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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Football Sunday

My whole body is in pain. Even coughing hurts.It’s a worth-it type of pain derived from two hours of playing football under the hot sun with 8 other guys. (Serves me right for being lazy and skipping the entire cool down exercises after the game.)

Did I just say 8 guys? No wonder I’m in agony!

After a year of taking a rest from one of my favorite sports, yesterday morning, I found myself stepping in the familiar green grass of a football field. Though the game was held on a different venue, the sight of the grass and the goals instantly felt like home. Our team had been invited to play against these people from another office but only two of us from Sykes showed up so we just regrouped with the other team. There were 8 of us adults and this male kid. Being the only girl in the team, the guys went easy on me for the first few minutes but after making a few tackles, some of the guys had forgotten that I am from the other gender. One guy managed to step on my foot, one guy had slammed his arms on me, I think someone had kicked one leg too plus all the other tackles – but it’s fine. I wasn’t really expecting any special treatment. It was a great game and I can’t wait to play again next week. Hopefully, we can have a few more people. The guys I’ve played with are definitely one of the nicest bunch I’ve played with. Some guys I’ve played in the past tend to be either too sexist, too competitive or too arrogant. I’ve experienced playing with guys who won’t even pass the ball to you even if you’re wide open. I’ve also experienced fighting with a guy in the field although the last one I fought with was a lot smaller than I was. Hehehe! Now, I’m more mellow in the field. I try to avoid too much aggressiveness which was a bit of a problem for me before - but I haven’t incurred a card, if my memory serves me right, so I guess I’m not as vicious as the others. One of my gal pals had punched another girl during one of their games. It’s that intense!

So how’s it like spending Sunday morning with the guys? I just have to say this – all men have one distinct quality – their intense fascination with women. We were in the middle of the game when suddenly, all the guys’ heads turned to the right side of the field. I turned to see what caused the sudden distraction and all I can see were some girls’ legs – which appeared flawless from a distance. Ahh I get it. What’s even more interesting to note is that they seem to have mastered an unknown body language or ESP of some sort. Just by looking at each other, all the guys easily picked up that there were eye candies within their radar. After a few minutes, they would tease each other and make comments about the girls. They also have a natural tendency to be blunt. I even heard one guy complaining that he wasn’t wearing a supporter. I heard one guy burping like there’s no tomorrow and of course, there were those comments made about the girls. I heard one guy say that one of the girls looked like a “hipon” which is Pinoy guy lingo for a girl with a great body and a not so great face. One guy even even tried telling them off and reminded them that there’s a girl with them. Ahehehe! Oh they knew I was a girl?!

That morning was another enlightening experience for me. Immensing in guy world is the best form of activity for a sociological inquest (for clueless girls such as myself), especially spending time with football players since they are generally friendly, funny, smart and passionate…Here’s a toast to all the talented and charming futboleros out there!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mt. Arayat Adventure (Itinerary included)

Mt. Arayat was not part of the list of mountains I was interested in climbing because of its notoriety in having guides who overcharge their services and its reputation in the past of having rebels in the area. I was also apprehensive about the military presence in that town for fear of being wrongfully accused as a leftist and be tortured – blame that on my hyperactive imagination. It was a huge irony that we finally decided on having Mt. Arayat as our next adventure after carefully researching the area, the itinerary and asking fellow mountaineers who have been there. 

It turned out to be a great decision because Mt. Arayat is a beautiful mountain. As you begin the ascent from the DENR training center, you will encounter an exposed trail filled with rocks. It’s about an hour and a half until you reach the cooler part of the mountain with thicker vegetation but the view of Pampanga from your back is enough motivation to get you going no matter how hot the weather is. You will also see various types of flowers as you go along.

The trail is mostly going up and on rainy days, it’s going to be very slippery. You also need to watch out for the ants and other types of insects. Do not go there without applying insect repellant.

The summit offers a great view of the Pampanga river and its nearby towns. Some say you can also see the NLEX from up there but we couldn’t find it. Sitting at the summit will make you feel like a god with the view below as your creation. From up there, everything looks like a toy or those models architects present to their clients.

The campsite is not my favorite – although it’s spacious enough to accommodate a big group, the views are obscured. As I lay in my tent during the night, I was surprised to hear the sound of tricycles, radios and some people laughing! It’s funny because we were about 1030 MASL high and there were no houses in the mountain.

