Sunday, August 28


"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. 
I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." 
-- Robert Louis Stevenson 
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

Lake Pandin
(San Pablo, Laguna)

The goal was simple. 
Go somewhere close & on a low budget.
The reference was simple.
It's just a map that shows you what can be seen in the Calabarzon area.
Yet, it took me a year to find someone who'll actually do it with me via public transport.

I did my first leg with 2 friends: Lianne & Cocoy, August 2011. 
     The itinerary was:
          1. Casa San Pablo
          2. Ugu Bigyan Potter's Garden
          3. Bamboo rafting at Lake Pandin
Of the 3, I found the crater lake of Pandin (and its twin: Yambo), which was not in the original plan, the sweetest spot we saw that day. Simply because it was low key and inexpensive. I'm a sucker for what's less commercialized, and I'm always looking for a natural high.

Taytay Falls
(Majayjay, Laguna)
The 2nd leg was an 18-hour road trip (5 jeepney joyrides, air-con & non-air-con buses, and tricycles to get to our destinations -- sometimes I wanted to scream in my seat!) for me, with an  additional 30+ hours without decent sleep for my friend, Yay whom I've spent the day with last September 2011

Challenges of the day did not allow us to follow our planned itinerary:
     1. Breakfast at the Earthkeeper's Garden Restaurant turned to Tahanan ni Aling Meding (the tricycle driver had no clue where Sittio de Amor was GRRRR!) due to current renovations being done on the place.
      2. Majayjay Falls, which still puts a smile on my lips, is much more developed than I last remembered it 10 years ago. I guess the concrete brought more people to enjoy the place, but the unusable toilets not only wasted the effort of putting it down there, it ruined the pristine of the place!
          Going to Majayjay, I was excited at seeing the vast expanse of greenery under Mt. Banahaw and I thought neither Bali nor Vietnam could rival my home. I searched people's eyes to see if they are equally amazed at the sight, but once again, locals paid no heed at the beauty they gaze upon each day.
      3. Snack at Pillar Plants and Novelties, for their collectible antiques and art pieces, never happened because we got back late from the waterfalls.

Underground Cemetery
(Nagcarlan, Laguna)
The internet is a truly wonderful thing! Toni and I found everything we needed for the 3rd leg last mid-October 2011. 

From the way-point, we hit the following destinations within a 5-km radius:
    1. The Baroque Franciscan church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle (also known as Nagcarlan Church)
       2. Underground Cemetery
         So it's more of a vault than a catacomb as usually imagined -- probably due to the seismic activities expected in our part of the world -- but it is the only one in the country.
       3. Bunga Twin Falls where the water is not so clear
      4. Town of Liliw -- for the shoes, of course. I found heaps of the daintiest ballerina flats ever! Since the budget should be no more than 1k -ALL IN- though, I went home with only one pair of their specialty: espadrilles (a denim wedge with blue ribbons to lace around my calf) for only PhP280.

Panguil River Eco-Park
(Panguil, Laguna)

Of the day trips I've made since I started this CALABARZON campaign, this 4th leg at the end of October in Panguil River Eco-Park is by far the best. There's light trekking, bamboo rafting, river swimming in varying depths (as deep as 18-feet), ledge jumping, waterfalls massage and a short tubbing to top it all off -- all for PhP500! Call that fulfilling and cost-efficient. In fact, it wouldn't have reached PhP500 at all, had my trip-tandem and I not paid for the group-package-for-6 to go to Ambon-ambon Falls. 

My partner: Lhet, was also good company -- someone who was willing to go and wants to try everything. I had assumed she had an idea of what could possibly happen in a day trip like this, only to find out she had just brought her self & her bag from work (having come straight from shift that morning). Whereas I had my bathing suit on and some really comfortable clothes (this time, I brought underwear for the trip back -- a private joke between Yay and I from our Majayjay daytrip back in September). Regardless, she just bought  quick-dry shorts at the park, ready to get wet. She didn't know how to swim, but was game enough to ledge-jump with the guide (swallowing water and all). And she just picked up a souvenir shirt to wear on the way back home.

Just a week before this I had imagined myself walking on a bright sunny day, dress swayed by the wind and hair blown away. Vast space, green all around me. And I had all that in this trip. Have you seen how beautiful the Sierra Madre Range is as a back-draft to Laguna de Bay? Or sunset as you travel through the mountain highway of Rizal province? WOW would be an over-used word.

Kalayaan Twin Falls
(Kalayaan, Laguna)

The fifth leg was on the 2nd-Wednesday of November when we checked out the barangay operated resort of Kalayaan Twin Falls in Laguna, next-door to Paete. It's one of those all-natural, low-key and low-budget trip that's very accessible and effortless to take even for those who doesn't really lead an active lifestyle. 

