Friday, March 30, 2018

The Northern Exposure (Ilocos Roadtrip)

Travel Date: March 20 - 25, 2016 (Sun - Fri)
Travel Buddies: Bagsy (Mike M)

Disclaimer: Another late blog but as they say, better late than never.

Day1: Mar 20 (Sunday)
Bagsy arrived the day before so we are both well rested and ready to explore the great north. We started out at half past 8 in the morning, traversing major thoroughfares and reached Pangasinan at lunchtime. We stopped by at a relatively new bulalohan after the last exit on TPLEX.  At around 3pm, we reached Ilocos Sur and passed by the famous bridge that was featured in one of the fave shows I was following the past months. We went to the old bridge and got lucky only a few came by. We got a few rare shots in the middle of the bridge and got the fantastic view of the mountains + sea + sunset all to ourselves. After satisfying ourselves with the instragrammable shots, we then headed to Laoag and arrived at our hotel (Gertel) at past 8pm. As soon as we settled in, we headed out to the city proper to have a taste of their delicacy and enjoy the colorful nights at the capitol area. As we got back to the hotel, we felt an eerie  feeling as we passed by a cemetery which we didn't notice on our way out. The hotel seemed a bit remote so that added to the uncomfortable feeling. It was a relief when we finally reached it and took a quick deep before calling it a night.

Day2: Mar 21 (Monday)

We woke up early to catch the famed sunrise and be there first before the influx of other tourists. Our guide Kuya Ronald of the Ilocos Lapaz Sand Dunes (contactable via their FB page and his numbers 0921 459 0190/ 0926 676 4686) guided us from the meeting point going to the actual site. Lo and behold, the sand greeted us with such surprise that you'd never imagine you are actually in the Philippines. It seemed like we are transported to the Middle East because all we saw are sand, sand and more sand.  We started with the scary-hold-your-breath extreme 4x4 adventure ride that is not your usual flat surface kind of trail.  Rough and bumpy, we held on to the handrails and shouted our lungs out.  That was one exhilarating experience worth trying again!!!! 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Banaue - Batad - Sagada on the Love Month

Travel Date: February 11-16, 2016 (Thu - Tue)
Travel Buddies: Les, Shiela

Day0: Feb 11 (Thursday)
They say it's better late than never. It kind of describe this almost 2 year delayed blog. It was supposed to be written on the year of travel (2016) but got too busy and lazy to really sit and reminisce the moment. Thanks for the FB posts that Shiela, Les and I shared that kind of gave me refreshed memory.

So here we are, three independent women out to conquer the north on the love month. Personally, I've always loved the north, more so the Mountain Province and Ifugao area. And this trip is a familiar one, having done this 4 years ago (see "The Sagada Connection"). So I'm excited to see what's new but also prepared for a strenuous spelunking. I warned the girls it's not easy so they kind of prepared themselves for the "punishment". Although I was familiar with Sagada, Batad is relatively new to me. Back when we had Sagada trip then, we only passed by Banaue and only got the glimpse of the famed Rice Terraces from one of the viewpoints that the local government had setup for the tourist. This time, it's different. We get to walk past these rice terraces and trek along it. Quite challenging it seems. And I told the girls I have no idea if this was arduous or a walk in the park.

At past 7pm, we met at Capitol Commons and booked Uber to Sampaloc where the Ohayami Bus Terminal is located. Then at around 9pm, we arrived at Sampaloc and waited for the boarding. At this time, we already have our tickets which we bought ahead (Note: There is already an online booking in the late 2017). After boarding at roughly around 10pm, we then settled and prepared for another thrilling adventure.

Day1: Feb 12 (Friday)
Manila - Banaue ranges from around 8 - 10 hours of travel so we expect to be there at 6-8am the following morning. Passing by major highways and expressways  (NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX), we breezed through a smooth journey after a few stops. Then at past 6am, we stopped by Lagawe, a  municipality that is a town away from Banaue. We were told there was some mechanical problems and told to alight from the bus and wait for a replacement. After the replacement arrived, we finally reached the bus stop at past 8 and we're told to register, a must for all local and foreign tourists who will be staying in Banaue including Batad. We saw our contact carrying my name  and off we go to Banaue town proper. We dropped by a restaurant for a well deserved breakfast and discussed the arrangements going to Batad.

At half past 9 in the morning, we headed to Batad, an hour or two away from Banaue via jeepney. I decided to go on topload for a more thrilling ride. Shiela and Les decided to be on the safe side so they stayed inside. Along with me on top are 2 friends and a Japanese traveler who seems excited to do this first time. Passing beautiful mountain landscapes and long & winding road, we reached Batad saddle at around10:30am. 

As soon as we arrived, there were several guide services offered and we talked to one of them to meet us at our inn after lunch for the Terraces and Tappiyah Falls tour. 

