December 3, 2014

Trust Must Come First (Makiling Rock Climbing)

You must trust first before you can let go.

(c) Jirah Ruth Fermin
Freelance "wall"

Last Sunday, I was invited by my friend to a rock climbing activity in Makiling. Makrock usually organizes such activity every Sunday. Initially, I thought that we were going to hike Mt. Makiling (as that was what I was excited about.) Well, I was wrong.

After just an hour of walking a muddy trail, we arrived at the rock climbing and rappelling site. I guess this is it. No seeing Mariang Makiling today. Oh well, I’ll just return next time :)

Round 1. Holy Water 

I was still fully energized when I tried this area. It was not that easy nor that difficult. Thanks to my bilayer who is definitely Best-in-Encouragement!

Makapag-good job and kayang kaya mo yan, parang feeling mo pro ka e. He was very generous with words of encouragement and praises. Now that’s a great job!

Round 2. Pendulum

Pendulum area was easy. I was just taken aback when I accidentally let go of my grip. I swing like a pendulum! Oh dear, my heart skipped a beat.

The scary part for me was going down (as always.) I have this fear of falling and losing control ever since. Remember Siquijor? Buntot Palos? And all the ziplines, rides, and slides that give me heart attacks.

That said, imagine my stress when my bilayer shouted for me to let go. I had a mini debate inside of me whether I should follow my bilayer or not. In the end, I trusted my bilayer and let go.

Round 3. Ghecko

Ghecko was difficult. I couldn't figure out how to progress through the crooks. By this time, I couldn't pull myself up anymore so I had to give up. Nakakagigil!

Round 4. Rappelling 

The test of faith, trust, and bravery starts here. And I almost failed.

I really couldn't do it.
It was impossible.

Aside from both my hands and arms were wobbly already. I was also too scared to function. I lost my trust and confidence in my own grip, in myself.

It is impossible.
I really couldn't do it.

"You can do it."
"Yeah, you can."

The facilitators coaxed me into rappelling down. They have more faith in me than I have in myself. How can you say no to that?! Right?!

That said, I trusted them and myself - the rope, the rocks, everyone, and everything.

I guess that's how you let go - by trusting. Because by trusting, you understand that you're not completely losing control, you're just passing it to someone else - perhaps someone more capable than you are.

See you around!


I highly recommend Makrock. You guys should try it out if you haven't! It's probably not for advance climbers though. Woohoo, number 1 fan here! Hahaha!

November 28, 2014

How the Cold was Defeated (Mt. Pulag)

The temperature in Mt. Pulag could drop to the freezing point. I would not be alive to write this story if that had been the case when I visited. Good thing it was only at 10 degree Celsius last weekend. Nonetheless it was still torture for me.

Mt. Pulag Sunrise (November 2014)

I get cold easily and therefore have extremely low tolerance for cold climate, but how can I resist the promise of witnessing the most glorious sunrise ever? How about the promise of being surrounded by sea of clouds?

I simply couldn't.

Initially, the hike to Pulag via Ambangeg trail was quite easy and straightforward - that was until the rain started to fall. I didn't know it yet, but that will be the reason of my agony. I continued the hike up the campsite in the rain. The forest became muddy and somewhat slippery.

My newfound tentmates :)

Because of the rain and the cold, I wasn't in the mood for dinner nor socials anymore. I just wanted to clean myself up and rest. Unfortunately, such was impossible as my change of clothes were soaking wet. Even my sleeping bag was wet! It was unbearable!


I tried to sleep, but I was freezing and miserable. I remember almost regretting my decision to climb Pulag. I didn't know what to do anymore! I didn't want to bother any of my tentmates so I tried very hard to stay still, despite shaking profusely.

Time passed slowly, but I made it.
I was alive.

I ran out of the tent albeit the cold breeze. I jumped up and down, then accidentally looked up.


There's so much love in the universe. The sky was filled with stars. It was as good as (if not better than) the night sky of Siquijor.

Everything stood still. Even the winds were embarrassed to blow. I breathed in and suddenly the cold was gone. It was all awe, and love, and gratitude.

Happy birthday, Arlet. 

It's time to change.
You ask to be treated maturely, but you act immaturely.
Three points for Pulag and the world.

We started the trek to the summit to catch the sunrise. We arrived at the summit without much difficulty. As if on cue, the sea of clouds started creeping up the mountains. And the sun was starting to rise.

Mt Pulag Sunrise ( November 2014)

It was beautiful.

Nothing matters. 
Not my anger, not my frustrations, not my sadness - nothing.
Forgive everyone everything now.

Ang sarap mabuhay
"It's good to be alive."

Three points for Pulag and the world

Happy birthday, Arlet.

Sea of Clouds, Mt Pulag (November 2014)

We went back down to the campsite and shared breakfast together. The breeze was still cool, but the warmth emanating from my new found friends was so strong that I was able to keep my smile until the time of this writing.

Thank you.
Unlimited points to all of you :)

Pinoy Getaway!

