Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for January, 2016

Breathing Adventure: Flaunting the Worn-Out Sneakers at Maranat Falls

IMG_20160115_094909The tall grass scratched my bare arms and legs as I marched along the narrow, nearly faded trail. The heat of the sun was making me more exhausted as the trees were becoming fewer along the way. I was already lagging behind my friends though we were not yet halfway there. But I was not worried about getting lost. I was worried that my sneakers were about to give up.

These shoes have been my companion for quite some time. I bought them so I could have a nice comfty footwear in Ireland three years ago. Though this pair has been with me in a few adventurous moments, I rarely bring them along at hikes. Only lately, the signs of wearing out were seen on them. Despite of this, I thought it was safe to bring them along to Maranat Falls.

We have heard so much about these falls after visiting Mt. Balagbag. It was located at Mt. Maranat, between the provinces of Rizal and Bulacan, which was just beside Mt. Balagbag. In order to get to that falls, we had to take the same trail going to Mt. Balagbag, expect that we had to take a detour in the middle of the way.

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Walking among living stones

I was expecting Heidi, the friendly dog, to tag along with us again. But since we arrived quite late in the morning, she must have accompanied other hikers who came earlier.

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Though most of the area along the mountain was almost bare and isolated, it was slowly

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Seeing Norzagaray, Bulacan beyond the mountain

being developed as a habitable place. A few cottages can be seen, surrounded by landscape and little vegetable gardens. As the trail elevates, we could view the town of Norzagaray in Bulacan opening before us. Going further, the trail becomes more isolated and grassy.

Catching up with my friends, my shoes could not keep from being totally worn-out. At last they gave in, like twins crying out with their tongues sticking out. I tried to reach the waterfalls still wearing them but I could not keep them on my feet soon enough.

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When my shoes cried, “Stooop!!”

Fortunately, my friend Riza had slippers to lend me. Not wanting to leave my faithful sneakers behind, I tied them on my backpack. These slippers I was now wearing can have the tendency to become slippery when wet. Good thing the ground then was nearly level and dry. But when we were near the falls, that’s where I had to be extra careful.

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Mt. Maranat can be seen behind me. Almost there!

Lans and Rozi had already reached the falls by then, as they were quicker than us. Riza was also being extra careful while using a sturdy stick to support herself, as it was her first time to hike. Our tour guide, Mang Macoy, who was quiet most the time, had to assist me going down. I feel

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The falls! The falls!

pathetic at this, especially I am the one always assisted by tour guides and most of them were thinner than me. The trail downwards was becoming steeper and slippery. More thorny plants were clinching on my clothes and bag. I felt more exhausted, thinking that it would take an eternity reaching those falls.

But part of me wanted to jump off those rocks at the sound of trickling water. The falls! The falls! I can’t wait to dive into the cool water. Upon coming there, I had a sigh of relief. It’s better than discovering hidden treasure in a clandestine jungle.

We ate our lunch beneath the lush, green trees upon reaching the falls. I suddenly felt sleepy when the cool air surged on my tired muscles. Putting my backpack beneath my head and stretching my legs upon the cold, bare rock, I was lulled to sleep. The rest of us did the same, invibing nature into our souls. Oh, this is a dream come true!

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Such is the view when you lie beneath the clear, blue sky

When we woke up, I lost my urge to dive into the pool. I dipped my feet into the cool waters for a while, washing the tiny scratches on my legs. But I couldn’t bring my whole self into the water as it was too cold for me. Riza also watched from afar, too tired to bring herself down into the pool. We just waited for Lans and Rozi who had jaunted nearer to the falls to take more pictures.

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Posing at the brook near the falls

It was time to go back home. Once again, I was lagging behind. I was slower than before, perhaps because I did not have the time to work out. We’d have short breaks one at a time. But at one of those breaks, we noticed that one of us was missing.

Since we were already quite distant from one another, Rozi walked along the wrong

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When power ladies survive the hike 🙂

detour. She struggled to find a way out, which was already a dangerous trail. In the end, she cried because of the possibility of being left alone at night. By then, Mang Macoy was able to find her and bring her back.

Weeks after this hike, Lans and I discussed that we need to have training on first aid and other survival management skills. We realized it’s time to discard that tourist mindset when going on a hike. There’s always the possibility for the need of survival at these kinds of travels.

Towards the end of this hike, Riza and I lagged totally behind the group. Twilight was already there, and we could already see the stars peeking on the open, purple skies. It was totally dark when we came at the little baranggay hall at the quiet town of San Jose Del Monte. The town was almost completely covered in darkness. The light from the lamps looked like distant stars tucked away in those small houses.

