Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Monday, December 31, 2012

Post Climb Side Trips in Baguio City

One of the things I look forward to when hiking in the Cordilleras is the stop-over (even if it's just a short one!) at the bustling city of Baguio. Despite some traffic, mountainsides encroached with buildings and houses, I remain charmed with its weather, people, art and cuisine , oh especially the cuisine! :) 

After a tiring but enjoyable hike in Bokod, Benguet (post here), I joined blogger friends Ivan and James on another adventure around Baguio. 

First Stop: 
From the Victory liner terminal, we walked a few blocks until we got to Upper Session Road to check out Mt. Cloud Bookshop.It is located within the same vicinity as Casa Vallejo, a boutique hotel and one of the oldest structures in Baguio built in 1909. It is a haven for booklovers who find delight in browsing through rows and rows of books, carefully considering each option before buying it and relishing it in quiet nooks. 

Main floor of Mt. Cloud Bookshop
More treasures to be found at the loft of this charming book shop!
The ladies by the cashier area are so amiable. They allowed us to put our backpacks beside the counter so we can roam around freely. They're also very interactive with their customers and answered questions energetically. 

I took home a book by one of my favorite writers, F. Sionil Jose, whose use of words have the power to transport me inside a story, as though I am face to face with the characters he created. I also bought some postcards - one of which featured a painting by another favorite of mine - Art Lozano and a bookmark which prior to my purchase, had no idea costs 200 Pesos until the receipt was ready and I had to pay for it. That crushed my heart because that could have been another book. Serves me right for not asking, oh well. It's a cute bookmark anyway. :)

Mt. Cloud Bookshop
Casa Vallejo Upper Session Road, Baguio City, Philippines 
Business Hours : Daily, 10:30 AM-8:00 PM 
Website : http://mtcloudbookshop.com 
Facebook Page  

Second Stop : 
We continued on foot towards the middle part of Session road. Ivan was heavily craving for Oh My Gulay, a vegetarian restaurant and art space located at the top floor of the La Azotea building along Session Road. Since we have been hiking for two days, we didn't mind several plight of stairs for some amazing cuisine. 
Fully satisfied Journeying James and Ivan Lakwatsero
Chow-Chow (egg noodles with fresh veggies, 135 Pesos)
Oh My Gulay La Azotea Building
108 Session Road,Baguio City, Philippines 
Business Hours : Daily, 11:00 AM-9:00 PM 
Tips : be there before 6:00 PM so you can get great seats and you must order before 8:30 PM before they take the last orders. The top deck has a good view of Mt. Sto. Tomas, the highest peak with the easiest entry point from Baguio. 

Third Stop : 
After dinner, James expressed his desire to hit the public market to buy some coffee beans and to check out the ukay-ukay stalls. I, on the other hand, just wanted to hang out inside a quiet cafe and recollect my thoughts before the long bus ride home. Not sure where to go, I sent a text to a friend and fellow blogger Dominic who was incidentally in Baguio for the weekend. He suggested He-Brews Cafe beside Baguio Cathedral. And so our journey on foot continued and after a few minutes, we reached He-Brews. I was so happy that apart from coffee, they also sell books - mostly religious and inspirational books. We purchased coffee and waited for Dom who was just a few minutes away from where we were. 
Shot from the second floor of He-Brews Cafe. Here you can also find a good view of
the buzz along Session Road.
Photo taken at the entrance of He-Brews Cafe
He-Brews Bookstore Cafe 
Porta Vaga Roofdeck, 2600 Baguio City, Philippines 
Business Hours : Daily: 9:00 AM-8:00 PM
Facebook Page  

Fourth Stop : 
Since He-Brews was closing at 8:00 PM, which was still too early for our 10:30 PM bus ride back, we decided to transfer to Te Quiero, a newly-opened restobar connected to the second floor of the Victory Liner terminal. 
Spicy potatoes in tomato sauce (125 Pesos)
Te Quiero offers Spanish cuisine that come at a price range of 200-500 Pesos. The ambiance feels a bit posh with its uniformed staff in crisp buttoned polos and black pants for men and skirts for the ladies. The tables are also set with heavy and shiny utensil sets.  

Another noticeable and commendable thing about this place is their accommodating staff. They made us feel genuinely welcomed during our stay and were nice enough to stow our backpacks in a corner. I also wanted a carrot-orange shake which was not on the menu but they were nice enough to accommodate my craving. I also gave out specific instructions on the sweetness level which they also considered. 

