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. We all have our down times don’t we? 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. The universe very well knows about that, but I’m not expounding the details right here right now. 

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.


That Place Called Sagada

Nestled at the heart of the mountainous regions up north, surrounded by the lush green pines, and blessed with such rich culture and friendly people, certainly, one can’t go wrong with Sagada. Here’s a long lost letter from all of me who loves everything about Sagada.

Dear Sagada,

I want to take this opportunity to tell you how bitter I’ve become during that February 28 dawn I was trying to get to you. Not really bitter, just sad, that kind of hopeful sad that just takes time.

To tell you honestly, I cursed you more than the number of times I have done my own laundry. Wth, we were just some tiny speck of dust under the open skies and we’re denied with the tiniest comfort there is that night. But don't worry, I’ve moved on soon enough.

I couldn’t exactly remember how happy I was the moment I set foot to Banaue and experience its fresh morning air. The chilly mountains bathed in unsullied dews was a beauty I will reckon forever.

And I will never forget that face-to-face BanaueRice Terraces encounter along the road towards you. For a moment, I really enjoyed it. Because it’s finally happening. It was like that kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my entire life.

I truly enjoyed those hours of riding topload and take pleasure with those 360 degree view of naturely sights while riding those long and winding roads towards you. And finally, that exceptional rush in my veins, thrilled me with such prospect of adventure, shit-scared of the great unknown.

Also, thanks for a comfortable place to stay. So clean. So good. So..rry, wrong tagline. It provided me so much peace in the midst of coldness and heartaches. LOL. You've got the best of hearty  foods, too.

I will forever cherish those lessons off your culture, the beautiful sights you offer, and the incomparable experiences they’ve brought me, which were unexpected treasures far more valuable than any material wealth there is.

And then the people, I built bonds with when I was with you. I travel, to seek other places, other lives, other souls, and it was made possible through you.

Finally, there you were breaking my heart for the second time, as I leave such haven for home – and I was both happy and sad at the same time of that moment. Going through the trip has changed me in more ways than I than I can count. Since then, I am not me any more, at least not the same me I was.

If only I could, I really want to go back to your loving arms and carefreely stroll along those roads again. And see if that F. Scott Fitzgerald quote is true – “There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice”

Love always,


Day 2: Lumiang-Sumaguing Cave Connection

For the record, this was my first official caving adventure. And thinking back about that four-hour psychedelic tour on depths of stunning labyrinths, effortlessly re-furnishes my thirst for more deadly quests, hopefully in the very near future. The mouth of the Lumiang Cave is creepy but a sight to behold in itself with those piles of coffins encasing the remains of their ancestors who passed away due to old age, for the past couple of hundred years. 

Lamps’ on, hearts out, and we were all ready to jumpstart with the traverse. The dizzying descent of the Lumiang Cave welcomed us via an initial taste of adventure through those intrepid spelunkers ahead of us who descended and disappeared in no time among the rocks. We eventually crept into those very same tight gaps until the natural light eventually turned into a thing in the past. In no time, the cave took us on hands and knees through network passageways depths further into the earth.

Descending from the Lumiang caves’ narrow trails is a dispute to reckon as each passage requires squeezing into tight rock formations, getting through and sliding through and drop down those steep crevices. There were certain stunts which were difficult to execute in the absence the tour guides’ legs and shoulders that literally served as our feet’s landing spots and ladders to cross and avoid dropping off those jagged rocks. But being the egoistic traveler that I am during that time, I refused to accept much assistance and rather opted to figure things out on my own most of the time, of course making sure to obey and respect the guides whenever they try to offer me their assistance :) Waterfalls and streams of underground waters as well as arduous hill-y rocks are abundant later on with the spelunking jaunt, to which I honestly lost count. Wading through and passing across those waist-high cold waters, climbing a storey-high rock formations, getting through those slick rocks and downward slopes, while hanging on to ropes strategically tied along the shallow roads, were all part of this orchestrated obstacle course. The adventure is obviously for the relatively fit ones with huge determination and heart for extreme adventures at that. Hours later, we reached the second half of the cave course: the Sumaguing Cave where we marvelled at awesome rock formations including those that resembles a mermaid, an umbrella, king’s curtains, animals such as an alligator, a frog, a turtle and some pincers, as well as some naughty and pervy sights. It was joy beholding those high-ceilinged, echoey cathedral-like caverns prepped with those precious stalagmites and stalactites.

At the end of the Sumaguing Cave, was the much coveted sunlight. But we still went sideways to indulge on those glassy, limpid, underground pools and bone-chilling crystal clear rivers right before us before going up. At the end of it all, we climbed back up approaching that illuminating light, and was welcomed back by that signature sweet earthly smells and high-pitches squeaks of bats, until we completely made it to that final 120-step assault.