Until we meet again!


Thanks to Lakbaykaysaya and Pinoy Getaways for adopting me in this Pulag climb! You guys are the best!

October 28, 2014

Testing The Water (Buntot-Palos Day Hike)

The thing with falling is that there is no going back. Once you jump, you just let go, and let it be. You lose all control.

Buntot-palos falls

And that scares me a lot. It is the reason I have so much reservations when it comes to doing anything that involves falling (cliff diving, sky diving, bungee jumping, etc.)

Yesterday, I had the chance to jump off Buntot-palos falls but chickened out. I had the chance to swim towards the falls, but backed out. Those were my regrets of the day. Anyone who believes that they can do something should just do so. Otherwise, the heart won’t be at peace.

Isn’t it easier to smile at failed attempts than at what ifs? After all, we are not here to just test the water. We are here to jump and take that leap of faith.


The trail was easy, but muddy and smelly. The mud was mixed with horse poop. Unfortunately, you’ll sometimes have no choice but to touch the ground for support and balance. Eeep.

The trail

It was not a preferable hike for me, but the destination was worth it. The towering, rushing falls breaking down into 3 little falls was magnificent. It makes one wonder where all the water is coming from, and where they are going, and why they are in such a hurry.

The water was cold, but from time to time the sun shines and warm you up a bit. Then the wind blows, and you’re back to chilling. It was a funny feeling – like nature is playing with you – not in a hurtful way, but in a teasing and caring manner.

(c) Henry Bolinto

Well, it was generally a beautiful day! Plus, I was able to make 2 new friends – one talented artist and one highly analytical introvert (she noticed a mannerism of mine that I wasn’t even aware of!)

(c) Robert Sarmiento

Hooray for today!


October 7, 2014

My Demotion in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Around same time last year, I flipped the table and called it quits with my previous employer. I packed my bag and stuck my tongue out to the world.

More than half a year later, I had difficulties sustaining my lifestyle. I wasn’t that resolved and successful yet in my freelancing stint. And so I ended up becoming broke and anxious that I decided to just accept a job in a headhunting firm.

There was much resistance in my coming back to the corporate world. There were the little things like having a hard time adjusting my body clock to normal working hours, or having no appropriate wardrobe fit for the job. But the bigger issue for me was being back in itself. I escaped the corporate world for a reason.

In fact, I still entertain thoughts of escapes and wander albeit to a significantly lowered extent. But since moving out, I learned the value of things better – literally and figuratively. Did you know that a small Colgate toothpaste is almost as expensive as a big Hapee toothpaste? Or that Spam is actually very expensive compared with its local counterparts? But most of all, do you know that pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold?

Time flies by so fast. There’s no slowing it down or stopping it. Last year I was having this quarter life crisis. Now, I’m having this -what to eat for dinner - do I have clothes for the next days to come – when is the next payday – did I pay my bills – oh my gosh I didn’t kind of crisis. Every day is a struggle to the next, but the questions are now easier to answer.

I must have dropped a few levels off from Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, but this is kind of enjoyable. Hustle.


September 23, 2014

The Day Ely Fell

Tulong! Tulong!
Help! Help!

Cried a man from behind. I hurriedly turned around, and saw Ely fall.

Knife edge - part where Ely fell

I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could I? A man just fell from a height of almost 100 feet. The world stopped for a millisecond - even the strong wind became still. Suddenly, shouts can be heard from all parts of the mountain- above us, below us, everywhere.

Tulong! May nahulog!
Help! Someone fell!

Putang ina, wag kayo magbiro ng ganyan!
Fuck, stop making such jokes!

Tulong! Tulong!
Help! Help!

People running in controlled and uncontrolled panic crossed our path. I was dazed. 

A few minutes ago, I was just quietly listening to Ely’s loud remarks and jokes to his friends. I even took his photo just before the accident.

Why did that happen? I couldn’t accept it. Someone got seriously hurt (and potentially have died) doing something I love dearly. “Shit, I was the one who asked his mom to let him join this trip,” I heard Ely’s friend say.

My stomach curled. My initial reaction was to look behind me. There stood shakily, a little girl calling my name saying she’s scared. She was my newest recruit. I couldn’t let her out of my sight after that.

I got dizzy as I had flashbacks of people I invited before – people who had no experience and no physical inclination to handle trekking. I recalled how many times my friends used my name to ask permission from their parents, or how I personally talked to their mothers and asked permission for them.

I cleared my throat, “shit.”

Heaven forbid, but what if something bad happened to any of the people I invited. How will I deliver the news to their parents, to their mothers? What can I say to avoid breaking their hearts?

Nothing, of course.

I had been very irresponsible – asking anyone (everyone) to join climbs without even checking their ability to do so. My belief was that even if people cannot do it initially, they will be forced to do it once up there anyway. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Such activity is not to be underestimated.

“We have to go. It’s getting late."
"We don’t have enough headlights for a night trek,” reminded someone from our group.

