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Desappointing.

Helter-skelter

Riding in Tandem: Roaming Mindoro

Mindoro: the home of the fierce tamaraw; the site of the ferocious Halcon; the dwelling of the ultimate beach-next-door, Puerto Galera. It’s famous for many things, which is why we decided to fully explore this island. This time, we did it in two-wheels, riding in tandem style.

We made the decision of exploring the island on the busiest week possible, the holy week. It’s not the best move (I know), but it’s the only week we could have several days to really make the trip, so we went for it anyway.

We left Taguig at around 1:30 AM and arrived at Batangas port at around 4:00 AM. We were hopeful that we’d be able to catch the 5 AM ferry to Mindoro, but we were sooooo wrong. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the number of cars in line to get to the ferry. A hundred other riders decided to go to Mindoro on that day as well:

Batangas Port
The Busy Batangas Port

So, instead of getting off at 5AM, we were able to leave Batangas Port at 7:00 AM. This is unexpectedly still okay, considering the number of people who were waiting with us. If you’re curious about what are the steps to get your motorcycle (or any vehicle) on the ferry, here are the steps:

Procedure for RoRo
Procedure for Rolling Off and On

To keep it more simple, here’s the summary based on experience:

1. Get your vehicle inspected at Gate II.

2. Pay the terminal fee (we paid 95 pesos).

3. Have your stuff in the vehicle inspected, either through an x-ray machine or manually by an on-site inspector. After checking your things, they should give you a stub, which you have to present at the loading dock.

4. Proceed to the marshaling station. Wait in line (if there’s any), and a marshal will approach you to have your name written in the manifest and to collect your payment and provide you your ticket.

They should tell you when you’re ready to get on the ferry.

Our trip took around 2 hours.

Calapan Port
Calapan Port, Mindoro

We were hoping to eat at Lola Ineng’s, but it was closed, possibly because of the holiday. We ate at the nearest McDonalds and went to our first stop: Infinity Farm.

To our utter dismay, it was also closed. Instead, we went to another resort nearby. It’s a partially man-made resort with makeshift slides and cottages. We paid 100 each for the entrance and stayed there for about 2 hours.

We left and continued our journey around Oriental Mindoro. Naujan, Mindoro

Naujan, Oriental Mindoro
Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro
Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro
Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro
Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro

We were surprised to see several people who were in penitensya, a Filipino tradition wherein people would commemorate the sufferings of Christ by hitting their backs with bamboo sticks until it bleeds. In some cases, volunteers would also get crucified.

I also found that Oriental Mindoro also has a Moriones festival during the holy week. Originally celebrated in Marinduque, Moriones entails locals to replicate the appearance of Roman soldiers, as depicted in the Passion of the Christ, through wearing colorful costumes and masks. When we passed by Pinamalayan, the festival hasn’t quite started yet, but several participants were already in their costumes.

Moriones Festival at Mindoro
Moriones Festival at Oriental Mindoro

We took some pictures and went ahead with your journey. It was a long ride, but this particular site in Bongabong made us stop to look and breathe the fresh air:

Bongabong
Bongabong Roads
Bongabong Mountain View
Bongabong Mountain View
Sunset at Bongabong, Mindoro
Sunset at Bongabong

It was breathtaking. It’s quite like the famous Instagrammable palm-surrounded roads in Siargao. The picturesque view made us want to stay. I just hope that when we come back, this beauty still stands.

We continued our journey and tried to find a hotel to stay for the night. It was getting dark, and we got panicky as there were no signs of nearby towns that could have hotels or Airbnb homes. We did not lose hope and continued our journey. We traveled for a good 1 hour until we reached San Jose.

San Jose, Mindoro
San Jose, Occidental Mindoro

San Jose is the nearest Poblacion that almost separates Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. It’s got the major fast foods, banks, and gas stations. We stayed at Sikatuna Hotel and left the town first thing in the morning to head to one of our main destinations: Pandan Island.

