June 12, 2016

Looking For Maria Makiling (Mt. Makiling Traverse)

The day started early. I contacted all the participants to make sure they were awake. I checked my bag to make sure I forgot nothing. I reviewed the itinerary and transportation notes to make sure we stay on track. All set, and ready to go!

Or so I thought.

There were unexpected concerns early on - late participants, cancelled participant, guide fee increased, etc. Good thing that the group I was with were understanding about the whole brouhaha,

so I let it go.

Pack light. Travel light. Do not carry unnecessary baggage - whether for the body, or the mind, and especially for the heart. Let it go :)

The day went on. I asked the guide about the legend Maria Makiling, the spirit guardian of the mountain. He narrated how there were times when visitors would get lost in obscure parts of the mountains, or how a child was in the same place as the rescuers looking for him, but they couldn't see him. It seems that stories on Mariang Makiling nowadays are those of punishment and misfortune caused to visitors who are allegedly disrespecting the forest or whatnot , but let this be a different account. 

I have always fancied Makiling - the ardous trail from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Los Banos, Laguna, the icky limatik and lipa abundant in the area, the mysteries surrounding the mountain. Even the forest alone excites me!


We started the trek, and I can hear my mind worry - all the what ifs, from my knee pains acting up to my groupmates (let alone my cousin!) getting injured. I was anxious, but I just walked - one step at a time.


As we go deeper into the forest, the quieter my mind gets - it was peaceful. Even when the trek was becoming difficult due to slippery trail, or plain exhaustion, it was still peaceful.

There was always that sense that the forest was helping us. She wanted us to 'succeed' and finish. There is that feeling that she will provide care in whatever form. When the trail was slippery, there were branches and roots to hold on to. When the sun was high and mighty, the shade was ready. When the rain threatened to fall, the wind blew it to the other side of the province. When a teammate got tired, another teammate offered help. Makiling is kind and giving - perhaps all the world is if we lose ourselves a little.


When we reached the summit, there was no clearing. Hence we just took a little rest and continued the descent to Los Banos. After reaching Agila base, we took a few photos and headed down UPLB. The road to Los Banos is mostly cemented and wide, the trees huge, and the place shaded and calm. At some point, we were bantering with each other because it felt like the road was never ending. Good thing we found the last stop before we were all tempted to reverse our shirts as the old superstition goes. Phew!


I did not see the beautiful, mysterious, and legendary Maria Makiling, but I did see all her qualities in the mountain - like I've been watching her all along. Makiling is definitely one of my favorites :)

General Tips

- There is a mudspring on the way to Los Banos - a good sidetrip if you have enough time.
- Mosquito lotions are good repellent for limatik
- Avoid carrying a full pack as the trail gets narrow after Melkas ridge.
- Wear shoes to have more support and balance especially on the slippery parts.

Expenses

Bus from Buendia to San Felix - P105 
Tryk from San Felix to Sitio Jordan - P70/3

Guide - P800/5pax (P600 is the recommended fee from Sto Tomas jumpoff until Agila base, but the guides were asking for additional. Personally I do not mind giving more, especially when I am satisfied with the service but it is a bit distasteful when the tip has to be demanded. Also I do not want to accidentally make the industry more expensive for others.)

Registration fee - P20
CR Donation - P20
Jeep from Elbi to Crossing - P7
Bus from Crossing to Alabang - P60
Bus from Alabang to Guadalupe - P45

See you around!
Arlet

May 13, 2016

My Brother's First Climb & The End of My Trauma

Since the day I witnessed Ely Fell, I  have not invited a first timer to climb with me again. Hence I was hesitant to invite my brother and sister to a climb (especially my sister!) I was paranoid with the what ifs.  What if they slip and get hurt? What if they get heat stroke? What if they collapse? What if they fall off a cliff! I dreaded all the possibilities/ impossibilities. Even a slight injury would be tough to explain to my mother or my relatives.

But I really want them to experience climbing - because for me climbing has been humbling and really fulfilling. I want people to feel that, and then hopefully love and care for nature more.

I started with my brother since he is relatively more physically fit and active. And my relatives would not nag me soooo much if he gets just a little bit hurt :)


Pre Climb

As there's no more time to make my brother attend a formal BMC, I just briefed him on LNT and other basic mountaineering principles. I gave him the materials I had during my first climb with the Loyola Mountaineers and the notes I had during my BMC in Tanay Adventure Camp. I was glad that he paid full attention. Afterwards I gave him all the articles and write ups about Maynoba Circuit. I told him to read more accounts online and see what he thinks.

