Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category


The Calayan islands: Chasing a Humpy Tale

In Adventure,Culture,Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Landscapes,People,Photography,Portraits,Travel on August 8, 2009 by ayshey

Bigger Fish

I got back fifteen days ago from a wonderful but exhausting trip to Aparri up north in the province of Cagayan Valley. We also ventured into the un-touristy areas of Camiguin and Calayan Islands–both part of the Babuyan Islands. In fact, the Philippine maps are wrong when they refer to these islands as the Babuyan islands when in fact, they are the Calayan Islands. I should look into this again soon just so I can be more firm about my facts.

We left the bedlam of a Florida bus station in Espana at 10:30 in the evening. We were waiting for H  who was late–should I say, again? But she arrived in time and we then settled back into our nice Super deluxe seats. J had the misfortune of being seated next to a hyperactive little boy who wanted to befriend everyone that night. The Holy Week season always sends stressed-out people from Manila into the places we call “provinces”. And so  the bus rolled out of Manila and into the highway to the North.

It was the usual gang of R,C, J,H and myself. R had this brilliant idea of looking into these islands that no one seems to know much about. She asked someone from her Makati office if anyone knew of the area where the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) volunteers had sighted the humpback whales, where they do research. Looking back now, I think R wasn’t really into the humpbacks really–and there was no promise that we would see any since it was already April and they usually come around the Philippine waters in February and March. The idea was just to check out the islands because we have never been there before  and it was a “let’s just see what the place has to offer”. I think that was the attitude. That was good enough for all of us.

Canon G10 performs

I had a Japanese dinner with N and T –it was almost their birthdays, these photographer friends of mine. And then Wena arrived with her brand new Canon G10 and there was a short lecture on how she can maximize her camera while on her Tibetan trip–yeah, this was  another adventurous Pinay friend who will be traveling on her own to China. It’s a trip i would also like to do. But that’s for another time.

We arrived in Aparri at noon the next day. We went straight to St Patrick’s Hotel. We got this idea of staying at this hotel in Aparri from a guy we met on the  bus. He seemed to be the team leader of a group of backpackers. St. Patrick’s was reasonably priced and it was AC! Aparri was terribly hot and any cool air was welcome. That evening, we bought our supplies for the next few days. We also bought lunch and bottles of water for our boat trip to Camiguin, our first island for the trip. We enjoyed  the sweet custard cakes at Criselda’s. Later,we  decided to buy big plastic bags at the market  to protect  our food supplies and our backpacks when we cross the big blue sea the next day. R had to work so she went to a nearby cyber cafe. The rest of us went back to the hotel to repack our stuff and to take our much needed showers. Wake up call the next day was at 4am but we put our alarms at 3:30am. Geeze.


Next morning, while our bodies wanted us to continue lying in, it was Day 1 of our journey to a place /places we had never been before. We gathered our packs and struggled down to the main lobby with our  plastic bags of  food ( vegetables,red and white eggs,canned goods of corned beef,sardines,a bottle of gin,etc. ). We were ferried to the pier by a white pick-up which was probably owned by one of the guests, we really didn’t ask anymore. It was 4am! The pier was dark and there were voices speaking in Tagalog. I could hear the locals saying in Ilocano that the small banca will be bringing the visitors to the bigger boat first. The rest of them will just have to wait. Hmmm. That was so Pinoy –to think of the “bisita” first before the locals. But it was the rule of the morning it seemed. We got on the small banca with our stuff. It was still dark but light was coming up soon in the distance. Then we were on the boat called The Saint Vincent. We sailed for Balatubat, Camiguin island at around 7:30am after a Coast Guard inspection. The other locals had to go down because we were too crowded. J sighed in relief. Maybe I should have too but I was too busy thinking of things to shoot, what the stories will be about.

Balatubat, Camiguin. It is the center of Camiguin island. It is also where we would be based for the rest of the days but we didn’t know that yet. We went straight to the house of Manang Awit whose husband was waiting for us. Manang Awit’s son Jun Jun helped us with our stuff as we got down the smaller boat to land on Camiguin. Manang Awit’s house was the usual base for WWF volunteers, we learned later. It had a kitchen,a bathroom, rooms and beds and plenty of water. It was also near the beach where we spent much time playing around with our cameras. It had  great sunsets too.

Camiguin is just like any island town in the Philippine archipelago. There were rice paddies, mountain vistas,a water falls (Tappao Falls), and a fiesta.We arrived on the day of their fiesta. We did not go out to check  the action later that night. We were tired and had agreed to go to Calayan island the next day after R talked to the boat captain…After lunch, we ventured out to the   settled down and made our beds on designated areas of the house we were in. Our food that night was vegetables and adobo

After lunch, we ventured out to the   settled down and made our beds on designated areas of the house we were in. Our food that night was vegetables and adobo

That same afternoon we arrived, we went to eat halo-halo at the nearby center of town. The fiesta mood was just beginning and the ice drop, the junk food, and other food was being sold.

