Go f*ck Your Selfie!

Seriously. It is not a laughing matter. I did a quick poll on facebook (where else?) to ask friends whether or not they take selfies when visiting a new place. Reactions were mixed from “yes, just to have a proof or souvenir” to “no, I regard them as stupid and selfish”. Most are aware that posting selfies is a form of bragging. But aren’t all posts? hehe. At this day and age, we are all but a bit  egocentric. To quote another respondent, if you need proof or souvenir, an entire album of well-composed photos should be enough. True.

Exhibit A. View’s totally gone. But at least you see our beautiful faces! I’m batting my eyelashes as we speak.

Exhibit B. Proof that I went to Lion’s Rock in Norzagaray, Bulacan

There is nothing wrong with taking pictures. They preserve the memory. There is even nothing wrong with taking selfies per se. But where do we draw the line? This is a gray area. Are we still living in the moment if said moment is spent posing, clicking and frolicking (often backwards mind you) to find a spot to take a photo in? What moment is there to be captured?

We have come to a point wherein the pursuit of a cool selfie overlooks the thrill of the moment. When a trekking expedition comes to a halt NOT to take in the view but to take selfies, then something’s amiss. When you stop in the middle of a temple, unknowingly disrupt people and traffic flow, it’s rude and disrespectful. When people nonchalantly put themselves at risk, like scaling a tower and compromising their balance in order to hold the cam, it’s just plain stupid. When people overlook or miscalculate dangerous situations, say going in the middle of a raging river to take photos, that is seriously wrong. When a teenage boy attempts to take a selfie with a gun pointed to his head and mistakenly clicks the gun instead of the camera, pfft, I don’t even know what to say to that. He survived though. There have been news of more tragic endings and we shake our head when we hear them. Still, do we heed them?

Oh well.. let’s just have a laugh because it is after all, a laughing matter.. Seriously.

There’s a lesson here somewhere. What do you think?

❤ This totally made my day! Even the guys helping her seem to be smiling.

That moment you realized all hope is lost.. Sorry, dear. 😦

This lady. Unbelievable! lol

It’s okay, mom! My friends think it’s cool!

Bathroom selfie. #classic Yes, we’re still friends even after this. hehe

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Shaping Up in Sydney

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Before, 230lbs. Now, 145lbs.

So here’s how I lost about 20 pounds during a month long holiday in Sydney. Now the above photo didn’t all happen there (obviously) but a chunk of it did. Weight loss and vacations are usually not synonymous but I was determined to win the battle of the bulge on my quest to fitness:

 

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Man oh Manly!

Coastal Walks
See the sights and exercise with no real effort. Sydney offers several walks, Balmoral-Chowder Bay, Bondi-Bronte and my fave Spit-Manly which is 10km for your ass! The beautiful views will not allow you to feel tired.

 

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The traditional Aussie star. I just had to..

Trek to the Blue Mountains
There’s something mystical about the allure of this place. Serene albeit flocked by tourists. Still, one can easily get lost here. Literally and figuratively.

 

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You know from this photo that it was one helluva night!

Pub Crawl
Sure you’re gonna be drinking but at least you’re walking. That’s got to count for something. Not only that, calories are shed off by dancing the night away with fun, slightly crazy strangers.

 

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This one was actually in Melbourne

Free Walking Tour
Blessed be the cheery people with the green, ‘I’m Free’ shirt. They do several guided tours of the city for no charge. Well you can give a tip out of the goodness of your heart of course. For tourists on a budget and considering how expensive Sydney is, this is a perfect activity! They also give free tours in Melbourne.

 

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Bondi 007

Surf!
Don’t know how? Not a problem! Manly offers quality surf lessons. Sure you’ll wipe out more than you can stand. But just paddling to get through the waves will leave you feeling like you spent an entire day at the gym. Bondi is also ideal.. Free beach wifi and surfer dudes! Need I say more?

 

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Yeah vivid Sydney!

Climb the Harbor Bridge
Ei, save the best for last. This was one of the highlights of my trip. If not for the 1,000+ steps you have to take to reach the top, the adrenalin coursing through your veins will definitely keep your heart pumping. That’s good workout in my book. 😉

 

Voila! Keep in mind that it still boils down to the fact that weight loss can be achieved with proper exercise and right diet. Sydney groceries and markets offer excellent produce! One just have to make good choices. Hope I inspire. Tell you what, the reaction of my friends and family when I got back.. Priceless!!!