We're ready!

Climb Proper (Mt. Cayabu & Mt Maynoba & Its 8 Waterfalls)

View from Mt. Maynoba descent

We warmed up, asked the locals about the details of the climb, and had the pacing and resting sorted out. The trek was supposedly easy - gradual ascent only, but the heat was making it challenging. I brought 2L of ice, but just before lunch the ice was already warm water. Crazy hot as there were no clouds nor air!!! There was even a wild fire on the other side of the mountain :(

We started with Cayabu - there were covered areas at the start, but it becomes an open field as you go nearer to the peak of Mt. Maynoba. From Maynoba, the trail would be full of tall dry grasses- itchy so better wear pants or arm sleeves - I got several cuts on my arms here. The air was so thin too as it cannot get through the bush. I was constantly thinking of passing out due to the heat, humidity, and lack of fluids.


The descent was much easier, as it gets shaded going down. And the promise of the refreshing waterfalls can be very encouraging!


There were 8 waterfalls in total, but we only took a dip in the Maynoba waterfalls, which was the deepest of the eight. We had to swim across the lake to move forward! And it was difficult for us to transport our things without it getting wet. Good thing our guide was very helpful!

1st Falls. Natatagong Paraiso Waterfalls

Post Climb

Overall, the climb was easy, but the heat - not. Make sure to bring fluids/iced water and heat protection. It can also help if you wear trek pants, sleeves, and socks to protect your skin from scratches.

Oh, my brother? He found it easy so he's a bit smug about the experience - nakakainis. Nonetheless I was just happy to climb again, and thankful that nothing bad happened. Ely's fall traumatized me to invite first-timers to climb with me ever since. Glad to have ended that mentality and move on :)

Getting There & Expenses

Ride a jeep or fx from Gateway Cubao to Cogeo (P35.) Then ride a jeep from Cogeo Market to Batangasan. Then ride a tricycle from Batangasan to the jumpoff (P150/ Max of 4 pax per tricyle.) Guide for the group (1:5) normally costs P500 for dayhike. Registration is  P20 per head.

Trivia (Citation Needed)

Cayabu means Kay Abu (Abu's). Abu was the guy who discovered Mt Cayabu.
Maynoba is the local term for the part of the river which separates (?)

#HeyClimbWithMe. You just might find it beautiful up there. And if you do not, at least you will look forward to going back.

See you around!
Arlet



March 14, 2016

Has Travel Made me Jaded? (Bohol)

I am no longer scared of the world,

No longer in a hurry to see everything, no longer intimidated by the unknown, but I am afraid I may have become desensitized too.


When I stepped out of the plane from Manila to Bohol, I had absolutely no plans - no itinerary, no room reservations, no relatives or friends to visit, and no company to consult with. I was alone in a relatively foreign place.

I wanted to prepare better for the trip, but I was swamped with everything. And so I carried on, and believed that I will find everything that I wanted and needed.

Bohol Day Tour (Around 600 php)

I met Lex, a fellow solo traveler in Bohol. Just like me, he had no plans, and hadn't eaten breakfast yet too. We walked together looking for a place to eat. Then we bumped into Ricky, a tricycle driver who offered to be our guide in Bohol. Having no plans ourselves, we gladly took the offer.

Bohol Python and Wildlife Sanctuary (Around 20 php)

It's a place with animals in captivity. I don't feel comfortable in such places. It feels restricting and downright sad... Imagine if you have to live in a small quarter all your life... I might die in such condition.

Loboc Floating Restaurant (Around 450 php)

Cruise along Loboc River while enjoying Filipino buffet, live music, and performances. Food is decent. Scenery is beautiful and relaxing. Performances are lively and cheery.

Loboc River
Local children performing a folk song and dance

Tarsier Conservation Area (Around 50 php)

Tarsiers are sensitive creatures - they will commit suicide if they get stressed. Because of this, visitors should observe silence and non flash photography. Tarsiers look like delicate tiny aliens :)

Tarsier

Man-made Forest

Just did a quick stop over here for picture taking. Read that the mahogany trees are foreign to the soil. Hence the animals and insects in the area do not recognize the place as home, and so does not propagate here - explains why there are no birds in this forest.

