PH Azkals vs PH Dragonboat: Is Everybody Missing the Point?

PH Azkals: 0 Golds, 0 trophies, 5 TV ads, 20% Pinoy
PH Dragon Boat team (2011) : 5 Golds, 0 commercials, 90% Pinoy
PH Azkals: With sponsors
Ph Dragon Boat team: Inutang at KKB ang pamasahe.
Ph Azkals: Complete outfit
Ph Dragon Boat team: Nanghiram pa ng sagwan sa kalaban.

“Sasagwan ka ba sa KARANGALAN o sisipa sa PAPOGIAN?”

This particular post have effectively trended in Facebook statuses and tweets. At the same time just like die hard Noranians and Vilmanians, supporters come to the rescue of their heroes, banging and exchanging likes, dislikes, and barely thought about comments. Very Pinoy? Very Universal.

Bitter Comparison or Bitter Reality?

After all that is said and done, it’s just numbers that count (although letters count in words too). A lot of people believe that we should’ve supported the Dragons instead of Azkals. I believe that we should support both. However, we can’t blame people for comparing the two as an effect of the perfect timing of the Dragons emerging in the time of disappointment of the Azkals fans from their recent defeat. This magnifies their acheivements despite very little support as compared to the reception the Azkals were given in the local scene. A very dramatic, heroic intro for the Dragons so to speak.

So as supporters exchange opinions over misunderstood grounds, a lot of them miss the whole point. Although this (above) status can be a plain update of both teams stats, it has fast become an insult and a debasing comparison of two teams for many, well at least for the Azkals fanatics. Some misunderstanding the other, and some refuse to understand.

Comparison is inevitable but it is not bitter, but rather factual. It is a Realistic Comparison.


It is not fair to compare Azkals with the Dragonboat team for many reasons. For one, Azkals have been around for the longest time (long before the dragonboat team ever existed) and they, just like every other athlete in this country except for the PBA stars, who are neglected by the government, have just recently been noticed because of their remarkable 2-0 win against Vietnam and of course, for being so close to the FIFA World cup than we have ever been before. Just like the Dragonboat team, they did their time of hardships and perseverance in the name of country and passion too. What’s so bad about reaping the fruits of their efforts now?

Are the Azkals overrated?

On another light though, some poeple just want to find worth in their time. Muti-interest has always been an issue with Filipinos, we’re ironically very dextral and overzealous to a single thought and subject to the point that anything that goes against our beliefs and understanding is a totally outrageous idea. This characteristic has closed so many opportunities for growth and improvement. So, people tend to choose between who to support and who to look up to for pride and dignity. Minimini Minimo… Azkals or Dragonboat? Do I have to choose?

Azkals fans just can’t take the fact that the team don’t have monumental achievements, YET. And fail, or refuse to understand that appreciating the Dragons doesnt’ mean we’re abandoning the Azkals. Or are we?


Most poeple don’t seek to convert followers from Azkals to Dragons as most would think. Posts like this (above) suggest that they have already proven themselves and yet we continue to neglect them. It’s actually a challenge to those who choose looks over genuine talent. Although I have to admit that the last phrase “sasagwan ka ba sa Karangalan, o sisipa sa Kapogian” is completely competetive which again is pointless as they are both flag carriers.

Not so bad at all. Is that Younghusband in the background?


At this time of crisis and uncertainty, any country can care for a little hope in notional heroes that seem to save the day for the poor little Philippines. Talk about the social role, they bring a sense of dignity and pride to the people even though as expected, some of these people don’t even watch the games and yet will fight for them to the death. Amazing? Filipino.

Romans spent so much on "sports" to divert people's attention from tyranny

Just like in the Roman times when Christians and slaves were fed to the Lions in Arenas to divert people’s attention, sports and entertainment works just the same today – a diversion from oppresion and poverty. This illusion of global achievement is what people crave for to fatten their egos despite an empty stomach.

I am lost in that thought for a second since the government don’t even seem to be very interested in supporting our sports heroes. The Philippine Sports Commision (PSC) budget has been cut down by 80% this year. Less the red tape and corruption, our teams do not have enough to work on. That being the case, Azkals or Dragonboat never benefited from PSC anyway? Not to mention the Philippine baseball team who just like the rest, did not even get a single shoe lace to boost their morale.

Do we have a brave government that wants to put its money on more important things (we have to admit this), or is it too corrupt to steal even from athletes who can sustain a certain amount of entertainment to lessen attention to its shortcomings?

It is not an issue of who’s better, it is an issue of why they even face this dilemma. Azkals, Dragonboat, or the Philippines?

Take your pick.


Are We Really Connected?

