Musandam: A Dose of an Omani Dhow Cruise

I was in Dubai for a business trip when one of my UAE-based friends suggested that we visit Oman on a weekend. As neighbouring countries, Oman can be accessed by land. One frequently visited place is called Musandam. It was my first time to hear about this region in Oman and so I was prompted to google about it.

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Boy, I was surprised to learn that such natural wonder exists at this part of the Arabian Peninsula. So without much of my friends’ convincing powers, we found ourselves one weekend, on our way to Musandam. The land trip wasn’t really long and the sights along the way kept me musing.

We later on reached a gate where our papers/ documents were verified. It signaled that we have already reached the Sultanate of Oman. A few more minutes and we were already parked at an area that is so close to the waters. It was pretty impressive. My first impression is that Musandam is a place where the mountains meet the sea (in this case, the Gulf of Oman). We were then transferred to an Omani Dhow or a traditional Omani cruise boat. These kind of boats are very popular in this side of the world. They have been used to sail into the fjords and have been the perfect mode of transportation for a relaxing trip into the Musandam Peninsula.

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As we begin our dhow cruise, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the picturesque landscape and seascape of Musandam: from the lovely fiords (a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs), to the stunning contour of the Hajar Mountains, and the emerald to azure waters of the Arabian Sea. These sights of blues and browns are a total opposite of Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s steel and glass vista. No wonder this has become a famed getaway destination for tourists. The dhow experience itself is very relaxing as the cool sea breeze waff through my face.

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After an hour or so, our dhow stopped in the middle of the cerulean waters of Musandam. We were then told to get out of the boat and explore the waters. My friends and I decided to go swimming, snorkeling and later on tried the banana boat. I was laughing at myself because it was my first time to ride the banana boat. You see, in the Philippines, banana boat rides are very popular especially in Boracay and Puerto Galera. I have been to these beaches several times yet I haven’t tried going for a banana boat ride before. After we did these water activities, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch. Later on in the afternoon, we got to try boat fishing.

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The dhow cruise experience ended with a sunset view of the ‘Norway of Arabia’. True enough, Musandam is a remarkable blend of seaside fun and quaint mountain views. What a weekend getaway with friends (shout out to Elaine, Ela, and Hazel for joining me in this trip), and that truly makes you realize that “Oman is an island…” I mean, “No man is an island”. So what are you waiting for, “don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust”. Take it easy.

Let’s Talk about ATOK

For most people traveling this side of the Cordillera region, Atok, a town in the province of Benguet, has become the usual “stop-over” for buses, and other vehicles that are plying the Halsema Highway system. But lately, this chilly municipality is slowly gaining local and foreign tourists’ attention. Looking into Benguet’s map, Atok is centrally located, and it looks like a heart, hence the moniker – “The Heart of the Highlands.”

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My first encounter with Atok was in 2008 when my friends and I went to Sagada for the first time. The 1st stop-over of our 6-hour bus ride to Sagada is actually in Sayangan, Atok. A friend of mine even said that we should not miss the “siopao” at this stop as it is really good. That was the highlight of my first encounter with Atok, buying and eating a siopao.

Well, kidding aside, the town has been famous for two other reasons. One, it is where the Philippine Pali is located. This is the “Highest Point of the Philippine Highway System,” which is a part of Halsema Highway. And second, Atok is home to the 3rd highest mountain in Luzon, Mt. Timbak or Mt Singakalsa. I was fortunate to have scaled this mountain on two different occasions (first in 2009, and then in 2011).

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After seven long years, I got the chance to re-visit Atok together with my Couchsurfing guest, Justin. So one weekend, we decided to explore Atok a little more. Here are the other places one could visit while in the heart of Benguet. Read along.

