Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Little Judah was already tired. He’s just three years old and he had this long, unwavering patience not found in most children. Lans had to tag the little boy with us because she was his babysitter for the day.

“Ban-og ka (Are you tired)?” she asked Judah in Ilocano.

The little boy shook his head a wee bit as we were trudging along an inclined path. Still, she lovingly gave him a piggyback ride on her back.

I was impressed with this little boy. He has been with us in an event full of adults, an almost childless place where he could have the right to be bored and display social tantrums. But I did not hear him whimper a sigh of complaint. I have noticed that this has been the personality of most Igorot people – they are not pushy and they are very kind. I wonder how well they were raised as children. I could see that Lans and with the other adults around him are raising him well.

Most parents today, especially those who the Igorot people would label as lowlanders, are quite confused with the thin line of discipline and cruelty, as well as kindness and spoiling children. I find some parents not being aware that their way of discipline is actually destroying them.

I had observed how some parents would berate and try to embarrass their children in public by calling them “stupid”, “fool”, or “useless”. A former colleague felt sorry for a three or two-year-old who was berated by his father by blurting out a curse just because the child accidentally spills his drink inside the jeepney. Parents who would scold like that would never discipline a child because they are just declaring who their children might be when they grow older. They usurp their authority as a parent because they don’t realize there is power when they are declaring names over their children.

I must admit I don’t like children who do not regard their elders around them. There was a five-year-old girl who did not give me a mano (the Tagalog tradition of children placing their elder’s hands on their forehead as a sign of respect), despite her mother nearly screaming at her to do it. In return, I could not help but glare at her threateningly to set down her utensils because she was already waving them before our faces (despite her mother screaming at her again). Most of the times, screaming and shouting is not the way to discipline them. I guess children are tired of their parents’ screams so they would taunt them by closing their ears. A sincere heart-to-heart talk is all they need because they need to understand the consequences of their actions.

Let me go back to little Judah. Now, Judah has an elder sister named Blessie. At one time, Blessie made drawings on the wall and Judah imitated her. You know how messy a clean wall can become when scribbled by a playful kid. Lans, in her patient nature, set aside Blessie and talked with her gently.

“Did you see the drawing on the wall?”

The little girl nodded.

“Did you see what Judah did after you wrote on the wall?”

No long sermon needed. By the sound of her question, Blessie understood her mistake. She nodded without a word.

“Do you see it’s wrong to draw on the wall?”

Blessie nodded.

“That’s right. You should be a good example to your little brothers because you are their ate (elder sister). So be careful with what you do. Ok?”

No raising of voice. Words were just spoken calmly like the morning waves of the sea. But it deeply strikes the conscience like an arrow. Blessie did not leave any marks on the wall anymore.

It’s tragic when our lighthearted culture dictates it looks cute when small children display tantrums around elders because they look funny. But tolerating that would only tolerate rebelliousness. That’s why when parents correct bad habits by the time children are older, these kids snap out of it and slap it back on their parents’ faces.

Much needed to correct in the way we correct our children. Somehow, most parents in my generation are not used to be disciplined because they belong to a generation waning away from the strict authoritarian rule exuded by our much older Spanish ancestors. They have created their own way of discipline. There is a need for parents to be aware how to discipline their children well without removing love out of their system. There is a greater need for parents to learn how to pass down good traits to their own children in a well-mannered and disciplined way.

I have this sense that our culture has a big factor in the way we react to correction and discipline. Truly Proverbs is already advising us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If we instil into them the wisdom to do what’s right at an early age, they will embrace it as they grow up. When we discipline them in the correct way, they will grow up as good-mannered citizens. With this, we can be proud of ourselves and with them, because we are adding up another history maker in this generation that needs deeper understanding on what is right or wrong.

Visiting eight destinations in one day may sound tiring but it’s worth the try. This travel tour on Facebook gave us the chance to take a day tour around three places in South Luzon: Batangas, Cavite, and Tagaytay.

1. Marian Orchard

This sanctuary in Batangas was our first stop. This place is perfect for peace seekers, as well as for those who are camera-obsessed. It would be good to stay here to medidate but that would be impossible if only 40 minutes were given to roam around.

2. Taal Heritage Town and Taal Church

These two are joined together as the 2nd and 3rd destinations in our bucket list. Like this picture below, many of the old Spanish houses in the town are well preserved. I would have loved to visit each one just to see what’s inside.

