Kwentong Pag-Ibig ni Romulo

Itong blog na ito ay halos 5 buwan in the making. But the love story behind it is made to last for a lifetime.

BABALA: Kung babasahin mo ang blog na ito, siguraduhing handa kang langgamin. Bakit? Malalaman mo pag nagbasa ka. Isa pang babala, siguraduhing marami kang oras, may kahabaan kasi ang blog na ito. Ito na ata ang pinakamahabang blog na nagawa ko.

MGA BAWAL:

· Bawal ang “KJ” (kill joy) dito.

· Bawal ang hindi corny at cheesy dito.

“You will find love in the most unexpected place at the most unexpected time.” Iyan ang sabi sa akin ng isa kong kaibigan noong mga panahon na lugmok ako dahil ako ay isang BRO (broken-hearted). (Ooooops, hindi ito konektado sa blog ko na “Inagaw ang lahat Sa Akin”, eto eh totoong kwentong pag-ibig na).

First Day High

2003. Unang taon ng aking pagtuturo. Kakagradwyet ko lamang ng taong ding iyon, at nagrerebyu para sa nalalapit na board exams. Maaga akong pumasok sa Tuesday class ko ng 7:30 kung saan may mga nakatambay na mga estudyante sa harap ng Adenauer 401 (classroom ko). Napatingin ako sa isang babaeng naka-agaw ng sa aking atensyon dahil na rin sa mapupungay nitong mga mata. May mga tumakbong bagay sa pag-iisip ko ng mga oras na iyon gaya ng – “Magiging estudyante ko kaya eto? Dito kaya siya papasok sa klaseng papasukan ko?”

Nagfirst bell na, hudyat para pumasok na ang mga estudyanteng nakatambay sa labas ng classroom. Hinintay ko kung papasok ang nabanggit kong estudyante ngunit tumayo lamang ‘to at umalis. Hinintay ko ang second bell, nagbabakasakaling babalik at papasok ang naturang babae. Ngunit, subalit datapwat, umabot na sa 3rd bell eh walang magandang babae na mapupungay ang mga mata ang pumasok sa clase ko. Nalungkot ako.

Serendipity

Lumipas ang isang buong semester. Nakalimutan ko na ang naramdaman kong pagkamangha kay “Miss Tantalizing Eyes” (un ang binigay kong codename sa kanya mula nung una at huling araw na nakita ko siya sa unibersidad). Hindi na rin ako umasa na makikita ko pa siyang muli.

Umpisa ng 2nd semester SY 2003-2004. Tuesday ulit. 7:30 to 9:30 ulit ang oras at sa Adenauer 401 ulit ang pasok ko. Hindi kagaya nung unang semester, hindi ako maagang nakapasok. Tapos na ang 1st at 2nd bell kaya dali-dali akong pumasok at tumungo sa classroom. Pagkapasok ko ng classroom, sinabi ko sa mga estudyante ko na isulat nila ang pangalan nila sa isang 1/8th sheet of paper at ipasa eto.

Since unang araw pa lang ng pasukan, classroom rules at getting-to-know each other muna ang aming ginawa. Isa-isa kong tinawag ang mga pangalan sa papel na sinubmit sa akin, hanggang sa tawagin ko ang pangalan na ito —

“Ramirez, Maria S. – Where is Ms. Ramirez?”

May isang babaeng naka-red orange ang blouse ang nagtaas ng kanyang kamay. Mapupungay ang mga mata nito at isang matamis na ngiti ang ibinugad sa aking pagkakatawag ng kanyang pangalan. Mabilis na nagregister sa utak ko ang mukha ng babaeng ito. “Siya nga! Siya na nga!” Un ang paulit-ulit na sinisigaw ng mga neurons ko habang nakatitig sa kanya. Siya yung babaeng binansagan kong “Ms. Tantalizing Eyes”. Siya yung babaeng minsan ko lang nakita noong nakaraang semester na parang bula na lang na nawala dahil ni minsan, hindi ko na uli siyang nakita.

“And how would you like to be called in class Ms. Ramirez?” – pa-simple kong tanong na agad naman nitong sinagot ng –

“Maria SIR.”

Para akong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig ng marealize ko na SIR o guro nga pala nila ako sa klaseng ito at hindi isa sa mga kaklase nila. Problema nga ba yon? May “university rule” bang nagsasaad na bawal ma-inlab ang isang guro sa kanyang estudyante?

I Think I’m in Love

Mahirap bumangon ng maaga lalo na dito sa Baguio City dahil masarap matulog lalo na at malamig. Pero dahil may dahilan para gumising ng maaga at para na rin hindi malate sa pagpasok sa eskwela, eh talaga namang alas-singko pa lang eh ginigising na ako ng alarm clock ko.

In-short, inspired akong pumasok, lalo na tuwing TTHS dahil na rin kay Ms. Ramirez. Lumipas pa ang ilang araw at linggo, mas lalo akong napapahanga sa kanyang kagandahan at iba pang katangian. Maraming beses kong nahuhuli ang sarili ko na bigla-bigla na lang nakatitig sa kanya tuwing may quiz o seatwork sila… (Hindi ko lang alam kung may mga nakakahuli ding mga kaklase nya sa mga nakaw kong tingin kay Maria).

