Mount Kalugong (Benguet, PH)

“I like the mountains because they make me feel small,’ Jeff says. ‘They help me sort out what’s important in life.” — Mark Obmascik, Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled–and Knuckleheaded–Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

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Having lived in Baguio for over 15 years, I was able to see and experience places near the city not many people knew about. Being a self-confessed mountain-enthusiast, my weekends then were spent either pigging out in various Baguio City restaurant or sauntering my way to several mountains in Benguet. Now, if you are interested in marveling at a 360 degrees vista of the La Trinidad Valley, a chill and quick climb (less than an hour) to Mt. Kalugong Eco-Park is a place you might want to check out. It’s an eco-park, I know, however it is still a mountain top of sorts.

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Going through my write-ups about Benguet (and Cordillera) mountains I have scaled, I am surprised that only now am I making one for Mount Kalugong (considering that this is actually one of the first few mountains I have climbed in the area). Moreover, this mountain that boasts a beautiful rocky promontory in La Trinidad, is one of the well-known peaks in the capital town.

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By the way, the name Kalugong is a local term for “hat” as the rocky peak looks like a hat from afar. The climb actually is pretty easy as the road going to the park itself is established (at least at this point in time, unlike my first trek wayback 2009 when trail was not as good as what is now). The problem one might encounter now is when you start your walk while sun is already up or when it rains in the area (as the pine needles and rocks can be slippery).

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During the heyday, the main points of entry were a road in Barangay Tawang, and or via Sitio Tabangaoen in Barangay Balili (requiring someone to enter the premises of Benguet State University/ BSU). My friends and I would often use the latter as our point of entry and the former as our point of exit. Now a private property, the eco-park has undergone some developments that included a new entrance point which is via Barangay Cruz.

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Today, noticeable improvements were made that include traditional Cordilleran huts/houses, and some picnic tables. The highlight of going to Mount Kalugong is of course, making your way to the peak which is made up of amazing rock formations. Though it can be quite challenging to some (especially to those who have fear of heights), standing atop the sharp, naturally carved rocks is an adventure itself. The view from there is more than picturesque as it gives an outstanding vista of Baguio City and the La Trinidad Valley.

Another must experience is to have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake at the Kape-an, the cafe atop this mountain. Besides the great selection of hot and cold drinks, sumptuous cakes – the view of the entire La Trinidad valley is just impossible to ignore.

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How to Get to Mount Kalugong (the easiest way):

From Baguio City, take a jeep going to La Trinidad. Make sure that the jeepney passes by Barangay Upper Cruz and inform the driver that you are getting down at the Baguio Memorial Services in Barangay Cruz (upper). You will see a post that indicating which road leads to Mount Kalugong. Walk your way up through the road until you arrive at a fenced area, proceed inside and continue walking til the end of the road where you can see a welcome sign that indicates you have reached the eco-park.

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Don’t be a watsed soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

Buguias: Northern Philippines’ Vegetable Basket and More

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Most often over-shadowed by other Benguet towns, Buguias primarily serves as stop-over or just that regular town being passed by buses carrying visitors to Bontoc, and Sagada. Recently, its neighbor Atok is slowly gaining the limelight for its flower farm, and other growing number of attractions.

Truth of the matter, one would rarely find travel blogs or write-ups about this quaint town in the Cordillera. But if you truly have an eye for beauty, you would have probably noticed those beautifully planted vegetables along the Halsema Highway when you passed by this town. Besides, Buguias would not be considered the Vegetable Capital of Northern Philippines if not for these seemingly endless vegetable plantation. (By the way, around 70% of vegetable supplies – whether its potatoes, carrots, cabbages and the like, are grown in this municipality and is distributed across Luzon and some other parts of the country).

The vista of these vegetable grounds, plus the stunning serrate of the mountains being kissed by clouds, whenever I pass by this town has since then ignited my curiosity. There should be more to this town besides its vegetables. And so I tried to google information about Buguias, and to my dismay, very little information can be obtained. So the next thing I did was to seek the advise of some friends who are from Buguias or who have visited Buguias. Thankfully, Doc Cecille and Lenny (both of whom were my students before) gave some really interesting recommendations that led me to contact Buguias Tourism officer, Sir Payangdo.

So, with only a weekend to spare for a quick getaway outside Baguio, two of my very good friends (Claro and Robi), joined me in this Buguias trip. After communicating with Sir Payangdo, and a little more patience searching for information over the internet, we went to Buguias to explore a mountain and have an up-close encounter with their vegetable terraces.

