September 9, 2017

Enjoying Words I Do Not Speak (Mt Manunggal - Mauyog, Cebu Twin Hike)

"A person's name is to that person, the most important sound in any language." 

As with every trip I make, I try my best to study the local language. But I tried especially hard with this one, because I've always loved Cebu, since it was the last place I went to before the universe told me that I have to grow up and act mature

But I never really mastered any languages other than English and Filipino, so I try to remember the names of people instead, even if I suck at it. I still try.  

April. Mae. Helen. Stella. Brandon. Rico. Diana. Alvin. Chen - This is me trying 😅

Thanks, you guys for letting me join this climb! Special thanks to Diana for letting me, a complete stranger out of nowhere, sleep with her in the tent!

Mt. Mauyog Peak

I. On Expensive Registration Fees. Do the right thing, even if it is troublesome

We arrived at the registration area of Mt. Manunggal after more than an hour from Ayala Center.


There was an P80 total registration fee being collected per person (it's for the Land Owner, Barangay, Local Cooperative, and DENR.) Note that registration fees normally costs P20 only, so we insisted on getting a receipt and seeing the ordinance that states that collection of this fee is legal.

But the locals said that the fee was decided only that day so they haven't printed receipts yet. There was a lot of disagreements of course, and it took a while before the gatekeepers finally let us through without paying the fee until we spoke with the Barangay Captain, and hears why such rule is implemented without proper documentation.

Phew! I was glad I didn't speak the local dialect so I didn't need to argue with the locals too. But the group I was with was amazing! They were able to insist their right on getting a receipt if they pay, otherwise not pay at all. Normally, visitors would just give in to avoid the hassles, but this proliferates a culture of graft and abuse if left unchecked. Way to go, team!

II. On Socials. In the mountains, everyone has the same heartbeat, and speak the same language, even if no actual words are spoken.

Due to time taken at the registration, it was almost dark when we left for Mt. Manunggal peak from the campsite. After a few minutes of trekking, we decided to go back and just continue the next day since majority do not have headlamps too. And so we went back to the campsite to pitch our tents, have dinner, and socials.

Introverted as I am, I dreaded socials. I think it is the most tiring and stressful part of hiking, but I enjoy people-watching! I like listening to other people's stories and somehow knowing them. I just get stressed when they expect me to talk about myself too, or when they expect me to respond to / act on whatever they say.

Alcohol was passed around. Make shift disco light was turned on. Pop music was played. Stories were shared. People were laughing in chorus. It was so lively! But I probably got around 30% of the stories only since they were mostly speaking in local dialect - which means less pressure for me to contribute to the discussions. Yey!


Cheers to being comfortable of not understanding everything!

I looked up, the sky brightly lit with stars.
I closed my eyes, the wind gently touching my face.
I can hear everyone's laughter.
I opened my eyes and smile.

At least, I can understand happiness 100%.

III. On Strangers. Everyone is interesting and amazing given the chance to know them. 

These people have such unique stories, and I have the privilege to hear it already, despite knowing them only a few hours ago:

Diana was a teacher for 5 years. When she asked the "universe" for signs whether she should continue teaching, the "universe" continually gave her signs to teach, even if she feels in her heart that it beats for something else. A few weeks ago, she stopped listening to the "universe," and started listening to her heart.

Helen is from Netherlands. She fell in love with a Filipino during her volunteer stint here in the country. She came back here to try and make their relationship work, because she has a son with him, but their differences proved to be too great for them to stay together at the moment.

They were both such strong women, for believing in themselves, and pushing through with the unknown no matter how scary it seems. I'm sending my positive thoughts to you, ladies!

IV. On Fear. Do things that scare you, repetitively - until it is no longer scary. 


Everyone woke up late for sunrise the next day. It took us less than an hour of climbing sharp limestone rocks to Manunggal peak from campsite. The view from the top was beautiful.

There was a part that I wanted to climb, but fear got the best of me. I've accumulated so much fear lately that it feels stupid already. But it's also because, I've become lazy, and undisciplined.

Arlet, you need to train more, know more, and understand more, so that you may fear less. 

Mt. Manunggal Peak

As the crowd was building up, and the heat becoming more intense, we went down and continued to Mt. Mauyog. Going there from Mt. Manunggal was strenuous for my knees because the road is concrete rather than soil. Also, along the way, there were various colorful flowers by the roadside.

We reached the registration area of Mt. Mauyog, and paid P30 disturbance fee, and P300 for every 5 people for 1 guide. It was a quick 30 minute pure ascent from registration to Mt. Mauyog peak. The view was beautiful, similar to that of Mt. Manunggal's peak.