After the agreement, we then take 10-15 minute walk to reach the Batad UNESCO Heritage marker and another 10-20 minute walk towards our inn, Hillside Inn & Restaurant. The inn sits strategically on the center of their so called "amphitheater", known to have the most beautiful view of the rice terraces. We arrived at half before noon and took our lunch, trying one of the best tasting Tinola I've tasted.

After lunch and along with our guide we then headed for an exciting trek to the rice terraces and Tappiyah falls. I told the girls I have no idea how far and difficult the trek was as it was my first time as well. So off we go, starting with a light trek that traverses across rice fields, occasionally stopping by for some instagrammable shots and selfies. 

Passing along the edge of rice paddies, we reached the small store which serves as plateau and the last viewing deck for the rice terraces. What comes next is a grueling knee-breaking trek down before reaching another small store that serves as another rest area. After that brief rest yet another knee-breaking trek down before reaching a semi-gradual trail. After more than 2 hours, we finally reached the last resting area & all the ohhhs and ahhs were then replaced with wows. The falls, visible from the rest area, are a welcome respite for our tired feet. After a brief break, we then headed to the falls and took a well-deserved dip. After half an hour of a blissful dip and commune with nature, we then headed back and reached the inn at past 5,  took our dinner at around 7 and called it day at past 9, getting a well deserved rest for the day.

Day 2: Feb 13 (Saturday)
Good morning Batad!!! A beautiful view greeted us as we started our day and prepared for an exciting adventure ahead of us -- starting off with the breakfast and the amazing rice terraces in front of us. I'd recommend you have to try their local Ifugao rice, as we're told that they serve what they harvest within the area. 

And though we would have wanted to stay more, it's bye bye time and so off we go to Banaue for our trip to Sagada. We left at past 9am and arrived in Banaue just in time for the lunch. Soon after, we rented a van going to Bontoc and were told to ride a jeep going to Sagada once we reach the terminal. After almost 2 hours of never-ending zigzag paved road amidst breathtaking mountain landscapes, we reached Bontoc at half past 3pm.

When we arrived, we then boarded the jeepney going to Sagada -- this time I opted not to be on top load. We reached Sagada at almost 5pm, registered at the Tourism office and checked into Alapo's View Inn, where we booked the accommodation beforehand. After a short rest, we then headed to the Hanging Coffins, passing by the Episcopal Church, town's cemetery and the famed Echo Valley. After quick tour, we headed to the main road, trying out the Salt & Pepper restaurant's Inutom (pan-roasted chicken) meals. We ordered all 3 of their Inutom dishes (Rosemary, Mushroom and Chili). All was really good specially the Rosemary. For those who loved it hot, the chili will kick you on the first dig. The price is reasonable plus the ambiance is cool -- a good way to end the day.

Day3: Feb 14 (Sunday)
Good morning Sagada!!!! We woke up as early as 4am to catch the famed Kiltepan sunrise and sea of clouds, highly popularized by a local movie shot on the same location (remember 'That Thing Called Tadhana').  Our guide Kuya Frenel fetch us at 430AM and arrived at Kiltepan at past 5am. We were then greeted with hordes of fellow tourists, waiting for the same thing as we did. Seated  comfortably on a grassy hill, we waited for the first glimpse of sun which they say is one of a kind. Indeed it is!!! Morphing from the red-orange hue, the sun slowly greeted it's well wishers with orangey bliss, then ending with a bright yellow charm. We waited for the sea of clouds to come out as well to complete the experience but we seem unlucky for the day.  But despite this and the overcrowded tourists who came to see this beauty, we enjoyed the experience more than ever. We left Kiltepan and vowed to come back, hoping we'd be lucky next time.
Since we woke up early and still have not eaten a full meal, we were craving for a good omelet so off we go to Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant. We tried their Spanish omelet and Bangus meals and I'd say it's a super must try. Their meal included fried banana and mango which kind of completes the whole meal. I highly recommend their meals!!! We then headed to the inn to freshen up and get ready for the Cave Connection (Lumiang - Sumaguing Cave).

At around 1030AM, we started the Cave Connection with a quick orientation from our guide  (Note: A guide is a must for any cave tour for safety purposes). As soon as our guide lamp gets lighted, we started to maneuver into a small opening which can only fit one person. Kuya Frenel had to use his feet as the stepper for us to reach the flat surface. One tricky maneuver  led to another and another until we lost count of the challenges ahead. Kuya Frenel was a big help to every downslides and challenging turns we encountered.  Although this is my Spelunking No. 2  ( I was first here at 2010), the trail seems to be a bit different, somehow more difficult from my first try 6 years ago.

As we go deeper, it became darker, colder and scarier as we brace for more challenges ahead. Nevertheless, there were many "rewarding" sights that took our breaths away --- small dip pools, cathedrals of stalactites,  amazing shapes of stalagmites ranging from animal figures, curtains and that of a miniature rice terraces, not to mention meeting a lot of foreign and local tourists who are equally beheld by the beauty of this cave connection. I must say that more than half of the beautiful sights are in Sumaguing Cave so I recommend that if you do not want the Cave Connection, you can  just try the Sumaguing cave alone -- the entry and exit are the same.

