Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘discover’

​Breathing Adventure: Flying To the Rocky Summit of Mt. Paliparan

My chocolate bar has already melted. I set it before the air conditioning vent so I can bite that sweet piece that would replenish me from that 11-hour hike (which included 2 hours of picture taking). Still, its sweetness is nothing compared to the joy of being in the outdoors again.

We were back in Tanay, Rizal to explore Mt. Paliparan. Standing at more than 500 meters above sea level, it was one of the newly-opened hiking sites that’s fit for beginners and weekend warriors like me. But this weekend warrior had to strip off her title for a while because her little adventure army has chosen Monday as a date to conquer new land. Weekends would attract endless crowds that are likely to clutter the mountain, the view, and our photos with photobombers. 

The grassy trail

Brgy. Cuyambay would be accessible through public transportation (jeep from Cubao to Cogeo, another jeep to Bary. Cuyambay, and tricycle to the baranggay hall where registration takes place). Since we have to reach the place before sunrise, private transportation would be more convenient and safer to take. 

We originally planned the Maysawa Circuit because we wanted to see the sea of clouds. But the tour guides gave us Mt. Paliparan as another option. They suggested Maysawa Circuit would be best visited in August because the rains would make the sea of clouds more visible. Besides, they warned us of the abundance of limatik (leeches) in that trail. Since Mt. Paliparan looked more adventurous, we decided to take their advice.

The trail to the summit is reminiscent of almost all of the mountains we had visited. The vast farmland leading to the trail reminded us of Mt. Talamitam and Mt. Maranat, the grassy slopes was like the trail at Mt. Maculot, while the assault leading to the summit brought Mt. Pamitinan to mind. The rest of the trail was easy except for the last trail leading to the summit.

The first peak

Mt. Paliparan has four peaks. All of these are marked with huge, towering boulders that were challenging to climb. The tour guides have told us the mountain was called as such because it was a site where small Japanese planes used to land during World War II.

The second peak

A small cave can be visited along the way. It is a perfect place for hiding from the nasty heat of the sun. 

The trail was littered with flowers and colorful berries that seemed luscious but not edible. Small amorseco (hitchhiker plants) have annoyingly clung onto our clothing. The tall grasses were not helpful in giving us shade as they managed to annoy and tickle our sunburnt faces. We relieved ourselves with the sight of Laguna Lake, the old cement factory and the wind turbines at a distance.

While the rest of the trail proved to be easy, the assault going to the summit was challenging and quite dangerous. This is the time when gloves are highly needed. The sharp and jagged rocks, though may be helpful in providing footing, can be relentlessly unforgiving on bare hands. 

It requires rock scrambling and rappelling to get to the very top of the boulder that sits on the mountain’s highest peak. It was tempting to give up because I was struggling to carry my body’s weight on the rope. But I was challenged when the tour guides told me, “Since you’re here, you’ll regret it if you don’t do it.”

I felt like a champion when I have scrambled on that rock. Once I got hold of the pink flag that mightily fluttered in the wind, I felt like I have conquered the cowardly giant in me. Everybody was a winner that day. We had to reward ourselves by resting in the Dumagat village which would take about an hour to reach.

The Dumagat people are one of the nation’s indigenous tribes living in Luzon. If you were lucky, they would cook tinola or pinikpikan for you (these are local chicken dishes, one is made with soup). However, there were no chickens available that day. We ended up with buko juice and pansit canton. 

The adventure would not be complete without visiting Tungtong Falls. The trail, which would take another hour from the Dumagat community, lingered around giant, dark, round rocks and cool streams. The waterfall was small but refreshing. Instead of diving, I took a short nap because I was so tired from the trip. 

The tour guides were wise enough not to bring us to the highest falls which required rappelling again. We were so exhausted from the very, long trail. One of us had sprained her knee and ankle. We enjoyed the final stretch of the trail by taking our own slow paces back to the starting point. 

Despite the strenuous journey, I was revitalized with the beauty of nature. Experiencing this is a privilege because it is a gift from the Greatest Artist in the universe. Seeing, touching, and feeling such immense creation is like seeing the very heart of God who made these things because He loves us greatly. It’s something you won’t find everyday in the mechanical jungle called Manila.

The river trail

As I closed my eyes to sleep in the van, I kept a clear picture of the pristine waters, the warm summer heat, and the vast sights from the summit. The memory I had treasured that day was the ability to conquer my secret fear of heights. That instance made me dare for more. I hope that little courage gained would not abandon me on my next adventure. 