V. Expenses

P4500 / everyone in the jeep - Jeepney from Ayala Center to Mt. Manunggal (Day 1) and from Mt Mt Mauyog registration to JY Center (Day 2)

P300 / 5 people - Guide for Mt. Mauyog
P30 - disturbance fee for Mt. Mauyog
P20 - Washroom use fee for Mt Manunggal campsite

P80 (Disputed, we didn't pay anymore) - Total registration fee at Mt. Manunggal

VI. Other Notes

- There are small residential houses / stores in Mt Manuggal campsite. You can ask them to cook rice, noodles, and canned good for a fee. You can also buy brandy here. Note that the price is a bit pricier.

- On the way to Mt. Manunggal peak, there was a sign of "no trespassing" on the correct trail to the peak.

See you around!
Arlet

August 12, 2017

Travel Notes: A Day in Jakarta

Of course a day isn't enough to explore a place as big as Jakarta. But it doesn't mean it's not enough to enjoy it. Happiness, after all, is something you can dictate internally :)

Okay, okay! So here's a rundown of my 1 day itinerary for Jakarta.

Arrival & Currency

Upon arrival at Jakarta airport (Soekarno Hatta Airport), I noticed that it was 10% - 15% cheaper to buy Indonesian Rupiah in Jakarta airport than in NAIA.

Their currency is so big in amount that there's even a bill for 100k Rupiah - which is roughly around P500 only - it was confusing! but try this trick I used:

Exchange rate at the time of travel (.0047 PHP = 1 Rupiah)
Trick - Divide the first 2-4 digits of the amount into 2, and then take note of below:

Thousands - max of P50
Ten Thousands - max of P500
Hundred Thousands - max of P5000

Once I've moved on with the fact that I'm a millionaire in Jakarta, I got a local sim for calls, text, and internet (150k Rupiah for 1.5GB and calls/texts.)

It's difficult to get a grabcar/uber from the airport, because the pick up is outside the arrivals area. And may also be because the place is dominated by local taxis. If you are unable to get a Grab car or Uber, just queue at Blue Bird taxi area. Get a number, and make sure the taxis read blue bird. Blue Bird is known to be the most trusted taxi brand in Jakarta.

Lodging (Fraser Place Hotel Setiabudi)

Their rooms are fully furnished and huge - there is even a walk in closet! There's a pool, a gym, and a recreational area. Food is good too, thumbs up :)

Cuisine

I like their food in general, because it is tasty. Some food joints tho may go overboard and make it too salty or sweet. If you are not a fan of MSG or sugar, advise your servers to go easy on the seasoning.

Jendral Sudirman Street

Since it was a Sunday, Jalan Jendral Sudirman (a major thoroughfare in the business district of Jakarta), was closed for vehicles to make room for joggers, cyclists, street vendors, and even street performers. It was such a lively place to stroll around! But better be early, since the road will be opened up again by 11am. Walk towards the direction of Grand Indonesia as the crowd build up (which includes street performers and vendors) is there. Lots of bicycle gears for sale here!



Grand Indonesia Mall

I wasn't able to go around that much here, but it seems like a typical mall with mid range branded items.

Pasar Baru Market

Pasar Baru is a local marketplace for general merchandises (apparel, shoes, cameras, sports / music items, etc) I enjoyed this place since it caters mainly to locals, and isn't that crowded and overwhelming for tourists. I was able to find a non-branded lens cap for my Sony Camera! Price here is comparable to Philippine SRPs too.


Wayang Museum 

Wayang Museum houses wayang or flat wooden puppets in all sizes. It was interesting to see such intricate artworks in this dusty building. There's even a performance on Sunday, but it was in local language. I heard there is an English performance too, but I wasn't able to see it.


The puppet collections were difficult to contextualize, because the translations are either missing or confusingly written.

It takes everyone to do a puppet show, not just the puppet master. What you see in the screen is not all of the work being done - there are musicians, singers, light directors, props director, and even the audience is partaking in the whole experience.

Isn't it very similar with our achievements? Whatever we achieve, is not from our own efforts alone. There is a always a myriad of help we get from others and the world - whether we realize it or not. And I hope we do realize it, and say our praise for it :)


Overall, I enjoyed my quick stay in Jakarta. Some tourists may get overwhelmed by the busyness of its streets, but coming from Manila, I felt at home in Jakarta. The streets look similar, the people look similar, the attitudes of the people feel similar - everything gives off the Manila vibe! I guess the main difference is just that people do not speak that much English in Jakarta. But hey who cares, a smile bridges all this language difference anyway :)

See you around!
Arlet

July 2, 2017

Train of Thoughts (Masbate Travel Notes)

Day 4. Comfort or Courage - You cannot have both.

