February 26, 2014

Fraternity of Strangers

Every journey I make shapes me into someone better.

That overnight hike to Pico de loro which I almost gave up on - it made me realized how I've been robbing myself of great achievements because of fear. That holy week in Siquijor - it taught me to be present in the moment - to stop glorifying my busyness with work. That solo trip in Tuguegarao- it forced me to be more trusting of the universe and of the people around me. That flight to Taipei - it showed me that understanding and friendship is possible despite differences in language, culture, and race.

All these journeys made a dent in my life, but the last trip I had... its dent was too deep that it snapped me back to reality.

"Is  the water cold?" Nathan asked.
"Freezing." I answered.
He plunged into the water and swam towards Kawasan falls. He came back a few minutes after. 
"Wasn't cold at all" He said.  
"To each his own." I explained.
Nathan agreed, then he introduced himself. He's from Holland; he's taking a few weeks off from work.
"How about you, don't you have work?" He inquired
"I resigned about five months ago, been going around since." I smiled.
We were silent for a few minutes until he continued with, "so what's going on?" - still referring to my resignation and going around status. 
"Quarterlife crisis." I said.
"Tell me about it." He replied.
I just shrugged. Then he ended up telling me about his quarterlife crisis instead. After he shared his story, he looked at me like I owe him my story.
"Quarterlife crisis isn't something that Filipinos normally go through" I gave in.
"What makes you so special then? Why do you experience it?" He said.
The question surprised me for a second. Maybe, it was the phrasing, "what makes you so special then?" The question trapped me. I grasped for words and mumbled unintelligibly until I managed something:
"I have choices - unlike most Filipinos who don't have the means to do so because they need to survive." It seemed like I was telling that to myself rather than to Nathan. 
"Ah, you're just lucky." He concluded.
There it is again! This stranger, describing me in simple, straightforward terms that makes me feel like a spoiled, ungrateful cheeseburger - whatever that means.  We parted ways that night, but his words remained deep in my thoughts all throughout that Cebu trip, and long after it was over.

The next day, I headed to Osmena Peak, the highest elevation in Cebu. There had been a storm warning, but I pushed through. I didn't care about the storm. What I cared about were my plans. It turned out to be a risky hike because of the strong wind, and muddy trail.

I made it on top. However there was nothing to see because of the storm, just the thick white fog.
I sat for a moment and chuckled.
"I'm such a fool. What in the world am I doing with my life? All I think of are my schedule, my plans, my enjoyment, myself." I let out a laugh and remembered a heated conversation with my boss before I resigned:
"You are making a big mistake, Arlet." He pointed.
"I'm willing to make this mistake right now, while I can still afford to." I declared.
Then I set off to various provinces, and there I was, sitting on a rock of Osmena Peak.
Days passed and my flight to Manila was fast approaching.
"We're going back to reality tomorrow. I'll get my nurse license and start applying for jobs. How about you?" My companion pressed.
 We both resigned months ago to live the life that we wanted. 
I  sighed, "I don't want to go back yet. I'd like to stay a bit longer. I still have some savings left."
"Stop running away from reality." She said in a scolding but compassionate tone.
"Fine." I retorted and walked towards Moalboal beach. 
To ease my mind, I ended up picking trashes around the beach. An old man saw me and told me that I was very nice. He said he disliked the area because it's barren and dead. He said he's here for vacation.

His name is Jim, a businessman from Ireland. He narrated how big the taxes are in Ireland, and then said that it is okay because their healthcare is good. He mentioned that there are lots of Filipino nurses there. He talked about his life and travels in Asia.

I asked him if travelers are running away from reality.
"Are you running away from reality?" Jim asked, with a look of concern in his face.
"HAHAHA, perhaps." I laughed, quite amused that he shot back my question.
 "But why does reality have to be so repulsive then?" I went on.
He smiled at me like an old grandfather and started his sermon:
"If you  run away from your problems, you will be running away forever.  You are an intelligent, kind, beautiful girl; you'll figure it out."
We stood up and continued picking trashes.