We sat on comfortable lounge seats and chatted the night away. Several more friends arrived, Jules who was also in town after their Pulag hike came, as well as fellow hikers Gideon and Wilmer who bid us goodbye before their trip home.

Te Quiero Tapas Bar & Restaurant 
 Microtel Inn, Session Road, Baguio City

Related Posts :
Here are links to other worthwhile sidetrips in Baguio. :) 
Camp John Hay's, Yellow Trail
Baguio Tourist Spots

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year-End Hike : Mt. Purgatory Traverse

One of the mossy forest sections of the trail
Dubbed as the Mt. Purgatory traverse and approximately 30 KM in length, this very long trail in Bokod, Benguet allows you to see three peaks - Mt. Pack, Mt. Purgatory and Mt, Kom-kompol. Terrain is rolling, non-technical and enchanting with thick mossy forests and a lot of pine trees.  :) 

The naming of Mt. Purgatory as such is attributed to Durham Hale Bennett, a logging superintendent for Benguet Consolidated Inc. (now known as Benguet Corporation), a pioneer in the Philippine mining industry. The mountain was a former site and the place, due to its location and the difficulty it took to get there was how it got its name.  

Together with hiker friends, Ivan, James, Gideon, Coby and company, we scaled three  2,000+ MASL peaks/view decks, all of which are part of the trail. We hiked Mt. Pack, Mt. Purgatory on the first day, then Mt. Kom-Kompol the following morning.  On a clear day, these three  show views of nearby communities and mountain peaks. From Mt. Kom-Kompol, you can even see the Ambangeg trail that leads to the summit of Mt. Pulag.

Estimated total hiking time took about 7.20 hours on the first day where we had to battle rain and mud. Although there were only short and very manageable steep sections, the wet environment made it more physically challenging as it became really cold. Limatiks were present as well but I guess, our body temperatures were too cold for them to detect most of us. Only two of our companions got bitten by these sneaky suckers. 

Despite the discomfort from the chilly temperature, another positive thing was we didn't have to bear super heavy loads. Our goal was to reach a school before night fall so we didn't bring tents and it helped us maintain a consistent speed on our way up. We spent the night cocooned in sleeping bags at Bakian Primary School where there's also water and a restroom.  
L-R : Gideon, Me, James & Ivan. Wet, cold but happy. Photo taken along a mossy forest. Thanks to ivanlakwatsero.com for this photo. 
Sea of clouds hovering on mountain peaks. This was shot at the side of Bakian Primary School where
we spent the night.
The following morning, we set off at a little past 7:00 AM. Rain had stopped and the sky was in an alluring shade of blue - like a nice, clean pool. :) We again hiked along a mossy forest and my favorite part - an easy trail scattered with pine needles and cones. Air carried the comforting scent of pine trees that stood abundantly around us. It took us around 6.30 hours to get down to "Pe-tal" where our hired jeepney picked us up.
Early morning descent after a quick breakfast

Dangerous parts of the trails were thoughtfully barricaded with wood to prevent hikers
from falling over the cliff. Must hike with precaution. 
After the long hike, we stayed in Baguio for a couple of more hours where we visited two book stores (Mt. Cloud and He-Brews), had dinner at Oh My Gulay and capped off with a short meet-up with other friends who were in the area at Te Quiero (a highly recommended restaurant with a fine dining appeal. The staff are amazingly friendly and accommodating, definitely one who can relieve your fatigue. It's conveniently connected to the 2nd floor of Victory Liner terminal). 

My last adventure for the year is definitely one for the books because of the trails we saw, my positive and happy companions, the post climb meals and the friendly locals we met.   

Oh by the way, I'm sharing with you a video of the hike created by James. Enjoy! :) 

Thanks to Gideon of Pinoy Mountaineer and Coby Sarreal for organizing this amazing trip! A shout-out to the rest of my companions, Ivan, James, Koi, Miki, Daniel, Steve, Ralph, Wilmer! :) Ma'am Gina, thanks for the ride. Happy New Year everyone!  

Itinerary & other information : Via Pinoy Mountaineer

How to get to Bokod, Benguet : 
From Manila take a Victory Liner bus to Baguio. For trip schedules, visit www.victoryliner.com. Bus Fare from Pasay Terminal is 460 Pesos/head. From Baguio, take a hired jeepney to the Japas jump-off in Barangay Pito, Bokod, Benguet and meet with your guide/s (travel time is around 3 hours from Baguio). 

