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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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mountain climbing

Kala-Wiji Chronicles: Part 1 (The Plot Twists)

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.

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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.

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Hello, gorgeous.

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?

Shiela and her life decisions.

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.

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Touchdown, Davao!

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.

Kala-Wiji team!

We then presented the permit, signed the waiver and headed Brgy. Mendis.

Just before the rain!

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. 😉

Quick and dirty tips to staying dry… on the trail

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.

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Team Buwad!

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.

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noob essentials 

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.

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(c) Zen Mountain Gear

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. 😁

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Who says men don’t go to ukay-ukay?

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.

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Keep them warm!

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.

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Get comfy!

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.

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Indeed very help-POLE!

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.

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SMS founder spotted!

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. 😂

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(c) CJ Estrada

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.

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(c) P30 ni Chiarra 😉

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?

 

Mt. Pinatubo: A 42km Golden Adventure

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Sunrise ❤

“Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?”

The classic story of the phoenix is that of resilience and hope. For centuries, this mythical bird became a symbolic reminder of people who has risen from the ashes. Those who bounced back up after their world came crashing down. Those who built themselves after falling apart.

Most of us talk about the phoenix but rarely of the flame. Just as how in life we see more of the outcome and less of the process. That is why this entry is not just about standing above the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. It is about zooming in to the beauty of the disaster we found during our 42-kilometer hike. Continue reading “Mt. Pinatubo: A 42km Golden Adventure”

Out of Rich

lying beneath the stars
lulled to sleep by cicadas
waking up to summer mornings
with the song of the birds
this is what happy looks like
this is how we should feel
yes, i may not be rich
yet happiness is on my reach
MS


In response to dVerse’s Quadrille hosted by Kim who challenges to play around the rich inspiration brought by the word RICH.

Like it or not, we have come to live in a world that is obsessed with possession. One must have this or that — nothing is ever enough. Everything feels like race. We always have to have the next big thing, to be the first in line. We are tricked to think that we need to achieve something momentous, earn and spend bags of cash, quantify happiness with materialism. This is why I treasure life’s simple joys in the midst of all its toxicity. Last weekend, my friends and I decided to go on a night trek and camp at Bocaue Peak (also known as Muffin Peak). Even if it was just for a short span of time, we were away from the thoughts of worldly possessions and one with the natural world.

Head over here to join the prompt!

dverse

Mt. Talinis: Where expectation meets reality

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Do you prefer hiking with a specific group of people or do you like seeing new faces? At its core, mountain climbing is not just about reaching the top. Most often, what matters most are the experiences and memories we shared along the trail. And admit it, when you look at those instagrammable photos, your mind travels back to the conversations, big or small. Those candid laughter, comfortable jokes and banters, little slips, unguarded expressions, and many more.

This is why WHO you go in the mountains with counts. Friends or strangers, each has its pros and cons that can make or break the success of any climb.

If this was two years ago, I would avoid any chance of meeting new faces. But the mountains had taught me the beauty of building connections… in nature and in people. So now I don’t mind — at least not much. Continue reading “Mt. Talinis: Where expectation meets reality”

LIGID trail: Licos to Lanigid

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At the foot of Licos Peak

Not long ago, Team Buwad (James, An Jurvel, Shandy and I) headed north to visit some of its waterfalls. This time, James took us to what he called the LIGID trail, a moniker for the hike starting from Licos Peak in Danao, traversing to Mulao River in Compostela, and exiting in Lanigid Hill in Liloan. Along with us are Shiela and Bryan.

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Today’s guide

Continue reading “LIGID trail: Licos to Lanigid”

In a quandary

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She sails away in dreams and books
Finds refuge in every empty nooks
But when she saw the babbling brook
It showed her what she overlooked

Though she finds refuge in empty nooks
There is more to life than a storybook
And she finally saw what she overlooked
A laughter, a smile, come take a look

There is more to life than a storybook
More to boring likes and posts on Facebook
A laughter, a smile, come take a look
The mountains wait, lay down your books

More to boring likes and posts on Facebook
More to sailing away in dreams and books
The mountains wait, lay down your books
And heed the call of the babbling brook
MS

 

 


In response to dVerse’s Poetics: your poetic hum hosted by Gina who introduced us to the Tanpura Principle in writing (the idea that much of writing occurs while doing something else). What is the poetic hum in your life? What hums in the background of your life that inspires you as you unconsciously listen while you work and live? Is the drone always there or do you have to cultivate the inspiration?