The church itself is the main site to visit in this area. But we were not able to come any nearer because we only had an hour…

…to enjoy a bowl of Batangas’ hot, steamy, special lomi. Lunch time, folks!

3. Villa Jovita

Participants in this trip were given the chance to take a dip and relax in this resort in Batangas. However, most of us were not in the mood to wade into the water, although we were given two hours to enjoy the moment.

I guess we love to capture every moment in our lenses instead.

The river beside the pool.

4. Fantasy World

Visiting this place is a wish come true for me. Who wouldn’t be curious to know what’s inside this mini-theme park? When we came in, we were stunned to see…

…fairies and wizards unleashing their power…

…monks of great wisdom gathering for a revolution…

…and, my, my! Be a queen for a day!

What’s best in this place is to be in your best OOTD with your friends.

Sadly, the theme park rides were all closed because of the rain and strong winds.

5. Gingerbread House

If ever Hansel and Gretel would visit Cavite, I’m sure they would poke their noses in this place. Fortunately, there’s no wicked witch to fatten them up. Visiting here is like having an early Christmas because everything here reminded us of sweet, childhood days.

The rain was a spoiler because it had caused a power outage around the place, making it quite a bit dreary. Still, it did not stop me from looking around the bakeshop that was peppered with everything cheery like this giant gingerbread man.

A Christmas dining table and other Christmas decors.

Make your wish upon this wishing well. The wish below is not mine, by the way.

If there’s something I would wish for, I would wish for loads and loads of money to buy everything here.

Instead, I had found out it’s free to fit in this gingerbread house.

They also have a souvenir shop (especially for the ref magnet hunters like me).

6. Diner’s Bulalo House

Any trip would not be complete without dinner at Tagaytay and any dinner in Tagaytay would not be complete without bulalo. It’s like a fitting salvo to the cold, drizzle that was pouring at that hour.

7. Sky Ranch

The last destination was this huge theme park. I would have been excited if it were not for the rain. Besides, it was already quite late to get in. At least, we had the chance to see it…finally.

Visiting eight places in a day is surprisingly possible. I just felt some of the visits were too short because we were given very limited time. I believe we could have had more time to roam around some of the places if the tour group was not late because of the early morning run. Still, I appreciate our tour guides because they were very accomodating and friendly. For a P1000 budget, the experience was not bad at all, especially when you’re with people you enjoy road tripping with.

Narrowing her eyes before the smartphone screen, my mom tried to take a picture of our Vietnamese lunch.

I chuckled at the sight. I thought selfies are for millenials. 

She then faced the screen towards the two of us.

“I can’t make a selfie. My hand is a bit shaky.”

For the first time, I did not instigate this picture-taking session. It’s her idea.

My mom belongs to the 70-year-old and above demographic who are thought by many to be slow, outdated and boring. When I encouraged her to use a smartphone, she was scared she would never ever catch up with the wonders of technology. But lo and behold, she has learned how to post and share a video without the technological wisdom of this Facebook guru. 

And millenials like me find it fascinating.

I could still remember the days when we were enthralled with the magic of text messaging. Our first phone was a walkie talkie-like Ericsson (yes, not mine, ours). It was heavy and bulky but I will never forget our fascination of having a handheld phone, especially we never had a landline at home. My mom used it to connect to fellow teachers but most of the time it stayed home. I then had my own Nokia 3310 phone in my last year in high school. It was a luxury then, even though it only had three games (Snake was my obsession, though). This is my very mode of communication with my mom, until my thumbs have mastered the art of fast texting. Fast forward through GMs and unlitexts, many people are relying more on social media messaging because it is easier to send voice messages, documents and pictures. It is also easier to use when reaching loved ones working overseas. 

I don’t know why most moms (and even dads) are more excited than millenials when they own their FB account. I have heard stories of friends who sometimes find it weird when their parents try to be groovy on their posts (like posting 10 shoutouts about household matters in a day, yep). Some of them have shared horror stories of parents berating their children through social media. I can’t help but laugh out loud when a fellow hiker told us his mother threatened him by posting on his FB page a news article about a mountaineer who died while hiking. His mother did not understand why he’s enjoying what she called a dangerous past time. It had surprised me that Parenting 101 could sometimes be attempted on social media (even for a 30-year-old guy like him). I guess technology has a way in revitalizing everyone. Perhaps, it’s a chance for our parents to try to relate more to us children. It could be their moment to express themselves through social media. 