Key Contact Persons : 
Jeepney from Baguio to Japas jump-off : Ms. Gina Epe - +63(919)-816-9234 (You can also coordinate with her for packed meals that you can bring during the climb)
Bokod Tourism Office : Mr. Elinger Dayotao - (0910) 405-9738. 
Tourist Guide President : John Buasan - +63(948)-359-8070 

Water Sources : 
You will pass by several springs, some connected to tubes. If your water intake is normal, you can just bring 1.5 Liters of water and refill your bottle along the way. 

Reminders : 
Leave no trace behind. Bring your own trash back down. 
The locals in these communities are very welcoming and friendly, don't forget to greet 
when you run into them. :)

Side Trips around Baguio : Check out my post. :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 3 Unforgettable Adventures for 2012

Happy holidays everyone! 

This year was all about focusing on three things that I'm passionate about, eating, hiking and writing which is why it was easy to pick out these three adventures that made my year. Not to disregard other trips which were just as amazing, but these are the adventures ticked off from my bottomless dream list. 

1. January - 2 Days, 6 Peaks 

Along with 8 other outdoor enthusiasts, we hiked 6 peaks around Batangas and Cavite in one weekend. 

On the first day, we started in Lipa, Batangas, entering the trail at Mt. Malipunyo, made our way to Biak na Bundok & exited in Sto. Tomas, Batangas via Mt. Manabu. The following day, we hiked Pico de Loro in Ternate, Cavite, made our way down to Nasugbu highway, hiked Mt. Talamitam and ended with a night trek in Mt. Batulao. 

It was not really the feat of reaching 6 summits in two days that made the experience unforgettable, but being able enjoy several mountains, not thinking about where to camp and which food to prepare as our logistics were taken care by our two-person support crew. After all, no one can conquer mountains, just one's self. 

This adventure also inspired me to write a piece for Rappler, which came out October 2012. Read about it here

2. September - Sorsogon

Photo from Ed Escueta
Once again, I joined several friends for a project led by Journeying James to fill up the public library of Rizal Elementary School in Gubat, Sorsogon. It was called the BookSharing Project. It was made possible and became more fun because of the awesome support from the alumni, people from the community, the LGU, other friends and new found friends. 

Last September, we traveled to Sorsogon to witness its opening. TV5 was also there to cover the event. Apart from the opening, we also traveled around Sorsogon for some r&r. More about it here.

Photo from Journeying James
3. October - Baguio  

Being a cheapskate, I cannot find the strength to pull out money from my own pocket to pay for an accommodation that would cost more than 1,500 Pesos/person per night. But ever since staycation became an accepted terminology to people who travel just to stay in nice hotels, I got curious about these luxurious places. 

After a few months of wishing and hoping, Azalea Residences, one of the latest hotel accommodations in Baguio, invited more bloggers to check out their place and I was finally able to go. The stay came in with free meals, transportation and 2 night stay along with blogger friends - Lauren, Dom, Erick, Rocel, Pinoy Adventurista and Ivan Lakwatsero. There we also met Baguio-based travel bloggers Emil and Chico. What was great was that we also got to hike Mt. Sto. Tomas, the tallest peak with easiest access from Baguio.  More about it here.

Other Happy Highs : 
1. Most Difficult Day hike to date - Mt. Damas Traverse. Story here.
2. Writing contracts+ Published articles - with Dispatch Online and Women's Health (coming out, crossing fingers, March 2013) 
3. Radio Interview with DZAR 1026 - mainly to talk about travel. My experience on-air, here
4. Contribution to Dispatch Indie Travel issue - features travel stories of local backpackers as well as renowned mountaineer, Romi Garduce. It's now on sale at The Travel Club and R.O.X. branches for only 200 Pesos). 
Photo from Dispatch Media
I mentioned all these highs and unforgettable adventures but this year wouldn't be just as happy without the heart-crushing challenges that helped strengthen me. I am not one who enjoys wallowing in negative emotions but I acknowledge all these difficulties and I am thankful for all the lessons I learned from it. 

