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

Friday, March 21, 2014

La Union : The Sun, Surf and a Happy Place

Having enjoyed a visit to the Circle Hostel's branch in Zambales (blog here), I was ecstatic to accept an invite to check out their new place in La Union. Their new branch, which looks pretty much the same as the one in Zambales is only  200 meters away from a popular surfing spot in Urbiztondo. (Know more about La Union's surfing season here.)

My bloated toes says hello!
One of the happy messages that can be found  painted on blocks aroundThe Circle Hostel
I joined fellow bloggers Aldous Ate the World,  fashion & lifestyle bloggers, Greenspired Sam Coronado, Rhea Bue, Kat Valdez, RD Llarena and my good friend Gay who lives up to her blog name, the Pinay Travel JunkieDeparting Manila on a Friday night was a nightmare due to heavy traffic, but then again, not all adventures are comfortable and you just have to suck it up. :P 
Pure good vibes! Here's the facade of Circle Hostel's La Union branch
After five hours, we finally arrived! It was only 3AM and everyone craved for sleep. Like zombies, we dragged ourselves upstairs to get to the bunk beds.The beds assigned to us were not only comfortable but also had an awesome view of the moon. I could see it clearly, like a round shiny coin in the sky. :)
Good morning indeed! 
When I woke up, I got very curious as to what kind of mattress foam I laid on and I'm happy to share that they're using Uratex, a prominent local manufacturer of foam that prides on its comfort and durability. :P Geek mode on. 

Bunk Area. They have privacy curtains and mosquito nets installed and each bed is provided
beddings and one pillow. 
Geek mode off. 
After a quick light breakfast, we walked towards the beach, crossed the highway and passed through the San Juan Surf School. We were warned by the staff and fellow surfers that waves were wild due to the North Swell (surfer's term for a series of waves that moves from North to South). But since we were all newbies, we didn't really know what we were in for. Ignorance is bliss applied in this case. 
fellow students 
Surfing lessons were at 200 Pesos/hour. I was assigned to a stern instructor who made sure my footing were right and made me repeat the proper stance around 10 times before we went to the water. I could not recall the numerous times I clung for dear life on the surf board while miserably trying to stand up. My core muscles which were built for gorge feasts were of no use and I had to rely on my arms and shoulders which were quite sore after. When the lessons were over, I could only think of one thing, a ginormous delicious meal!
Rafael Oca, The Circle Hostel's social media guy preparing his board
I actually felt more joyful seeing the ice cream man than my stint at surfing :P 
Orange ice lollies from Magnolia
After lunch at  Gefseis,  a Greek restaurant where the servers and owners are uber friendly, Gay, Aldous and I dropped by Moonleaf Tea Shop for some cold treat, fitting for a hot day at the beach. 
My fave, Passion Fruit Green Tea, 25% sweet.
The franchise owners did a great job incorporating a surfer vibe to the interiors.
It's a great place to hang out if you're clamoring for a fresh brew of tea.
Gay and I had to go home in the afternoon so we spent the rest of our stay hanging out with our new found friends and testing the beds and whatever place we could lie down for a quick nap. :P
Sam strumming away at the common area
Here you can read a book on a bench or lie in hammocks
The intimate dining area where it's easy to find someone to chat with. You can also order brewed coffee (50 Pesos/cup) or cold bottled water from the reception.


Swing area where you can rekindle your childhood days at the playground. 



More photos of our La Union weekend, here.


Thanks Aldous, our host Rafa of the Circle Hostel, Lemon for loaning us your surfboards and Moonleaf Tea Shop for the afternoon tea. :) 

Not traveling to La Union? Check out Circle Hostel in Zambales! Post here.

The Circle Hostel
Urbiztondo, La Union | San Felipe, Zambales
Mobile Number : +63 917 8326253
Rates : 350/night for the hammocks, 450/night for the bunk beds
Day Trippers accepted for a lower rate.
Visit their  Website to book.
Twitter | Facebook Page 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ateneo Aquathlon 2014 : My First Multisport Experience (Race results now included!)