The adventure team

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Breathing Adventure: The Doggie Trail to the Top of Mt. Balagbag

Meet Heidi, our reliable tourist guide...er, tourist dog

Meet Heidi, our reliable tourist guide…er, tourist dog

In every mountain adventure we’ve had, there were always dogs trailing along with us. I always wonder if these dogs are the mountain’s watchdog, the forest’s secret agent, or a fairy disguised by walking on fours (be nice to them or they’ll turn you into a dog, too!). For whatever their doggie reason is, I find it cute having them with us. Sometimes, their presence is worth the furry adventure we would be looking for.

Leaving the noisy, crowded, urban atmosphere in Manila, we crossed two rustic provinces to take the trek on Mt. Balagbag. Standing at more than 700 meters above sea level (some say at 777 masl), this mountain stands in the boundary between the provinces of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan and Rodriguez, Rizal. In that two hour ride from Cubao, Quezon City, the roads became more isolated as they winded along the mountainous pathway painted with green hills and lonely huts and houses.

Alighting from the bus at Tungko, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, we took a jeep going to Licao-Licao, Rodriguez, Rizal. Almost alone in the road, it skirted along a long, winding path patched with that seemingly endless, foresty scenario. It gave me a feeling we were going to a point of no return. It was a packed ride. Passengers only began

Part of Sierra Madre can be seen along the trail to the peak of Mt. Balagbag

Part of Sierra Madre can be seen along the trail to the peak of Mt. Balagbag

alighting at the end of the journey where small communities were thriving and sari-sari stores were mushrooming quietly.

The tricycle ride from Licao-Licao to the Veterans was really an intensely rocky one. In no more than twenty minutes, we arrived at the baranggay hall to register our names and give a “donation” for the mountain. At that point, I was expecting that they had tourist guides ready to assist us.

But there was not one tourist guide.

We decided to trek on our own. The trek was easy as there was a trail already made. The only hostile thing against us was the fierce heat of the sun. In order not to make the same mistake again, I had brought myself two liters of water and spread

Heidi grinning at me at one of our breaks

Heidi grinning at me at one of our breaks

sunblock abundantly that my skin turned white.

As we were breathing heavily on the slowly steepening trail, a dog suddenly jumped out of a hut and followed us. We first thought that it was only walking with us up to its destination. Soon enough, it became our friend. And we named her Heidi.

Why Heidi? My friends were reminded of somebody who was not of an appreciable character to them.

But we liked Heidi very much. She instantly became our tourist guide…or tourist dog. She was the one leading us, marching the rising pathway easily on her four legs. She’d even arrive first at a shade as we were pondering on taking a break. And then, she looked at us with those beady eyes when we pulled out our canisters and biscuits…

She was a lovely dog, even though she seemed to be an aspin (short for “asong Pinoy” or Philippine street dog in English). This kind of dog is a mixed breed of sort. But whatever she was, she was dependable and adorable. And I could say, she knows the area better than us.

A few meters toward the peak, we passed by another sari-sari store, an open gate, a tractor seemed to be used for

The gate going to the peak of Mt. Balagbag

The gate going to the peak of Mt. Balagbag

clearing the path (and new pathways on the mountain), and a lonely house on bare fields. That was the second point where we had to register and pay the “registration fee” at twenty pesos. There, we met another mountain biker going up the peak. Mt. Balagbag is recommendable for mountain biking as the path is wide and clear for this kind of activity.

We did not discover the shortcut to the peak though the lady at the second registration area said that it comes at the point where three rocks stand. Rocks? They’re everywhere! We might as well take the long cut.

IMG_20150626_103814What we did not realize was that Heidi was already showing us the shortcut, as she ran between big, odd rocks before us. But seeing us take the long cut, she followed us. That’s the desperate thing between humans and dogs. She did not have the human language to cry, “SHORTCUT!”

At last, we came at the helipad, the peak of Mt. Balagbag. Again, we met the mountain biker who no sooner became our friend. There were no extreme activities at our trek, but what was worth was the view, the cool air, the fun chatter, laughter, and new friends to keep.

An enchanting stunt for our "magic image"

An enchanting stunt for our “magic image”

Add that with the fun of making magic image with our phones.

Heidi again looked at me with those beady eyes. I was horrified when I realized that my bread was made of chocolate. While talking at the dog, I pointed at my friend. Heidi then turned her beady eyes to my friend who gave her some of her lunch.