Man Made Forest, Bohol

ShipHaus (Around 20 php)

House/museum shaped and decorated like a ship

Chocolate Hills Viewing Deck (Around 50 php)

There is concrete stairs leading to the viewing deck. The shape of the hills are not so identical anymore because of the previous earthquakes, but it is still a sight to behold. Normally I would conjure stories on how this landscape came to be- a romanticized version of how it looked like and how it made me feel. But such did not came to me. Don't get me wrong though, the hills were beautiful. It's just that my mind stopped already at that conclusion - no more sentimental emotions, etc.



Island Tour (Around 2800 php per boat)

Lex and I strolled by the beach and found boatmen looking for joiners for their Island Tour - of course we joined. Hehe people without plans are really easy to tag along and convince.

Pamilacan Island

If there is anything that amazed me most in this trip, it would be seeing dolphins in the wild. Imagine a couple of boats of tourists roaming around the sea, and praying for dolphins. Everyone was alert and in the lookout for dolphins. I was terribly sleepy when suddenly a group of dolphins sprung up near our boat. LUUCCKKY!!! Every boat rushed towards the dolphins to get a better view, and they just jumped and jumped and jumped majestically in and out of the waters.

You can see the smile and wonder from everyone. It was absolutely lovely - my heart thumped :)

Balicasag Island

Already satisfied and happy from the dolphin sighting, we proceeded to Balicasag Island for snorkeling. There was a cliff part underwater which made me scared and curious to swim closer at.

Somehow I am uncontrollably drawn and amazed by things that scare me. It is not so much as being mad, but a yearning for more, a desire for growth. It is almost as addicting as it can be debilitating. I am struck.

Virgin Island

Very picturesque sandbar, but not much to do - just walk around, take photos, and breathe.


Maribojoc Evening Firefly Tour (Around 2000 php)

Did this tour with Kayakasia Outfitter. Because I was alone, I was given a local kid as my partner in kayaking - in case I was unable to navigate the kayak in pure darkness of the night - which did happen, haha! The kid was eager to show me around and impress me which was very sweet. We got to the farther parts of the river ahead of everyone so we had more time to be quiet and just appreciate the place. The stillness of the surrounding was liberating - I almost wished I could be left there alone for the night - just so I can breathe.

With the others approaching, we moved on to see the mangroves which was lighted by fireflies - hundreds if not thousands of them! I wanted to feel more when I saw the trees seemingly in fire because of the glowing insects, but nothing. It was "fine."

This was it.

Some parts of the world has become normal to me. It no longer scares me, or no longer excites me like before. But was it really travel or experience that made me jaded? Or was it my ego?

Throw away enlightenment when you have it. I may, in some way, have become jaded, but I am hopeful.

Arlet

PS

Budget a bit more when in Panglao, because commodities are at dollar rate - probably because most tourists are foreigners. Also planned to go to Hinagdanan Cave and Danao Adventure Park, but ran out of time so putting it on my imaginary itinerary next time.

February 8, 2016

The Guide, The Hermit, and The Hard Boiled Egg (Tarak Ridge, Bataan)

"Those who are frequent hikers can be at the tail end. Those who are beginners should stay with the guide in front," announced our organizer for the climb.



Lots of people packed the sweep group, including my friend Kath. Without hesitation, I apologized to Kath as I cannot stay with her at the tail end and decided to stick with the guide or at least the mid group.

It was a big crowd - crowds intimidate me greatly. Suddenly I was overly worried of my knee pains, and that I might end up inconveniencing the whole group. Last time I had this liability worry was during my Purgatory climb. I remember self talking myself during that climb that I should be careful of every step to avoid unnecessary accident, or fatigue. I guess the main difference was that it was a small group so I was more at peace.

"But I'm here now," I psyched myself . I should just try. Welcome back to hiking, Arlet.


The organizers gave us hard boiled egg, banana, and sweets. I was famished so I ate it all before the climb. In fairness, I didn't  get  hungry until noon so next time I'll just bring egg and banana as my snacks :P I was confused whether I can just throw the egg  shells beside the trail since it is organic and all, but I wasn't sure so I held onto it. After a quick google search, I found that egg shells do not decompose unless the soil is very acidic and the shells finely ground, so maybe best not to litter them?

Anywaaayy...

We started trekking.

Cogon Grassland

First part was dried cogon grassland, then the forested woodland which after the papaya river will mostly be assault. Climbing onto branches and roots  would be helpful at this point.