One step at a time.

I calmed myself as I walked on the creaking wooden bridge. I looked around for help in case of emergency, I was alone. The sun almost set. I must have walked almost 1km already.

Pawa Mangrove Park

I held my bag firmly and remembered the valuables in it - cellphone and camera.

One step at a time?
It's almost dark, I won't see the faulty parts of the bridge anymore.
There is not a single soul out here if I fall.
My phone and camera aren't water proof.
It would be very troublesome if I needed rescuing because of bad judgment.

I continued walking further into Pawa Mangrove Park's boardwalk, but alas I came upon a part with detached railings, and sliding or missing planks.

Pawa Mangrove Park

I have to jump.
But what if ...
I have to..
But.

I want to jump.
But I'm scared.
I really want to jump...
But I'm really scared...


Pawa Mangrove Park

Pawa Mangrove Park

Day 2. You can't lie. Not to the sea. Not to yourself.


The boat pierced through the sea, splashing away little droplets, that in turn create ripples, that go round and round and round. I was hypnotized.


I've always liked the sea
Sometimes it scares me,
But I dive into it anyway
I stare at it as if I will miss something important if I take my eyes off of it.

I guess I love the sea
Despite my fear of its vastness.
I lose and find myself in it.



It accepts no lies, and washes away all pretensions. 
Like the night, it intensifies and unravels buried thoughts and emotions.

So it is love.

Lightning struck on the other part of the sea.

"Don't worry, that's not where we're headed," the boatman said.

I let out a smile, "Yep, I thought so too."

...

We arrived at Halea Nature Park after about 2-3 hrs of boat travel. I snorkeled a bit, okay a lot :D There were sea urchins, clown fish, starfish, tang fish, brain corals, staghorn corals, acroporidae, etc. It was beautiful!

Halea Nature Park

Our group decided to swim to the rock formation on the opposite side of the shore. On our way back, my companion struggled as she wasn't comfortable in water. She was panicking and exerting excessive efforts which made her exhausted immediately.

"Relax. I'm here, I'm here, It's okay." I tried to reassure her.

But I guess seeing just the 2 us left on the farther part wasn't very reassuring.

Midway, a guy helped us pull her back to the shallow part. To be honest, I felt guilty for asking her to come with me, when I wasn't even skilled enough to take her back safely on my own. Ah it reminds me of Ely.

You're still as immature and irresponsible as ever, Arlet.

Afterwards, we stopped by Burobancaso Island and Rock Formations to take some photos, and then headed to Catandayagan Falls right after. Both places were beautiful, but sadly there were trashes all around :( Since Catandayagan falls had no docking area, we just took a quick dip and continued to Buntod Reef and Sandbar. The sandbar was slowly disappearing when we arrived.

Burobancaso Rock Formation

Catandayagan Falls

Buntod Reef and Sandbar

The day was over. Finally the sea's spell will break, but the night will fall soon. Game over, Arlet.

Day 3. Be Open to Changing Your Mind.

I was supposed to enroll to an open water dive course, but (1) I was afraid.... of a heck lot of things, and (2) it was expensive. So instead, my friend and I went to a place that we overheard from the locals.

Palani beach is a quiet beach in the town of Balud. Its shoreline gradually deepens so kids can enjoy the water without fear of suddenly getting drown due to uneven shore. As for me, I mostly enjoyed staring at the trees, the sky and the sea - as usual.

At Palani Beach

There are no restaurants or food houses in Palani, so you'll have to use your charms to ask locals to cook for you, or you can take a habal habal (local motortaxi) to Balud, but even there, there isn't much choice.

I like this town because it is quiet and unassuming. It lets me be - all of me, no questions asked, no explanations needed.

Day 1. I do not seek support, but I hope for understanding. And in cases, those cannot be given, I just want to be heard. 

"I understand, " my companion said as we both lie down on wooden benches.

Masbate is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. When I landed, a province-wide blackout just ended. There were only 3 major fast foods in the whole province, and all have no cold beverages because of the blackout. The inn we stayed out were a little run down, and there was not a single mall around. You could say that in terms of facilities and infrastructure, the place wasn't built to please tourists.

But the people were vibrant, and seemed happy. The tricycle drivers didn't overcharge us. The locals were chatty, and seemed contented with their lifestyle. And the cowboys in them surfaces in little interactions.