I will just post pix  here so the story will be more complete. Enjoy!

Wreck 1

Wreck 2

I spent much time shooting these metal parts from some ship or other. I enjoyed the quiet time i spent on the beach. Great travel. Thank you, Ranhel for fixing this trip. Much appreciated.



Revisiting Maculot

In Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on March 11, 2008 by ayshey

On March 8, we climbed Mt Maculot. Great to be outdoors, and stretch them stressed out City legs and prepare for a major climb. It was also International Women’s day! 🙂

C, G, R and R at the summit of Mt Maculot.

Ha! Who says climbing Maculot is easy? We did–but that was a decade ago. Years after we had all done our first climbs to this mountain, we all decided to do our practice climb here last weekend . The climb was in preparation for a Madjaas climb in Antique during the coming Holy Week break. But back to Maculot–it was not an easy climb . We arrived at around 11 am at the Cuence market. The bridge that would have taken us straight to Cuenca was undergoing a major repair that’s why we got off at the Lipa crossing and then took a 20 peso jeep to Cuenca. At Cuenca market, we decided to have an early lunch. Our lunch-quite expensive for palengke rates–40 for kare-kare and 30 for a small piece of Tambacol fish, left us satisfied enough for our 5 hour climb. Then we proceeded to Mang Manuel’s Mountaineer store which was next to the traditional trail. After Chincha put on her boots and we had drank a bit of water, we set out for a trail we had not seen in years. To our surprise we saw that the trail –even if it was not the best that we could remember because then its topsoil had been eroded –looked and felt good again. It would probably take another of God’s creation moments for the topsoil to come back and make the soil rich once again ( my uneducated guess) but it was good enough for us that day. It took us about an hour and 5o minutes to get to the campsite. And the campsite now had a semi-permanent hut that served halo-halo and which also stocked gin and other alcoholic beverages. We ate halo-halo but I was thinking how I don’t exactly welcome the presence of the store there but then these days, people go to where they can earn a living. So that’s the reality of that hut being there. But I wish the campsite had been left alone. We pushed on using the trail to the summit (R, G, C,Ro and myself) and met a group of guys who were surprised that we were all girls. Huh? This is the 21st century, boys! But they were friendly and nice. We moved on and went past the usual teka-tekas while the amorseco, madjong (in Bisaya, said Chelle), or mangkit and kulutan ( according to G ) clung to some of our daypacks and our trekking clothes. It was about 2 in the afternoon when we reached the summit. We wanted to go down the grotto side so we took a trail that took us down. The trail was wild with tropical flora but manageabale enough for us. Once in a while, we would consult each other on the right trail to take. Mostly we would look to R and C who had been to this trail more times than any of us. We reached a solid wall with a thick blue nylon rope dangling down its side. Now, for a test of our flexibility, agility and our fear of heights! When we all got down the second wall, we took a ten minute break so we could eat and replenish our lost energy. It was almost 4pm. When we got to the grotto area, we saw that the locals had preparations underway. There were huts and tables and chairs for those who would bother to climb up to the grotto to pray during Holy Week. At 5pm, we got down to the paved road. We had traveresed Maculot via the Grotto trail. We saw a lone tricycle waiting for passengers at the corner near the school. The tricycle driver’s name, we learned later on, was Vic Lunar. He was really nice because he brought us to his parents home when we asked him if he knew of a place where we could wash up. His brother was the bgy. captain in Bgy Pinagkaisahan. Mabait pa rin ang mga tao sa probinsya, sabi ni Ro. Oo nga. Kaya nung oras na ng bayaran, and he only asked for ten pesos from each of us, we paid him double for his trouble. He was very happy. We got down and almost missed the right way to the highway where a jeep would bring us to Lipa and the bus terminal. We saw a wooden bridge that was steep enough to make us ache all over again. Sakit ah. But it got us out of Cuenca faster than if we had gone back to the jeeps near the market. Aray, the muscles were clenched and tensed up after our city living! Going up the wooden steps, we saw the group of guys who we had met up at the summit. I would remember that Mang Orly, their leader, had said that climbing up mountains was his “beerhouse”, his only vice. G found it a nice comparison. We laughed and had a noisy banter inside the jeep on our way to Lipa. When we got down at Lipa, they moved off to eat, we presumed, and we climbed up the bus bound for Cubao. It was a nice dayhike, like always.


Pico de Loro

In Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on February 13, 2008 by ayshey

At 4:25am, I called Dollar taxi to pick me up on Feb 10, a Sunday. I got to Chincha’s condo in Makati at exactly 5am. Wow. On the dot daw ako, sabi ni Chincha. And breakfast was ready. Sarap. There was paksiw na bangus( yup–that was our breakfast food), sinangag,vegies,and tinola. Chincha and I ate ahead of Ranhel who arrived about 1o minutes after I did. It was a good start for the day. Thanks ,Chincha!

