The #13PeaksFor2013 Project

Obviously, this one’s long been an overdue. But the pleasure of that thought of finally writing about it never ceased to excite me all these years. All those spontaneous climbs and risky moves during hikes that I did with friends and alone were an evidence of how 2013 turned out to be big time in the realization of my huge fascination for discovery and thrill of adventures, with all those grains of sweats, aching knees, and gasping breaths, all the more. And as I look back at those days on beguilingly elevated lands across the clouds, I’m doing this countdown of my best mountain-y encounters one by one.

13.Mt. Maculot (January 13). They say nothing beats the first time. But then, the seemingly unending treat with every trail I walked from then on makes this at the bottom. Surely the intricate rock formations at the Rockies and the glorious view of a piece of Taal Lake on the sidelines were a win, but then, way to go. There were more of these on the latter climbs.

12. Tayak Hill (May 8). Long walk and a minor climb if you wish. And the deafening silence up there was more than perfect for those who seek peace or solitude in the midst of an open air way above the nearby Laguna towns. The adventure’s still there, minus a huge chunk of that element called danger which probably made the climb less exciting. Nevertheless, the 360 degree view on top with the gloomy view of the devil's mountain in the background is still no less than exceptional.

11. Mt. Manabu (February 16). After that record-breaking 54 minutes to reach the summit with minimal breaks along the trails, this turned out to be one of the most tiring ones I did thus far... which greatly reminds me of how healthy my knees once were and how much weight I have gained from then on. Mountain climbing is a test of mental strength. The first thing that needs to be done is believing that you could be up there. And it’s another thing to be there with that time pressure challenge and yet still with your eyes not missing the grandiose feast. 

10. Jubilee Hill (February 2). Fifteen minutes was all we needed to complete the course. But the whole thing was still memorable in many sorts. In case you’re wondering where it’s located, it’s that hill with bright cross when you happen to see yourself in a night at UPLB.

9. Mt. Romelo (April 11). ..and Buruwisan Falls of course! There is this great deal of pride about trekking at least a portion of the infamous Sierra Madre range and visiting the painfully beautiful but deadly-once-you-come-closer Buruwisan Falls. Though the place has been heavily visited nowadays, it's still a great feeling in knowing that as natural wanderers, we place that flag of pride of being into some place most people do not have a chance of seeing at all.

8. Mt. Kalisungan (January 26). This hike would never be complete without Mang Bino, my all-time favorite guide as of this date. His meekness with each of his tales related to the mountain – from Agot Isidro to Yamashita treasures were one for the books. The last time I heard, his house at the foot of the mountain was burned. Hope he’s fine.

7. Mt. Mabilog (February 23). Getting lost is more fun in Mt. Mabilog, and there were just too many lessons I learned out of this hike – in between those trials in the trails and the joys in very step. Needless to say, getting lost, sometimes mostly define my experience of the outdoors. And there's nothing more surprising than that feeling of refreshment made possible by Lake Pandin, after all those uncharacteristic events that happened that day.

6. Mt. Batulao (November 2). There are basically 7 things I like the most about this mountain. I’ve said it before and I won’t say it again.

5. Mt. Malipunyo (August 21). Honestly, I think I technically failed the #13PeaksFor2013 project because of this failed climb. If my knowledge serves me right, we were only able to reach the first of the mountain’s 3 peaks due to a terrible encounter: stormy howling winds, heavy-pouring rains, thunderbolt and lightning (very very frightening me!) – name it. Indeed, it’s not always a sunny day as we climb, and no matter how much we think and prepared we are, there will come a time when we are faced with so much of what we can take that the best thing to do is to just walk away, for the mean time. After all, getting to the peak is optional, but going home is mandatory. Plus, the mountain will not go anywhere, and there will always be a next time.

And talking about next time..

4. Pico De Loro (January 18). Well this could easily climb the list if we were able to successfully conquer the Monolith. But as they say, there’s always that right time for everything. And trust me, there really is.

