Have an account?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nomadic Experiences of 2010


2010 was a big leap from 2009 for me in terms of traveling. I've covered places from up North of Luzon to the Southern Part of the Philippines. From the mad swell of the Pacific ocean learning to Surf in Bagasbas beach in Camarines Norte to the kick ass, butt numbing and free flowing bus ride to Sta. Ana, Cagayan Valley. In between are a number of magnificent Spanish Colonial Churches, quaint little towns, developing urban cities, scenic nature locations and a unique set of people who I met as strangers and eventually became friends of mine.

I started the year by celebrating my birthday with my close friends Tina (who also celebrates the same birthday as mine)  and Lot at the latter's hometown of Cagayan de Oro City. We went river rafting, flew by hanging on the 814 meter zipline in Bukidnon and went on a roadtrip around the island of Camiguin.

DSC_6936
11
112

Then goes trips to places such as Bolinao, Pangasinan and a holy week holiday in the fine white sands of Calaguas Islands particularly at "Mahabang Buhangin" where we pitched and stayed in a tent for the night and kind of rekindled my love for camping out and proceeded to the surfing place of Bagasbas and dropping by Camsur Watersports Complex in Naga City on the way back to Manila.

Bolinao 010
38
25

A few weeks after that I got reunited with my girlfriend and life is continuously good at all fronts - personal, and my nomadic life. Financially, I'm burdened just like everyone else. However, I'm at a point in my life right now that personally, it is not everything about what a person owns or have in the bank - for me, it's the kind of experience that I could invest in and gather that truly enriches my soul and this way of thinking has steered me away from being so obsessed about spending time in 'get rich schemes' or competing in the rat races held in the corporate world.
 
By May, I was able to join another set of friends a poet and writer in Chin, a photographer in Aileen, a free spirited Tin and Mina who is now married to an Indian guy and is now settled happily in India. In Iloilo we went to nearby Miagao Church and also took an overnight sidetrip to Guimaras Island. Since I stayed there a day more than my friends, I was able to spend my last day at my mother's hometown of Dumangas, a trip that meant so much to me as I've heard a lot about the place from my mom while growing up.

DSC_8330
DSC_8543
DSC_8763

A few months went by without making a trip - probably because of the onslaught of a slew of typhoons that ravaged the country. Then, by August me and my girlfriend went on a weekend trip to the historic fortress island of Corregidor

DSC_8896

I've always wanted to visit the place and I was glad that I've finally able to do so this year. Sadly, or perhaps for the good of both of us, me and my girlfriend again broke up a few weeks after that. Maybe, it wasn't meant to be and it is now time to move on - on a personal level.

But that is beyond me and my control. This is a travel blog and I'll sum up the year based on my travel experiences, we will always have our own personal bullshits and such, but the passion remains and "on the road" is where my life is heading now.

In October, I went to Bacolod to experience the Masskara Festival for the first time. I've made a vow to myself that I will really try to see and witness each festivals that the Philippines have all year round. I did my first couchsurfing there when Kareen hosted me and a few other backpackers from Germany and New Zealand. It was a different experience because I get to travel and at the same time be inspired by nomadic tales from backpackers who've seen and threaded on numerous countries in the world.

DSC_9986

November was probably the busiest month in terms of being on the road for me. I went out on a long weekend trip on the three weekends of this month. First to Baler, Aurora for some surfing experience and a journey to Alaminos, Pangasinan with new-found friends who were also fellow travel bloggers and lastly the long arduous but worth it, long ride to Tuguegarao City, Sta. Ana, Cagayan, Palaui Island then Vigan in Ilocos Sur.

DSC_0521
island tropic
DSC_1778
DSC_1813

I've also wrote three articles for a local travel magazine "Republic of 7107 island" this year. The first one (Dec-January 2010 - Capones Island, April-May - CDO River Rafting and Aug-Sept - Calaguas Islands).

capones

2010 is a year that I've upped my desire to travel amidst personal shit-storm and all. I'm glad that my sanity is relieved by these travel experiences. I felt like I've grown enough to a level of maturity that I am now starting to appreciate even the smallest of things.  I've met wonderful people who I won't mind manning the trenches if and when we all got sent back in time to World War I.

xmas

From iconic lighthouses, blinding white sands, sleepy towns, Spanish colonial churches, historic fortress, of homage trips, adventure, of breaking up, work, new friends, long weekends, the trivialities of daily living, the ups and downs and everything in between traveling. The journey itself was the one thing that kept me sane in the year 2010. I am so glad that I've come to this point in my life wherein, a rucksack on my back, a few bucks in my pocket, a half baked plan and an imaginary arrow pointing me to the road are enough to keep my desire burning and to make each year from here on now, better than the one it preceded. That, inspires me to no end.

