Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for October, 2015

Breathing Adventure: The Hills Are Alive at Mt. Batulao

12105885_10153646083967708_6014320311900404317_nIt’s been two weeks since I have not visited the outdoors as it’s quite rare for us friends to get together. The last time I had gone to the mountains was with a lone, close buddy. Still, every journey is memorable. Though it took me some time to put it into writing, I could still vividly recall how I breathed the fresh scent of the rain-drenched earth while anxiously waiting for the mist to clear at Mt. Batulao.

My friend, Lans, and I planned to leave for Nasugbu, Batangas at 4:30am on a fair-weathered Saturday. I had to stay at her boarding house in for the night so as not to come late. But since one alarm did not ring and the other was snoozed off a number of times, we left the house late, prompting us to go straight to the bus terminal at the Coastal Mall at Parañaque. This was the only sure place where we can get a bus that would take us to our jump off site at the Evercrest Golf Course.

It took a distressing hour before the bus left the terminal and a marathon of two and a half Resident Evil movies before we got to Evecrest. The sun, already high at 10am, signaled that we were late. A number of hikers had gone before us, already enjoying a refreshing trek earlier.

It’s remarkable how tricycle drivers immediately recognized us as hikers, directly offering us a ride to the registration site of

The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance

The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance

Mt. Batulao. Our huge bags, sleeveless shirts, and travelling pants gave them clues where we were going. It was a bumpy ride getting there. The rocky, yet mud-ridden track reminded me that I am in another home far away from home.

It is required for every tourist to register and have a tour guide lead the way. This protocol was only instilled a few months ago. Mt. Batulao was an easy trek that tourists could opt to travel on their own. But due to safety (and business) measures, new rules have to be set.

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My friend, Lans, and our tour guide, Reijel.

A number of our friends would have joined this trek if it not for our conflicting schedules. I guess it’s fortunate that only the two of us were ushered by our guide that day. Reijel (if I got his name’s spelling right), was a thin, ruddy, young man who amazingly volunteered to carry my bulky bag. I would not have

Not only were horses were the main trade deliverers in this area, but sometimes carabaos were used in crossing this muddy track

Not only were horses were the main trade deliverers in this area, but sometimes carabaos were used in crossing this muddy track

obliged if I had not been wobbling on the muddy track.

The horses that occasionally trample that path caused it to be heavily muddied even in sunny days. These beasts would

carry trading goods from the mountain, their hooves digging deep into the soil everyday. The path was so slippery we had to walk at its edges, checking if the ground was solid enough to walk on. But don’t worry because this muddy path ends before getting at the foot of Mt. Batulao’s first peak. The road going to the green, rolling hills was a bit rockier, drier but denser.

Just seeing the twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance made my heart sing. It was12143153_10153646083957708_5354685601593218194_n getting more scenic the moment we got nearer every peak. There were eight peaks to conquer, the highest summit at the last peak. Our guide lead us to the new trail, which he said was easier than the old one. True enough, it was easy. I felt like a little girl jogging downwards after every upward struggle.

One of the steep and narrow ways going to the summit

One of the steep and narrow ways going to the summit

These bare but scenic heights are reminiscent of Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Pulag mixed together. Mt. Batulao has become quite a favorite among those who wanted an adventurous weekend getaway and first-time hikers. However, the influx of tourists had encouraged commercialism. Almost every peak had a little sari-sari store offering shade and buko juice for every weary visitor. I would have loved to buy from them, but I rather not encourage them to do business in this part of nature.

The final ascent was the mountain’s crucial point. Some of the pathways become steeper and narrower; one wrong step can bring you plunging into a steep ravine. Towards the summit, there are two roped portions. You can climb those parts without the ropes though. I had to rid of the ropes at that moment. Reijel was strong enough to lend me a hand while I tried my best to get through that steep point.

"Rain, when are you going to stop?"

“Rain, when are you going to stop?”

Though the skies were becoming gloomier, I kept quite a slow pace as we got closer to the summit to catch my breath. But soon enough, it rained. The sunny morning was quickly drowned by an angry outpour.

Hikers cramped together under a little shelter made of tattered tarpaulin at the summit. Now draped in my raincoat, I silently waited for the rain to stop. Yes, it will in fifteen minutes…thirty minutes more…nope, it’s about to stop after an hour…oh, c’mon! Just a peak of the scenery below!

I had to give up waiting, eat peanuts and fruits with my friend, and chat with some of the stranded tourists who soon decided to descend while it was still raining. We were the last to stay on the summit, which was not in vain since we soon had a glimpse of Mt. Batulao’s rustic, green heads. We decided to wait a little more to clear the mist away, though we apprehended the slippery path.

Ironically, the weather cleared when we descended from the summit. Oh well, we

The clouds covering the other hills adjacent to Mt. Batulao is also a sight to behold

The clouds covering the other hills adjacent to Mt. Batulao is also a sight to behold

had been staying there for about an hour. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to get more pictures while the mist tried to cover us from the lens.

