December 31, 2014

2014: Just Did It!

Analysis paralysis. I was afraid of making mistakes in my life. This same fear paralyzed me into inaction late last year. January of 2014 was unwelcome. I didn’t want to start another year while I was in such a mess – no job, no money, no direction, no plans, no present and future on sight.

The only thing I knew then was that I wanted to see more of the world. Nothing else mattered. So nothing else, I did. Fortunately though, a headhunter chanced upon my LinkedIn profile and offered me an opportunity. It wasn’t exactly my dream job, but it was better than nothing. My mentality was that I can always quit if I hate it. Hence, giving it a chance wouldn’t hurt, right?

Lesson 1. Opportunity knocks from time to time, but we must be prepared to grab it.
Accepting and keeping an opportunity that I wasn’t sure of? Just did it!

A few months after getting a job, I decided to move out of my parents’ house and live on my own. It was one of the most liberating and educating things I’ve done for myself. At first, I was skeptical of my capability to survive on my own, but now I’m sure that I can. It wasn’t as smooth sailing as I hoped it to be, but it was fun nonetheless.

Lesson 2. Sometimes, we never really know for sure unless we try.
Live on my own? Just did it!

After separating from my parents, my expenses blew up. I was worried that I might have to stop traveling. That, I knew I couldn’t take so I made a new budget plan and stuck to it. I used a new expense tracker to keep my finances in check. Currently, I’m unable to travel internationally, but it doesn’t matter as there’s still much to see here.

Lesson 3. You don’t have to stop doing what you love to follow society’s priorities, just as you don’t have to stop playing games when you’re older. It is not selfish to want happiness for yourself so long as you’re not taking it from others.

Paid my own bills and still pursue my travels? Just did it!

I did it- achievements and mistakes alike. It was a year of taking over my life, of making myself a priority - and not just listening to what other people want, need, or expect from me (Gets mo ba yun ha, Popoy?! Hahaha!) This year, I am fully responsible. I liked that.

So 2015, leave it to me, I got this.

Happy New Year, folks!

Taking it Slow (Baler)

When I was a child, I found days to be slow, but I never wished for it to go faster. Now that I’m older, it seems that the days are always in a hurry to be over. Often I find myself wishing it would go slower – stop even.

The pace of life in Baler reminds me of my life back in the province (and Siquijor for some reason). I like it.

A. Getting There

From Manila, you can ride a Genesis bus to Baler. Regular trips costs 450php while deluxe trips via Joybus costs 700php. Take note that Genesis doesn’t have reservations for regular trips so be at the station earlier than scheduled. Also the road to Baler is bumpy, it is wise to stay away from the back seat of the bus.

B. Places to Visit

1. Oldest Balete Tree in Asia

According to locals, this Balete tree, which is about 600 years old, is the oldest in Asia. In the past, visitors were allowed to climb the tree, but to preserve it better, guests are now prohibited to do so.

2. Ditumabo Falls / Mother fall

Getting to Ditumabo Falls would entail one to take a short trek from the foot of the mountain. During the trek, be prepared to get wet up to waist level. The current can be a bit strong so make sure that your sandals are safely secured and attached to your feet.

3. Baler Museum

Baler museum houses stories of significant events in the province. It is also a nice place to take photos.

4. Dona Aurora House

The house is just on the next corner from Baler museum. It is one of those simple, cozy, and old Filipino houses. The study room is inspiring – makes me want to have a similar house :P

5. Ermita Hill

In December 1735, there was a huge tidal wave that wiped the whole town of Baler. Only 7 families who climbed the top of Ermita hill survived. 

By the way, there is a viewing deck on top of the hill (where I did my vanity shot :P )

6. Lukso lukso islet

It’s a scenic place to walk around and take photos. Reminds me so much of Royal Cliff Resort in Siquijor.

7. Baler church

I don’t buy most of the Catholic teachings, but because my friend was attending the Sunday mass and I had nothing else to do – I went with her. It’s a nice little church I guess. There were also flat screens for those who are outside.