And things couldn’t get more surreal at that time, definitely one for the books.

Top 14 Tracks of 2014

While 2014 was a year of me visually and emotionally experiencing life no less than life itself, there were certain instances when spending afternoons and those wee hours drowning with the good grace of the sound of music was still the best thing there is. And as this blog’s annual yearend tradition, I sifted through the goldmine of rarities and obscure finds once again to come up with this list of the best tracks that came out this year (at least according to my ever reliable taste, lol). My pc unfortunately crashed towards this year’s last quarter, hence, unlike the previous years (2010, 2011, 2012a, 2012b, 2013) in which the ranks were based on each track’s total number of plays on my iTunes player, this list will simply rely on my ever reliable ability to remember which among those tracks have accumulated the most play time. So, Here then is the list of the 14 of the most substantial pieces of my 2014, alphabetically arranged.

1. All Of The Stars – Ed Sheeran. Fvck John Green, there’s no fault in our stars, just metaphors and complex things we don’t understand.

2. Arsonist’s Lullaby – Hozier. Thank heavens there’s Hozier.

3. A Step You Can’t Take Back – Keira Knightley. This Begin Again shit effortlessly haunts like a beating heart, it’s hard to get pass it.

4. Bakuran – Johnoy Danao feat. Aiza Seguerra. Heartfelt retelling of that classic tale on the controversial thin fine line separating friendship and romance, and all the other gray spots in between.

5. Cenuries – Fall Ou Boy. Totally out of the box, yet largely entertaining.

6. Diwata – Abra feat. Chito Miranda. Other than the fact that the MV was shoot at UPLB and Maria Makiling was played by Nicole Asensio, there’s so much lovable about the track itself, including all the underlying meanings between the lines.

7. Ikaw – Yeng Constantino. This track single-handedly deflates the argument about the questionable existence of forever.

8. Lost Stars – Adam Levine. Can’t remember any Adam Levine shit I ever liked til this one.

9. Mahal Ko O Mahal Ako – KZ Tandingan. It bagged the highest award during Himig Handog 2014, enough said.

10. Rude – MAGIC!. Bandwagon anyone? No. Used to love this track 319m Youtube views ago.

11. Seasons (Waiting On You) – Future Islands. Perhaps the most heartwarming romantic tale of despair for 2014.

12. Sabado – Eraserheads. This is nostalgia – artifacts of childhood memories, heartaches, highschool dramas, summer trips – rolled into one then put to sound.

13. Take Me To Church – Hozier. A bleakly deviant track which is an abrasive approach of presenting bunch of irony, inequality, and toxicity of life caged by the society’s faulty standards. // If I have to choose, I’ll pick this one on top of everything on this list.

14. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran. And why not, it’s Ed Sheeran.

Day 2: Chasing Pongas Falls (Part 2)

Once and for all, Sagada never failed to give me those moments of alexithymia.

The way to the reach the great Pongas Falls wasn’t exactly an easy walk as it offers a daring adventure, that anyone who’s not a huge fan of trekking would not welcome the idea, add the fact that the sun was at its hottest when we commenced with the hike at around 2:30 PM. It was an unfamiliarly quiet afternoon o’er the warmly welcoming rice terraces breathing waves of fresh air. The mere views at the jumpoff point and the trails were already a sight to behold.

After 30 minutes of walking, we passed through the peaceful village of Ankileng depicting their wealthy northern tradition. The locals were very welcoming as we’re greeted with the sweetest smiles one could expect. In the littlest ways, we were able to meet interesting people and were briefly immersed and introduced to their culture – a moment of feeling free, happy, and balanced with the world. The whole setting was a picture of that simple living to which I was born to with, and which the cityscape I now live to is lacking. 

Minutes later after feasting our eyes with those breathtaking views of green landscapes, passing through cliff edges, hanging bridges, and boulders, we were welcomed by the mountainous trails arched with towering pine trees, before having a glimpse and finally experiencing the falls itself, no more, no less. Much to my surprise then, validating the claim that such tramp was not as easy as it seems, we found ourselves alone in there.

The hills to the east starts to reflect the setting sun turning into a deep plum. I was physically dead tired and my eyes were impatiently drooping, but those thin gauze of clouds seemingly wrapping the green mountains with tuft cotton candies were too beautiful to mind those unecessary pains. True enough, many things, mostly the greatest ones, start out with some pinches of hardships. Right there, I found myself hugely amazed again.


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