 

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Travelling solo but never alone!

Just a Trip! A Trip in a Trip in Baler

Me: “I’m bored, let’s surf in Baler!”

Buddy 1: “Sure, I’ll bring my friend and go.”

You don't need magic to disappear. All you need is a destination.

You don’t need magic to disappear. All you need is a destination.

That was how our trip started. Our destination had been selected: Baler, Aurora, a province nestled in the Sierra Mountains region that is 6 hours from Manila known for surfing. With sheer will and gusto, we eagerly went to the Genesis bus station in Cubao at around 10:00 in the evening only to find that what we should have gotten was a reservation. So much for gusto! Because we’re riding a coach/ sleeper bus, seats are limited and the only availability was for the 2:30am trip. What can we do? Drink to pass the time away, of course! Relaxed, sleepy and tipsy, we laid down our lazyboy chairs and slept. He who shall not be named threw up outside, inside, all over the bus’ toilet. We were ready for Baler in the morning!

Me: “Where the f are the waves?”

Buddy 2: “Don’t know. So what do you want to do?” 

Buddy 1: “We can rent a bike and go around.”

And that was how another trip started. We coordinated with some locals and borrowed their personal motorbikes for the day at P500 each. First thing’s first, we stopped by the tourist center to ask for a map and spots to visit.

Mapping out our route. The highlights are places of interest.

Mapping out our route. The highlights are places of interest.

Hair in the wind, dust in our cheeks, we rode across our motorcycles towards the open road and into the sunset. Wait, what? Sorry I got carried away. But seriously, there is another side to this lush verdant countryside that tourists often overlook.

  • Walking around the beach, we stumbled upon a lighthouse. We found a path behind trees and some rocks and then climbed to reach it.
How do we go up there?

How do we go up there?

Right behind ya, buddy!

Right behind ya, buddy!

View from the lighthouse

View from the lighthouse

  • We took a dip in the beach and found a cave with lots of crabs crawling on the side and fish that jump on rocks and walk. I’ll say that again, there are fish that jump and walk. I kid you not!
  • Diguisit Falls was the perfect destination after the beach. Nothing beats cool, fresh water!

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  • We literally went off the beaten track by venturing across rice fields and drove amidst a sea of greens. 
I'm afraid this photo doesn't do justice to how beautiful the view was

I’m afraid this photo doesn’t do the place justice.

  • Curios cats that we were, we went farther into the woods, trekked a bit and stumbled upon this hanging bridge made of rope, (chicken) wires, and rust complete with holes and some planks that measly mend the gaps. It was one scary crossing!
We call this The Shitty Bridge Crossing

We call this The Shitty Bridge Crossing.

  • We then stumbled upon a group of locals jumping off a cliff. Crazy cats that we were, we went ahead gave it a go. All I remember is that this place is by the river, behind rice paddies. :/

So that’s Baler from our perspective. No waves. No surf. But with plenty of adventure!IMG_8409

Not all who wander are lost!

Not all who wander are lost!

Pico de Loro: A Quick Peek at the Peak of the Beak

*excuse the profanities, the following is written during a morning hangover*

Antsy. Restless. Eager. Anticipating. These were just some of the things I was feeling. What it is really is wanderlust. In order to satisfy such craving (for lack of a better term), we decided on a quick getaway that’s close to our city, Manila.

Just 2 hours away by bus, we headed to the province of Ternate, Cavite at 2 fucking AM then took a trike up Magnetic Hill, the jump off point to Pico. After registration at the DENR (Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources) and paying just P20, off we went at 4:30 fucking AM. The reward? You get to see sunrise from the mountains.

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The view gets better at the top!

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After getting a little bit lost, we reached the base camp, set up our tent, slept and then drank beer. Give me a break! We’re still yet to climb the summit and the infamous monolith.

Here’s a sneak peek on how to climb that beak:

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Not that I’m recommending it, but it really was easier to reach with red horse in your system. It also helps you get over the fact that if you slip or lose your grip, you’re a goner. Alcohol in your system can also lessen your inhibitions in doing your business behind bushes. NO bathroom facilities whatsoever. Zero. Nada. Nein. Zip. Trust me, one night is more than enough at Pico de Loro. Imodium can only get you so far!