And so, we continued the trip silently. No one talked. I stopped taking photos. From time to time we bumped into locals and mountaineers rushing to the site of accident to help the search and rescue team. I felt sick. I felt how incapable I am to extend help in times of emergency. The only thing I could do then was pass information.

The day Ely fell, I saw how reckless I have been. I saw how quickly conditions can change. And most of all, I  saw how dangerous hiking can be.

After all, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.


September 8, 2014

The Mark of a Warrior

A decade or so ago, people with tattoos are judged as previous inmates or menace of society. Even now, a slight stigma is still placed on those with visible tattoos. Personally, I still get disapproving looks from some church servants and old ladies.

But it was different in Buscalan. All the old ladies were heavily tattooed - traditionally done! After getting a small one for myself, I can't help but admire these people. Just imagining the physical pain they must have endured makes my stomach churn.

Among the ladies back then, tattoos were considered as ornaments. The more you have, the more beautiful. While among the men, tattoos served as recognition for doing something for your tribe. The most common of which is headhunting.

During those times, tribal wars were still common. And if you are able to kill a warrior from another tribe, then you've done a good job protecting your own - which gives you the right to get tattooed.

But since there are no longer tribal wars, the tattooing tradition of Kalinga people is dying (if it hasn't yet.) That is why I decided to visit Kalinga - while the last Kalinga tribal tattoo artist is still alive.

Apo Whang Od of the Butbut tribe is the last Kalinga tribal tattoo artist alive. Currently, she is training her grand niece, Grace to master the art.

A. Getting There

From Bontoc, you can ride a jeep to Tinglayan. Since the number of trips are limited, it can get really crowded - especially because deliveries to and from the town is also carried through that jeep. From Tinglayan, you can ask Kuya Francis Pa-In to accompany you to Whang Od's place. Francis Pa-In is a popular tour guide in the area, and is also a good friend of Whang Od and her family.

When I visited, Kuya Francis was already booked so he recommended me to his brother in law, Kuya Ronnie. He was a nice fellow. It was easy to get along with him without feeling the need to talk much or share much - it gives me the solace that I like.

B. Getting Tattooed 

Getting batok tattoo is probably the most painful "self inflicted" pain I've ever done just for the sake of it. In terms of pain, machine tattoo is nothing (at all) compared with traditional tattoo. I cannot even compare. I'm not even completely sold on the idea that it is safe.

Still, I do not regret getting tattooed.
Far from it, I want it.
It's no more a mark of a warrior.
But it is a mark I chose for myself.

I'll live (and die) with it.


By the way Grace will be attending this year's Dutdutan Convention!
See you around!

September 6, 2014

Up in Kalinga, You can See Forever

It won't be easy, but it is going to be worth it.

Sagada, Mountain Province

The road to Kalinga was extraordinary in itself - almost 11 hrs of freezing cold and cramped bus ride, 2 hrs of overpriced van ride, and 3 hrs of bumpy-topload jeepney ride along the edge of the cliff - with a dead buffalo and live chickens for companions. Phew. I almost lost my breath (literally.)

Topload all the way

All the while I was thinking that if ever this bus, or van, or jeepney I'm riding  is going to be another count in tomorrow's news on vehicle accidents, then I wish that all will be instant and peaceful. Que sera sera (whatever will be will  be.) No regrets.

But thankfully, I arrived one whole in Kalinga - uninjured and happy.

Mountain province is beautiful. There are clouds surrounding the mountains, and mountains surrounding you. The sun is warm, and the wind is cool. You look up and you see the infinite blue  sky. You look around and you see the horizon. It was as if staring staring at forever.

A. Getting There

There are Ohayami buses from Manila to Banaue. Check their website for schedule of trips. Upon arriving in Banaue, make sure to ask around for the schedule of trips to your other destinations as well. Sometimes only 1 trip per day is made for some places. Better be sure than stranded.

B. Nearby Points of Interest

Sagada - check out caves, hanging coffins, Mt. Kiltepan, and Bomod-ok Falls.
Bontoc - mostly a transportation hub for the travelers, not much to see around
Baguio - relax and stroll the Philippines's city of Pines.
Banaue - trek and wonder at the beautiful rice terraces.

C. The People

Traditions and  stories come to life because of the people that keep them alive. While in Kalinga, I've heard of interesting traditions and stories on coming of age, courting, marriage, divorce, the original meaning of headhunting, etc.

Witnessing love stories of people who are almost a century old is such an inspiring thing. Being welcomed to someone's home then being served breakfast and coffee is heartwarming. Being offered a ride by a complete stranger after missing the only trip back to the city is also a great blessing.

Obviously I had a wonderful time in Kalinga.

On my way back to Manila, I was all smile - thankful for everything. I realized that I'm not ready to be a casualty. I'm not ready to be another count in the statistic on deaths due to vehicle/travel accidents. No que sera sera please. I want to live long enough to see bits and pieces of forever.


"Sometimes I'm afraid of my heart. Its constant hunger for whatever it wants - the way it stops and starts "

See you around!