Monday, August 26, 2013


Humor me and tell me I look 28.
Forgive the narcissism, it's my birthday, okay? Plus I really don't feel like 28, as I always say, age is just a number. I actually feel ageless. There are times when I act all grown up on things and most of the times, I just let my spirit run wild and free with vigorous youth. 

This year, my birthday is no different from any of my other birthdays. Common factor? The rain! I've always wanted to celebrate my birthday in a secluded place, maybe on an island or a mountain and just let it pass solemnly. I guess I either have to move my birth date or move the rainy season.

Anyway, spending it at home does not make it any less special. That morning, my mother cooked me an old-school birthday favorite - pansit! My husband and my brother filed their work leaves to be my slaves for the day. Yes, what a valuable gift. My husband worked his bun off all morning buying, preparing and cooking my requested lunch, kare-kare. He cooks the best kare-kare in the whole world, I'm telling you. I forgot what we ate for mirienda though. Dinner was our date time then. Me and my husband went out to a nearby coffee shop and ate pasta and panizza. It was a lovely dinner. By 9pm, we found ourselves watching a very cool reggae band in a sports bar. We ate, drank and just enjoyed music like crazy teenagers. Except that we weren't teenagers anymore because by midnight, we felt sleepy and exhausted. Lol, is that what they call 'signs of aging'?

The weekend, 2 days after my birthday, is an extension of my birthday since all, including my father plus a very close cousin, were at home. I rushed to the nearest Korean town in our place to buy some stuff for our Korean-themed dinner at home. We had samgyeopsal, cadol, ramyeon, fried egg with carrots and spring onion and of course, kimchi. It was fun, I gotta high-five my husband for the efforts of preparing it with me.

My birthday didn't end just yet until the following weekend. It was actually raining hard that Saturday but it was a lame excuse not to push through this very beautiful event that my husband planned for me. It was Bamboo and Yeng's concert. God how could I even start how I adore both of them. My fascination with Bamboo started almost 2 decades ago, right at the start of the Rivermaya. They are the first band that I ever watched live in concert. The next time I saw him, he was in his new band. It was in some university foundation concert which was not even my school. Yeng, on the other hand, got me impressed with her song writing skills and her great live performances. I saw her potential as early as her Pinoy Dream Academy days. I have such great respect for her artistry, which is very rare on local artists nowadays.

It's as if the universe knew my admiration for both artists that it decided to combine them in a one major concert. Of all people, it's them! Of all dates, it's a week after my birthday! How could I let that pass up. I bought our concert tickets online plus and a couple of vouchers for our Manila Ocean Park sidetrip. 

We braved the rain and commuted all the way from Pampanga to Cubao. Easy-peasy, I've been to worse anyway. We arrived 2 hours earlier since my desired position (lower box) was already sold out so we settled for upper box, which had no reserved seating, hence, we had to line up for good seats.

We had our dinner while lining up. What's the best standing-up dinner? Burritos. What's known as one of the best food chain offering burritos? Taco Bell. It was half-pounder but I devoured it all plus some nachos on the side. Oh, food food food, how I adore thee. 

Before lining up

The Big Dome was sold out!
We got great seats. They were right in front of the stage and the view is just perfect. The concert started an hour late so we were waiting for some good 3 hours. I was just about to go crazy with the ads looping on the big screen when they stopped them and got replaced by a countdown. I knew it was the cue that the show was about to start. The lights were turned off and then there was smoke. Then a choir appeared and sang Hawak Kamay solemnly with just spotlights on them. Energy in the dome was building up, then suddenly, the lights went crazy, the big background LCD screen lit up and there he was, Bamboo, elevating on a platform from under the stage. Classic entrance. Then he gave this iconic pose, a signature pose only Michael Jackson or Tony Stark can only pull off, and gave justice to it. The dome trembled with shrieking fans. He sang Hallelujah then midway, Yeng appeared and mashed up Hawak Kamay with it. The production was awesome! It was a beautiful combination of the two artists, giant screen's animations, smoke, pyrotechnics, dancers, the band and the choir. 
BY Request
I just learned while watching that the concert's name: BY Request is not just taken from their initials (B and Y) but that there was some sort of a theme on it. It was called BY Request since the song lineup came from the most requested songs of fans gathered on the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With this, they performed mostly cover songs from the artists today like Rihanna, Adele, Bruno Mars and the likes. It was a cool idea, especially for young fans who loves these songs. But I have to admit, I was somehow a teeny-weeny bit disappointed. I guess I was mislead by my expectation to hear classics like 20 Million, Hilo, Kisapmata, Panahon Nanaman, Hinahanap-hanap Kita, and the list goes on and on. Yes he sang 214 and Ulan but I wanted more of those instead of hearing 2 Bruno Mars songs. Yeng, too, sang some of her hits but in a mash-up kind of way and sang "today's hits" more. Oh well, overall, it was still very entertaining. My respect for their artistry just got upped a notch higher. 