2012 was a year filled with nice surprises and definitely a prelude to a much more exciting 2013! :) 

I end this post to thank every single one who supported me as well as the groups and companies who have invited me and those I have worked with, again,  thank you very much! :) 

Ms. Lynber of Tadian Tourism Office 
Pam Stewart
Primer Group of Companies : R.O.X., Columbia Sportswear, Salomon, Dispatch Roomorama 

This was posted as an entry for the Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival for the month of December with the theme "2012: This Year in Travel" hosted by Pinay Travel Junkie and Between Coordinates

To read about the previous blog carnivals, visit Langyaw.

Update : December 30, 2012 - just got back from doing a Mt. Purgatory traverse in Bokod, Benguet where we hiked on a trail that passed three peaks, several communities, mossy forest and areas sprawling with pine trees . If I had to write this post again, this year-end adventure would definitely be on the list. I'll just create a separate post about it. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twin Day Hike with Trail Adventours

Over the weekend, I joined blogger friends,  Gideon (Pinoy Mountaineer) and (Ivan Lakwatsero) on an adventure dubbed as the Twin Day Hikes which entails hiking two different mountains on a single day. It was organized by Trail Adventours, a Filipino company specializing in bringing its clients to mountain trails; Gideon served as the guest team leader. This was actually its fourth installment, with the previous ones held over at Mt. Batulao & Mt. Talamitam (#1), Mt. Maculot & Mt. Manabu (#2), and Mt. Tagapo & Mt. Sembano (#3). 

This time, we did Mt. Kalisungan in Calauan and Mt. Mabilog in San Pablo, both located in the province of Laguna. 

Mt. Kalisungan (760+ MASL)- From what I was told by other hiker friends, the trail is steep all throughout. However, since our pace was relax and the ground was dry which made ascending easier, it turned out to be an easy hike, albeit a very humid one. I thought I was going to consume all my water. :P 

The jump-off was at Barangay Lamot, across its barangall hall. After finishing a brief orientation conducted by Gideon Lasco, we reached the summit in less than 3 hours. An eerie landmark at the middle of the summit is a dug-up square hole. Rumors has it that it's the work of treasure hunters. From where we stood, it seemed as though the hole stretched endlessly but I dropped a rock over it and heard a sound bounced back, giving a gauge of the depth. It might just be around 15-20 feet. 

Group poses for a souvenir shot in one of the rest stops. 
On a happier note, the summit, though the sun's rays were in full force, offered great views. Gideon, eagerly shared the names of the mountains we saw. Oddly, I'm the type who enjoys the trails more than the summit itself and only half listened to what he said (sorry Gid!), so let me give you his description, straight off his blog. :) " directly in front of you, to the north, is Talim island with its Mt. Tagapo shaped like a young woman’s breast; you can also see Jalajala peninsula jutting into Laguna Lake like a ship, with Mt. Sembrano on its helm. Moving your eyes to east, the highlands of Caliraya appear. And once you reach the peak, you will be able to glimpse upon the seven lakes of San Pablo, flanked by Mt. Cristobal and Mt. Banahaw. Then, from a distance there is Mt. Makiling, to the west, completing the circle." 

 Gideon Lasco of Pinoy Mountaineer  giving out a rundown of the towns and mountains we were seeing from the peak.
Summit view
We stayed at the summit for about 30 minutes, then it was time to go to our next destination. Some of our companions had difficulty managing the steep descent from the mountain so we took twice as long to get down, but it's all good. :) I truly enjoyed the company of the new people we met, even got reunited with Jinkie of Baklay 123 who I met last year in Mt. Maculot. It was also nice to chat and laugh around Gid and Ivan who I don't ordinarily get to spend time with on regular days. 

Hikers descending from the peak of Mt. Kalisungan
Mt. Mabilog (441+ MASL)- From Calauan, Laguna, we traveled in a van to Brgy. Sto. Angel in San Pablo City. The travel time allowed us to nap for a few minutes. I woke up, not really wanting to move but I haven't gone to Mt. Mabilog so there was no way I was skipping this one. This hike was also important to Ivan who was aiming to summit his 30th mountain on his first year of hiking. (Now, that's a cool feat! Congrats uli Ivan). 

The waters of Lake Pandin glistening against the afternoon sky. 
As it was already past 2:00 PM, we started hiking immediately to the jump-off to meet our guide. 15 minutes from where the vans were parked, we reached Lake Pandin which made me really happy because I haven't been to any of the 7 Lakes of San Pablo which the town is famous for. I've been curious about the picturesque Lake Pandin ever since I read an article on Rappler which was written by a fellow blogger, Izah Morales of Tripadora.com.  It looked even better than the image in my head. I have to go back and bring the rest of my family here. (Hi Karen! :P) 

After a 10-minute lunch break, we started our hike. In less than 90 minutes from Lake Pandin, we reached the summit of Mt. Mabilog. From there, we saw the peak of Mt. Cristobal, one of my favorite mountains, and a view of the Lakes - Pandin and Yambo. We intended to enjoy the views a bit longer but it started to rain so we rushed back to Lake Pandin.

