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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hiking in Mt. Matarem, Batanes

A year after my first time in Batanes, I had the chance to go back again, solo this time, but instead of a backpacking escapade, it was for work. Since work involved discovering adventure destinations, I made sure I squeezed in some hiking. (Work + play! Yihaaa!).

I coordinated with William of the Batanes Mountaineers. Since he was out of the country at that time, he referred me to a relative who is also an avid climber. I decided to meet with him after lunch and he picked me up on his motorbike. I gulped at the sight of what would be my ride. I don't trust motorbikes especially since I attract accidents. Since I cannot afford to be picky, I took a deep breath and rode at the back.

What's good about motorbikes though is that you can get unobstructed views of the mountainsides and cliffs at the side of the road. I was able to take some pictures and videos. I tried to act as bravely as I could. The ride took about 40 minutes, accident-free. 

Jump-off was at Barangay San Vicente, near the port where boats dock going to Sabtang. We parked the bike in a shed and started with a very steep descent on a cemented road. I thank God for the sun. Had it been raining, I was pretty sure I would have fallen somewhere.

A few minutes off the main road, I was already able to see refreshing coastal views from a hill. I pause to take some pictures and to catch my breath. After resting, we set deeper into the forest where I saw twisted branches stretching upwards like a welcoming arch for royalties. It was just what I've read from the web. The place felt surreal, like being in a fairy tale minus the wicked witch.

After less than two hours of negotiating through alternating flat and steep terrains, we reached the summit. Fog enveloped the surrounding area and I couldn't see a thing. Fortunately, it cleared after several minutes and I finally saw the landscapes below - ocean, towers, hills, a lighthouse. As with all my mountain quests, the view gave me euphoria.

We took some pictures and got down quickly. My guide offered to show me Racuh A Payaman, popularly known as Marlboro country after the old tv ad. I also requested him to bring me to the Fountain of Youth which I read from the net. I had to trek some more to get to the site but it was worth it.  Both places were as breathtaking as the rest of what I've seen around Batanes.

There's still some trails that I missed such as those in Itbayat - which requires a longer stay and more preparation but at least this one's already off my list. :)

Batanes Mountaineers - Add them on Facebook
Or visit them at  Multiply

Guides can also be secured at the Barangay Hall. For more information on mt. Matarem, you can also check out  Gideon Lasco's Pinoy Mountaineer.

*Trip was last June 2010

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ocular at La Mesa Watershed

August 2010 - I went to the La Mesa watershed to check out the area where we’ll be conducting our tree planting activity. (Take note that La Mesa Watershed is about 20 minutes away from the La Mesa Ecopark though both are inside a single property.) I thought I wasn’t going to break a sweat so I just went there with shorts, a dri fit shirt and hiking shoes. I didn’t even bother bringing something to tie my hair or a towel to clean myself up afterwards.

As soon as I sat inside the briefing area to discuss with Darryn and Badette – our contacts from Bantay Kalikasan, the mosquitoes started feasting on me. I had completely forgotten to bring a mosquito repellant. Prior to my visit, our contacts have stressed out that I should avoid cologne, perfume or other lotions. That morning, I had applied a fragrant lotion - sweet smelling shea butter which I'm pretty sure those mosquitos were utterly grateful for.

Ten minutes later, I was accompanied by Badette, their agriculturist and Tata (our adventurous company driver) for a 40 minute hike towards the tree planting site. Weather was so humid. The mosquitos continued attacking us all the way to the site. Though I was scratching myself the whole time, I was extremely amazed at the thick foliage at the La Mesa Dam. (Great work Bantay Kalikasaan!) Kuya, their agriculturist was very generous in educating us about the different species of plants and insects we encountered along the way. I saw some birds, snails, grasshoppers and butterflies. Then there were the trees, herbs, plants which I couldn’t recall the names, except for Banaba and Kupang. Though I was appreciative of his efforts in passing knowledge to us, I was only interested in one thing and was quite grateful that kuya answered me patiently because each time he points a plant or something, I would ask – “Nakakain ba yan?” (Is that edible?). Even when he picked up some clams from the lake and showed him to us I asked if I could eat it already. There was also another instance when he pointed a certain specie of grasshopper and I asked if it tasted like chicken when cooked. He was nice enough not to tease me about my insatiable desire for food.

