Mayon at Kailanman

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Growing up circumstantially witnessing the natural treasures of the north, as perk of sponsored trips during those grade- and high-school days, I developed this colossal desire to realize more of those nature fantasies stuck on my mind and feet, extend my adventures down south, and eventually, the rest of the archipelago. But funds, being a major game player, and me being a student who's practically broke in most of the days, everything I long for my traveller-self is a shot at the moon. I don’t simply have anything to make the impossible happen, so I had to mark that road temporarily closed by then – until such time when I finally had that window of opportunity to make that own-money-for-myself-to-spend.

Fast forward came 2012, soon as my thesis manuscript was hard-bound, was hired for a job I half-loved shortly after, and finally made cash out of it, I made sure to take some of those abstract fantasies into intangible realities. It’s what you do when you have the time, much energy, and a little but enough dash of money. I truly had the best of times during those good travelling days – mountains, beaches, and the list goes on and on.. but not until such time when I had to slow down a bit, pull the pedal, and set those wanderlust urges aside once again to dedicate more time for another chapter of my academic life, being a part-time student on one hand, and a full-time job on the other. 

Thus, I extremely thank the universe for holidays. One such rarities was during that Christmas season, when I was able to get in touch with the sands of Matnog in Sorsogon, then later dropped by Legazpi just before going back home; sit over a rock and spend some quality time waiting for the clouds to partially reveal this conic's perfect form, with such perfect peak I sincerely wish to stand the test of time:

Surely, it will take a few more full moons before some well-spent getsway like this comes up again. To those other dear spots from the country on different waiting ends, please wait for me patiently. It’s just a matter of time.


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Matnog on my mind, again

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Beach-ing around at this age and time is too mainstream the fact that for most of us, it’s already our way of life. But the Subic Beach in Matnog is a totally different story altogether. Sure there are a lot of more popular beach destinations in the country yet this laid back, unspoilt destination is heavily boasting its own beauty; that the rough fifteen hour total ride I had to endure just to reach it, is undoubtedly worth it. And with my desire to capture such beauty, I made this quick unfinished sketch minutes before the sundown, which turned out to be a poor attempt of doing a hand-illustrated postcard, "Sakaling Hindi Makarating"-style. Here's to hoping for a better one next time. 

“Just add water”
pencil on paper
2.5 x 4.0”
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Matnog on my mind

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25 December 2015, Subic Beach, Matnog. The time just slipped away and it was christmas day afternoon already..

I had along restless road exposure prior to this beach bumming moment, and this hints an almost sleepless christmas eve on my part. It was almost noontime at the helm upon reaching the official jumpoff point at the southernmost tip in Sorsogon. The fact that it was a holiday, I expected that it will be extra hard to find a chartered boat towards the target destination. But good heavens permit, the seeking game didn’t last that long after some petty negotiations, then the boat’s crawling good to go as it made its way across the pacific waves.

A staggering happiness was currently happening in the island during the sultry but gracious arrival, witnessing a bunch of kids having the time of their lives in their lushest playground called the waters and a huge family celebrating over. It’s nice to see such free-spirited souls taking things lightly on such postcard-perfect scene – stunning powdery sand, richly plant-lined beaches lapped by clear turquoise waters, and so on. And it made me feel good. Talk about being away from home, away from the usual routine, the usual rules, and the usual woes. Happy independence day.

The beach wasn’t at its best during my visit; quiet and devastated as it is due to the previous typhoon that hit the province weeks before Christmas – no electricity, thus no ice for sale, therefore no cold beer. Nevertheless, the place was still as lovely as I imagined. Indeed, it only took me a heartbeat to fall in love with this lovely place. It’s 2 o’clock, and no matter how I wanted to further drench myself on the waters, I had to temporarily set everything aside and embrace that long-coveted sleep for myself, the sea-side way.


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Christmas on the Road

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The painful truth that is – I’ve been missing those usual weekend getaways for a considerable amount of time now. That weekend class, plus the other responsibilities always piling up were the primary culprits for this extensive running-away abstinence on my part. But such terms as priority and time management were also invented.. 

