Humbled by Mt. Apo

APO pics 052 copy

By the time I got off Mt. Apo via the Kidapawan City trail in North Cotabato, it was already dark. Everyone who participated in the three-day climb, a traverse from Kapatagan, Davao Del Sur, were to spend the night at the Lake Agco Resort before taking the bus for Davao City the next day.

It was a successful climb in the sense that there were no casualties.

I luckily got out of the mountain with members from the Texins Mountaineering Society of Baguio City that adopted me. We waited as our fellow climbers, 68 participants, arrive.

“Who do you think it was?” an intrigued new arrival asked to no one specific as he sits at the dining table with us. He said someone, a woman, fell on a ravine during the descent.

I, with bandaged hand, was in his line of sight. My group was silent. Would it be a relief or seem wise to admit it? “Ako yata iyon. (I guess it was I.)” Our eyes met. His eyes dilated with interest. When everyone resumed to their own food and topics of interest, I was becoming distant with a playback of the climb.

It was raining. I was sitting on a ledge, laden thick with dried leaves, that was wide enough to catch me from falling deeper in the ravine that if you shout during the fall you’ll have to take another breath for another scream because you haven’t hit the bottom yet. I zoned out for a while until I heard Ate Thess shout: “Si Candice, nahulog! (It’s Candice. She fell!)”

I had to say something or they would think I’m a goner. I haven’t made a sound when I fell and I did not want to upset and paralyze Ate Thess and Hamish, an Australian and a first time climber he said, who were both closely behind me. They witnessed me drop.

“Nandito ako! (I’m here!)” I was shaky, but I had to be tough. Voices and feet rushed above me. I remained seated with my backpack on and checked for injuries. When I saw familiar faces about 10 to 12 feet above and some start appearing across the ravine, I stood up. “I think I have no injuries or pain but my right hand.” It was warm and bleeding but still numb from blood rush.

“Was there any flashback of your life or slow motion when you fell? Isn’t it just like in movies?” he asked at our sleeping quarters this time. My group did not pry much. It was getting late and we were praying for the safe descent of the others.

I was not used to the attention. Some were also listening. I was the girl who lived. I was used to being the one asking, listening, observing, and sharing a bit to keep the conversation going. I talked briefly of my fall but he gave me a look as if he’s yet to hear more. He was hoping for more drama or animation but I merely stated things without fervor.

The accident happened about an hour of descent from the eerily calm Lake Venado. I took a right step trying to get a foothold before shifting full weight when I slipped. My right leg swung up from the tricky stone step and the left leg immediately followed with nothing to hold on to. I landed on my backpack, tumbled to my right as I fall to the ravine. When my body faced the earth, I tried to grab onto anything. I groped on just rain-soaked dried leaves and dirt. My hands were looking for a rock or a root. I don’t recall how several times I might have bounced but I knew hope when my right hand hit a thorny branch. I gripped it like a rope. Thin spikes pricked my forehead, nose, right hand and arm as I slid. I gripped harder. More thorns nailed deep in my skin.

“Everything happened so fast. I was not even able to scream. I just heard Ate Thess shout for my name. No, there was no flashback or slow motion. All I know is that I slipped, tumbled, grabbed onto anything but that branch and I landed on my butt,” I said.

Mt. Apo was a difficult but an enriching climb. Even the idea of it, at 2,956 MASL, was daunting. Kidapawan was also my mom’s hometown and I wanted to know their mountain. Though I climb, I am not a trained mountaineer. I religiously ran and took the stairs for this. All I have was this sense of adventure and the willingness to do what it takes to get there and get out alive even if I had to sign up solo and book a Davao-bound flight from Manila with Cebu Pacific. I also carry this purpose of face-to-face calling it quits with a guy in Davao City as if the difficulty level of this major climb amounts to the task at hand.

I realized that though it wounded me, I’m not going to die of a heartbreak. Had I fallen that October 2010, that would have been the death of me. Mt. Apo was my life mentor. He shook me well to my senses to get more from life and to keep moving. Close what has to be closed. End moments. Clear things and just let it go even without getting an explanation. Grieve but live. Forgive.