Resting after one of the assault series :D

Papaya River: The Chill before the Climb

After papaya river, It was difficult to stick with the guide, I was almost chasing her! Her one step was three steps for me. I couldn't focus on observing the mountain, my focus was on her. The guide wanted to finish  as quickly as possible because we were only doing a dayhike. Hence I couldn't blame her for such pace.

We reached the campsite just in time for lunch. It was mostly an open field, but there are areas covered with trees. We ate lunch and headed for the summit.

Campsite area

The trail to the peak was steep and paved with loose soil  and rocks. The kind that worries me the most when descending. Good thing, I had help from a friend. Otherwise would have taken me forever to go down. There was another side of the summit which I did not check out anymore because the crowd - again- was getting bigger. And INTJs like me get stressed in such environment so I decided to hike down already. I think I'd like to go back to Tarak, but for an overnight hike next time :)

Famous tree at the summit of Tarak

After this climb, I figured I need to work on my social skills once again. I'm returning to my old hermit ways. But before so, I need  to have my left knee check.

Hakuna Matata.

Cheers!
Arlet

January 31, 2016

From Mt. Manabu to Mt Malipunyo & Back (Batangas)

I was being immature and wanted to do a solo climb, but got to my senses the night before my planned hike and decided to go against it. 

I still needed to get away from Manila though. Luckily I found two climbers who were planning to hike Mt Manabu too. 

Since both of the other climbers were Batangas-based, we agreed to just meet there. It was the earliest I woke up for a climb because I was afraid I might get lost during the commute then end up being so late. 

From Fiesta Mall, we rode a tryk to the jump off place and started to hike around 6 30 am. We passed by locals who offered to be our guide as according to them the trail is confusing. My hike-mates refused politely since they have been there before. It was almost 8am and the trail we were treading still wasn't familiar to them. 


"Naku wrong way po, papunta pong Mt. Malipunyo yan" said a local we asked along the way.

And that is the start of our trek to the real jump off for Manabu. Turns out the tryk driver confused Manabu with Malipunyo. After around 30 minutes we found the way to Manabu. 


It was an easy trail covered with trees. There were white crosses per station. There was also Mang Pirying's hut wherein you can try homemade barako coffee for free. Then there's a campsite very near the summit for those who want to stay for the night. The summit area which can be identified via the huge white cross is very small, can comfortably accommodate maybe up to around 10 people at a time only. 

Summit of Mt Manabu

Mt Susong Dalaga, as was seen from Mt Manabu

Since the area was small, and there were too many flies and tourists, and no clearing because of the morning fog, we just started with our descent. We did a loop hike via grotto and back to station 4. We arrived at the Manabu jump off a little after lunch.

On the way back, we saw locals selling an iguana they found in the forest for P200 - it was kept in a coke bottle. I wanted to engage the locals with a discussion on environmental conservation, but felt it wasn't a good avenue to do so, and I wouldn't be able to sustain the act. I just retreated with a heavy heart.

What was I to do? What was the right thing to do?

Going There

1. Lipa-bound bus from LRT Buendia/Taft Station - Drop off at Tambo or Fiesta Mall (if within bus route)
2. Jeep to Fiesta Mall (8 php)
3. Tryk to Sulok, Brgy. Sta Cruz from Fiesta Mall

January 1, 2016

The Stories We Tell Ourselves (For the Year That Was)


1. What did I learn last year?

Arlet, no matter how firm you think you are in terms of your decisions, there will come compelling reasons that can change your mind. You may feel as though you have no choice, and tell yourself to just get on with fate as quickly as possible.

But even with a "handicap", you must still seize the day, and not live halfheartedly.

If you want to quit your job, then quit. Do not go to work and not give your best shot because you say you could do so much better if you wanted to. If you want to breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then breakup. Do not stay in that relationship and tell people that you do not want to be there in the first place.

Do not live life as if you were forced into it.
Protect your thoughts. Have self compassion, but do not ever condone the sob stories your mind sometimes make up.

2. What can I do better this year?

Arlet, work hard and be nice to people. You're always so busy you forget that you're dealing with emotion-filled human beings. Being efficient is not good enough, one must also be tolerable if not likeable.


3. How much stress did I experience

Sometimes talking about a suffering eases it away.

