My first foray into the written world of Michael Crichton was Congo. James, who loves the man as much as Dan Brown, never missed to mention his works whenever we talk about books. So I guess this is where curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back comes in.
The 1980 sci-fi novel centers on an expedition searching for rare blue diamonds and investigating the mysterious deaths of a previous expedition in the dense tropical rainforest of the Congo. At first I was worried that I’d be stuck in the complicated science and technical jargon but as it turns out, Crichton is a great de-jargonizer. I found myself immediately engaged in the story that capsulized science, history, and geography in each and every page.
Which brings me to this week’s WQW, Iron and Ironies. Congo left me emotionally, mentally and morally disturbed. In a simple story it raised provocative questions that I found hard to answer.
To what extent is animal cruelty? Is it limited to performing experiments/animal research? How about throwing lobsters on a boiling pot? Sticking pigs on bamboo poles? Exterminating rats? Do ALL animals have rights or just a selected few? Does man get to give them the reason to stay alive as a species?
These questions led me to reflect on our deeply ingrained habit of meat eating, on the equality among animals, and man’s idea of speciesism. I know there are multiple sides to these multifaceted issues and I would love to hear a thing or two from you. 🙂
We all handle plot twists a little differently. There are those who sit meticulously to plan their next steps. Others don’t give a second thought and just hope for things to work out. There are those who stop dead in their tracks and try to muster the courage to make things happen again. Others can’t handle the change and run away. We can be planners or takers. Drifters or runners. We all put ourselves out there. Sometimes it’s full of regret, but most often it’s full of surprises. Just like this recent hike.
To end the year 2019, my friends and I decided to climb the Philippines’ highest, Mt. Apo (via Sta. Cruz – Kidapawan Trail). We had our activity booked, our itinerary mapped out. Everything was in order for the coming November 21 to 23 — or so we thought.
After months of rehabilitation from the recent El Nino, Mt. Apo reopened its trails for climbers. However, we received a news that travel agencies, guides and tourism office reached an agreement that there will be no more exit to Kidapawan Trail starting October. LGU Kidapawan has declined all exits from Davao. This was our first plot twist. We were given two options instead: 1) opt for the Kidapawan entry and exit [backtrail] or 2) opt for the Sta. Cruz – Bansalan Trail. Despite our anticipation of the majestic Lake Venado in Kidapawan, we chose the latter for a better experience.
And just when we thought there’ll be no more hurdles, a series of shocks followed. By mid-October, an earthquake swarm struck the province of Cotabato. This raised our initial unease because it might trigger the active volcano that we were planning to climb. Unease turned to fear when successive tremors jolted Davao where Mt. Apo is. That was the last straw. By November, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Davao Region and Davao LGU announced the closure of Mt. Apo until further notice.
When you’re in a bad situation, are you going to back out, wait or figure out a solution?
Shiela, the founder of Shiela’s Mountaineering Society or SMS as we fondly call it, would not concede defeat. With the help of our kind guide, Kuya Babu, they worked on a tedius Plan B (this is already Plan C, rght?) which is to climb Mt. Kalatungan (the country’s 5th highest) and Mt. Wiji (Mt. Lumpanag). A much harder challenge with a difficulty level of 8/9! But this was not the end of our endless plot twists. A magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocked the province of Bukidnon where Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Wiji are. Two typhoons were wrecking havoc in the Philippines. With only a few days before our trip, we had no conclusive destination.
Still not backing out yet? SMS says no.
We found ourselves in the airport at the dawn of our flight. All our bags were packed for a five-day vacay. We packed and repacked so as to not exceed the maximum baggage limit. We were jittery and excited at once. Yet again, another plot twist followed us until the very last minute. Our organizer got too disorganized that she forgot her ID. Of all the things that Shiela must forget, she chose the ID. With wary minds, we went ahead and checked-in since our names were paged one by one. Can Shiela catch up?
Never say never! With Shiela finally onboard, we took off to Davao – only to be welcomed by another problem. One of us, who was on a separate flight, was nowhere to be found. All our messages and calls were met with silence. Time was ticking and following our itinerary is important. In the end, we agreed that he may not be coming. He may have backed out for valid reasons but we never really got to know as of this writing. We were ghosted.
Anyhow, a 3 to 4 hours roadtrip followed and we finally reached the tourism office in Pangantucan. Ms Joy presided the orientation and discussed about the do’s and dont’s.
