a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Review : Asus ZenFone 2 Laser

Check out my experience using an Asus ZenFone 2! :)

Hiking 6 peaks over the weekend

Click to read about one of my all-time favorite hiking adventures. :)

Osprey Pack : Nova

My new reliable backpacking buddy

Hiking in Bukidnon

A day hike to Mt. Kitanglad and Dulang-Dulang

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Funding Your Dream Adventure : Save or Loan?

These days, we're encouraged to live life, NOW.  While we're all free to fantasize on journeying to awesome destinations as far as our minds can conjure, a ginormous factor in fulfilling one's dream adventure is paying for it.

For most of us folks in the working class, we’re left with two popular options :  to save or apply for a loan. Options for unsecured loans, also called personal loans are provided by banks and other institutions at varying interest rates.  Heck, I get tons of text messages from these people! While some travelers would advice against loaning for the sake of travel, you are given the freedom to follow your bliss, well, RESPONSIBLY.    


Emotions aside, I don’t see loans as a monstrous thing for as long as you stay on top of your finances and not let your bills pile over your head. Before deciding, I suggest you use an online loan calculator. Some financial institutions have it on their website.  It’s a great tool to know how much interest you will be paying back in exchange for that amount you loaned  just so you can fuel your wanderlust in an instant. It’s also a good way of keeping your feet on the ground and making sure you’re not being delusional and setting yourself up for financial depression.

Saving up on the other hand is a wonderful thing, although it is one that’s personally challenging for someone  as impatient as I am.  You won’t owe anyone a cent and you can frolic listlessly without having to think about bills to pay after. However, waiting time is a factor and quite a pain. But you know what? I am getting the hang of it, especially now that I’ve decided on my priorities in life. How I got to this state of mind was an adventure on its own. I made some financial mistakes, faced it and took responsibility for it. Now, I'm much more at peace and I know that when I pack my bags, I am not going home with an empty pocket. 

At the end of the day, going after your dream adventure boils down to making a thorough decision and committing to it. Remember that you’re doing it for yourself.  Ignore all dramatic factors such as competing for attention, proving your worth, craving for acceptance  or what have you. After all, we only live once so we must live it as happily as we can.  

Save or loan? Up to you, but think and consult (with trusted, knowledgeable people), before you act. :)


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Events : Explorac Invitational Trail Run By AyalaLand (Pampanga)

Here's some great news from our friends from Southeast Asia's Biggest outdoor superstore, R.O.X.

Ayala Land will be having an invitational trail running event on a newly established route this June 8, 2013. I just confirmed my participation and I hope to see you there! :) How to join? Browse below. 


Trail Description : 
Explorac Trail Run offers 11k and 22k rough terrain. Trail run will start at Ayala’s Visitor Center and will end at the Ayala Nature Park. The course has a flat to hilly terrain and majority of it is hard surface. The trail features wet/dry river bed, it not all, are heavily silted by mudflow due to Mt. Pinatubo eruption way back 1991 and succeeding lahar flows. In some areas, moderate steep climb will be experienced along the rough terrain portion and huge lahar track will potentially challenge your trail running skills. Opportunity like running under the SCTEX bridge and passing through beside waterfalls are a few of the scenery that the trail offers. Rise and Shine as your explore Porac through trail running.

How to Join:
Visit R.O.X. Marquee or R.O.X. Bonifacio High Street to register. This is an INVITATIONAL RUN, no registration fee required.

How to get to R.O.X. Bonifacio High Street? Directions here.

For further information about the race, please visit the event site,  http://www.explorac.ph/ or like R.O.X. on Facebook and receive updates through their page. 

In connection to this event, a Trail Running 101 clinic will be held on June 4 in R.O.X., Bonifacio High Street. Speakers are ultra runner goddess Pen Nepumoceno and runner blogger, Atty. Jon Lacanlale of Ultra Running and Beyond. To join, just register through the event page. Click here.





Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Sleeping Lion and the Wide-Eyed Wanderer

Hazy Sunday morning at the pier
I woke up from my hotel bed feeling uneasy. The sun had just risen but the windowless room remained as dim as it did when I dived under the covers the night before. Breakfast buffet, one of the things I look forward to when staying in hotels was starting in 30 minutes but today, my head’s occupied with something else. 

Sleeping Lion, also called Kapuntukan Hill is located just across Embarcadero de Legazpi, a mall by the pier that offers a scenic view of Mt. Mayon, an active volcano shaped like a perfect cone and one of Bicol region’s greatest natural attractions. 

My friends and I had just attempted a hike to its crater rim  the previous day. (Read about it here) However, due to bad weather, we had to abort after four hours of trekking. Now I’m back in Legazpi with my flight back to Manila taking off in a few hours. Despite lacking sleep, I’m feeling restless and yearning for one last hike. 