Every step of the climb was a clash of beauty and challenge: the muddy trail, dense mossy forest, logs, intertwining tree roots and trunks that inspire creative body movements above or under it, night trek, getting lost and being found, high altitude and low temperature, the boulders, craters, steam of sulfur, the peak, the placidly enchanting Lake Venado, the ladders, river crossing and the strong current, and the light before and after dark. What you will see is beauty but what you have to go through is the challenge.

Boulders and Sulfur

Climb Mt. Apo APO pics 067 copy APO pics 078 copy

————————————————————————————————

This post is my entry to the blogging contest “Your Life-Changing Travel Story” of Wego Philippines and Cebu Pacific Air.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

7 Things That Hotel Accomodation Can Get You By

Image

 

Economize. It’s got nothing to do with real money. When traveling, for me it would be to make use of the resources available to you to avoid spending for something that you could have for free. These are the things that come with what you have paid for. It would also mean asking for freebies or maybe pushing your luck a bit more for extra treats.

 

There was a time this year that I practically lived from one hotel to another for a period of about 9 days and jumping from province to province in the Philippines by plane, ferry, and by land transport. I only have one luggage for check-in and a hand-carry bag. Having homes away from home would somehow teach you resourcefulness out of continuous practice.

 

Let us look at hotel accommodations and what comes with it:

 

Breakfast.

  • Always arrive at the breakfast area on time, usually from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., unless you prefer paying for a breakfast you could have gotten for free or as part of what you have already paid for.
  • If the freebie is a buffet breakfast and you eat big breakfasts and enjoy refills of your brewed coffee, then allot two hours for this. It would give you an easy pace to eat most of what you want, read the newspapers, befriend the hotel staff serving you, and even meet people. Have a good morning as if you have a lot of time (and food) on your plate. Sometimes, the mood you set for your morning carries on until the evening.

 

Newspapers.

  • Avail of these. Read and feed yourself with information of what is happening in the country or locality you are in. They provide you with news, recommendations, weather forecasts, and warnings. Local papers do provide the daily schedule of transfers by ferry, boat, plane, bus.
  • After reading the papers, you’ll have use for them to wrap your favorite tinapa, danggit, and other pasalubong. It could also cushion your fragile and breakable pasalubong from damage during travel. In cases that you forgot your umbrella and are desperate to protect yourself, a makeshift umbrella for the sun’s heat and the rain then.

 

Bottled water.

  • It’s part of what you’ve paid for so drink it. Hydrate. Take it for your stroll outside. The hotel will refill your supply of a bottle or two in every day that you stay. People drink a minimum of eight glasses a day. You might not notice it but when traveling, you don’t really keep count how many convenience stores you have stopped by to buy yourself a drink.

 

Toiletries.

  • These are your usual shampoo and conditioner, bath soap, bath gel, toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion, shower cap, cotton buds, and emergency sewing kits. These are not your usual preferred brand of products but they get you by. You may use them during your stay or take it with you for future use. Disposable toothbrushes come in real handy during sleepovers at your home. Some hotels have really good containers for shampoo and conditioner that you could refill them with your favorites and bring it in your next travel. 

 

Notepad and pen/pencil.

  • If you scribble or draw a lot or you list things to do, expenses and things to buy, these are boons to your travel. A sudden burst of idea, a poem, a story, musings come and go in a flash so your pen and paper must be ready. You can’t always write at the back of official receipts, tickets, brochures, or tissues.

 

Map

  • You can get this at the tourism booths of ports and airports, the local tourism department office, and in hotels. This is your tool for navigation and planning on how to go about your errands for the day. Cluster your activities by its proximity to lessen travel time from one point to another and maximize the duration of stay at one place and/or activity according to your priorities.