Yesterday I went to BIR to settle my income tax papers. Since I broke my phone a few days back, I had to use a spare unit that doesn’t work too well. Unfortunately, it did not feel like working that day, so, I am a disconnected human being. Disconnected from the rest of the world, the internet, family, business, and anything social.

After being a mobile phone user for almost over a decade, it was hard to imagine dealing with being disconnected even for a day. Although unlike younger people (not that I’m old) who have mobile phones as an extension of their lungs, I am plainly not a phone addict. Yet, I felt uncomfortable and paranoid. Anyway, my day had to move on and be productive.

Waking Up in Manila

Manila City, ah. The ever crowded, traffick jammed, polluted Manila. I always thought of Manila as such. I never liked getting into it and never enjoyed the ride on it’s streets. I never realy digged the idea of the song “Manila, Manila”. What’s to come home to, the dirty tunnels? Too bad, my BIR branch is in it. So, I thought “Oh shit, I’ll have to bear with this and not have anything to entertain me while I endure the persecution”. I took the MRT to EDSA and made a connection to LRT. While inside the train, I had no choice but to look at things, people and events.

While in transit, I slowly realize that I have been missing a lot of things. I wouldn’t have seen and felt the “world” around me had I had my phone with me. Hundreds of interesting things and events actually do happen in Manila City. I was so amazed with the whole feel of Manila that I even appreciated the smoke belching jeepneys! I felt alive. It was like drugs that slowly died down. I am refering to the addicting effect of the internet and mobile fad that seem to be slowly dying inside me.

I started appreciating people, and things that they do. For the longest time, I started reading interesting signs and poems in the train and all over the city that have been there for years and yet I never noticed. I saw buildings that have been there for a century and yet it is only now that I see its beauty and traces of grandeur.

I aplty said to myself that I must have woke up to reality. I woke up in Manila.

Freedom From Technology

Being disconnected was not so bad afterall. In these times of high tech communication gadgets, sometimes it is fun to break out from the adulterated sense of interconnection, courtesy of the Internet and mobile companies. Being disconnected made me see things differently vis-a-vis being stuck all day on a small box with lights that connects to other million strangers in the planet, or the so called mobile phone. Thus I felt freedom. Almost like being Neo in the movie “The Matrix”.

Are we really connected?

I was surprised to see how so many poeple miss out the beauty of the organic world, their environment, the things that happen around them, and most specially the “real” connection between them and the people that are actually around them. Without the idea of how cellphones work, they would be people merely standing or sitting beside eachother staring on a piece of plastic, being totally disconnected. Disconnected not only from the people but from the environment.

We are victims of our own desires to connect

The unattached feeling was so liberating that it made me think I was living in the past, and it felt good. This must have been the world that my parents lived in. The world they knew that is fast dying if not yet dead. The culture that used to be. It must have been the time when people were more sensitive to the needs and feelings of other poeple. The time when they haven’t been masked with the illusion and self-centered scheme of the Internet.

After much contemplation, I simply loved the idea of being unattached and unaffected. While it is true that we need society to exist, the Internet and mobile companies have exploited that need and we are the so called casualties of our own desires. Desires that have spurred from a simple need to connect. A simple need that is all over us and may be achieved through a simple “Hi, Hello”.

At this day and age, they call those days Jurrasic, passe, old, obsolete, and out of date.

I call it Freedom.

next destination?

Mt. Maculot: The Birthday Climb on a Beautiful and Dirty Mountain

With very little time for preparation and invites, it was almost just me and my buddy, Tope who confirmed to climb. We have been long planning this climb but the recent typhoons forced us to abort. Finally, the sun showed up on a hot Thursday morning, so we decided to push through – we tagged it “Birthday Climb”. Obviously it was somebody’s birthday that day and unfortunately, it had to be mine. Yes, it is unfortunate when your birthday no longer comes with clowns, baloons, and cakes garnished with superhero characters made of icing, but instead has become a brightly lit reminder that you’re getting too old for that sh*t.

As we got very little response from people we invited, we geared up for a very solemn climb featuring just me and Tope. We decided to do a night trek to spice it up a little as we’ve heard various accounts of horror stories that have occured in Mt. Maculot from other mountaineers. On the day of the climb, we succesfully convinced Tom to join us in our night adventure. With so much anticipation, the three of us head off to Guadalupe to take a Batangas bus bound for Cuenca.

Getting There

As per online instruction, you are supposed to take the Lemery bound bus at Buendia corner Taft. However, we discovered that it was actually more convenient, and cheaper to take the Lipa route via the newly opened ACTEX. So from Guadalupe, we took a bus to Alabang then boarded a bus bound for Batangas. Be sure to take the ones the go through the “Tambo Exit” as there are many exit points into Batangas when you hit the Star Tollway.