My mom would tell me she only want an FB account so she could communicate, especially with my sister, who’s working overseas, and me, who would only come home on a weekend. She wants to see pictures of her grandchildren while commenting how they have grown. She would send me cheesecake recipe videos and watch out how I am doing by looking at my posts and my hiking pictures. Seeing her pop-up on social media from time to time is like being home. It’s communication on a higher level. But it still carries the same message of love. 

Soon enough, the evolution of messaging may take another major shift and the next elderly generation would have to grapple it again. I believe text messaging, social media and even selfies are not made for the young at all. That’s why it should never take it for granted. Let’s be thankful we have technology that can connect with everyone, even though we are ages apart. 

 


Round and round I watch with fascination

My clothes spinning like a froclic cat that tries to catch its tail

My hardships being cleansed by detergent and fabric conditioner

My convenient independence achieved with a higher price

I don’t mind waking up too early or paying too much

All that matters is that laundry brings me joy…

It’s been months since I have laid myself back from the rugged adventurer I’ve become. I wanted some chill moments and most of the times, I’m not in the mood to hike mountains. I was trying to keep my cool, complacent being in me until I nearly lost it at Mt. Marami.

Mt. Marami comes from the Tagalog word “Many”, given by the countless rocks sitting on the peak. Located in Cavite, it’s can be reached by taking a two-hour travel from Manila. It only sits at more than 450 masl (meters above sea level) but I have many, many reasons to complain about it.

The horror began when we reached the beginning of the six-hour trek. That’s only one way. As expected, it’s muddy, given the rains that poured the day before. Even worse, the mud go on for the rest of that dire stretch of pathway.

Horses are major contributors to the mud path. These animals are an integral mode of transportation to farmers or storeowners who own businesses in every mountain we have visited in the Calabarzon area (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal except Quezon). Their hooves would mash the wet ground, leaving no opportunity for it to be dried beneath the sun. 

Lans trying to catch (maybe to ride) a pony loitering around.

If this were an interactive trip, I would immediately click my mouse on the summit. The trek is not easy as Dora’s map that would go like, “Jump-off, registration, summit!” We have to pass by three rivers, rainforests, another separate registration (different from the baranggay), an endless muddy trail and a whole lot of complaints. 

But we won’t complain during picture taking…😀

Many picture-worthy moments have temporarily suspended many regrets for being in this trip, though.

This is how to clean muddy shoes.

If you think you’d see the tip of the mountain at the jump-off, don’t. Your many expectations will die before your reach halfway. Five hours later, we’re still a long, long way to the trek and we still have many, many rants to spew out. 

One reason we were so tired is because the climate was humid and windless. I cannot help but compare it to similarly long treks at Mt. Pulag and Mt. Ulap. If I had the chance, I’d be willing to take long treks and higher assaults at Benguet because the weather there is cooler. This kind of climate in Calabarzon would dehydrate the body and my two-liter water canister. 

I have crawled up the summit like a ravaged zombie…

Except when taking life-threatening poses for many, many pictures to be posted on IG and FB.

One thing I have enjoyed on this trip is my attempt to catch a few butterflies – on camera. I find it lovely when a whole bunch of them flutter around you, especially they are of different colors and sizes. These are the reason to believe nature is still alive.

I was expecting the trek returning to the jump-off to be lesser than six hours…

Until I lost my way…

Until it rained three times…

Until the horseman did not agree to let my almost injured friend ride on his horse because we can’t keep up with his expensive demand…

Until our lethargic tour guide just stared at my friend while she was struggling on the slippery descent with her strain knee…

Until I could not scream anymore because I only had the last drop of strength remaining in me.

We have many, many reasons not to go back here. I don’t know if this is part of ageing up or it was a bad choice mixed with awful timing.

Despite of the trauma, I had to keep the many good reasons I had gathered there. I had discovered my many limitations in regards to endurance while I had discovered the many good qualities of my friends, especially the boys who were very helpful with the girls in the group. Many lessons? Maybe it is about knowing I have many friends who have been worried for me while they wait. And these many friends who would cheer for me the moment I have survived the trek.

There’s no other place like Benguet. Sitting beside Baguio, many have fallen in love with this place because of its fresh air, scenic views, and alpine-covered slopes that resemble a bit of Europe’s fairy-tale forests. Besides that, Benguet boasts of giant mountains that defy the deities by touching the heavens. Among these is Mt. Ulap, which lives up to its name because it welcomes its visitors into the cradle of the heavenlies. 