We spent the night on a very decent accommodation that my husband reserved in advance. It was a cozy night. That morning, we proceeded to our next stop, the Manila Ocean Park. I scored ourselves online a couple of vouchers with the Pacific Sky Wonder 9 package. It includes nine different attractions namely, Oceanarium, Sea Lion Show, Marine Life Habitat, Fish Spa, Jellies Exhibit, All Star Bird Show, Birds of Prey Kingdom, Penguin Talk Show and Trails to Antarctica.

I have an unreasonable fear of fishes. As we explored the Oceanarium, I just thought of one thing... Good Lord, don't make me have nightmare of these. We saw different kinds of fishes, there were those who blends with the sea bed texture, those who looked like snakes, those who looked like they're upside down when they're not, those who emitted neon lights and a whole lot of weirdness. It was fun and educational though. 

We, then, proceeded to see the Jellies, dubbed as the dancing sea fairies. They were entertaining. They really looked like they were dancing as their movements were synced with the music and lights. Watching them was therapeutic. After that, we proceeded to the Trails of Antartica. This was my most anticipated attraction, finally, I will get to see penguins! Upon entering the gate, we were instructed to take the giant ice slide first. I saw the penguins from afar so, to hell with the slide, I ran towards the penguins. I have such strange fondness of them. I squealed like how a 4-year old kid would squeal upon seeing Jollibee or something. They were sooo cute and funny too. One would just stand still like a statue for minutes without ever moving a muscle then the other one would swim in circles nonstop. 

Oh hello there cutie!
After marveling over the penguins, we finally went for the giant slide. It was fun! True enough, the slide is covered with real ice. It then led us to the next door, the snowy room. Jackets were given upon entering as the room mimicked an actual snowy environment. The temperature was freezing and floors and decors were all covered in real ice. It was a very nice experience. I wanted to do a snow angel but I would look stupid so I'll just save that for the real deal some other time. After exiting this attraction, we walked the actual Trails of Antarctica. It was a hallway full of trivia about Antarctica. While at it, I was convinced that I wanted to experience Antarctica someday. It's a big leap but I'm setting my goal to that.  

It is the home of the Aurora Australis - the southern lights - Must. See. Those. Someday.
We've set the birds and sea lion shows last since they were the least to our priority. We've seen such shows anyway at Ocean Adventure in Subic. We checked out the fish spa instead. I tricked my husband that I wanted to finally try it to get over my fear of fishes. Truth is, I just didn't want to waste our tickets and I knew he wanted to try it anyway. I've seen fish spas on some outlets in SM but these fishies were gigantic! They were big and black and looking not anywhere near friendly. Well, believe me, I tried. I soaked the tip of my foot but when one comes near I quickly lifted it. Call me chicken but I just can't, period. 

To clear my mind off that embarrassing fish spa failure, we decided to try out the Penguin Talk Show. I expected an educational discussion and a live penguin interaction. I guess I expected too much, lol. I'm very sorry for those who made it but we stayed for just a couple of minutes. I think it was somehow educational but in a weird kind of way. The host was a poorly animated penguin shown on a big screen which was controlled back room. He was like a stand-up comedian, talking in Tagalog, making silly jokes about some audience in the room. Not my thing, I'm sorry. Too bad it was the our last attraction. We left the Ocean Park after that and went to MOA to grab some mirenda

There were some restos inside the park by the way, but I was craving for something else. It was a rainy afternoon so all I ever thought of was sipping a hot phở. I satisfied my craving at Pho Hoa restaurant together with fresh spring rolls, their special brew of iced tea and a hot jasmine tea. Oh what a hearty meal! 