December na – ibig sabihin, Christmas break. Bigla ko siyang na-miss, hindi nakakatulog sa gabi sa kakaisip at nagigising na lang ako na humihiyaw ang utak ko na tila gustong irelease lahat ng mga kemikals gaya ng 5-HT o 5-hydroxytryptamine, serotonin at epinephrine na nagiging dahilan ng mabilis na pagtibok ng puso ko, at pagka-walang gana sa pagkain. Waaaaaaaaaah! Matagal ko ding di naramdaman ang mga eto…Eto na naman ang mga sinasabi sa kanta nina Jam Morales na ni-revive ni Lea Salonga “I think I’m in love, I think I’m in love with you.. Every single day, every single night, I want to spend them all, with you….” Haaay… I’m in-lab… Sabi ko pa man din sa sarili ko na trabaho muna, at tsaka na yang lab lab na yan…

You Changed My Life in a Moment

January 2004. Excited akong bumalik ng school. Napansin ng mga kabahay ko na sa pagpasok pa lang ng Bagong Taon eh, marami ding nakaakibat na pagbabago mula sa akin – gaya ng mga sumusunod:

· *Tumatagal na akong maligo (dati-rati 5 minutes lang ako kung maligo, 3 minutes kung masyadong malamig, ngayon 20 to 30 minutes na, pagshashampoo pa lang yun ha…).

· *Paglabas sa kwarto ay umaalingasaw ang amoy ng padalang pabango na Polo Sport ni Lola mula Tate…

· *Napapadalas din ang pagpapatugtug ng mga Lab Songs sa kwarto ko gaya ng Love is All That Matters, Falling atbpng sentimental songs na dati-rati naman eh di ko pinapakinggan.

· *Tuwing gabi, kung ano anung baduy na love notes ang sinusulat ko kung saan-saan – mula sa class record ko to my lecture notes hanggang sa kama ko, my mga post it na nakasulat ang pangalang “Maria”.

Nais ko na sanag ihayag kay Maria ang nararamdaman ko pero hindi ko alam kung paano. Medyo natotorpe din kasi ako, bukod dun eh, nag-aalangan ako dahil nga baka may masabi ang marami. Natatakot ako na baka may masabi ang mga kaklase niya o kaya ang mga co-teachers ko. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, ang hirap naman.

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Torpedo

Pebrero. Love month. Nataon ang February 14 (Valentines Day) sa araw na sila Maria ang estudyante ko. To break the usual scenario sa klase na lecture lecture lecture, nagkaroon kami ng activity. Tutal, Health Care naman yung subject, tungkol sa Caring ang ginawa naming activity. Gumawa sila ng mga messages of love and care, at dapat nilang ibigay etong mga ito sa mga taong nagbibigay ng inspirasyon sa kanila na nasa classroom. Bago ang dismissal, kinailangan ng ibigay ang mga ginawa nila – laking gulat ko ng iabot sa akin ni Maria ang heart letter na ginawa nya.

“The true measure of love is to love without measure.” – yan ang nakalagay sa iniabot niya sa akin na note. Gusto kong kiligin ng mga oras na iyon. Gustong sumigaw ng puso ko… Naramdaman ko ang pag-init ng mga tenga ko. Hindi ako makapaniwala. Napabuntong hininga na lang ako. Umalis ako ng classroom nila na may napakalaking ngiti sa mukha.

Pagkalabas, may mga nakita akong Valentines booth. Naisipan kong magbigay ng bulaklak na ipapadala ko kay Maria. Dahil nga sa torpe ako, ay hindi ko kinaya na ako mismo ang mag-abot ng rose kay Maria kaya’t inutusan ko ang isang kakilala. Binilin ko sa kanya na wag na wag niyang babanggitin na sa akin galing. Mabuti nalang at napapayag ko siya matapos pangakuan na ililibre ko siya sa Jollibee.

Eto ung nakalagay sa note na binigay ko sa kanya.

Dear Maria,

“The true measure of love is to love without measure.”

Anonymous

Para akong timang nuh? Syempre pa, magkaka-idea sya na ako ang nagbigay dahil kapareho ng binigay nyang note ung inilagay kong note sa bigay ko sa kanyang rose, kahit pa anonymous ang nakalagay. Pero syempre, idedeny ko kung magtatanong sya. Tanga? Torpe? Gago? OO.

Kinahapunan, nilapitan ako ng isang kaibigan niya na naging kaclose ko (si Cassie, na hindi ko estudyante). Tinanong niya ako kung ako daw ba iyong nagbigay kay Maria ng bulaklak. Syempre pa, itinanggi ko. Pero sa bandang huli, nahuli niya rin ako. Nagmakaawa ako na wag na wag niyang sasabihin na ako nga iyong nagbigay. Natawa na lang siya. Tiwala ako kay Cassie na hindi niya sa sasabihin. Sa katunyan, humingi pa ako ng favor sa kanya. Hiningi ko ang cellphone number ni Maria. Binigay naman niya ng walang pagaalinlangan. Ayos, solb!

Kinagabihan, binalak kong itext si Maria, pero mas nanaig ang pagiging torpe ko. Ilang araw pa ang lumipas bago ako nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob para itext siya.

“Hi, Maria. Musta ang school?” (message sent).

“hu u?” (reply ni Maria).Nakalimutan ko, hindi pa pala ako nagpapakilala.

“Ay, sori. Si Sir Rodrigo pala to. =)” (message sent).

“Ay, sir. Kayo po pala. Okay lang naman po.” (reply ni Maria).

“Ah, ok..mabuti naman. Sana hindi ako nakakaistorbo sayo…” (message sent)

Walang immediate reply. 5 minutes na, wala pa din. 10.15. Hay, nakastorbo nga ata ako.

Tooooootoooootooooot. Tunog ng cellphone ko.

“Hi sir, pasensya po, late reply. Gumagawa po kasi ako ng assignment sa Chem”. (text ni Maria)

Sabi ko na nga ba, nakaistorbo ako. Wrong timing. Siyempre, wala na akong nagawa, Kaya –

“Naku, sorry at naistorbo kita. Cge, tapusin mo na yang assignment mo. Goodnight. Sweet dreams… (kinikilig ako ng tinetext ko ang mga ito. message sent..sabay lundag sa malambot kong kama!)