3. Mt. Balungao (December 30). The last one I had that year. Dramatically on my very own province. With my beloved high school friends.

2. Mt.Zion (December 26). Just because I climbed it alone. I knew the risk but I had to take it. Because ultimately, the greatest risk is not taking the risk at all.

1. Mt.Makiling (November 16). I was able to climb this mountain twice that year but the second time’s definitely the sweeter. It was a climb with a cause – a climb I’d be glad to do all over again for a cause I wish would never ever happen again.

**The #13PeaksFor2013 Project is a concept I promised to fulfill by conquering 13 mountains in one year, given a limited resources as an inexperienced hiker. 

Davao in 24 Hours

Over the start of this week, I was grateful enough to experience twenty four hours of delight of how Davao is doing – from the clean and peaceful roads, courteous people, and a handful options of healthy foods. The trip was intended purely for business so there was very little time to explore the city. The visit was rather short to at least experience the minimum of what Davao has to offer but for a first-timer in Mindanao, I had to spare a few moments every now and then just to savor every little thing that cascaded my way.

Been to Aldevinco, Ciudades, and Tiny Kitchen to name a few, but will definitely be back to Davao for more, soon enough – Samal Island, durian ice cream, Mt. Apo, and a whole lot of more hidden gems there. Way to go! 


Mt. Makiling: Flora and Fauna

Mt. Makiling’s been known as a home of diverse biological species, some of which are endemic to the Philippines. Reports have it that the Philippine eagle, Rafflesia, and even cobras peacefully thrive at the vastness of the rainforest. And while I have not seen any of these yet along the trails during any of my Mt. Makiling hikes, I’m still lucky to have a glimpse of the rich and appalling flora and fauna the forest offers. Though the subsequent set of photos will not do any justice, here’s the photo dump anyway--


Mt. Makiling Diaries

Extremely enchanted by the multitude versions of Maria Makiling tales during my early years in grade school, it was but a huge personal dream to climb Mt. Makiling ever since UPLB happened to me, way back 2007 – that time when everything I see were vividly technicolored contrast to how the current hues turned out. 

Then there were my late grandfather’s repetitive stories and myths about the mountain every single summer or semestral breaks I spent at home while having grandfatherly chats with him (that which I sorely miss right now), but I never managed to climb the peak until after I graduated from the university. But as they say, there’s always a right time for everything, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 it is – I eventually hiked Peak 2 up, not once nor twice but four times! And still am expecting more climbs soon enough.

May 15, 2011. My first official Mt. Makiling encounter was actually at 6 months BTE (before thesis existence), or I prefer to call it – end of my happy outdoor days. We were a group of 6 brods and sisses from UPLB Chemokinesis, who hiked up to the famed Flat Rocks and Mudspring, inexperienced in climbing mountains as we used to be. It was relatively an easy trek with us finishing both courses in half a day. This was also my first encounter with Mt. Makiling’s notorious limatiks drawing the first runs of blood out of my skin. After that, there were other spontaneous follow-up hikes to Flat Rocks and Mudspring since then including that terrible Flat Rocks encounter with the rain pouring down so hard that it was almost impossible trek back to the jump-off. Happiness, just like most other things sometimes comes with a price. And it’s the price of risk we should not always be willing to pay. #SafetyFirst

October 28, 2013. The tenth mountain off my #13PeaksFor2013 Project was fortunately realized through my first Mt. Makiling-Peak 2 climb. I have been climbing mountains around Laguna and Batangas for the past months that year so I knew I had the best pair of knees to fruitfully surmount the third highest peak in Luzon, at last. However, it wasn’t the perfect weather there is to begin with as the trails were dark with occasional thunderstorms and rain showers evidently casting off the skies. While we clearly understood that Makiling was just normal like that being a true tropical rainforest in its very essence, the clouds were just too heavy enough to condense every time. And as expected we were rain-soaked for most parts of the trail. The climb was not entirely easy, but it’s not difficult either. The view on top wasn’t something that would melt your face away from the skull, though the entire climb was enough to set a heart on fire. Another classic example of ‘the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