Rain started to pour harder so we decided to head home already. Overall, my birthday this year spells awesome! I'm just so lucky to have a wonderful family and an exceptional husband who know exactly what I want and what I need... and actually provide for it.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Island called Potipot

Welcome to the small, secluded and beautiful island of Potipot. Located in front of Candelaria, Zambales coastline, this little wonder has been a quick fix for those who wanted to enjoy pure love affair with nature. There's no electricity and only scarce cellphone signal. While some people choose to sleep on resorts on the mainland in front of the island, we decided to go all-the-way and camped overnight on it.

It may look all jungle but nope, believe it or not, there are huts between those trees.
I'll be honest, I haven't had any interest in going to this island until the day before we went. The real plan was the mainstream Anawangin Cove. I planned this trip as our summer getaway with the whole family and few close cousins. There were 8 of us. The weather did not quite cooperate with this plan since waves got so huge the day before our trip. My contact person warned us that a 30-minute boat ride going to the  cove is just not feasible. A sudden change of plan was decided. We're going to Potipot Island instead. I did some research and yes, it was way safer. Waves in this part of the sea are calmer and it will just be a quick 5-minute boat ride. Downside? Drop off point is 2-hr farther than the original. That means we have to go extra early to reach the 8am boatman appointment. 

We left at around 5am with a lot of necessities in tow. As I've mentioned, we wanted to camp overnight and that means we should be bringing our own food, water and toiletries. For a group of 8 people, that's a lot! Good thing we brought our own transportation as the "park and sail" was also covered by our boatman. The trip took 4 hours give or take, including a breakfast stop.

As I saw a glimpse of the island, I was stunned. I was somehow glad we did not push through our Anawangin Cove plan. Yes it may  not have pine trees and a creek, but the beach made up for it. See why:

Clear turquoise waters.
Long and clean shoreline.
Decent fine yellowish white sand. Not the Boracay kind of fine but it's finer than Puerto Galera, Bolinao and Camiguin's sand bar (as far as I can recall).
What more can I ask for? The water even has some slightly strong waves, just the way I like it! The whole day was burned doing old school beach activities, swimming, having weird contests, laughing, teasing and just plain o'l chatting. And it was fun!

Few things worth mentioning though, typical resort water activities here are non-existent. Don't expect some banana boat rides, jet skis and the like, there are none, zero, zilch, nada. The point here is to beach bum, that's it. The island is so small you can walk its circumference in just 20 minutes or less. There are also no luxurious accommodations, just tents and huts. Also, the beach is as natural as it can get - there are some sharp corals on some point, water elevations are a bit dangerous too as they get real deep on a very close range, there are also insects and rodents at night, the far end of the island smells like fish and bathwater comes from a pump. That may sound intolerable for some, but it rings adventure for me. 

Then came night time. After playing some cards and eating dinner, we decided to call it a night. Of course, my trips aren't quite complete without some horror stories of misadventures. My parents decided to rent a hut to sleep in. It's a very basic hut, it had a small stair leading to the second floor which is a whole sleeping area then the lower portion is the dining area. It's quite huge actually as they say it can fit 20 people. Great deal, except that I wanted to sleep inside a tent. We had two tents anyway so what the hell, might as well use one to serve its purpose. I am more comfortable sleeping inside a tent, feeling the sand beneath it, rather than on a plain wooden floor. Me and my husband were already sound asleep when we were awakened by my mother's shout - she was asking us to go inside the hut as it's already drizzling. I quickly grabbed my things and noticed the floor was already wet and the tent's window was dripping with rainwater. Not again! This is Mt. Pulag's horror story all over again. As we ran towards the hut, the rain went ballistic and soaked me even more. Trying to sleep with wet hair and clothes was no fun at all but wanna know the worst part of that? I checked the time and it was only 9:30pm! Talk about long night!

A great sunrise matched with a sumptuous breakfast erased my rain trauma. 
Right after breakfast, I quickly changed into my swimsuit and plunged again. My desire to swim will always be insatiable. We enjoyed the whole morning in the water, doing more random stuff. Too bad we were almost running out of food and water so we had to come back to the mainland by noon.

Where they dock the boats. Not really a swimmable spot. The sand here is coarser and the look how close the deep water is.
It was a nice bonding with the family after all. It was again proved that a change of plan doesn't always equal to disaster. I know it was not the perfect getaway for my parents as they needed convenience the most at their age, but they were game all through out. I must say I got my bold travel spirit from them. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mt. Pulag - an epic experience.