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When dusk comes

I felt that we were in twilight zone when we rode in the tricycle. The road was eerily dark as we chugged along the rocky road. Yet, as the tricycle driver said, the people here are contented with their state of living. As long as they have food to eat and live well, there’s no need to strive for more. It’s a reality too far from the reality I know. I will surely miss this place again.

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I have to return the slippers to Riza. My worn-out sneakers are back on my feet. But I still felt comfortable wearing them again. No matter how worn-out something may be, if they carried good memories with you, it’s not easy to throw them away.

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Breathing Adventure: Friendships and Sunsets for the Lone Trip (Benguet Tour Part 2)

My two-day Baguio getaway was brief yet blissful, momentarily pulling me away from the reality that nearly freaked me out of my sanity. What came after my first BenCab Museum tour was a visit to a missionary friend I have not seen in years, a short walk in the night-cloaked city outskirts, and a moment of fellowship at my friend’s church the following day.

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The city lights glitter on the hilltops at night. Baguio is just one of the places where you can safely stroll at night

I emerged once again in the homey ideals that these lovely people hold, while vainly trying to understand Ilocano dialect. Competition was unlikely to begrudge the existence these people delve in; too far with what we Manileños strive for everyday. Little by little, urbanity has been setting in Baguio City for years. Yet, the unyielding purity of the city’s outskirts is just one of the million things that amazes me in this place.

The main reason for going up alone to Baguio was a small mountain my friend was telling me days ago. On the day I was to leave Benguet, I had the chance to go on a short trek on what they named as Mt. Jumbo. It was located at La Trinidad, a city beside Baguio, also best known for its strawberry farm. We planned to start the trek right after lunch. But due to the slow, incompetent service of a diner we came upon, we were able to leave for La Trinidad at past 3pm, a few hours before the sunset kicks in.

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Part of the view while going up to the summit of Mt. Jumbo

It was an easy trek, but my legs became easily strained after ascending a number of those small but steep man made steps. This is the consequence of not jogging for a long time. The cloistered trees, fresh air, and clear blue sky refreshed me though. Upon coming near the summit, the trees became fewer and the air became crispier.

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Going upward

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Racing towards the sun

I was surprised to find a few tourists clamoring upon the nearly bare, green, rolling hills of Mt. Jumbo. Some of them had tents set up, anticipating a clear, star-studded sky soon. A group had even taken horseback rides to the summit. We walked passed them as we clamored to the west side of the hill. The vast, industrial fields of La Trinidad opened wide before us, the golden sunshine painting it in bright orange.

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Beyond the rolling hills was part of the view of La Trinidad.

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The sunset gleaming over La Trinidad. This area once called the “salad bowl of the Philippines” as it used to be an agricultural area. Now, it is replaced with houses and industrial buildings, striving with the urban shift of the country.

I did not mind my short stay on the summit. In an intense moment of freedom, I did not dance, I did not run. All I did was flap my arms to feel the wind beneath them and watch the sunset descend behind the mountains in awe. But that moment of awe was broken when we tried to catch the sunset with our cameras.

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The sun giving us a final breathtaking view for the day.

The sun’s majestic exit was interrupted by the thick silver clouds that canopied over the mountains. Still, the view was breathless, for a sea of clouds surged over the adjacent mountains. It was a phenomenon that no city-dweller could experience everyday. Twilight was not far behind by then. The first sparkle of stars began to blink the moment we left the spot.

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The sea of clouds just behind me

It was a breathless moment. Though part of me knew I had to go straight to the bus terminal right after that trek, I strongly felt that my Baguio experience would not be complete without experiencing a known restaurant at Session Road. With that, I capped my stay with dinner with friends at the fine but affordable Solibao Restaurant. Should you end up hungry at Session Road, this is one of the places you should you drop by.

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Capping my trip with a great dinner with my friends Lans, Marian, and Angie. This Pinoy/Chinese group meal at Solibao Restaurant was too much for four ladies and yet it was very affordable.

The bus terminal was jampacked with people leaving for Manila. I was one of them. With me were jars of lengua, choco flakes, and strawberry wine — just some of the Baguio goodies I can’t leave without. As I waited at the line, I just realized that I have the capacity to travel somewhere far without a definite plan and still enjoy good memories of this place. Next stop? I won’t plan it up. All I know it would sure be better. 🙂

Breathing Adventure: Exploring Art in BenCab’s World (Benguet Tour Part 1)

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The roads fresh from the New Year’s revelry the night before, this bored little lady headed away from the still smoky lowlands to the mist-covered highlands of Baguio. I was excited to get out of reality for a while in order to experience a real holiday vacation, even if it’s just so sudden.