That trip in Cebu did not solve my "quarterlife crisis," but through the people I've encountered, that trip compelled  me to stop making excuses and start owning responsibilities. After all, the pieces of advice I got were from people who did not feel the need to protect my ego - people who did not sugarcoat the things I needed to hear (cough cough, Nathan! haha)

Perhaps, the "don't talk to strangers' advice should be thrown out of the window once you start traveling. You might be pleasantly surprised to know that the backpacker on the top bunk is actually your lifelong friend you just haven't made yet.

Needless to say, I still did not want to go back, but at least I did not dread it as much.

I am, after all, a "lucky, intelligent, kind, beautiful" girl. HAHAHA!

See you around!

February 19, 2014

Tabi Tabi Po (Dwarfs in the Philippines)

Philippine dwarfs or duwende

Unlike the European dwarfs who wear pointed shoes and bonnet, the Philippine dwarfs (duwende in local language) wear basket hats or helmets made from the shell of dried white squash.They are barefoot with toes far apart, because they have never worn shoes.

The most popular variation of duwende would be the (ni)nuno sa punso or matanda sa punso (grandfather of the termite mound.) They are said to magically enter the underground world through the termite mound, hence the name. This is why termite mounds are feared throughout the country.

Cultural implications of Philippine dwarfs

It is said that it is only safe to walk close by or demolish a termite mound if it is already covered with weeds or dried leaves, because that means that the dwarf has left the mound already. Otherwise, one should be very careful in walking close by the mound as a dwarf may be resting nearby and it can inflict sort of aches to anyone who disturbs it. Additionally, one can say tabi tabi po (please excuse me) or kayo kayo, nuno (away away, grandfather) when passing by as a sign of courtesy to the dwarf.

Since nuno are believed to have poor eyesight, but sharp auditory sense, they tend to seduce girls with pretty names and sweet voices instead. He takes them into his underground realm, makes them grow, and marries them. Hence, the early Filipino preference for plain nicknames such as Nena, Inday, Kule, etc.

Girls preparing supper are also warned to avoid singing lest she will marry an old man. Such groom is not human, but a dwarf. It is not called a dwarf for fear that identifying a certain creature is just bringing them closer.

Other superstitious acts such as not sweeping the floor at night, and not throwing rubbish outside the window are largely due to the belief that dwarfs are prying in the house or the yard at this time, and that the humans should be careful in not accidentally displeasing the said visitor. Additionally, the abundance of aromatic herbs and citrus plants grown around homes are also believed to drive the dwarfs away.

Variations of Philippine dwarfs

The Sagay dwarf, mentioned in Surigao folklore, lives in gold mines just like the European dwarfs, gold being plentiful in the area.

Caranget (lice of the ground) dwarf, popular in Cagayan valley, are believed to be the true owners of the land. A farmer tills the land only as a tenant, and has to pay rent through offerings. This explains the wide practice of leaving offerings before plowing the land and after harvesting the crops.

Another unique Philippine dwarf is the tiyanak. It is the spirit of a child whose mother has died while pregnant, leaving the baby to be born underground.  It has been described as a plump naked newborn baby laying on a banana leaf, who then transforms into a little old man with wrinkled face and skin. There are other variations of tiyanak that associates it with vampires rather than dwarfs. Currently, I don't know which account is more plausible.


I wonder how the marriage tradition started, because the dwarfs seduce girls and marry them. Why would the dwarfs bother on marrying them? Can't they just live in together? They have essentially abducted and seduced the girls anyway.

Do you know of other variations of the Philippine dwarfs? If you do, please let me know! Also, which do you think is better dwarfs or dwarves?


Ramos, M.D. (1990). Philippine Demonological Legends and Their Cultural Bearings, Phoenix Publication, 41-46

February 18, 2014

The Most Romantic I Could Get

Aling pagibig pa ang hihigit kaya (What love can be)
Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila (Purer and greater)
Gaya ng pagibig sa tinubuang lupa (Than love of country)
Aling pagibig pa, wala na nga, wala. (What love? No other love, none.)

This is what I found myself reading while waiting for my friend to buy a ticket during the UP fair 2014. It is Valentine's day, and this is the most romantic verse that I could spout of. I could also spout of Romeo's love for Juliet, or that of Maria Clara's for Ibarra, but I chose Andres's for Pilipinas. Why, I don't know. This is probably the most romantic I could get, I thought.