 

Free shuttle from airport/port to hotel and vice versa

  • Public transports do charge higher rates for non-locals depending on how touristy or foreign you look, especially if you don’t speak in the vernacular. There are several areas though where drivers of public transport would charge you right and give you your change up to the last peso.
  • Money supposedly spent on a taxi fare could have bought you a nicer meal or a better pasalubong/souvenir for a loved one. Think about it.  
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Halfway to the North

Along the way, while on a bus, you saw something that stirred your curiosity and you want to yell stop but you did not because you’re bound somewhere else where you have to be. How would you feel? Like you just had a foiled attempt, I guess. A missed opportunity to do something or be somewhere, it becomes part of your bucket list.

Whenever I am bound for Baguio City or Pangasinan through a bus ride, a noticeable restaurant built on a huge property by the highway to the left would always get my attention. At one side, I would see heads of golden Buddhas beyond the fence. The signage by the entrance says,

Image

What could be in there?

All travelers going to the north of Luzon would have to pass by the town of Gerona in the province of Tarlac. Not everyone, however, can just stop by somewhere they desire. You see, if you travel by bus you only get to view things by the window and the only places you stop by is at bus terminals and stopovers and sometimes a gas station if a passenger had to respond to the call of nature. So when the time came that my job entailed traveling to the north and hiring a driver and vehicle for me, I have a say this time on where I want to stop to eat. I found the chance and I seized it. Hah!

Isdaan is a very Pinoy restaurant that serves local foods especially seafoods. You pass through bamboo footbridges to get to your kubo or hut. Underneath the hut and bridges is a big pond of fishes that would feast on bits of cooked rice that might fall to them. A duo, a male singer and guitarist in camisa de chino and a female singer dressed in baro’t saya, would do the rounds from one hut to another to serenade customers. Since the food will have to be cooked upon order, there would be enough time to roam around the area so I excused myself at the table.

At the back, they have ponds overpopulated with fishes. The restaurant management allows visitors to feed the fishes with bread crumbs. Look how the fishes flock at one part of the pond once the crumbs start to touch the surface of the water. I took photos of them once they start bobbing up and down and flip their tails that water sprinkle at me and the kids beside me. There was so much excitement with the fishes and the kids.

I remember our English classes from elementary school where we were taught how to call or describe a collective name for a group of animals: a flock of birds, a swarm of flies, a herd of sheep, a pack of wolves, and a school of fish. I don’t think what I saw was a simple school. Could I call them a college?

Here’s the dean…

Image

the mentors…

Image

and the students (just the graduating class). heehee..

Image

From where I stand I can clearly see the golden Buddhas. I found a way going directly to them.

Image

At this side of Isdaan are the few Buddhas in different hand positions. It reminds me of Thailand and the visits to the temples where I was with a group who paid respect to the golden Buddhas. I remember sticking a small-karat film of gold at the palms, feet, head, and I think the chest area of a Buddha. Each part signifies a prayer for wealth, wisdom or intelligence, good deeds, and love. They are not just painted with the color but are really coated and made of gold.

I went back to the hut just in time to devour the meal. That is why there are no photos of food here. My hunger got the better of me so I did not take any photos. I should make another visit when the opportunity comes or when I make the opportunity come.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ziplining at a Skyscraper

I have been looking at the Crown Regency Tower I whenever I pass by Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City. This has been going on for how many years since I first saw it way back when my friends took a Cebu-Bohol-Cebu adventure. Was it in 2007 or in 2008? I have forgotten already.

Whenever I’m in Cebu, I do something else but never have I had the irresistible urge to go up there. It was expensive then, I thought. This time, it’s not about the money anymore. It’s about can I do it and will I do it.

This July 2012, I got tired of being a passerby at the Fuente Osmeña Circle knowing I would look up again from the car window once we turn to Osmeña Boulevard and wonder for the nth time how is it up there. Let me put an end to this.

When I finally got some free time, which was before I go back to the hotel and sleep, I asked for the driver to drop me for a while at the Crowne Regency. It was almost 10 p.m. I just wanted to take a look and inquire about the price list and activities they offer. I wanted to gauge how high the 19th floor is, where the ticketing and entrance to the facility is, before I proceed higher to the 38th floor. Will my knees tremble?