November 16, 2013. My then next Mt. Makiling encounter is probably the most memorable hike I did thus far, which happened shortly after my first Peak 2 experience, few weeks after the onslaught of the Super-typhoon Yolanda which set Tacloban into a looming pit. Together with that bunch of 22 other tired but determined climbers, we climbed to extend our helping hands through our own simple and unselfish ways. Read: this. A part of me was glad upon reaching the peak for the second time – a place where all of us were exhausted, but definitely not unhappy.

January 31, 2014. Sometime during this date, I was uncertainly crawling at probably some of the lowest points in my life, feeling literally crippled of the thought that future is no longer certain, that the past and the present seemed to mean nothing, and that I sort of lost my shot at happy endings (Qarter life crisis alert!). Course we have those moments of when-you-have-nothing-left-to-burn-you-have-to-set-yourself-on-fire kind of shit. And luckily, Mt. Makiling served to be a temporary escape from that crappy trap for me at that time. 

October 26, 2014. While it’s true that I have different motivations (be it to dust off anxiety attacks or simply celebrate small joys) on climbing Mt. Makiling (or every other mountain, in general) over and over again, it still boils down to the mountain’s densely canopied charm that draws my feet to it every single time. It might be a mostly long boring stride for some, and the idea of foreverly walking those same long muddy and rocky trails under those same shady boring trees, for the second or third time is kind of redundant. But as they say, one can’t climb the same mountain twice. And unless you try to climb a mountain more than once, you’ll never understand that sweet and compelling truth for such. 


Costales Nature Farm: Harmony in Diversity (In Photos)

One of the perks of being in my line of work is occasionally going to exceptionally incredible places.. for free! – one of which happened late last March, in an organic farm mainly intended to promote, propagate, and develop the organic practice of farming in the country, help reduce environmental degradation, prevent the depletion of natural resources, help promote the health of farmers, consumers, and the general public, and even serve as a tourist destination and an excellent site for relaxation, the organic way. Being the organic farm it claims to be, it follows that the fertilizers they use exclude those that are synthetic and inorganic in nature and other commercial pesticides in sustaining the needs of the crops. The same goes to their livestock, being fed with their surplus organic crops. As far as I understand the method they adapt, the farm tries to implement various farm techniques such as crop rotation, mulching, composting, among others, while trying to incorporate some modern agricultural technologies (which was primarily why we’re there that time). The entire farm visit was practically informative, though their incomparable version of organic salad and the cucumber shake in a glass that barely perspire, topped it all. So for tangible and real farm experience, I suggest you have to visit it yourself. Meanwhile, here’s a feast of mouth watering teasers to tickle a little of your imaginations. Have all the pleasures!


North Roads

For the past few days of good fortunes spending moments over those northern mountains were countless paths we’ve drove thus far. And while my heart was still at hype chasing each and every trail and highway, my pocket’s already running dry and the clock’s madly ticking like a bomb. Unfortunately, there came the time to finally move out, hit the road back home, face the real world at large, and make a little more money to feed fancy tours such as this. And as we jumped over that Baguio-bound Sagada bus few hours before the noontime, I could have once again imagined those roads I needed to pave just to be that far.

Talk about those butt-numbing – 5-hour roadtrip from Los Baños Laguna to Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, 4-hour ride to Solano Nueva Vizcaya3-hour journey to Banaue2-hour stint to Bontoc, and 1-hour topload trudge to no less than that place called Sagada.

And just as planned, the rosary trail I dreamed was realized. From there we crossed the deathly roads of Halsema, the winding roads of La Union, Pangasinan and Pampanga, the busy streets to Manila, and finally at home to Los Baños Laguna. 

