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DoodleScribbles

Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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mountain climbing

Tinagong Dagat: Into the heart of Mt. Mandalagan

The question is not at what age you want to retire, it’s at what stage. After my Mt. Apo climb with friends, I seriously considered “retiring” from hiking and mountain climbing. RETIRE. Such a big word coming from someone who has not seen it all. Someone who has not reached that far. IKR!

At some point, I just thought it’s the next logical step. Nature has witnessed us growing together on the trail, and it seemed like time has come to for us to grow separately. To find our own niche. Forge our own paths. As for me, maybe it’s time to rekindle an old love. My first love, poetry.

But it turned out easier said than done. So there I was, on another boat trip to an unknown land.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recently approved the reopening of the Tinagong Dagat, a two-kilometer caldera which is said to be the old crater of Mt. Mandalagan. And when Jharm of Lakwatserong Engineer posted that he was gathering 15 hikers for a DIY climb, James immediately reserved our slot. Jovy, Kim and Shiela also decided to come along and join the fun.

New Faces, New Stories

The group met at Cebu North Bus Terminal for the 5pm bus trip. It was mostly shy smiles and few nods at first since most of us were stranger to each other. If this was six years ago, I would have paled to the thought of meeting new people. But experience — and probably age too — changed that fear to thrill. Well maybe still a little anxious, but definitely an improvement…

Continue reading “Tinagong Dagat: Into the heart of Mt. Mandalagan”

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!
Continue reading “Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 3 (Lake Venado + Century-old Tree)”

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)”

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)”

Bohol Backpacking: Exploring Ubay and Alicia (Day 1)

With its impressive and diverse natural wonders, Bohol has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. People gravitate toward this quaint island province because of its beautiful beaches, stunning peaks, untamed attractions, exciting eco-adventures, and welcoming people.

If only there is no COVID-19, our summer getaways would have been planned out. Itineraries would be ready. Check lists would be ticked off.

But we can’t have that, at least not yet. So here I am, reminiscing a three-year-old trip in Bohol I had with three strangers turned friends.

The Making of Team Buwad
They say that people are guests in our story just as we are guests in theirs. Looking back, James, An, Shandy and I have come a long way. From day hikes to major climbs, sea to summit ─ it’s funny how far a ¼ kilo of buwad for 20 pesos has brought us.

Some people would find it funny, but that’s how the inside joke started.

An and I have met before during our hike for a cause in Toledo but we didn’t really get a change to interact. Meanwhile, James and Shandy were complete strangers to me. I was unsure how this trip would turn out for the four of us but, apparently, some people just naturally click!

Our weekend adventure in Bohol started in Ubay, a first-class municipality that boasts a strong agri-tourism. They take pride of their vast rice fields, large plantations, and huge dams.

And that is what we came here for.

After buying our last-minute errands, we charted a tricycle to take us to our first two destinations.

Continue reading “Bohol Backpacking: Exploring Ubay and Alicia (Day 1)”

Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho

Genre: Romance/Philosophy/Spirituality
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings… and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.

Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life’s biggest questions.

What I Liked:

  1. Coelho delivers a love story with added depth. On the surface, it is about two childhood sweethearts reunited. But as the story unfolds, it becomes an intricate weave of life and love, faith and spirituality, fear and trust, mistakes and forgiveness, fighting for one’s dream and surrendering to one’s destiny — all these and so much more. The book is a retelling from Pilar of how she ended up weeping for this nameless man, but I love how it didn’t have to go way far back to establish the story. There were no unnecessary backstory of their early lives or past loves. You just have to be in the moment and watch how these two characters navigate through uncertainties.
  2. It’s a character-driven book that brims with food for the thought and for the soul. Like the rest of Coelho’s works, this one leaves points to ponder on each page. It raises questions that require self-examination and at the end, you not only discover something about the characters but also about yourself.
  3. I love how the story includes two of the subjects that I am fond of: stories of apparitions and mountain climbing. I am not a very religious person but I grew up in religious family and community. During my childhood days, we used to have a collection of postcards of several saints. I would read their stories at the back, stare at their young photos and wonder if one day, an angel or the Virgin Mary herself would appear before me. The stories of Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia particularly stuck with me for a long time, and it feels good to be reminded of them again. As for mountain climbing, I love how Coelho relates finding our purpose in life to it. Most of the times, we have no idea what lies ahead and the path we are treading can be lonely and cruel. To the common spectator, every step is ordinary and the same. But to the mountain climber, it means courage and braving the unknown.