8. Sabang beach!!!

Surfing is the main attraction in Baler. When my friend and I arrived, the cloud was dark and heavy because of the looming low pressure area. The waves were big and scary so we were naturally terrified! Hahaha. Nonetheless, with the help of my instructor, Jun, from Michael Surf Shop & Surf Lesson I was able to ride the waves in no time! It was exhilarating! I got worn out quickly though – I stopped the session in just about 30 minutes because my arms cannot push my body up anymore.

I’ll definitely come back next time, but I’ll be stronger. I should really start on conditioning my body next year! By the way, parts of my arms were itchy and swelling after surfing so perhaps there are jellyfish in the area? Just saying.

C. Getting Around

You can rent a motorbike to go around and tour the province yourself or you can rent a tricycle for 800php. I suggest the following itinerary if you want to make the most out of your time without being in a hurry.

Day 1

Rent a tricycle for the day (800php) since the following places are not in the city itself. It would be nice to start around 8am so you can take your time in each place.

Balete tree
Ditumabo falls
Ermita hill
Lukso- lukso islet
Day 2

You can ride a tricycle to Sabang beach and then commute back to the plaza after lunch. All the places after Sabang beach are just short walking distance from each other. Tricycle fare per head is 12php.

Sabang beach
Baler museum
Dona Aurora house
Baler church
Souvenir shops
You can contact Kuya Edwin if you want a guide. He can also be your game-fac-on and jolly photographer! Look at some of the shots we got with his direction, haha!

Edwin Alino
Tricycle/ Tour guide service
0936 708 1666

D. Sample budget

Manila to Baler – 450php
Baler to Manila – 450php
Accommodation – 700/day/2pax
Tour guide – 800/2pax
Surfing instructor – 350
Tip (optional) - 50
Food – 300 to 500

Your budget can range from 3000 – 4000 including souvenirs and what not depending on your profile as a traveler. I spent around 3500 all in.

Overall I absolutely enjoyed this trip! Baler is such a relaxing place to visit. The people were nice and the food was cheap and good. After trying surfing for the first time, I realized that the outdoors make me feel so alive. It is not just trekking, or swimming, or snorkeling but mostly everything about the outdoors captivate me! Hahaha!

Would you look at that, I just wrote 31 blogs and the year is almost over. The holidays are almost over. Well what can we do? Holidays are really the quickest days of the year. Sadly, we cannot slow it down, but we can take it slow and make it count.

See you around!

December 23, 2014

Save Taal from its Locals

Taal volcano must have been a beautiful and scenic place; there must have been some interesting urban legends and narratives surrounding the area, but instead this story tells a different kind. One I do not enjoy to write.

Upon arriving in Olivares, Tagaytay (the entry point from the main road for those who are coming from Manila), different tricycle drivers flock upon our group to sell their service. We settled with 250php.

Once in the registration area, the staff told us that Calauit trail is closed. We wanted Caluit trail because that trail leads to the crater lake, but because it is closed we settled with another trail wherein the last part is just on the viewing deck. That costs us 2000php for the boat ride and the mandatory guide. The boy we had as a guide was adorable, but we didn’t need him as the trail was very straightforward. No one could possibly get lost there – especially with the crowd of tourists and local sellers around.

Our group’s consolation was the bumpy boat ride since we all agreed that it is the most enjoyable leg of the trip – aside from each other’s company of course! Hahaha! Even if it was only a lake, the waves were big enough to rock the boat to our satisfaction. By the way, there are two lakes in Taal, one is the first lake from the boat station to the foot of Taal, and the other is that of Taal’s crater. That’s why it is called as a lake within a lake.

At our boat’s destination, an old man was very nice to put a bench connecting our boat and the dry part of the ground. We obliged to pass by that bench of course, only to find out that walking through that plank will costs us 50php each – also known as the landing fee. We were all taken aback, we could have just jumped from the boat, that’s just mere 5 inches of seawater. I don’t suppose it could hurt us.

