Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for November, 2016

Breathing Adventure: Going Back to Mt. Manalmon and Mt. Gola

The rain has passed but the mud was all around my shoes and my pants. I struggled around the slippery rocks that littered the trail. I have returned here for the second time but everything seems to have changed at Mt. Manalmon.

 

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The almost level but muddy path at Mt. Manalmon

It’s been more than a year since my friend and I hiked Mt. Manalmon at San Miguel, Bulacan. This time, we came back with a bigger group and we went on a twin-hike from Mt. Manalmon to Mt. Gola.

 

Since both mountains have an estimated height of nearly 200 MASL, it should be the easiest of all easy climbs. But without proper exercise, I have quite struggled on the way.

The path, still damp from the two-day rain, was sodden and muddy. Our tour guide, Winter, began the trek on the safer side of the trail, opposite to the one we had taken on our first visit. He cautioned us a twin hike is impossible if the river remained too high to cross. Arriving before 6am, the still grey sky would not give a hint if it would rain or not.

Gladly, the assaults were not steep enough to add to my burden. Most of the trek were on an almost level path. The initial part of the trail was covered with man-made stairs. The trouble with this kind of trail is that this would become dangerously slippery during rains. I was in bigger trouble because my shoes were designed for the muddy trail, not for the rocky path. Even though the trail would lead us to the muddy path, most of it constituted of rocks – huge ones mostly.

The very summit of Mt. Manalmon itself could be reached by scrambling on a gigantic boulder sitting atop of it. Despite the struggle, there is still romance in every second chance. Thin wisps of clouds playfully hovered over the vast beauty of Biak-na-Bato National Park before they completely shy away from the rising sun. The winding Madlum River was sparkling beneath the fresh, golden sun rays. On the other side was Mt. Gola, a mountain I have wished to trek the first time I reached the peak of Mt. Manalmon.

 

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The view on top of Mt. Manalmon. Mt. Gola is the one covered by clouds.

 

Mt. Arayat, one of Luzon’s highest peaks, could be seen on the opposite distance. Seeing its silhouette stirs up the hope in me that soon enough, I’ll be ticking this mountain off my bucket list.

 

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The silhouette of Mt. Arayat saying hello from afar.

 

After a breakfast of eggs and boiled bananas, we headed to Mt. Gola. I did not expect bigger challenges going there.

To reach the other side of the mountain, we had to cross a portion of the Madlum

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Crossing the river.

River. It is important to have tour guides on this trip because they could judge if the waters are safe enough to cross. The river was almost reaching our waists. We had to hold on to one another to keep each other from being carried away by the current.

 

We kept on walking on level ground until we came upon a roped segment that welcomed us halfway to Mt. Gola’s summit.

 

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Struggling at the roped segment.

This walkway, covered with another gigantic boulder, has become more slippery because of the rain. The key here is to step on the rougher portions of the ground to ensure footing. Taking time would be a better idea because racing with other hikers would only mean trouble. But going up and down on this portion made me completely exhausted, partly because I was battling the thought of falling down.

 

By 9am we have reached the tip of Mt. Gola. The sun was already glaring on the bare side of the peak. Completely tired, I just stared at the blue skies and the green horizon.

We have taken the same trail upon our return to the jump-off. We ended the traverse by 12nn but there are still plenty of adventures to try.

 

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The view on top of Mt. Gola.

 

Let me re-introduce to you the monkey bridge.

 

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Crossing the monkey bridge.

This is the same hanging bridge we had crossed a year ago. If this reminds you of a milk ad where schoolchildren are crossing a bridge made of thin wire, this is the exact spot where the commercial was shot. This time, tour guides required tourists to put on harnesses. Now, I’m proud of myself for crossing it last wear without such safety gear. There are still no fatal accidents at the monkey bridge yet but the tour guide told us they have to put safety measures to ensure zero fatality.

 

The key for crossing the bridge is to hold onto the wire. It gets wobbly in the middle but I kept myself entertained with raucous tourists splashing into the river while whistling a silly tune to call the wind.

Once we have ravished at the sight of fun at the river while crossing the bridge, wp-1480254088080.jpgit’s our turn to dip into the waters.

Maybe not.

I just wanted to watch the others while I tried to remove the mud off my shoes by dipping them into the water. But a small brown butterfly kept on bothering me as it kept on landing on my cellphone which was covered with a bright red casing.

wp-1480254107478.jpgI tried to lure it to land on my friend’s phone covered in black casing. The little fellow ignored it. Instead, it kept on dancing around me and my cellphone.