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We rode a van bound for Buguias at a petrol station located in Km.5 La Trinidad proper. The earliest trip is at 4 am, and the time travel is around 3 hours with 1 stop-over at Sayangan, Atok. Since we were spending a night in Buguias, we stayed at Alpine G Lodge (which by the way, is the only one we could find when searching for an accommodation in Buguias). It is really a nice lodge with a café/ restaurant that serves good food with generous servings. After settling our things, Sir Payangdo said that the FX-like transportation that will take us to the jump-off site of Mount Nato-o is waiting for us outside our lodge.

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Climbing Mount Nato-o.

Based on what I have googled, Mount Nato-o is a potential natural attraction found in Sebang, a barangay that borders the provinces of Benguet and Ifugao. This is a small mountain located within the vegetable valley as described by the Benguet Province official website.

The travel to Mount Nato-o from Abatan took almost an hour. We were actually lost for a moment because our driver wasn’t sure as to where the exact jump-off is located. After asking some directions from the friendly locals, we managed to find what we were looking for. We were met by a local official that was contacted by Sir Payangdo. We were then given a local guide, who happens to be one of the barangay kagawad too, and off we went to climb Mount Nato-o without much expectations.

Along the trail, we were joined by 4 local kids. Our guide told us that it has been a while since the last time visitors came to Mount Nato-o (the last being students from a university in in Baguio who came not to really trek but to collect some plant samples for research purposes). You see, this mountain, just like most Cordillera mountains, are known for unusual and interesting flora.

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The trail to Mount Nato-o starts off with passing by vegetable terraces that eventually leads to a steep, grassy one. This to me was the challenging part as the trail was almost covered by tall grasses that could cut your skin. We had to make a few stops since the assault was quite tiring. The last leg of the climb is through a mossy forest reminiscent of Mount Pulag’s. Well, you could say that this is my personal favorite. We also passed by an area where a supposed tower will be put up, and a grotto site where a mass was once held. Our climb ended with an “apparent peak” surrounded by pine trees sans a view. I wasn’t really convinced that, that was the peak. Maybe, the mountain isn’t really that explored just yet. (And maybe, that is the reason why they haven’t officially opened this mountain to trekkers and visitors). The descent was pretty much faster and easier as to when we scaled it. In no time, we were already inside our ride going back to our lodge).

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Just when we thought our mountain escapade is all-good when our driver told us to pay more than double for our ride. The tourism officer said we were only to pay Php1000.00 but when we got back to our place, he was asking us to pay Php2, 500.00. He was a bit scary and aggressive. It really was disappointing. We ended up haggling and paid Php2000.00. I instantly messaged Sir Payangdo, the tourism officer, about the incident and told him that things like those would turn away potential visitors. I hope it won’t happen to other people visiting Buguias because it is such a turn off.

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“View”tiful Vegetable Terraces.

Of course the highlight of our Buguias trip is getting up-close and personal with endless vegetable fields. Almost every barangay we passed by have these man-made wonders. True enough, these terraces are Buguias ultimate gem. During our visit, carrots and cabbage were the main vegetables planted and being harvested. Walking along the fields is such a delightful experience – the air was unsullied and fresh, and the Buguias weather is cool enough to make one feel relaxed.

There are other potential attractions in this town. They are not yet fully opened to visitors and hopefully, I would be able to come back and visit again. Some of those that were mentioned by a local I have talked to are: several Burial Caves (with Apo Anno Cave as the most significant), a hotspring in the poblacion, other mountains like Mount Kitongan and Mount Apanderang; a waterfalls called Sabeng Anito; Tabeyo lake, and more vegetable terraces.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

 

 

 

Memories of Anawangin Cove: Zambales, PH

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

– Dr. Seuss

This is a flashback post. It’s been 12 years and 7 months since the first time I have set foot in Anawangin. And today, I went on to visit memory lane and put into writing the memories of this trip with a group of friends.

It was January of 2005. Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City. For most of us living in the City of Pines, this means getting out of Baguio so as not to feel the congestion of the city. You see, people would usually flock their way to witness the annual flower festival. My friends and I decided to spend a 3-day getaway in Anawangin Cove. During this time, Anawangin was barely known as a beach destination. I have heard of it from my mountaineering friends who did an exploratory climb at this side of Zambales.

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So, 5 days before the Panagbenga, I did the planning for this getaway. Actually, the first plan was to saunter Mount Pinatubo. But then, I was more enticed to go on a beach escapade. So with limited time, I disseminated our itinerary hoping more of our friends will come join us on this trip. Luckily, 10 friends decided to come along even if most of them didn’t really have much of an idea on what to see in Anawangin. I remember myself assuring them that the place is something they’ll like just to make sure no one would back out on the last minute. Here goes our itinerary:

Day 1 – Baguio to Zambales: Mount Pundaquit Trek

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There are no direct trips to San Antonio, Zambales from Baguio. Since we have a friend from Pampanga who is joining us, we agreed that we would meet there. So we took a bus that passes by Mabalacat (Victory Liner), from there, Gladys (together with her cousin) fetched and all together we went to Angeles to take a bus that is bound for Iba, Zambales’ capital. It was a pretty long (and tiresome trip). All in all, it took us around 9 hours to reach San Antonio town proper.