At the peak of the tallest hotel tower in the Philippines is the Sky Extreme Adventure where attractions such as “the world’s first Edge Coaster and the country’s first and only Sky Walk Extreme” will test you to overcome your fear of heights. The hotel tower is also the tallest hotel building outside Metro Manila.

With a mix of Bisaya, English, and Tagalog, I inquired of the services. To get up to the facilities of the Sky Extreme Adventure at the 38th floor, I would have to pay Php 250. To take one adventure, I would have to pay Php 600. Two rides would cost Php 1200, three at Php 1800, and four at Php 2400. I chose to take one adventure instead, the Tower Zip and Sky Lift or “the world’s first urban sky zip.” There was no more dwelling on the thought on whether to do it or not. I immediately paid for it and went up. It was July, the summer vacation was long over and students have gone back to school. It was also past 10 in the evening so there were very few people coming and going.

When I got out of the elevator at the 35th floor, the highest floor the elevator could take you, the area made me feel like I was in some planetarium or science center. There were neon lights outlining the walls, glow in the dark things and glass windows where you could see the night sky and the city lights below. I guess the idea was to let your mind float somewhere else than on the fear that your at an elevation of more than 400 feet.

At the booth entrance by the staircase, I presented my bracelet-ticket and asked the staff if I was in the right place. They were looking for my companions. I was on my own. I surrendered my ID and signed a waiver as I ask them the distance and duration of the zipline from Tower 1 to Tower 3. Eight seconds was too fast and too short. Should I even shout? I can shout for more than 8 seconds at one go. Baka mabitin ako. Can you give me a free ride after? Ito na ba ang pinakamahabang eight seconds ng buhay ko?” It could be, the guy said.  Right on cue, the song of The Script playing on the background goes: “I’m falling to pieces, yeah.” I let out a quite nervous but excited laugh. The  staff of the facility did not notice the lyric. My mind was attempting to play tricks on me. I was taking the lyric to a different context.

The length of the zipline was just 75 meters and would only take just 8 seconds to cross from point A to point B at 473 feet or 40 storeys high. It was evening. All you could see beneath you are the lights and the dark abyss. Surely, it would be more frightening had I done it on daylight where I could at least see the pavement.

Apparently, I was the only one who took the zipline at the time. I shouted at the first two seconds before I shut up to just succumb to the view. The weather was fair and slightly windy. Sayang ang natitirang 6 seconds. A few staff asked me why I was alone and maybe I should invite friends to come over. I really will in the next getaway with my friends. But since I was solo who happened to pass by, it’s the zipline for me. I don’t wanna be circling around the Skywalk Adventure on my own for 15 minutes noh. That’s an adventure best enjoyed with friends where you can fool around and talk of your thrills, fears, and on the edge thoughts talking about your mortality.

One guy who assisted me was already recommending that I visit the nearby islands of the province of Cebu. I”ll find time time for that. He went on encouraging me to make friends here and explore Cebu as I transport back to Tower I at a much slower pace this time.

I was holding my certificate and a free souvenir and was smiling from ear to ear when I got off the building. I did it. I don’t need to wonder anymore. It was an effective way for me to empty my mind of worries that day. I went back to my hotel knowing I’m good for the next day.

Friends, let’s take our next Cebu adventure a notch higher. Er, I mean 40 floors higher. I would love to Skywalk and be at the Edge with you. They have wall climbing there too.

They are open from Monday to Friday, 02:00 PM to 12:00 AM; Saturday, 10:00 AM to 2:00 AM; and Sunday, 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Lessons I learned when traveling by plane

I have 10 lessons and counting. The next count are preferably from good experiences and observations  rather than huge mistakes. Hehe…

1. Finish packing the night before the flight. Just grab it and walk out of your house and you’re on your way.

2. Sleep early or continue sleep on the flight. In my existence, I have missed two flights. The first one was work related and it happened because we tried to wait for one of our companions before checking in so the three of us ended up missing the flight. (You could positively look at it as “one for all: all for one” or “damay-damay.”) Actually, we still have 5 to 10 minutes before the counter should close on us. But this airline did not allow us to proceed. We tried to persuade them in the sweetest voice and all the charm we could manage. This flight was about work. I really wanted to tell the staff at the check-in counter: Why is it when you have delayed flights most of the time you ask for the passengers’ consideration but when we ask a favor to get us in (which we still have a right to since we’re still on time.) you can’t give to us?