Northern Blossoms Flower (and Vegetable) Farm

This two-hectare farm has been supplying some of Metro Manila’s top society gatherings and hotel chains with their flowers. The farm boasts a wide variety of beautiful flowers and other plants like a cabbage rose, larkspur, snap dragon, alstroemeria, amaranthus, delphinium, eucalyptus leaves and many others. They are such a sight to behold! I am pretty confident that anyone visiting the farm will be smitten as to how lovely these flowers are.

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Going to Northern Blossoms is pretty easy. When one arrives in Sayangan, locate the municipal hall so that it can serve as your point of reference. From the town hall, walk your way down, and on the left side of the road, you will see signages indicating where the flower farm is. It is a short road that goes down further.

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The owners Mr. and Mrs. Ganayan, are two humble and hospitable individuals who have been in the flower business for quite some time now. They have decided to open their farm to both local and foreign guests. They have a 2-unit lodging cottage/ homestay should visitors decide to stay longer in Atok. My friend Justin and I stayed over-night since we wanted to witness the sunrise at the farm.

For further inquiry, you may contact Mam Lany at +639081513368. Entrance fee at Northern Blossoms is now Php250.00 per person while an overnight stay is at Php350.00 per person(subject to cange without prior notice). I highly appreciate that after a tour around the farm (with a very knowledgeable guide), a visitor is treated to a hot coffee and bread. Perfect for the frigid weather in Atok. (Mind you, during our stay, the weather went as low as 4 degrees Celsius, and the range of temperature was from 5 to 9 degrees Celsius the following day). So it is a must to bring with you some warm clothes.

NOTE: The flower farm is close every Monday for maintenance.

The Benguet – Kochi Sisterhood Park

I am pretty sure a lot of us have been dreaming of seeing a sakura flower. I saw some when I went to Taiwan last year, and most people I know books a flight either to Japan or Korea to see these pretty flowers. Well, Benguet will soon have its sakura park, and it is located in Atok.

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In 2016, about 40 Japanese Sakura trees were planted at an area in Paoay, Atok, Benguet. Two varieties of these famed flowering plants were planted: these are the Sindaya (white flowers) and Yakiwari (pink flowers) Sakura varieties. I was happy to see that during our visit, the Yakiwari Sakura trees already have flowers.

The park is notably cold and seems to me a perfect place for the growing sakura. I could already imagine how lovely it would be when the time comes that all the cherry blossoms would be blossoming. The area is also surrounded by vegetable farms and mossy forest.

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Mount Cotnon and Bosleng Grotto

Around 30-45 minutes’ walk from the Sakura park, one could visit Mount Cotnon, a mountain with rocks atop and a stunning view of some vegetable terraces. A few turns from this mountain is a man-made attraction called Bosleng Grotto. It is a cave underneath big rocks with an icon of the “Lady of Lourdes.” Just like Northern Blossoms and the Sakura Park, these areas have a cold climate. Locals say that the cavern has served as a pilgrimage site for them and other visitors.

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Philippine Pali

Located along the Halsema Highway, this is considered the highest point in the country under the Philippine highway system. It has an elevation of 7,400 ft above sea level. The name Philippine Pali was coined because of its similarity with that of Pali, Hawaii. It has a view deck, and some local stores are found in the area. Aside from the greenery brought about by vegetable gardens, a commanding view of Mount Timbak also serves as a picturesque background.

Osocan Tunnel

A potential man-made attraction added to the Atok Tour Packages, Osocan Tunnel is a Spanish Trail. It was constructed as a horse trail during the Spanish Period that exists up to this time. It features three man-made tunnels carved through colossal rock formation about 10 meters long each. This though is something I have yet to see.

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Mount Timbak

As I have mentioned earlier, I have already scaled this mountain twice. During the 1st time, my friends and I camped out on top of this mountain after visiting the mummies of Kabayan. During my 2011 visit, we did a day hike. It is a pretty easy climb. My recent visit though was a surprise. One can already reach the mountain by not spending much time trekking. As a mountain enthusiast, I was somehow disappointed that the registration and guide fees are priced at Php 50.00 each (so one person will have to pay Php100.00). Moreso, the climb to the peak now has become way too short and easy.