Summit! :) That's Mt. Cristobal at the back of the lake.
A rainy descent
Post climb dinner came in at past 8:00 PM at Clydenjosh (CDJ) Restaurant across Sampaloc Lake. CDJ offers delicious Filipino dishes at reasonable rates (around 200 Pesos/dish which is good for 3 persons). There was supposed to be an awesome view of the lake but as it was already late in the evening, we could only imagine. :P

While waiting for the food to be served, I slipped into a hazy state of consciousness - a mix of fatigue and hunger. Deep, deep, deep down though, I was happy - with all that hiking and the excellent company I was with. When food was served, everyone stopped their lively chatter to devour the spread. The food was great and even if I was really tired and hungry, it wasn't enough to numb my taste buds. The chicken barbeque was juicy, the Tuna belly sinigang had the right amount of delectable sourness and my happy drink -  a nice strong cup of brewed coffee succeeded in bringing my senses back to reality. 

And I couldn't resist taking this photo of the Kapeng Barako, a variety of coffee from Liberica beans that's
 grown in Batangas and Cavite  
For information on these mountains, please visit Pinoy Mountaineer Website/Facebook. If you are interested to join Trail Adventours, please visit their website or like their Facebook account. More photos of the trip are on their page. :)

And if you're interested to receive quick updates about my adventures, please follow me on Twitter : @jovialwanderer. :)

Again, thank you Gideon Lasco, Coby Sarreal, adventure guides Ryan Tuiza, Mikhail Gomez and to the rest of the Trail Adventours Team for this happy adventure. :) Til the next one! 

Similar Post :
2 Days, 6 Peaks

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mt.Tagapo Day Hike

Photo taken at the summit of Mt. Tagapo. Below it is an imposing view of Laguna de Bay
After a year, I reunited with Baklay 123, a friendly and fun outdoor group I met along the trail,  while doing a solitary hike in Mt. Maculot on Independence day.  On November 30, a holiday here in the Philippines, we set off for Mt. Tagapo, a mountain located in  barangay Janosa, Binagonan, Rizal. 

Around 6:30 AM, we traveled 1.5 hours via a hired van from Star Mall in EDSA-Crossing (950 Pesos, good for 18 pax with day packs). We shared the ride with another group of hikers we met at a nearby 7 Eleven store. The driver brought us directly to Binagonan Port where we rode a charmingly shabby and sturdy boat to Barangay Janosa (8:30 AM trip, 30 Pesos). The boat was packed with passengers, mostly locals, but we managed to secure good seats near the anchor which afforded us with generous views of islets, huts on stilts, fish pens and other barangays along Laguna de Bay

Taken while waiting for the boat to depart Binangonan Port
Birds flew over at the back of the boat as though it was part of a flock. Instantly, I felt tempted to nap all day and just wait for the group to get down the mountain. The sun was revolting in the sky and it was too humid to hike anyway. :P 

We arrived at Barangay Janosa after 1.5 hours. We walked over to the barangay hall to register (20 Pesos/head) and to meet  our guide, Kuya Archie (Guide fee : 500 pesos for 7 PAX, Contact Number : +63-921-6530089). 

Group shot taken by Kuya Archie. 
A few blocks was the church which you need to pass to get to the foot of the mountain. The trail starts at a flat terrain with forested, rocky paths at the side of a dried up river. It only becomes steeper after 40 minutes. As Mt. Tagapo is only at a height of 438 MASL, the hiking time is short and only takes 1.5 hours to get to its peak. Right before the trail to the summit, you can find an enormous shady area where you can take your lunch and if spending a night, set-up several tents. From this area, the trail is highly visible. Grasses as tall as a person are on both sides which you can cling to on your way down. 

The trail beside a lifeless river bed. 
At the summit, we were rewarded with a 360-view which includes Laguna de bay and its surrounding towns, Ortigas and Makati skyline, Mt. Sembrano, the Sierra Madre mountain range,  plus a couple of other peaks. 