The last quarter of 2015 was extremely difficult for me. I developed early signs of anxiety and panic attack. I had acid reflux and other concerns for which calm drops, and relaxing teas became my best friends. Fortunately I was able to reach out to people who've been of great support to me.

Walang sense 'tong picture na 'to dito pero kasi... basta :)

4. What am I grateful for?

Everything. If you ever received a random message or call or any form of "paramdam" from me for the last quarter, then thank you so much for responding. If you ever gave me a random message or call, it is highly likely that I didn't respond, but know that I appreciate it a lot.

Thank you so much for existing.

Here's to new beginnings - to second chances, third chances, and the unlimited chances we have to make our lives better! Because "we cannot be irreparably broken."


Happy New Year!
Arlet

December 27, 2015

Why I'm the Lucky One (CDO and Camiguin)

Day 0. I'm a terrible friend.

Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief as to how I still manage to have great friends.

For letting me bother you even at the ungodliest hour, for returning my silly calls, for taking my side when I'm down, and for being kind and understanding, thank you so much, Maine. Told you I'm the lucky one to have you for a friend.

Kahit na yung paminsan minsan lang na may problema ka, problema ko pa din mostly pinaguusapan natin. HAHAHA labyu, Maine! 


And as if those weren't more than enough, you and your family welcome me to your hometown, HELLO CDO AND CAMIGUIN!!!

Day 1. CDO City Tour and White Water Rafting

Straight from our duty as corporate slaves, we took the first flight from Manila to CDO hoping to squeeze in as much as we can for the day. Unfortunately we didn't arrive in time for the morning schedule of rafting and zipline so we settled into doing DIY city tour first. Strolled around Divisoria and CDO museum - was supposed to visit Xavier museum too, but there was a dress code. Got really sleepy before noon and ended up happily dozing off in some bench inside Ket Kai mall - HAHAHA we looked real shabby - but you can't argue with someone who looks so happy!

Had lunch, then met up with the group we'll be with for rafting. Small world - they're workmates of our college friends! Smaller world - we have the same IT for the rest of the trip! 


It was my first time to try rafting so I was initially feeling nervous, but turned out to be quite easy with the guides around, and also real fun - especially when there's a rapid! Too bad, the group didn't agree to do intentional capsize - must have been more exciting! 

For the calmer parts of the river, the view was relaxing. Just what I needed to temporarily kick off work from my head. 



Day 2. Welcome to Camiguin!

It was past lunch time when we arrived in Camiguin. We visited Katibawasan Falls, Old Church Ruins, and Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross. Our visit in these places were short because of the rain - and mostly because these locations are mostly for sight seeing only.

We also went to Sunken Cemetery, and Ardent Hot Springs wherein we stayed longer. I expected to see submerged tombstones in Sunken Cemetery, but instead I saw corals, schools of fish, giant clams, etc, etc. It was colors and life bursting at the same time!

Isn't it ironic to be talking about witnessing life in a cemetery that slipped into the sea due to a big earthquake? But that's the way it is. Even nature is telling us to have some sense of humor, and accept things that are in conflict with our woldview lest life will be a torture for us :)

Under the Sea, you'll see red, and blue, and green, and neon, all the colors you know and more.

Day 3. Mantigue Island, Camiguin

Wanted to pass time on the shoreline of Mantigue beach, but there were lots of seaweeds because of a storm the day before our visit so we proceeded to do snorkeling in the sanctuary instead.

Water was colder in the sanctuary. Look underneath and it's all water and fishes. Look up and it's all sky and clouds and mountains in the far horizon. It makes you feel very tiny in this vast universe, and at the same time grateful to be (so tiny yet) capable of feeling greatness. Life is good.

The thing with traveling is it lets you experience gratitude, and you have no choice but to bask in it. You feel small but not insignificant. You lose your delusions of grandeur, but you keep your self compassion. You become humble enough to ask and accept help from others. You are suddenly changed.


Day 4. All Good Things Must Come to an End

I enjoyed every bits of my stay in CDO and Camiguin - from the new friends I met to the places I've been. Shoutout to Maine's family for being such great great great great people! Thank you so much for adopting me.

CDO and Camiguin are adventure-filled destinations! I will definitely go back to visit the mountains, dive spots, and the other places next time!

Padayon,
Arlet

PS.

Bisaya man na ko! Been trying hard to communicate with the locals using Bisaya, but all I've managed to do is embarrass myself. HAHAHA