Beyond the peak, we could see the mountains of Sierra Madre. Mt. Balagbag is just one of the peaks towering along this mountain range. But the disappointing sight was that a few mountains were being quarried. On the hindsight, to develop land for housing and every commercial industry might help for the town’s economy. But I believe that we can develop the land more by tourism and preserving nature. Adding urbanity on such environment can made one forget what nature and real beauty looks like.

At the top of Mt. Balagbag

At the top of Mt. Balagbag

We stayed on the top for hours, enjoying the crisp, clean air. Unfortunately, the phone signal was bad (we had to add each other on Facebook when we got home). We left the peak by taking the shortcut, trailing the wide and dusty road, and back into the foot of the mountain.

Surprisingly, Heidi automatically returned to that same house where she jumped off to meet us. As we were calling her name and saying goodbye, the owner of the house called in a loud voice, “HEIDEEEEE!!”

We were stunned. Now, we know why the dog kept on turning at us whenever we called her Heidi!

Towards the end of the our journey, we eased our tired feet by dipping ourselves IMG_20150626_115538in a pool at an almost empty resort at the foot of the mountain. We soon trudged the pouring rain in order to catch up the last ride to Tungko, which was supposedly at 6 pm. Fortunately, we took a jeep by 5 pm. Upon reaching Tungko, the sense of urbanity returned upon us. The roads were packed again with countless buses and jeeps; the city was flocked with those popular and affordable fast food restos.

At the end of the day, I realized that my prayer of having a tour guide had been answered. In a humorous turn, it turned out to be a dog. More faithful than I expected, Heidi kept a close watch at us, making sure that we human visitors enjoyed her mountain. But I guess the trip became more enjoyable because of her charming canine company in it. And oh, whether you might have a chance to trek Mt. Balagbag, don’t be surprised if Heidi jumps along the hike. 🙂

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Cultural Immersion (Second Stop): Hopping the Hundred Islands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI dreamed of relaxing and writing in the middle of a small island surrounded by white, fine, sandy beach with a lush forest at its very core. Remotely, this island would sit in the middle of a vast sea green ocean, which would calm me even more. Sounds like a vacation for a terribly rich kid, huh? But it did happen to me on the first weeked of June, right in one of the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan.

For the first time in my life, I dropped by Alaminos, Pangasinan just for anGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA island-hopping tour on this popular tourist destination in the north of the Philippines. We first stayed overnight in Quezon Island, named after one of the country’s former presidents. This island is one of those developed islets open for visitors.

But the idea of being alone in the island did not happen though. There were packs of tourists by then (especially, it was a Saturday). But it dosen’t matter, as long as they don’t bug the other tourists. Just bring along your tents or sleeping bags, you can choose to sleep along the sandy beach or on the tree-filled hilltop.

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Quezon Island — my kind of place where I can relax and write my dreams away… 🙂

But while vacationing, I finished a few writing assignments while charging our phones. The fresh air, the sound of the sea, and the very ambience of the place was perfect to complete my task.

Then there was the threat of rain — strong rains. I was amused with the other tourists lounging and cheering at the coming gale while trying to fight the wavy waters.

Don't be scared when the rain threatens to loom over you

Don’t be scared when the rain threatens to loom over you

The dark clouds passed by. No terrible rains. Just drizzle. Twilight was falling.

It’s relaxing to walk along the beach while the darkness was slowly enclaving us. On one side of the island, the waves were slapping my feet like paddles. While the other side, the waters were very calm. It’s a surreal world for me — no cars and buildings, just nature and the ocean.

Living in an island though is not living in a highly technological world. I

It's good to bring tents for overnight stay. That night was just windy, but it did not bother our sleep

It’s good to bring tents for overnight stay. That night was just windy, but it did not bother our sleep

suggest that when you plan for an overnight stay there, better bring enough food, paper plates, flashlight, and drinking water. There is electricity but the lights are low. If you wish to take a shower, better go straight to the sea. The water used to shower in the islands is also seawater.

It’s nice to take dinner and sleep in a remote place. Come morning and a beautiful view welcomes you.

But the adventure begins Sunday.

Before island-hopping, we went snorkeling. It’s my first time to do that. It’s GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAlike looking above a giant aquarium with clown fishes and blooming corals beneath you. Wow. It is weren’t for water entering my nose, I could have stayed there longer. Too bad, I don’t have an underwater camera. Twenty minutes was the time given since there were other tourists coming. But we stayed a bit longer than that.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERASecond stop was Marcos Island. There’s a cave where you can dive into the waters. Disappointingly, I couldn’t bring myself to jump because of my fear of heights. Next was the Children’s Island. It’s named so because the waters are shallow for kids to walk through in order to reach another islet nearby. Last stop was the Governer’s Island, where I had seen personally that postcard view of the Hundred Islands. Now, these are the main islands where tourists can drop by and have fun.