The cities of Makati and Ortigas looks like a cluster of Legos from the summit.
By 2:00 PM, we were already a few minutes away from the jump-off. Kuya Archie was nice enough to take us to his house where we sat down and composed ourselves before the boat ride back. It's also near a public bathroom where we changed (20 Pesos/person). Incidentally, a birthday party just ended and we were given a heaping plate of spaghetti while some of the guys were invited to drink and have a bite of grilled fish. We took the afternoon boat trip (4:30PM), which was barely half full, back to Binagonan port.

While the boat glided over Laguna de Bay, we witnessed a gorgeous sunset, the best I have ever seen. Like a radiating giant egg yolk, the sun descended over stilt huts while cool winds gently swooshed around us until we got back to the port. Though I was tired, I couldn't sleep because the views were just amazing and I couldn't resist relishing the winds. With the darker hues of the sky, everything I saw on our way here looked more dramatic. 
Best sunset I've seen, looks even more amazing from inside the boat
When the boat docked, we saw the 200-Hundred year old Sta. Ursula Parish Church, a few blocks straight across the port. We went for a quick stop and snapped some photos. I would have loved to go around but it was late and everyone's famished. 

As it's Christmas season, Sta. Ursula Parish Church is adorn with lights that look like a  thousand stars.
We capped the day with dinner and more laughter at Jollibee, which is walking distance from the church. From there, we took a tricycle back to the highway where we caught an aircon van back to EDSA Crossing (around 55 Pesos). 

Travel Notes : 
1. Although Mt. Tagapo has been successfully hiked solo (check this guide by Ivan Lakwatsero), it's still highly recommended to get a guide to save you time from getting lost. The boat rides back to Binangonan port is limited so you need to inquire on the last trip when you get there as it may change. 

2. A copy of the itinerary is available at Pinoy Mountaineer. Click here. 

3. As always, leave no trace behind. Please bring your trash out of the mountain and avoid bringing creatures and other species from the mountains as a souvenir. Pictures last longer. :)

4. Locals here are very friendly. Don't forget to say hi when you pass by their homes.  :)

Thanks to Baklay 1-2-3 for another happy hike. See you on the trails again soon. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bear Grylls and my 2013 Bucket List

Having gulped my third cup of coffee (intense brews, I must say), my thoughts are currently soaring around the universe. 

Not exactly ideal when I have a writing deadline. 

So while I'm trying to pacify myself,  I will share a bunch of random stuff as well as my bucket list for next year. 

Random Sharing :
1. Are you a fellow fan of Bear Grylls? Watch this hilarious video as he takes English comedian Miranda Hart on an adventure at the Swiss Alps. While Bear is an outdoors expert, Miranda is quite the opposite and has no idea on kind of challenges she'll be facing. ("Her idea of an adventure, is a stroll in the park, followed by a latte" - nothing against people who enjoy this really, I think it's nice.)

Well, it's always interesting to watch people go out of their comfort zone. :)

2. I've reached a point in my life when I have stored enough happy memories to embark on a trip down to memory lane every now and then. I find myself frequently digging up old photos from way back, music videos of songs I liked when I was in grade school and messaging old friends I haven't seen in years.  Simply put, I am feeling the signs of aging. But don't get me wrong, I don't see it as a negative thing and I've learned to appreciate every stage of my existence. Cheers to more than 30 years on earth! 

3. What you put in your mouth really influences what you look like. I've been devouring huge amounts of greens lately and not that I look like a broccoli now, but I do feel fresh and light. Hooray to healthy eating and with that,  I'm happy to share that I just lost 8 pounds. Yihaa. It's not very obvious though. Oh well, gotta work harder. :p

2013 Flexible Bucket List 
1. Save more money, enough money to get me a Chinese visa because I badly want to go to Five Flower Lake by 2014. But don't take me seriously on the Five Flowers Lake trip, I change my mind all the time on where I want to be. :P What I'm really certain about is that I want to have fun and having fun isn't just about going somewhere.  I am however,  dead set on saving up. I'm not getting younger and who knows, I might need it for a wedding or an early trip to the Amazon. :p

Check out this video of Five Flower. The color of its water is mesmerizing and reminds me of our very own Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.  Blog post here.

2. Do an M3  Hike. Also known in the Filipino mountaineering community as Mindanao 1-2-3, it is an expedition to Mindanao's 3 highest mountains - Mt. Apo, Dulang-Dulang and Kitanglad. 