As an afterthought for the day's activity, we also decided to go to Panguil River Eco-Park too. I love this place so much, I decided to bring friends over: Leah & Yra.
I imagine myself growing up just a stone-throw away from a place like this . . . I'll probably be here everyday after school. And like most locals I've met who live in places like this, I would probably bear too the emblems of childhood foolishness from having jumped off rocks and ledges with scarred knees and a split head (at one point).

Pagsanjan Falls
(Cavinti, Laguna)
Last November 21, I learned  it's possible to live in tourism-commercial when Sandra -- from work -- and I went to Pagsanjan Falls. It was truly breath-taking moving through a river between 2 walls; waterfalls revealed at almost every turn. I could imagine it from the eyes of someone not borne and raised from a tropical place. Whoever thought of paddling upriver and bringing tourists to the falls at the end of it, was brilliant!

My sister said that as children, we went there with playmates from the neighborhood. The problem with going to places like this below the age of 10 is that you don't recall it. Or at least I don't, with my poor memory. So I wanted to go back there because I wanted to see for myself the very-talked-about skills of the bangkeros maneuvering through river-rocks. And seeing the foot-works live, pulling about 300-pounds (me, Sandra, and the boat) of weight between them against the current, truly is impressive!

looking up at the hanging bridge entering Daranak
take-5 (or more) at Batlag Falls

Myles and I found another low-budget destination before the end of November just 1.5hours away from my place. For a public park, Daranak Falls is surprising -- the pool under the waterfall is bluer than I expected; and the rivers and pools of Batlag Falls is quite scenic.

Going to places like these makes me appreciate being based at the junction of the city and the mountains -- hence the conceptualization of the CHASING WATERFALLS series -- I love living here! The city is just outside my doorstep and I have the mountains as my backyard.

This one I will make an entry-in-progress.
A picture at a time for every spot I go to in the map.
A separate trip made with different sets of friends.
do you wanna come with me?

Saturday, August 27

Foresight. Survival. and staying amused.

An entry for Vague-a-bond:
 Cooking with Hannelore
(trying a Badjao dish with the locals)

I was in the middle of my trip in Borneo when Dang wrote about The Absolute Solo Must in onecentoneplace. I thought it ironic to be reading about security & independence, when I was doing the opposite, staying at a co-ed dormitory.

I'll tell you, this sleeping arrangement certainly is not "featureless" -- this is a place where the spice starts early, like before 7AM with an argument between a pushy Westerner and a Chinese who don't speak English. Now that's certainly fruitful!

One of the Asian girls I met was so relieved to have finally found another girl to share the 2-double-deck dorm with, she told me stories at a hand's breath distance away from me. She said for a week her strategy had been to stay out late, sneak in quiet as a mouse  in the middle of the night, tuck herself to sleep, and get up early the next day.

I could certainly empathize with her. On my first night in the backpackers' inn I was staying at, I walked into an old man in his underwear sharing the room with me. Apparently, Sabah is too humid for him he goes to sleep wearing nothing else but his brief. Now I tell you, that's not a good sight to see. I don't fucking care how liberal you are -- but a strange old man in his underwear, in close proximity, is not cool for me. I spent the next 2 nights tossing in my sleep, hunted by an image of him over my bed, laughing an evil laugh. 

I've always reserve days on my own when I go on trips with friends. Time only for myself to do the things I want to do, go to places I want to see, that I otherwise won't be able to arrange with the company I keep. This recent trip was the time I actually spent partially on my own. Sabah is a good place to travel solo (same with Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei) or with company. I've been here twice and I still haven't done everything there is to do there -- they offer so many things: islands, mountain, river, spring, falls, flora and fauna, and so much more! I'll still be back for the Tip Of Borneo, at least. 

Mount Kinabalu behind me
canopy walk
talk about isolated
I don’t know how others do it, but I thought, overall, I did pretty well on my own. I participated in every opportunity offered for a hands-on involvement in the culture or the tour -- dance, play games, compete against an Orangutan, light a fire with just wood, cook, smoke the local cigarettes, jump at the local trampoline, or shoot a target with a blowpipe. I took the public transport (buses that takes forever to leave I’ve struck conversations with the drivers, and kept it up too, mind you), my fares paid by strangers I met on the road on more than one occasion, pose as a local, bargained my grilled dinner at the night food bazaar (I didn’t think you could do that with food too until I tried), and get hit on by boys – literally – at the beach. I still have the cougar-effect LMAO!

play games
light a fire with just wood
smoke, anyone?

I guess my contribution to Vague-a-bond's blog entry is . . . when traveling alone, lose your inhibitions.

other traveling solo experiences:
1 is a COMFORTABLE number