. She’s actually a friend of a friend. Anyway, we waited a while for the rest of the people to show up which took quite a long time. I was feeling impatient already. Good thing I had Elena to talk to – my new friend.

Before 10AM, our van turned right to an alley covered in garbage on both sides. It’s not just any garbage, it’s the mother load of garbage! I’m talking about huge piles of garbage sacks and when I stared at the top part of the piles of the garbage, I was surprised to see shanties. People actually live there?! We thought it was a junk shop. We all got culture-shocked except for the organizer who has been there a couple of times. Our mouths were hanging wide open wondering how people can survive to that place. Ysa (organizer) warned us that it’s very stinky but we shouldn’t cover our nose with hankies since we do not want to offend the people who lived there and we all agreed. Afraid to offend anyone, I got the cologne from my bag, took some and placed it inside my nose. I’m not a high-maintenanced girl, it’s just that I have a bad gag reflex. Our van reached an abandoned building and yikes, it wasn’t really a school yet. It was an old abandoned building owned by this livelihood program people. It was kinda scary. It looked like those buildings in American movies where people get slaughtered, as well as pinoy movies where Bong Revilla gets chased by Paquito Diaz and the rest of the gang and they shoot against each other. Hahahaha! Anyway, as soon as the airconditioning was turned off, the stink of the air welcomes us and goes straight to our nostrils. It took a while before we decided to go down. This is it….time to rough it up. We all went down, I tried to stopped myself from gagging. The smell is like a million little kids, all sweaty under the sun rushing to you. It smelled so rotten. Luckily, in less than two minutes, our nose got acquainted with the scent and we didn’t smell the stink anymore. Thank God! So that’s how people survive living there huh?! We had a little meeting on what needs to be done. We were actually going to paint 3 classrooms and a library. Each classroom is about 50 square meters big.

I realized I had to pee so I asked one of the contractors where the restroom is. Like the rest of the building, it wasn’t a sight to see. The floor was mostly covered in water so I had to skip so I wouldn’t get wet , there was poop in one of the stalls, the second stall – was interesting. I realized one of the construction workers were taking a bath with the door slightly ajar. Tempted as I was to take a peek, I decided not to and proceed with my business. When I got out of the stall, the restroom door was closed and as I opened the door, the guy who was taking a bath in the next stall was standing right in front of me – still all wet. I didn’t peek in, I swear! I just saw his brown-checkered shorts that’s why I recognized him. I felt a bit embarrassed and I just ignored him and headed to the rest of the group to paint. Ohhh my virgin eyes ain’t ready for freshly bath nipples. Hahahahahahha!

We started placing newspapers under the walls – boring job – to prevent spilling paint on the floor. After that, we all set out for our second chore – scraping rugby off the walls! Yikes…it was quite difficult. We had to use sandpaper and the rugby thing doesn’t come off without a fight. It was very tedious. Good thing this pretty American woman – I think she’s with the foundation in charge of building the school – she made us stop scrapping the walls and told us to proceed with painting. She’s actually so friendly but we never got introduced to her.

It takes a while before we could get started with painting. The guys from the construction had to mix the paints first. I didn’t realize it takes a lot of work before you get to paint. Finally, when they had almost fill this huge, blue drum with paint, we started with the walls. We had to paint them all white. A minute or two after starting painting, we all looked so sweaty. It was intensely hoot! We painted for about 5 hours and after that, my hands were calloused – I’m not exaggerating. To think it was only for a few hours and people actually do this for a living. I will never throw construction worker jokes ever again. Merely painting a room is hard work! We painted 4 rooms! I did some construction for habitat for humanity for a week when I was in college and by the end of the week, I had inhaled so much sand, I developed colds and whenever I cough, I can feel the sand in my lungs. Over the years, I have forgotten how hard it was.