Have I mentioned that this kind of vacation is for rich kids only? Not really. In fact, it’s affordable. For a group tour, you can get a deal of P800-P900 each person. With it is a boat and tourguides who can ferry you from island to island. Well, some of the tourguides actually led us to buy their Alaminos Longganisa, which is really good. There are a lot of transient houses at Alaminos, where you can stay and shower.

If you are more familiar in Manila, just take a bus going to Alaminos, GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAPangasinan. It’s about P400-P450 on the estimate. The trip would take about four to five hours. You won’t get lost because the conductor will tell you where’s the stop going to the Hundred Islands.

Summertime would be the most preferable season to visit. April or May at best. When we came there, the time was nearing rainy season. It’s no wonder heavy rains fell when we went home in the afternoon.

With this short trip, we’re not able to visit all the islands (and none of us were able to count if the Hundred is really a hundred). But it carried a good memory for me. Too bad, none of us brought home an Alaminos Longganisa because of that heavy rain. I guess that’s a good reason for me to return there soon. 🙂

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Cultural Immersion (First Stop): Mt. Province

On a hike to the top of Mainit! :)

On a hike to the top of Mainit! 🙂

“Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.” (“Never be a stranger in your own land.”)

Here is a line always stated when we talk about culture and tourism. Just like most Pinoys in the central part of Luzon, I get only a limited view of the overall culture the Philippines have. But once I get out of my Manila domain, I’m just amazed at the variety of language, food, and culture that all these 7,000 islands contain.
I had a taste of cultural immersion in my own country when a friend invited

One of Mainit's public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

One of Mainit’s public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

me last two weeks ago to Mainit — a district in Bontoc, Mt. Province. For those who are not familiar with Mt. Province, it’s located in the Cordillera region, about five hours from Baguio (which is familiar to most of us).

Mainit quite known for its natural hot springs (“mainit” in Tagalog means “hot”, perhaps where the name came from). Just like any other towns in the Cordillera, Mainit has a lot of mountains to hike and explore (which I looked forward to). But the main event is a peace pact gathering of two families.
Now, it’s like a huge reunion of two clans (the other came from Abra, another far region in the North). Together, they reviewed and renewed their pact and friendship. But the most interesting part are the songs and dances that every family performed. But they did not do it with some cheesy,

The gathering for the "Peace Pact". Aside from the renewal of this pact, it's also a reunion of two clans.

The gathering for the “Peace Pact”. Aside from the renewal of this pact, it’s also a reunion of two clans.

upbeat, dance music with sexy dance moves (like what kids in the Metro or in our town would perform in yearly Christmas parties). They performed it traditionally.

I’ve seen Ifugao dances being performed only on big commercial events, special school programs, or only when your elementary school teachers prompt you for the sake of passing your PE exams. But these people are a natural. Wearing their traditional clothes, each group graced before the crowd without hesitation, dancing to the rhythm of gongs. Even the children themselves were not shy in dancing. I was amazed with the pride they held in upholding

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon's traditional courtship dance. It dosen't matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon’s traditional courtship dance. It dosen’t matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

their culture. But they would be more pleased when foreigners — like me — would join in their dances, even if you do your own version on the traditional “courstship dance”.

I’m impressed how these people in the far-flung provinces kept their songs and their dances for generations. I haven’t seen much preservation of the traditional culture in the Manila area. Manila is the melting pot of people from different regions in the country, but it’s rare to see each one carry an identity from their own provinces. Perhaps with the “globalization” instilled in this modernized area, we try to move to another kind of culture without upholding the old ones that our ancestors had proudly held. Sadly, it’s like regretting identities that we’ve never had in this industrialized culture. Or copying from the Western world.
After the children performed, the man holding the mike told the smaller

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

children to follow their example. I guess it’s better than teaching your kids how to doggie at school.

I’m proud that these Northern folks are my countrymen. I guess they are richer than most of us here in Manila who keep a wrong impression of who and what they are. We just need open eyes to see that culture is richer than wealth. It’s something that we can carry and can be identified with no matter where we tread.