The people were heartwarming.

...

My companion and I went to Sese Brahman's Ranch after lunch. We were the only people around so instead of continuing with our itinerary for the day - we decided to stay here, and talk, and understand.

Sese Brahman's Ranch - Up the Hill

There is a little trek up the hill, with warning signs for bull. We were sooooo quiet because we fear the bull may hear us and chase us. Thankfully, there was none of that. On top of the hill is a guesthouse with a cafe, but it was closed and no one was around, and everything was locked.

It was just quiet. 
All silence. 
Then there were questions.

Sese Brahman's Ranch

To be honest, I may never understand things that way things are meant to be understood. There may never be correct answers, but maybe the questions will suffice. Sometimes, our questions are just as important as our answers.

Day 0. Circle of Life

Four years ago, I briefly met a park ranger when I solo traveled in Taiwan. He spoke about the grand canyon, and his travels gleefully. He made me want to travel, and not be afraid of people. He made me feel like I really could.

And so I did travel, little by little, on my own, with friends, with family, with strangers. I traveled. I still travel and continue to do so.


One droplet may be insignificant to the ocean, but not to the other droplets it affected. Same with us humans, we may think we are insignificant to the world, but there are people around us whom we affect dearly. We create our own ripples. We always count.

Travel Notes and Tips

- I got a 1k/ head daytrip from Masbate island to Ticao islands, food included. See Day 2 for the itinerary. Contact Maru at 0995 465 3176. Going to Burias from Masbate was waaay faar (and expensive) so I just excluded it from my plans.

- P650/night at Sampaguita Inn for aircon room

- Tricycle rides in the city costs around P8-P10 depending on distance

- Ride FX from grand terminal to Balud (to go to Sese Brahman's Ranch or Palani Crossing) for P120/head or hail a habal for P300 one way.

- Sese Brahman's Ranch entrance fee is P50

- Palani Beach's aircon rooms are around 1k, but the prices can be negotiated down during off peak season.

- Tricycle ride from Masbate city to Pawa Mangrove Park is P30/head (don't haggle pls, since it's far.) Tricyle back to city is just P15/head

- Terminal fee from Masbate airport is P100. They were strict with baggage allowance. I had to transfer some of my stuff to my companion's bag because it exceeded my allowable baggage allowance.

Di na ko galit. #Masbate na tayo, #Ticao lang naman e

June 8, 2017

Travel Notes: Sirao Peak & Sirao Flower Garden, Cebu

Armed with my little Bisaya, I took a motorcycle taxi to Sirao Peak. My driver was a chatty fellow - he spoke with me in Bisaya, and I tried my best to understand. Sometimes we were both laughing - but probably at different things - because I suck at Bisaya for now :|


We arrived at the jump off in a little more than 30 minutes. It rained in the area so the trail was a bit muddy, but manageable. I must admit, I still get jitters when I do solo hike no matter how minor the climb is. I can't help it though, doing some things solo excites me!


The trail started off as a rolling hill, with cows occasionally crossing your way. As you ascend, you'll get to the part covered with trees. Just continue walking upwards and you'll reach the campsite shortly, and just 10 mins away is the summit. It was a straightforward climb, and the summit can be reached in less than an hour (or perhaps I was walking fast because I was afraid of the dark, huhu)



Upon reaching the summit, I got confused. Because I was alone, there was no one to validate if it's summit already. To be honest, it kind of felt lonely at the top since I had no one to high five with, no one to say, "we did it!" and generally there's just no one to celebrate it with. It was the first time I felt that way. 

What a weird feeling.

The surroundings were definitely beautiful. But perhaps sometimes you gotta share this beauty with others to fully enjoy it. I couldn't wait to go down and do just that.

This time, I was the chatty one with my driver, and in my broken Bisaya :D

Getting There & Others

Habal Habal from JY Mall to Ayala Heights - P300/motorcycle/way

Since I was alone and no one to share the motorcycle expense with, I negotiated with the driver for P400 back and forth with a sidetrip at Sirao Flower Garden. He agreed! This all in my broken Bisaya. Whaddup yo! Hahaha!

Saw this at Sirao Flower Garden

See you around!
Arlet

PS

Seeing blooming and wilting sunflowers at Sirao Garden was a deep experience for me. One minute you're so beautiful, at the top of your game, achieving your life's purpose; Next minute, death looms.

*Sunflowers die after it shed away seeds (the seeds of next generation.)