Pandal Island is situated in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. If you’re planning to backpack to the island, you can ride a ferry to Abra De Ilog port, take a van to Sablayan, and then take a 15-minute boat ride to Pandan. Pandan is famous for its generous waters and white sand. What I love about this place is the lack of good cellular reception and room electricity. It allows one to be away from all the internet noise and just be with nature.

Pandan Island, Occidental Mindoro
Pandan Island: Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Here are their rates:

Entrance Fees for local and foreign visitors pandan
Entrance Fees at Pandan Island

The entrance fees are quite reasonable (not to mention, fair), considering the ambience of the place. While the island’s electricity relies on generators, it’s got just enough facilities to have a decent vacation by the beach. There are rooms good for 2 or more people, there’s a restaurant that offers breakfast for those who paid for an overnight stay (day tour visitors can order meals), and the shower rooms are plenty enough for everyone. There are no air-conditioned rooms, but the small electric fan (palm-sized, to be exact) and the ocean breeze provide enough wind to make the stay comfortable. The cabanas do not have bathrooms; visitors may bathe in the shared bathrooms. The water, though, is brackish, so it’s salty.

I was told that the Pandan Island waters used to be rich in diverse fish species. Unfortunately, they were only a few when we snorkeled. It’s famous for pawikans, but we did not see any. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to scuba dive. The island was said to be a scuba diver’s haven.

It’s also close to the famous Apo Reef, so one can actually take a boat from Pandan to Apo Reef and dive. Once I learn how to swim (and scuba dive), I’ll definitely go back to see if the rumors are true!

Nevertheless, the calm waters, the fine sand, and the cold breeze made the trip worth it. You may check out Pandan Island’s website here for more details.

We continued our journey around Occidental Mindoro. The roads are a rider’s dream. We almost felt like we are not in the Philippines anymore.

Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro
Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Panikian Lake, Occidental Mindoro

Panikian Lake, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

We also passed by Panikian Lake, but it was closed at the time. Still, the view was awesome, even from afar.

There are almost no other motorists in the roads, so you can maximize your motorcycle’s speed capacity in these roads! Of course, caution will still have to be exercised.

For the rest of our trip, we stayed with a relative. It made us appreciate nature even more. We spent the weekend swinging by the duyan, looking at the pigs in the piggery, and admiring the sea, and just really appreciating the province life.

Sidenote: Pigs are adorable! Why do we even eat them? They’d make a good pet!

Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro
Farm Life at Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro
Sili
Sili!

On our fourth day, we took our trip back to Manila. To be honest, we didn’t even want to go back! We took a RoRo at Abra De Ilog Port (we waited for 6 hours just to get on the ferry), and got off at Batangas Port.

Abra de Ilog Port, Occidental Mindoro
Abra de Ilog Port, Occidental Mindoro

We were dead tired when we got home. But we will never forget our journey to Mindoro. It is an awesome place to explore, and this trip is definitely one for the books!

 

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To Fixing The Earth

When the earth was created 4.8 billion years ago, I imagine it to be all green and blue. The trees compete for the sunlight; the seas beat the rocks with waves and sing with the wind; the animals run like little children hiding from their mothers; the wind brings with it dried leaves and pollen as it moves.

Ancient Earth
The Earth Before Humans (Imagined)

Eventually, human creatures came to life. I’m not going to argue about creationism and evolution as I both believe them to be true.

Now, the earth seems to be nearing its final leg. It’s not long before the trees turn into grey, tall buildings, the seas into waste bins, the animals all become extinct.