Upon arrival, we decided to buy some fresh produce in the market since there are no stores or restaurants in Anawangin. After which, we took a tricycle to reach Brgy. Pundaquit – the jump off to Anawangin. Good thing I have a prior contact with a guide, Manong Alfring a local. We were asked as to how we would like to reach Anawangin. You see, there are two possible options. One is to trek Mount Pundaquit, and the other one is to ride a boat. Of course, the boat ride was the faster means however, we opted to do the climb. Some of our stuff was taken by Manong Alfring and his companions, who are taking the boat. So they will just wait for us at the beach camp.

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And so we went on with the hike. Our guide told us it was a pretty easy climb. Having climbed Pulag before this trip, I have to agree with what the guide claimed. However, as the sun goes up, the weather became warmer that eventually made almost everyone tired. It was a mistake on our end when we didn’t bring much water. The heat was sweltering and our water supply was rapidly dwindling keeping our pace slower. We had to motivate ourselves and patience became the key for us to reach our campsite.

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After 3 hours or so, we reached the peak and its breathtaking view made up for that very weary feeling we were all experiencing. It was a 360 degrees view and Anawangin Cove was already visible from where we were. The sea view further motivated the group not to give up. Two more hours and we finally reached Anawangin with the pine trees seemingly welcoming us. A few more minutes, and we were treated with a spectacular sun down. It was lovely. It made all the weary feeling melt down.

We did set up our tents (yes, there were no resorts/ cottages before in Anawangin), and cooked our dinner with the help of our guide. We had a simple dinner by the shore while sharing stories under the full moon. Recalling that night, it was so serene and really relaxing

Day 2: Anawangin Cove Explored

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Some of us woke up early, the others stayed a little longer inside their tents as they were still feeling fatigued from the other day’s trek. I went to stroll along the beach while taking some photos. Waking up to the sound of the waves and the smell of saline water was energy revitalizing! It is such a picturesque place. Looking back, Anawangin’s picture perfect backdrop contributed to my being a photography enthusiast. We actually spent almost the entire day wandering around. The waters of Anawangin was crystal clear and really refreshing so we had a great deal of time swimming or just wading in water. We also went up a hill where we had a jaw-dropping view of the cove and the mountains. The mini pine tree forest at the foot of the mountain is unbelievably photogenic. There is even an estuary that leads to the sea. And at the end of that day, we again waited for the sunset. It was yet another spectacular sundown.

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Day 3: Capones Island

Everyone had to wake up early on Day 3 because it was time to leave Anawangin. However, before going back to mainland Pundaquit, we went on for a side trip to a nearby island called Capones. There are actually two islands near the cove, however, we have to stick to our itinerary since we still have to go back to Baguio. It was a 30-minute boat ride amidst huge waves… From afar, the island looks like a shoe. The island’s main attraction is an old lighthouse. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we got there so we ended up taking photos along the shore amidst huge, exquisite rocks. I had an unforgettable experience here since I had a bit of an accident. I didn’t anticipate that some of the rocks were slippery that caused me to slip off and have some bruises. Nonetheless, the happy experience overshadowed this minor incident.

Before going back to Baguio, Gladys invited us at their home in San Fernando, Pampanga for a food treat and for us to freshen up ourselves. It was yet another long and tiresome bus ride. But who cares, we just had an awesome and adventure-filled trip! I told myself I’d be back in Anawangin. (And guess what, after 5 years since that first trip to Anawangin, I was able to visit it again. Plus, I was able to visit also another cove – Nagsasa and the other island near Capones, Camara). Yay! Cheers to more travels!

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*Thank you to Kuya Jerry for sharing some of his photographs to us.

Also, you might want to check my write up about other visit-worthy coves here in the Philippines.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Of Rain & Of Tears

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.” — William Shakespeare

So today, I decided to post something different from my usual musings (triggered perhaps by the moody weather the past days). It was yet another rainy afternoon. It’s raining as far as I can see. It’s coming down unbreakable now.

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It is amusing how the rain is reminiscent of the times I wanted to cry. In some way, as we mature into adulthood, we stop thinking about the hush-hush of crying. We were taught that crying is for babies and that it is imperative to keep our sentiments inside. I was told that boys don’t cry. So, instead of learning to let go of my hurts through crying, I have mastered to numb it through self-anguish and unvoiced misery for several years now.

This is what I have done astray as a grown-up. I am too troubled to cry, and even when I am at the edge of breaking down, and actually shed some tears, I am over-shadowed with unease. I can’t seem to cry. But the downpours takes me back that one of the most prevailing coping skills has been stolen from me.