After getting off at the Tambo exit, we took a jeep heading for Cuenca. Just inform the driver that you need to get down at the Municipal Hall of Cuenca. Most dispatchers will immediately recognize mountaineers with their packs, so they basically know that you’re heading for Mt. Maculot. It is actually a pretty short ride of about 30 minutes.

Upon reaching Cuenca you will be dropped off at an ark that leads to the Municipal Hall. Along the way you will pass by a small market place or a so called “talipapa” where you can buy supplies if you’re not yet carrying any.

Tope, unloading the "stuff" we bought at the jumpoff

After getting off of the jeep, you will have to walk up to the actuall jump off, the Municipal Hall. Since it was night time when we got there, it was an errie feeling that the place is so quiet considering that it was only 8:30 pm on our watch.

Tom, filling up his bottles from a local store

Out of about over 50 stores, we only found two open. It looks like it is much busier and definitely more fun during day.

From the Municipal Hall we were instructed to proceed at the registration area, which is roughly another 15-minute walk. The registration area is a small hut along the road which looked more like a village guard outpost. After signing up, we geared up and began our adventure.

The Night Trek

From the registration hut, you will have to walk about 2 Kilometers to reach a dirt road that leads to the dense entrance of the mountain. You will know that you are already entering the mountain when you reach the “Mountaineer’s Store” and the sign that promptly says ” –> To Mt. Maculot”. 🙂

Unlike our usual pace, we were going a lot faster this time and less talking. I do not know if it was the quiet of the night that keeps us from talking or the pre-occupation of trying to feel the adventure. I admit that it was pretty tense in the beginning since I have been used to climbing at day. The night trek almost felt like everything was asleep and you would not want to wake them up. Even the plants and trees seem to be sleeping. It was so quiet that even a light burst of breath to relieve chest pressure seem to be unwelcome at that time. At first I though that it was going to be difficult and uncomfortable. But eventually it became enjoyable and surprisingly convenient. We realize that the cool of the night conserved our energies and had more to spend on hiking. I was amazed that I did not even finish my trail water (Because I finished Tom’s). 😀

Dinner time. We took a short stop at a small flat spot midway to get something hot in our stomachs. We didn’t feel that hungry but it was just the need to warm our tummies. As mentioned, there are stories/legends that have been told about Mt. Maculot. This particular story about a couple is what interests me most. According to accounts, a couple climbed up the rockies (the alternate summit of Mt. Maculot) and the girl fell to her death. Then after a week, the boyfriend came back to take his life in the mountain by hanging himself on a tree.

All along the trail, this story was playing in my head. According to my friend Tom, he has been told the exact location where the guy actually hung himself. I do not know if he was playing us, but after resuming trek he admitted that the spot was where we ate dinner at. I hate him for that, but left me contemplating on the dangers involved in mountaineering that most people just ignore. On many occasions I have been humbled by nature and is constantly reminded that we should never under estimate the mountains.


After just 1 1/2 hours of uphill, we reached the basecamp. You will know that you are nearing the basecamp when you reach a stretch with thick and tall grass we call “teka teka” (wait, wait!) as it causes you to exclaim such when you are stung by its sharp leaf edges. The approach towards the basecamp is very muddy and a common glove will prove to be very handy to avoid making “teka-teka” tunes when regaining balance to avoid slipping.

Because it was night, we did not realize that we were actually spending the night on a very messy place. On the break of dawn the mystic mountain is now a dumpsite with a great view. Trash is everywhere, bottles of alcohol, butane tanks, instant noodle cups, plastic… Name it, and most likely we have it. So much for LNT. Previous visitors may have thought that LNT is such a bitch and so to hell with it.

The beautiful basecamp entrance

LNT my ass

It is very disappointing that a lot of people are alarmingly careless and unappreciative of the beauty of nature. Despite hundreds of blogs about these uneducated fools, they don’t seem to get the idea that the mountains don’t have janitors.


Dismayed with the sight of all the mess, we decided not to ruin our day and proceed to the main attraction – the Rockies. From the basecamp, the Rockies is about 1km away. Very similar to Pico de Loro, you will have to climb down to a ridge before approaching the assault of the Rockies. The climb down trail towards the assault is very slippery and muddy. With much regret, we didn’t have boots on and were just wearing “adidulas” (sandals). So, we had to be creative so as not to slide down the hill.

Tom and Tope doing a four-wheel drive mode. (Hands and butt) 😀

On the foot of the rockies, great view awaits. So nice it will cause you to burst into a song, perhaps a musical. Something like “The Sound Of Music”.