Converted Lands - Philippines
Converted Lands
Sea of waste
Sea of plastic
Pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in the world
Poached Pangolins

Having the “superior mind,” we think that we are the most important creation of all; we refuse to share the planet. We fix it as if it’s wrong; we make our lives convenient without thinking of the consequences of our actions to other species. If you come to think of it, it’s ironic how we look forward into the future and picture it with flying cars and talking robots but fail to see that we’re losing the earth in its natural form. Here’s what I found after searching for images of the future on google:

Images of the future
Google Search of “Images of the Future”

Maybe, it’s because we always feel that it’s a waste. Bringing your reusables to lunch is a waste of 5 minutes and a space in your bag. Throwing that plastic wrapper is a waste of 10 seconds for decision-making. Buying that eco bag that you can re-use for a few times is a waste of grocery money. And while thinking of all the waste, we destroy the planet little by little.

Or, maybe, it’s not the waste but the aesthetic value that makes us produce so much. Balloons are pretty in the sky.

Hot Air Balloons are Pretty
Hot Air Balloon Festival in Pampanga

Plastic flowers make your living room table a lot better. The plastic Christmas trees bring the holiday into its full bloom. The gifts look more attractive with the ribbons and the colored paper.

Wrapping paper waste
Discarded Wrapping Paper

Your face looks so much prettier in the photos with different types of make-up.

So, we fly 1000 balloons in the sky to celebrate existence. We replace flowers with plastic ones because they last longer (and then, replace them every other week for variety). We buy huge Christmas trees, but when some of their “stems” become crooked or some of their “leaves” fall out, we buy new ones and throw the 6-foot plastic tree away. We use different wrappers to surprise 30 kids and feel happy when they tear apart the fancy paper to reveal the toy inside. We buy different kinds of lipsticks, but since we can’t use them all at the same time, they expire, and they’re not so pretty anymore.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” they say. So, why the hell are we fixing the planet?

Riding in Tandem: The North Loop

If you’ve read my previous blog, you’d know that I’ve come to love motorcycles because of 1) speed 2) ease of travel and 3) thrift of diesel consumption.

The first time we took a really, really long ride was when we joined Motour in their North Loop Ride. And yes, it was one heck of a ride!

Okay, I don’t know how to ride a motorcycle. I don’t even know how to ride a bike. So, for the entire ride, my role was just to sit at the back and be the “Waze” for my companion. I think at some point, I became his radio as well. Anyhow, that did not stop me from enjoying the trip!

I work the night shift, so I had to take a half-day off just to be able to make it to the 3AM call time. We started our journey to the meet-up at Shell Balintawak at 2:30 AM. We got to the meeting place right on time and waited along with the others (there were around 15 motorcycles when we got there). Then, we all took a journey to Julie’s at Tarlac:

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The group, now with around 20 riders, enjoyed our breakfast before we headed to our lunch destination, Riverside Restaurant, in Pangasinan.

It was the perfect spot to chill; the cool breeze, the calm waters, the fresh food, they all match. We stayed there for a good 2 hours until we decided to go straight to Dagupan.

After getting our tummies full, we went to Urduja house in Dagupan, Pangasinan.

Urduja House is the official residence of the governor of Pangasinan. On regular days, visitors are allowed to enter to see the mini-museum inside. Unfortunately, we went there on a weekend, so we weren’t allowed inside. Here’s how it looks like from the outside:

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You can check out this blog for more information on the Urduja House. After exploring the citadel of Pangasinan, we went to Bolinao to check out the lighthouse, ate at Sungayan Grill, then went back to Dagupan to rest.

Fast forward to Day 3, I can consider that the highlight of our trip was our visit to Tangadan Falls, La Union. It was one of the most jaw-dropping falls I’ve seen. Standing 50 ft., visitors can choose to either jump their way to the clear waters or chill by the riverside.

It’s a 30-40 minute ride by motorcycle, and I must say, that it’s not for the faint-hearted. The ride is similar to taking a roller coaster ride on your motorcycle. The twisties seemed unending, and the road’s elevation height may be up to 80 degrees. Nope. Not kidding. It’s hard to capture it on video, but you can check out Motour’s blog to get a better feel of how it is. Our entire adventure in La Union can also be found here. Upon our arrival at the parking spot, we took a 15-20 minute hike to the jumping point.