As I have found my passion and profession in writing, work does not take much of a toll. But if there is one thing that made me live a dual life, it is the happiness I found in nature. On most days I am torn between slouching on the bed with a book and putting on my bag to explore the outdoors. Sometimes, the book wins. Sometimes, the mountains. It’s like being torn between two lovers. 

Also, linking this up to Poetry Forms – The Pantoum. Other than Quadrille and Haibun, I haven’t written a piece with a poetry form. This is my first with Pantoum. 🙂

Head over here to join the prompt!

dverse

TRES MARIAS: Finding Beauty in the Blur

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Admit it or not, fear still creeps in your spine whenever you are faced with uncertainty. It is terrifying inasmuch as it is exciting. It takes your breath away for a second or two; it makes your heart skip a beat faster. Think of the last time you proudly called yourself brave — the day you stood up against your boss, the day you told your parents you’re gay, the day you told yourself ‘enough’ or the day you welcomed love. Whatever it is, you didn’t really know will happen next. But you did it anyway.

As for me, my recent hike with friends was nothing short of uncertainty… and yes, of fear and excitement.

Prelude

After climbing Ormoc’s Alto Peak last May, we talked, with eager and hopeful hearts, about how we’d target climbing Biliran’s Tres Marias next. The thought dragged on but there was no definite plan or word from anyone to carry it out. It was not until a month before the event that we decided to make it happen. With a short time to prepare physically, mentally and financially, the our organizer Shiela looked for heads to join the fun. Of course, the casts and crews of Alto Peak were present, with the exception of some and addition of others. By November 23, fifteen fun-loving folks headed to Pier 3, all geared for another major climb.

None of us knows what awaits in Tres Marias. We’ve read blog posts, seen pictures, and heard stories but uncertainty still sits at the back of our minds. The first jolt came when we are still in Cebu. Unfortunately, for safety purposes, Cebu Port Authority no longer allows carrying of butane canisters. So, we are faced with a dilemma on whether we can find one in the province or we’ll have to go back to the age of campfires to cook our food. The second jolt came a little later. Most hikers would opt to reach Biliran via Ormoc but we decided to take the ship that sails straight to Naval. What we thought an 11-hour travel time became 13 and a half, kissing our fixed itinerary goodbye.

However, in the midst of the uncertainty, dawn breaks with a gorgeous sunrise. With it came a promise of a beautiful day ahead. And so we forgot our little mishaps.

Sunrise ❤

Continue reading “TRES MARIAS: Finding Beauty in the Blur”

The Tragedy of a Common Daydreamer

My mind is graveyard of thoughts. Of things profound and absurd. Of words that faded in one breath. Left buried and unsaid.

Sometimes, like ghosts, they slip through my door— in the quiet of the night when I’m two seconds away from sleep. Pulling me up from the covers.

At times, in the middle of the day, they sit with me. Side by side. At work, when I’m staring too long at the screen. Or even when I’m randomly talking to my friends.

Remember day that when you told me about the tragedy of the commons? On how individuals tend to exploit / neglect the well-being of shared resources? For a second, Ayn Rand and capitalism came to mind.

But, like all worthy thoughts, I shrugged it away.

I let my mind wander with elves, pixies and silverdusts. I thought about how tragic must it be for other people not to trudge the earthy soil down to the very womb of nature. On how magical the day is with the leaves murmuring softly as the wind blows. The birds chirping from a distance completing the grand orchestra for just you and I to hear.

How tragic must it be for other people to think climbing the mountains is common.

Believe me, I almost choked on my lunch when that memory popped in my head. And I realized, I have killed another conversation with my fancies. We would have talked about Atlas Shrugged. You probably would have asked why I read this kind of crap. And though I do not agree with Rand’s philosophy, I would have told you the woman has got something right, too.

I would have love to hear what you think if I ask you whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves— or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.

But that time has long gone. This is the tragedy of being a common daydreamer. Being left with nothing but a candle for another dearly, departed conversation.

“Here lies Maria, finally one with her thoughts.”

If I were dead, my epitaph would probably read like this.

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