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)

Here's to new beginnings!

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!

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!



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

November 23, 2015

Quick post on Montemar Beach Club, Bataan

Went to Bataan last APEC week because our team badly needed to unwind and recharge before December kicks in and our operations go ballistic (if it isn't already.)

Trip was extremely exhausting being a day trip only (from 4am until around 12 midnight; Roundtrip Manila-Bataan-Manila,) but I enjoyed it a lot. 

On Montemar Beach Club

- Clean amenities
- Food was expensive
- Some staff were not that pleasant and were all about the rules (eg "we cannot accept walk ins, please call head office first - head office being unreachable since the day before our trip," "those who are still wet can't come inside the restaurant, please dry yourselves outside")
- Mixed shower areas
- Kayaking, boating, and cliff diving was fun!

Still can't look at the sun directly, but very much attracted to it.
Still find the sea hypnotic - reminds me of things I know (deep inside) I want and need to let go

Still bad at kayaking, but enjoys it nonetheless

Still shit scared of jumping/falling, but does it anyway.

Overall it is a nice and quiet place to relax and put some perspective back into our lives. Nature is always humbling. It's a shame we do not listen to it more often. Perhaps such practice will make us grow more as human beings than any technology can accomplish.



If  I have to fall and fail, please let me do so quickly and learn. Patience and grit, Arlet. Please.

Climbing Mountains and Corporate Ladders

When climbing, the higher you go, the thinner the air, the harsher the weather, the harder it is to sleep, the more tired you become. This is true in climbing both mountains and corporate ladders.

I've improved my spot in Maslow's hierarchy of needs from last year's, but I did not expect the jump to be this disorienting. Some nights I feel like curling into a cheeseball and wrapping myself in molo, or you know, wish for a holiday the next day, and the day after that, and so on :P  

Some nights I feel like I can take on the world, planning to dress my most bad ass suit the next day and slap punch every challenges with my mature decision making. Then the next day comes, and I drown in a sea of other people's priorities! 

The hardest part of it all is being responsible for others. I'm quite good at looking after myself, but not yet at carrying the weight of others. I have a lot to learn in this regard and I'm worried at what the costs of my learning will be - I hope the cost will not be myself.

"You suffer in silence, because you are silent." 

These tough times though, I've been very lucky to have special people around me to talk with and help me through it. Thank you. (Hi, Lui! I think you have no idea how much I appreciate your support, and I want you to know that I am very grateful of you.)

After all, I do not have to climb alone. Isn't the summit best shared with others?

Patience and grit, Arlet. Please.

The universe is still in a conspiracy to make you a better person. 

August 31, 2015


"Think about it," my boss said.

I have been in this situation before, but this time my boss was more mature and gracious in handling my resignation. He was caring, but firm. I admire him. And I sincerely wanted to stand by his side longer and learn more - after all, staying where I am seems like the path of least resistance. 

I walked out the door, put everything aside for the mean time, and flew to Coron.

It was a beautiful place indeed - lush green mountains, crystal bluegreen water, and majestic rock formations. The folks that I met during the trip were also interesting fellows.

Twin Lagoon, Coron (c) Karen Ong

But I was somehow too jaded and restless to get excited. It was almost frustrating, because Coron is very beautiful. I wanted to get mad at myself for not being ecstatic- it was so absurd of me.

The trip went on with me drifting mindlessly. Don't get me wrong I was still enjoying myself - however I was just passively and thoughtlessly going along with the trip that it probably bore me (How could one get bored in Coron, right?! It was unthinkable!)

Mt. Tapyas,Coron

Thankfully, something saved me.

I cannot dive- I get headache and my ears feel like exploding whenever I try. Still I really wanted to get close to the WWII Japanese ship wrecks. I wanted to see it up close and firsthand. If I saw it, I was almost sure that a good story would unfold before me. I tried to go deeper, but every time I did - I not only turn violet and run out of breath, but I also get sharp headaches. Our guide asked me stop after my nth attempt to go down (and fail) as he was worried I might pass out.

Baracuda Lake, Coron

I didn't want to cause any trouble for him so I heeded - but I felt alive after that! I wanted to be better so that I can see more, and feel more. I breathed heavily - inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. This is fun! Finally, I'm awake! I went ahead and join the others with their goofing around.

Banana Island, Coron

Coron was suddenly more beautiful, and the world, as always, is filled with exciting challenges and possibilities :)

In life, people tend to wait for good things to come to them. And by waiting, they miss out. Usually, what you wish for doesn't fall in your lap; it falls somewhere nearby, and you have to recognize it, stand up, and put in the time and work it takes to get to it. This isn't because the universe is cruel. It's because the universe is smart. It has its own cat-string theory and knows we don't appreciate things that fall into our laps.