Rockies the musical...

Great views from the approach of the assault

Climbing up the rockies is quite convenient because of the big stone features of the trail. Of course everyone should take caution at all times but in general it is a fun and safe climb up. At some parts there will be big leaps and it can be easier if you’re not carrying your pack, but it is not impossible if you have it on.

typical features of the trail leading to the rockies' summit

The peak of the rockies offer inspiring views and a bit spacious area that can accommodate around 15-20 people. At the top, you will see the taal volcano, the lake, cavite and batangas cities.

Spectacular view of the taal lake at the rockies' peak

After 30 minutes of hanging out at the rockies, we head on home, with our trash. On our way down, we witnessed the beauty of Mt. Maculot that is altogether different at day. Tablet signs that commemorate the air force trail establishment is seen on some parts of the mountain. Some say that it is the easier route to the summit but a bit technical and cardiac. Sadly, we never got to the summit of Maculot. This is after learning the the Rockies is not the summit but is just a part of the mountain, more likely an alternate summit. Although determined to get there, we had to call it off due to the delay in our schedule. According to reports, the easy route to the summit is the Rockies then Grotto, then the summit.

On our way down the mountain

In general it was a really fun experience. A mountain that surpassed both my expectation of its beauty, and ironically my expectation of other mountaineers’ appreciation of nature and LNT principles. The next time each of us see other mountaineers who climb down without garbage bags with them, we should wonder where they took all their trash. Perhaps ate them?

Next time, I will dare to ask. It is better to apologize for the rudeness than to ruin nature’s beauty. Besides, responsible people will understand and will appreciate your inquiry.

More pictures? click here 🙂

Pico de Loro: An Awaiting Rematch

This climb was a very interesting one. Pico de Loro is one of the all-time favorites of mountaineers, even for veteran climbers. The variety of trails, views, and environment is one of it’s trademarks, plus of course, the main attraction – the parrot’s beak. The same word that lingers in my head from pre-climb till now. I never got to climb the parrot’s beak, in fact only four of our friends managed to conquer it. Slippery stones and fog made it impossible for most of us to do the beak… Okay I have to admit, my weight was one of the main considerations. So, I will have to call it a prospective rematch in the near future. Until then, it will be a part of my subconcious mind’s unfinished business list.

Our group assemebled at the overpass infront of Baclaran church along Coastal Road. After several minutes of waiting for the latecomers, we boarded the bus bound for Ternate, Cavite. Joining us are first-time climbers from STI Jnard, Richard, his brother Randy, and Estre’s brother Naldz. It was a riot inside the bus as the group instantly connected via jackass personalities.

Transpo Matters

After a 2-hour bus ride, you will arrive at the Saulog Transit terminal. A herd of trycicle drivers who phd’d in turfing will greet you and try to convince you that there are no jeepney routes on that road. Two minutes later a jeep will pass by. You have two options, 1) pretend you’re stupid and take the trycicle @ P125 per head, or 2) be smart and rent a jeep to Magnetic Hill for only P500 (we were a group of ten, so that’s only P50 per person).

We took option 2.

Litterally Magnetic Hill

Aside from being smart and saving money for renting a jeep, you will get a free tour guide if you get lucky enough and get to rent Sir Johny’s jeep. He was the former DENR engineering head in Magnetic Hill in the 70’s. He gave us free trivias with how it was at Magnetic Hill in the 70’s when they did mountain surveying. We learned that it was called Magnetic Hill because it was actually magnetic.

Sample, sample.

Driver: Pataas ba ito o pababa?

Tope: pataas po

… then when we got to an uphill road

Driver: ito, pataas pababa?

Tope: Pababa po

Mang Johny now releases the break and puts the gear on neutral, then the jeep started going back uphill as if we were rolling up. Cool stuff.

After a couple of minutes we reached the DENR registration site where you need to pay P20 per head. Then we head of to the jump off. The jump off is a few minutes road walk from the DENR registration site.

At jump off, we deciede to take a quick lunch before we start the trek. Our baon changed the idea of a quick lunch, quickly into a feast. 2kg chiken caldereta and 1kg, pork adobo. While feasting, I would say not less than 70 mountaineers passed by on their way up to the mountain. We realize that after the previously rainy weeks, a lot of mountaineers are taking the opportunity to climb in a perfect sun shiny day as that day. We quickly geared up for the trek as we feared that we won’t have a spot at the campsite.

The Trail

The Pico de Loro trail is very accomodating, thanks to the comfort of the trees protecting you from the heat of the sun. Although most mountaineers prefer to do night trek to avoid the heat of the day, that shouldn’t be of concern when trekking Pico de Loro.