 

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It is okay to cry…

I have been a lot of painful experiences and many times too, did I attempt to cry it out… But the thought of it as a sign of weakness surmounts the thought that I am hurting.

I have to admit it. It doesn’t feel good… It does not feel good at all…

I gaze out of our window, the rain stopped. The clouds seem to have brought an end to its resentment… But suddenly smoke gets in my eyes, and I started to cry. I lost bottling up my emotions. And it started to feel a little better.

Lester out…

 

Travel Pills & Elixirs

Dr. Jim Nicolai, a former Medical Director of an Integrative Wellness Program, once said – “Where health is the destination, wellness is the journey…

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It isn’t a secret to my friends and colleagues that I have this undeniable knack for travelling and sense of adventure. I like to be marooned by the sometimes unforgiving sun or get soaked by the unpredictable rain whether I am at the beach or on top of the mountain. Weird as it may seem to some people, but getting lost nonchalantly in a foreign city enlivens my spirit. But these sense of enthusiasm and interest dampen when I get sick. That is why, I try my best to make sure that I am always at my best element… that I am always healthy – physically, emotionally, and even mentally!

A previous post of mine tackled about the basic things that I pack inside my (travel bag). One of the essentials is your personal medicine kit. So in this write up, I am sharing to you my simple health habits, the products I use and believe in, and some secrets (my travel pills and elixirs).

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Getting stressed and experiencing fatigue are common during travel. And surprisingly, there is no single cure for stress. If our coping mechanism isn’t able to resolve these stressors, they eventually take a toll on us and could lead to symptoms like headache, body pain, cough and colds, sleepless nights, and many more.

I am pretty sure these warning signs have at one point hindered you from going on a trip or a long-time planned beach getaway and the like. And it sucks to think that all the excitement would totally die down just because you are sick. I hate having headache, and I despise having cough and colds. So what do I do? As a pharmacist, I actually have some personal rituals and favorite products (yes, you read that right I have my personal biases). Hahaha! So read along.

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To make sure that I won’t get sick, I hydrate myself with enough fluid (not necessarily water) like juice, tea, and energy drinks (hello, Gatorade ® which is still my super tried and tested hydrating fluid). I eat alooooot of fruits. Shout out to my all-time favorites – watermelon, strawberries, bananas, and oranges (well, whichever is in season). If my trip involves some mountain climbing activity, I allot some time to do running and brisk walking.

Pack my med kit. So what’s inside it? I consider the following my travel pills and elixirs:

  • Vitamins (Enervon Activ ® now, Enervon ® syrup when I was young. Because it’s our mom’s choice.)
  • Hand Sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol (not ethyl)
  • Paracetamol – this is for my sudden headache which could really turn my mood 360 degrees, hahaha)
  • Tuseran capsule (I go for this one to manage my cough and colds).
  • Some anti-histamine (because at times I experience cold allergies).
  • Antidiarrheals (I usually go for loperamide).
  • Ginger candies like Gingerbon ® to suppress dizziness and vomiting.
  • Band-Aid J, cotton, wet wipes
  • Povidone Iodine (my antiseptic of choice)
  • Insect repellant lotions/ sprays (Off ® with chamomile is my choice).
  • Strepsils ® – favorite lozenge!

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During my recent Europe trip, my preparedness was tested when on several occasions I some sort of got sick. Traveling around the Baltic area (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania) was memorable because I spent several days (7 am to 9 pm), walking around the key cities. I had terrible headaches at night and even got cough and colds. These were most likely due to the warm weather during the day and the nasty and biting cold temperature at night. I am really glad I have my anti-fever/ mild painkillers with me. Good thing too, I packed several Tuseran ® 2-in-1 capsules for my cough and colds. Since I am compliant with whatever medicines I take, in no time, I was back at my normal state – healthy and kicking. (PS: Being compliant with your medication’s dose and schedule is very essential to getting treated. That’s me being a pharmacist).

 

From cold Iceland to rainy Poland to humid Manila – my body was probably shocked with the outright adjustments it had to undergo. So I had another episode of cough and colds (and sore throat). This time, because of this sudden change in temperature, I had developed allergies (urticaria). Could you just imagine the burden, especially at night? I was worried because I have scheduled speaking engagement in Zamboanga in 4 days’ time.

Coincidentally, I was talking to physician friend of mine one time when she suggested that I try the new Tuseran Night ®. Keen about the medication I intend to take, I went on to search what it contains. Since it both contains diphenhydramine and phenylpropanolamine, I was convinced it will do wonders for my cough, cold, and allergies. (Shout out to Doc Nessa for the suggestion!) I still have a few pieces of my Tuseran capsules and cetirizine (anti-allergy meds) left from my EU trip but I opted to try out the new Tuseran Night ® (which by the way is in syrup form). And boy I am glad I did go for it because it’s like an all-in-one form of relief for my cough, my colds, my allergies PLUS I get to sleep better. Thanks to diphenyhydramine’s anti-allergy effect.  (Ooooooooooops, sorry guise if my pharma background is making your nose bleed upon reading these). Hahaha!