We then presented the permit, signed the waiver and headed Brgy. Mendis.
It was almost 5 pm when we arrived to the jump-off area. We were welcomed by Datu Eryong Inahan and were quickly introduced to our guides and porter guides. It was getting dark and we still had 1-2 hours trek going to the View Deck. We didn’t have time to appreciate the open field we passed by since the rain started to pour. Hard. Even with our waterproofing and rain pochos, we were soaked. The world dimmed at there was nothing but our headlamps to light our way. After an agonizing hike that seemed like forever, we arrived at the View Deck. It was a a treehouse built by locals that serves as a stopover for climbers.
Time check, 7:oo pm. What started as a hot and scorching day ended with a full blast gloom.
Will tomorrow be a better day? Find out!
For the meantime, here’s a glimpse of our hike from CJ’s vlog. 😉
It’s easier to laugh it off. To pit women who put on a full make up against those who don’t. This culture of incriminating women of their choices — the way they look or the way they dress — must end. Women can put on make up or choose to bare their freckles and dark spots. They can wear LBDs and stiletto or just plain shirt and baggy pants. Truth is, we can always do both if we choose to. So stop this duality, this sick comparison of nonsense. Because we are our own expectation and reality.
Most people like things wet but definitely not during a hike in the mountains. From slippery trails to soggy socks, getting wet might just not be one’s idea of fun. And while keeping up-to-date with the weather forecast has proven advantageous, nature has its own playful tricks.
But before we admit defeat and put on our sulky faces, there are actually many ways to face the cold spells coolly. It just requires a little extra precaution. As they say, staying dry is easier than drying out.
1. Before ticking off you gear list, take care of its carrier — that is you and your backpack. Take time to do research (bahala’g masuko si Cynthia Villar) on how to protect yourself and your backpack from rain cheaply and quickly.
Make sure you have your rain cover. If you do not have waterproof jackets and pants, you can always opt for the cheaper rain poncho.
2. Pack all your necessary gears into trash bags/dry bags — especially your gadgets. Sort your things into zip locks to keep them dry and organized.
3. Proper layering. Layered clothes allow you to easily respond to adverse and changing weather conditions. Also, they regulate your body temperature better.
Choose high-quality, wind-resistant and waterproof outfits. These should be breathable and comfortable. Wear long sleeves (drifit, wool or fleece) beneath your outer layer. You can also put on leggings or workout tights under your pants because they don’t restrict movement and are far more comfortable.
4. Don’t go crazy-rich-hiker on me. No need to spend a lot on your clothes. Ukay-ukay (surplus or thrift shop) is always ready to the rescue. Aside from saving your money, you also get to help lessen capitalism’s impact with these hand-me-downs. 😁
5. Protect your extremities with warmers. For someone who has cold intolerance like me, you have to be sure to protect your hands, feet, ears, neck and head by wearing gloves, thermal socks, neck scarf and bonnet.
6. Estimate how waterproof, breathable, light and comfortable your shoes are. Even the most expensive trekking shoes won’t keep your feet completely dry while you hike in extended rain — you are going to be soaked one way or another. Bring extra sandals just in case.
7. Lean on poles. No matter how strong the grip of your shoes are, you will need a trekking pole. It is an added support on the ground and allows for more traction. With it, you can check the stability of wet or muddy trail before making your step.
8. Sleep on warm surface. Invest on insulation foam or sleeping pad. Wrap yourself like a lumpia (shanghai roll) with those sleeping bags. You can also bring emergency blankets if it gets too cold.
Also, make use of the famous adage: no man is an island. Use your body heat to your advantage. Share it with your friends or more than friends.
9. Always hike with your amego, amega and most importantly, your omega! After a long hike — wet or dry — you’re gonna need it. Trust me. 😂
10. Last but definitely not the least, have a good time. Keeping a positive attitude can make things bearable. Hike it forward. Own the wind and rain.
The state weather bureau has recently declared the onset of the northeast monsoon or “amihan” season here in the Philippines. This entry is a personal list I made for my friends and I. Before the year comes to a close, we decided to do one last major climb. And what better way to cap the year than to climb the country’s highest?
The moment I heard that the streets of Divisoria have been cleared of sidewalk vendors, I flew to Manila to witness the momentous sight. This once busy section, riddled with various bazaars and people, has finally been stripped off its chaos.