You will enjoy the trek and love the environment for the first 30 minutes. Beautiful trees are common attraction, and sometimes if you’re lucky, you will see wild monkeys playing on tree branches. After a couple of minutes, you should reach the bascamp 1, which is still on the flat part of the mountain foot. Here resides locals who require a P20 registration fee. In return you can fill up your bottles and bladders for water supply. Another 30 minutes and you should reach the actuall mountain foot. You won’t miss it because it will be a significant spot where you will realize that there’s no way you will reach the summit without climbig uphill. So cardiac mode begins.

Pico de Loro is only less than 700 metres above sea level. Just almost as high as Mt. Talamitam and Daguldol. However, the estimated time to summit is greatly different because of it’s straightforward trail. So, expect straight uphill climb going up to 50-60 degree angles. Unlike Mt. Daguldol’s 6-hour trek to a 700 MASL height, which means that it has a long subtle climb, this one is all-attack.

Basecamp 1 (water source)

You will at times feel that you’ve wasted efforts in climbing when some trails go downhill just to get to the mountain foot.

Downhills approaching the mountain foot

Oh and just incase you feel lost – you aren’t. It is just a single trail and there is a big sign that says which way to go. 🙂

Just incase you forget where you are

Basecamp 2

At the entrance of the summit, you will be greeted by bamboo groves. Most mountaineers prefer to establish camps here due to the unpredictable winds at the summit basecamp. The summit isn’t really a summit, it is actually a basecamp fronting the chunk of land sticking out of the mountain which is the actuall summi which doesn’t have enough space on it to accomodate tents. The basecamp on the other hand is a wide area with a subtle downhill mountain edge – a place you do not want to play around with specially at night after downing a couple of shots to counter the temperature and winds.

The basecamp offers an awe-inspiring view of the beak and the summit of palay-palay, The beak is the actual Pico de Loro, but the summit is called Mt. Palay-palay. This is an unconfirmed information but I will update as soon as I finish my research. From the basecamp you can also stroll around the edge towards beautiful rock formations that offer picture perfect moments.


The majestic view of the summit and the beak

wide area to pitch tents, but has rough winds


After a hearty breakfast and a short prayer, the group head on to the attack towards summit. It is a slightly steep attack, just enough to make you feel uncomfortable standing up straight if you have a heavy 60-liter load. The view is beatiful. The Nasugbu beachline on your right, and the Cavite region on your left. At the peak, you should see a faint image of a road that looks like the only road that originates from the other side of the mountain. That road is where you are heading if you are traversing Pico de Loro to Batangas.

View from the summit, just right accross the parrot’s beak

The fog at the summit can be very thick to the point the you don’t see the beak. The fog spoils the majestic view of the beak and the surrounding deep ravines. From the summit, a foot-wide trail with left and right fall is what you have to take to go down to the foot of the beak. For first time climbers this can be very intimidating and the fog offers comfort. Thick fog can give the illusion of being walled in, so this elliminates the intimidation of the depth on both sides while trekking the narrow trail down to the beak’s foot.

Steep descent from the peak to the beak’s approach

Idealy, teams go in batches for pictures. The camera will be situated on this summit which makes a perfect shot when the subject makes it to the beak. The descent to and from the beak to this summit is around 15-20mins.

On the way down to the foot of the beak, you will encounter narrow and steep descents on rocks. A significant 5-metre face the wall descent should be dealt with care. Although generally, this trail is friendly, proper precautions should always be observed specially when climbing with first timers. On another note, climbing the beak would require basic rock climbing skills and a lot of caution. It is never wrong to be modest about deciding whether you are fit to take a particular trail or course.

At the beak, I decided that my weight will not make it easy for me and would put me in a poor stance when climbing it, given the beak’s characteristics. After all the excuses, I called it off and decided to take it on next time – rematch. Four of us made it though. Alhmer, Tope, Jnard, and Ross. Good job! 😉

Traverse to Nasugbu

At the foot of the beak, there is a small trail at the side leading to the Nasugbu, Batangas traverse trail. You also have the option to backtrail to Ternate but it is definitely worth it to do a traverse to Nasugbu. We actually did not have any idea where we were going to land at Nasugbu but it was the uncertainty that made it fun and exciting. The trail is obviously not often taken and on most parts you can easily loose your way because of the grass of plants that are growing back on the trail path. Thanks to the trail signs that previous mountaineers left, you will be able to get back on track. You might also need to replace the old markings that may be easily missed. Ribbons and stones are used to mark the right direction.