Exiting the cave at around 5pm, we asked Kuya Frenel to drop us by Gaia Café & Crafts, famous again for the same movie that was shot in the same location. Perched among the dense trees with the mountain as backdrop, this vegetarian restaurant is a perfect place to commune with nature while munching for their delectable dishes. We tried their gaia barbecue and adobo rice meals & added their local food Miki Mi Na which is like a combination of bam i and canton. I must admit Sagada is a real haven for food lovers. Their Miki Mi Na is a must try. It is sweet and full of flavors. I also tried their soya café. I so loved it. This is one place I would love to visit again.

Back at the inn, we reminisced as how we fared with the challenges that day and how we bravely took it. Giggles after giggles when we recalled how we were carried by our new European friends back at the cave. This day was indeed extra special. Just imagine three daring girls out on an adventure and ended up spending Valentines thousand feet under. Just imagine.

Day 4: Feb 15 (Monday)
It's checkout time!!! But before heading off to Baguio, we made a quick pasalubong hunt along the main street and give a try to their famed Lemon Pie. We were told we have to order a day before as they only operate on a made to order basis. Despite this, we still made some good buys on weavings and souvenirs.

Before noontime, just when we thought we could immediately hop into buses plying Sagada-Baguio routes, we were proven wrong. We're told to wait for the last available bus which leaves at 5pm, which means more stroll time around Sagada.

And so a little past 5pm, we left Sagada and braced ourselves for another nauseating yet  exciting ride to Baguio. Passing by familiar rice paddies & amazing mountain landscapes and intermittent snoozes, we finally reached Baguio at past 9pm. Then at past midnight, we left Baguio, richer by experience, more eager and excited for future adventures to come.

Cheers to more enriching travels, girls!!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Batangas - Bacolod RORO Adventure

The Solo Travel (Homeward bound)

Date: Dec 21, 2015
Port of origin: Batangas City
Port/s of destination: 
      > Calapan, Mindoro
      > Roxas, Mindoro 
      > Caticlan, Aklan
      > Dumangas, Iloilo
      > Bacolod City, Negros Occidental (final)

Date: Jan 10, 2016
Port of origin: Bacolod City
Port/s of destination:
     > Dumangas, Iloilo
     > Caticlan, Aklan,
     > Roxas, Mindoro
     > Calapan, Mindoro
     > Batangas (final)

         So okay here we go…......     After a short hiatus to short travels, my feet are aching for some 
REAL adventure. Yes, I mean REAL! And what better way to go than a drive using RORO(Roll On 
Roll Off) back to my hometown SOLO. You read it right SOLO. :) So it's a double adventure so to 
speak  ---- a first on a drive using RORO and a first on SOLO travel. Way to end 2015!!

So off I go early morning (4am) on a Sunday Dec 20 heading to Batangas port.  Leaving Kapitolyo 
spanning C5 and onto SLEX and Star Tollway, I reached Batangas Port at around 6am. I was a bit 
scared, more of like a first timer jitter. I lined up outside the port together with the other cars and 
trucks. I am not sure if I'm filling in on the right line. I managed to ask a truck driver and confirmed
I was in for the right line (the line for trucks & private vehicles were in two separate lines).
Whew, sigh of relief….. Finally I am soooo into this.

     After seems like eternity, I was
finally allowed to enter the port at past 
10 & was onboard Montenegro lines 
at 11am. The sea was relatively calmer, 
inviting for a quiet retreat away from 
the lights and buzz of the city. Passing 
across lots of big and small islands, we 
arrived at Calapan Port after 3 hours 
roughly around 2 in the afternoon. 
Beating the afternoon heat, started 
the first leg of my land trip of Oriental 
Mindoro and drove towards Roxas port. 
After more than 120 km on a long, 
paved and winding road, I arrived in 
Roxas port at almost dusk.  While processing for the ticket purchase, I have to wait until 8 for 
the confirmation. The process (or the lack of it) seems to be a clear problem, not to mention 
the monopoly of one shipping company that operates in the Roxas port. There is not much 
decent place for waiting passengers and drivers, except for a few eateries outside the port gate. 
After submitting requirements (ORCR, payments, etc), I got onboard Montenegro lines and 
left Roxas port for Caticlan at around midnight.

Mirroring the poor condition at the port area, the
situation on board is far worst... 😩  Packed with 
passengers, there are almost no seats left for others 
and many have to contend standing and/or sleeping 
on the floors. roamed around the ship and every 
nook seems to be filled up. I saw people sleeping on 
any space that they could find. I was looking for my 
own "decent" place to sleep. I can't find one so I have 
to contend to sitting while sleeping. It was tough, 
given that it is so crowded, but  the breeze kind of 
calmed me a bit. I managed to get an hour of sleep, 
which is certainly not enough if you are driving 

We finally arrived at Caticlan around 4:00 AM and 
with hardly enough decent sleep,  I summoned all 
the strength I have and drove past the busy port. It was dark and creepy but I managed to be alert, 
holding on to the remaining mental strength have.  