One can avail of tour packages being offered by the Atok Tourism. They have combined these attractions into various packages that include guide and transportation fees. You may contact the following number for inquiry: 09301892757 or 09465147799.

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How to Reach Atok from Baguio:

Ride a bus or van that passes by the municipality of Atok in Halsema Highway. These include public transport going to Sagada, Bontoc, Mankayan, and Abatan/ Buguias. You can find these at the Dangwa terminal behind Center Mall in Magsaysay Avenue. There are also buses at the Slaughterhouse in Magsaysay Avenue. Earliest bus is a Sagada-bound Lizardo bus which leaves at 3am.

Inform your driver to drop you off at Marosan’s Restaurant in Atok or in front of Atok’s municipal hall. The fare for the bus is Php 73.00 while van fare is at Php100.00. The travel time is 1.5 to 2.5 hours. There are on-going road works that could slow down the trip.

Also, there are vans (which leaves as early as 5am) in La Trinidad and Baguio (back of Center mall) that passes by the town of Atok, so that is another option for travellers.

Going back to Baguio, you either take a van or bus. These public vehicles only stop by Atok so the availability of seats has no guarantee. Time of transportation availability is also not fix.

If and when you miss the early morning bus (especially if you are after the sunrise at the flower farm) one can hire a taxi in Baguio City. Now depending on your haggling skills and your fate to meet a really nice taxi driver, then you can go for this option. During my second Atok visit, we didnt get to ride the 3am bus because apparently, its peak season and bus tickets should’ve been purchased on reservation. Since we didnt want to spoil our trip, we opted to try our luck and talk to a taxi driver. We met Kuya Hans who is probably one of the nicest driver I have met. He agreed with our proposed budget for transpo and he took us to Atok. He also waited for us and brought us back to Baguio. We got his number and now I am sharing it in case you want to get him and his taxi going to Atok. Here’s his number 0912 878 5098, Hans Deleña.

Also, visitors are encouraged to register at the Paoay Barangay Hall located near the municipal hall.

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

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.

Captivating Auckland City

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From among the cities I have been the past 12 months, I have left a piece of myself in the City of Sails. The moment I have set foot in Auckland, I knew right there and then that I would love the city the way I have always loved my ex-girlfriend. I tried my best to think through the reasons why I have been enamored by Auckland but I almost always end up lost for the right words.

Because of this dilemma, I just opted to let you see this beyond alluring city through my lens. Here are some of my uncountable Auckland City photographs.

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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.

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…

 

Mount Marami (Cavite)

I love being in the mountains and climbing.  For me, being in the mountains draws in a sense of liberty and relaxation. It just feels at home.

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Mount Marami, or Mataas na Gulod Boulders, is a dormant volcano in the province of Cavite, Philippines. It rises to an elevation of 405 m (1,329 ft) above mean sea level. The rock pillars, which are the main features of this hiking destination, was once called as Nagbuo by the locals. Later on, the mountain was called Marami (English for many or plenty) pertaining to the multiple rock-strewn peaks.

Information from Pinoy Mountaineer:
Jump-off points: Sitio Bangkaan, Brgy. Talipusngo, Maragondon, Cavite or Brgy.Ramirez, Magallanes, Cavite
LLA: 405 MASL (1,328 feet)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 2-3 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Rocky outcrops, scenic views of Cavite including bird’s eye view of Pico de Loro or Mount Palay-Palay, Tarak Ridge of Bataan o a clear day, and Mount Batulao and Mount Talamitan of Batangas.

The trail going to the summit of Mount Marami is not that technical. However, it is not that easy either because of the long trail ahead. The trek can take around 3 to 6 hours from the jump-off to the summit (depending on the pacing and the many stop-and-rest one would do along the way).

PHP500.00 Guide fee (Good for 5 person)
PHP20.00 Registration fee

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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 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’…