We took some pictures by the river and headed back. By the time we reached the briefing area, my legs were stained with mud and filled with mosquito bites. I was also so hungry and thirsty! Since I didn’t bring any towel or extra clothes, I was so dirty when I got inside the van but despite my untidy appearance, we made a quick stop to Chowking where me and tatang shared a meal which we devoured completely.

My Anti-127 Hours Manifest

I just watched 127 Hours last week. It's a movie about climber Aron Ralston who cut his own arm to save his life when he fell from a canyon and one hand got trapped under a boulder. No one knew where he had gone and so he knew he would be dead if he waited for someone to rescue him. When he had ran out of options on how to free himself from the boulder, he amputated his lower right arm with a dull multi-tool kit. One of the lessons a person can take from it is to always let people know where you are. So here I am, leaving a trace. I actually told my mom already about this trip but it pays to be sure since she doesn't know how to get Sagada. Should I disappear, maybe you can help her out. :P

I will be taking a trip at around 2:00 A.M. later to Baguio via Victory Liner. I will meet with a friend and catch the next bus to Sagada to hike and run around the mountains. My other friends (Jules, Tan, Mors, Ceejay, Noel, Tanya plus 2 more of their other friends) will be meeting me there Saturday morning so I have several hours to get into trouble on my own.

I am curious about the municipality of Besao so I may go there. If I miss the bus, I may opt to sleep the whole day in Olahbinan or whichever inn I feel like staying upon my arrival. Another possible thing I may do is to hike around. I  still dunno where. It's my 3rd time in Sagada so maybe if I meet some people I may go with them wherever they're going. Haha! I guess it's quite evident that I don't really have a concrete plan for my solo time.

Sunday afternoon, me and a couple of friends will proceed to Tadian for an exploration trip. I have coordinated with the Tadian tourism officer - Lynber Micklay regarding our arrival. We will be sleeping in the barangay hall and do some exploration in the morning. Our ETA in Manila will be next Tuesday - January 25 during the wee hours.

My Gears:
I have adequate food - trail bars, 2 canned goods for Tadian, an emergency blanket, a waterproof jacket and 2 more , 750 ML of water, 660 ML (total of Pocari Sweat), headlamp with extra batteries, Swiss Knife, extra clothes, socks, hiking shoes and tons of dri fit shirts, my fuchsia cap (a birthday gift from Jay), my Rudy Project pouch (courtesy of my brother) and my latest favorite item - a Mountain Hardware lip gloss from my former boss . Those are basically what I have.

I'm not really nervous. Just excited but still, I want to be careful.

I'm excited to write about our trip so see you when I get back!

Kayak Adventure in Bohol, Philippines

July 17, 2010 – Upon arrival at the Tagbilaran airport, I rode a tricycle towards the Habagat Outdoor shop in Gallares Street where I was to meet for the very first time - businessman and kayaking instructor, Buzzy Budlong. Just last year, he and a Singaporean guy established the first kayak trail in the Philippines starting from the shores of Saranggani to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte. The journey took 88 days, 12 days faster from the anticipated completion of 100 days.

After a short chat, we flagged a tricycle from the highway and made our way to Dumaluan beach. It’s a very nice beach with clear water that looks like it was from a pool. It’s about 45 minutes away from Bohol’s capital - Tagbilaran city. It was our jump-off for the first leg of my Kayak adventure. We had lunch by the beach, had a quick meeting (our company’s going to get him for our kayak tour and I am fortunately the guinea pig, sent to check on how the flow would go) .

We proceeded to the shore to get our kayak. I chose this lavender tandem kayak. It's not my usual color preference but it looked so cute. Hey, if I was going to kayak on sea, I surely wanted to get notice, you know, just in case we capsize or something. I also had on this bright yellow orange South Africa jersey. I decided not to wear my bright orange cap anymore because I felt I was overdoing it already. Hehehe!