After falling in love with swimming last year, I decided to take the passion to the next level and join a competition. In all honesty, I am  not yet a strong swimmer but I see athletic events as a great way to learn more, focus on a sport and improve.  :)
Event banner at the College covered court where we had our bodies marked
and awaited for our division to be called
Ateneo Aquathlon is an annual event composed of swimming and running, organized by FAST (Fast Ateneo Swimming Team), Ateneo's elite swimming team. 

It's a great introduction to multi-sport as it offers short and varied distances which caters to kids and adults of varying endurance levels. Other distances are the Relay: 600m Swim & 5km Run, Aquathlon Kids(12& Below): 400m Swim & 3km Run and Lite: 400m Swim & 3km Run.
That's me on the 3rd lane from the top of the photo. :) My super supporter, lil sis took this shot. 
I joined the Classic Category (600 m swim and 5K run) at the age 30-35 division where 12 or more other ladies participated.  

My preparation was several months prior, focusing solely on swimming as it wasn't until December 2013 when I finally learned to swim - there's still so much to learn in terms of technique though but I'm happy with my progress. When I started, I was afraid of getting into 5 feet of water and couldn't even make it to half of a 50 meter length pool.  You see, there's hope my friends, just train consistently! :)
Men's Age 36-44 Division
At the holding area while waiting for our gun start, I glanced at the ladies that surrounded me, all looked quite fit with more than half wearing tri suits. While some looked like seasoned multi-sport participants, the atmosphere was fun and friendly. I was nervous but it was a good kind of nervous. Plus, I ran into friends (Don and Nel), met new friends, Joanna and Kim, who are from a triathlon team from Laguna. It was Kim's first multi-sport event while Joanna was coming back from a 5 year break from triathlon. 

Below's a raw footage of the first 5 minutes of the swim portion taken by my sister.
After the gun start, I sprinted too fast the first few meters as water splashed everywhere, making it challenging to grab for air. I lost my composure too and as a result,  struggled all throughout the swim part and thought about quitting after the first round. :P How I managed the next two rounds was all a blur to me (had to do 3 rounds as Ateneo's pool is only 25m long). My lungs were burning! I finished the swim route in 20:16 minutes. It's an average finish yet I'm glad I was able to complete it, considering I planned on quitting early, haha!Whew!  
Rushing towards the running route. That's me in a purple shirt near the wall. I didn't wear the singlet
provided as this was quicker to put in. :) 
In the running segment,  we went around the Ateneo campus, which was surprisingly manageable despite the heat. The water station wasn't until the first marker which was around 500m away. What I enjoyed most were the tall trees on both sides of the road. I was also glad that I was able to run consistently, stifled the urge to puke midway and finished in 31:39 minutes. Adding the swim + transition time, I was able to  complete the entire thing in 51:55 minutes, making me 6th out of 15th ladies under my division. Yipee, I know it's not that fast but I'm happy about the results, it's my first! Yay! :) 

Official race results are now uploaded at the Ateneo Aquathlon website

(Tips if joining next year): familiarize yourself with the 1st kilometer as it can get confusing on the intersection leading to the back of the gym. Also, put water or an energy drink at the transition area in case you need to get a quick drink, this was helpful for a first-timer like me).

Lastly, sharing with you my key takeaways from joining this event:
1. As a result of training, my cheekbones are now prominent and my neck can now make public appearances. Yipeeeee! :)
2. Being in love with food, I can go for guiltless food trips every now and then which keeps me  motivated to be physically active. :P
3. Swimming is also a mental sport which trains your focus, which is an excellent skill to have if you want to be a better listener and gain new knowledge. (Here's some helpful tips on how to improve mental toughness are available at the USA Swimming website)

If you're thinking of joining the event next year, do subscribe to the Ateneo Aquathlon accounts : Facebook Page | Twitter  | Aquathlon Website

Congratulations and big thanks to FAST and its sponsors for this successful event! :) I had a great time! :) 

Lastly, to my family and friends, thank you for your moral support! :)  Mwah. 

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