What else do I love about Mt. Arayat? Let me share with you the reasons:
1. Plush forest about two hours from the summit
2. Relatively easy trail - it gets steeper as you go nearer the campsite area which presents a big challenge but the variety of vegetation in the area provides good entertainment.
3. The sounds of the wild makes the trekking more interesting. Mountaineers mentioned there are monkeys in the area. I actually saw one in our campsite dangling from the trees but he was harmless…but you can never be too careful - don’t leave anything outside your tent. 
4.For the first time in the mountains - I woke up in the morning smiling because of a crazy dream – I dreamt that I was in a restaurant with lots of great food and tons of money in my wallet and that some guy was tickling me. Hahaha! Crazy!

And what I didn't like about it :

1. When we went to the Arayat National Park to take a bath, there were several kids asking us for money.
2. Tricycle drivers tend to overcharge tricylcle fees! It was so annoying, it was a good thing that I was able to get information from other climbers who went there early this year so we knew how much to pay them. Don’t allow them to fool you! The tricycle we rode going to Arayat National park was charging twice as much as the normal amount. The bus we rode let us off the nearest tricycle station to the ANP and from there it was only 20 pesos per head to the park. There were three of us so it should only cost us 60 pesos but we were willing to pay him 100 pesos because we first made a stopover to the barangay hall then he took us straight to the DENR station – our jumpoff. But guess what, when we handed him the 100 pesos which was big enough already – he asked for more! We argued and he accepted the 100 pesos.
3. Mosquitos in the campsite – they were really huge but it was a good thing that we brought a lot of Off lotion which was very effective in protecting us from these annoying creatures. You know, as soon as we reached the campsite, a huge mosquito went instantly buzzing in my ear and I had to reapply insect repellant.

Our Itinerary:
Attendees : Me, Glee and Ren

Jumpoff : DENR Training Center near Arayat National Park

6:00 AM – Meet at Sierra Madre Terminal – Monumento, Caloocan
6:30 AM - board Sierra Madre Bus bound for Arayat, Pampanga (85 pesos/head); (ask bus conductor to let you off at the tricycle station nearest to the Arayat National Park)
7:30 AM - ETD for Arayat
9:30 AM - ETA Arayat ; get last minute supplies; brunch
10:00 AM – Take trike to Arayat Barangay hall and ask the driver to wait for you – courtesy call (this isn’t required but can be beneficial in case of emergencies); The barangay secretary will issue you a printed form which serves as your permit – Permit is at 10 pesos/head. She will also give you her cellphone number.

Board the trike and proceed to the DENR Training Center – 20 pesos/head; Meet with guide – 500 pesos/divided by 3; If you’re a foreigner – guide fees go up to 1,500 pesos

Guides' contact numbers - 09227053970 - Leah (neigbor of Rey-the guide)
You may also contact this number to arrange for a guide:
*the 500 pesos guide fee is only one way – if the guide is going to stay with you for the night, the fee will go up to 1000-1500 pesos.

10:30 AM - ETA DENR Training Center – foot of Mt. Arayat; start trek
12:00 PM - trail lunch (packed lunch)
13:30 PM - resume trek
16:00 PM - ETA campsite; pitch tents – the summit where you can get a great view of the province of Pampanga is only a minute away from where you will be pitching your tents

Day 2 – March 2, 2008

10:00 AM - start descent
1:00 PM - ETA Arayat National Park Resort; lunch, bath time! (National Park Entrance – 30 pesos; pool 10 pesos;cr – 5 pesos)
3:00 PM - take trike to Sierra madre terminal (20 pesos each)
4:00 PM – ETD – Back to Monumento (85 pesos)
6:00 PM – ETA – Monumento

Bus Trip Schedules – Sierra Madre

According to the Sierra Madre driver we asked, the first trip from Monumento to Arayat leaves at 5:00 AM and succeeding trips leave every 30 minutes.
while the last bus trip from Arayat to Monumento leaves at 4:00 PM.

Where you Can Wash Up Before Going Home:

a. DENR station at the foot of the mountain

b. Arayat National Park

ANP FEES as of March 2, 2008
Entrance Fee : 30 pesos/head
Pool Fee : 10pesos/head
Cottages : 300 pesos (but if you’re just going to take a bath, you don’t have to rent one)
Comfort Room : 5 pesos/head

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