After our Tangadan falls adventure, we went straight to Halo-Halo De Iloko.

La Union's Best Halo-Halo
Halo-Halo De Iloko: Magpasarap ka muna.

By far, their halo-halo is the best and most-unique halo-halo I’ve ever tasted. It comes in three sizes, but you have the try the special halo-halo:

IMG_2180

It is served in a coconut shell, topped with ice cream, pastillas, and ube (yam). As any halo-halo, it’s got sweetened banana, nata-de-coco, pinipig, sago, but what made it special for me is the mango (which is not common in hao-halos) and the polvoron added in the mix. These really enhanced the taste and texture of this common Filipino dessert. I’ll definitely come back for this one.

Day 4 came, and it was time to home. We took the Anduyan Bridge route to Baguio City, and we did not regret it. The road was the dream for motorcycle riders. There aren’t too many vehicles, it’s got a great view of Benguet, and it took a shorter time for us to get to our destination.

IMG_2192

New route from La Union to Baguio
Anduyan Bridge

Motorcycle rides can be uncomfy. But if you’d like to go to places and enjoy, not just the destination, but the ride itself, take on an adventure this way.

Kick and punch. (Why Muay Thai should be your new sport.)

Okay. Of course, there’s more to Muay Thai than just kicks and punches. I just thought this title will get your attention.

Now that I do, let me explain what Muay Thai is, and how I’ve come to love this sport. Muay Thai is referred to as the “art of eight limbs.” If you’re wondering why “8”, I think it’s picture will best describe it:

Art-of-Eight-Limbs

Muay literally means “combat” and thai means “free people.” Muay is also derived from the Sanskrit word Mavya, which means “unite together.” According to tigermuaythai.com, Muay Thai is engrained in the culture of the Siamese people because of the constant threat of war; it was then used as a combat weapon. Initially with the common and the poor, Muay Thai eventually became essential for royals based on the idea that good warriors become good rulers. This art form was practiced as a form of exercise, self-defense, and discipline.

I’ve started training for Muay Thai because of Niño (I’ll introduce him in another blog). And no, I’m not good at it YET or anything, but I’m really loving this sport. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. It’s a stress-releasing activity. Imagine a really difficult day. You had an annoying colleague at work, or maybe, you had tons to do and didn’t eat lunch just to finish all of your work. Instead of taking your stress on a quarter pounder or an unli chicken wings, you release them through punches and kicks, and you release tons of endorphins after a good 1 or 2 hours of Muay Thai. That’s hitting 2 birds in one stone!
  2. It’s good for your body. The exercises (calisthenics, martial arts training, in-ring boxing) involved in Muay Thai can help you lose up to 690 calories. Some say it can even go over 1000 calories in an hour of exercise. Yes, you’ll be happier, fitter, and stronger!
  3. It makes you emotionally strong. You’ll receive a lot of punches and kicks every session, and you can’t get mad. You have to focus on defeating your opponent without feeling that they’re your enemy. You have to train your mind to direct your strength properly. And, you have to have the will not to give up. Muay Thai is a really tiring exercise, after all. Muay Thai can make you physically and emotionally stronger.
  4. It improves your balance and body coordination. I’m a really awkward person. I get tripped by my own foot sometimes, and I can’t dance. While Muay Thai isn’t a dance, it allows you to engage your body parts, so they’re coordinated. For instance, if you throw a kick on your left side, your left hand should go with it and give you a pull. With this, you understand your own body better and learn how to control its parts.Kicks in Muay Thai
  5. It allows you to gain new friends. There’s no better bond than shared trauma. Totally kidding! Learning a sport together lets you build a commonality. For men, the most comfortable way of bonding is through “organized inter-personal violence.”

Niño just has undergone his first public competition through the Philippine Thaiboxing Association in Amoranto Stadium, Quezon City. I did not join the competition but watching everyone compete made me like Muay Thai even more. I dare you to try it, too! Continue reading “Kick and punch. (Why Muay Thai should be your new sport.)”