Mt. Pulag, third tallest mountain in the Philipines, tallest one in Luzon. It's peak is at a staggering 2,922 meters above sea level. Me, my husband and our friends wanted to conquer this mountain. We are not experienced mountaineers, heck, we don't even have any training/preparation for it. All we have are our guts.

We signed up with Tripinas Travel and Vetures since they offered the best deals. We only paid Php 2,199 each for the whole thing. It's less than usual because we have to go to Baguio ourselves since we're from Pampanga and their chartered vans are from Manila. They also offer tent and headlamp rentals, full board meals and sleeping bags.

It was Friday morning and I still have to go to work at home. We were supposed to leave that afternoon, but what the hell, it will even give me more time to do my last minute packing. We met up with our friends at 3pm in the bus terminal. We had a little Baguio-chillin' that night as if we're preparing ourselves for something big and epic the next day.

Saturday. We had to speed our way to the 7-11 Victory Liner branch to meet up with the tour coordinator. He was very firm when he said we have to be there at 4am sharp. He even texted us at 3:30 in the morning. Pressure much?

Channeling morning strength from a can of coffee.

Quick photo before departure.
After the registration and issuance of headlamps, we rode the sturdy-looking jeepneys and started our butt-numbing journey. After around 1.5 hours, we had our first stop, the breakfast pit stop. It was a nice carinderia with the view. We ate at the balcony as the sun rose - what a precious moment on a very mundane place. After eating and securing our packed lunch, we headed on the road again. Next stop would be the DENR office.

The road is a bit narrow and steep but the view was very very rewarding. After approximately an hour of travel, we already reached the office. We had our pre-climb orientation here. The lady speaker was very jolly and entertaining. She also showed us an amazing time-lapse photo presentation for us to know what to expect. One thing caught my attention though, she said the normal road going to the Ranger Station (jump off point) is under renovation so we have to take the detour. Hmmm, a detour. Sounds interesting.

It was indeed deadly.
Mini roads which are built for tires only. One wrong slip and we'll end up tumbling down the terraces.
We were even thankful for those mini roads because most of the time there was not even any. We were driving on top of loose rocks right on the edge of scary ravines. We were laughing along the way, trying to enjoy this experience. Then the jeepney actually had some mini jumps from rocks it stepped on and our laughs turned to nervous laughs, until there were none. Maybe we all had the need to pray for our dear lives. I've seen curvy, crazy, narrow, dangerous and whatever kind of roads in the Philippines but it was the first time here that I actually entertained the shivering thought of "What if we fell down?"

We were again on the mini roads when we heard a swooshing sound. It was one of our tires leaking air until it eventually got flat. Thank good heavens our driver was ready with a spare. He quickly changed it while we enjoyed the view.

A flat tire will not ruin our day :) (because we weren't the ones who changed it hehe)
We were back on the road in no time. After we got used to the terrain, yet another challenge faced us. We had to ascend on a series of very inclined roads, we were able to do it on the first few ones until we reached a place where the Manangs just did their laundry. Seriously, it wasn't a joke. Their laundry did this:

Which in turn, stuck our jeepney.
The driver tried and tried but the tires kept on slipping. Every men helped, even the locals, to somehow push and pull the jeepney upwards but no to avail. An hour passed by. It was already past lunch time and everyone's getting frustrated. It was decided that the driver will find an alternate route while we walk towards the Ranger Station to waste no time. He'll just meet us on the road. Wow, a trek prior to the main trek. It was maybe due to the chilly weather that no one ever complained with this. We walked and walked unguided and when we got tired, we stopped over a store to buy some refreshments. 

Some local kids still know how to have fun on the streets.
More or less an hour after, our ride came then finally we reached the Ranger Station. We quickly had our lunch as we were way behind our schedule. Porters were readily available for only 250 Pesos per way for a maximum of 25-kilo bag. Trying to save 500 pesos, me and my husband agreed to hire just one porter. He carried my bag while his bag was carried for him. We were advised to secure our bags with garbage bags as protection because it seemed like it's gonna rain. I proudly presented my bag's feature. It has a built-in rain cover. Oh what a genius bag! Their bags looked ugly with black bags around them while mine looked comfy with it's own yellow cover. We were not even starting with the trek yet when the rain poured so hard on us. No worries as we had raincoats and ponchos.