I packed a sling bag with mints, towel and calamansi juice, the only refreshment I could grab as I had depleted my supplies from the hike the day before. I had no fresh clothes left and what I had on where the same one I came home in. :P

The foot of the hill is just on the side across the building of Ellis Ecotel where I checked in. It took less than 10 minutes to get there. The trail up fits one person and is a very clean and straight-forward mild ascent on a dirt road. 

Boulevard near the pier. 
After another 15 minutes, I passed a shed. Two guys stood and approached me. I struggled with talking as I was panting from the short hike. I was informed that I was passing through a private property. Didn’t I see the signages? As I had approached the hill from another side, I missed the markers that have been placed in the area. Fortunately, I didn’t even have to lie and say I didn’t see any of it. Also, none of the locals I asked on the way had told me that. I was embarrassingly clueless. 

I maintained a friendly approach and told them how I knew about the place, that I just saw a photo of it from the web. There were instructions how to get there giving me the impression that it was a tourist spot. The guys eventually let me through and was escorted towards the view deck. 

It was a short hike to get there and much less steep. My escort was quiet and maintained considerable distance. I guess he’s just doing his job. I was a trespasser turned unexpected visitor in a span of 30 minutes. I was grateful I had on my least threatening outfit – a striped blouse with the cartoon version of Audrey Hepburn printed at the front :P. It’s quite a convincing look that screams, “I’m just a harmless tourist.” 

Here's what I saw from the view deck
The clearing opened up with a view of Albay gulf, a massive body of water almost as reflective as a glass. I spotted Lignon Hill on the left side.  The imposing presence of Mt. Mayon was right across where I stood with clouds hovering just below its crater as if posing for a seductive shot. It’s a very exciting sight.  After marveling gleefully at the view, I made my way down quickly. The humidity of the morning grew. In no time, I was back in my room, drying sweat off my shirt before gorging out on a gratifying breakfast. 

How to get to Sleeping Lion/Kapuntukan Hill:
From the Cubao Provincial Bus terminal, take a bus to Legazpi or Sorsogon. The cheapest fair is Belleza bus departing at 8:00 PM (500 Pesos, aircon, one way). Be prepared for some discomfort during the 12 hour commute as the seats are quite slim. From Legazpi, take a jeep or tricycle (70 Pesos) to Embarcadero de Legazpi. As the view deck at Sleeping Lion is now a private property, the recommended and respectful way to hike it is to get a permit from the Administration office of Embarcadero de Legazpi. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Top Casinos to Visit when Travelling to Asia

Asia is renowned for having some of the best casinos in the world, so if you are travelling there, it is worth talking some time off your trip to pay one or two of them a visit. Asia is not only well-known for its love of casino games but its high rolling players too. 

Here are a few of the top casinos that are certainly worth a visit. 

Asia’s casino centre is Macau. There are around 30 casinos there of all kinds. It is the equivalent of Las Vegas and its casinos include the largest casino in the world, the Venetian Macau. It's style's very much like the Venetian in Las Vegas, but on a grander scale. There are around 800 gaming tables and several thousand slot machines and video games. Styled on Marco Polo’s Asian Adventures, you can take a gondolier on the canals and visit the different gamin areas which have Chinese names such as the Golden Fish and the Red Dragon. 

The MGM casino hotel complex and the City of Dreams are other casinos that are definitely worth visiting, but just as in Las Vegas you can spend days just wandering from casino to casino. 

While gambling is illegal in China and Hong Kong, there is a large selection of casinos in South Korea though on a much smaller scale, and although there are only two casinos in the whole of Singapore, these are both excellent. The best is the Marina Bay Sands which has a very extensive gaming area with 2,500 slot machines and video games along with 600 gaming tables, but its jewel in the crown is its truly amazing Sky Park built 56 stories high and including a huge infinity swimming pool which is the largest cantilevered pool ever built. An experience a million miles away from using sites such as www.androidcasino.com.au. Sadly, it is only available to hotel guests so be sure to book yourself a room there. It is not cheap even by Singapore standards, but it will be an unforgettable experience.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mt. Kalisungan-Atimla Day Hike Traverse

Silhouette of Mt. Atimla and Mt. Kalisungan as seen from the highway near the
"Duck" junction in Victoria, Laguna
The last 15 minutes to the summit of Mt. Kalisungan was breath-taking. The painfully steep section of the trail, the lack of breeze and the heat from the sun at 8:30 AM was just overwhelming.  With the weight on my back (a total of four liters of Gatorade, 100 Plus water and other supplies), I panted indecently but I couldn't care less. 

