Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘memorable’

Breathing Adventure: Why Is It A Mistake Not to Wear Raincoats at Pico De Loro?

At the base of Pico de Loro

At the base of Pico de Loro

Hikers flocked at the registration area at the base of the mountain. While the other tourists had their raincoats, I was convinced that we were insane enough to trek this mountain in our summer gear. The strong rains had forced us to take the beach as our Plan B. But we later had second thoughts as the tricycle drivers assured us that many hikers had already gone up to Pico de Loro.

You read it right. We hiked Pico de Loro on a Sunday while a storm was brewing in Philippine shores. In a desperate attempt to bring all our friends on a weekend, we met on the day rains were raging in an isolated province two hours away from Manila. Still, it was a memorable hike, as all our other adventures were being unique in its odd fashion.

The rainforest along the trail

The rainforest along the trail

Pico de Loro became immensely popular these months as yuppies in my generation have dared to take hiking travels not found in Manila. Rising at 664 masl (meters above sea level), this mountain sits in the boundary of the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. The Spanish conquistadores who came to the Philippine Islands named this as such for its peak looked like a parrot’s beak from afar. For one to get there, we had to take a bus to Cavite, drop off at a remote point in the town of Ternate, and take a long tricycle ride to Pico’s base.

In every hike we took, we made sure that we had enough budget to survive. The tricycle ride, which was at 200 pesos, was more expensive than the approximately 80 peso bus ride. Registration at DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) at the base was only at 25 pesos. But since we were first timers and the weather was bad, we decided to have a tour guide with us. If there are five people in the group, the tour guide would only cost around 1000 pesos. Even though a tour guide is not mandatory, I’d really recommend that you should have one whenever you visit this mountain. Especially when trekking on a slippery road to the top.

They lent us walking sticks. I felt miserable not to have a raincoat in my baggage but I was relieved to have a walking stick with me. This helped me have a good balance and it kept me from skidding down the trail. I purchased trash bags to cover my bag and my head and shoulders. Although I tried to hike with an open umbrella, I tucked it back to my bag so as not to disrupt my balance in this rainy trail.

Our tour guide, Marvin, as he held on to the bamboo shoots and sturdy trees against the slippery trail

Our tour guide, Marvin, as he held on to the bamboo shoots and sturdy trees against the slippery trail

No matter how I tried to keep my feet dry, I was compelled to sink my feet into the cold waters as we crossed the currents

The creek near the base of the mountain

The creek near the base of the mountain

of the rocky creek at the start of the trek. We were walking deeper and deeper into the foresty path. The tall, flourishing trees were covering the skies. The rain kept on pouring and the winds were howling loudly. I came to the point wondering what we were doing in the heart of a rain forest in this rainy season.

The guide, named Marvin, helped us to keep from slipping on the steep and slippery parts of the trail. The rains had made the trail even more dangerous, as mud had already made it quite precarious. I commend him for being gracious enough to make sure that none of us would have accidents in this journey and for carrying my immensely, heavy bag. Unfortunately, he had slipped on the trek a number of times when we descended back to the base.

IMG_20150705_112318Fallen trees, steep trails, and bamboo groves. These littered in the forest, giving us an enchanted feel. Add that up with torrents of rain, we looked like going into a jungle war zone. But coming upon the bamboo groves near the first peak, it gave me the feeling of entering an elfin kingdom. A sudden change of scenery mystified us for a while. But the heavy mist held back the wonderful scenery which everybody was talking about and posting in social media.

The elfin magic was demystified by stalls and stores that were set up near the

A few stores sat on the peak offering for tourists coffee or food

A few stores sat on the peak offering for tourists coffee or food

peak. Plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable trash thrown by irresponsible tourists littered near these stores. Marvin told me that authorities are going to take action to remove them from the site. It was already mandated that these were already banned in order to avoid trash on this mountain. I just hope they would take this action soon. I just even hope that more tourists would be considerate enough to bring home their own trash.