Our group was beginning to feel how much of tourist trap this place is, but we were still doing our best to stay courteous and amiable. A group of guys approached us and tried to sell their tour guiding services using the Calauit trail. We probed because we were told earlier that it was closed. They agreed, but they said we can still use it for additional 2000php. We (now annoyed) declined the offer. An old lady then approached us for a 10php registration or environmental fee each – I wasn’t sure anymore. She then tried to persuade us in getting a horse saying that it was impossible for us to get to the top without one. We just laughed and walked on.

We arrived at the viewing deck in no time. It was piece of cake.

Along the way, a lot of horse dung were lying around. There were also locals selling refreshments and horseback riding services for a steep fee. Some were selling souvenirs and some were insisting on taking our photos using our camera. I do not know why. There were also those who were asking if we wanted to play golf in the area – I do not know how either. It was like a market place – complete with filthy wrappers on the ground. I observed that some locals were too persistent (to the point of rudeness) on foreigners. It was almost harassment. A pity this place is.

Upon heading back to Olivares, the only tricycle driver in the station was asking 500php from us. We asked him how come the fare changed from 250php to 500php when it’s just the same road back. He said it was uphill this time. We naturally didn’t buy his bullshit and walked until we found the next tricycle driver whom we managed to negotiate 300php with.

Over all, if the local government and locals themselves do not sort this tourist trap issue, then this place is not at all worth visiting – considering all the other beautiful places in the Philippines. Places with locals who are warm, friendly and genuinely helpful.

Currently, I do not recommend a visit to Taal volcano to anyone. Should the wind change direction though, I would be more than happy to do so.

See you around!

December 3, 2014

Trust Must Come First (Makiling Rock Climbing)

You must trust first before you can let go.

(c) Jirah Ruth Fermin
Freelance "wall"

Last Sunday, I was invited by my friend to a rock climbing activity in Makiling. Makrock usually organizes such activity every Sunday. Initially, I thought that we were going to hike Mt. Makiling (as that was what I was excited about.) Well, I was wrong.

After just an hour of walking a muddy trail, we arrived at the rock climbing and rappelling site. I guess this is it. No seeing Mariang Makiling today. Oh well, I’ll just return next time :)

Round 1. Holy Water 

I was still fully energized when I tried this area. It was not that easy nor that difficult. Thanks to my belayer who is definitely Best-in-Encouragement!

Makapag-good job and kayang kaya mo yan, parang feeling mo pro ka e. He was very generous with words of encouragement and praises. Now that’s a great job!

Round 2. Pendulum

Pendulum area was easy. I was just taken aback when I accidentally let go of my grip. I swing like a pendulum! Oh dear, my heart skipped a beat.

The scary part for me was going down (as always.) I have this fear of falling and losing control ever since. Remember Siquijor? Buntot Palos? And all the ziplines, rides, and slides that give me heart attacks.

That said, imagine my stress when my belayer shouted for me to let go. I had a mini debate inside of me whether I should follow my belayer or not. In the end, I trusted my belayer and let go.

Round 3. Ghecko

Ghecko was difficult. I couldn't figure out how to progress through the crooks. By this time, I couldn't pull myself up anymore so I had to give up. Nakakagigil!

Round 4. Rappelling 

The test of faith, trust, and bravery starts here. And I almost failed.

I really couldn't do it.
It was impossible.

Aside from both my hands and arms were wobbly already. I was also too scared to function. I lost my trust and confidence in my own grip, in myself.

It is impossible.
I really couldn't do it.

"You can do it."
"Yeah, you can."

The facilitators coaxed me into rappelling down. They have more faith in me than I have in myself. How can you say no to that?! Right?!

That said, I trusted them and myself - the rope, the rocks, everyone, and everything.

I guess that's how you let go - by trusting. Because by trusting, you understand that you're not completely losing control, you're just passing it to someone else - perhaps someone more capable than you are.

See you around!


I highly recommend Makrock. You guys should try it out if you haven't! It's probably not for advance climbers though. Woohoo, number 1 fan here! Hahaha!