“Kayo din po sir. Goodnyt!” (reply niya pero walang sweet dreams…)

Nahirapan akong matulog ng gabing iyon. Paulit-ulit na nanumbalik ang mga text messages ni Maria sa utak ko. Wala namang ibig sabihin ang mga texts nya, malandi lang talaga ako… ehehehe. Matagal-tagal ko ring hindi naramdaman ang mga eto… In-lab nga talaga ako kay Maria.

Nahirapan akong matulog ng gabing iyon. Paulit-ulit na nanumbalik ang mga text messages ni Maria sa utak ko. Wala namang ibig sabihin ang mga texts nya, malandi lang talaga ako… ehehehe. Matagal-tagal ko ring hindi naramdaman ang mga eto… In-lab nga talaga ako kay Maria.

Bawal na Gamot?

“Hindi ba bawal yan?” Iyan ang tanong ng isa sa mga kaibigan ko.

“Anong bawal dun? Wala naman akong asawa, wala din naman (ata) siyang boyfriend o boylets yun ang sabi ng mga friends niya)”.

“Bahala ka jan, ingat ka. Tsaka baka may masabi ung mga classmates niya…”

“Fair naman ako pagdating sa classroom eh, tsaka alam ko naman ang mga ginagawa ko.”

“Oo na, basta goodluck nalang…”

Iyan ang mga naging usapan namin. Aminado ako, medyo naaburido ako. AT naiinis. Bakit ba kasi may mga ganung bagay. (na kesyo bawal daw ang teacher – student relationship).

Chemistry Week. Kinuha ako ng Department Head ng Chemistry para maging judge sa Talent Showdown nila. Pumayag naman ako. Sa hindi ko inaasahang pagkakataon, kasama si Maria at mga friends niya sa Pop Dance. Ahem, pinagtatagpo ata kami ni destiny. (iyon ang nasa isip ko noon).

Natapos ang show, hindi sila nanalo dahil marami ang mas magagaling sa kanila. Sa labas ng theatre, nakita ko sila. Masaya kahit natalo (para daw sa plus points yun, kaya sila sumali sabi ng isa niyang friend).

“Sir, sama ka sa amin. Coffee tayo sa Klatsch!” – sambit ni Cassie (isa sa mga matatalik na kaibigan ni Maria).

Gusto ko syempre kaso nahihiya naman ako kasi, ilan lang sa kanila ang kakilala ko at hindi naman sure kung kasama si Maria, kaya tinext ko eto kahit na kaharap ko na siya.

“Sama ka sa Kaffe Klutsch?” (message sent)

“Opo, sama daw kayo sabi ni Cassie…” (reply nya)

“Okay lang ba?” (message sent – nananalangin na sana positibo ang reply). Wala siyang reply.

“Sir, sama ka na!” May nagsalita. Sino? Syempre, si Maria! Kinilig ako at siya na mismo ang nagsabi. Hindi na ako tumanggi pa.

Lumipas ang ilan pang mga araw. Matatapos na ang 2nd semester ng school year na iyon. Ilang gabi na rin akong balisa dahil habang tumatagal, para pahirap ng pahirapa ng sitwasyon ko. Namomroblema kasi ako kung paano ko ihahayag kay Maria na gusto ko siya. Sulatan ko kaya siya ng Love Letter? (Baka naman makornihan siya). O, sa text kaya? (Uhm, parang mejo rude ata yun). O personal na lang (hindi naman kaya ako himatayin sa kaba).

Napagpasyahan ko na ang huli ang aking gagawin. Pero – Kelan? Saan? Paano? At mas marami pang tanong ang isa-isang pumasok sa aking isipan.

Kung Okay Lang Sa’yo

March 20, 2004. Last day ng pasukan. Final exams nila sa akin. May ihinandang party ang mga estudyante ko kinagabihan. Pero bago pa ito (medyo fastforward ako ng konti), nasabi ko na kay Maria (sa pamamagitan ng text) na may imumungkahi ako sa kanya. Niyaya ko siya na kami ay mag-usap.

4:30 ng hapon. Starbucks sa John Hay. Dito namin napagpasyahang mag-usap. Kabadong kabado ako ng mga oras na iyon. Hindi ko kasi alam kung saan hahantong ang pag-uusap namin. May halong hiya, takot, kaba at excitement. Si Maria naman eh parang balisa. Kumain muna kami, hanggang dumating sa punto na –

“Ano yung gusto mong sabihin?” – Tanong ni Maria

Hindi ako nakasagot agad sa tanong niya. Lahat ng mga minemorize at prinactice ko noong isang gabi ay unti-unting naglaho. Mabilis akong nag-isip. May mga gusto na akong sambitin pero parang itinali ang dila ko.

“Ano kako yung gusto mong sabihin?” – Tanong ulit ni Maria.

“Ah, eh…” (unti-unit na akong pinagpapawisan).

“Huwag ka sanang magagalit ha, pero matagal na kitang gusto. Hindi ko alam kung dapat ko bang tanungin eto, pero… Pwede ba kitang ligawan?” (nanlalamig na ako sa mga oras na iyon. Hindi ko mawari kung tama ba na itinanung ko iyon sa kanya. Nagiinit na rin ang mga tenga ko, parang anytime eh sasabog na).

Napabuntong hininga si Maria. Ako man ay napabuntong-hininga din.

“Nakakagulat ka naman ssssii.. (gusto niya atang sambitin pa ang salitang sir, pero di niya ito itinuloy). Natutuwa ako sa iyo pero, uhm… Pero wala pa po sa isip ko ang mga sinabi mo. Sobrang strikto ng daddy ko… Wala akong maipapangako sa’yo pero.. ikaw, kung makakapaghintay ka ba…”

Naisip ko, basted na malupit ba ang tawag dito?! Hindi pa rin ako maka-imik. Paulit-ulit na umaalingawngaw sa pandinig ko ang mga kasasambit niyang mga kataga.