Missing a flight costs time and money. We have a priority and wasting it by making a scene and ruining our mood talking to them for nothing was too bothersome. We bought new tickets for the nearest flight schedule we could get.

A wrong decision was made and a valuable lesson was learned. The most practical action should have been for the two of us to fly and for the other to just follow us.

The second instance I missed a flight was because I overslept. My friend and I were supposed to fly for a vacation which did not happen because I woke up at the time the plane was already up in the air. So I don’t sleep if there are only a few hours left before the scheduled time to rise. I sleep on the flight.

3. If traveling with a group, divide yourselves by proximity so that you can share the taxi ride and the fare. One person will hail the cab and she can fetch the next person on the way to the airport. Some prefer to sleepover.

4. Be at the airport 2 hours before the flight for domestic ones.

5. Eat breakfast at the airport. You have two hours to do a lot of things. I have tried doing PowerPoint presentations and papers for my Saturday classes. Time is gold e. You can also watch people and learn to tell what kind of place they are going based on how they dress. You can also discover which is the best airport food in that terminal.

6. Avail of the assigned seat. It costs an additional pay of about P100. If you’re not early to physically check yourself in at the airport, this is a back-up plan in getting your desired seat. You don’t want to stress yourself from being seated at the emergency exit row or a seat you don’t like. I am just not sure if this can also avoid getting bumped off from the flight. Reserved seating also does not guarantee that if the airline transfers your flight from the Caticlan airport to Kalibo International Airport (1.5 hour travel by land) going to Manila, you would still get your reserved seat. This happened to a friend.

7. Stay away from nuisance passengers and don’t engage with them as long as you can help it. They can ruin your mood and they can rub off their negative energy to people around. My friends and I have been near one while on our way to paradise (Boracay). We believe he eats curses for breakfast. He is a short man with an anger taller than his height. He makes a scene for most of the passengers to hear. You already want to call a bouncer and not just a security guard.

8. Don’t put mineral water at the side pockets of your backpack. Take them out before lifting it up the overhead bin of the plane. Secure the caps properly. I will not forget this. In a recent flight, I accidentally sprinkled water to a passenger at an aisle seat while removing the bottle of water. Fiasco. The man exclaimed “sh*t!” I said my very awkward apology and went silently to my seat. I let the stewardess take care of him. If it was you who caused the agitation, maintain some distance. If you still feel the guilt even after the plane has landed, let most of the people get off the plane ahead of you.

9. After the plane has landed and you are about to open the overhead bin, please do it gently. Anything can fall. You don’t want to be causing the head injury of the person in the aisle seat. I saw this happen once. Lucky for the Caucasian guy, the Filipino guy was calm. He was so sorry. (I know the feeling now.) The offended person said it is ok. Though that surely hurt, it’s an accident. No one wishes for that to happen.

For people who have such clumsy moments, we are lucky that the offended person doesn’t make a big fuss of the situation. How does one make up for it? I do not know. I guess, be sincerely sorry and do it briefly. Don’t overdo the apology. Then, be quiet and slowly widen the distance between you.

10. There are situations beyond my control but I can at least control my actions and my reactions. I have been bumped off in a flight while I was in the province. They said they overbooked and they’re going to put me in the next flight. I tried to negotiate. A friend also tried to negotiate for me from someone she knew at the airline. The only thing they could do is to put me on the next flight. Other people who approached the counter were already berating the airline staff. Galit na sila at maingay. Sasabay pa ba ako? I thought, I am not after an appointment when I go back home in Manila and I can do some tasks or entertain myself while waiting for the next flight. When the number of angry passengers increased, I went out of the airport to grab a coffee and some silence. I do not want to turn myself into a green monster. (Yes, I have watched the Avengers. Hence, the references to Dr. Bruce Banner’s always angry alter ego.)

