Nomadic Experiences of 2010

December 23, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!!!

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2010 Philippine Blog Awards' Finalist for Best Travel Blog

December 09, 2010

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.

On The (Long) Road to Palaui Island | Cagayan

December 05, 2010

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.

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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.

Alyanna Bromeo

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.

Lauren Denoga and Sharlyn Del Rosario

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.

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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.

Mujee Gonzales and Gretchen Filart

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.


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.


Along with 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.


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.

Lauren Denoga and Sharlyn Del Rosario

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. 

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Lauren 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"

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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 3 am when we started cooking our breakfast.

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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.

Palaui Travel Guide

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. 

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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.


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. 


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. Deuter who gave me a 50% discount on my backpack "Deuter Futura Vario 50+10" a durable backpack suited for long weekend camping.









Chamber Hopping at Callao Cave | Tuguegarao

December 01, 2010

There are many massive cave systems in the town of Penablanca in Cagayan Valley. The most popular of these is Callao Cave. Another cave one ought to visit is the Sierra Cave, a cave almost similar to the caves of Sagada where one would twitch and turn his/her body to enter small openings. This is in contrast with the vastness of Callao Cave which has a huge underground dwelling with an entrance as wide as the gates of Gothic palaces. After a brief rest in Tuguegarao we proceeded to Penablanca by taking a 45 minute tricycle ride. Callao cave is located near the scenic Pinacanauan River where we witnessed the circadian flight of over a million bats.

Lilliane Cobiao

The Church of San Matias in Tumauini | Isabela

December 01, 2010

Given the opportunity I always make an effort to drop by old churches of towns I visit or in this case even the ones I pass through. I always admire the architecture, the brick walls, the grand altar and the history churches such as this has and the manner which it was able to test time through earthquakes, fires, wars and other natural calamities.

Lauren Denoga and Sharlyn Del Rosario

San Pablo Church Ruins | Isabela

December 01, 2010

We've been sitting on the bus from Cubao for almost 10 hours and after a short stop-over at the town of Tumauini to see for our own eyes, the Church of San Mattias - which did not disappoint, because of its spectacular Spanish colonial architecture, we followed it up by stopping over the town of San Pablo in Isabela just before we reach the next town of Tuguegarao, Cagayan.

Church ruins in Isabela

Puerto del Sol Beach Resort in Bolinao

November 26, 2010
I must admit that I am not the typical "beach resort" kind of person. I don't see the need to stay in a fancy beach resort because I tend to explore more than lie around the pool. However, last weekend was an exception when I found myself together with some friends on a trip to Bolinao in Pangasinan.

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Rediscovering Hundred Islands in Alaminos | Pangasinan

November 24, 2010
I first visited the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan when I was about 8 years old. The memories of that trip has become blurred, fuzzy and like a handwritten note kept for so long in one's pocket, the details have slowly faded. I've forgotten the formations of the islands, how white was the sand and how clear are the waters. It's like that infatuation in highschool that you don't bother to include when asked how many lovers you had before. So, technically, yes I've been to Hundred Islands, but memory-wise, I've yet to visit the place. So, when an invite from a fellow travel blogger Myca reached my facebook inbox I hurriedly took the opportunity of tagging along.

Marky Ramone Go, Darwin Cayetano, Gael Hilotin, Cai Abass, Ada Lajara, Josh Uy, Mica Rodriguez

Bolinao Falls | Pangasinan

November 22, 2010

Bolinao falls is located in Brgy. Samang Norte in Bolinao, Pangasinan. If my memory serves me right, its about 30 minutes from the town center of Bolinao and the path leading to the falls is a stretch of rough road a kilometer off the main highway. We went there on a van arranged by the resort where we stayed in, but one could always rent a tricycle going there.

Salt Farm Bolinao

Baler, Aurora Part II: The "Apocalypse Now" Surfing Scene

November 10, 2010
I'd be the first to admit I suck at surfing. I still believe I'm 15 pounds overweight and I'll have more success if I get a bit lighter. Anyway, It was inspiring watching the residents of Baler twist and turn up in the air riding shotgun on the waves, some are big enough to swallow em, you'd think they've crashed into the water then bam you see them still zooming across the wave gliding into the water with uncanny balance and grace.

Levy Amosin

Baler, Aurora Province: Part 1

November 10, 2010
My friend Belle who is starting to get the hang of surfing invited me to travel to Baler, Aurora. We were supposed to leave the weekend of Nov. 1 but it did not pushed through so we rescheduled it the next weekend. Soon, Gretz came on board to join us on the trip. I have traveled with her to Caramoan way back in 2008. Yolanda, a facebook friend also joined us. It was my first time to meet her in person at the Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao, on the eve of our departure. Belle, Gretz and Yolanda all met each other for the first time.

Lakbay Norte

The Best Place I've Been to in the Philippines as of 2010

November 09, 2010
I've been asked this question many times by friends of mine before. I always struggle to find an answer, first I have not made it yet to all the provinces of the Philippines. I've been to a number of places that are really beautiful and has its own charms and things that one would describe as "best". Choosing the best of em all is like looking at my bookshelf and selecting the best book I'd want to take with me to an island for a prolonged time.


On any given day my choices would vary, some days I'd pick the Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" novel, some days I'd either pick "Crash" by J.G. Ballard or Albert Camus' "The Stranger", or "A Clockwork Orange", "Neverwhere", HST's "The Rum Diary" or even Alex Garland's "The Beach".

It's the same with the few places I'm fortunate to have traveled in the past. Since 2007 when I told myself that I should get out on the road as often as I could and afford I've set out to places I could easily pick as the best of em all. However, just like the case of picking up my favorite book, the answer I might give will vary from day to day.


From the sweeping landscape of Sagada and Banaue Rice Terraces to the charming town setting of Tagbilaran, Bohol, the Manila-like but more laid back Cebu, the marvelous Calamian group of islands in Coron, Palawan, Mount Apo in Davao, the rush of river rafting in Cagayan de Oro, the Mardi gras like Masskara Festival in Bacolod, the butt numbing ride to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Caramoan Peninsula and Calaguas in Bicol region, passing by Sierra Madre region on the way to learn surfing in Baler, Aurora, the historic fortress island of Corregidor, the Moriones Festival, friends who were like families and over flowing rum and beer in the town of Mogpog, Marinduque, visiting my mother's hometown in Dumangas, Iloilo, the beautiful crater lake of Mount Pinatubo which was once a source of violent eruption is now a paradise-like place. The heritage districts of Vigan, Silay in Negros that takes you back in time.

Not to mention, the urban jungle of Manila - a city which I have a love-hate kind of relationship, at some days its this awesome lover that takes your breathe away and at times its this place I longed to escape. My 'bipolar' attitude towards Manila makes it "best" even at its worst times.


How can I choose one, its almost unfair to single out one best place. And I have just started, try asking me that question 3 or 5 years from now and by that time I will probably have set foot on all the provinces of the Philippines maybe I can name one that stands out, but now that I still have a long way to go in terms of personal journey and getting to know more of my country. All I can think of is set out for more and possibly retire in the place I'd consider the best of em all.


Right now, if you point a gun on my head and asks for an answer, my reply would be simply "Home"

And "Home" is composed of more than 7,107 islands, with abundant knowledge to gain, culture and tradition to fully digest and unlimited things to explore and do. It's always good waking up in the morning knowing that home is out there for me to explore and wander in the coming days. It gives me the urge to live my daily existence no matter how mundane it can be, but knowing that in between all of these struggles, the opportunity to travel around my home is right there in front of me and I'll have to do is move my funky ass and stinking feet and carry my dirty backpack and tag along a few friends.