Our route was Dumaluan beach to Bohol Bee Farm and back, which was a total of 7 kilometers. We paddled away from the crowded beach and settled in an isolated shore. Buzzy gave a crash course on paddling. Apparently, the paddle has a front and back side ! All along I thought both sides were the same. After the course, we paddled away and in less than an hour, we encountered a lot of waves, some were big enough to almost knock us over, while some were enough to get water splashed over us. According to Buzzy, it advanced the level of our kayaking from 1 to 3 (most advanced is 5). Yihaaa!
Our girly kayak. It looks pink here but it's really lavender.
We docked at the back entrance of Bohol Bee Farm which attracted some attention from curious onlookers. We made our way up to the The Buzzz ice cream store which sells organic ice cream flavors. I tried the Malunggay ice cream which was sooo good. I’v been actually wanting to try this flavor for quite some time now. Four scoops of ice cream later - all consumed by me, we made our way back to Dumaluan beach. I didn't change clothes anymore as I knew I was going to get wet again. We got the rest of our stuff and rode a habal-habal to Abatan river which was in Maribojoc – about an hour from where we were. It's the leg 2 of my kayak adventure - Fireflies kayaking at the Abatan river.

There we met with another group from Cebu, one of which was Buzzy’s friend. They had a quick crash course on paddling then we mounted on our kayaks. I was feeling really tired as I’ve been paddling since 1:00PM that day. I haven’t even had the chance to check in yet at the hotel where I was booked. But I wasn’t going to let Buzzy do all the paddling. I got my reputation to uphold, whatever that rep is. Hehe!

We paddled and paddled along Abatan river which was quite a change from sea kayaking. Sun was beginning to set. As we traversed down the river, amazing mountain views welcomed us. The stillness of the water seemed unreal. I felt like I was in a photograph. Everything looked surreal.

Darkness began to envelope the entire river and we prepared our eyes to spot the fireflies. There weren't much until we stopped at an islet where we found a tree that glowed like a giant ball of fire. Perched above its branches were the fireflies. It was so magical that only the word "Wow!" escaped from our lips.

We stayed for a couple of minutes trying to take a decent shot. It was too dark that we couldn't get a justifiable photo of our experience which was fine. Fireflies kayaking is something to experience - not watch from videos or view from photos.

*Photo taken by one of my companions
We got back to the jump-off after about an hour. Our muscles were tired from paddling, me especially since I've been kayaking since lunch time. I hitched a ride with the group up to the town proper where I hailed another motorcycle back to the hotel.

When I opened the lights at my room, it was almost 12 midnight. I was dead tired but thrilled at the fact that I just did the longest kayaking trip of my life with an amazing athlete.

Travel Tip : Accommodation In Makati

To those who are looking for a clean, decent, no-friss accommodation in Makati, here's a good one. This was where a paragliding contact stayed on his last trip in Manila. I was able to see some of the rooms and met some of the staff. They're really friendly and the rooms smell clean unlike some cheap hostels where you feel afraid to come in contact with the bed sheets. Durban Inn is newly renovated and is near restaurants, convenience stores and lots of taxis pass by the area.

Durban Inn
Website : Durban Inn
Email Address : hoteldurban@yahoo.com
Location : #4875 Durban Street Corner Makati Avenue, Makati City 1200
Telephone Number : +63(02)897 1866 to 68
Mobile Number : 0921 255-2072

Rates :
Standard – Outside T&B, Queen Size Bed - 1,100 Pesos
Executive – with Private T&B , Queen Sized bed - 1,300 Pesos
Big Room - with Private T&B , Queen Sized bed - 1,500 Pesos
Deluxe - with Private T&B , 2 Twin Beds, with High Def Cable T.V. - 1,700 Pesos
Rates are inclusive of taxes & service charge

Amenities : Airconditioning, cable television, refrigerator, hot water, Telephone (free local calls), WIFI

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mt. Tapulao Day Hike Itinerary

ITINERARY - Mt. Tapulao Dayhike
Location : Brgy. Dampay Salaza, Palauig, Zambales
*Details based from our hike last 2009. Updated from the last time I went here. Read about our first ever Tapulao Day Hike.

March 7, 2009 - Saturday
8:00 PM – Meet up – Victory Liner Caloocan (713 Rizal Avenue Extension, Caloocan City); agahan natin kasi baka maubusan tayo ng ticket
9:30 PM – Departure VL Caloocan to Iba
11:30 PM – Arrival VL Olongapo terminal for a 15 minute break and for them to take in new passengers
11:45 PM – Departure from VL Olongapo