Though these are some of the lessons I learned from my experiences, I also take note of other people’s lessons and mistakes in their travels. I don’t have to (and I never want to) experience firsthand a brawl in an airport for me to learn to not meddle with fellow passengers’ valid complaints or to transform myself to The Hulk. I also pray that it would not happen and that if a situation comes up, I would have the right mind to do and say the most appropriate thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In Malagawa Island: To just go somewhere

This overnight trip was all about relaxing. My friend made the itinerary for this beach camp on an island. I didn’t know exactly where we were going and how long the trip would be. The only thing sure was I am going wherever that is. The itinerary goes its usual ETA, ETD, bus-tricycle-boat transfers, breakfast, lunch, dinner. To make this a complete trip of beach bums, in between all of those, it would just be: “Do anything you want to do/beach bumming at its finest!”

The four of us were supposed to meet for breakfast at a fast food in Sampaloc before heading to the bus station in Caloocan City. In the usual outing of friends, there will be those running late for the agreed meet-up because they overslept. Been there, done that. The secret is, if the schedule is as early as 2 am, sleep on the trip and not at home.

In a cancelled trip last year, I woke up just as the plane took off. Mitch and I were supposed to be on that plane. She really tried her best banging our gate and calling my phone. Well, our dogs don’t open gates so… Humiliating or disappointing, name it. I hope she has forgiven me on this one. Binawian niya yata ako this time nang hindi sinasadya.

She told Pao and I to proceed at the bus station instead. We got off the cab and were welcomed by the dark J.P. Rizal Ave., very few passenger jeepneys passing by, the station still with its lights out, and a few travelers sleeping on the benches. There’s no trip yet and there is no food nearby so we walked until we reached an eatery that serves goto.

While eating, we heard shouts of “Holdaper! Holdaper!” followed by a group of barangay tanod carrying dos por dos as weapons. For us who were not of that place, we stayed inside and waited until the commotion died down. The store owner, his dog, and his young assistant went out to see what was happening. The robbers were not caught.

Image

Serenity. Keep staring.
Image

Malagawa Island

Image

Arriving and departing at Malagawa Island.

Image

This was our campsite and that red tent, like a friend to me, is my tent.

I woke up by the time we have reached the town of Iba. We passed by the Zambales capitol. It has been four hours since the bus en route to Sta. Cruz, Zambales took off at 4:30a.m. We got off at the town of Palauig an hour after. From there, we took a 25-minute tricycle ride of rough road-paved road- rough road-paved road going to the Kamalig ni Manong Toreng.

The bangkang de motor from the island arrived at the port with two passengers and a boatman. Mitch and I were looking at one of the passengers. “Johanna!” “Hanggang dito ba naman may kilala ka pa?” her companion said. The reaction was echoed by Pao and Jeff. Johanna was surprised but she remembered both of us from high school. She and I knew each other way back in elementary school. She advised us to stay at the island for three days and four nights. We can try next time.

In ten minutes, we were already at Magalawa Island.

All I did that afternoon was eat and sleep. I had a short nap at the bench. Sensing that my friends are having a good time taking photos of me sleeping, I murmured at them to stop until I had to snarl at one and finally continued my sleep at the tent. The fine and soft sand beneath the thin sheet immediately had my back glued flat.

I woke up at the sound of my friends’ banter over a game of cards. They sat on the sand. The sea and the horizon was behind them and a tree framed them from my perspective. Bliss. It made me think: “Where are we?”

Soon, they invited me to watch their last game before we prepared our dinner. After dinner, it was playing cards by the bonfire.

It was in that island where they taught me to play cards. There was no couch and no table, just the sand and that one mat. I lost again and again under the light of the full moon that climbed directly above us by midnight while I keep the bonfire burning behind me. We have no spare batteries for the only speaker we got so the low-tide waves became our music. Shots of brandy took us to a laughing trip. The small lamp dangled from a string above us. When we felt like sleeping, we just had to crawl or walk to our tents. We have no neighboring vacationers but a nipa of the caretakers meters away.

Jeff the chef. Mitch and Jeff prepared the menu: kare-kare, pasta, grilled pork.