“Uy, baka naman hindi mo na ako pansinin niyan…” Sabay tapik ni Maria sa aking kanang balikat.

“Kahit gaano katagal akong manligaw, okay lang sa akin. Hindi naman ako nagmamadali eh…” – iyon naman ang aking nasabi habang nakatitig sa kanyang mga mata.

“Tsaka, bakit naman hindi kita papansinin?” (sabay subo sa kinakain ko).

“Eh malay ko ba kung kagaya ka ng ibang lalaki jan…” – pangiti nitong sagot. Sabay sabi pa ng —

“Naku! Mag-aalas-sais na pala. Baka hinihintay na tayo ng mga classmates ko.” – sabay tingin sa relos niyang suot.

Umalis kami ng Starbucks para tumungo sa class party nila. Napagkasunduhan namin na walang lalabas sa naging paguusap namin.

Kinagabihan, bago ako matulog, muling naglaro sa isip ko ang naging usapan namin ni Maria. Natanong ko ang sarili – “Naging kuntento ba ako sa sagot niya sa tanong ko o may inasahan ba akong ibang sagot?”

Aminado ako – medyo nalungkot ako pero naisip ko din, at least hindi naman talaga ako basted. Kumbaga, may pag-asa pa.

Getting to Know Each Other

May 3-weeks na break from school. At sa mga panahon na iyon, naging madalas ang pagtetextan namin ni Maria. Nagsimula ang summer classes, pareho kaming estudyante noon kasi imbes na magturo, nag-enrol ako para sa Masterals ko. Halos araw-araw ay nakikisabay ako kay Maria sa pag-uwi niya kahit pa sa SLU Men’s Dorm lang ako nakatira. Napapadalas din ang pagbisita ko sa kanya sa kanilang boarding haws. Hindi namin ito pinapahalata sa mga kaklase niya. Ang mga nakakaalam lang na nanliligaw ako sa kanya eh yung mga malapit niyang friends na sina Cassie, She at Jeoms; at syempre yung 2 kabahay niya na sina Jem at Sheryl.

Naaalala ko pa yung mga moments na gusto naming magsine o kumain sa labas, kinakailangan pa na lagi kaming “in-group”. Baka kasi may makahalata yung iba niyang classmates. Salamat kina Cassie, mas nagiging madali para sa amin kasi sinasamahan nila kami.

Matatapos na ang summer classes. Naging mas panatag na ang loob namin ni Maria sa isa’t isa. Naisip ko isang gabi – “Sasagutin na kaya niya ako kung tatanungin ko siya kung pwede bang kami na?”

Pero naisip ko din yung sinabi niya sa akin noon sa Starbucks na wala pa iyon sa kanyang pagiisip. Sabagay, nabanggit ko din naman sa kanya na, kayang ko namang maghintay.

Love Moves in Mysterious Ways

May 22, 2004. Last day ng summer classes. 7pm. Boarding House nila Maria sa Aurora Hill. Naka-black and white na stripes blouse si Maria. Naka-gray na jacket ako, black and white din na shirt at blue cap. Nag-take out kami ng dinner. Matapos magdinner, kwentuhan tungkol sa school. Sumagi ulit sa isip ko yung ideya na tanungin siya kung pwede bang kami na. Pero paano? (Kantahin ko kaya ang “Say That You Love Me” ni Martin Nievera? O kaya, magjoke ng –

Rodrigo: Maria, gusto ko T-shirt na lang ako.

Na sasagutin niya ng –

Maria: Bakit naman?

Rodrigo: Para naman itry mo kung bagay ba ako sayo…

Pero, yaiks!!! Ang corny ko pag ganun. Baka bigla pa niya akong palayasin.

Alas-diyes na ng gabi. Malapit na akong umuwi. 10:30 kasi curfew sa Men’s Dorm. Nakikinig kami ng radyo nun, K-Lite. Biglang tinugtog ang “Love Moves in Mysterious Ways” ni Nina, ng biglang magsalita si Maria…

“May gusto ka bang sabihin o tanungin sa akin?”

Nagulat ako. Gaya ng scenario sa Starbucks 2 buwan na ang nakakalipas, napipipi na naman ako.

“ Ha? Ano naman ang sasabihin o tatanungin ko sayo?” – pangiti kong sagot.

Ilang sandali pa ay nagsalita muli si Maria – “Tayo na!”

Para ata akong nabingi sa 2 salitang binitawan niya. Halong pagkagulat at saya yung naramdaman ko. Parang hindi ako makahinga, ambilis ng pintig ng puso ko. Niyakap ko siya ng mahigpit na mahigpit. Sabay tanong ulit –

“TOTOO??? Hindi ka ba nagbibiro?”

“Oo nga…” – buong galak niyang sinabi.

Sana ay nakita ko ang itsura ko matapos marinig ang sinabi niya. Wala na akong maalala sa naging reaksyon ko nang oras na iyon. Ilang minuto pa, kinailangan ko ng umuwi. Isang ngiti ang permanenteng tumatak sa mukha ko habang pauwi ng Men’s Dorm… Habang naglalakad, hindi ko napigilan ang sarili kong sumigaw —

“Woooooohoooooooooo! Kami na…sa wakas, kami na…” (Sabay talon, ngiti, at kampay ng kamay).

Mula noon, ang ngiting dinulot ni Maria sa aking mukha, ay hindi na umalis pa at sa tingin ko hindi na mabubura magpa-kailan pa man…mula sa simbahan hanggang sa aming magiging tahanan.

“Falling in love happens by chance not by choice.

Staying in love happens by choice not by chance.”

Nagmamahal,

Rodrigo

Aran Cave (Benguet, PH)

Spelunking or caving is about exhilarating exploration, discovering a furtive underground landscape of stalactites and stalagmites, caverns and crevices where seemingly creepy silence echoes. The ghostly feeling these concealed wonders, and all that it keeps like the delicate formations growing inside them and surprising finds like waterfalls and natural pools — are enthralling natural phenomenon.