No one dared to climb the monolith at the very peak. That was supposedly the “parrot’s beak”. Although there was still remaining trail to reach the top, we decided not to go through it, since the sightless view would just be equally disappointing.

That structure beyond the mist was where the famous monolith sits upon

That structure beyond the mist was where the famous monolith sits upon

Instead, we posed for pictures in the cold, cold rain.

The trail going down was becoming more perilous as the rains would

The slippery trail going down

The slippery trail going down

not stop. The plastic bags on my head and shoulders were slowly being ruined so I ended up being drenched all over. We had to climb down carefully, holding on to trees and our walking sticks with care. At that point, I appreciated our trek on this mountain even more. Perhaps, because I became quite faster in trekking mountains despite of this unsafe path. Maybe because I was confident to put my weight on this walking stick. Or maybe because I had trekked a few mountains already.

When we came to the creek, I knew it was almost over. I felt like I’ve conquered more than the peak or the monolith. I guess, I have conquered my fear of losing balance over a perilous trail. I have survived a dangerous trek in such a bad weather.

See you again soon, Pico de Loro :)

See you again soon, Pico de Loro 🙂

But because we have not been on the top of the monolith, I swore to myself that I will come back again the parrot’s beak. I knew it will just stay and wait for me. But, let me wait for the sun to shine again.

We had to eat something hot before taking a shower in an apartelle quite far from the mountain. We wanted clean, warm water to wash with but we ended up having cold, tap water. At almost 7 pm, we were able to take a bus back to Manila. The rains still have not stopped even as I got home.

Back at home, I wondered if I could ever dare to climb that monolith when I return. I tried to imagine the scene that I might find at the top of the peak. But at this moment, I had to enjoy that warm cup of coffee and let my feet bask in that hot tub of water after surging through that long, chilly ride home. 🙂

The Magic Of Dinner Over Movies (Sixth Bite): A Reunion in Pampanga

It’s strange how our relatives could only get together after years. If it were not for a cousin’s special occasion, my mom and I wouldn’t get a chance to visit Pampanga.

Pampanga is a province located in Central Luzon. Should you begin your travel point from Manila, go in a two-hour northward travel to get to Pampanga, or longer depending on the city to visit. Since my province Bulacan is adjacent to Pampanga, travel going there is quicker. From the district of Bocaue, Bulacan to the city of San Fernando, Pampanga, it takes about an hour’s ride. So what’s so special about this place? For foodies like me, of course, it would be food.

I had the privilege to taste of the authenticity of Kapampangan dishes as my cousin invited us for the christening of her first baby. Now, add up the mini-reunion of relatives on my mother’s side, our visit is worth to remember.

Kapampangan dishes are known for their richness. Besides that, their food can range from simply being savory to exotic. I’ll give you a peek to one of the restaurants there.

Bale Capampangan:
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My craving to taste the best of Pampanga has been answered by having the privilege to visit and have lunch in this cozy restaurant, located in Dolores, San Fernando, Pampanga. The buffet it offers has a variety of dishes, igniting the curiosity and the hunger pangs in me.

IMG_20150516_112354There are the classic dishes of bulalo (cow soup), pinakbet (vegetables cooked in sauce made of seafood like shrimp or fish), bistig damulag (the Kapampangan version of beefsteak). I’d take only a little of each, since they are very rich in ingredients. The each sauce of these dishes is filled with much flavour. It embodies the homestyle cooking. Besides, the place is a good place for family reunions as it gives a homey feel.

Adobong Balut

Adobong Balut

There are also exotic food like the pasta aligue (pasta made with crab paste), susong supsop (yes, it’s

made of cooked, small snails) and adobong balut (the matured chicken egg now cooked adobo-style). These are but a few in the whole bunch of buffet offered by this restaurant. I bet you’ll keep on coming back once you take a bite of them.