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Aside from preparing those medications, during any of my travels, I also drink a lot of tea products. Lemon – Ginger Tea and Black Mint Tea are my favorite. If I could get hold of honey, I would often mix it with my drink. Also, I like having probiotic drinks that usually helps me with my GI problems.

I have asked my equally adventurous friends to share some of their health tips and practices.

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The information I have shared here are my personal choices. Of course it is still best to go visit your general practitioner, or a doctor who can specialize the medicine you need during your travel/s. But, it is also good to note that as individuals who like travelling, make sure you always have an extra space for your own medication kit!

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Thank you to Jan of The Kapampangan Traveller, Hance of The Restless Pinoy Traveler, Jeff of Donde si Jepepips, Jonel of Eljontology, Jit (aka @aren_emdi), claro (aka @claro.i) and Aljen (aka @dirtikid).

So remember, stay healthy and safe travels. Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderust. Take it easy everyJUAN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windswept Beauty of Muriwai Beach

Another thing I like to do is sit back and take in nature. To look at the birds, listen to their singing, go hiking, camping and jogging and running, walking along the beach, playing games and sometimes being alone with the great outdoors. It’s very special to me. — Larry Wilcox

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Muriwai Beach, a natural wonder on the west coast of the Auckland Region in the North Island of New Zealand, is a windswept volcanic black sand coastal wonder. The impressive waves rolling into the shore, the serrated landscape across the Maori Bay, and a fascinating colony of gannets are some of the highlights of a visit to this beach.

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This beach is just 40-minutes to an hour away from the bustling ‘City of Sails’. The ruggedly beautiful landscape and seascape are just beyond mesmerizing. A friend of mine suggested that I should visit this place for two main reasons. One, to wait for the magical sunset at this side of New Zealand; and two, be amazed at the colony of breeding gannets.

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According to what I have read, prior to my visit, between the months of October and February each year, the gannets hatch and nurse their young on the cliff tops of Otakamiro Point. This can be accessed after a short walk from the regional park’s parking area. There is a lookouts where one can view the nesting gannets and the Maori Bay. This also serves as a good vantage point during sundown.

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Various activities abound the area. It includes surfing, windsurfing, paragliding and hang gliding, fishing, bush walking, or just strolling along the beach. Muriwai is definitely one New Zealand beach that will make you want to be one with nature.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”Juan”.

 

 

 

 

 

Nagcarlan Fun (Laguna, PH)

Just keep taking chances and having fun. — Garth Brooks

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A few days before Valentine’s Day this 2017, instead of sulking over the fact that I have no V-Day date (for the 7th consecutive year), I opted to join a group of nature-enthusiasts for a weekend getaway in Laguna. I have actually been joining random groups of people since the 1st week of January for some weekend climbs and more.  

So here are the things we did in Nagcarlan to have fun:

TREK MOUNT MABILOG:

Mount Mabilog
Elevation: 428 MASL
Difficulty: 2/9
Location: San Pablo & Nagcarlan, Laguna
Jump Off Point: Brgy. Sulsuguin, Nagcarlan
Features: Grassland, Banana, Coconut & Corn Fields.

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There are three established trails to Mount Mabilog. The western trail via Brgy. Sta. Catalina, the southern trail accessed via Brgy. Sto Angel (both in San Pablo town); and the eastern trail from Sitio Yambo, Brgy. Sulsuguin in town of Nagcarlan. Our group opted to take this trail since we wanted to spend time at Yambo Lake.

About the hike: The ascent is pretty easy and relaxed. One gets to pass by lots of coconuts, banana plants and even cassava plants. Since it rained the previous day, the trail was a bit muddy but manageable.

As one goes further up, the canopy of various trees culminates in a steep ascent that goes to a summit that serves as a campsite and a viewing area at the same time. From the peak, a stunning view of the 7 Lakes of San Pablo (with Yambo Lake as the most visible), and the imposing Mounts Makiling, Banahaw, Cristobal are seen. Other mountains like  Malipunyo Range, Mount Kalisungan, and Mount Atimla can also be viewed. Mount Mabilog is a desirable day-hike for newbies and can be very much visited together with other nearby attractions like the lakes and some waterfalls.