As I stride aimlessly on one of its thoroughfares, I couldn’t help but sigh. It feels different. Everything is new to the eyes. Who would have thought we were walking on square blocks of concrete before?
“It’s so empty,” I voiced out.
“So are our stomachs,” the man from behind replied. He is Renato, a vendor for 45 years.
Friday Fictioneers is a weekly writing challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields where a photo is used as a prompt for a hundred-word piece of fiction. The photo prompt this week is a courtesy of Rochelle herself. 🙂
This one is inspired by the ongoing road clearing operations in the Philippines. Last July, the Department of the Interior and Local Government gave local executives 60 days to reclaim public roads from private use and to clear streets of obstruction. While this project scheme comes with good reasons and intentions, it could not be denied that the street vendors, whose lives relied on their meager earnings, were greatly affected. When the stretch of roads have all been emptied, what happens to those who strive to make ends meet. Is change truly for all? Here’s a photo of the real Divisoria.
It was said that the Spaniards once saw the flaming red of the fire trees that dotted the shores of Matalom beach. They asked the natives the local dialect for “hermosa” or beautiful and they were answered, “Matahum” or “Matalom.” This was the origin of the town’s name.
Matalom is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Leyte. A south western coastal town inhabited by peaceful and sea-loving people, it is best known for the scenic Canigao Island. But is this the only thing they can offer? The answer is a resounding no.
Fresh from Cebu, my sister, James and I took a PUJ from Hilongos to experience Matalom for a day. It was almost 7 am when we arrived in Brgy. Santa Fe. Originally, we planned on going to Canigao Island first but due to time constraints, we decided to head to the nearby Karap-agan Falls instead. Continue reading “Matalom: Experiencing its ‘katahum’ for a day”→
For people who walk hand in hand with anxiety, it will always come as a surprise when someone tells us that we are the missing puzzle in his or her life. Everyday we spend precious seconds tiptoeing, walking on thin glass — afraid that one wrong move would break our hard-earned peace of mind. For us, it will always be a question of why. Why me? Why leave? Why stay? We keep a long list of why’s on our pockets so whenever we feel like we took a bad step and notice the slightest change, we know what to start asking. Why did his tone dropped a little lower? Why is she touching her ears? Why did it took him extra 2 seconds to answer?
People say that we should learn to trust others. But, truth is, they are not the problem. We can hand them all the trust we have, but we can never fully trust ourselves. We will never be a good enough reason for anything. Not smart enough. Not kind enough. Not talented enough. Not pretty enough. Sooner or later they will realize that we are the not the missing puzzle. We are the puzzle. And that is the hardest thing.
From numerous mountains, lakes, waterfalls, beach resorts to historical places, sumptuous food and gentle people, the province of Negros Oriental continues to attract a lot of tourists each year. It’s close proximity to the islands of Siquijor and Cebu also played to its advantage.
As for James and I, our Negros Oriental Backpacking trip is not just a simple visit but an escape from the traffic, noise, dynamics and pollution of the city life.
“What is happiness, Grandma?” four-year old Jenny beamed, her eyes filled with curiosity and wonder.
It’s year 2090. The unlikely symbiosis between humans and computers over the years lead to the creation of Hyperworld. Technology evolved in ways nobody believed was possible to begin with. Man, like God, has come to defy the natural law. And there is no need for such thing nowadays.
With little Jenny on my lap, I described what happiness looked like. Happiness came in different forms but always with leaves. They whispered day and night. Their color changed with seasons. Winds carried gay trills of song. They used to make the world alive.
“Does happiness still exists, Grandma?” she asked.
My wrinkled hands brushed the faded photograph. It’s an awkward picture of me walking amid what people in bygone years used to call trees.
“I hope it does, angel. I truly hope it does.”
Word count: 150
I remember the first time I joined Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing prompt hosted by PJ where we were challenged to weave a piece of fiction using 150 (+/- 25 words). It lead me to a (virtual) path treaded by the likes of Rosema, Jade, Mandi, Jessie, Davy D, Millie and Ali. Back then, we had all the energy and time create our own fictional worlds and let other writers in. Fast-forward to 2019, we found ourselves caught in buzz of the real. Some of us still writes (cheers!) while others hope to get back at writing (no, you don’t stop). Of the six flash fiction writing prompts I used to join in, only three are left active: Sunday Photo Fiction, Flash Fiction for the Practical Practitioner and Friday Fictioneers.