Maybe I'm just not built for this kind of thing.

The morning after, my friend is sick. We signed up to be volunteer teachers for Mano Amiga Pilipinas. Gosh, she can't be sick now, she's supposed  to prepare the food for the kids. I ponder over waking my friend and making her prepare the food or just doing it myself. I heard heavy breathing, and a bit of throat clearing from my friend.

Fine. I guess I should do this. I mean, I prepare delightful sandwiches for myself, right? HAHAHAHA I didn't spend my time watching Eat St. Food Network for nothing, I thought.

And so I made the sandwiches.

It proved to be a big mistake. The first batch of sandwiches was a disaster. Our oven toaster's timer and heat control was busted, so I had to use the stove. Our gas tank was empty so I had to use the electric stove - which took forever to light up. And the grilling pan that I used had metal handle - I didn't use any pot holder so I ended up getting grounded.

We can't go to the site empty handed, I thought. What should I do?

I ended up just preparing the cheese, tuna, mayonnaise, and cleaning up the table and the sink instead. I was so glad my friend woke up just in time to continue and finish the food preparation.

Perhaps, trying to make sandwiches (or any kind of food for others) is the most romantic I could get, but I (and everyone else) would really be better off if I never try to be romantic again. HAHAHAHA

From one of the kids of Mano Amiga Pilipinas
Happy Valentine's!


Try volunteering for Mano Amiga next time! You might be pleasantly surprised to see yourself in the kids or in the other volunteers. And maybe I'll see you around!

I find all kids bright. Adulthood and society just tend to dull them down.

February 12, 2014

A Mortal Ascends to the Skyworld (The Story of Aponibolinayen)

Tell me a good story, and I'll do a favor for you.

I am such a sucker for stories. In fact "searching for a good story" is one of the excuses I tell myself whenever I'm spending a ridiculous amount of time online or with people I don't particularly relate to. Hence I created a new page on this blog called Tales from the Philippines which will be about Philippine culture in the field of myths, legends, folktales, and sometimes history.

Since it is almost Valentines day, the first story will be that of love between Aponibolinayen and Init Init. This story originated from the Tinguian tribe of Abra in Northern Luzon, Philippines. If you can understand Filipino or Tagalog and is  not in the mood to read the story, just watch the video below: 

A Mortal Ascends to the Skyworld
Jocano, F.L. (1971). Myths and Legends of the Early Filipinos, Alemar-Phoenix Publication, 42-46

1. Aponibolinayen Got Carried Away
One day, Aponibolinayen, and her sister-in-law Dinay, went by the river to gather sisiklat leaves. But the sisiklat leaves were too tough to break so Aponibolinayen asked Dinay to help her. However, the sisiklat leaves immediately wreathed her and carried her to the sky.

2. Init-init the sun god
Up in the sky, Aponibolinayen saw a hut near the riverbanks. She went inside and made herself at home. Soon after eating she fell asleep. It was dusk when the owner of the house, Init-init the sun god, arrived and found the sleeping Aponibolinayen. 

(In the book, Aponibolinayen was described as a very beautiful woman having white skin, rosy cheeks, heart-shaped face, long black hair, and young and tender lips.)

Initially, Init init thought of waking her up, but later changed his mind and prepared dinner instead. Meanwhile, Aponibolinayen woke up and left.

3. Finally They Meet

Every morning, Init-init would go away to do his job, then return to his hut after the sun sets. During his absence, Aponibolinayen would go to his hut and prepare food for her and Init-init. This went on for days without them meeting each other. 

One afternoon, Init init sent a star to spy on Aponibolinayen. The star reported to him that the Tinguian beauty was still in his hut. Init init hurried back home and found Aponibolinayen in the kitchen.

4. THE Talk (directly lifted from the book, p 44)

"You can kill me if you are an enemy," she said.
"Could I ever kill a beautiful woman like you?" replied Init-init sitting down beside her

He took out his betel nut box and invited the maiden to chew betel nut with him. It was a custom to offer betel nut to a maiden before asking her name. Aponibolinayen at first refused. However, after some entreaty, she accepted the offer. 