For the Love of Nature: A Trip to the National Museum of Natural History

We’ve decided to visit the National Museum of Natural History in Manila last month, and I want to share with you my experience after my visit in the “other national museum.”

The first thing you need to know is that there is no “formal” parking lot outside the museum gates. You may want to find a parking space outside the museum before you get in. We opted to park outside the gate, where the sidewalk vendors watch over the vehicles for 20 pesos. We were adamant at first, but it turned out to be safe.

As soon as you get to the entrance, expect a line. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, which was fair enough considering there’s no entrance fee. Plus, the architecture of the museum is just astounding; you can look around to pass time. Or, you know, browse FB or IG.

Upon entering, one of museum attendants oriented us on the rules of the museum:

  • Bags bigger than a bond paper, caps, and umbrellas must be left at the baggage counter.
  • Videos and social media “stories” aren’t allowed inside the museum.
  • Flash photography is prohibited.
  • Of course, touching of anything is UNACCEPTABLE.

The attendant also reiterated for the visitors to appreciate the art and to not take disrespectful poses with the exhibits. I like this part since majority of the visitors of museums nowadays do it for the sake of instagrammable pics. PLEASE LEARN FROM THE EXHIBITS.

We were surprised to see how big the museum is on the inside:

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It’s of 5 levels. There’s an elevator (but visitors aren’t allowed to use it). The museum includes exhibits of plants, animals, and forest types. At the middle of the museum stood replica of dinosaur bones as the stars of the exhibit.

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Being a Biology-enthusiast, I very much appreciated the showcased flora and fauna. There were representative animals from all phyla, and most of them are found in the wild. Most animals are endemic in the country (and I must say, threatened or endangered), and it’s amazing to see them in the flesh. Of course, I wondered whether they were killed or they died of natural causes, but I had to shrug off the idea, so I could enjoy the tour.

I didn’t take many photos, but here are some of the animals featured in the museum:

Lolong, identified as the world’ largest crocodile in captivity, was also a star in the exhibit:

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If it was never discovered at all, I think it’s life would have been longer (sigh).

There were also interactive games that kids enjoyed. There were documentaries and video presentations about the different land and marine forms, the tourist spots, and the nature preservation measures in the country. It was nice. However, I found myself disappointed and alarmed when I saw this poster of the forest state in the country:

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In a span of a decade (1990-1999), we managed to lose more than 50% of the forest area in the country. It just goes to show how much harms humans can make on our land. If we don’t continue to act to rehabilitate out forests and preserve what’s left of them, the only place we’ll ever see these animals and plants will be in museums. Dead and stuffed.

Now that I’ve put it out there, I just want to say that the museum is worth a visit. I just hope that a visit will not just increase the number of our IG-able photos but also raise our awareness of the current state of our nature and allow us to appreciate the mega-diversity, that is in the Philippines.

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Riding in Tandem: A trip to the Kaybiang Tunnel

I used to hate motorcyles. I hated the way they conveniently pass through sidewalks or get in between cars. I hated their sudden movement and the way their engine sounds. I hated how they easily overcome bumper to bumper situations, while others are stuck in hell, that is EDSA.

It was not until my boyfriend bought a motorcyle that my view changed. It took him 3 months to decide which model to buy. Throughout that period, we have scrambled Metro Manila to find the perfect fit. (On a separate note, it’s weird how guys take 5 minutes to find a t-shirt but takes forever to buy an automobile). Anyway, we eventually found the model he wanted. However, a bunch of other guys wanted the same thing, and he waited for another month to get that Yamaha NMAX.

nmax
NMAX-ABS (not the six-pack type)

It’s a 155 CC scooter that has an ABS (anti-lock breaking system). He practiced for a while, and then eventually, we took it out for a long ride – riding in tandem style.