Yes my raincoat protected me from the rain but it didn't stop me from freezing. It was very cold that I can't even feel my extremities! I think my hand froze and locked itself on my walking stick while my feet were all soaked up in mud and water. It was not enjoyable at all! No one was talking with no one. We were walking as if our bodies just turned their auto-pilot mode on. I was in a cycle of sadness, exhaustion, frustration, anger and even self-pity. The rain didn't stop as we trekked. It took us more or less 3 hours before reaching the camping site. 

That's the Campsite 2. We were on the Campsite 2 - Extension.
Rain turned to thick fog as we were starting to pitch our tent. We quickly settled ourselves as the sun started to set already. The chill became unbearable especially with my wet clothes as my old raincoat leaked. I was really unhappy at that point. I started unpacking to ready my sleeping clothes. We were told the nights in Pulag drop to dangerously low temperatures so layering is very very advisable. I was in utter shock upon seeing my things. ALL MY CLOTHES WERE WET. The friggin' rain cover I was boasting about failed me. Good thing my electronics were secured in a ziplock. But how can I even survive the night with this.. gahhh, I really really wanted to teleport myself back to my warm and comfy bed at home. Since that's remotely possible, I just had to wear my husband's sweater layered it with my furry vest. I had to ignore its wet patch as I prayed for it to dry out through out the night. I only had 2 layers on. For a person like me who can't even sleep sound on air-conditioned rooms due to coldness, that is a serious problem. For my legs, I only had a wet and very thin jeggings (almost like a stocking kind of thin), then I layered it with my husband's arm socks. I had a bonnet, I borrowed a scarf and some wet gloves and socks. That's about it. I'm in an almost single and wet layer. I thought I was going to die with hypothermia. If you think I'm over reacting, I might be, lol. I was really exhausted and disappointed and not to mention, freezing that everything seemed so magnified. 

I just prayed and prayed for the night to already end. I closed my eyes and faked a sleep until I had one. In the middle of the night, I woke up. The wind was strong and there was a piter-patering sound on our tents. Ahhhh I thought it couldn't get any worse, I was wrong. The sounds grew louder and louder. Hard winds gushed deforming the top of our tent. It was so cold that the inside of our tents started to moist. Soon, the mists turned into drops. It was like rain, dropping on our heads. Our feet were starting to get soaked. The clothes I was trying to dry off were all soaked up too. Temperature dropped to 7 degrees. My defense mechanism? I completely detached myself from the situation. I had to had apathy. This ran several times into my head "If it continued to rain until morning trek going to the summit, I won't even bother going there. This trip is a total waste and I will forget everything about it".

Thankfully, I was able to catch another snooze from that nightmare. I again woke up hearing people from outside goshing about stars. Oh my God, could it be?? Could it be that the sky cleared up for us? I went outside to check. My goodness, it was the most beautiful starry sky I've ever seen. This alone lifted my spirit up. Game! Let's climb that summit!

Just so you know, Mt. Pulag's famous sunrise is its main attraction. It's like the icing on top of the cake of hardships. It's very elusive though. One stroke of bad luck and you'll end up going there for a zero-visibility foggy mountain. 

I was very hopeful this time. It was still dark when we started to trek. I think it was around 4am but I'm not sure. All I know is that the trail is harder this time. It's crazy slippery, muddy, rocky and steep. I didn't not feel any exhaustion from this trek or from last night's. It was a fresh start. I was really really optimistic that we will be able to see the sunrise despite of all the misfortunes that we had. After more than a couple of hours of uphill trek, we reached the peak. Me and my husband made it to the 4th peak, the highest one. We arrived a little early so we had a little breather.

This looks promising! Though there's not much of the "sea of clouds"
One problem though - our friends brought our bottles of water and then we left them on Peak 2. My scumbag brain, knowing we do not have any water with us, convinced my throat that I badly needed to drink. My husband asked this couple if they could share theirs with me. I could have thought twice if I were in their position and a stranger asked me to use my bottle when I know I will be needing it too. They did not hesitate for a second. Applause for my new friends, Ren and Ron, cute names by the way.
Very kind fellow trekkers who shared their water with us without even thinking twice.
They even took our photo for us right before the sunrise.
The sun is starting to peak out, I just felt pure bliss at this point.
Question: What is the best way to erase a whole day and night of hardships?

This would totally hard-reset a person.
This sunrise was just the most majestic thing I've ever seen in my life so far. Its light and warmth basked me with happiness. I gave my husband a big hug for being with me in this wonderful experience. Suddenly everything that we went through all became positive adventures. The flat tire, us being stranded, the rain, the wet clothes and all the frustrations became negligible compared to this. 