"I'm known as  Init-init," began the sun lord. It is I who lead the sun across the sky. 
"I'm Aponibolinayen," replied the maiden. "I'm the daughter of Pagbokasan of Kaudamon and sister of Owig."

"I'm lonely," continued the sun lord; "will you marry me?"

(Well, that escalated quickly, no? HAHAHA)

After remonstrating, as is the custom of women, she consented to be his wife.

(Well, that certainly escalated quickly. HAHAHA)

5. Init-init Got Served!

February 8, 2014

Mt Maculot, Ayson, Tado, and Life in General

Ambilis ng buhay
Life is too short.

After concluding my Cebu trip, I headed to Mt. Maculot with a different set of strangers. Mt. Maculot has recently become famous because it is where mountaineer Victor Ayson died.

One of the strangers I was with is a former teammate in a competition during High School. Afterwards. we forgot that each other exists, because we were from different schools, and it was just a one day event anyway. I reconnected with her through Facebook when I chanced upon her profile in a travel page that I used to frequent. It turns out that she became quite an adventurer herself- she solo backpacked Malaysia. I asked for her advice because I was supposed to go to Malaysia too (hadn't I caught german measles, mleh.)  And then everything went from there.

Back to Mt. Maculot

Taal c/o The Female Tramp

I don't know exactly why or how Ayson died and I don't want to speak about it as well because I am not in any position to do so, but Mt. Maculot is an easy day trek. The sand can be slippery at some parts of the mountain, and can be more so during rainy season, but it is still relatively easy. We started our hike at 9am and got back at 2pm, it was quick considering we took our time resting and taking photos during the hike. You will get a beautiful view of the Taal volcano and nearby areas once you're on top of the rockies.

"Maculot buddies" c/o The Female Tramp
Rockies c/o The Female Tramp
Sitting there (the part where Ayson slipped according to reports) can be scary when you think of accidentally falling off, but why would you think that, right? Well, I thought of that. I tried to imagine how Ayson might have felt, and couldn't even bring myself to continue imagining.

I don't like it - hearing news of people getting hurt while traveling. It is sad, and it makes traveling a scary feat which is also sad. Just yesterday I heard the news about Tado's death, which is of course heartbreaking. It is a cliche, but it is real: life is too short. Life is too short.

But I guess I would rather have my life short than unbearable.
And right now, to not travel is unbearable.

Peace to the dead, and more peace to the bereaved.



Possible expenses to Mt. Maculot
Bus from Edsa to Cuenca - 155php
Guide fee - 100 each person in the group (regardless of the number of people in the group)
Registration fee - 10php

This post is not as cohesive as I would like it to be, but life is so anyway. 

February 7, 2014

Moalboal & The Friends That I Won't Make

An almost sure way to lose my respect is to let me see you litter anywhere near mountains or seas.

Moalboal, Cebu

During my backpacking escapade in Cebu, I visited Moalboal (pronounced as Muwalbuwal). It is a homey quiet white beach, very different from the bright lights and loud music of Boracay. And because I was short on budget (as always), I stayed at the public area of the beach instead of getting a cottage in a private resort.

Sadly the public area is not that well maintained. There were lots of plastics, food wraps, and water bottles floating in the water and/or lying on the beach.  Of course, my obsessive compulsiveness (and concern in nature, NUUKS, HAHAHAHA) kicked in. I ended up just picking trashes around the area.

Doing so felt good, until a guy, who clearly saw what I was doing, threw a water bottle to the sea. He was standing right in front of me.

I was dumbfounded. I felt insulted and annoyed that I recklessly shouted NO! at him. He just gave me an equally baffled look - as if gesturing a "what, what did I do?" kind of look.

I walked away, and just sighed my disappointment.
We cannot say we love nature (or the sea, the beach, and/or the mountain), and yet continue to hurt it in more ways than we can imagine.