After a couple of hours, traversing these mountains just seem forever. To the point the you feel you are almost there but just aren’t yet. You feel like you’ve been walking forever but never get any farther. It was almost an eerie feeling. If you have a big imagination, you will definitely know what I mean. The thick trees will trick you, thinking that you’re already near the road, but you will come to several clearings and realize that you are still in high lands. This is actually because you are walking up and downhill, litterally crossing 3 mountains. On a particular clearing after 2 hours of walking from the beak, you will see just how far you’ve walked.

view from a clearing in the Nasugbu traverse trail

Finally, after a couple more hours of walk, the group hit a road in Nasugbu. We had no idea where in nasugbu we were. We waited for a couple of minutes and then a tricycle passed by.

exit point of the nasugbu trail

The driver offered us a ride to the main highgway where we can get a bus to Cubao for P175 per passenger. We though it was outrageous. So we walked the endless road to the highway.An hour passed and we were going nowhere.

from this road, we can see the beak and realize that we badly need a ride now

We ultimately gave up and arrived at a small town. A tricycle driver offered us a ride to the bus station for P50 per passenger. We took it with a head scratch just to realize that it was actually cheap considering the distance. It waaaaas far. So we gave him extra. 🙂

We finally reached the bus station and did a quick wash up at Patricia’s place. If you are climbing down the Nasugbu trail, take into consideration that there are no locals to accomodate you for wash ups at the end of the trail. It’s just a bare road. But luckily, there’s a small river by the roadside at the end of the trail that you may use to wash up. And for goodness’ sake, take the tricycle. 😉

More pictures? click here

Our Akyat Bahaw Gang product shot 🙂

Mt. Daguldol: A Little Of Everything Beautiful

Mt. Daguldol is a mountain that mountaineers will easily underestimate. Located at the coastline of Batangas’ popular beach destination – Laiya, it humbly stands only at about 700 MASL (Metres Above Sea Level). You can actually see the summit from the beach front, as if it is only a few feet away and probably just a few hours walk. So I thought.

Mt. Daguldol’s trek begins at the coastline of Laiya. The actual jump off is located at one of the resort entrances near the Barangay Hall of Barangay Hugom. Our group started off early to avoid the Manila traffick jam. Everything is right on schedule and as planned. We left Manila at around 5:00 a.m. and made our first stop after a one and a half hour drive at a local Lomi House in the small town of Rosario. After a good full breakfast, we head off to the town of San Juan and finally made it to the jump off at about 7:00 a.m.

The Beach Trek

The Trek

After registration, we immediately began the trek. Unlike most mountains, the Mt. Daguldol trek is unique and is quite an experience. First you will walk in the hot sandy beaches of Laiya wherein you are fully exposed to the sun if you, like us, choose to hike in the heat of the sun. I still do not understand why our itinerary always manages to fry us under the sun. Anyway, going back, while fully exposed in the sun, the scorching heat of the sand just makes you want to throw your backpack and jump into the water. But that is just too embarrassing to do since people will be looking at you in a way that you can almost see a thought bubble coming out of their heads saying “What are these people doing in the beach wearing full trekking clothes carrying big packs?”. Well most of them are not aware that San Juan, Batangas is also a hiking destination. They are just there for the beach resorts.

As you push forward for almost 2 kilometers of hot sand you will finally arrive at the foot of the mountain where the action, or I should say, the comfort of the trees begin. This is where you will find the usual mountain trek uphill. The walk into the mountain is pretty entertaining. You will pass by the local community and may buy additional stuff that you need at the summit. Not long after walking into the woods, you will see houses, animals, stores, and a parking lot! Yes, after the long walk at the beach with a 60-litre backpack I could almost swear like crooks in the movies do, to find out that you can actually park your car there somewhere nearer the actual trek. Well, it is just a matter of mindset. I realize that the beach trek is a part of the Mt. Daguldol experience. So, I let our guide go away with that and proceeded walking.

There will be a couple of stops along the way. These stops are not the usual hut or a makeshift bench made by previous mountaineers who visited. The stops at Mt. Daguldol is a halo-halo stop. Halo-halo is a timely summer dessert which is discussed in detail in another blog entry. So, after devouring a mug of Halo-halo and a nice chat with the locals who strategically located these halo-halo station right along the trail, you will move on to the challenging phase of the trek. You will appreciate the sugar rush from the halo-halo once you hit the heart pounding, badly zigzagging, steep trail.

The Strategically Located Halo-halo Station

Mt. Daguldol offers a good variety of environments. It is actually very dynamic and you will appreciate the diversity as you move forward. After the hot beach trek, you are greeted by the comforting shade of the trees. Some early parts of it actually feels like a full blown rainforrest because of the thick moisture in the leaves and heavily green surroundings. Then after a couple of minutes, you will get to a clearing with a very serene landscape with gigantic highlights of building-sized rocks and a water way inbetween the rocky terrain. This is the cue that you can take out your camera and start taking pictures.

