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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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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?

 

Matalom: Experiencing its ‘katahum’ for a day

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.

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Matalom proper (c) James

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”

Negros Oriental Backpacking: Weekend Escape

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.

IMG_20190217_070247.jpg Continue reading “Negros Oriental Backpacking: Weekend Escape”

Fallin’ Down South: Waterfall Hopping in Barili, Badian and Ginatilan

Waterfalls are one of nature’s many gifts that touch us deeply from the senses to the soul. The sound of water splashing and birds chirping, backdropped with a lush greenery around, make up a transformative vibe for any traveler. There is something rather special about them, it feels a little more personal. Like a secret only you know about. This is why a hike that ends in a waterfall is considered pure bliss by many.

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A year ago (yes, it took my lazy butt a year to finally write about it), James and I headed south of Cebu to chase some waterfalls. Chase. Aside from the obvious reason that waters run endlessly, why do we often call the act “chasing”? Is it because waterfalls change with seasons and yesterday’s scene may not be the same as today’s? Or are we in pursuit of something intangible? I wonder how many waterfalls it would take for us to find the right answer. Continue reading “Fallin’ Down South: Waterfall Hopping in Barili, Badian and Ginatilan”

Negros Oriental Backpacking: Chasing Waterfalls

They say that the Earth has music for those who listen. There is a reason why we call it whisper of the wind, rhythm of the waves, song of the bird, and dance of a flame. Nature is one big concert hall playing a symphony in sync with man’s beating heart. If we only stop, we could hear them.

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An adventure begins

Negros Oriental for instance is home to several waterfalls offering visitors a one-of-a-kind music. The town of Valencia alone has 10 (according to Erwin of EnrouteNegros) and probably more. Of all these waterfalls, Pulangbato Falls and Casaroro Falls are the most sought after destinations. Aside from tourists, these natural cascades have been a common sidetrip for hikers who climbed the infamous Mt. Talinis.

As for James and I, it was part of our Negros Oriental backpacking trip. After enjoying the silence of  the Twin Lakes on our first day, we were up for some water splashes this time. Continue reading “Negros Oriental Backpacking: Chasing Waterfalls”

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”

Hindang: What a sleepy town in Leyte has to offer

We are all familiar with its irregular crevices, multiple galleries, entrances, exits and shafts. Its fossil passages are adorned with various stalactites and stalagmites. It’s dark and it’s cold. It’s eerie with its chambers full of secrets awaiting to be unraveled — or not.

Yes, you got it right. I’m referring to the morphology of caves.

Personally, I have not gone to many caves in the country. My up-close encounter would only include Hito-og Cave in Matalom, Hinangdanan Cave in Bohol, Titip Cave in Cebu, and Bontoc Caves in Hindang. The latter, I would say, is the most interesting by far.

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Tell me what stories rest within you.

Continue reading “Hindang: What a sleepy town in Leyte has to offer”

Negros Oriental Backpacking: Twin Lakes

A month before our Mt. Talinis climb, I went to Negros Oriental to celebrate a special day. I was supposed to feel a year older — a year wiser — but coming into this strange place awakened the childlike excitement in me.

Where to go? What to do?

I do not have a good sense of direction and James did not have a strict itinerary. In the end, we only relied our sense of wonder and wander. But guess what? It was all that we needed.

Giddy feet!

Continue reading “Negros Oriental Backpacking: Twin Lakes”

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