The trail from the jump-off ascends gradually but the last 15 minutes
to its summit is notoriously very steep.


I rejoiced as I caught up with the rest of the group who arrived a few minutes earlier at a flat area a few steps away from the summit. We stopped for a bit to catch our breaths. Behind us was a rewarding view of Mt. Tagapo and Mt. Sembrano over Laguna de Bay.  To our north, the gorgeous beauties, Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal loomed.


Heading over to the summit.
My first hike up Mt. Kalisungan was last December (post here) and I was also with hiker friends, Gideon and Ivan. On our return, we're joined by my friend Arisse, fellow travel blogger Byron and  a couple of new found friends - Michael, Ryan, Josh, Terrence, Elijah, Genesis and Christopher. 

I remember the hike being just as humid. With my preference to heavily forested trails similar to MakTrav trail,  I didn't feel any affinity to Kalisungan at all and it was mainly for the awesome company  and the chance to go hiking again that I returned. 
With old and new found friends at the Bamboo Trees before the assault to the peak.
Photo from Ryan Guiaman
After resting,  we headed to the main peak for a quick stop to relish the views.  In front of us, the gorgeous beauties, Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal loomed.  To our right, two of the 7 Lakes of San Pablo, a major tourist destination, as well as the nearby towns of Laguna, can be seen.
A view of two of the 7 lakes of San Pablo taken at Mt. Kalisungan's peak

From Kalisungan's peak, we took the trail on the left side to cross Mt. Atimla, our next destination. It's a reestablished trail which our guide, Kuya Bino was able to connect just a week ago.
That's Mt. Atimla in front. 
I  braced myself for the long and a much hotter hike that was about to ensue. An imposing view of Mt. Atimla welcomed us as we made our way down an almost vertical trail. Tall grasses were everywhere - on both sides which we held on for support and on the ground we stepped, making it very slippery. We took our time to avoid accidents. If one of us slipped, the people in front will go down like a domino set. 


It was quite a challenge but I enjoyed navigating around this grassy section.

Trees bearing this fruit were visible all throughout the trail. Are you
familiar with this? Do let me know. :) 
After the grassy section, we reached a trail  covered with trees, some are fruit bearing which meant the presence of red ants. Though we had to be careful to avoid being bitten, I had a grand time ogling at the trees.

3.5 hours later,  we arrived at the peak of Mt. Atimla. Apart from other mountains, there isn't much to see. The true reward was the experience and the trails we passed.  We witnessed several cows charging off as we entered their grazing area. Here, we stopped for lunch under a tree and a much needed rest. 


Lunch break
Group shot at Mt. Atimla's peak. Photo from Michael Banzon
Our plan was to go down via San Pablo, Laguna which was estimated to take 5 hours. However, it seemed to be meant for a return visit as we missed a turn after the bamboo forest and ended going down via Brgy. Curba, a housing project in Calauan, Laguna.  The trail down is relatively easy, taking less than two hours, but as it was already past noon, sun bore down hard against our skin. Still, the view on the way down was entertaining. 



It was 2:40 PM when we stopped at a store in the village to grab some refreshments. From here, we took a tricycle back to Barangay Lamot 2 where we were able to take a bath before the long bus ride back to Manila. 

You can view the rest of the photos from the hike here

Travel Notes : 
- A copy of an itinerary to Mt. Kalisungan can be found via Pinoy Mountaineer. (Click here for his account of our hike )
- Expect a hot hike so bring appropriate water supply as there are no water sources along the way. I brought 4 liters. 
- To get to Mt. Kalisungan's jump-off from Manila, take a bus bound for Sta. Cruz from the HM Terminal in Cubao. First trip departs at 3:30 AM (124 Pesos (one way), 2.5 hours travel time. After passing the  welcome signage of Victoria, Laguna, you will find a junction on the right side displayed with gigantic duck statues. Take a tricycle to the barangay hall of Brgy.  Lamot 2 to register (50 Pesos/trike). You can walk or take another tricycle to the jump-off. 
- Mountain Guide : Kuya Bino - (+63-909-297-1437). The guide fee is 400 pesos per day for Kalisungan only. Inquire for the cost if traversing to Mt. Atimla. He can also guide you to another nearby peak in San Pablo, Mt. Mabilog. 
- You can take a bath at the enormous house of Kuya Bino's friend for 20 Pesos/head. They have a nice bathroom. :) 
- After the hike, you can dine at one of the restaurants across the duck junction located along the main highway. This is also where buses to Alabang, Buendia and Cubao pass by. Meals cost less than 100 Pesos/head.  

Thanks to Gid for gathering everyone for a hike definitely fitting for labor day and for Kuya Bino for guiding us.  Til our next hike everyone! :)












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