March 8, 2009 - Sunday
1:20 AM – Arrival – Victory Liner Terminal, Iba
1:20 AM – Restroom break, arrange for tricycle to Dampay Salaza in front of VL Iba terminal – rate is at 400 pesos per tricycle during the wee hours
1:35 AM-2:40 AM –Victory Liner Iba to Dampay Salaza Barangay Hall via trike
2:40 AM – Register (30 pesos each and no need to contact the barangay in advance, you can come in as early as 1:00AM), fix stuff, restroom break. Ate Beth – the staff from the Barangay Hall lives just beside the barangay hall. If she’s not there, just let the dogs bark at you and she’ll come over. Hehehe. She’s really a nice and warm lady. She can also provide you the cellphone number of the head of the tourism council of Dampay Salaza in case of emergencies.
3:30 AM – Start Trek
7:30 AM – Arrival – First water source. It’s just a small spring with a bamboo tube at the right side of the trail coming from the jump-off. Water here is cold and potable (drank it myself – but if you have a sensitive stomach, better not take any chances).
10:27 AM- Arrival at the new bunker – the very first bunker you will see from the jump-off. We were told that the people here came only April 2008. The old bunker where we slept before is still there - a few feet away. It’s nearer to the other water source near the camp site.
11:00 AM – Start trek to summit. We used the trail in front of the new bunker.
11:58 AM – Arrival at Summit
12:30 PM – Descent from summit
1:10 PM – Arrival in new bunker.
1:15 PM – Start trek back to the barangay hall
2:41 PM – Arrival at first water source
5:54 PM – Arrival at Barangay Hall, rest, bath time
7:00 PM – Ride a trike to Jollibee Iba
7:50 PM – Jollibee Iba to VL Iba Zambales
8:00 PM – Arrival VL Iba , wait for buses back to MNL (Last trip to Pasay is at 11:30 PM)
9:00 PM - Departure VL (Victory Liner) Iba to Caloocan (332 pesos)

March 9, 2008 - 1:40 AM – Arrival – Victory Liner Caloocan – from Victory Liner Caloocan. There are already buses going to Cubao. Just cross the street fronting the terminal and walk your way to EDSA.

Summary of Information :

Victory Liner Caloocan – Address : 713 Rizal Avenue Extension, Caloocan CityLandline #361-1506 to 10
*Last Trip from Victory Liner to Caloocan is 11:30PM. Second to the last trip is 9:30PM.

Edy Badar – President of Dampay Salaza tourism council
Cellphone Number - +63 9107757212

Reminders :
Bring packed lunch
Suggested Water : 2.5 Liters

Summary of Fees :
Victory Liner Caloocan to Iba – 336 pesos
Victory Liner Iba to Caloocan – 331 pesos
Tricycle from Victory Liner Iba to Dampay Salaza barangay hall – 200 pesos/head (there were 2 of us)

Registration Fee in Barangay Hall – 30 pesos/head
Dampay Salaza barangay hall to Jollibee Iba – 215 pesos/head
Jollibee to Victory Liner Caloocan – 20 pesos/head (evening trips)
Victory Liner Iba to Victory Liner Caloocan – 331 pesos/head

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Meeting the Younghusbands

Several months ago,  me and several friends had the pleasure of getting invited to an intimate gathering at the home of a British  diplomat to meet Viv Anderson. He is a former player of the English football team and popular teams such as Manchester United and Arsenal in the 70’s-80’s. Also on the guest list were  some of the members of the now famous Azkals - James and Phil Younghusband and their new coach - Simon McMenemy.

We arrived at the venue a bit nervous and famished. It was a weird mixture of feelings. I'm not into parties where I don't know most people so I had some apprehensions. I was also very hungry and all I could think about was food. Unfortunately, when we got in, we saw no dinner tables, just one table that served as an open bar. Arrgh, it was one of those cocktail events! We were immediately offered drinks which I refused for a few seconds but since there wasn’t much to do and I could not see the waiters circling with trays of food, we approached the bar for drinks. Me and my other friend settled for red wine while the others had lime juice. Lus, our new fave bud with his eagle eye spotted the beer. The waiter filled my glass to the brim. Before I realized what I had done, I noticed that my glass was almost empty. I then began to feel a bit woozy. Suddenly, a waiter emerged from the kitchen carrying loads of spring rolls. I immediately grabbed one but the damage has been done. I was feeling light headed , sleepy and my cheeks felt warm. I can’t believe I got drunk in an instant.