After an hour drive, the lack of sleep slowly trickled on me. Instinct dictates one thing --- REST!!! 
So as soon as I reach Kalibo, I drove to a nearby convenience store to get a dose of a much needed 
caffeine and quick power nap. After the needed rest, I headed to Dumangas  which is  a 4-5 hour 
drive from Kalibo. Roughly half past 10 in the morning, reached Dumangas port and secured port 
and cargo ticket which was at that time boarding vehicles to Bacolod. Montenegro lines left Iloilo 
at exactly 12 noon. I reached Bacolod at around 2 pm. 

At last, Home Sweet Home!!!!

Batangas City - Calapan City
   129 (Port)
1,536 (Cargo)

Roxas City - Caticlan
3, 072 (Cargo)
       50 (Toll)

Dumangas - Bacolod City
1, 029 (Cargo)
     129 (Port)
       12 (Vehicle Pass)

5, 967

Bacolod City - Dumangas
     800  (Cargo)
     375.50 (Terminal)

Caticlan - Roxas City
3, 840 (Cargo) 
     129 (Port)
       50 (Toll)

Calapan City - Batangas City
1, 536 (Cargo)
    129 (Port)

6, 859.50

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Manny Pacquiao out-of-the-boxing-ring Saga

With all the hullabaloo about Pacquiao's opinion in same-sex marriage, people are beginning to question their opinion as well. I mean let's face it, if you're being asked about it, what would you say? Have you thought about it? Will you be brave enough as Pacquiao or will you just be one of those who remains a spectator or a critic. After all, the easiest thing do in this world is criticize right? 

..... So, have you thought about it?

Here's my take, and I don't care if you throw tomatoes at me or give me two thumbs up. 

As a matter of fact, I have lots of gay friends. And they are so so dear to me. I love them and never ever looked down at them. I cannot recall I ever condemned them for being gay or even for their acts. That is how I treated them, the same as any of my other friends. But just like Pacquiao, I am not for same-sex marriage as well. And it doesn't mean I don't want my gay friends to be happy. For sure, they don't need to be married to be happy. Marriage is not directly proportional to happiness, mathematically and psychologically. :)

Opinion vs Attitude. Differences vs Respect. They come in parallel.  They may not have the same goal but they can agree to walk on the same path on a different direction. The way I walk with my friends and the way we accept and respect each other. 

....... So NO, I don't think my gay friends will ever condemn me for my opinion (they might get hurt, yes, but condemn? I don't think so!)  They might not agree with me but I know they will respect it. The same respect I gave when they express their opinion that I don't agree with.  

...... So, citizens of the world, let's give Pacquiao a break. He already said sorry. For one, he was only expressing his opinion, albeit on a wrong set of words, to an audience of mixed variety -- conservative, open-minded, onion-skinned, opinionated, religious..... Lessons learned for him: know your audience and carefully choose your words.

.... Lastly, it doesn't matter if he earned my vote or not. He definitely earned my respect, this time not for representing the country in boxing but for standing firm on an unpopular opinion, risking condemnation and attacks on his person.

Good day Philippines!!! #DareToBeDifferent

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Maple Country

So it seems like a late post.... But I am.. super back.. Got a new laptop from a good deal in BestBuy Canada.. Oh yes, I'm in the Maple Country since July 4 and be back on the Pearl of the Orient on the eve of my birthday.. Anyway, I'll be posting, or should I say resume blogging... It's been a while. Now I'm back...

So to start with, the Maple Country is a good catch for a nature lover like me. It is a paradise, indeed. With impressive infrastructure, polite and disciplined populace -- very diverse I must say, this is one place that everyone should visit. Summer though, is still cold for me, please pardon me, yes, I lived all my life on a tropical land known for eternal summer and monsoons.. :) (except for the months that I was away on business to the Land down under, HK, Bali and Singapore).

It's a great start for a comeback blog. Will post more..

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mt Kanlaon, The Final Climb

Date: Sept 16-18, 2012
Location: Wasay-Gintubdan Trail
Buddies: Levs and Chummy 

Day 0, Sep 15, 2012

     Our 2P913 9AM flight to Bacolod via Airphil was rescheduled to 2PM, which means I have ample time for packing. Levs and I arrived at past noon and waited for Chummy who arrived 10 minutes before the
check in counter closes. At around 3 pm, we arrived at Bacolod-Silay Airport. I texted my father and told him to fetch us at SM instead. Boarding one of the many vans parked at the front of the airport, we dropped at the Manokan country which is near SM Bacolod and had a well-deserved lunch at Lion's Park. My parents arrived later and we then proceeded to SM to do the grocery for our food and climbing supplies. After a sumptuous dinner, we then called it a day.