Being in Tondo for less than a day was a beautiful experience. I’ve learned that it doesn’t take a plane ride or more than an hour to get lost in a different world. I don’t have pictures yet , I’m not even sure if pictures would be able to capture the plight of the people of Compound 8 in Tondo but being able to visit them enlightened me in a lot of ways. When we left at 4:00 in the afternoon – muscles aching, palms slightly calloused, paint blots on our clothes, I was able to acquire new found respect for construction workers. I woke up the following morning feeling like I’ve been rolled over by a tractor but the pain was worth it. I knew in my own little way, I was able to create a change – in my life and on other people. I gained new acquaintances, experiences and helped build a school for children who will stay longer in the world than I would.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Getting Lost in the Mountains and Finding Paradise

College Days - Me and 6 other guys from school went camping in Pico De Loro in Ternate, Cavite. After summiting on the second day, we traversed to the beach but on our way to the beach, the trail we were following suddenly stopped and we realized we're in the middle of nowhere. We were suprised because two of the guys we were with have been there and they knew the way. We decided to follow the path of a dried river and got lost even more. It was really hot and very uncomfortable, there were fat mosquitos everywhere who keep on biting my legs. Luckily, after walking in circles for about an hour or so, a local found us and suggested a beach different from where we intended to go. Since the only way to that island was through a boat, we made arrangements with a local fisherman to bring us there and pick us up at a specified time.

The boatman brought us to an island which was a bit similar to the beach in the movie - “The Beach” . The sand was white. Opposite the shore, separated by vast water was another mountain and on the left side was a dark swamp where people can get prawns. It was sooo serene and just like in the”The Beach”, there were armed men in the island, precisely two men. They were okay, kinda freaky though because of the guns and because the place was isolated. They could have murdered us and dump our bodies somewhere and no one will find us.

I dub this as my most unforgettable camping trip because :

1. It was 3 days and 2 nights of camping with people I didn't reallyknow that well. 5 of them were my blockmates, the other one (Chris) was the boyfriend of August's sister. Anyway, I ended up going with them because all the other girls in the trip – the ones I was friends with cancelled at the very last minute. - like the night before and I was already packed and excited so I didn't back out of the trip.

2. I was assigned to a tent with two guys I barely knew at that time – Miro and Joey – who later on became close friends. When we were inside the tent, we didn’t really talk. They sandwiched me in the middle. I slept the whole night face-down with a prayer.

3. One of the guys I was with - Alan – now a friend of mine almost hacked my face off – by accident. He was axing wood for bonfire and I was watching him from a distance – grabe, kasi I’m a real sucker for men’s chest. He had taken off his shirt. Anyway, while he was about to chop another wood, we both noticed that the other half of the axe was gone – the one with the blade. We both looked around and saw that the blade landed and had struck the sand a few inches from where I was standing! Our eyes went wide when we saw it. If I stood a bit nearer, I would have been bleeding to death. That axe blade was brutally sharp! The memory still makes me shudder. I didn't get emotional, we both started laughing after my near-death experience and went to everyone talking about it. I really felt touched by an angel. My friend almost killed me!

4.I almost drowned. August and the rest of the guys had this brilliant idea to borrow the armed men’s boat so we can row to the deeper part of the sea. Of course most of us went with them except for Joey who stayed by the shore communing with the sea animals and collecting shells. Anyway, I didn’t know that they were intending to swim. I just wanted to ride a boat. So when we reached the deep part, they all stared at the water. August yelled, “Talon na!” (Jump!). Almost everybody hesitated. Feeling very adventurous, I jumped in first and the rest of the guys followed me. Waaaaaaaaaaaa! Modafucka! The water was so dark and deep. I was thinking my feet would be touching the bottom soon but it didn’t I just kept on going down! It was happening so fast, I started to panic but no sound came out. I tried to clear my mind and thought of how I could save myself – Oh yea, don’t panic. I know how to swim. It was really scary and I shut the part of my brain which said I was drowning and tried to focus. I was having a hard time trying to stay afloat but I wasn’t making a scene so nobody really noticed. I do remember telling them that I was going back up because I was scared. Luckily, August was still on the boat and he reached for me with an oar. I grabbed the oar and struggled to pull myself up. Freaky! Thank God nobody really noticed how I fought for dear life or they would be teasing me about it forever!