Our first long ride brought us to Kaybiang Tunnel in Batangas.

Kaybiang Tunnel

Yes, it did take us around 2 hours to get there. At the end of it, my butt is numb already, and my knees are shaking involuntarily. Anyhow, I realized how cool motorcycles are after that ride.

On the way

Traffic is still hateful even in a motorcyle, but the fact that you can skid through it is just awesome. After the terrible traffic situation in Metro Manila, the rest of the ride was just refreshing. For one, there are magnetic hills that pull you up even with you turn your engine off:

Magnet hill
Mountain Brew Cafe, Batangas

En route, we passed through a coffee shop that serves civet coffee. It is the perfect spot to take a sip on a cup of heaven with the view of the mountain ranges:

Mountain brew
Civet Coffee is around 250Php

When we’ve finally gotten to Kaybiang Tunnel, the 300-meter stretch was just blithe. The fresh air against your face in the midst of darkness and echoes just made me feel alive.

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After passing through the tunnel, we were at awe after seeing actual Philippine eagles flying freely over the mountains and the seas. We missed taking pictures, but we were so happy to finally see one (actually, there were around 5 of them) in the wild. Along the way, we also encountered an unusual traffic situation involving this daredevil cow:

cow
He/she refused to move. So kami na ang nag adjust.

We capped off the trip with a fresh avocado and mango juice, bistek tagalog, and bulalo:

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Bulalo Point, Tagaytay

The breathtaking ride, the stunning view, and the exhilarating experience left us wanting for more. By the end of the trip, my grudge for motorcycles is gone. Starting then, we’ve decided to take on the Philippines, one ride at a time. 

Rough Patch

Many have speculated the reasons for the Philippines’ failure to rise with its southeast asian neighbours. For one, Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, blamed its being a tropical country as one of the reasons for the indolence of the Filipino people that led to its stunted growth. He argued that countries with less warm weathers can easily work at any time of the day; Filipinos, even then, struggle to work in the wee hours of the afternoon because of the hateful temperature. We have to admit – the sometimes humid, sometimes skin-cancer triggering temperature does play a large role in our productivity and willingness to work.

http://manybooks.net/original_covers/r/rizaljos/rizaljosetext048indf10.jpg
A socio-political essay published in La Solidaridad, 1890. (wikipedia.com)

In a recent post by Tyne Villan for the Inquirer Pop, he blamed the resilience of the Filipinos and that it led to our escapism and our settlement for less than what we deserve. Indeed, we had become too optimistic that we’d rather wait for the tables to turn than be the instrument to facilitate its turning.

https://i1.wp.com/gongjumonica.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/filipino-resilience.jpg
Waterproof. Tragedyproof. Poof! It became coco crunch!

While both may be true, I personally think that the issue with the Filipino people is our band-aid mentality. When something is wrong, we put a temporary fix, hoping that it will one day come altogether and fix itself. To allow low-income Filipinos to afford products for daily living, we produce instants and sachets to get small portions of what we need when we need them and hope that it will compensate for the country’s high inflation rate. When there are road holes, we patch them with just enough amount of cement, until such time that the holes are too big for temporary mending. When typhoons come, we prepare evacuation centers and plan rescue operations, and go back, business-as-usual, to our old ways after the storm. When we elect the wrong officials, we settle for the “at leasts” and stick to our beliefs so as not to lose our pride and continue to hope that the next official is better. When choosing a career, we are programmed to pursue what’s practical and what’s needed now and hope that one day, we’d be able to pursue our actual dreams.

https://pulpolitika.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/pwede-na-yan1.jpg
Tagpi-mentality.

Even sachets and instants are pricing more than we can afford; more roads get broken than fixed; the storms grow stronger and the floods get worse; and the election becomes the selection of the lesser-evil rather than the best-fit. We are getting too old to postpone what we’re meant to become.

We have to start removing our individual patches and allow the wounds to heal permanently. It’s time to realize that we are running out band-aids. 

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