I just realized how the rain can make one’s body refreshed and revived. The smell of freshly drenched grass and the cool air made me feel even more alive. I became a bit quicker on our descent and I was able to catch my companions who had been faster than me at the first leg of the trek.

But the biggest challenge was the road going back to the registration

Lans being helped by Reijel walk on the side of the muddy path

Lans being helped by Reijel walk on the side of the muddy path

site. Remember the muddy path? Lans and I looked at each other with perturbed looks when we saw newcomers approaching us with mud reaching to their knees.

Our guide helped us walk at the side of the road, trying to keep us from the knee-deep portion of muddied path as much as possible. Mud was heaping beneath our shoes and sandals as we daintily took one step at a time. One had to wait while the other was guided to a safer point. We held on sturdy banana trees lined along the road while Reijel held us on the other hand. It was a tiring walk, much more to our guide who tried to hide his smile while we said jokes along the way.

The rain might have had its spoilers, but it also had its share of beauty. I guess adventures like this one made my trip to Mt. Batulao more memorable. As long as we do our best to be careful, these little irritants would not spoil the real fun behind it.

Too bad, there are no bulaluhan restaurants around the mountain (although they offered halo-halo in such a cold weather). Right after we washed and changed our spoiled clothes (and futilely cleaned my shoes), we took the bus back to Manila. It was going to be a long ride back home, which surprisingly was longer than the two-hour trek going up Mt. Batulao.

Lans and I tarried in our love affair with the mountains, mindless of the road that took us back home. Soon enough, we were already missing the outdoors as we are being brought back to the city filled with artificial lights that pierced the night sky and the smog-filled air.

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Movie Perspective: Revealing the Reeking Societal Cancer in “Heneral Luna”

heneral lunaI was never been a fan of General Antonio Luna. Known for his infamous temper, I ever wondered why he was enlisted in the roster of Philippine heroes. At the first week of the “Heneral Luna” screening, I dismissed it as another average period film. Until the social media buzzed with endless accolades for the film.

Although oozing with curiosity, it took me four weeks before seeing it. Notwithstanding the fact I watched it without a date (which I never ever had yet), I got more than what I’ve bargained for.

Much of the movie plot revolves on the Philippine revolution, which coincided at the close of the 19th century. Here was General Luna, pompous and ready to defend his principles — in a defensive move. Not the wimpy kind of general who would shrug his shoulders when the government was ready to deal with the American conquerors, Luna was stubborn to push the Westerners off the newly instituted Philippine Republic.

His ways in disciplining his soldiers, mostly the cowardly ones, and his laid back fellow generals was offensively harsh to many of them. Those who resisted his orders were immediately slapped with Artikulo Uno: those disobedient to the general’s orders can be subject to punishment and death without undergoing military court.

His defense on his stance offended many of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s cabinet members. This had triggered a conspiracy to eliminate the headstrong general. But one thing made Luna’s name forever etched in the pages of history was his love for his Motherland. Never mind the women that he had, the rough way he dealt with his enemies and even allies. Until the end of his life, he was brave enough to stand as a man for his country’s freedom and not for his selfish priorities.

With the the film’s quick plot, I was surprised when it ended after almost two hours. In a short span of time, every historical personality became much alive, and even personal, by the way the actors portrayed them. John Arcilla, who played the role of Luna, convinced me that the general was more than a rash character from my school textbooks. His eyes had this hint of madness that made Luna look much like him (add it with the general’s mustache). Yet, he had also embodied the other dimensions of his character very clearly.

No need to impose how realistic this film should be, as the facts in this part of Luna’s life was well narrated even with a few symbolisms, especially his assassination. (Oops, sorry for spoilers) Jerrold Tarog, the director of his film, had been ingenious in weaving history and relating it to our social consciousness. He had reintroduced a tragic but praiseworthy figure once forgotten in our classes. With that he brought an awakening to a demoralization that has never been cured until now.

This film showed us more than Luna’s character. Though it was not proven in history who killed Luna (though most viewers had implied it to be the president himself), his death had shown how much we are still dealing with the so-called cancer of society: treachery, greed, and selfishness. As Luna was eliminated by Filipino soldiers, the film revealed how his own countrymen was ready to put away unity for the sake of their own selfish agendas. So it is with our society today. I’ve seen this scene many times with our leaders, eliminating one another through character assassination. But I believe it’s not only hitting the political arena, but it goes out to all of us, as well.  Luna’s question echoes to many, “Kaya natin magbuwis ng buhay sa pamilya pero para sa isang prinsipiyong makabayan? (If we can sacrifice our lives for our own families can we not do it for our country?)”. What I got was more than a story, but a reality that we have to tackle and address.

I once thought that Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal (1998) was the best period film my generation could see. Jerrold Tarog had proven himself a genius in recreating a period film, making it worthy for Oscars. It brought back my faith that we Filipinos can create noteworthy period films that can be entertaining, mind-opening, and worth the sacrifice to see it.

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