Is it a deer? Nope. It’s a cow hiding as a deer. How’s that for an enchanted forest? 🙂

We left Cubao at 10pm to ensure we’d arrive at Benguet by 4 or 5am. First-timers are estimated to take an 8 to 10-hour trek on the mountain. 

The glorious sunrise was a wonderful opening to this long hike. Ever since my old phone has been damaged due to this poor writer’s absent-mindedness at the beach, I never imagined I would be able to catch again a momentous moment that actually happens everyday.

The hike was not as tiring as I first expected. It was one of the most refreshing hikes I had since I had my first taste of wonder at Mt. Pulag in 2015. 

The wind was cool enough to lessen the sting of the rising sun. I was surprised I did not consume a liter of water as I only brought a small canister with me. I decided not to tire myself with a backpack. I wanted to have the liberty of freeing my back from such heavy load. Besides, I enjoyed having my own stick, which I had bought at the registration area. I can be a good memorabilia after the hike.

There are three peaks at Mt. Ulap. The first peak already has amazing views itself.

Stone markers that tourists would like to build as proof they were once here.

Along the way, I took a moment to listen to the bird that was singing its praises to the Creator, who had artfully sculpted the beauty that I saw all around.

The Gungal Rock, which was the second peak, has been the most challenging one. One has to be loaded with guts to cross the sloping rocks to pose for a rocking profile pic.

Most breathtaking of them all is the last and highest peak.

Mt. Ulap would never be called as it is without the clouds that had slyly curtailed our wide-eyed, sun-kissed faces. The evergreen slopes beyond was playfully peeking behind those rising white pillars while we pranced and jumped around to get that perfect, perfect shot!

After going down a short but very steep portion of the mountain, we were finally relieved when we dropped by Mt. Ulap’s 7-Eleven. Oh, yes! More ref magnets to collect!

The descent at Mt. Ulap has been developed by installing makeshift wooden stairs. Lans, my friend who organized this trip, told me there were no manmade steps when they first trekked here in 2016. Mt. Ulap has just been officially opened in 2015 so it only took only awhile to improve the more dangerous path.

What I’ve appreciated most in this trip was the camaraderie that has been developed among the group. Most of us were unknown to one another at the start but most of us have became clingy to one another at the end of the trek. That’s why hiking is more enjoyable than beach. The challenges we face in the mountains are actually refining us to become stronger individuals and to make stronger bonds of friendship. 

Catching Dragonflies

I don’t know if most kids still know how to catch dragonflies nowadays. I doubt if any of them still do, especially those who live in cities where trees and plants are almost non-existent. It seems they have settled their childhood on iPads and YouTube, leaving me with the impression my childhood days were better than theirs.

Childhood for me was simple and bliss, peppered with memories of Gummy Worms, colored gum, matchbox cars and Japanese anime series. I never owned a game console even though I had drooled for my cousin’s Nintendo, which was filled with Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead, I had loads of playtimes at school. Huge old, mango trees gave us shade when we played touch ball and sipa. The green, growing grass that had brushed our socks and newly, shined leather shoes became home to curious little creatures like the dragonfly.

I don’t know the origin of dragonfly catching. It appears to be buried in the subconsciousness of every active kid born with sunshine and fresh air. My mom told me they also used to catch dragonflies when they were children. Now, it was my turn to catch a few of them. 

These little creatures were quick. While one dragonfly would brush its face with its front feet, I’d slowly and quietly sneak behind it. I’d usually spot them sitting on blades of grass. Snatching it by its wings, I’d then feed it with pieces pf grass. Once it stops eating, I’d let it go. Then, I’d catch another one out of thrill.

Green dragonflies were the most common ones. It would be an honor for anyone who could catch a blue one because it was rarer and quicker. Anyone who catches a red one would be the master of drangonfly hunting. It’s like winning a jackpot and the awe of your classmates when you catch the reddest of them all.

But I’d usually beat the others by catching more dragonflies quickly. One schoolmate once asked for my handful of dragonflies in exchange of chocolate candies I was asking from her (which I obliged for the sake of chocolate). But it was a horror for me to find some kids picking off this insect’s wings one-by-one. I’d never do that to a harmless creature. So, it seemed to be a waste for some kids at school that I would always let go of the dragonflies I have collected at the end of the day. 

These days, I’d only see dragonflies when I go on a hike. Unlike before, I would never dare to touch one because there might only be a few of them living in this sanctuary. But seeing one would always make me excited because it would always be a part of my simple and blissful childhood that might never be experienced by the next generation.

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