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DoodleScribbles

Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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maria

Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 3 (Lake Venado + Century-old Tree)

What goes up must come down, they say. So there we were, descending 740 meters from the summit of Mt. Apo to reach the iconic Lake Venado where we would encamp for the night. A short distance for many, but a challenging one nonetheless.

The trail to Lake Venado was evidently spoiled by time and people. It was steep and muddy and slippery. But for someone who prefers downhill over uphill terrain like me, it was honestly a little fun. Had we not been carrying our backpacks, we would surely enjoy running — even sliding — on the mire like kids. But nobody dared to take photos during those two hours of balancing our feet. Our minds and eyes were focused holding on to branches/roots/grass to avoid tumbling down.

My trail buddies downhill

It was 4pm when Shiela, Karl, James, Ate Sherlyn, Shandy and I finally reached the lake. The rest of our group went ahead and had already set up camp. For us, we took a quick breather and stared at our feat. We survived the Lake Venado trail!

That dirty butt says a lot… HAHA!

Even with the gloomy late afternoon, Lake Venado remained magnificent. At 2194 masl, the weather up here was better than the summit. The water, however, was numbing cold. Their campsite was well established with working water faucets, sink areas, gender-separated toilet rooms and bathrooms. While most campers did not dare to take the shower, James, Karl and I did. And boy, we’d tell you. Lake Venado is not the only thing here that could take your breath away. Take. That. Shower.

We started the liquor ahead of our dinner to warm our insides. We had fun recalling our experiences from Day 1 to Day 2 over a long neck bottle. Shortly, the food arrived and we filled our stomachs with hot soup. [insert drunken conversations and forgotten memories here]

I doubt any of us remember what happened here.

Morning came and our eyes feasted to the beauty of Lake Venado. Reflected on its calm water is the peak of Mt. Apo creating a dreamy scene. The sun’s golden glow and the clear blue skies played its part in making it even more mesmerizing. It was definitely one of the most unforgettable views I’ve ever seen.

Waking up to this view
The weather changed in a blink of an eye so we decided to go
One final salute to Mt. Apo for the great experience

At 8am, we started breaking our camp and by 8:30am, we headed to Century Tree trail. Our guides told us that the hike would last up to 7 hours. It was 13km of easy trek through alternating uphill and downhill terrain. Thankfully, it was not as steep as the trail going up the boulders or the trail going down Lake Venado.

Happy faces
There are also guide dogs in Mt. Apo. We saw one along the trail.
Endless greens
The last assault before reaching the century tree

After 4 hours, we reached the century-old Almaciga Tree. Mt. Apo is home to many towering trees but this one stood out with its long trunk breaking through the canopy of the smaller trees around it. There were other hikers exiting through this trail so we had to wait for our turn to get up-close the tree.

The last group photo

We then continued the hike, looking forward to finally calling it a day. Soon, the long hours of walking took its toll. The weight of our backpacks became noticeable and the last descent became too exhausting. We saw the community from above but knew we were still far away. I personally did not want to walk any longer since my auntie-knees started to hurt, but I had to. Holding onto my trek poles, I hobbled forward.

Finally, we were able to catch up with the lead group at Dissander. Another hour of hike and we were back to Sitio Colan where we received our climb certificates. It was past 5pm and the weather went from fair to bad. Rain poured hard with punctuating thunder and lightning. Gladly, we didn’t have to carry our bags to our van pick-up area. We chartered motorcycles to take it instead. Two hours later, we headed to our rented apartment at Davao City. Comfortable sofa and bed, at last.

…and this concludes our 3D2N Mt. Apo climb. The two years of waiting was worth it. Would I come back? YES! I would love to see the sun rise on top of the country’s highest point. Or witness a sea of clouds if destiny permits it. Perhaps I’d be with different people by then, sharing different sets of stories along the trail. The possibilities in the mountains are endless. All we have to do is embrace it and hike. See you!