Day 1, Sep 16, 2012
     We have planned for a 4D-3N traverse trek but due to conflict of schedule we just reduced it to 3D-2N. I told Chummy and Levs that along with my climbing group, MFPI Grupo Trese, we were able to do a 3D-2N trek sometime in 2007.
I presented them that pacing would have to be a bit faster than normal if we are to plan the 3D-2N climb. So we all agreed to just give it a shot. We don't want to do "rat-rat" pacing because we wanted to appreciate more what Kanlaon have --- a magnificient view and rich biodiversity. So at past 5 AM, we boarded one of the Mambucal-bound minibus in front of our subdivision. At around 6AM, we arrived at the entrance of Mambucal resort and met two of our guides -- one of those was familiar as he was one of the guides we had back at 2007 -- Paulo. Paulo then greeted us and told us that we just need to rearrange our packs (some of our loads -- especially the food has to be distributed) so we unload some of what we brought in. At past 8AM, we started the trek from outside of the entrance of Mambucal Resort. We had an average pacing as the trail was paved and had to pass through the tiny communities around the area. After around half an hour, we then
entered a somewhat familiar sight to me --- a Twilight-inspired scenery --- tall and slim trees (dipterocarp trees I believe) separated by just a meter or so coupled with an eerie sound of crickets and different flying faunas. The trail was gradual & slightly manageable, giving us time to take pictures and keep an average pacing. After barely an hour, the trail slowly becomes slightly steep as we made  our way to the thick forest. We then took our lunch when we reached the main highway that divides the lower and upper portions of the forest. The highway, which provided access to the geothermal plant and other forest operations was a new sight to me. I couldn't remember seeing it way back in 2007, which our guide confirmed to me. I am not sure if I was happy at the sight but definitely the trail was significantly altered.
After a little rest, we then continued our trek up until the upper portion of the forest. We arrived at the river area at around 4pm and our guide told us we have 2 options -- to set out an e-camp as this was the nearest watersource we have before the next camp OR we continue with the climb but we will be reaching the next camp at past 7pm and there will be no watersource near the area. We had a slight downpour before we reached the river so we knew that the trail up would be steep and trekking at nighttime can be difficult. Although it was a bit early to camp out, we decided to take option 1. I had a little hunch that we might have difficulty following our original IT if the rain continues to pour and with the pacing, there might be possibilities of aborting the summit climb. Although too early to tell, the group wanted to pursue the original IT so we planned to leave early the next day to make up for the time. After setting the camp, we then decided to take a dip on the river -- a slightly chilling one but nevertheless refreshing. Dipping on mountain waters have always been WAY too different from the city waters. The former's refreshing appeal cannot surpass any man-made water structures ever created. At around 6pm, we then prepared our dinner and cooked our breakfast the next day to save much needed time in preparation.
We doze off at an early time -- sometime around 9pm amidst the soothing sounds of the raging river and the not-so-sleep-inviting chirping of insects & birds.

Day 2, Sep 17, 2012
     We woke up at past 5am and prepared for our breakfast. Not much work needed as we already cooked some the other night. After half past 6, we already started to do break camp and continued the trek around 7 in the morning. The pacing again was a little slow as the trail becomes moist and muddy. We started to enter the exciting part of the forest -- the rainforest area where one can find various flora and fauna sprawling
along the trail. This was also the trail that would give us an initial glimpse of the vastness of the forest and the start of a heavy steep terrain leading to the famed Hardin sang Balo (Widow's garden). As we were making our way to the steep terrain, rain started to pour and drain us down. We decided to stop at the middle of the slope and took our lunch. [We tried to maintain a close proximity to each other to avoid mishaps and to gauge our pacing] It was still raining heavily and we had to endure a chilling lunch. After all, what we need at that time was sustenance. Albeit the refreshing feeling, the rain slowed us down and made us endure the gruelling & slippery trail up. We we're partially soaked up so we knew we can't rest for so long as we could risk having hypothermia. After less than an hour of lunch and rest, we then proceeded to the next camp, in what seems to be a punishing 3 hour ordeal. When we reached the big camp (which was once the old NPA camp), we discussed the option of camping out in the area or to a small place nearest the Hardin sang Balo or to continue the trek but might pushed us to the limits and possibly reached PMS Lagoon (the next big camp) at roughly around 8 or 9PM. The latter option was automatically dismissed. It was way out dangerous and scary. We decided to camp on the bigger site, which I remember correctly was the same camp we had on our first night way back on our 2007 Kanlaon climb. From there, I knew we won't make it to our planned itinerary but there were no discussions yet -- all we need at that time was to settle down and rest. After setting up the camp, we headed down to the river and revelled in yet another refreshing dip of nature's bounty.
We prepared dinner early and our guide Paulo told me that we need to discuss our plans for the next day. So after a well-deserved dinner, Paulo and a senior guide/porter, recommended that we abort the summit climb. First, he asked us of our scheduled trip back to Manila and reasoned out that we won't make it to our trip back to Manila if we had to continue the trek. He enumerated 3 major reasons: weather, difficulty of the remaining terrain and the group's pacing. We we're silent at first. For me, the reasons were all valid and the way we all felt were like silent frustration. I know that Levs was personally excited for this trail as I always told him the Wasay trail was simply breathtaking & I knew how he felt. Chummy, having known her physical abilities, can withstand the weather condition and the strenuous demands of the remaining trek. But as per our assessment, our pacing were not enough to make our target IT possible. With a "heavy" heart coupled with sour-graping and sweet-lemoning, we all decided to abort the summit trek and start the descent the next day. To lessen frustration, we resolved to forgo the Hardin Sang Balo view as this was really the highlight of our trek aside of course from the summit itself. So after the much-needed discussion, we started heading to our tent for what will be our last night on the whole expedition.