BALSA CRUISE at YAMBO LAKE:

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Yambo Lake, an oligotropic lake (one that is characterized by a low accumulation of dissolved nutrient salts, supporting but a sparse growth of algae and other organisms, and having a high oxygen content owing to the low organic content – in a more appreciated term, you can go and swim all you want, haha) is the twin of a  more popular lake called Pandin Lake. They are separated by a narrow strip of land, that may require a good 10-15 minutes. The place is suitable for swimming, “balsa” cruising, and picnicking. The ride may cost Php 180.00/ person, and if one opts to go food, it will cost one person Php 360.00.


SWIM at BUNGA TWIN FALLS:

Bunga Falls, 15-meters twin waterfalls located at Brgy. Bunga in Nagcarlan Laguna is a good place to cool down after a climb at Mount Mabilog or if one wants more swimming after some time at Yambo Lake. FYI: According to locals, it is called “Bunga” as it is named after a palm tree called betel nut.

Bunga Falls Information:
Entrance Fee: Php5.00/person
Cottage Rentals: starts at Php200.00
Overnight Accommodation (cottage rent): Php400.00
Life Vest Rental: Php70.00
Activities: swimming, camping, water tubing
Parking Fee: Php20.00 (vehicles), Php15.00 (motorcycles)

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VISIT the UNDERGROUND CEMETERY:

A unique attraction in the town (since it seems to be one of its kind in the Philippines) is the Underground Cemetery. This is a burial site located beneath a church that used to serves as a secret meeting place of Filipino revolutionaries or Katipuneros during the late 1800s. There are no fees collected. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Taking pictures is allowed, however, the use of flash is strictly prohibited. One may find the place eerie but I think that adds up charm to the place.

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This fun-filled weekend getaway was made possible by a group of nature and “voluntourism” advocates spearheaded by Sir Ralph of We VolunTours. I have joined his group already on several occasions and I must say that there’s has to be one of the most organized, enjoyable and adventure-packed. Thank you to all new friends I have met. Special shout out to Baguio peeps I have come to know in this trip.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

 

Mt. Manalmon – Mt. Gola (Bulacan)

With the thorough assimilation of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) into the lives of people in the now generation, it is no longer a shock that these sites have been a ground for creating new friendships, and at the same time, reconnecting with old friends. Social media is packed with various means for people to join (and even share) in what other people are doing. Case in point — traveling/ weekend climbs/ party invites and the like.

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Before FB and IG came into the limelight, I have found friends in Multiply and MySpace then. My urge for climbing mountains was actually inspired by some people I have met through Multiply. I am proud to say that the once stranger’s I started connecting with through these social media, eventually became good friends to this very moment.

My recent twin-hike in Bulacan was actually made possible by friends I have made through social media. To cut the story short, an IG friend (I haven’t met in person) invited me to do this climb. Since I myself, was looking for a weekend climb, I without batting an eyelash, gave an affirmative response. Just like how I have always viewed traveling, one favorite part is meeting a diverse range of people.

Here are the highlights of our twin-hike in San Miguel, Bulacan.

MT. MANALMON and MT. GOLA
Within the Biak-na-Bato National Park are several outdoor destinations. The natural estate is home to Mt. Manalmon, Mt. Gola, the very clean Madlum River, and several caves like Bayukbok and Madlum. Because of these features, the place is a favorite destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.

Our Itinerary:
03:00 am – Meet Up (Five Star, Cubao)
03:45 am – ETD to San Miguel, Bulacan via CISCO Bus
06:15 am – ETA in San Miguel, Bulacan

We asked the driver to drop us off at Jollibee where our friend Denmark met us, and where our group had a very early breakfast. Since Denmark brought with him his own ride, we had to skip that part where we have to take a tricycle going to Madlum.

07:00 am – ETD to Sitio Madlum
07:30 am – ETA at Sitio Madlum

Upon arrival, we had our vehicle parked. It was a Saturday so it wasn’t surprising to see a great number of people who came to climb.

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08:00 – Registration/ Payment of necessary fees/ Guide designation/ Orientation

Please note that before coming to Biak-na-Bato Park, one should have sent an email (to rrboyflorencio@yahoo.com) or called from the said details below for safety and security purposes. The email should contain a request of intention to climb. These are the rightful individuals and numbers one may contact: Tata Carling (Coordinator) – 09195746470; or Ms. Cecille – 0907779667.

08:30 am – Start of Trek
Immediately after our guide gave a brief orientation about the 2 mountains we were to climb that day, we started our trek to Mount Manalmon. The entry point is a short walk inside the Madlum Cave. After which, a short river crossing lies ahead. The rest of the trail going to the peak of Mt. Manalmon is pretty easy, almost like walking around the park. It becomes a little challenging near the summit. The topmost part of the mountain offers a 360 degrees view. Mount Arayat in Pampanga and Mount Mabio are also visible from atop.

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09:15 am – ETA at Mt. Manalmon’s Peak (after several cam whoring along the trail)

We spent quite some time taking photos. We would have wanted to take more pictures, however, more and more groups were approaching the peak and a queue was building up so we had to go down and proceed to Mount Gola.