We decided on doing a traverse. What’s that you say? It’s basically, going over to the other side of a mountain. Why the hell didn’t I just say that?! Because saying traverse is so much cooler, that’s why!

Heading towards Nasugbu, Batangas is quicker but more difficult. There are steep areas that post a challenge especially when it rains.

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Do yourself a favor and hire a guide for 3 excellent reasons; 1) It will save you from getting lost because there are plenty of trails 2) he’ll help in carrying your bag 3) you can help another person earn a living. All these for the incredibly low price of P300-500. But wait, there’s more. You’re guide can climb some mango trees along the way and give you a bunch.

We then took a trike to a Nasugbu resort (take your pick) and relaxed. I didn’t realize that a simple shower can be that amazing! Then we headed back to the city, hyperactivity disorder satisfied!

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Anawangin, the Fun Way

at the summit of Mt. Pandaquit overlooking our destination

First off, there are two ways to reach Anawangin, a beach cove/ campground that abounds in forest pines. There’s the easy way and the hard way. Where on earth is Anawangin? Believe it or not, this paradise is just a 5-hr bus ride from Manila, via Olongapo or Iba, Zambales.

The Easy Way – Upon asking the bus driver to drop you off at San Antonio town proper, take a tricycle to Pandaquit and then hire a boatman to take you to Anawangin. This takes just around 30 minutes and voila! you’re ready to camp.

Just around the river bend!

Just around the river bend!

But where’s the fun in that? Remember that scene in Pocahontas when she was choosing which river route to take? This is kind of like that. Our group chose the challenging, unpredictable trail in the spirit of adventure!

The Hard Fun Way – TREK over Mt. Pandaquit towards Anawangin! Arrange for a boatman to ferry your heavy stuff and meet you there at the campsite. You may ask him to pick you up too which will only cost you P1500 (up to 6 people) in total. While you’re at it order water/ food supply and other essentials like cookware. In our case, our essentials were a cooler of ice and 2 cases of Red Horse beer. 😉

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Research will tell you that the trek is fairly moderate. Well, it is… if you’re physically fit! The terrain is steep, rocky and could be difficult to navigate without a guide. At first, we didn’t even want a guide but didn’t have a choice because it is a requirement. Thank goodness for that or we’d probably be lost in the mountains by now.

beautiful pines

The allure of Anawangin is not just in the mysterious origins of the verdant pines but in being close to nature and going back to basics. Don’t expect any resorts and restaurants, rather a few locals running a sari-sari (convenience) store. Heck, don’t even expect good bathroom facilities! There.Are.None.

How to Enjoy Anawangin

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  • Go with Strangers: I met my companions via the website travel buddies (I brought my bro with me to be safe, okay?) and luckily they’re good company since we’re all very laid back. It’s rare that strangers who were thrown together gel so well. We had great laughs — from accidentally eating somebody else’s food to passing out on the beach!
  • Bring lots of Booze: We made sure we were well supplied with beer, gin, rum and jagermeister.

men are here, get wood, build fire

  • Channel Your Inner Boyscout: We pitched our own tent, built our own fire and roasted marshmallows. We drew the line in singing Kumbaya.
  • Meet other Campers: Mingle! Mingle! Get to know other people and offer them a drink or two. Pinoys are generally well mannered and friendly, they’d be happy to party with you too.

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  • Walk and Swim to Other Parts of the Cove: There was this one side of the beach which we took the effort to swim to and it was well worth it. We spent an afternoon with the beach just all to ourselves. The sand there is also whiter and finer. It’s much better if you have reef shoes because the path is rocky. This is also why other campers just prefer staying on the main beach.
  • Rent a Shisha: There is a “disco” on one side of the camp every night. While it is okay to dance and party there, it is much more cost efficient to bring your own drinks and play your own music. A unique offering they have is the shisha, a waterpipe with molasses-based tobacco. We rented it for just P1000 the entire night.. and shared it with the new people we met! A very good ice breaker.
  • Relax: Just enjoy the isolation! There is no cellular signal. Forget about wi-fi. Nobody will bother you. Focus on the art of doing nothing.

 

yeah, my toe nail died from the trek

yeah, my toe nail died from the trek

 

 

Calamian Expedition: Channeling G.I. Jane

Over Kayangin Lake

At exactly 0945H, we headed to Busuanga, the jump off point to Coron, Culion and islands in between better known as Calamian Group of Islands in Northern Palawan.  We  rented a boat to take us around the islands for a week with no fixed itinerary and no reservations whatsoever. Exploring was top priority. Call it surveillance if you will. I prefer to call it adventure!