- Neil Strauss, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

I'm always going to want to be better.  Even when I take a step back, it is always to move forward.

The universe is in a conspiracy to make you a better person, Arlet. Just believe in yourself and the universe will have no other choice but to believe you too.

See you around!

Whole day tour for 750php (Reef Garden, Skeleton Wreck, Smith Island, Twin Lagoon, Baracuda Lake)
Whole day tour for 1200php (Malcapuya Island, Banana Island, Bulogdos Island)
150-250 php per meal
150 php van from Busuanga airport to Coron and vice versa
300 per night accommodation
100 terminal fee in Coron

July 12, 2015

Looking For Bernardo Carpio (Mt Binacayan)

Upon arriving at Brgy. Wawa, I was fascinated by the wide horizon which was further distinguished by the mountains. This is it - the setting of the Filipino folklore, Bernardo Carpio!

Bernardo Carpio is the bravest, strongest man that lived in San Mateo, Rizal. He left his parents, and lived in the mountains so he wouldn't be a burden to anyone. One day, an enchanted man Bernardo defeated sometime ago came to him to make amends. The enchanted man invited Bernardo to his place, and then trapped him inside. Legend  has it that whenever there were earthquakes, it was Bernardo trying to break free (Incidentally, Montalban Rizal is part of the West Valley Fault.)

This is one version of the tale, others say that he is preventing the 2 mountains from colliding with each other, or it was the Spanish troops that trapped him with the help of a shaman, etc. No matter the back story, three things are similar. (1) The hero was trapped. (2) Someone trapped him there. (3) He struggled to free himself causing earthquakes in the making.

The Two Mountains

I like the version wherein Bernardo was a Katipunero, and he led the fight against the Spaniards. I imagined our ancestors telling this tale to their children, giving them hope that someday Bernardo will break free and save them from the oppressors. Such helpless people waiting to be saved by someone who needs saving himself.

I always wondered why (in the continuing stories) no one helped him out. I would have made a story like that, it would be Bonifacio. 

Summit of Mt. Binacayan - one of the mountains in the area | (c) Jirah

Bonifacio and his soldiers retreated to Montalban after failing to seize San Juan Del Monte. While searching for a good hideout, he chanced upon a dead Bernardo. Bonifacio's spirits were initially crushed, yet he still manage to lead the first significant victory of our Revolutionary army versus the colonial forces - no superpower required, just the same genetic make up each of us are already made of.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

I finished the story in my head while passing by the slippery and muddy soil, and then climbing rock formations after rock formations. Since the mountain was newly opened to the public, the trail wasn't that established yet.

Jirah and friends

Summit - Mt Binacayan | (c) Jirah

This is definitely one of my favorite trails so far, because of the mix of rock climbing, trekking, and  folklore. And because it was only a quick hike too. Too bad we weren't able to explore the Pamitinan cave (where Bernardo was trapped) since the weather wasn't that good, and we were worried of getting trapped inside if the water suddenly rises. After all, I don't want to be reduced as the next character in some urban legend. My story is yet to be told.

Edit as of Jan 9, 2016

Went back here to do Pamitinan and Hapunang Banoi dayhike. There's a junction between each other which is also a resting area for the hikers. Served as my first climb for "Oplan Balik Loob sa Kabundukan 2016" since Binacayan has been my last climb -more than half a year already! My lifestyle has been sedentary and I've managed to neglect my general well being on the last months of 2015. Anywaaaayy.... back to Pami-Banoi

Lots of hikers now in this area. Rock formations still as mesmerizing (and sharp) as ever. Scenic views all around. Pami cave still closed. Wawa river now clear (yay no rain!)

Mt Pamitinan Summit

Mt Hapunang Banoi

Mt Pamitinan

See you around!

Expenses & Getting There 

Update as of Jan 9, 2016 - There will be fixed fees starting Feb 2016 and guide fee will be min of P500 for one mountain. If doing twin hikes, trilogy, penta - discuss the rate with the guide first to manage expectations :)

1. FX from Farmer's Cubao to Montalban (50php)
2. Tricycle to Brgy, Wawa (20php each)
3. Registration (5php)
4. Donation (50php/group)
5. Guide (400php/group)

Some Notes

1. There are no water source in the mountain so bring lots of fluids.
2. There are parts with lots of mosquitoes so put on anti mosquito lotion. 
3. Wear thick shorts/pants and gloves as the rocks are sharp and jagged.
4. There aren't suitable campsites near the summit