Viv Anderson made a short speech and afterwards, we went to him and introduced ourselves. His handshake is pretty strong. He is also very personable. Our other friends from the Beach football community chatted with him for a few minutes then we went around again, chatting and eating the canap├ęs which were served by the staff who were all Pinoy. That evening, our crowd were the only Filipinos there and I guess the staff were glad that they had someone to talk to in our native tongue. They’re excellent and made sure we had plenty of food to eat. Hehe!

The gathering wasn't as intimidating as I thought it would be. It was a relaxed crowd with lots of people talking animatedly. It also seemed that everyone knew each other. For once, I was glad that there weren’t a lot of photographers. I dunno if it was just me but I felt at home. Maybe it was because the affair is football-related. I also had the pleasure of chatting with the new coach for the Philippine football team - Simon McMenemy and – uhm, Phil and James Younghusband. Oh my gosh. Enuf said. We chatted about travel and I ended up giving them my card. They were quite down to earth and easy to talk to- not at all cocky like some athletes are.  Thank you red wine for giving me a confidence boost, that I didn't get tongue-tied talking to these amazing athletes.

After chatting with them, we said goodbye to them and Phil gave me and my friend a sisterly peck on the cheek which totally made my year.  We left the gathering and headed off to Pier One for some serious munching and a lotta talking with booze. We finished the following day. Hehe! It was definitely one great evening! 

The Corregidor International Half Marathon Experience

I was nervous about joining this race because  - 1. I don’t like road runs 2. I felt out of shape. However, since me and a colleague went here on an all-expense paid trip courtesy of the organizers (our company being one of their registration partners) and that the venue is enchanting Corregidor – I  did not let my  nerves get to me.

When the day of the race finally arrived,  I found the courage to face it  with a kick-ass attitude. I was determined to finish the course with a decent time and  secure a finisher’s medal.  To get one, a runner must cross the 10 KM Marker within 1 hour and 45 minutes.  It would be an easy feat for the real runners but I was unsure of myself as I haven’t been training adequately.

 A few minutes before gun start, I gulped down my favorite chocolate-flavored energy gel  - Stinger (available in R.O.X.  at 70 Pesos/piece),  finished off 330 ML of Pocari  Sweat and did a warm-up run with my colleague and some stretching exercises. I made sure I warmed up well.

The opening ceremonies started with a prayer, National anthem, some words from the organizer – Edward Kho and finally, the gun was fired signaling the beginning of our quest/ordeal/self-imposed punishment, whatever.

I started running, focusing on my own pace.  I was mindful not to accelerate. My game plan was to run a non-stop, steady pace.Thankfully, the weather was cloudy. Wind was blowing and the course showcased breathtaking views of Corregidor so our run was more like sightseeing  - fast forward mode.  Several portions consisted of trails – which I was accustomed to and these were the parts  where I overtook several runners ahead of me. My pace felt great! My game plan worked and a little over an hour, me and my colleague finally reached the 10 KM Marker.  We made it through the cut!

After crossing the 10 KM hydration area – where there were bananas and refreshments, I began feeling really tired. I started walking and gulped down my second energy gel. I let my colleague go ahead of me.  I didn’t think I could ever get back to a steady running pace. The  most challenging part was the killer uphill trail towards the end of the course which got most of the runners walking and gasping for air. I walked with my back on the course. It was then when I ran into a friend who I haven’t seen in years! We chatted for a while and when my energy returned I ran again – and ran until I got to the finish line.

My official time was 2 hours 47.09 Minutes. I ranked #30 out of 79 Female participants. Yipee! I was very much satisfied with my finish considering that I wasn’t even sure I’d get through it. It’s my last race for 2010 and I’m glad it ended well.

This was the best race I’ve joined for 2010 because the organizers did a great job of making sure .  Course was marked well, the marshals were on their toes and quite very friendly.  There were adequate water stations with banana and Gatorade. My favorite part was this hydration station where they gave out honey in resealable, portable packets.  The buffet which was part of the race package was the best! It was eat and get all you can! The finishers medal was also worth mentioning. It was amusingly heavy – quite a nice souvenir and could even pass for a self-defense tool. It could seriously injure someone with its weight. They also gave out a red long stem rose to every female runner who crossed the finish line. Almost everything was well thought of and executed well.  If only they were able to give out the certificates which was  supposed to be given after the race, it would have been perfect. Nevertheless, since everything went well, it was forgiveable.

Thank you to the organizers of the 1st Corregidor International Half Marathon. I hope you will still be the organizers for next year. :)

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