On top of Mt. Tapyas

OPERATION TREK & EXPLORE

Climbing Mt. Tapyas in Coron town proper with its 750 steps (one way) under scorching heat is a sure fire way to loosen those joints. This feat prepared us for more physical exertions up ahead like the trek to Kayangan Lake. The most picturesque spot in all of Calamian is found on the way to Kayangan. Taking a glorious dip in this brackish body of water exceeded all expectations. We’re glad to have our snorkeling gear because the rock formations underneath will leave you breathless. Most definitely worth the hike, no questions asked. Just move it, soldier!

Over the Viewdeck at Malcapuya

For daring thrill seekers and professional climbers, there is a steep terrain over limerocks at Atwayan that leads to a hidden lake. Black Island is also one of the notable islands we visited. With a just a short walk from the shore, you can enjoy a nice fresh water dip inside a cave. The water is refreshingly cold, in contrast with the temperature outside. For a more relaxing afternoon, we walked along Malcapuya Island and enjoyed the powdery white sands that rival Boracay. There’s also a small cave and view deck in the area.

kids play

OPERATION KAYAK

Like weapons to a gun boat, our boat was strapped with kayaks on the sides, armed with oars and ready for battle! So to speak. We went around several islands, the first of which was Twin Lagoon  — adjoining lagoons with two entrances: a cave-like entry way tunnel filled with oyster shells that shimmer like chandelier when hit by a sun and via the open water. We went in the former and out the latter.

Kayaking near the mangroves around Bugol (meaning no hair) Uno and Dos was as fun as walking along the sandbars, up until the security at Two Seasons tell you to move away from their property. Like they own the water?! Hmmpf. Kayaking around Calumbuyan is much more highly recommended! Notice how I said much, more and highly? It’s that much! Going clockwise around the island is relaxing since it will enable you to drift if you position your kayak sideways. With a few snacks in tow, sit back and watch mangroves and bird life while schools of little fish occasionally jump around you. Circumventing back is another story though. Because tides from Sulu Sea and South China Sea meet in Calumbuyan, that current will give you a challenge. Be careful, lest you end up like me dangling from the boat while my cousin struggles to keep us from drifting away.

OPERATION SNORKEL

Luckily, our boat operator is also the contact of Marine Biologists in the area so the guy knows the best sites.

  • Skeleton Reef – home to millions of hungry fish that expect you to hold out some bread for them. It is the only place in Calamian where people are allowed to interact with marine life this way. There is also a small wreck on site.
  • Banana Island –  no banana plants, it was named after the shape apparently. Just a short swim from the shore, you’ll be hypnotized watching schools of fish that seem to swim in synchrony with some invisible music. We also spotted an octopus, squid and lion fish here.
  • Bugor Marine Park – the name says it all! Used for research, there is a good variety of fish in this area. Docking in the middle of the sea is also cool! Lots of puffer fish around.
  • Calumbuyan – the beach front may not be much but wait ’til you snorkel! As I’ve mentioned, the currents from two seas meet here thereby bringing double doses of minerals. With a good mix of corals and fish, it’s the best snorkeling site by far even if a lot were damaged by typhoon Haiyan.
  • Pass Island – if you want a sample of how clam farming looks like, there is a small collection of giant clams just near the shore. Do not poke them if you like your fingers!

map of wreck dive sites

 OPERATION SCUBA

What better place to discover scuba diving than Coron? There are several WWII Japanese gunboats around Sangat and the best dive crew around. Jojo gives discount but you didn’t hear it from me! For my first ever intro dive, we visited the site of a subhunter and got to about 9 meters.

DEBRIEFING

A DIY Calamian Expedition is not that hard to do. It is more affordable than joining tour groups and it allows you to spend your time as you like it. Communication with your boatman is crucial since he will also be your tour guide and cook. For supplies, we bought fresh goods enough for 3 days in Coron and made a stop in the town of Culion to resupply. Bring lots and lots and lots of drinking water, sunblock and mosquito repellent. Do not leave your things unattended while on the islands unless you want monkeys eating your toiletries. Have plenty of cash with you because each, yes EACH AND EVERY island charges entrance fee ranging from P100-200 and (ridiculous) overnight rates of P300-1000 PER PERSON! There are no ATMs outside Coron.

military chic

After sleeping on sand and basic nipa huts for most of the week, staying in Sangat Island Dive Resort felt like staying at a five star resort. The service here is no doubt the best anywhere. The staff are friendly, attentive and willing to cater to some of our whims like requesting for crispy bacon for breakfast. With delectable full board meals and a villa by the caves on the side of a mountain (Lambingan Villa) in a secluded beach, this was the perfect cap off to our expedition!

lambingan villa private beach

Our own private paradise!