The Rocky Terrain

After hours of walking, I asked our guide of we were any nearer to the summit now. And I finally get the answer I wanted – No. I wanted to hear that because it means it is lunch time. We arrived at Mang Lizardo’s place and conducted our culinary ceremonies there. In short we ate like hell.

The Summit

The great hearty lunch fueled our tired bodies just enought to reach the summit. The summit of Mt. Daguldol is not like the summit you would expect if it is your first time climbing it. After trekking the dense trail, you will finally come to a clearing that looks like a park. You will not immediately see the overlooking because of the grassy green slopes. With a foggy day, it almost looks like one of those dreams in the movies. We reached the summit after an embarrassing 7-hour trek.

The Entrance To The Summit

Mt. Daguldol is really a great experience of diverse environments and a summit that offers a beautiful view of the Barangay Hugom shorelines on one side and the view of the majestic Mt. Banhaw and Mt. Cristobal towards the South of the mountain ranges of Lobo and Tulos. We descended early the next day and finally hit the long awaited beach bath after a 2-hour downhill trek. The anticipation of the awaiting beach while trekking downhill is just wonderful. After the beach fun, we were back at the jump off to wash up and headed back to manila at around 3:00 p.m.

It was a totally great experience and something that I will highly recommend to hiking enthusiasts.

The Foggy Morning After

Beautiful Sunset At The Summit

Me and Jim Enjoying The Beach Trek

More pictures? Click here. 🙂

Mt. Manabu: Freedom Climb 2011 – “Absolute Freedom” Climb?

There have been countless articles about noisy climbers, unethical behaviours and rowdy “mountaineers” who earned the tittle by the mere act of placing a foot after the other on an uphill direction.

This year our group decided to join the Freedom Climb organized by FIMO Inc. (Alliance Of Filipino Mountaineers). Our expectations were very high and straightforward. Our group conducts monthly climbs and so we thought that this would be a great opportunity to mingle with other mountaineers and at the same time be a part of the event’s highlight – to mark a world record of most mountaineers summiting simultaneously all over the country. Of all the objectives, what appealed most, to me personally, was the idea of celebrating our independence at the summit with fellow mountaineers. This really tickled my patriotic buds.

I was very excited to be a part of a monumental event marking a world record and ultimately, celebrating our independence at the summit with a raised Philippine flag made me imagine cinematic scenes and timeless pictures that would last generations. Scenes from the hollywood movies like in “The Last Samurai” where it was very serene and you could almost smell the scent of dignity and pride for your country and fellow countrymen, with whom you are united in cause and sentiment. This idealism, however, is short-lived. It lasted for a couple of days of anticipation and preparation. It ended right at the summit.

06:00 – ETA Jump Off, Barangay Sulok, Sto. Tomas Batangas

Everything is on schedule except for the small hiccup, oh, we can’t start trek yet. Courtesy of the organizers’ email that everybody is advised to start trekking not earlier than 12noon. That shouldn’t be a problem, we’re just 6 hours early! Thanks to the timely advise of the organizers who expect the team leaders to stay up until 11pm the night before the climb to watch out for their last-minute change of schedule as the email was sent 6 hours before our assembly time. Anyway, we shrugged negative thoughts off our heads and just enjoyed the kapeng barako at the jump off and soon hit the kawayan benches to reconcile with our sleep.

After a few hours, participants arrived in groups and we were soon getting ready for the hike up. The organizers made it up to us by prioritizing us in the long line of registration so we could go ahead and climb up first. We got our ID badges ahead of the rest of the 100+ climbers – not bad a prize for coming 6 hours early. Off we went to trek the 2-hour hike up to Manabu.

Starbucks Midway

Mang Pirying's Hut - Manabu's Starbucks

It’s become a common joke among newbies to ask if there’s a strubucks at the summit or along the way. This time I’d answer yes. Meet mang Pirying. Mang Pirying is very popular and you will not miss his house on the way up to the summit. His dampa is always ready to serve fresh coffee to perspiring mountaineers. I felt the irony of sipping coffee while your body longs for ice-cold water, but it works I tell you. I can’t explain the feeling nor the science in it but my body actually feels relief in drinking this hot kapeng barako of mang pirying even if my whole body is soaked in perspiration.

