June 25, 2014

One Way Trip To Manila

I was raised by my grandparents.

I grew up watching pigs eat noisily, pestering roosters before a cockfight, saving myself from an angry turkey, and taking a nap at around 3 in the afternoon. On days that I am not getting up close and personal  with animals, I am usually up a guava tree, making sense of the clouds above me. Hakuna matata (no worries) indeed.

And then I turned six. 

Probably not six?

Six - the magic age wherein I must start going to school. But school was far far away from where we lived. School was in Manila. And Manila was too far for my grandparents to accompany me and fetch me everyday. And so I had to travel to Manila without them, and live with my parents and brother instead.

I have heard of Manila before. It's a famous place. All our neighbors seemed excited to go there. I would frequently hear remarks like "she got a job in Manila!" to which someone would reply, "Wow, I hope my son will to!" I imagined Manila to be some elite place only the few could have the fortune of visiting.

I am now 22 years old.

I grew up playing noisily with other kids on the streets, pestering ice cream vendors and taho vendors for an extra scoop, saving myself from racing jeepneys, and gazing at the people rushing by at the LRT station.  

I have fallen deeply, madly in love with Manila.

No, Manila is not an elite place where the fortunate resides. It is the good, the bad, and the ugly - a melting pot of Philippine history and culture, a picture of hardship and luxury, a place where I can look reality in the eye and still see hope in it.

A melting pot of Philippine history and culture

Whenever fellow travelers or couchsurfers would ask me which places to visit in Manila if they wished to learn more about Philippine history and culture, I would accompany them to Intramuros and Binondo.

June 2, 2014

The 45 Degree Angle Challenge (Mt. Sembrano)

Math and numbers have always been difficult for me, but this time I understood perfectly what a 45 degree angle is. I understood perfectly what it looks like, and more importantly how it feels like (to slip on such, ouch!)

Located in Tanay, Rizal, Mt. Sembrano is one of the nearby mountains from Manila. From Starmall, you can ride an FX to Tanay (70php), and then ride a jeepney to Brgy Hall of Malaya. (20php). Be wary of trusting tricycle drivers.

Malaya Barangay Hall

Malaya Barangay Hall is the registration (P20) and jump off point for this trek. You can rest and take a shower here after the climb - there is just 1 bathroom so please avoid holding up the line if you know there are other climbers waiting. Barangay hall officials will offer themselves as guides for 300php (up to Manggahan), or 500php (up to campsite/peak).

The trek is mostly uphill, unlike other mountains which are a combination of both. On the residential part of the mountain, be careful of horse shits. Around June, lots of mangoes (and jackfruit), on the place as well, they're selling mangoes for 150 php per sack! Sweet baby jeezuuz!

Manggahan Area

The manggahan area marks the first half of the trek. There are lots of mangoes on the area. Hence, the name. If you would like to rest or eat, I suggest you do it here already, since the following stopovers have little shade. Another 10php entrance fee will be collected here. You can also buy a whole coconut for only 10php.


Getting to the campsite is the challenging part of the hike since the ground is elevated on a 45 degree angle - without rocks and ropes to hold on, but with sand and loose soil to slip on.

The view on the campsite is beautiful, but saddening: the sky and the sea are deep blue, but the mountain, instead of green, is brown. Mt. Sembrano and it's neighbors are getting seriously bald. 

My friends and I thought that we should plant trees on such mountains, and join clean up hikes too, and maybe save the world during our free time. Aren't we the sweetest bunch? HAHAHA! But seriously, we'd like to join responsible clean up hikes and tree planting activities. Contact me if you know of any.

EDIT: June 4, 2016

As fate would have it, I returned to this mountain two years after to join my first clean up climb. I hope the second one (and the third, and the fourth, and so on) won't take me this long. Because more than the fulfillment that I get from climbing the mountain, was the satisfaction I get from cleaning it - ughhh that sounds soooo domesticated. HAHAHA

Reminders for Cleanup Hikes

1. Coordinate with DENR or LGUs to know if there are any permits to secure for the hike. Check also where the garbage should be brought to – make sure the place has proper waste disposal system.

2. Bring woven plastic sacks instead of the black trash bags. The black trash bags have higher chances of getting ripped off during the climb.

3. Bring first aid especially for cleaning wounds, and covering cuts.

4. Better to have a buddy during cleanup, one can do the picking up and the other the carrying of the garbage bag.

5. All necessary preparations for normal hikes should still be followed for cleanup hikes.

See you around!