Our own private paradise!

OVERVIEW (w/entrance fee or overnight charge PER PERSON)

Day 1
arrival in Coron (overnight at Sunz en Coron for P3500/2 pax)
Mt. Tapyas

Day 2
Kawangin Lake – P200
Skeleton Reef – P100
Twin Lagoon – P200
Atwayan – P500 (negotiated P300) we slept on our sleeping bags on the bench and table of an open nipa hut

Day 3
Bugol Uno & Bugol Dos – P100
Banana Island – P700 (negotiated P500) slept on our sleeping bag in a slightly better open nipa hut

Day 4
Malcapuya Island – P200
Culion Island (had to spend the night at an inn for P200/pax due to heavy rain, at least they served simple breakfast)

Day 5
Bugor Marine Park (not open to public, coordinated in advanced)
Calumbuyan – P150
Pass Island – P1000 (negotiated P500-700) slept in a nipa hut with the provided beddings

Day 6
South Key – P100-200
North Key – P100-200
Black Island – P200
Sangat Island – negotiated $115/ person for full board overnight stay at Lambingan Villa
The open shower was glorious!

Day 7
Relax at Sangat
Headed back to Coron Town and off to Manila

Boracay and the Drunkeness before, during and after

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Finishing that bottle of Jack was a bad idea! But I forgot that 3 shots ago. Buying a mind you, 1-way ticket to Boracay was also a bad idea. But I also forgot that while taking said shots. Oh well. Might as well drink (some more)! Boracay, the ultimate party island! A refuge for young and weary urbanites looking for a “spring break”. Like wine with cheese, beer with pizza, Bora goes well with cocktails. Here are some parings:

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Long Island and Happy Hour Right after having an awesome ribs lunch at I Love Hawaiian BBQ, head to Sur at Station 1 for buy one take one cocktails. Go ahead and order the Long Island. With a dash of rum, gin, vodka and tequila, it’s magic! Get yourself a sun lounger, relax. Nothing will bother you after downing your first set. Who cares if it’s 2pm? You’re on vacation. That’s your new mantra.

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Tequila Sunrise at Sunset Forget watching sunsets by the shore, you’ve done that one too many times. Gather your buddies and hire a paraw (outrigger sail boat) instead. Prep some drinks before heading out. San Miguel, check. Emperador light, check. Mix some orange juice, tequila (of course!) and grenadine with lots of ice and you’ve got yourself a tequila sunrise. Happiness, check!

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Adios Motherfucker and Cliff Diving Juice Bar’s signature mix, the Adios, lives up to its name! Take my word for it. I’ve seen one too many beautiful disasters over this fucker. It will give you courage to dance on table tops and it’ll make you believe you can conquer that 40-ft cliff at Ariel’s Point.

Beware the Pink Panther  Convince yourself you want a quiet night and just lounge at White House. Ask the waiter what’s good to drink and he’ll recommend the Pink Panther. Girly, pink, looks like a slushie so you think it’s harmless. It’s sweet and delicious, perfect for hot summer nights! You order another round.. and another.. and another. Next thing you know, you’re waking up the morning after with a “wtf” expression! Drink it in stride. You have been warned.

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Mojitos and Chori Burger Want the best mojitos on the island? It’s at the Two Seasons. That lime minty sweet concoction is a guaranteed thirst quencher! The acidity might make your stomach churn though so might as well grab some spicy chori burger with it. Extra sauce, manong!

The infamous 15 Shots and Lessons Learned Various techniques may be tried to conquer these bad boys. You can try half now/half later, the 5-5-5, or just straight them all up. Doesn’t matter, same results. Even if Cocomangas has lost its luster, the shots are still ummm, worth a shot. Here’s what we learned: bragging rights, having your name plate on the wall and that free shirt is worth it, nesting a hangover on the trip to Kalibo is not! Cheers!

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