As most Filipinos, we had the habit of ignoring the people around us while we eat. Perhaps, it’s an inborn ability to take note of the food first before we get to talk much. Or perhaps, we heed what the elders say: “Don’t eat when your mouth is full.”

Susong supsop

Susong supsop

Of course, Filipino meals are not complete without sweets. After a plateful of the main course, we’d line up for halo-halo (or mixed up, literally in English). Just fill your glass with sweet banana, red sago (round starch pearls), mongo, pinipig (uncooked glutunous rice), sugar, crushed ice and milk. A cold treat to chase the summer heat away.

Aside from that, there are also other sweets and rice cakes like the palitaw.

I guess this place gave us much to talk about, like language differences. Yes, that’s right. The signs are mostly in Kapampangan. In the Philippines, each provinces have unique dialects. Pampanga has its own dialect, aside from the Tagalog widely spoken in the whole country. Even my uncle admits that he was still confused with some of the words, being a Bicolano himself.

The calming atmosphere of the restaurant made us stay, relax, dive into nostalgia and crack jokes at one another. Because it shunned us from the terrifying heat of the day, I did not notice that we were staying there for more than five hours! It was past three in the afternoon, and we would have wished to stay longer with our relatives.

After scouting for pasalubong, my cousins invited us to try the popular cheese bread and Spanish bread of a bakery just beside Bale Capampangan.

L.A. Bakeshop:

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When the door was opened, the smell of freshly baked bread gave us the tingling sensation of home in the city. Started in 1985, this bakeshop had its humble beginnings at one of this city’s market. But the populace would flock this store because of its tasty cheese bread, thus it grew into a cafe and resto-bakery.

Some of L.A. Bakery's special breads and cookies lined up at the counter beside the cafe

Some of L.A. Bakery’s special breads and cookies lined up at the counter beside the cafe

L.A. Bakery's tasty cheese bread and Spanish bread. Thirty pieces of these can be sold for P195. Freshly baked, it's inviting scent invigorates nostalgia and the hunger pangs of the other passengers in the van as we went home :)

L.A. Bakery’s cheese bread and Spanish bread. Thirty pieces sold at P195. Freshly baked, its inviting scent ignited nostalgia and the hunger pangs of the other van passengers as we went home 🙂

Unlike some usual cheese bread bought in other bakeries, this one is oozing with much cheese and it’snot airy; even though it looks smaller compared to other breads. The Spanish bread is sweetly superb, as well. A box of it would make a good pasalubong. Aside from being tasty, a box of it is worth its price. Even if you reheat it in the oven, it still smell as if freshly baked, provided that you keep it in a safe place. My mother said that instead of using lard, real butter and egg yolks were used for the dough. If we had much more time, we’d stay with our cousins and have coffee in this homey little bakeshop. Perhaps, I would not stop myself from its offer of unlimited coffee and bread. Yes, coffeeeeee… 🙂

My cousins introduced us other shops just near these places where we’ve been. I promised them and myself that we would return and try them all. But I would enjoy these places and food better with my relatives. That would make every bite and taste more sumptuous and even memorable.

Meet my family. My mom (in red) and I (in the dark green dress) together with my cousins, uncle, and aunt :)

Meet my family. My mom (in red) and I (in the dark green dress) together with my cousins, uncle, and aunt 🙂


Great Restaurants For the Holidays!

Christmas is the best time for family bondings, but it can even get better when we all get together with food!

So, it’s a privilege to have this assignment of featuring special restaurants that are unique in its kind. As a foodie myself, it’s an amazing
experience to feature (and taste) Galileo Enoteca and the Old Oven Cafe.

Let me give you a peep to these one-of-a-kind restos:

Galileo Enoteca:

You don’t need to leave the Philippines just to get a taste of authentic Italian dishes. Everything’s here in this restaurant in Mandaluyong City! Take a bite of their risotto (their rice recipe), frutti di mare (their pizza), and real Italian cold cuts and cheese. It would be better when paired with vino rosso (red wine). But it wouldn’t get better without lively chatting, laughter, and fun — and our interview was thus memorable!