..which brings me to this very unlikely but perfect choice of spending the previous christmas season away from home to compensate for the lack of that right time I have been insofar, waiting for. December 24, 2015 was the fateful date, just a few days after a hell of a sem. From the restful foot of Mt. Makiling where I’ve been thriving for a good eight years now, I opted to go southward and explore the other far end of the island of Luzon rather than directing northward and spend the holidays abode, like I’ve been doing for the last seven years. 

As liberating as this may sound, the challenge is very much real from finding a seat off a bus (read: christmas) to enduring the ride itself with an inconsiderate seatmate on a nonstop puff throughout the ride. Then there was that almost tragic crash against a reckless trailer truck somewhere in Quezon’s forested roads. But the entire bus ride wasn’t bad that much; the ratio of pleasure to misery was still greater than one. I remember waking up at twelve midnight off a deep nap then greeting my other seatmate a merry christmas; and then falling asleep again before waking just in time to have a glimpse of the famed Mt. Mayon in orange outlines; before finally taking that long rural stretch to the first stop: Sorsogon.


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Beautiful things don’t ask for attention

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January 24, 2016 – There must be a good reason why these confidently beautiful kapa-kapa (Medinilla magnifica) blooms are hidden all the way up Mt. Makiling. And while some cultivated ones are already in the backyards being one of those prized ornamentals, nothing beats the splendor of it thriving in the wild. I wish people could be like that, passionate and confident and peaceful and free, in the midst of or away from whatever chaos or adversities there is. Or even from solitude.
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I think that I shall never see, such a lovely tree

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Indeed, the best part of our Mt. Pulag climb was during our way down. While it’s true that the summit is just the half-way point, and we had to go on exactly the same trek once more, it turned out that the descent was a different story altogether. And the highlight of it all boiled down to this uplifting scene, so perfect to end our Mt. Pulag jaunt..



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Mt. Pulag Roundup

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For some time, climbing had somehow become the focus of my existence to the exclusion of everything else. It’s that intensified ambition and uninhibited dream that forced me to reach those loftiest points eventually piling up the numbers to at least 30 peaks, to date. The hunger to climb had really been blunted by those bunches of small satisfactions adding up to something like addiction. And one of the culminating climbs to top them all, was that one cool of a climb to no less than the playground of the northern gods – Mt. Pulag.

Climbing Mt. Pulag is no less than a dream come true. I am quite sure that my dream about Pulag was not mine alone, and that others are aspiring in climbing this most coveted northern peak in the realm of terrestrial exploration as well. With the mountain’s sheer overwhelming mass which is backed with a great deal of architectural grace, I dreamed of ascending it myself after my first Mt. Maculot climb last January 2013. And for almost two years, that wanting remained a buried but burning desire. Until one day an opportunity to conquer it finally knocked leaving me no choice but to accept the invite. Boy, some desires really die hard. Good sense be damned.

Ascending Mt. Pulag is a long but a lovely process. The itinerary for this climb requires much time and effort as one will need to steal away some time from the daily grind; in my case, work. Sorry work :) The road rage to Baguio alone entails some hours off the sched. But everything’s worth it; the process itself is something valuable enough in expense of a few days. The experience from the topload ride, nature treat of wondrous mossy forest sights, the infamous sea of clouds, and so on, were some of the prizes waiting for the bite.

The Mt. Pulag climb is not exactly a walk in the park. Surprisingly, it’s not the hike per se that made the climb hard. Aside from the hefty outlay of cash, the most difficult part of the hike was the huge temperature drop during the rest of the night. True enough, during the past two years I called myself a hiker, I had undertaken more difficult stints than this one – been trapped and lost in the midst of a stormy climb to Malipunyo, buffeted by a hundred knot winds while doing a solo ascent to Mt. Zion, and plastered with other frangible atmospheric rimes. But walking up Mt. Pulag is an experience unique on its own. And upon rethinking about it, it’s not entirely an easy feat after all. But with proper mindset, attitude, and training prior to the climb, everything should turn out fine.

It’s not really expensive. While I stated earlier that climbing Mt. Pulag requires a great deal of cash, I actually mean only half of that. It’s true that it’s relatively more costly than all the other hikes I did in the past, but the cash it wouild cost is still justified. I’m not a huge fan of travel agencies offering tour packages but this one is an exception. With all the rush and hassle and effort that goes along with the whole planning, it’s just fair to spend a little more than the usual.