We all bonded well on our third day together and had a lot of fun because of the unplanned camp to Hamilo Cove (The ala “The beach” island). Unplanned itineraries are rare in mountaineering because it’s dangerous. Given that our country doesn’t have much resources to organize the kind of search and rescue teams they have in the US, it’s very important to inform people you know where exactly you're going. We were pretty lucky that the beach we camped turned out to be a safe place. It was really, really, really worth all that risk. Me and the guys still talk about that trip until now. It was quite unprecedented.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beach Football 2007 in Subic

Doreen and Me - Riding a van on our way to our Hotel - (Winter Pavillion of the Grand Seasons Hotel) looking so sweaty

Crashing Xavier and Marcus' Hotel Room at the Legenda Hotel and Casino (whooo..posh..but not too posh is it..walang libreng WIFI!)

The rest of the team - Lancer, Nadine, Monica and Myka crash into the boy's room and we all knew we will all be lacking sleep.

The Burrito girls - Erin, Karen (my lil sis) and Doreen

Hot, tired but never lacking energy for the camera - LFC Alabang

Awwww...Friends for Life?!!

Let's Get it On - Me struggling to steal the ball from this girl from UP

One of the major sponsors of the tournament was San Miguel Beer. All the teams were made to wear the shirts they gave out at the registration

San Miguel Beer - Walang Katulad talaga! Thank you also to Legenda and ANC for sponsoring this event!

Look to the left side of this picture and you will see two empty cans of San Miguel Beer. The tremendous heat made all of us so thirsty and since San Miguel was a major sponsor, they gave all the teams one whole case of San Miguel Beer right before the games started. Wayy to go San Miguel!!!


Karen, seryoso?!

Chilling during one of our breaks

ANC - the news network was also there to cover the event. Nadine gets interviewed from our team

Soccer Sisters - My sister played goalee and midfield while I did defense.

Setting aside the fun we had together as a team having our usual crazy moments (mostly care of Lancer’s creative and wild antics), the beach football tournament was rather drastic. Most of us (me included) didn’t have acceptable endurance to play the whole 14 minutes. Grabe! It was only 14 minutes per game (plus one minute time to switch fields) but it was torture! Most of us haven’t played in ages and we weren’t able to practice as a team so you can just imagine how we will fair as a group. Anyway, in the elimination round, we competed with three other teams – UP, Baguio and Philippine Science. I didn’t get to play the whole three games because I had to leave Subic early to rush to our team building in Pansol, Laguna. I must really be crazy not to choose just one activity. Travelling from Subic to Laguna was agony to my butt. I travelled for a total of about 7 hours of the entire day. Plus, both activities for me were bitin. I didn’t get to spend much time with my teammates and my officemates because I had to divide my time. Anyway, I shouldn’t complain. It was a personal achievement for me to commute from Subic to Laguna. I didn’t really know where the resort was. I just followed the map and instructions they gave out and I also kept asking questions to everyone – strangers, my officemates. It’s like being on Amazing Race – only I didn’t have a partner. A tip I learned on traveling alone without a car– ask the people in the terminal for directions - ask questions and pay attention to the person you’re talking to. Sometimes they would tell you to go left and their hands would be pointing on the other direction so you really have to be attentive and repeat to them the directions they tell you. Best people to ask are the locals and people in the terminal. Anyway..I still have lots of stories but I'll write about it some other time.

ooohh..bloopers pala...you know the first thing I ate Saturday morning of April 21 was sand! I think it was against Baguio and I fell down taking in a huge amount of sand inside my mouth. My mouth got so dry after that and I tried to get substituted but everybody was beat up and I couldn't get off the field. Thank God the ref blew his whistle a few minutes after . To top it all, my friend Rea told me I had sand morsels (tinga) on my teeth!...Is this the new breakfast of the champs?! Hahahaha! No wayyy..it was worst than swallowing a whole piece of polvoron but then again..polvoron is real food and sand hardly is.

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