Day 3, Sep 18, 2012
     Breakfast was a little bit late as we are not in a hurry anymore. Hardin sang Balo was just 15 minutes away from the camp so the trek wouldn't require much from us. After past 7am, we then headed to the
much-awaited and much-talked about Hardin sang Balo. Reminiscent of the "Lord of the Rings", "Twilight" and some fantasy Hollywood movie, Hardin sang Balo is a sight that cannot be found anywhere else in the Philippines, on any mountain that is. Greeted by quick sands and mossy forest trees, one would be rewarded with an amazing array of bonzai trees lying and sprouting below what seems to be a caldera. The big opening was a welcome respite to the gloomy trail we had earlier. It was like a light shining on top of us and allowing us to see the beauty before us. The bonzai trees were all immersed with rain water, preventing us to lay down and walk on it (which is what we did on my first Kanlaon trek, it was summer and the trees were dry that we literally slept on it, climbed some of it and run around like toddlers). Never dampened by the
condition, we managed to climb through some of the bonzai trees near the area and took exciting photos that somehow made our day complete. Seeing Hardin sang Balo for the second time was an invigorating feeling -- just what I needed.  After almost an hour, we then headed back to the camp. When we reached the camp, we took our brunch and prepare for our descent. We left the camp at around half past 10AM and confident that we can make it to the jump off before the sun sets, only to realize that we are to go through the same slippery & muddy trail again. We managed to have our pacing a lot better than yesterday and reached past the highway dividing the upper and lower slopes at around 2PM. We stopped for a late lunch at past 2PM amidst the heavy rain and chilly weather. I was getting worried if we actually can make it down before getting dark but we all got ourselves ready for the night trek. At half past 5, the sun started to set in and the sky finally had its tears all dried up. Donning on our headlamp, we continued the trek down but this time the pacing was extremely slow -- my knees were aching bad and Chummy had her feet hurt as well. Two injuries ---

not a very good sight to an already gloomy ordeal. Taking slow baby steps and armed with a "Slowly but surely" mantra, we managed to continue on with the trek down. When we got past on the dipterocarp trees, I had one of the biggest sigh of my life -- a sign that we are near the jump off. The pain in my knees were just overwhelming and moving on for the last stretch was like pinching on an open wound. As we waited for Chummy and the porter, I contemplated on having Mt Kanlaon as my last climb, not because of the ordeal we had but because I realized I had more than enough mountain climbing experience. For 9 years & more than 40 climbs, I knew my body was giving me the right signal to let go. And there is nothing more fitting than ending it on the most beautiful mountain in the Philippines & a nice hot dip in one of the Sulphur Springs in Mambucal Resort.   