Radiance coming from the sun and me :)
Enjoying with the rolling hills on the background
People admiring the sunrise. And oh, look at the beautiful gradient of sky colors.
We were warned that the temperature on the peak will drop even more after the sunrise. I don't know what's the explanation behind that but we just complied. The peak was already a sulit experience anyway.

Trekking down the hills.
We arrived back in the campsite just in time for breakfast. After which, we quickly packed up our bags and go ready to go home. Ahhhh, it was nice to hear the word "home" at this point. 

Our porters. Most of them are on their 50s already, very strong lolas indeed!

Everything seems easy when you're about to get home. The trek, which I cursed over and over in my head the day before seemed really easy-peasy this time. The jeepney ride that we feared was just dozed off. The long bus ride home is nothing but straight 5-hour sleep too. We just got very comfortable knowing that we did what we came to do. This trip won my heart in the adventure department. I know the word EPIC is a little bit over used but I can't think of any other to describe it.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

First Year Anniversary

December 30, 2013 marks our 1st year anniversary. You see, having an anniversary right in the middle of Christmas week has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is the festivity. Almost everyday, friends and relatives gather together to eat and just be merry. One major disadvantage is money.. or the lack of it, that is. Gift-giving, although as happy as it sounds, takes its toll on our wallets. An out of town anniversary celebration versus monetary gifts to parents, choose your poison. I will always choose the latter of course. So yeah, having admitted that, we didn't have any big plans for our it, except that we'll dine out on a normal restaurant like any of our anniversaries as boyfriend and girlfriend.

Few days ago was the wedding of my brother. After Christmas, he and his wife flew to Davao to have their honeymoon in the gorgeous Pearl Farm Resort. They were only able to book one night since it was a peak season. The next night was spent in another resort on Samal island - Hof Gorei. Sadly it fell short, very short, from their expectation so they decided to re-book their tickets in advance and have an early flight back home.

Having their honeymoon cut short, both of them felt a little down. They wanted a quick fix so they went to us and asked us to join them. They wanna shoulder most of the expenses as their gift for our anniversary. Heart-melting!

No place will ever beat Baguio in our top list when it comes to sentimental value. Me and my husband lived there for quite some time and we have created so many memories in it. Baguio it is! 5 hours after that decision, we found ourselves already inside a northbound bus, yay! Sometimes, spur of the moment decisions are the best ones!

Upon reaching Baguio, we had our quick lunch on one of Burnham Park's series of ihawans. I had the best papaitan ever! After We went to the Tiongsan grocery and the palengke to buy our food supply. While carrying several heavy bags of food, we walked towards the jeepney station that are bound to the hot springs. After some twists and turns, we reached our first destination, the Riverview Resort. It was a little exhausting but it's nothing that a relaxing swim won't cure. 

I've been dreaming of going back to Sagada for our anniversary because I thought waking up and seeing pine trees on the windows will be really mushy. I dropped that idea because of, as I said earlier, Christmas expenses. As I woke up the at our exact wedding anniversary, I was in complete awe. A pine tree right in front of our bedroom window:

This is God reordering the universe to fulfill even the pettiest of my dreams.
As the name of the resort implies: River View
We spent the vacation, eating, swimming, laughing and drinking. We had very few photos but here are some:

Cascade of pools

Me and my ate and behind us is the olympic-size pool
Palm Grove's Entrance
Next morning, we transferred to the nearby resort to try their famous hot bath. Again, no photo but let me describe it to you. They were tiny rooms with pools which will be filled with not warm, but hot water. You will then let your body adjust to the temperature by slowly submerging it using the steps of the pool. Tiny room, hot water and steamy air... perfect combination for a panic attack, lol. I'm not claustrophobic but it felt weird that I had to open the door and stick out my head for few minutes to breath. The moment my body and brain started adjusting, everything felt magnificent. It was a total relaxation. 

That same day, afternoon, we headed back to Baguio to have our lunch and buy some pasalubong. Oh Baguio and your cheap vegetables, I'll never get tired of you! 

We were about to get home when I had this epiphany -- It was 3pm, it was exactly our anniversary as our church ceremony also started at 3pm and I was in the middle of Session Road - a road with a huge significance in our relationship. At that moment, busy people turned into a blur. It was just me, my husband, that road and the smile on my face.