Check out these related posts:

Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 1 (A fantasy turned reality)
Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 2 (The journey to the summit of Apo Sandawa)

Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 2 (The journey to the summit of Apo Sandawa)

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” This quote by Australian-born rock climber and mountaineer, Greg Child, perfectly summarized our three-day Mt. Apo climb.

As I have shared in Part 1, this climb was two years in the making. So with still sleepy eyes, but excited hearts, we woke up on the second day knowing that something important is about to happen.

It’s 2 am. Save the light from the night sky, outside was pitch dark. The air was cold but thankfully our guides prepared hot soup before we break camp.

break camp mode

From Tinikaran I, it would take an estimate of 4 to 6 hours to the summit — depending on your pace and your stops. Kuya Babu briefed us what to expect along the trail. He told us not to stray away from the group since there were many confusing forks ahead. He warned us of the steep ascent. That it would be long and grueling and somewhat endless. At quarter to 3 am, we began. To make sure that no one would drag the hike and none of us gets left behind, we decided on the lead, midpack and sweeper group. As for me, I chose the latter.

As I walked at the back of the pack, I saw the string of headlamps snaked to the sky. We hiked through a thick forest, passing by Tinikaran II. We used the roots of bigger trees as foothold and means to pull ourselves up the trail. Some fallen branches also acted as hurdles. We hoped and crawled our way through until we reached the forest’s exit.

4:30 am. The first light started to break by this time.

ang nawong sa excited sa boulder face
Continue reading “Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 2 (The journey to the summit of Apo Sandawa)”

Ka Treasure Water Terraces Mountain Resort: A humble place to de-stress

Making a name in social media is Argao’s very own Ka Treasure Water Terraces Mountain Resort. The place is known for its natural water terraces formation that resembles Abra’s Kaparkan Falls. With its picturesque tiered pools backdropped by nature’s greenery, one could not help but say their oohhs and aahhs.

But more than its immersive view, what makes Ka Treasure interesting — at least for me — is its humble beginnings. What began as a couple’s farmland dream led to the discovery of a hidden gem. The young owners, Sam and Mary Ann, are ordinary Argawanons who once decided to trade urban living for a life in the mountains. Who would have thought nature has more in store for these two?

Continue reading “Ka Treasure Water Terraces Mountain Resort: A humble place to de-stress”

Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 1 (A fantasy turned reality)

Luck — a force that brings fortune or adversity. One that causes good or bad things to happen. Some people get good luck handed to them; some get a second chance. Some get it by pure coincidence while others have to work their ass.


Most hikers, if not all, dream of climbing Mt. Apo. At 2,954 masl, it is the highest point in the country. The closest any Filipino could get to the sky. So naturally, my friends and I want to set foot on it too. But we all know what happened in 2019.


Fast forward two years later, with the lingering global pandemic and political turmoil, here we are back at the airport, on our way to the same land. We were one of the few groups climbing Mt. Apo before its annual closure. Save the best for last indeed.

A fantasy turned reality

Coming along were familiar faces from our Kala-Wiji climb, with the exemption of our two SMS (tito) heartthrobs, CJ and sir Arc, Zan (who was still hangover with his Palawan trip), and John (who found love in the sea). Despite this, the fun continued since we finally got to climb with the SMS big three, Chiarra, An and Sandy (who were back in Mt. Apo for revenge), Kim ( the munyeka behind thestrollingmind), Analyn (the songerist behind themountainpoet), and Karl (the passionate PT behind karliciouso).

Our original route was supposed to be via Sta. Cruz – Bansalan Trail. However, as it has been two years since our first registration, Bansalan LGU “lost” our papers and won’t honor our downpayments anymore. We thought we’re doomed for misfortune since we’ve had this this kind of plot twist before, but I guess it’s true when they say that “a bit of bad luck is a blessing in disguise.” Our new route was through the Sta. Cruz – Century Tree trail circuit. Finally, a chance to see the majestic Lake Venado!