And so I let it land on my finger.

I have a theory it must have been attracted to me and my phone because of the bright colors we’re donned in. Maybe, it thought I was a gigantic flower sitting on the riverbank with lots and lots of nectar. Sorry little, fella. Try a real flower.

I’m glad to return to this place again. I am thankful because the Lord answered our prayers for fair, rainless weather. I am looking forward to exploring more of my hometown next time. 🙂

 

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The whole team posing on top of Mt. Gola.

 

The Magic Of Dinner Over Movies (Ninth Bite): Dwelling in Milkshake and Burger Haven at Kitchen Central

Fairview is one of the places I rarely visit because it’s too far from my very familiar domain called EDSA. My feet would only get the chance to touch its ground when I have a date with some of my closest friends who live there. And so, for the sake of friendship (and food), I’m willing to get off the familiar road at times.

 

My friend, a former colleague at a television company I was employed, urged me and another buddy to try Kitchen Central. I would have honestly chosen SM Fairview because it’s a more familiar territory in my radar. But she convinced us this haven of milkshakes and burgers is worth the sacrifice (well, the pictures said so).

 

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Death By Double Choco

 

The Kitchen Central was a little café tucked alongside other eateries in a tranquil subdivision at Lagro in Fairview. It’s actually one of the many branches scattered across emerging food lofts in Manila. Despite its small space and almost unnoticeable sign, a long queue of young foodies would always crowd outside.

 

Everyone can’t help but giggle with excitement when it had opened its doors.

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Coffee Latte

Despite starting operations nearly 30 minutes late than its usual opening time at 3pm that day, it did not stop eager and hungry foodies from filling up every nook and cranny. Besides, I was dying to see if the pictures are more than just eye candy.

 

When the milkshakes came, my eyes nearly popped out. My, my! These sweet and creamy treats would bring the childhood out in us as we pick on the Nips, cookies and colored candies intricately laced on the lid of the mason jars. Childhood favorites like Flat Tops and pretzels sat atop the whip cream. Who would not

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Cocoa Match Madness

have died of sweetness after lavishing Death by Double Choco (Php150) that night? My other friend had chosen Coffee Latte (Php75) as she was being careful in taking in too much sweets. I had fun picking the green candy sprinkles off the lid and soiling my fingers with the Matcha Kit Kat sitting on my Cocoa Matcha Madness (Php150).

 

The star of our meal was the Monster Jograts Burger

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Meaty Fries

(Php330). It’s one humongous burger enough for four people. Even the burger itself was just as fancy because it was not painted in normal bun colors. We watched with amazement as yellow, pink, purple and black burgers were served on other tables. Ours was as red as Planet Mars with edges oozing with streams of yellow, molten cheese. We had the trouble cutting it into smaller pieces because of its size. But we also had the trouble eating it without being messy. Meaty fries (Php80) came last. This time, we had to use forks because it was overflowing with barbeque sauce, crushed beef patties, and more cheese!

 

 

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The real challenge: the Monster Jograts Burger!

 

Although the place lacks the furnishings of homey or hipster restaurants, the food itself was an experience. My friends and I spent hours catching up as we nibbled on the treats and savored the burger. It would not lack flavor, especially giant bottles of Heinz Ketchup and mustard are conveniently waiting on every table. I must admit I was nearly defeated by that burger. Because of its size, I had to debunk plans to consume shawarma later that night.

 

The night was falling. More young, hungry foodies are queuing outside the Kitchen Central. I am convinced that dropping by there was worth the sacrifice. And I’m sure these people in the line would agree with me.

I wonder when would be our next date. Can’t wait to try another milkshake. By that time, I’m sure I’ll be more ready for the burgers at Kitchen Central.

 

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Food would not be memorable with April and Noelle, with little Danilla tagging along

 

 

Leaving Neverland

 The deep voice of Uncle Ben resonates from nowhere, “Where there’s power comes great responsibility.”

I turn away from the door to run back to my bed that is now running away from me. I try to spin some spider webs while the ground gives way into the deep abyss. I scream but no voice comes out of my open throat. The alarm goes off.

BANG!

My head spins as it hits the roof of the double decker bed while I reach for my phone. I was in my boarding house. I am on my own.

Welcome to the independent life. A life without Mom and her cooking. A life without my comfy bed and my hugging companion, Eeyore. A life where I have to stand alone and make my own decisions.