Touchdown Ireland! (Second Landing)

Almost all stores are lined up with green things: leprechauns, shamrock trinkets, green mugs and boxes. You'll enjoy shopping in Ireland :)

Almost all stores are lined up with green things: leprechauns, shamrock trinkets, green mugs and boxes. You’ll enjoy shopping in Ireland 🙂

Leprechauns, shamrocks, and everything green. That’s what Ireland is known for. Stores have been lined up with these trinkets that sing of the magic the Irish culture bring, inscribed with Irish wishes to bring you luck.

I’m not into luck because I don’t believe that blessings come in chances (and because our good Father in heaven gives His ever-increasing favor and blessing to those who will ask). But I appreciate the culture Ireland brings, one thing you can learn as you travel.

An aunt of mine told me to experience culture. This is one advise that I will never disregard. In order to appreciate another nation, one must endow himself into its lifestyle, food, music, and language. This is how I began to love other nations, as well as cherishing the friends I have from these nations I’ve visited.

Because Ireland is totally different from the Philippines, here are a few points I noticed.

The fashion sense. Never, never go to a cold country in only t-shirt and jeans.

Me and my favority red coat while waving at Dublin Castle. I have no other coats like these, of course! And I can't wear this in the Philippines!

Me and my favority red coat while waving at Dublin Castle. I have no other coats like these, of course! And I can’t wear this in the Philippines!

Bringing layers of clothes can add weight to the luggage, but this is how you can survive or you won’t be able to get around town. Ireland has rainy weather on October, as cold, biting winds prevail even when it’s sunny. So, I have to wear long sleeves, boots or rubber shoes and leggings when I wear dresses. It would be good to wear a scarf and gloves that match your clothes. It would make you look classy as well as warmer.

At one of the doorways of the ruins of Clonmacnoise Monastery

At one of the doorways of the ruins of Clonmacnoise Monastery

The transportation system. If Manila is swarmed with jeeps, trycicles, and pedicabs, Dublin has a lesser transport system. Usually, they have buses and cabs that can take you around. But they are not awake 24 hours! In fact, they have scheduled stops, so it’s better be street-wise or you won’t catch up that ride! Because that’s a usual thing in Europe, my aunt said that it would be advisable to learn how to bike in case you’re too late to take a bus ride. It’s no wonder we would walk around the city to get to the next destination in the conference. But I loved these walks. It’s good for the heart. 😉

Food Trip! Mashed potatoes, poached potatoes, and all potatoes. That’s real Irish diet. But they also have varieties

Fish and chips...very popular in Ireland. I never thought that "chips" are actually fries! :P

Fish and chips…very popular in Ireland. I never thought that “chips” are actually fries! 😛

though, like pasta, pizza, and sausages. In almost all their meals, they have bigger servings, which was quite a bit heavy for an Asian like me. But because of their weather, I believe, I even became hungrier. Fish and chips is one of the commonly popular meals in Ireland. But I was surprised that the “chips” were actually french fries!

Work and life balance. Most malls in Manila would close at around 9 or 10pm. But in Ireland, at around 7pm, most malls and businesses are already closed. The Irish people value family time, so most of the work would really cease at 5pm. The only ones open are pubs and restaurants (for those who want to extend the nightlife). I believe that workers here are well-compensated, so they don’t need to work overtime. My aunt, who studied in Netherlands, noted that the European working condition is not that pressured, compared to the American working culture which the Philippines has adapted.

Classic European apartment beautifully draped by colored vines. Not one like this in Manila :)

Classic European apartment beautifully draped by colored vines. Not one like this in Manila 🙂

The warm people. You don’t have to ask, they’ll approach you and ask if you need help when they see you looking at an open map in your hand. The warmth of these people is so contrast to the cold, biting weather of Dublin.

The Celtic strain. It’s no doubt that the music and culture of the Irish people still has the tinge of the Celts, which I’ve fascinated me through literature and movies. Until now, I can hear the sound of the Irish jig in my head. Even pubs would play traditional Irish music. Enjoy your fish and chips while listening to it.

The Irish people no doubt has preserved history. Old churches and buildings attributed to great writers like Oscar Wilde still stand to this day. Even modern day pubs echo ancient Celtic ambience within its walls and furniture. One thing I regret is not dancing the Irish jig before going home. I just wouldn’t know if I’d get it right.

IMG_0448[1]“So how does Ireland smell?” A friend asked. I couldn’t give her one concrete description. As the sights and sounds vary, so does my beautiful memories of this country. I believe that our one week stay was too short. So, I swear to myself I’ll return to Ireland even by myself.

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