Continue reading “Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 1 (A fantasy turned reality)”

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical Fiction/War/Young Adult
Copy: Online
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌗

Short Synopsis: 

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

What I liked:

1. The POV. This is the first WWII novel I have come to read that is not centered on the plight of Jews during Hitler’s regime (which just reminds me again that I must not call myself a well-read person). It gave me a glimpse of the side of war that I have not paid close attention to before: the struggles of the lesser known European countries during Stalin’s rule. One will have to read this novel with a lump in their throat. From the first page to the last, there were suffering and misery and death. There were moments of hope, too, sneaking in and out of their gray days. But as with all wars, nobody truly wins in the end.

The POV from a teenage Lithuanian girl is also a welcome take. And the use of art (drawing) to reveal the truth and to connect with others is powerful move. I find the bittersweet flashbacks of Lina’s family life before the war a breather. It reminded me of the real humans before they were turned into a walking ghost.

2. The characters. Each individual is a gem, from the likeable to the unlikeable. The characterization felt real and I found it easy to jump from one shoe to another. It was an emotional rollercoaster living the lives of these characters. Their pain, frustration, fear, anger, madness — I felt it all. The only thing that felt distant to me is their resilience (perhaps reading the book in these anxious times made it so).

Continue reading “Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys”

The More Loving One by W.H. Auden

Featured poems and spoken word poetry

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

Featured poems and spoken word poetry

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.


Here is something that we all need in these heartbreaking times. May we find the much-needed pause from all the hate and greed.

Driftwood wishes and indigo dreams

Someplace else, I find myself mid-air. Suspended like a bewildered ghost; a half-read poem filled with hope. Here, there is no time or space. There are no relics of your presence leaving me disconcerted – breathless.

I am a a riot of color; a burst of light. I stomp my feet on pretentious laurels. I cut ties with sharpened tongue. Here, in the midst of the night, I am not a misplaced fragment. I am sought, not seeking.

But daybreak is such a jealous lover. It comes with ticking knives – stripping each layer of my disillusionment. I am back to my boring flaws. I plead for another second of peace; press my cheeks on the pillow. By no means. Reality struck me with all its hate.

And the stars weep.

I find myself on tiptoes. A danseuse on high relevé; the second half of a poem filled with woes. Here, there are no more tulips beneath my feet, and feelings don’t wilt as quickly as flowers do.

How do I marry dreams and reality? Can the laws of nature bend for a sappy miss who got courage as her only feat?


Today, I found myself scrolling through someone’s IG account. She’s been one of my closest girlfriends and it’s a wonder how our different personalities kept us binded for many years. As I look at her pictures and read its captions, I am reminded of how bad of a friend I have become. I hid behind lame excuses (time zones and distance) but truth is I got too caught up in the troubles of the world that I fail to see the troubles of those most important to me. I feel sad that the strong person that I know she is, is fighting the emotional and mental battle on her own. And I feel worse that I don’t have the best words to make things better. This one is inspired my some of her captions.

A reminder after each fall

time may be a heinous thief
this blood-washed land is filled with greed
if mornings are without the song of birds
and men and pigs march in herd

begin again—

like the sun behind a thin cloud
reappearing, warming them
or the blue sea breathing in and out
along the pebbled verge

begin again—

like the green-cloaked trees after Odette
drenched in fresh, comforting warmth
or the butterflies and their dusted wings
dancing to the yellow sun

so long as there are seven of the same moon
and love roars and purrs with the same passion
until happiness leaks out of your very soul
begin again after each fall


Today, I woke up to a notification from WordPress celebrating my seventh anniversary of blogging. I would not call the last three years “good blogging” as I have been in and out of WP most of the time. But I will forever be grateful for this very day when a naïve girl decided to pour her heart out through words for the first time.

May she find her way back to poetry one day…

slowly yet surely.

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