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!

August 3, 2014

After Naermyth: Can I wait for a Revelation?

Time and again, I have explained how uncomfortable I get when I am unable to comprehend or give closure to anything that matters to me (momentarily or permanently.) This is why I try my best not to watch/ read series that haven't completed yet. Otherwise, my mind will not be satisfied, and it can either (1) take drastic measures in getting answers - even if the answers are wrong or misguided, or (2) forget the object of confusion altogether - deny its existence and the fact that it ever mattered.

With Naermyth, option #2 is completely impossible right now - when I just found out that a book 2 (Revelations) is on its way! And that the series may even run a quartet! A  quartet! Imagine how long I have to wait!

That cannot be. I need to fill in the blanks now.
Yes, this is how I cope.

On Naermyth

Naermyth tells the story of a "soldier" after the humans lost the war against the mythological beings - which were never a myth a after all - hence Naermyth. The setting of the story is around the world but the protagonists are in the Philippines so most creatures are from Philippine mythology - to my excitement! Haha. It is a very easy read as well - YA category.

On Characters

The character developments are not in depth, but are enough for the readers to understand where they are coming from and where they are going. It's good for me, I don't care much for details anyway so long as the story moves forward in a sensible way.

I thought I would love Aegis because she is not a damsel in distress, cares nothing about what others think of her, and can be alone just fine. But her immaturity and rashness oftentimes put others in danger, and puts her in a position that needs saving. Well, I guess this is necessary for a story to brew.

Additionally, I find myself sympathizing with River, the "soldier" who chose to protect his loved ones by being a blacksmith instead - crafting and devising weapons or armors that can save the life of the user. His actions and words remind me of a maxim that I've been trying to follow since my quarterlife/existentialist crisis when I entered the corporate world after graduation, but that's another story.

"Everyday, each of us have to face a battle against our own shadows. Don't think you're any different... You may forget who you are, but I will keep reminding you."
- River

On Mythology

The promise of Philippine mythology is the reason why I read this book, but not why I kept on doing so since the discussion on them are very basic - probably for the mass audience to follow? I hope there were illustrations of the creatures discussed though!

On Questions

After reading Naermyth, there were some questions that I need to answer quick so that I can continue living peacefully even before the 2nd book is released. Can someone please help, hahaha - problema nyo din talaga to e?

1. How did the tikbalang story originate in the Philippines? Has someone ever encountered them being likened to god's messenger before? I've known of them being winged creatures, but never as beautifully described as in Naermyth.

2. Does anyone remember Occhio Del Dyo of Questor Anime Magazine? I remembered this title for some reason, but I don't really remember its story anymore.

On Having a Resolve

I hate that the story is so unfinished.
Instead of getting answers, there were far  more mysteries (and miseries for the protagonists) left.

I'm just glad the word I have to trust is that of River's rather than Aegis's. River has far more conviction as he has lost his everything already (good call on  that Karen Francisco!) For now that trust will have to do.

See you around!

I think I should get back to frequenting the Filipiniana section of the National Library.

July 20, 2014

Hair Talk (Oh Boy)


I was a target of bullying when I was a lot younger. Boys would often tease me for my curly hair. And so I wished that I had long straight hair instead.

Fast forward to college, people would still make comments about my hair - but by this time, I have already developed that attitude of not caring about others' opinion on my appearance that much. And to be fair, their comments are mostly out of fascination and not bullying - not that they can bully me anyway.

"Your hair has command on its own. It arrives before you do." (Solitario, 2013)

After not cutting my hair for some time, my hair kind of owned me instead of the other way around. In fact, my friends named my hair Elizabeth, because they thought it deserves to have a name. HAHAHA. When we would meet, they would ask how Elizabeth is doing.

Yes, I have such retarded friends :)

They even renamed my hair Lizzie after I had a hair cut last year:

Elizabeth (aka Lion King) and Lizzie. HAHAHA

After Lizzie, I now have Liz:

Liz - pixie cut for curly hair

How I wished Liz is always like that, but no. I have to blow dry the front part to make it look like that. Otherwise , I look like a  contestant of that's my tomboy grand finals:

I really do look like a boy (especially from afar, huhuhaha)

Oh boy.

I ain't got time for blow dry, nuh- uh! Aside from client expectations, hair must probably be the next difficult thing to manage.

Someone, help me please.
Arlet  (& Liz)