For the first time in my 31 years of existence, I have decided to move away from home.

Sounds ordinary, but it’s one of the dilemma of those who belong to the so-called Peter Pan generation. Going independent is a leap of faith to the likes of us.

Being in the Peter Pan generation sounds funny to some. According to social scientists, this is the new “adultescent” generation. We are the 25 to 40 year old age bracket people who are afraid to grow up. We change from one job to another. We don’t marry early. We don’t want to have children of our own. And we live with our parents.

Changing all that would mean bigger responsibilities. 

I don’t really have a solid conclusion on how this Peter Pan generation came up to be. Living with parents until one gets old is embedded in the Asian culture. But it has gone way beyond exaggerated as most of us have become dependent on our loving parents whose hands were not made of iron just as their predecessors were. 

I wonder if we have been too pampered by the generation ahead of us. If you would look back at the generation living in the 1950s (ever seen some flicks from Sampaguita Pictures, anyone?), parents are stricter and harsher. Some of them don’t give entitlements or even choices to their children. They have the authoritarian mindset which came straight from our Spanish predecessors. They got strict daily timelines and opposing them would mean punishment. Some parents would not prioritize their children’s education, more so their dreams. Yet, my Mom, living with such parents herself, would yearn for the simplicity of those ages. Radio and television were considered luxury. A short black and white episode of the Road Runner was enough to keep her entertained when she was in elementary. They didn’t have preservatives to worry about. Children could have nature as their playground. People can stroll safely under the moonlit night without fear of muggers (unless they were overly fed with a diet of aswang and capre stories). Choices in life were not so complicated and men lived in grand contentment. 

Then come 1970s and 1980s. This is the generation who have been opened to more choices, more opportunities, and greater prospects of prosperity. This is the generation who did not want their children to experience the harshness and the poverty they have endured during their youthfulness. They have built more movie houses and added color to popular Darna flicks. The human palette wanted a boarder menu that’s why they added burger and fries to their diet. They wanted their children to play more dynamic toys by introducing Nintendo and G.I. Joe action figures. This is the generation who wanted to see grander horizons. This is the OFW generation. And that almost faded picture of your mustached dad wearing oddly-sized bellbottom pants and Ray Ban shades while proudly grinning in the middle of the empty, sandy background in Saudi Arabia is living proof of this generation.  

Then the millennials were born.

If the OFW generation were given more choices, these choices doubled for the millennials. From schools, toys, malls, restaurants, movies, activities, and more stuff, our eyes ogled as we confuse ourselves by choosing which is the best for us (which would still depend on the budget). We are living in a world that has suddenly become fast paced, right after our OFW dads and moms have brought in the luxuries and competitiveness of the global market. We wanted to achieve more, that’s why we multitask (like watching TV with a burger in mouth while putting clothes in a running washing machine). We tend to move faster because we think everything is urgent (except for EDSA). And because of the vast list of choices given to us, we have a lifetime to choose which would match our passion, capability and needs. This is the reason we can’t settle down. And yet most of us are afraid of the more essential responsibilities in life. 

I don’t mean this generation is lazy. In fact, we are active, sociable and passionate. By the time we reach 30, we continue to explore ourselves by travelling, learning new hobbies, or showcasing discovered talents. But we are afraid of deeper connections, higher promotions, or breaking off from the comfort zone. When one gets married, here comes bigger responsibility. When one becomes the boss of a company, here comes bigger responsibility. When one owns his own house and lives alone, here comes bigger responsibility. We are afraid of making mistakes. We are afraid of judgement when we screw up in our responsibilities. That’s why we’d shy away from them. 

But that should not last forever.

One day, Peter Pan has to leave Neverland. The magic of childish freedom and fairy dreams did not keep Wendy and the Lost Boys in the island forever. Soon enough, the boy in green tights will realize that their wooden swords were nothing compared to an opponent bigger than Captain Hook – and its name is responsibility.

It’s not an enemy. It’s a friend. But most of us – the so-called Peter Pan generation – believe we are not worthy of it. We are afraid of failing. We are afraid it would turn against us and kill us completely if we don’t meet its criteria. 

Wrong. It’s the mindset of perfectionism, which we don’t admit, that’s killing us.

Even Dr. Strange himself, a brilliant man, thought he has to be ready before taking up a bigger responsibility. Talking with the Ancient One for the last time, she told him she does not see his future but she sees in him a purpose.

“But I am not ready.” He admits.