Slightly disappointed,

Other Cebu related posts
Was it a Mistake to See the Whale Sharks (Oslob, Cebu) - January, 2014
Sinulog is One Proof (Cebu City, Cebu) - January, 2014
Zero Visibility: Following the Melody (Osmena Peak, Cebu) - January, 2014
Is Seeing Alone Satisfying? (Kawasan Falls, Obong Spring, Dakong Bato - Cebu) - January, 2014
For the Love of Good Old Times, Choose Cebu - January, 2014

February 4, 2014

For the Love of Good Old Times, Choose Cebu

Whenever my friend and I  were feeling incredibly lazy, we would change the itinerary and just stroll or pig out around Cebu city. And why not, the city is filled with delightful things (read as food,) For attractions, we visited Tops lookout at Mt Busay, the local theme park / funfair at South Road Properties (SRP), food bazaar at Fuente circle, Larsian, Taboan, Pro fruit and 7D factory, Fort San Pedro, and Magellan's cross.We would have visited the churches but it was badly affected by the recent typhoon.

Fort San Pedro houses paintings and relics that showcases the history of Cebu from Magellan's discovery of the island to its present state. It resembles that of Intramuros, but smaller.

Walls of Fort San Pedro

Afterwards, we went to Magellan's cross which is near Fort San Pedro. Don't expect to see a humongous cross as you will only get disappointed. Look:

Magellan's cross

When buying souvenirs or pasalubong, you can drop by at 7D Factory or Pro fruit factory for some dried mangoes, tamarinds, and the likes. For dried seafood, Taboan would be your best bet.

For hangout place, SRP, Fuente, Larsian, and Tops lookout are remarkable. With the exception of Tops, each place entails you to "rough it out" a bit. These are not shopping malls after all. Also keep in mind that the funfair in SRP, and the food bazaar in Fuente circle are only available on certain seasons. Do check first before visiting.

Eating out with a new friend (Holla MM!) at Fuente Circle

By the way, most eateries in Cebu don't have spoon and fork so don't go complaining if the staff serve your food without giving you utensils.

Eating out at Larsian

Larsian is a small community of food stalls that sell grilled stuff. It is like a local food court with the grilling station at the center. The smell of grilling seafood and meat is mouthwatering and dizzying to some extent. I love it!

View from Tops lookout (my camera did no good in capturing the beauty of the city)

Tops lookout or Tops is a viewing deck on top of Mt. Busay. It gives you a view of the whole Cebu.

Perya (local theme park) at SRP

I love theme parks, carnivals, and amusement parks so I immediately agreed when my friend asked if I wanted to go to South Road Properties! Despite being terrified of accidentally falling off and dying morbidly, I still enjoy riding the Ferris wheel, octopus, roller coaster, caterpillar, cable cars, etc! I dislike horror houses and gambling though. Hence, I left those out of my checklist.

My friends think otherwise, and they were betting at every color wheels, spin the wheel, spin off black jack, find the dice, shoot the ball, etc! It was very noisy, and lively, and fast! The exchange of money was so quick I couldn't even tell who was winning or losing. Heck, I couldn't even tell when the game started or ended!

But I guess, what I love most about Cebu...
And what I miss and crave for gravely about Cebu...
And what I constantly think of about Cebu...

Is their food. Gosh, I love their food!
Despite being greasy, and fatty, and certainly unhealthy, I love it! I love it to bits! I love it until I hate it, and then love it again! HAHAHAHAHA

Balamban liempo, chorizo, carcar chicharon, siomai, zubuchon, puso, and did I mention Balamban liempo, and oh my goodness, BALAMBAN LIEMPO! 


Standing dinner on the street just because it is already 1am and anything will taste absolutely lovely

Edit (2017 August)

Went to Temple of Leah, Taoist Temple, and La Vie Parisienne

Edit 2018 April: I went to Simala Church and Panagsama beach for the dolphin run


Did I already mention Balamban liempo?!

Other Cebu Related Posts
Was it a Mistake to See the Whale Sharks (Oslob, Cebu) - January, 2014
Sinulog is One Proof (Cebu City, Cebu) - January, 2014
Zero Visibility: Following the Melody (Osmena Peak, Cebu) - January, 2014
Is Seeing Alone Satisfying? (Kawasan Falls, Obong Spring, Dakong Bato - Cebu) - January, 2014
Moalboal & The Friends That I Won't Make (Cebu) - January, 2014