There were only two days and one night left for me in Baguio. All I just wanted was to go trekking with my closest friend from the far end of this country. But with the rains and fog covering the summit, my friend gave a few choice places to tour around. I chose all of them. For now, I can only share one popular tourist destination you can check out when you get to Baguio.

I have been going to Baguio a number of times just like almost every local tourist in the country. But, I had to experience the BenCab museum yet. So, I’d rather not miss this itinerary that day.

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This art museum is flocked by tourists and art enthusiasts because of the man who set it up. Ben Cab, or short for Benedicto Cabrera, has been hailed as a national artist of the Philippines. He’s been considered as a world-class Filipino artist as his works have also became known in different countries. In support of other Filipino artists, he built this museum for everyone to enjoy Pinoy art.

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It takes a 15-minute taxi ride from Baguio City to get to this artist haven. Though located in an almost remote part of a word-carving village, it was crowded with tourists that day. Entrance was supposedly at P120, but it was not yet in effect. Instead, we paid the original price of twenty pesos less.

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Inside was a kaleidoscope of ideas, emotions, and history clashed together through various artworks from different artists. Modern art had dominated each rooms. Here are just some of my favorites:

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“Feral Garden” by Roger “Rishab” Tibon. Not only are cat lovers captivated by this painting but every eye that pass by it

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“Tamis” by Emmanuel Garibay. If you’d look closer beneath the arms, you can guess where this painting is pointing at. It speaks of women and children used as private armies in places of conflict.

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But nothing beats this Lynyrd Paras artwork. I guess the title (which is already written on this painting) should go for the broken hearted and the disappointed in life 🙂

Art can never stand alone without history. And history carries the spirit of art from the beginning of time. Bulol, or rice granary idols stood guard in some of the exhibition areas. These carved images depicts the pagan culture of the Northern tribes of Luzon, especially in these areas of Benguet. This has been a common sight in this part of the country, but I guess tourists like me could only look and wonder at them.

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Sitting quietly around the bulol guarding this place

Just as I was amazed in seeing Picasso and Rembrandt in real life at Ireland, I was amazed to see BenCab’s works personally for the first time. Some of his works made me wonder…

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Talking to BenCab’s Tribal Art. “Who or what are you?”

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“Kutohan” by BenCab. Removing lice has been a tradition since long ago

There is also the Erotica Gallery. I guess I don’t have to elaborate what kind of artworks you’d expect there. If you’re bringing along kids, I’d suggest you’d read the signs in every room you visit — unlike some the parents who wondered why they were offended at the artworks in this room.

If you’re hungry (and had enough money for quite expensive food), you can visit the Cafe Sabel. But for thrifty tourists like me, I’d pass it for the moment. My friend and I roamed around a bit of BenCab’s little garden, which was made to look like a little prototype of Benguet’s rice fields and idyllic villages. We had limited access of the whole garden as the ecotrail tour needs to be arranged at the reception.

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A part of BenCab’s garden

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A little rice paddy at BenCab’s garden

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Strawberry fields forever at BenCab’s garden

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The mist covering the museum building

 

Though the mist soon spoiled the garden’s view, our tour was a worthwhile experience. There are more places to go, but I guess I had to keep you waiting until my next blog. 🙂

The Forked Road

My 2015 has been a season of risks. I have been in the middle of two roads for time and a time, tasting the air for directions. When once I thought that the road I have chosen will go on as a single path, it ends up in another forked road which I have to decide again at the beginning of 2016.

I have chosen the former path because I had soured upon the old path of conformity. I had desired new learning and prestige in another field. Somehow my prayers were answered. But as I consumed these past few months full of tears and struggle, I need to weigh again God’s real plan for my life. Was this His actual will or just His permissive will? I had to decide. Perhaps, I am called to another path I have been running away…and turn there.

Still, from this strange path that I have taken I will carry lessons and changes that has greater purposes at their ripened time. Wherever I go and whatever road I choose, I shall remember never to give up, to keep on running the race, and do everything for God’s glory despite of suffering.

At the end of every forked road I face, the dawn arises. Whether I choose one or another, I know that I shall find hope along the way for my trust is upon the Lord, who never let’s go of my hand as I walk in this path of life.

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