09:45 am – ETD from Manalmon peak to Mount Gola

The descent was much like the way up through a different trail that leads to Mt. Gola. We had to cross the river one more time. The trail to Mount Gola was a little more challenging compared to Manalmon as there are rocky portions that require a bit of clambering. We found ourselves taking more rests (to eat and to get to know each other more).

10:30 am – ETA at Mount Gola peak.
The summit of Gola is much wider than Manalmon’s, thus it is able to accommodate more people. Just like Manalmon, the view remains to be breathtaking. We had a great time taking more photos – from the usual poses to some creative and censored. After satisfying ourselves with what we think are Instagram-worthy captures, we decided to descend.

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11:15 am – ETD to jump-off

Instead of experiencing Madlum River’s cool waters at the jump-off, our group decided to have some swimming time at the foot of the two mountains we scaled (since there were fewer people, and as advised by our guide too). After that refreshing cool down by the river, we proceeded back to the registration site where we went on to do the exciting monkey bars crossing.

11:45 am – ETA at jump-off; start of monkey bars activity

Besides reaching the peaks of Manalmon and Gola, crossing Madlum River via monkey bars was that one activity I have been looking forward to doing. It was such a delightful experience. If not for a long queue for this activity, I would have done it repeatedly.

12:30 pm – Wash-up

01:30 pm – Went back to San Miguel town proper and looked for a place to eat for our late lunch.

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We had a sumptuous dining experience at Batchy’s before heading back to the metro.

Breakdown of General Expenses:
Bus fare from Cubao to San Miguel (Php 117 one-way x 2 = Php234)
Guide Fee for 2 mountains (Php600 divided by 6 pax)
Lunch (Php150/pax)

It was yet another awesome day spent in the great outdoors. This twin hike has to be one of the easiest and most relaxing climbs I did. But what made this weekend getaway more amazing is the fact that among us travel enthusiasts, there is a certain camaraderie built. We may have started out as strangers to virtual/ social media friends but we sure understand each other.

Thank you Tutz (rochi_b._), Sam (sadofi_), Bry (bryehero), Den (denmarkisthename) and Rob (wandrianrob). I had a great time spending my weekend with you all. And yes, worry not, our “usapang krass” will remain inside my wanderlust soul. Til our next adventure. Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Mount Sawi – Mount Mapait (Nueva Ecija)

Mt. Mapait- Brgy. Mapait, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija Elevation:350 MASL Hours to Summit 3hrs Specs: Minor Climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail Class 1-2  Rattan/Leech: None Lipa (Poison Ivy):+  Watersource: YES Phone Signal: +++ Mt.Sawi- Brgy Malinao, Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija Elevation: 594 MASL Hours to summit: 3-4 Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail Class 1-4 Rattan/ Leech/ Poison Ivy: None Watersource: Yes (Near Simbahang Bato) Phone Signal: +++

“Those who travel to mountain tops are half in love with themselves And half in love with oblivion… “– Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination

If you are looking for some new, exciting trails and peaks this summer (with emotions-filled names), then head your way to the province of  Nueva Ecija. This landlocked province in Central Luzon seem to be on is right track to opening nature’s doors to mountain and outdoor enthusiasts a couple of relatively new hiking destinations.

This write up presents a sample one-day, twin-hike itinerary featuring Mount Sawi and Mount Mapait. If you want to explore more mountains, there is Mount 387/ Batong Amat and Paasa Peak or Mount Kemalugong.

ITINERARY for Twin day-hike:
Day 0
10:00 pm – meet-up at Jollibee Farmers Cubao
11:00 pm – ETD to Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija

Day 1
04:00 am – ETA at the Jump-off (Brgy. Malinao) /Secure Guides
05:00 am – Start Trek
07:00 am – ETA – Summit of Mount Sawi (photo ops); eat breakfast
08:00 am – Start of Descend
09:00 am – ETA at Simbahang Bato
10:00 am – ETA at jump-off/ Wash up
11:00 am – ETD to Palayan City
12:00 pm – ETA in Palayan City; have lunch
01:00 pm – ETA at Brgy. Mapait/ Register/Secure Guides
01:30 pm – Boat Ride at Aulo Lake
02:30 pm – ETA at the View Deck (Photo Ops)
03:45 pm – ETA at the Summit of Mount Mapait (Photo Ops)
04:00 pm – Start of Descend
05:30 pm – ETA at the jump-off/ wash-up
06:00 pm – ETD to Manila
07:00 pm – Dinner along the way
10:30 pm – ETA in Manila

MOUNT SAWI Photos (by Sir Denmark)

For Mount Mapait:
Environmental/Registration Fee = Php20 per head
Guide Fee = Php300/day (Ratio 1:10)