“No one is ever ready.” She answers.

It does not take one to be ready to grow up. It does not take one to be ready to become more responsible. It just takes courage. Deciding to jump into it is death defying. Getting there is fulfillment. 

And yes, I feel fulfilled when I could handle my own budget, do my own shopping, and finish washing my clothes. Getting into a whole new scenario in life is a leap of faith for me. Deciding to live alone is just one step into bigger destinies. And I have to take them one step at a time. 

But still, I can’t wait for Saturday. No matter how I prepare food for myself, nothing beats Mom’s friend rice, hotdogs and eggs for breakfast.

Pressured To Marry

She’s nice. She’s cheeky. She’s bubbly. She’s your typical story-filled housewife who got some good cooking. Until she blurts out. “What a beautiful girl! Does she already have a husband?”

Ok. I’ve encountered this question a hundred times. This time, she was asking my mom while she was eyeing me whose head to toe is donned in my favorite yellow, flowered dress. “No.” My mom replied as a matter-of-factly.

“That can’t be,” she gasped, just like any typical gossip-obsessed housewife. It came with that typical warning that never failed my irate eyebrow rocket towards my hairline, “You’ll grow old a spinster. You should have children.”

With that sympathizing look, she made me look like another human casualty in the evolution of genetics. Fine.

If I would point out my argument in the middle of that dusty, rural street she would never understand. Just like hundreds of married people who have asked me that same question.

I just couldn’t understand why they have to pressure me with that farcical question.

Our Asian culture dictates women to marry at a young age. Women at their thirties are considered too old to marry, more so get a boyfriend (I’m sure I’d be fatally labelled a “leftover woman” in China). As time and culture evolves, women are becoming more empowered, independent and are given more choices to challenge themselves outside the confinement of motherhood.

I am one of those women who have chosen that path.

Of course, that does not mean I don’t want to marry. I would like to fall in love and be loved. I would like to see myself wearing a wedding gown and kiss the man who is destined to be The One. But I am not in a hurry. Why should I marry if I am not in love and no one’s in love with me?

Just like many modern women today, we are given a wide range of choices and paths to take. Be the CEO of a prestigious company. Go into extreme sports and adventure. Explore the Mariana Trench. Manage fifty lucrative businesses. Achieve the Air Force with flying colors. Claim the Miss Universe crown. Win a presidential race. Save the world.

This is the viewpoint of women (and even men) who live and work in the metropolis. But not those who live in the rural life.

I would honestly never forget my chagrin when a member of the Badjao community had told me I should get married so I can have kids who would bury me when I die. Girls as young as 13 are marriageable to this group of people while 18-year old ladies are considered a spinster among them. I could not believe the limited perspective these people have nurtured throughout generations. 

This line of thinking is almost similar to the people living in my community. Partly rural and partly urbanized, most residents living here are below middle-income earners. Some were not finished in schooling. Basically, their choices are limited, as well as their resources. This leads them to the pattern of living-eating-marrying-working-have kids-die.

Ok, it does not mean one dies immediately after giving birth. But my point is most of them believe this is the same pattern everyone should go through. And every women should marry in the age history had dictated on man.

Or maybe, the age that our ancestors have dictated on man.

“Thirty! You’re too old to get married.” Rolls eyes.

“I’m married at 18 but I’m happy.” That’s your happiness, not mine.

“Would you like me to recommend somebody?” Shows me a picture. Throws up in the trash bin.

“You should marrying –” Shhhhh!! I don’t have a boyfriend! You mean I’d marry my toenail?!?!

I have sighed endless of times at those sickening questions. Gentle warning, some would say. But for me it’s the gripping reality on how limited a cultural perspective could be. 

I am not in a hurry to get married. I don’t worry about not having children. Too many marriages are broken because they have served their own selfish urges or followed the dictation of society without testing it through wind and fire. Marriage comes with careful consideration, prayer, commitment, and refinement. 

No one could ever understand when one is different among them. A single lady living among married contemporaries is as odd as the house of the Mad Hatter standing among the same tattered houses. Society dictates us to go through the same path they have gone through. They call it normal. I call it boring.

One’s destiny should not be dictated by the majority who knows no other way out of the box. Our age and status is not the basis of our purpose in life. Man’s judgement is not the fulfillment of things. No one has the right to taint the purity of our choices as only we ourselves can understand why we have chosen this path that’s different from them. Only God knows the best for us and society can never grasp that for our sake.

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