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I trace my first caving experience wayback May of 2008 in Sagada. I can’t say it was love at first sight, but it definitely was one of a kind experience. The following year (January 2009), I got to explore the then unknown Aran or Tukang Cave. 10 years after, who would have thought I would get to explore this very same cave again. During the 1st time I went spelunking in Aran, I was with a good friend, Jelaine and some other new found Korean friends. We did some high-angle rappelling, rock climbing, river trekking and airsoft range shooting before we culminated our day then with a caving adventure. Those moments are still pretty vivid in my memory.

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Left photo was taken in january 2009 during my 1st Aran Cave exploration while the photo on the right was taken last February 03, 2019. A 10 year gap for these two captures! 

Last weekend (February 03, 2019), I joined a group (a big one) for an Aran Cave exploration at Camp 3, Tuba, Benguet. I was on tenterhooks the past days having come from a surgery a week ago. I was bound to resume work the following day following more than a week of bedrest. The required rest of just staying put at home made me bored and feeling uneasy. If you know me as a person, you will definitely say that staying put is a very challenging state for me. That is why during that weekend, I went on to search for an event I could join. Luckily, there is the Aran Cave trip.

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So how was the experience during this trip? I always have had a soft spot for extreme adventures. The adrenaline rush it gives me is just great and invigorating. Just like my previous caving experiences, it remains to be exciting. Caving in Aran is pretty unique since the cave boasts off several levels of waterfalls. During my 1st visit, we managed to go up to the 3rd level. This time though, due to the aftermath of a strong typhoon last year, some of the ropes going to the 3rd level were damaged hence visitors are only limited to visiting upto the 2nd waterfall. Nonetheless, the adventure inside is nothing short but amazing!

The moments I love the most during this experience includes the rappelling part, the worming-squeezing our way in and out of small crevices (really super exciting), and the freezingly cold dip into the cave’s natural pools. The part I most appreciate is when we reached a certain portion of the cave and our guide asked everyone to turn off their headlights. It was pitch black and the coldness inside felt a little colder. Kuya Arthur, our guide, shared some stories about the cave (like how the story of a giant named Aran lived inside these caverns). He also told us that the very narrow portion we had to go through was symbolical as we go out of the cave. It was like a form of rebirth.

That thought had me thinking. True enough, there are some experiences in life that would make us feel we are born again. Challenges in life (just like those we encounter inside the cave), will test our patience and determination. There are moments when we are close to giving up but we have no choice but to go on. And that if we do not endure these struggles, we will never know what would be instore for us at the end of the adventure.

This is the itinerary we followed during this trip:

0630: Call time at Jollibee, Lakandula near Shoppers Lane (here in Baguio City)
0700: Expected Time of Departure from Baguio to Camp 3
0730: Expected Time of Arrival at the Jump off of Aran Cave in Camp 3, Tuba (which is part of Benguet)
0730: Preparation and Registration of Payment.

A short orientation was also made wherein do’s and don’ts were given as reminders for everyone’s safety. Also, our group was divided into smaller group of 10 (since we were 40 something), guides were designated and a warm-up exercise was even initiated.

0800: Trekked our way to the Entrance of the Cave. Another short talk was given here wherein a bit of Aran Cave’s history was shared by one of the guides.

0815: 1st group entered the cave. I joined the 4th/ last group so we had to wait for a while. A 20-minute interval was given every after a group enters the cave (which is good so that it wouldn’t be too crowded inside). So this signaled the start of the spelunking adventure.

1100 The expected time of exit for the 1st group. I wasn’t sure if this was followed. Nonetheless, once the spelunking is over, the participants could shower back at the orientation area.

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1200: Lunch was supposed to be served but our group (the last group) managed to eat at around 14:00 since we were the last ones to exit the cave and arrive at the lunch place.

Side trips were made that included visiting two waterfalls along Kennon Road. These are the Colorado falls and the popular Bridal Veil waterfalls. It was a quick visit where we only took photos. I have a separate blog for these waterfalls along Kennon Road.

1630: We left Camp 4. A bit late than the original itinerary but it was fine. We arrived Baguio at around 17:30.

The trip costs Php650/ person and it included the following: transportation (back and forth), a really sumptuous lunch (pinikpikan, adobo, and the oh so delicious dinuguan + drinks), a deadlight and skull guard head cap were provided (which I so appreciate), entrance fee, tour guide fee, and environmental fee. No fees for the waterfalls.

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Activities like this usually require the following: the use of non-slippery footwear (whether shoes or slipper/sandals), the use of dri-fit clothes (preferably long-sleeved and maybe leggings since some of the rock formations inside are sharp), extra clothes, your own water/ energy drinks, some trail food, ziplock or dry bag for your valuables (since there are instances when you have to cross some pools inside), kneepad and gloves (since some parts require crawling and rappelling).

Life, as Helen Keller would say, is a daring adventure or nothing at all. The things we choose to do with it defines us and make living extra beautiful. So have the courage to squeeze your way through narrow caves, climb over slippery mountains and boulders, and explore all possible adventures out there. Along the way, you will get to learn more about life and the many things you are capable of.

***Grabbed some photos from Sir Clifford of IBenguetTourGuides2018.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy. Follow me on Instagram: @nojuanisanisland

 

8 Years

Long after I have given up, my heart still searches for you without my permission…

Exactly 8 years ago this day, August 22, I died. It was that day when she left me without saying anything except the words “Let me go. You deserve someone better…” through a text message. Seven words that ended up our almost 7-year relationship.

She was my world. She was my everything. I want to believe I gave her my heart and soul. But this day 8 years ago, she decided not to be a part of my world any longer… And from that time on I have been alive but dead inside. I have been alive but dead inside for 8 years.