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Singapore-Bali Adventure

The Singapore-Bali Adventure
Date: April 20 - 23, 2011 
Buddy: Ann Lachica

Day 0 
April 20, 2011 

          My first out-of-country personal trip (my previous trips were business and were funded by my companies) was beginning to give me the ultra-adrenaline rush. My flight was scheduled to be around 6:25AM onboard Cebu Pacific Air to Singapore. Arrived at the airport at half past the hour of 1. Check in counter opened 3am and came into the boarding area at past 4am. At quarter to 10 in the morning, I got the glimpse of the beauty they called Singapore. From the plane you can smell progress and see order from the way the buildings were in place. Amazing! Yes, indeed Singapore is beautiful, from the cosmopolitan perspective that is. While I was at the immigration, I already took notice of my friend Cherrie Ann who was waiting for me. Damn, I think I forgot to update her before I left the house. So apologizingly, I hugged my friend the moment I saw her. So that was Singapore!!! Ah the air is different indeed! Cherrie Ann and I had a 6:35PM flight later that day going to Bali so we are short of time, so to speak. But holy cow, we still managed to do a little bit of city stroll. First stop was lunch at the building near her place. We then went to Chinatown and an Indian temple. After managing the short city trip, we got back at around 4pm and prepared for our Jetstar flight to Bali. At around past 5pm we already had checked in. Almost confusing trip as we we're looking for the "Bali" destination on the flight info. So yeah okay its Denpasar, the airport name that is. Good to go except for one thing --- I brought a new 500ml isoprophyl alcohol and never knew it was not allowed in Singapore. The officer apologetically explained to me that only around a certain mL is allowed. Oh crap forgot that thing! And yes my friend told me Singaporeans don't use alcohol... I should have left it and she could have used it instead. So seeing my alcohol literally being thrown at the trash bin ... that's a big OMG!!!!!! So now one lesson learned. 
         Cherrie Ann and I then boarded the plane at past 6pm and arrived at Denpasar Airport at past 9pm. While we are about to leave the last xray conveyor machine, we were stopped by 2 Indonesian officers after they checked on our passports. They instructed us to open our bags. We obediently opened our bags. We then noticed that it was only us who were stopped by these officers. What?? Why only us? My friend Ann was beginning to get irritated. I wanted to take things as calmly as possible but the way we are treated as compared to others can diffuse the most patient and understanding passenger there is. I need to be calm because my friend was getting angry already. Ann was complaining why only the two of us were stopped. The officers explained that it was a random check. Wow how random ha!!!! They place some purple light emitting gadget above our stuffs. They were checking for something. I was beginning to be scared. I don't want to be framed up for something I didn't commit. Oh I hate this moment! After checking the bags and running the gadget they had, one officer was looking at both of us and sort of reading our minds, maybe verifying if we looked like criminals. Oh no... Then after somewhat like forever - maybe the longest 10 seconds of our life, he said "Okay you can go now!" After closing our bags, my friend and I looked at each other and sighed heavily. Conversing in our local dialect (Ilonggo/Hiligaynon), 

"Ano to sya man? Gintulok nya lang ta tapos okay na? Ano to ya trip trip nya lang?" (What was that? He just looked at us and then it was okay? Was he just playing with us?), 

we expressed our frustation while walking away from the last exit. We then saw our local guide holding placards that bore our name. He told us he was beginning to worry about us. That's when we told him about our ordeal. While onboard the van, my friend Ann and I decided we didn't want to ruin the trip just because of some unfortunate airport incident like what we had minutes ago. After all, this is supposed to be an exciting trip. We asked our guide Andreas to drop us at some local restaurant. We were beginning to feel how hungry we were -- I guess that was the aftermath of being stopped at the airport. After the dinner, we then proceeded to our hotel which was located at the heart of Bali -- Melasti hotel.

Day 1 
April 21, 2011 

          We woke up at past 8 and had our breakfast at around 9am while Andreas was waiting for us at the hotel lobby. We left at half past 9 for the tour of the day -- Bedugul area. We stopped by at Krisna, one of the shopping centers on our way to Taman Ayun temple. Woohhh early shopping!!! We managed to hold off that shopping blood in us as we still have a long day ahead of us. Tough act it is! Not wanting to spend all the money we had on Day 1, we decided to head off to Taman Ayun temple. On our way, our guide Andreas told us that all Balinesse people have temples in every household. He also added that each temple usually measures around 3 yards -- the first yard have aisles and big houses for meetings and events, the second yard have gates that looked like two hands or palms separated & a tower, and the third yard having lots of meru or pagoda-like structure where the prayers are done. He also mentioned that temples usually have 3 openings, the middle for the priest and the left & right for the people. When we finally arrived at Taman Ayun temple, it was an exact personification of the temple that Andreas described to us.  Taman Ayun was a beauty in her own right! It stood tall amongst all the temples that we passed through along the way. It was classic and ethereal. Something divine and inspiring. Oh now I'm getting poetic again. Okay so after spending around half an hour, we then headed to Mantari restaurant around the Bedugul area where we are headed for the day's tour. Next, we visited the Monkey forest and had a "monkey feast" all to ourselves. Heading to one of our destination, we went past the picturesque Lake Bratan and welcomed by another amazing and unique site. Ulun Danu temple, a seemingly small structure was standing on the mainland surrounding the lake. What struck us and maybe almost all of the tourists around the area was the towering sight of a floating 11-roof meru (pagoda). Sitting on a small island meters away from the mainland and surrounded by the placid lake, the towering pagoda was surely a sight to behold! Such a serene and calming visual experience!!! After the visual treat, Andreas then told us we are off to our last stop - the Tanah Lot temple. Andreas said we need to reach the area before sunset to appreciate it's beauty. And true to his words, Andreas showed us one of the most dramatic union of sea, sun and cliff edged-temple - the Tanah Lot Temple. Located at the western part of Bali, Tanah Lot Temple sits on top of a big rock surrounded by sea water. When we arrived, I was simply awed! It was a classic favorite scene that every nature-lover ever dreamed of!!!! Whew I super loved it!!!! Ann and I tried to climb down the rocky stairs leading to the temple. It was low tide so we can practically walk around the small rock connection towards the temple. There were numerous tourists going down and climbing up the temple. After waiting for tourists to "subside" coming in and out of the temple, we decided not to proceed and instead enjoy it's beauty in the viewdeck. Sitting on one of the numerous restaurants atop the area, the view was just fantastic!!!! We lazily spent the rest of afternoon on the viewdeck up until sunset. We then headed to do some short shopping along the busy district of Tabanan before heading off to the hotel. Day 1 was super amazing!

