Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PART 7 - Malacañang of the North

After lunch at the Herencia Cafe, we flagged a  tricycle to take us to the Malacañang of the North. I don't really know anything about it  except that I read from another blog that it was built as a rest house for the Marcoses, a famous political clan in the Philipines. It's off my itinerary but I was curious to see what it looks like. 

There weren't a lot of visitors when we arrived and we didn't find anyone available to tour us  around so we just wandered off on our own. It would have been nice to know something about the place though.  Me and my friend just pretended to be little Marcoses and walked around looking for "Lola Imelda".  I found the rooms and furniture quite appealing especially since I am a fan of huge spaces. I can tell it has seen better days though. 

Paoay lake can be seen from the lawn. Staring at it was relaxing. How nice it would be to have a garden with a massive view of the lake. Dreaming...

Just visiting:P
We finished exploring the entire place in less than an hour, mostly laughing our way around.

After traveling for 8 days around the Philippines, it was finally, time to go home. Though vacation's over, I felt more than ready to go back because I missed my family. 

Ilocos Norte was my last destination in my birthday backpacking trip. My two friends continued their travel to Ilocos Sur while I headed back to Manila to go back to work since I've already been gone for a week. 

I started the journey alone and was ending it alone. I waited for a bus from the highway excitedly. No more living out of my backpack. Although it's thrilling to be on the road, I love being home more. :)

I might not have to explore much but I got  the vacation I wanted. :) 

This post is part of my 8-day birthday backpacking trip from Mindanao to Luzon

PART 7 - Malacañang of the North and the Journey Back Home 

P.S. I have a friend who traveled around Mindanao for 16 days on a 400 Peso/Day budget. Please read about his adventures by visiting his blog - Journeying James

PART 6: A Day in Wonderland - Paoay, Ilocos Norte

One of my dreams was to see the San Augustine church or  commonly known as Paoay church. I might have seen it on t.v. or read about it somewhere.  It's one of the four baroque churches that can be found in the Philippines and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. There was something so enigmatic about it. I knew I had to see it at the soonest possible time.

I was finally able to see it when I went backpacking with two other friends.

You know what I felt when I saw it for the very first time?
My jaws dropped wide open. I smiled instantly, I kept uttering the words wow. I couldn’t believe I was finally seeing what I’ve been dying to see. 
It was magical. The enormous and breathtaking Paoay church loomed in front of me and I felt like what Alice did when she stepped into wonderland. I know it may not have the same effect for some, but I don't know,  I am just so drawn to it. 

Fortunately, the church doors were open and we went inside to say our prayers. I was so thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to be there. Once we reached the doors that led to the front of the church, we didn’t waste any time to take photos as souvenirs. We met a warm friendly guy named Walter who generously offered to take our pictures and provided some helpful information what else to see in Paoay.

After saying our prayers inside the church, we ate lunch at Herencia Café which served the famous pinakbet pizza which I’ve been dying to try since the first time I saw it featured in the Living Asia channel.The pinakbet pizza was worth the trip! It was so so good! It only costs 350 pesos for the entire thing – no other sizes available though, and you can even request for a half-half order (which would cost you additional 100 pesos).

What we did was order pinakbet pizza on one side and dinuguan pizza on the other. I would go back to Paoay and travel 10 hours and back again just for the pizza and the rest of the food at Herencia Cafe. ( I won't ride a plane so I could save and spend it on food..hehe) I tried what Glee and Laurence ordered – the Vigan pasta and it was so yummy even if it had a lot of meat! I also went for a serving of miki – which was swimming in hot soup. I’m not that into soup but I almost finished the entire bowl because it was also so good. The café is situated right across the front part of the Paoay church and hard to miss. 

The hearty lunch was such a great way to cap off a visit to a wonderful place.

*Photos courtesy of Glee and Ren. Thanks guys!
This post is part of my 8-day birthday backpacking trip from Mindanao to Luzon. Click on Part 7 for the finale of my trip!

PART 1 -Journey to Camiguin

Monday, November 24, 2008

PART 5 - Third Wheeling Up Northern Luzon

On my 7th day of wandering around the Philippines, I joined my friends, Glee and Laurence on their trip up north.  I had just flown in from Cebu that day. We boarded the 9:30 PM pink Florida bus from Manila that goes straight to the municipality of Pagudpud. The one way ticket costs 550 pesos (You can purchase tickets in advance). The terminal is right before UST if you’re coming from Quiapo. 