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EIGHT years is a long time. I felt bad because that breakup up 8 years ago has created a space in my soul which needs a packing at the most basic. All these time, I tried various ways to forget her. But I guess, some love never dies. Maybe, the extent just gets abridged with time. But even so, 8 years seem to not have managed to revive my heart. Maybe another 8 years?

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But then again, 8 years are still too less if I equate it to the number of years I may still have to spend. I am not promising anything but I hope that someday, my heart would feel alive once again… no matter how long it will take for that time to come.

It takes a strong heart to love, but it takes a stronger heart to continue to love after it’s been hurt.

Filipi-Know: Pinoy Words I Love.

Words are exceptionally the most commanding force presented to people. The use of such is something we do every single day whenever we talk to people, and even to ourselves. We either have the freedom to utilize this power beneficially through words of inspiration, or damagingly using words of desolation.

Words have authority. It can either make or break a person. It has the ability to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to harass, to humiliate and to humble a human being.

So I am sharing some Filipino words I love to here, and say. Which one is your favorite? Can you use them in a sentence? Take it away.

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Take it easy everyJuan.

Quatervois

When you’re lost, when you’re in a “quatervois” — where do you begin?

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Most people I know (personal or random acquaintances) perceive me as someone jolly and happy and blessed and living a “really good life”. Yes… I am blessed, beyond blessed with all these travels I never thought would happen this soon. However, that “I feel lost” thought is becoming more intense for the past weeks. It feels like I am drifting away from people, from my usual activities, from myself. It is as if I am in a “quatervois” — a crossroad, where I have to come up with critical decisions as to what to do in life. Add to that the stress and anxiety from work and my boss. It has given me innumerable sleepless nights, a lot of abrupt sleep, and the inability to concentrate with my work.

The sense of excitement towards many things has dwindled and the falling out of touch with thy self is making me frustrated and melancholic. I even deactivated my major social media apps (Facebook to Instagram) and have been very lazy and uninspired to write something in my WordPress account. But I find myself frequently ranting and throwing random thoughts on my Twitter account.

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I have been trying to evaluate myself as to why I have been feeling empty and sad from time to time. I am not actually surprise to realize that I have been like this for almost 8 years now. (Could it be that, that event be the “turning point” in my life?) I knew I wasn’t okay some 7 years and 10 months ago, but who would have thought that one heart—breaking, soul-shattering experience would linger that long and that it would lead to more disappointing events. There are things I have envisioned for myself that did not turn out the way I have wanted it to be. And there are those that I could hardly talk about. They have become more difficult to share and talk out with people, even with people I feel who are trustworthy. As I grew older, I feel that shutting my mouth, and keeping things to myself is better than explaining things to people. Even if that means carrying all those mental and emotional baggage to my very soul.

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For now, I just really want to let my universe know that I feel lost, that I am not okay. Maybe this is a good first step in finding my way.

 

Slow Down, Take It Easy.

The secret of living a happy life is to “slow down and do one thing at a time”, my grandmother once told me.

At this day and age what people call millennial generation, it seems that almost everything has been replaced by something “instant” or readily available. Various social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, and the like have served as the mainstream and traditional ways are rapidly being put into oblivion. Disappointing as it may sound but the era of fake and unverified information or news are becoming the standards of truth.

Nowadays, one could order food, clothes or whatever material thing one has in mind, online. Pay it online, and after a few days, they are delivered at one’s doorstep. One could also meet people in certain dating applications and voila, you are up for a romantic date or more, at an instant. Even in schools, some institutions would require their students to submit their outputs through emails. In workplaces, one could conduct trainings virtually. True enough, these things are indication of progress, and comfort to most.

On a hindsight, I have noticed that because of these convenience, people have become more demanding, and have lost grip of the essence of waiting, and yes, taking things at a slower fashion. These things are very evident specially in big cities wherein most individuals seem to be racing with each other – where everyone is in a hurry to book a ride home thru transportation apps, in a hurry to finish work inorder to accommodate and accomplish more tasks, thinking that being able to do more at a faster pace makes one more superior, admirable, and incredible.

I am guilty of these claims. I am aware that I spend a significant time checking on my phone for notifications in my social media accounts, checking on the latest news/things in Twitter or in Instagram, and would just prefer a quick hi/hello in Viber, Whatsapp and messenger to friends instead of meeting them in person.

My recent travel to Europe served as a timely reminder that I should take time to genuinely experience what life has been offering me all along. Things like taking my time to eat and to actually enjoy the food I am eating, to not worrying of getting up really early and hurrying myself to be dressed up in the morning so as to accomplish alot of things, to appreciating long, leisure walks while talking to random people, exchanging views about many things — are just some of those that I have learned to value more.

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While I have learned to set aside checking on my emails and socmed notifications for a few hours,  I am still guilty of being a gadget-dependent individual.

It is true that grabbing every opportunity coming our way is a good thing, and accomplishing more seem a really impressive idea, but then again, we should remind ourselves to enjoy and notice the smallest of the things around us. We should not be too preoccupied with our destination. We should learn to appreciate the journey per se and keep in mind the possibilities of encountering U-turns and dead-ends, and of course enjoying every moment along the way.

“Take it easy” — I always say this in most of my posts, and maybe it is time to practice it more whole heartedly. I guess taking time, taking a few steps back shouldn’t hurt our way towards achieving our main goals in life. Who knows, if we do these, we might just end up being happier and more satisfied.

***This write-up is a product of my jetlag. Since I cant sleep and these thoughts have been racing inside my head the past weeks, might as well jot them down here.

Lester out.