Day 2 
April 22, 2011 

          Kicking off our day 2 at Bali, we sat in one of the cultural presentations that is unique to Indonesia - Keris and Barong dance. It started off a bit boring but the theatrics seemed to get interesting in the middle. There were some part that was a little off to me but overall, the presentation went well. It was after all a cultural show meant to introduce the Indonesian culture to the tourists. At half past 10, we proceeded to a batik store named Sari Amerta where we get to see how the batiks were made from scratch. We also visited some of the art galleries and art painting stores. A heap of good artists indeed! Andreas then led us to one of the gold and silver stores along Bali, the Chilok Village. There were a lot of good finds of gold and silver on the village but jewelries were not part of my shopping list. :) Next stop was Bali's version of our Banaue Rice Terraces, the Tegalalang Village. The terraces were only a small area of the mountain and not as significant as compared to ours in Banaue. We then headed to Kintamani for the view of their famed Mt Batur. We dropped by one of the restaurants atop the Panelokan Hills for the much-needed lunch. The food was somehow decent (combination of Chinese and Indonesian flavors) but the place was not "appetizing" enough. It was somehow a bit deserted and unappealing. Albeit the small setback, the view from above was still a refreshing respite to enjoy with. We then proceeded to the lake surrounding Mt. Batur which proved to be more refreshing and oh-so-chilling. The temperature somehow dropped significantly. Whew...... At around 3pm, we went on to the Taman Agro district that is well known for their civet coffee and other natural produce. As tourists, we got to enjoy free taste to some of these produce --- ginseng, bali coffee, ginger, chocolate, cocoa, lemon grass tea. After half an hour of strolling around, we then moved on to Tampa Siring, a popular destination where you can find the Tampa Siring Palace designed by their famous architect Sukarno. The President, as Andreas explained can stay and use the Palace. We walk passed the Palace and went to Tirta Empul temple --- a sacred place for the Hindu Balinese where they get to gather for their bath and prayer. It was a totally new experience for both Ann and myself -- an introduction to the whole Hindu spiritual experience. Worthy educational tour indeed! After the temple trip, we then headed to Sukawati, the center of handicrafts, clothes, bags and other souvenir items. Andreas advised us to haggle as some traders would give a higher price to foreigners. Oh well, Ann and I are both used to haggling so that shouldn't be an issue. After a few items bought, we then headed to our much-sought Bali spa experience. Andreas said it was around 2-3 hours of sauna, jacuzzi, foot and body massage. So off we go to try out the authentic Bali spa - a much needed massage after 2 days of strolling around Bali. One word of advise though, do not get your expectations too high. I mean, I've been to a lot of different massage and spa back in Manila so I was kind of expecting a bit "authentic" or unique to the Bali spa. Truthfully, there was really nothing spectacular or unique to it. I mean it was good in a holistic way but that was it -- the same spa experience that you can get from Manila or anywhere in the Philippines. So a little bit of disappointment in that department .... Notwithstanding the too much expectations not met, Ann and I still managed to feel good after the spa experience. And now for our final evening in Bali --- a well-deserved dinner by the beach. Quite romantic except that my friend and I do not have our significant others by our side. Ann and I recalled a similar dinner-by-the beach experience in El Nido with some college friends a year earlier. So there we were, hoping that someday when we get back to Bali, it would be with our significant other...Before leaving for the night, we had a nice chat as well with our guide Andreas who was as accomodating and friendly to us throughout the whole trip. Walking passed all the tourists and locals alike in the beach shore, we headed back to our hotel and ended our last night in Bali with nice and memorable swim by the hotel pool. 

Day 3 
April 23, 2011 

          For our last day in Bali, Ann and I decided to stroll around the Legian beach which is the nearest from our hotel and did some last minute shopping. I am not sure if the beach that the foreigners are raving about was the Legian beach because honestly, it pales in comparison to the beaches in the Philippines. We saw a few Caucasians, probably Aussies who were enjoying the waves. Oh yes, I guess those were really for surfer type of beach. So yes, for Filipinos or tourists who have been to Boracay, Palawan, Camiguin, Caramoan, Cebu or Bohol, please don't set AGAIN your expectations too high. You might get disappointed big time. Really!!!! So yes, after a 4day-3night trip to Bali, my friend and I bade goodbye to our friendly guide Andreas and checked in for our flight back to Singapore. After paying the terminal fee (which we didn't see coming), we boarded the same plane (Jetstar) To Singapore. This time, we had a better treatment from the immigration officials. Big thanks to a popular Filipino singer Christian Bautista who was a favorite of the immigration officials who handled us. I actually got one of them to sing his favorite Christian Bautista songs. That was a better way to end an exciting Bali trip with one of my super best friends, Ann. Coming back to Bali is an option but it has to be with my significant other. :)