For us humans, we live and we touch other people's lives. So when we die, we hopefully leave a legacy that positively affects the circle of life. We live on through them. Padayon.

May 14, 2017

Travel Notes: Bangantalinga, Iba Zambales

I like the place because (1) it was not crowded, (2) it has fine white sand, (3) it has clear water, (4) it had activities to offer, and (5) our host (a colleague) and her family were very accommodating and helpful! Thanks Gwen and Family!!!


I am not a good host at all - I don't take care of guests, nor attend to their needs. I just let them be - I tell them, "food is in the fridge, here's the kitchen if you want to cook, and please clean after yourself." This is why I do not dare invite anyone to my hometown.


Activities:

We arrived around 7 in the morning, and immediately set up our tent. The responsible ladies in the group went to the market to buy stuff and prepare for lunch. The rest either slept, sang karaoke, picked mangoes, or played by the beach.

Mango Picking

I was strolling by the beach and saw some locals catching jellyfish that were washed up in shallow waters. These jelly fish don't sting, but tourists were scared of them so the locals caught them with a long metal stick :(

The responsible ladies prepared a splendid lunch!

Boodle fight

Say HALLOW to my lovely team!
After resting a bit, we went boating, snorkeling, and fish feeding (aka vomiting in the sea) - eeep! Seriously though, don't drink, swim, and pass out guys!

There were lots of corals here, but mostly dried up :( good thing there were still small fish roaming around, but I hardly spot them - I have terrible eyesight, especially underwater.


Sunset by the beach

We went back to our tent fulfilled, hungry, and ready for dinner! Yey for a good day!

After dinner, I drank beer to sleep soundly - bad idea because there was no decent toilet around - I had to improvise a little when I couldn't keep it anymore :D

Capping of the night: Stargazing

Getting There: Place was far, we spent around 4-5 hour from Manila to Iba, Zambales.

See you around!
Arlet

April 30, 2017

Mt Sawi Daytrip Notes

Difficulty: Easy, Mt Sawi circuit can be finished in 4 hrs with plenty of breaks.

How to get there: Bus from Five Star/ ES Transport Cubao to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija , then jeep from Cabanatuan to Gabaldon (but earliest jeepney trip may be around 6am)

Expenses:

P20 - Registration per head
P500 - Guide for up to 10 people (The hike was easy and quick so I was a bit disappointed with the guide fee especially if your group is small, and do not need much helping)

Hiking Notes & Tips

Start early. Hydrate properly. Bring sun protection such as caps/ shades/ sunblock/ umbrella, etc. The hike may be easy, but the humidity and heat can make it excruciating. We climbed 7am and was back before 11am, but the heat was already enough to make it difficult for me to breathe.

Good for beginners - nice view and easy trail.

You can also do a twin hike of Mt Sawi and Mt Mapait

Photos

View from Summit

Simbahang Bato

Cogon grasses trail

See you around!
Arlet

April 1, 2017

Mt Sipit Ulang Daytrip Notes

Mt Sipit Ulang Summit (Sipit Ulang translates to crab claw)

Activities: Hiking, Caving, Rock Climbing & Rappelling, Swimming (Falls)

Difficulty: Mostly easy, can also choose to do some tricky rock climbing parts which may be scary for beginners. These parts can be skipped too, without affecting the original trail.

How to get there:
Fx from Farmers Cubao going to Eastwood Montalban – drop off at Total Gas Station, 1hr (50php/head)

Tricycle to Brgy Mascap Jumpoff , 30 mins (30 php/head or 150 php/tryk)

Budget & Expenses:

Transpo (back and forth) – P160 / head

*For going back from Brgy Mascap jumpoff to Eastwood, you might need to pay for the whole tricycle because there are rarely other passengers going back,

Guide - P500 / group (no sidetrip, max of 5 people)

Travel Notes & Tips

The trek to summit is around 2hrs including LOTS of picture taking and stops already. It can be finish in an hour if your group is not as addicted to picture taking as my group was :D

The trek from summit back is less than an hour

Bring headlamp for the caving part (Phone flash light is okay too, but then you won’t be hands-free)

Use small day pack for the caving part (Full pack is okay too, but challenging to fit some of the cave trail)

No river crossing (summer season, around March)

Gloves will be of big help for rock climbing since the rock formations are sharp

The trail we took are as follows: (1) Snake Trail, (2) Tanawan Bridge, (3) Paniki Trail, (4) No Name (as of March 2017) Cave, (5) Summit.

You can also do twin hike or side trip to Payaran Falls.

Photos







See you around!
Arlet