Random Thoughts about Life & Love

So here is to veering away from my usual posts. Admittedly, I do not feel inspired to make an entry here in my WordPress account the past weeks. So many travel backlogs that need to be shared but it seems that my laziness is hitting me to the core. Every night though, I find myself clouded with so many racing thoughts. So I am giving in to these random things that has kept me quite jittery for some time now. And yeah, this entry is in Taglish. So bare with me.

Kit McCallumonce once shared,

“How often we must bear the challenges of living and loving?
The endless roller coaster between happiness and sorrow;
The constant ups and downs of daily strife.
And always the question remains …. why?”

Perplexity
How often do we ask the question “Where do I go from here?” If life is a series of challenges and lessons, then only by reflecting on our past triumphs and mistakes, can we wisely choose the next path that we will ultimately embrace.

I have always wanted to write something to address such question but then I always find myself feeling dumpy doing it. There are things kasi na parang mahirap isulat. Sigurado ako, marami sa atin ang dumating na sa puntong nahihirapan ng magdesisyon sa ilang mga bagay… leaving us wondering on how to deal with delicate things. Iyun bang tipong nag-aalala tayo about choosing the slighter of 2 tribulations (or iyong mas maganda sa dalawang positibong bagay). Most often than not eh, it’s a choice between doing the decently right thing (or giving in to a new judgment) at kung anu-ano pang mga bagay (ie let go of something you think is hurting us, or get hurt and hold on because you love that person). These, perhaps, are very rigid actions lalo na sa isang kultura kung saan lahat ata ng bagay eh personal.

I was in a state of hurly-burly for the past few days. Baffled. Depressed. Anxious. Devastated. Napaka-indescribable yung feeling, un lang – it was in a badlight. I was in a dilemma.

Should I stay? Or was it time to leave?
Kailangan ko pa bang maghintay pa o tama na kasi nakakapagod na rin?
It’s a battle between holding on and letting go.

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Boomerang
As with most things in life, just when we think we had something going smoothly, life throws us a boomerang; causing our relationship with someone hard hit; something none of us was at fault with, but nonetheless, leaves a stubborn scar. I had a misunderstanding with a good friend the past days. My friend was more resilient, offering to piece things back. But my survival instinct got the better off me. And so I walked away. Ma-pride ako, kaya hanggang ngayon, hindi ko pa rin kinakausap. I still am doing the silent treatment. Sigh.

Next topic: Na-miss kong magsulat ng tungkol sa love.

I could not even remember when was the last time I wrote something about love. Yung classic na entry tungkol sa pag-ibig ha. Sa totoo lang, magmula ng ma-broken-hearted ako 7 years, 6 months, 1 day, 23 hours and 55 minutes (as of this time I’m typing this) ago, eh hirap na ako gumawa ng mga tungkol sa love. Hirap man, I still try my best to extract some creative juices. So, if there are things I have learned from my past relationship, eto ang mga ilan sa mga yun.

Battleground
Love is a battleground. Nabanggit eto ng isa sa mga characters sa series na Chuck. I texted this line to my friends. Surprisingly, one friend of mine naively texted back and said – “So if you know that you have all the weapons, don’t get yourself defeated…” (na may kasama tawa sa text).

Her candid remark made me think. OO nga naman. Why would I just walk away and concede, eh marami pa namang paraan jan na hindi ko pa ginagawa; marami paakong weapons na hindi ko nagagamit. It has dawned in me na, may mga bagay nga siguro na hindi nagtatagal… But it is always our choice if we won’t make them last. Na hindi naman talaga sila mawawala if we didn’t choose to let them go. Na hindi naman sila aalis if only we kept our hands gripped together. (Kaso umalis at iniwan pa rin ako…)

In a Nutshell
Relationships come and go like people on a rotating door. Gaya ng mga gamot, its shelf life is finite, although it doesn’t necessarily have to mean short. When it’s time comes, it usually means it’s also time to move on. Moving on does not necessarily mean you have given up. Sabi nga sa kantang One Hello, “endings are beginnings”. Yeah right, there are more magnificent lives to be encountered, more people to meet who are just around the bend.

A magical relationship does not happen everyday. Every once in a while, it needs to loosen too. But at the end of the day, it will always be our option to let that magic stay. Haaaaaaaay, kelan nga kaya ulit darating yang magic na yan?

Love is not an easy road for most;
It twists and turns with many forks in the road,
Although always, and inevitably, we are given a choice …

Do we turn to the right … or the left?
Do we take the high road … or the low road?
Do we take the easy path … or the difficult one?

It’s your choice. It’s our choice. As the Karate Kid’s master says – “Life will knock us down, but it is our choice to get up back.” The warning though, is to catch yourself when it gets too easy.

Lester out. Take it easy everyone.
Lester out.

Travel Memorabilia

Hello friends! It has been more than a month the last time I have made an entry here. I just came from yet another pretty tiresome, but definitely fun-filled series of travels. I will try to post some of these recent adventures sometime soon. In the meantime, here is a short sharing of what I love to buy and bring home during travel.

Traveling is a very rewarding experience. After a trip, one goes home with innumerable mementos — from incomparable life lessons to new found friends, to of course uncountable photographs, and memories to cherish a lifetime.

Aside from these, I have also developed a habit of bringing home a physical memorabilia that comes in different forms. Before, I would make sure I get to buy at least a keychain or a fridge magnet as a souvenir from my trip.

Today, i have gone beyond these usual stuff. Whenever I go on a travel, I alot a certain amount of my money to buy some of the things I personally collect. Some of these include miniature building decors/displays like an Eiffel Tower from France, a Burf Khalifa and Burj Al Arab from my Dubai travel or a Milad Tower I bought in Iran from a recent trip and many more.

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Also, I make sure that I have a paper bill and some coins to spare for my currency collection. Some of my friends actually like these as my pasalubong to them since some of them also have this kind of colkection. I happen to collect also Starbucks tumblers and diecast planes. I am even starting to collect some books and dolls unique to a certain place I have visited. And lastly, I also bring home some paintings which I plan to use as wall decors when my dream of putting up my own cafe comes into fruition.