Gosh, I've held up this post for so long and now I'm scouring the net for some infos about the rates and fees. I feel so clueless now. Forgive my lack of sense of direction and my poor instinct of remembering amounts. I don't want to compromise my integrity so let's just leave this as a personal entry without any useful information whatsoever but a giddy little anniversary post.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mt. Pinatubo Adventure

I've been on the far points of Luzon, some parts of Visayas and some parts of Mindanao but Mt. Pinatubo, which is from just a neighboring province, has somehow eluded me for quite some time already. I tried planning several times but circumstances made me cancel each and every time.

Until recently, on a friend's birthday, we had an idea of having an out of town trip. Since they all work with crazy schedules, this day tour seemed very viable. I just blurted out the idea and to my pleasure, they all agreed. Now it's time for my favorite part - planning!

Having planned this in the past, I just whipped out a number in my contacts and called a famous name in that area, Wendell Mercado. He is the president for the Pinatubo 4wd Tours. Having seen other travel packages from different agencies, I decided this is the best deal. Transaction was smooth, no deposit was even asked. He just got our names and texted me what we needed to bring that day. Check out the breakdown of the package for a group of 5:

P 3,000 - 4WD (5-person capacity)
P 2,500 - Tour guide (P500 per head)
   P 500 - Conservation fee and lunch
P 6,000 - Total (P 1,200 per head)

Since we are just roughly an hour and a half away from the Capas tourism office, my friend's dad kindly drove us there so we can save the hassle of having to rent a ride. By the way, there's no public transportation (bus or jeepney) going inside that area (as far as I know). 

We paid in their office then they immediately assigned a 4x4 ride with driver and a tour guide. Just like that, our adventure started.
This is how the trail started.

A quick photo op in the middle of nowhere.
From what I learned, prior to recent heavy rains and typhoons, the Pinatubo trail was very laid back and easy. It was mainly an exhilarating 4-wheel drive journey followed by a quick 20-minute forest hike to reach the crater. But mother nature had a naughty plan of making the quest a bit more challenging. The path for the vehicles were badly destroyed by the recent rains and floods making it impossibly passable. This is what we had to go through to reach the crater: 1-hour bumpy 4x4 ride and a 2- hour trek under the unforgiving sun on a shade-less rocky and sometimes watery path. Our bodies, having used to be sitting all day, were pushed to the limits.

Rocky terrain - there were even points where we had to cross a river.
Ours already started and hour and a half ago.
Foresty terrain for the final 20 minutes
Is this view worth all the exhaustion? Definitely.

We only had a quick photo session because the sun is scorching. But I was surprised that there's a cool breeze, I guess it never occurred to me that we were on a high altitude. The wind resembles the simple chill of Tagaytay. 

My husband and his two close friends
The trek took its toll on us and we found ourselves sitting on the ground under some shade, starving. Good thing the package included a decent amount of food so we digged in right away. 

Fried tilapia, chicken adobo, itlog na maalat, tomatoes, bagoong alamang, tortang talong, banana and water. Also comes with spoon, fork, tissues and toothpicks. Very complete!

While enjoying the cool wind and the fullness of our tummies, we took an hour of sleep nap. After of which, we still didn't have the energy to go on but the guide insisted we should head back early. It's dangerous to still be in the trail during dusk. We walked with heavy feet but we still managed to make the trek enjoyable.

Saw this huge rock with this writing - hell yeah we did conquer Pinatubo!
Seeing our 4x4 car was a relief. Our legs, not really designed even for a simple walkathon what more a 2-hour trekking, felt like jelly! I was so tired that I fell asleep on a very bumpy 4x4 ride while my husband holding me tightly making sure I don't topple over.

Upon reaching the tourism office, we fixed ourselves and ate whatever's available in the small sari-sari store. There's chips, softdrinks, halo-halo and my favorite, balut. While taking a rest, I had a realization. Damn, my comfort food is sisig! I can't stop thinking about it, I just wished a full platter were in front of me with hot rice. While others thought of cakes and chocolates, I thought of sisig. What's wrong with me?

We didn't have a ride home so we just hired our guide to take us to the main road with his tricycle. He's such a good person. He could have simply given us an overpriced rate seeing we didn't have much choice but he gave a fair price.

We took our dinner on a simple eatery for me to give in to my craving - sizzling sisig! It was the best one I ever tasted. How good? I had 2 1/2 rice. Yes, that good!