What I didn’t like: None. Only the fact that I did not get to read Pilar’s letters by the river. I would have loved be spoon-fed more of Coelho’s wisdom and beautiful words. Yes, no doubt!

Favorite quotes:

“You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

“Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest. Our magic moment help us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments — but all of this is transitory it leaves no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.”

“And happiness is something that multiplies when divided.”

“Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow.”

“Our universe require that we avoid getting glasses fall to the floor. But when we break them by accident, we realize that it’s not very serious.”

“It’s one thing to think that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

“Go and get your things,” he said. “Dreams mean work.”

Final Thoughts: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is the first book of Coelho’s And On the Seventh Day trilogy. It’s a series that is linked by concept rather than characters, wherein human frailty and strength are explored in a span of one week. This novel is about distinguishing who we are, who we want to be and who we are destined to be. It’s about carving own path and accepting the challenges that come with it. It tells a story that is worth every second of your time. I promise.

Have you read By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept? Did you like it as much as I did?

When Life Gives You Quarantine, Think Green

In a world plagued by seemingly endless news about death, corruption, economic collapse and ill-causing vibes, can planting a seed be a salve to our saddened hearts?

I have seen a sudden surge of home gardening projects among my friends in the past months and weeks. People are growing indoor plants, succulents, flowers, herbs, fruit trees, vegetables — even root crops! Some do it as a way to de-stress, to fight boredom and to stay sane. Some just want to be self-sufficient and grow their own groceries. Others, find it a reignited passion.

It seems like plants, in a way, have brought people together despite being apart.

Continue reading “When Life Gives You Quarantine, Think Green”

Monday Musings: Extra Baggage

I remember this climb. In the darkness of the dawn, we hiked in full packs between huffs, pants and coughs. I remember asking myself, why did I have to bring so much load? I should have left that extra shirt. I should have left that extra jacket. Did I really need an extra pair of pants? As the earth gradually piled up under my feet, I realized that climbing mountains is not so different from living life.

Truth is much of what weigh me down are not mine to carry — the troubles of the world, other people’s problems, inexistent futures and such. Like how I pack for a climb, I also tend to carry things that does not fit. Things that I should have outgrown and moved on with. Like emotions and memories.

Some nights, my knees and chin almost touch as I lay curled on the bed. Tired of living. But just like mountain climbing, no matter how hard the climb (and life) is, the peak will always be worth it. Those moments of ups and downs will not be wasted if we take every step by heart.

And I hope what I felt when I ascended 2819.78 MASL to reach the summit of Mt. Wiji — that pure happiness and bliss — will be just the same when I reach the summit of my years. I want to be able to let go of all those extra baggage in the end. Arms wide open, surrendering to the beauty of nature. To the beauty of life.

Mt. Kalatkat: The things we give and take

The pandemic has opened our eyes to a world that seems to always take. Lives and livelihood are lost. Every day feels like another step away from time, opportunities, relationships, connections, sanity and peace of mind. It’s the ultimate survival test — and the animal in each of us is out.

I honestly never thought we’d get this worse. Our panic and fear turned to greed and selfishness. There is a me-first mentality that runs on a global, national, local and personal scale. We push and shove one another, determined to keep our spot of existence. This is not a health threat anymore. This is a threat to life.

As I started doubting the future, I looked for comfort from the past. I came across old photographs from last year’s hike for a cause that we held in Carcar City. It not only reminded me of our exciting experience in Mt. Kalatkat, but it gave me the much-needed assurance that there is still goodness in people’s hearts. That we are capable of caring and giving, too.

Continue reading “Mt. Kalatkat: The things we give and take”

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