We always want our hard work to mean something. And with this, I’m sure I did not fail.


Special words for you to know

Your evening air as cold as ice
Under the night sky of surging clouds
Luminous stars hang all throughout
Your sweetness abound the silent night

Dampness from the evening dew
Refreshingly caress thy skin anew
The clock ticks synced with every heartbeat
Pleasantly passing time in no haste

On the far distance the clouds roll by
Your mountain slopes sashed with towering pines
Echoes and chirps, music to the ears
Creeps across the vastness of the open air

Then finally the sun hints a greeting smile
And through the haze comes burning effervescent fire
But in this moment I’ve got no clue
To say these special words for you to know.

I came across this piece of shit (dated March 1, 2014) a while ago while compiling/reviewing my notes in preparation for the upcoming chem boards. This is not really a good one, but I'd like to keep a part of it before finally disposing off the original material. Well it's good to let go of those unwanted clutters sometimes, this junk included. This scribble was written in reference to that night of February 28 at the mountains of Sagada up to the morning light of March 1 while waiting for the sunrise at Mt. Kiltepan (That Thing Called Tadhana, anyone?). Coz once in a while, it pays to pause pondering on life’s complexities and other unnecessary thoughts and just appreciate what’s there at hand. chos.

Day 3 and 4: North Adventure Final Day Retrospects

The long ride along the deadly Halsema Highway from Sagada to Baguio City is an adventure in and on itself -- the teeming moss, ferns, and pines along the quiet mountainsides, the rice terraces down the sidelines, the interesting faces of men and women basking under the wide open skies, add the fact that somewhere along the way, comes Philippine Pali, the highest point of the road somewhere in Cattubo, Atok Benguet. The trip was a freezing one with cool breeze with fogs tempting to be felt, smell and even taste, almost blanketing the roads to null at some bends of the way.

As it gets to the afternoons during the ride, more and more concrete infrastructures appear along the roads signaling that Baguio was already somewhere near. And a little more than an hour, we dropped to the busy streets of the esteemed summer capital and walked to the crowdedly abused Burnham Park. Some more strolls around the raped park with heavily lined up food stalls, we decided to finally leave the mountains and descend to the plains as soon as darkness crept in. We hopped on a bus bound to Dagupan but decided to drop off to San Fabian to beach the night.

Two swift hours later and we’re finally there. For the longest time, I haven’t had my feet experience the sweetness of the sands and the salty touch of the South China Sea runs. So there, beach please. I went for a night swimming (or wading) despite the raging waves in the middle of the rusty dark. Not long after, just wrapped things off to call it a night.

The next day, it was time for another goodbye to push through with the next stride. Before leaving things down, the long stretch of the furious sea by the night has already calmed down, so might as well greet it along with the parsimonic sunrise. Unfortunately, there was nothing spectacular about the place, more than as the usual thriving place for people living around, contrast to what I remember about it during my childhood times. The place used to be a paradise to me, but sadly, it seemed to lose its charm in more than ways I expected it to be. Other than the fine black sand it still has, all the good things it has, are already gone.

The next stop was no less than the Dagupan City which is famously known to be the home of the best bangus. And why not, bangus for breakfast.

After the quick dine, we’re fast-paced off to the next stop – Lingayen, Pangasinan. As usual, the bantering Capitol was always pleasing to the eyes. Well it’s not awarded as the best provincial capitol for nothing. Few steps away from it comes the history-telling park/complex, as the gulf was a main vantage site during the Second World War.

Fret not, you don’t need to take too much time from that stop since a little more further will give you this much-more thrilling scene:

Also planned to have another side trip to Calasiao, and eventually to my hometown, but time (absent from work, anyone?) and cash (just have enough) weren’t on our side. So that concluded those 4 (or 5) days of having a taste of a portion of paradise up north. Another long ride to Metro Manila and further down to Laguna, we just arrived right on time.

PS. oh North, I sorely miss you right now.


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