I now look forward to 2011 with anticipation and giddly with 'ala porn-star' excitement as to where I would head next. So far, the only concrete plans for 2011 is Sinulog Festival in Cebu and the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo both are going to be held on January. See you there perhaps.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Bolinao 229

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Philippine Blog Awards' Finalist for Best Travel Blog


Yes, I'm not hallucinating but my travel blog, this seemingly badly written travelogue accompanied by a zombie like - post apocalyptic photography theme has been named as among the 10 finalists for this year's Philippine Blog Awards' Best Travel Blog category. I don't expect to win - unless the jurors are my friends and relatives, because other blogs I looked up to (and are way better) are also shortlisted.

I'm just happy that for the second straight year - my travel blog has been included as among the finalists. (last year the nod went to Estan Cabigas' langyaw.com).


To the other finalists, I say congratulations and hope that we'll continue doing what we love, which is primarily to travel north and south, walked through east and west, meet kindred souls in-between, sleep in strange places, wonder aloud, think freely, embrace the wild, fornicate with nature, hop on buses to sleepy towns, chill on mountaintops, ride the waves, fall in love with someone (hopefully) on the road, dare to be thrilled, rest only when needed, fly like superman, come home with new set of wisdom and afterward, as Jack Kerouac said “Write in recollection and amazement for yourself”

Best Travel Blog (from: http://www.philippineblogawards.com.ph/2010/12/08/finalists-travel/)
Nomadic Experiences
lagalog
soloflightEd
flipnomad
The Pinay Solo Backpacker
The Kayumanggi Trails
Chasing Philippines
Explore Iloilo
Ambot-ah
Just Wandering
Walk This Way

There is an abundance of places to see and fellowships with other human beings to kick-start, all within our grasps and what better way than start realizing it right now. So, to the others who still haven't bitten by the nomadic bug, pack your bags now and head out for the road.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On The (Long) Road to Palaui Island


Our long Bonifacio weekend journey to Palaui Island was by no means easy. It's tough for my butt which became numbed 5 hours into our bus trip from Cubao to Tuguegarao and that's only the first half of the over-all 10 hour bus ride. We left the Cubao terminal of Victory Liner at about 10 pm and arrived at Tuguegarao at somewhere around 9 am with brief stop-over's at the towns of Tumauini in Isabela and San Pablo to visit two Spanish colonial churches found there.

DSC_1657
We stayed for the day in Tuguegarao and took time by visiting Callao Cave and enjoyed a leisure boat stroll along the scenic Pinacanauan River to witness the circadian flights of over a million bats - a sight that left me in awe. The next day we woke up early to prepare for another 3 hour trip to Sta. Ana, Cagayan by buying some things needed for camping out at Palaui Island. We passed by the Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao and rode the Sta. Ana bound van by 9:30 am.

DSC_1433
Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao
The sun was bright and I was wide awake most of the time during the duration of the trip. We passed by quaint little towns that I'd love to stop by if only we have more time. Endless rice fields where ducks, cows and carabaos hangs out meet my gaze out of the window. I also took notice of the kilometer markings on the side of the road since the last kilometer marker of "642 KM" is found in Sta. Ana.

DSC_1568
I love the feeling of long rides, butt numbed and all my mind is forever up to something - including plotting a bloodless revolution and what better way to do one's thinking than passing through God's painted creation. Another thing I noticed was the bridges, I lost count, but we passed by a number of bridges probably because Cagayan river is one complex river system that branches out in all direction including the aforementioned Pinacanauan river.

DSC_1513

I also saw Port Irene, a place where car fanatics buys imported automobiles at a much cheaper price, considering the political connection of Cagayan I can only speculate at the legality of those imported cars. At about 1:00 pm we finally reached Sta. Vicente Port in Sta Ana, Cagayan. After a brief rest we rented a boat for 800 pesos two way (good for 6-8 people), a reasonable fee considering we are a group of 6 people.

DSC_1583
DSC_1576

Palaui Island is inhabited by around 500 people mostly families of fishermen and a Navy detachment is also located on the island where we registered our names. Fishing boats always come and go from Palaui to Sta Vicente port so there's no need to worry about getting stranded on the island.

DSC_1508
threesome hikers: me, carrie & sharlyn
Accompanied by our two guides who were wearing shirts that says "Turismo Solusyon sa Kahirapan" - in a way that visitors on the island help people there earn additional income. I don't consider paying for a guide as "tourist trap" unless the place is easy to reach. However, we should all remember the importance of being responsible and not to create mess by avoiding bastardizing and vandalizing the places we would visit. I was disgusted at what I saw inside Callao Cave where people etched their names on the rock formation.

DSC_1598
Where we camped for the night
Anyway Benoit and Franco - our guides together with Franco's dog "Lambert" -we took a hike that would take us another 2 hours to reach the other side of the island which is more ideal for camping. During the months of summer, the boat can directly take you to that place, but since we went there during the end of the monsoon months and the start of the cold season of December, the waves aren't ideal for small boats to navigate - thus we were only dropped on the part of Palaui facing Sta. Ana, Cagayan.

DSC_1560
DSC_1713
Poker face in the wind
DSC_1584
Got to have a picture with my backpack
The hike calls for a brisk pace but not that tiring as the terrain was almost straight throughout with minimal elevated hiking but we took some time navigating the muddy portion of the trail as your feet can get sucked by the mud up to a foot below your knee.