As you walk into his hut, you will see that Mang Pirying just might be the most popular mountain caretaker in the country. You will see framed newspaper articles featuring him and his coffee, pictures with celebrities who’ve climbed the mountain and might have come back up to give him the photo, and of course hundreds of other mountaineers’ pictures with him. His hut is very interesting, there’s always fire burning for hot coffee and this gives the hut a very accommodating feeling. You will see two thermos and about 15 coffee cups always ready to serve. His walls, just like Starbucks, is filled with frames and banners from different mountaineering clubs. And, of course, just incase you forget he is a man, he has this decor that should take care of that reminder.

Base Camp

After a refreshing chat and coffee with Mang Pirying, it was almost a breeze walking towards the summit. It can’t be too far from his hut. As we approached summit, we realize that we are the first to arrive at the summit. Yes we were the first ones to witness the irresponsibility of Pinoys. People who have very little regard for nature’s beauty. There was trash on every corner of the base camp. Human excrements and tissue paper everywhere – so much for my serene “The Last Samurai” like idea of the event that we participated in. This has instantly become a cleanup drive. But even if we wanted to, we had to deal with this overnight since we are not getting down till the next day. Darn. After finding a clean and suitable spot to pitch our tents, we immediately setup camp and got ready for dinner and socials.

Rowdy Up, Release Your Anger, Animalize aka “Socials”

Even before dinner I already feared that there’s this group who was full packed with goodies and liquor, would or might just be rowdy. I was not disappointed. They really lived up to my expectations. Earlier that afternoon, I can see them setup this center lounge in the middle of their tents which looked like a good area for mountaineers gather up and exchange stories and quietly enjoy the night in good and healthy conversation. Well of course, it didn’t serve that purpose. Even before dinner time they were going tent to tent to invite people to drink. Our group declined but some participated in the making of the night in summit’s hell.

Lights out for the mountaineers. Party’s just begun for the other people who managed to walk uphill and is there to wreak havoc. These people have very little and no regard for other individuals who are there to enjoy the peace of nature and the quiet of the night. They have no respect for nature nor other people. As they drink the night away just as people would do in the cheap night clubs of Manila, these people shout to the top of their lungs and feel that the summit is the venue to let out the animal in them. Yes, the freedom has become absolute in this freedom climb. This concept of mountaineering for freedom in behaviour is a classic misguided idea. And there has always been classic karma’s to these type of climbers too.

I can’t forget, not long before when we used to often climb Banahaw De Lucban. I will never forget how not once but many times, rowdy and noisy groups meet accidents or any sort of bad luck. I don’t wish for it to befall these people in Manabu, but how I wish they’d get some sort of lesson that nature is not a venue for letting out the worst in you but instead it is a place of meditation and serenity wherein you need to be at your best behaviour. Oh, the organizers could’ve done that?

The Ceremony

After breakfast, we immediately proceeded to break camp for the ceremony. By this time I was still hoping for redemption. I was looking for a redeeming factor in all this madness of having to stay up late due to the noise of the neighboring night club disguised as a camp. I was exhausted just as everybody. At least I’m not as dehydrated though. So came marching in was the Philippine flag. I was very hopeful for a meaningful ceremony. But half of my brain tells me that this is going to suck as well.

As I waited for the organizers to “organize”, I went up to the small base camp right before the summit in search of a meaningful conversation. I headed straight for the camp of Sir Jun of Sikap – Bundok. I introduced myself and told him right away that I am not a part of the night party. He immediately shook my hand and gave me a good morning “so you’re not a bad guy” smile. We chatted about what had happened that night. It was a real refreshing conversation. Perhaps this was the only right thing that happened according to my expectations – a meaningful conversation with a fellow mountaineer who appreciates nature and has high regard for the essence mountaineering. It was a short chat and I was signaled to head back to camp for the ceremonies.

Flag raising with people wearing bonnets and hats

People formed a circle around the Philippine flag and everybody was asked by the organizers to sing the national anthem for the raising of the flag. My friend Tom and I were surprised to see that everybody had head gears, but that was forgivable. The person raising the flag had a bonnet on his head while raising it. While singing the national anthem some messed up guy form another group who got up early to drink emperador kept butting in making funny sounds with the lyrics of the anthem. Yes, after a night of hell I’m actually here to experience the worst national anthem I’ve even seen in my entire life. Drunk men singing, making weird noises and raising flags.

I felt no honor at all. I told myself, is this what I paid for to be a part of? I feel these people have disgraced nature and our flag.

I’ve always thought there’s an irony in this climb. No, it was not the coffee in the middle of an exhausting climb. It was the exercise of absolute freedom on a day we should be celebrating our freedom from captivity and disgracing the very same flag people defended for them to have the freedom they exercise today.

Previous Older Entries