The whole experience is a humbling one. The culture of climbing is sometimes a mix of competition and machismo. As I see it, some mountaineers and hikers are concerned with impressing one another, with endless comparisons on which and how many mountains they have climbed so far. I should know, because the first time I dreamed of conquering Mt. Pulag I objectified it as a bragging right, who won’t be proud to be on top of the highest point in Luzon anyway. But then, finally reaching its peak made me feel otherwise. The previous night’s cold showed us how little and weak we could be.

It isn’t all about the sea of clouds. And it’s not always the peak that’s the best. When I finally plodded up my last few steps to the summit, I had that tingling sensation of excitement, until I found both of my feet nowhere higher to climb. Reaching the summit triggered a surge of intense elation, for against all odds I attained a goal that was once a mere of a dream. But it’s not the peak that’s the best part, it was actually the descent that made me appreciate it more – the views across the trails that we failed to have a good look at during the ascent due to darkness . 
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Mt. Pulag Summit

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Straddling the top of Luzon, I hunched a shoulder against the cool breeze, stared in awe at the vastness of what seemed like a well-maintained grassland, and see to it to capture memories through photographs, in hope to provide a valuable record of how special such place is. I have been fantasizing about that moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. And right then when I was finally there, actually standing on the summit of Mt. Pulag, all the struggle from that long shivery night just faded away. The view up there on top was a beauty of truly monumental proportions. Right at those very moments, I could safely and selfishly say that nothing could come between me and those seas of clouds cascading over the hills. True enough, we were lucky to have a good weather that day and take a birds’ eye look at the immensity of the panoramic slopes.

But all good things must eventually come to an end. The sun’s brightly shining already, so we began to finally descend and go back to the campsite.
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Sea of Clouds

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While the sub-zero wind chills tortured me the whole night, I could still positively feel the glorious morning coming ahead. The Mt. Pulag night cold struggle continues with that 3 AM call-time for the final assault to the panoramic view point. It was cold inside our tent but the colder reality is, it was obviously colder outside. But left with no choice, we had to defy Newton’s first law of inertia, and get ourselves going. Still too dark, we needed headlamps to work our way up the muddy trails across those hills. Along the hike, flashes of great scenery were greeting us once in a while but the entirety’s not fully revealing itself yet. We strolled for a little over an hour until we finally saw that one last push of a hike and get there right above the clouds, with us momentarily being the tallest things in the entire Luzon island..


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The Long Pulag Night

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Moments later, I was awaken by the intolerable temperature drop, the storm booming without in solemn swells. Then the air seemed wailing from inside the tent. I could hear the ice cold dews striking and dripping over our now nearly useless tent. I checked my phone for the time only to find out that it was only a little over an hour since I fell to that shallow slumber. My body was chilling and I could feel the ground freezing. It was literally the coolest moment I have ever been and unfortunately I wasn’t prepared.

Well I fell asleep a few more times but woke up just as often. Whenever deep sleep was about to arrive, I would shrink back and wake up due to the unsettling cold, then sleep and woke again, in endless repetition. It felt dreadfully cold, but there was no help for it. So I pulled my freezing self together, got between the sheets, and pushed myself to the best of my ability to fall asleep again. Every waking hour was a déjà vu growing worse with every turn, more of the same, one more time around.

For the first time in a long time, I uttered some evening prayers for the Pulag gods or whomever out there exists. I keep my vigil, but to no expense. And then a notchlower temp began to squeeze on us further, while the clock spanks me with the fact that it was just eight o’clock. It was the longest night I should know.

I hardly had a good sleep since then. I laid there dismally calculating the remaining hours I had to endure. Seven, six, five.. and the night was getting far even colder. The thought nearly caused me hypothermia, but then I had to endure, along with the lesson on how the cold could such inspire fear. And I swore not to do that ever again.
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Some opinions expressed in this site might not suit your taste. Sure there are tons of tpyo, speling, andgramming errors. Well I never claimed to be perfect nor close to being an English teacher which gives me the right to commit these mistakes. Btw, thanks for dropping by.

KEEP THE NUMBERS GROWING!