The bus had comfortable seats, good air-conditioning and a restroom that was pretty challenging to use while the bus is in motion. I had fun utilizing it though, it presented an opportunity to test the endurance of my knees. After that, I made sure I peed at every restroom stop.

For some reason, what was supposed to be a 10 hour ride became 12 hours. Upon reaching the Pagudpud town proper, (without eating breakfast since we were on a tight budget) we immediately hired a tricycle for a day tour.  The driver's name is Kuya Ramon. He's such an amiable guy, the epitome of the famous catchphrase - “basta driver, sweet lover” - never complains, not abusive and always seem to be smiling. (Contact Details – 0909-6745778). He also assisted us to  hunt for a homestay near Blue Lagoon to spend the night. We finally found one which was far from the resorts which was  great because the surrounding area was quiet.

Since it was off season, we were able to negotiate an overnight stay for 500 Pesos which we split among us. The room was just outside their house and had 2 single beds. The makeshift bathroom had mountains as a backdraft and since the walls were a bit low, you can stare at the mountains while you do your thing. 

After freshening up, we started with the tour. 

The North bound tour costs 600 pesos and included the following destinations:

(You can split the cost with 2-3 persons)1. Patapat Aquaduct
2. Paraiso ni Anton
3. Aqua Grande
4. Kabigan Falls
5. Bantay Abot Cave
6. Blue Lagoon

We skipped the Kabigan falls since we had to pay for a guide and an entrance fee while all the rest of the destinations were free to enjoy. Our second to the last stop was Bantay Abot cave which was my favorite among the 6.

Dark clouds and strong winds welcomed our trio as we descended the stone steps of Bantay Abot cave. Threatening our safety was the violent crashing of the waves against the boulders on the shore. None of us tried to venture farther due to fear for dear life. We took a lot of time though taking in the view. It was one of those moments in my 8-day trip that had me saying wow over and over even if the weather was a bit stormy.

When it was time for lunch, we headed back to our room to cook. After eating, my friends decided they wanted to do the Southbound tour as well and they agreed to pay for the entire thing. Yipee! 

The cost was also 600 Pesos and while there were only 3 destinations on it, the locations of which were a bit far from the town proper. 

We went to the following :  

1. Bangui Windmills - I felt like a dwarf here. The windmills were enormous! 
2. Kapurpurawan White Rock Formation - I felt like being I was in another world
3. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse - it had a rustic appeal. We had a nice chat with the caretaker here. We even went to the tower which got me clinging to a post because I'm acrophobic.

Can't resist these puddles of water even if it was cold!
Kapurpurawan White Rock Formation
Cape Bojeador

 It was dark when we got back to our room.

The following morning, we walked around Blue Lagoon and up to the area near the resorts. The weather had not improved and we couldn't swim because it was so cold and the waves were huge so we just took in the view.  I love it here.

Our ride back to the main highway

After our lovely walk, it was time to pack again. Our next stop was Paoay Church which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.  I've been dying to see it for quite some time and I was so excited to get there!

*Some pictures are from my friends Glee and Ren. 

This post is part of my 8-day birthday backpacking trip from Mindanao to Luzon. Click on Part 6 to continue reading about my adventure in Ilocos Norte!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Mt. Batulao Freaky Experience

Me and two friends (plus our guide) had been trekking for about 45 minutes - even running on the trail on some parts when we decided to take a 5-minute rest. We used the time to joke around. Just before we resumed our trek, I said something about looking for my soul mate in the mountains. JayZ joined in saying he was also searching for one,  while Mira said she wasn’t interested. 

After several minutes of trekking, I began to feel an invisible weight on my back, as though someone was piggybacking. I decided to ignore it. But then the feeling grew worse and I suddenly felt so weak which was weird because I was in relatively good condition, I had enough sleep and we even ate breakfast at Wendy’s prior to the climb. We also carried little weight on our backs since it was just a day hike. The trails in Batulao are merciful with occasional steep parts but then there are tons of flat ground too for you to recover. 

I never felt so weak in a climb before. I felt that I was carrying a person on my back. About 45 minutes to the summit, I started trailing behind. Then I noticed JayZ seemed to be having difficulty too which was weird because JayZ just got back from an Akiki-Ambangeg traverse in Mt. Pulag about two weeks ago and he told me he was okay. Mira and the guide were several feet away and me and JayZ just struggled with each step. I felt I was fainting and that my energy was being sucked out of my body. 