But just because the air of Europe fills this place means you have to very careful in eating. Eating Italian food means you have to be yourself! Don’t cut up the spaghetti strand, or you’ll miss half of your life! 🙂

A memorable dinner with the general manager of Galileo Enoteca, Wilma Valbuena. For the first time, I got to learn all these Italian dishes

A memorable dinner with the general manager of Galileo Enoteca, Wilma Valbuena. For the first time, I got to learn all these Italian dishes

The Old Oven Cafe:

Get a bite of Italian-American-Asian fusion with that Baguio feel in this restaurant in Katipunan, Quezon City. With its classic facade and vintage-feel, it reminds me of pubs in Ireland brimming with country music. But the food is not really old, but it gives you a fresh feeling of good company. Try their Three Cheese Pizza, Swiss Mushroom Burger, and Chonburi Spicy Wings (my favorite!). For this holidays they have Lamb Chops with Black Rice, and tasting it for the first time is a treat for me!

But what I appreciate more in this place is their appreciation for real Pinoy talent. Take a tour to their mini-exhibit of artworks made by deaf artists. For art enthusiasts who would like to buy their works, proceeds would go to the artists themselves.

Having a chat with the owner and chef of The Old Oven Art Cafe, Kay Mangibin-Torres, who made all these food herself.

Having a chat with the owner and chef of The Old Oven Art Cafe, Kay Mangibin-Torres, who made all these food herself.

For my report on these amazing restaurants, watch Newslight on December 25, 7:30-8pm (Manila time), on Light Network channel 33. Also, it is on channel 93 (Cignal cable), 5 (Sky cable analog), and 161 (Sky cable digital).

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Overcoming Mountains and Caves

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAI had the fear of heights.

And I did not realize this until my last vacation in Sagada just this Sunday.

After a long time, I had to chance to get out of this fast, city life for a while. Sagada was my dream place. I’ve been longing to trek nature and discover the unseen places never found in Manila. But who says it was easy? The biggest battle was not against nature but against self.

I was the slowest in the group. I lagged behind my friends whenever we trekked

Rock climbing at Sumaging Cave. It was here when I learned that I had a very weak grip. I managed to reach the top though :)

Rock climbing at Sumaging Cave. It was here when I learned that I had a very weak grip. I managed to reach the top though 🙂

the mountains. I could hardly catch my breath, but that was only the start.

At the Sumaging Cave, the slower I became. What slowed me down the most was that I was actually fighting the thought of crashing into the ravine. Yes, I trembled at every step. Not because it was cold or I was tired, but because I was scared of taking a step to the next jagged rock. I starred at every foothold I was stepping on so to keep my eyes away from the unseen end point shrouded in darkness. Whenever I did, I wanted to faint, struggling against an alter ego that whispered that I can never make it.

I saw my weakness. I felt the pain. But I saw that out of this, I learned much.

I was reminded that I cannot do all things without Christ who strengthens me.

Having fun with friends at the mountain top...Sagada, here we are!! :D

Having fun with friends at the mountain top…Sagada, here we are!! 😀

I saw the goodness in people. My friends encouraged me as I starred at every step. Instead of being sullen at my cause of delay, one of them said how she appreciated us city people for not complaining along the way. I did not realize how patient I was, that all I was looking forward was to get to the end point of the hike.

But most of all, I saw the beauty of God’s creation. I felt even more alive as I moved on. If I had stopped and left behind, I never had seen the unseen inner beauty of the caves, the culture of the people in life

Hanging coffins at Sagada. Through these, I learned how the natives valued their loved-ones as well as the afterlife.

Hanging coffins at Sagada. Through these, I learned how the natives valued their loved-ones as well as the afterlife.

and death, and the loveliness of the hills and mountains.