DSC_1547

DSC_1601

We arrived at the beach where we camped out for the night at around 4 pm, more than enough time to set up camp, cook our late lunch and dinner and to go for a quick swim. We bought crabs from Ate Simone who lives nearby and whose family earns a living by fishing around Palaui island. Carrie cooked bacon and sausage while Belle and her two other friends chipped in hotdogs and corned beef. I got to use also for the first time, the first tent I bought for my own. Yeah I know quite an achievement for me having a "home on my back - wherever and whenever"

DSC_1610
Conquer tent
DSC_1613

We drank alcohol during the night and waited for stars to show up to lighten up the pitch black darkness around. It rained momentarily before the stars showed up. We tried to sleep at around 10 pm, managing to steal sleep in spurts before deciding to start the new day at around 3am when we started cooking our breakfast.

DSC_1625

After sunrise we went atop the hill where the Cape Engano Lighthouse is located, its a hike upward of about more than a hundred steps that affords you a magnificent view of the surroundings off Palaui, where one could see the blue waters and the rocky island around the island breaking with the waves and a strong wind that tries to erase your face and pretends to blow you off your feet.

2
view from the lighthouse
page22

A detailed history of Cape Engano can be found here.

page11
page98

page44

It was a long trip going to Palaui Island taking the land route, you can minimize travel time by taking a plane from Manila to Tuguegarao, but who would want to do that? In all we traveled 10 hours from Manila to Tuguegarao then another 3 hours to Sta Ana then hiked for another 2 hours for a total of 15 hours. Not bad for spending the Bonifacio long weekend plus an additional day as we passed by Ilocos on the way home to Manila with a stop-over at Vigan.

DSC_1582

I'm glad I was able to realize my year-long plan of going to Palaui, I've been fascinated and interested with the place since I saw it on TV one boring Sunday and what a great way to pencil out another supposedly boring weekend by living it up, packing my bags, camping gears and all and dragging a few friends for the long, arduous but very memorable trip on the northernmost part of Luzon. 

page33
the look-away pose
Shout out to my friends who came along: Carrie aka Lauren (her real name) who used to model for known photographers until she quit by saying "it has become a bastardized practice" and Sharlyn who wakes up late but goes to bath nonetheless half-asleep. Belle and her friends MJ and Jay. Deuter who gave me a 50% discount on my backpack "Deuter Futura Vario 50+10" a durable backpack suited for long weekend camping.

DSC_1740

page555
she started our hike wearing a pair of platform shoes, changed to flip flops halfway and just had a pedicure and foot spa






-->

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Circadian Bat Flights Over Pinacanauan River


I had a hard time pronouncing Pinacanauan River that when I told a friend about it I just described it to her as "Like a scene out of a Stephen King novel where the bats flew out of the cave, millions of them covering the dusk sky with darkness".

DSC_1359
Pinacanauan River is a part of the Cagayan River or what they call as "tributary" which flows along Penablanca in Cagayan. It is a few steps away from Callao Caves and along the ebb and the flow of the river a number of other cave systems can be found.

DSC_1388
Tired and restless from the long trip to Tuguegarao, it didn't mattered, because if you ask me - the trip becomes better the further it gets and far up north of Luzon we ended up, but closer to a place I often only see on movies. The lake where one could ride a wooden boat and unto the calm waters surrounded by rocky formations with waters dripping from atop forming super mini waterfalls. Pinacanauan River was just like that and I was experiencing it the moment we stepped into the boat.

DSC_1377
Our boatman and our 11 year old guide Andoy (once featured in Korina Sanchez' "Rated K") took us to a rocky islet where we rested and waited while staring at this cave opening on top of a wall about 40 feet high. The mouth of the cave is where the circadian flights of over a million bats can be seen as they start flying out of their nesting place and into the dusk skies over Pinacanauan River.

Andoy pointing at the Cave where the bats will fly out
Andoy pointing at the mouth of the cave

DSC_1386
where the bats comes out every 24 hours
Some days they don't show up but most days they do. We were joking that maybe the bats has their own assigned look-outs on the tip of the cave mouth with a telescope telling other bats "Yo, tourists are waiting for our circadian flight, should we stay or should we go out?" 


DSC_1411
Great thing, even with bat humor they proceeded to come out of their cave around 5:45 p.m and as thousands by the thousands of them flew out, a thick line of black covered up a portion of the sky. It went on until they form a hurricane like image whirling out of their cave and into the beautiful sky which is slowly turning from red to dark gray.Wings flipping, bat cries or shouts of joy envelops the sky, it kind of reminded me of Stephen King's novel setting.

DSC_1418

DSC_1420
like a scene out of a Stephen King's novel
The whole thing lasted for 5-7 minutes and as quickly as the bats flew out the last ally of darkness took its final bite covering the place in total darkness and we then rode back into the boat delighted at the wonderful scenes we just witnessed.


***
Pinacanauan River is a few steps from Callao Cave. Callao Cave is a 15 km tricycle ride from Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.