I know these are just material mementos and the memories that go with the travel are still far more important. Nonetheless, it feels good to see tangible reminders as to how awesome one particular trip was.

 

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

Philippines’ Beaches: What’s Not to Love?

The Philippines, being an archipelago, is dotted with innumerable pristine, sparkling beaches. Some white, others black, a few brown, and surprisingly pink too! We have beaches that are as fine as talcum powder to gritty, sandy ones, while others are pebble lined. Majority of these tropical paradise boasts off crystal clear water that comes in azure to turquoise colors. Regardless of the color and texture of beaches’ sand and water, Philippines’ seashores will make one’s “beach escapade” memorable and fun!

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Besides the obvious aesthetics of our beaches, here are other reasons why bumming around the beaches of the Philippines is a must doPhilippines’ beaches have a laid-back vibe, especially the small-town beaches and the off-the beaten ones. They are the ultimate relaxation zones perfect for experiencing serenity and peace of mind. One can go for an afternoon walk along the shoreline or sit down under shady palm trees while reading a book. Or just lie down, let the crashing waves touch your feet and the gentle wind kiss your lips. Totally relaxing and an awesome escape to a stressful life!

Philippines’ beaches have a laid-back vibe, especially the small-town beaches and the off-the beaten ones. They are the ultimate relaxation zones perfect for experiencing serenity and peace of mind. One can go for an afternoon walk along the shoreline or sit down under shady palm trees while reading a book. Or just lie down, let the crashing waves touch your feet and the gentle wind kiss your lips. Totally relaxing and an awesome escape to a stressful life!

Philippines’ beaches are home to various water sports and activities. From surfing, to snorkeling to SCUBA diving, kitesurfing, kayaking, island-hopping and many more. Plus, the marine life is teeming with wonders.  One will never run out of things to do. These activities can keep you fit and make your vacation more fun-filled.

Philippines’ beaches showcase some of the most jaw-dropping sunrise and sunset views. Everything turns into a picturesque, surreal nature art once the sun starts to rise. It is even more dramatic during sundown. Sunset by the beach is one thing I look forward the most.

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Philippines’ beaches are generally cheap. While some of our beaches are becoming more and more commercialized, I want to believe that majority of our beaches are still inexpensive, and some even for free. One could spend some time along the beach without worrying about spending much – paying for entrance fees or buying pricey food because again, the cost isn’t really high.

Philippines’ beaches are home to good and hospitable Filipinos. I want to think that Filipino hospitality is evident in almost all parts of the country – whether at the mountain villages, to seaside towns, and various rural areas. Most Filipinos are willing to lend a helping hand in whatever ways they could. Some families would invite you their homes, some would even cook the freshest sea catch of the day for their visitors to have a sumptuous meal.

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They say “life is a beach”. Whether you have a beach bod, dad bod or whatever kind of body figure you have, the beach is one welcoming place for you to experience life, to live life.

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

Hurts & Broken Hearts

Most of you might be surprised to see yet another entry that deviates from my usual posts. Let’s just say, I am trying to share a little more of myself. So here’s something I wrote some 9 years ago.

Loving, getting hurt, and loving again and getting hurt again may sound over-used as a blog topic and it may sound cheesy. But on second thought, it doesnt matter since its always relatable.

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We are all human. Even superheroes have there human side. No matter what our economic background, cultural standings and our chosen profession is — we all bleed the same color if we are cut. But more than that, we are prone to heart break and old battle scars from old relationships that somehow went wrong.

Relationship failures, if we knew why they went wrong or not, we still ask ourselves with “Why? What did I do wrong?” And this could be one sided or on both sides of the relationship.

Some affairs are made in heaven. And there are certain relationships that are simply not meant to be. They are doomed from the very beginning. Then there are those that start off as a storybook romance, and then they sour over time.

After being in a string of bad relationships, we start to wonder if we are defeated… defective… useless… It becomes hard to open our heart again to anyone and to trust someone again. Even if it involves trusting yourself to let go to love again.

BUT, if we don’t let go — how are we going to get over the heartbreak and turn it into another battle scar? Too bad they don’t award the purple heart of valor and bravery for surviving undesirably painful relationships.

“The only way to forget is to accept, and the only way to move on is to look ahead. And let the footprints of the past, be blown away by the wind of time. Only then can our hearts find a partner in the dance of life.” — This is one of my all-time favorite lines from Joe D’Mango.

BUT, again, we have to take baby steps in learning how to let go of the past and how to trust again, even with all the wounds and scars and broken hearts.For if we don’t, our heart would not heal enough to give ourselves another chance at the crazy roller coaster called love.

Perhaps, one difficult situation one could possibly be into is when two broken-hearted individuals collide. I wonder if together, it would help them heal each other. Sounds weird, but it could be something that could happen. Its about taking chances, its about taking risks, its full of uncertainty… but who knows… a sweet love story is on the brew.

I wrote (and first posted) this blog at my Multiply account on October 24, 2008. It was inspired by my bonding with some friends who have shared their love stories with me – most of which were tales of being broken-hearted. During those times, I was in a seemingly perfect relationship and so hearing their stories made me realize how fortunate I was with the person I have. Some 9 years after I wrote this one, it made me reminisce my personal “hurt and brokenness” experience 7 years ago. So I guess we all have our fair share of injustices when it comes to love. Nevertheless, I am still on high hopes that someday, I will meet that someone who will make me believe in love again.

***Photos used are 9 years old as well 🙂

If it is meant to be, our hearts will find each other when we meet. And if our hearts melt together so will our bodies and souls. Then every word and every touch will fuel our passion flame. I will be yours, you will be mine, and we will be one.