God left me awestruck with who He is. Opening my eyes, I realized how big He is while how little I am. Here’s this little me googling in His big, big world of mountains and cave. I would never have experienced His amazing creation if I ended up looking at postcards. The passion that had brought me out of my box for a while rewarded me with a whole range of experience to my senses and to my knowledge of Him. The industrialization that man tries to expand are nothing compared to God’s great works. The roads, bridges, and houses I see clustered on the mountains are too small to compare to the Creator’s handicrafts.

I could have hesitated to stand by this cliff and look beyond there. But, I would rather see myself conquering my fears and uncertainties. Sagada, I came, I saw, and I conquered! :D

I could have hesitated to stand by this cliff and look beyond there. But, I would rather see myself conquering my fears and uncertainties. Sagada, I came, I saw, and I conquered! 😀

Unconsciously, I soon learned to place the right foot at every downward step and move a little faster. Too bad I only learned it on the last day. True, I obtained cramps and muscle pain like my other friend from Manila. Yet, the two day visit to Sagada was memorable. Perhaps the pain we had was a reminder that one had to break from his shell in order to feel a whole new world we never had before.

A Few Firsts for My Independence Day 2012

For once again, I got a taste of my firsts last Tuesday, June 12. I can’t help how I cherish this 114th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence. Even though we all had to wake up too early, it’s something I’ve enjoyed to remember.

High school students perform some excerpts of the Philippine Revolution through dancing

As we covered this event, I can’t help but feel how proud I am to be a Filipino. Oh, yes, though I’m just another generation reminiscing a history I’ve never witnessed first hand. After a year of being a correspondent, this is my first time to cover a commemoration of Philippine Independence. As a palace reporter, I and my team had to follow him wherever he goes – unless, it’s extremely far. But everything starts with small things and short distances. And his visit to my province, Bulacan, is a big privilege to me.  Most of all, I was able to get a glimpse of pure, young Pinoy talent. These young students who reenacted history did it with all their hearts. And somehow, I wished I were a teenager, too.

Finale of the students’ presentation…”Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!”

Now here where the irony sets in. It’s weird how a Bulacan resident like me got to visit the popular Barosoain Church for the first time after 27 years of existence. Imagine, going there should have been so easy, as Malolos is just more or less thirty minutes away from my town, Sta. Maria. And it took a president to push me to go and take a touchdown on this historical landmark.

For a backgrounder, the Barosoain Church was where the Philippines was declared and established as a republic. This was also where the Malolos Constitution, our nation’s first republican constitution, was announced. I’d remember as a kid how it was depicted on the back of the old ten peso bill.

I’d still remember how I wanted to visit this church when I was a bored college student. And how it was never done because no one was willing to go around with me. Oh well, everything has it’s own time.

The Barosoain Church just behind me right after the program ended. I can’t help but feel elated by letting my heels touch its stone pavements. O.o

To make sure that this was a special day, I had to wear something special. So I chose my newest violet dress (and the others had to call me “ube” or purple yam). But I wouldn’t wear a traditional baro’t saya because I don’t have one. And even though my mom had kept some old traditional clothes in our magical closets, I wouldn’t dare…I’d have a hard time walking around for interviews underneath the fiercely hot sun!

And so I had to get a glimpse of it personally for the first time! But because this was no pleasure trip, I did not get that “awe moment”. Awww…

I saw how real and huge the church was. I could have touched its walls but I had to find the media seats first. I never thought I could also get a glimpse of that hundred-year old tree in front of it. Weeee!!

But we all got down to work. President arrives, speaks in public, watch his every more, then waved goodbye. Our focus was the leader of the country, and so we had to keep our eyes on him all the time. And we had to hurry back to office to produce my story. No time for that “awe moment” again. Awww…

Next year, the president is expected to visit another historical landmark. Oops, that would be my second coverage of Independence Day. But it hope it would be as exciting as my first one…and every coverage be something that I would anticipate all the time.

I guess I just have to muster all that guts to go back to Barosoain again. Maybe, when I come back there, I’d be able to have that “awe moment” – and make it feel like it’s my first time again! 😀

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