I've been hiking since 1999, purely for the sake of enjoying the outdoors. It's long overdue that I check out the view from the Philippines' formidable peaks. Focus, focus! 

3. Praying that Mt. Halcon  (Oriental Mindoro) will open next year and when it does, I want to get there as soon as I can. It is known as one of the toughest trails in the Philippines and has claimed the lives of some hikers.  In 2006, Mt. Halcon was closed for hiking by local authorities  to give it time to recover, allegedly from the trash left by mountaineers. I use the word allegedly as I've been reading from other sources that there are other controversial reasons why it remains close for hiking. Some say its due to illegal logging while some have mentioned about rebels in the area. I'd rather stick to facts so I'm just hoping it would be reopened and safe to climb next year. :) 

4. In relation to bucket list #2 and 3, I need to get really, really, really fit and lose these annoying excess pound as it slows me down on hikes. The game plan : Eat healthily and go back to cardio training regularly. 

and that's basically it for now. Gotta go back to that article. :P 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

National Art Gallery, Philippines

National Museum building. A few blocks away is the National Art Gallery.
As I was running late to meet two blogger friends, Lauren and Marky, I skipped lunch and rushed to get to the National Art Gallery.  After signing my name on a logbook, I turned to the musuem staff, "Ate, san ang mga kainan nyo dito?" (Where are the restaurants?).  The lady stared at me, looking unsure of my state of sanity. I know it's not exactly the type of question one asks when there are far more important works of art around than my stomach's yearning. I had to repeat the question before she gave a heart-crushing reply - "none". I contemplated for a few seconds, Lauren and Marky where still MIA, shall I take a cab to Taft Aveue and grab a bite? 

But the desire to see the Spoliarium prevailed. Created in 1884 by national artist and hero, Juan Luna, it served as an entry to Madrid Art Exposition where it won him a gold medal. It explicitly shows the scene inside a spoliarium, the basement of a Roman Colosseum where perishing gladiators are dumped. 

Fortunately, this massively glorious artwork is just a few steps from where I was. Located near the entrance of the National Art Gallery (old Senate Building), it is the first painting that greets every visitor. And what a welcoming sight it was, at a height of 13.8 ft, it is the largest painting in the Philippines. I can only gape in amazement over the hard work and the high-powered brain cells used to create this masterpiece. Across this painting is another cultural treasure, the La Tragedia de Gobernador Bustamante by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. 

My friends were still in transit and so I decided to roam and look for the Fernando Amorsolo paintings. If you are a fellow fan, you can find his works at galleries VI and VIII. Apart from paintings and drawings, the National Art Gallery also features sculptures, textile specimens, animal and human bones, and religious art. For more information on the collections available, check out this list.

My museum buddies, Lauren and Marky discussing art
I was feeling deliriously hungry by the time Marky and Lauren arrived but I held on until our happy trio fully roamed all the halls of the National Art Gallery. We capped off museum day in Binondo where we had snacks at Masuki - famous for their noodles and dinner at  Wai Ying, a no frills restaurant in Binondo, serving favorites such as radish cake and steamed dumplings. 

Travel Information : 
National Art Gallery 
Address : P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila 

How to get to the National Art Gallery : http://www.manilagateway.com/attractions/national-museum.html

Business Hours
Tuesdays-Sundays, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM 
Entrance Fees/head : 
Student 50.00 
Senior Citizen 120.00 
Adult 150.00 

Contact Numbers : 
Museum Education Division Telefax #:+63 (02) 527 0278 
Email: education@nationalmuseum.gov.ph 
Look for Lina/Tess 
Website : http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph 

Visitor's Notes : 
- Wear comfortable footwear as you will be walking for hours to visit and appreciate all the art. 
- Ideal time to visit is in the morning as it may take a full day for the eyes to feast on everything. If you want to visit the Planetarium and other archaelogical finds, it's in two separate buildings which is within walking distance (although quite a walk) from the National Art Gallery building. 

Here's some friendly reminders from the National Museum website
 - Firearms, food, bottled water, and ballpens are not allowed inside galleries. you will have to leave your bags at the entrance. 
 - Touching artworks and taking photos of exhibit items for commercial purposes inside galleries are strictly prohibited unless otherwise authorized through a special permit from the Director’s Office/ Museum Education Division. Picture taking is allowed for souvenir purposes only. DSLR cameras need special permit. The use of flash photography is strictly prohibited.

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