Cubao to Cabanatuan = Php185 per head
Cabanatuan to Palayan = Php20 per head
Tricycle going to Brgy. Mapait = Php20 per head
Boat Rent = Php30/pax (Ratio 1:4/Oneway)

Contact Person:
Brgy Captain Toletino Baltazar
09208125946

MOUNT MAPAIT Photos by Sir Denmark Alarcon

Photo credits: Sir Den (@denmarkisthename)  and Sir Brian (@bryehero).Salamat mga bes… 😊

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Mount Binikayan (Rizal)

It all started with climbing a mountain that eventually led to another making me unstoppable. I owe my knack for adventure from scaling mountains. And I am so glad that I am finally back doing it since I haven’t been active for the last 2 years (2015 and 2016).

My trilogy climb during the 1st week of 2017 reminded me of how much I have missed (and why I will always be fascinated by) climbing mountains. It is the counterparts between climbing and living that enthralls me. It is such a great opportunity to unravel and to appreciate my strengths and limits. A recent trek to one of Rizal’s climbing destinations proved to be an amazing way of assessing these metiers and borders of mine.

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My frustration of not being able to join the invitation of a good friend (KOTheExplorer) to saunter Mount Binikayan (also Mount Binicayan) — a mountain famous for its incredible rock formations and a sea of clouds, ultimately prompted me to go see it (even if it meant doing it on my own). Luckily, two university-mates joined me as we join a group I contacted on Facebook.

So this was our actual itinerary for our Mount Binikayan

03:30 AM – Meet up at Jollibee, Cubao (near Araneta Gateway)
04:00 AM – Expected time of departure via van
04:45 AM – Expected time of arrival at registration site in Brgy San Rafael, Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal
05:30 AM – Start of trek (which I find pretty late as we may no longer see the sunrise and the sea of clouds – which what eventually happened)

The climb was pretty easy at first until we reach the parts where one has to scramble over several rocks. I find these parts of the trail to be really nice though. The adrenaline rush is just heart-thumping. And of course, as we get higher, the view becomes more stunning.

06:10 AM – we reached the first viewpoint where there are sharp rock-strewn crests of Mt Binikayan. At this point, I was still hoping I would see that famed sea of clouds my IG friends saw a week earlier. I was quite disheartened when only a “stream” of it came floating to my eyes, and when I have realized it was a tad cloudy that Mr. Sun won’t show up. As we continued the trek, we had to pass through more rock formations (please be careful as they are really sharp and could literally puncture your clothes and integument). We had a lot of stops because we don’t want to miss the chance to capture every moment and every breath-taking scenery.

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We were almost near the summit when the sun started to peep through the clouds. We had more photos taken at the ridges where we had to do our own version of some death-defying poses. Do not do these if you are faint-hearted. After exercising much of our zygomaticus muscle through that seemingly endless photo-ops, we made our way to the main summit of Binikayan.

07:00 AM – Reached the Mt. Binikayan Summit. Because of the number of people who went on to climb that day, it wasn’t surprising that there was actually a queue to the summit. Our group decided not to wait for our turn to go up the summit. My friends and I, together with 4 new found friends, decided to descend earlier so we can spend some time at the Wawa Gorge. Good thing our cool guide permitted us.

07:30 AM – Start of descending. Going down was surprisingly more challenging with some of my companions getting down and (quite) dirty. I, on the other hand, enjoyed every bit of it. There were moments where I caught myself smiling. It has dawned on me that I really missed doing this activity. It brought some previous climbing memories. And that I became more eager to climb more mountains whenever I can during the weekends. As we each approach the jump off area, a lot of thoughts were racing – happy and insight-filled. I was so excited to put them into words, ironically, it is only now that I got the chance to finally share them.

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8:15 AM – Reached the jump-off, logged out, and had breakfast.
08:45 AM – Went for a quick visit to Wawa Dam and took several photos.
10:00 AM – Expected time of departure from Wawa. Took a tricycle to Montalban center.
10:45 AM – Expected time of departure from Montalban center via van to Cubao
11:45 AM – Expected time of arrival in Cubao Araneta Center

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It was a half-day trip that was filled with moments and realizations. The sense of disappointment of not having seen the sea of clouds turned into a satisfying feeling one only gets to experience when climbing mountains. Climbing is not really about the Instagram-worthy posts one would achieve atop. It’s about standing on the peak feeling empowered and unparalleled imparting a sense of achievement. Climbing is about people, about friendships, and sharing various moments. Climbing teaches us to enjoy the small luxuries in life. This is why I climb and why I love it. So, go climb a mountain and you, yourself will finally understand why the mountains are calling.

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By the way, you can also check out my friend Olivier’s awesome write up about this mountain HERE.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…