When I caught up with JayZ, I told him how tired I was and that I felt that someone was riding on my back. To my surprise, JayZ told me that’s exactly what he felt and he even wanted to vomit. We looked at each other and I started to freak out. Me and JayZ tried to catch up with Mira who was scowling at us since we were so slow. It was so weird because when I climbed Cristobal last month – with a full pack, I didn’t have difficulty at all. It was tiring but pretty manageable!

After several minutes of practically crawling our way up , me and JayZ finally reached the summit. We stayed there for less than 10 minutes because of the heat and then we got down on the new trail. That’s when I felt the weight off my shoulders, as though that something on my back finally went down. JayZ also told me that he felt the same. Fortunately, whatever phenomenon that happened to us was finally over and we got down Mt. Batulao safe and sound. 

I find it freaky and funny because in my years of hiking in the mountains, I’ve never experience anything that weird before. Waah..me and my big mouth. Tsk tsk. I swear to never joke about soul mates in the mountains ever again!

The Mt. Batulao Traverse

Last weekend, I went climbing in Mt. Batulao with my friends Jay-Z and Mira, and I just finished washing my heavily soiled shoes . There’s still some mud on my legs which I did not bother to remove since I’m taking a bath tomorrow morning anyway. Since Batulao is a relatively easy climb, I feel normal, except that my hair stinks. Poor pillow of mine will need a pillowcase change tomorrow.
This is my fourth time here since college. This mountain was our venue for training climbs but this is the first time I can remember that I fully enjoyed the scenery and found appreciation for this beautiful mountain. It’s because the only memories I have of Batulao prior to this climb was the scorching heat, the overly muddy trails and the steep trails near the summit. I guess it was due to the pressure of undergoing training and looking after the neophytes of my former mountaineering club that I don’t have any fond recollection of amazing landscapes such as these:

We decided to do a traverse ascending from the old trail and descending to the new trail. The new trail provided a refreshing change from all the grass and open landscapes that you see in the old trail. Here, you will encounter some interesting huge boulders, cross over a short wooden bridge, enter a forest and pass by a steep trail with ravines on both sides (where I crawled my way through due to acrophobia). It’s also shorter than the old trail. If you've been to Mt. Batulao several times and haven't tried the new trail which was just established February 2008 - you may want to give it a shot. You'd have to pay a separate registration fee though (it's another 20 pesos) but it's all worth it.

By the way, if you need an itinerary, you may drop by this site:
This was where we got most of the information we needed. By the way, if you’re riding a car and need to find Evercrest Golf and Country Club (your take-off point on your way to the jump-off), you may visit their website at : http://www.evercrestgolfclubresort.com/location.php
I uploaded the rest of the pictures here. (If there's a problem with the link - you can just type this on your browser :http://soccerprincess.multiply.com/photos/album/62/Mt._Batulao_Dayhike_Traverse_-_November_9_2008)

Me and JayZ had a weird experience while climbing Batulao but I'll write it some other time because I'm still baffled as of now. It's both a funny and freaky story.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Climbing Mt. Batulao Tomorrow...Yipee

Since the much awaited football tournament, supposedly for tomorrow, was cancelled and moved for next week – I will not be able to play due to another commitment and I’ve been scowling ever since I found out about it yesterday morning. Agh, I hate last minute cancelations. I’m going to miss my team. We even have this nice uniform which feels really great and I was actually excited to wear it. I’ve been praying that the organizers move it on Saturday so I can play. It’s a coed tournament and I knew some of the guys we’re up against and it was going to be fun because we’ll probably ram each other in the field and laugh about it after the game.

On a more positive note - I’m off to climb Mt. Batulao tomorrow on such short notice. I just found out about it this morning when a friend from Sykes Outdoor told me he’s going and I sort of invited myself. Well, he was fine with it and the only problem I foresee is that for the nth time, I’m going to be a third wheel! This other girl is going with us and everyone from the group tease them as an item. Oh no, what did I get myself into?! Maybe I'll just take paparazzi shots of them when they lapse into their “two less lonely people in the world moment” and post it at the group fourm. Hehehehe!

I’m kidding…Peace Jayz and Mira!!!
Wait for my pictures ha..I’ll try to post them as soon as I get back tomorrow.
You know, even though it’s going to be about my fourth time there since college, the excitement is still there. I really hope the weather will be kind to us tomorrow. There’s a tropical depression crossing Central Visayas and is estimated to hit Puerto Princessa tomorrow afternoon.

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