We walked down to the street on Burgos ( the red light district of Makati) as the day was just beginning. I looked at the passing images and just seeing the women on the street reminded me of Olongapo. One girl was talking in earnest to an Arab-looking man, another girl was seated on the pavement with her head bowed as though in prayer–or was she just getting her head cleared after the alcohol of last night , two girls in spaghetti tops were walking together on the same side of the street as us, and one young woman was just getting into a cab wearing a sexy top and skintight jeans. But that Sunday was for Pico de Loro–which Ranhel and I had never been to. Chincha has been there many times.

We took a cab to Baclaran. We got down on Roxas Boulevard and waited for a bus. The day grew brighter and Baclaran was just waking up. We rode a bus that had a big Maragondon sign on its windshield. It was AC. Yahoo! The fare was 60 pesos. The conductor said it would be an hour before we would get to Maragondon. Chincha reviewed her text messages from Ernest 2k1 who is from Maragondon. Looks like we should get down at the Caltex station. We sat back as the bus rolled past the Coastal Mall. Earlier, I saw that Dampa -the fresh seafood resto on that strip was now gone. Its nipa hut structure was a brown mess where it had stood years ago when we first had great dinners there with some mountaineer buddies. Long ago. So ang tagal na pala. Alongside were also huts on stilts plus the black sand and muddy environement–not a pretty site. It looks like the fishing is now dead in this area? Chincha said she wouldn’t eat tahong that was from Cavite. Me too! Then as we went in to Cavite’s other towns, I saw the piles of garbage that seemed to be on each corner. Where was that famous actor from here? What has he done for Cavite? Why all the trash? It didn’t make Cavite all that attractive to any visitor, yes but what about the ones who live here? As we got to the interior of Cavite and things became more rural–ricefields were aplenty and there was no more garbage. This is the Cavite we wanted to see! It was good to finally get down at Maragondon. The tricycle guy -Mang Jun charged us 250p to get to the Magnetic field highway where we would begin out trek. Chincha said we should go to DENR for registration but as we sped along, we decided just to go to the jump off and start trekking. Our trek began at 8:20am. The trail seemed old with tree roots all over the uphill climb. We all agreed the trail was friendly and gave an aura of welcome.

Once on the Pico trail, we started to recall past climbs–like we always do when we are together. We then reached the junction where 2 signs were posted–To the Falls and To Pico. We chose to go and check out the falls. It was a short walk from the junction to the falls. We also passed some climbers who were just beginning to wake up. Some were having a morning drink and returned our greetings. We went down the slightly steep path to the Falls and saw a nice enough -though not impressive Falls that had a small spout of water falling on the bigger pool below. It was not grand but it seemed clean,at least. We sat down to eat as Chincha brought out her Swiss knife and sliced opened our crunchy papaya ( cost us 20 pesos–mura sya ha ) . About twenty minutes later, more people arrived and seemed prepared to jump into the leaf-strewn pool of the small Falls. We got up to go.

We reached the summit at 12 noon after we ate our lunch of adobong chicken and rice. We bought this meal from the store just before we went up Magnetic Highway. Then we climbed up the peak overlooking a 360 degree view of the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas area–it was quite awesome! And to think we were in Cavite! I had not thought such a view could be had from a place so near the chaos of Manila! Cavite gained a good place in this blog because it didn’t disappoint us–we had finally climbed Pico de Loro.
While sightseeing on top of Pico, we met a group of trekkers. Their leader was Alex, someone who had been to a previous Pinatubo climb with Ranhel. And they were going to traverse Pico to go out to Nasugbu! Woohoo! That was really lucky for us. We joined the group of Alex and also climbed up the famed Parrot’s Beak even if the way up there seemed impossible! We made it. using available ropes and Alex’s encouraging words. Wow. The view was grand! When we got down, we followed Alex and his team and got out to the Nasugbu side. On the highway, Alex talked to two locals from Bgy Papaya. They got a jeep for us. We payed 900p and we were 8 people. Considering there were no jeeps plying the route at that time, we were happy to board the jeep. We didn’t need to walk all the way down the concrete highway to the bus station. We stopped at Bgy Papaya which was also close to the site which the SM Properties had just bought for development. I wondered where the barangay would go if development starts at full blast in this area. Ranhel experienced her usual headache when the heat gets too much. She drank coke but still had to sleep all the way to Manila as we rode a nice Eagle bus. We left Nasugbu at 6pm and arrived in Manila at 9pm. We were too tired to eat. Good climb, girls!


How Grey was your Adventure? A Pinatubo Story

In Adventure,Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on December 12, 2006 by ayshey Tagged:

At the unholy hour of 3am, Jette and I were woken up by Sally’s call from her cellular phone. I imagined her saying “Jette,we’re here at Pasay Victory terminal na…”. Jette confirmed it as I stood up from the floor bed where I was camped for the night at Jette’s cute apartment. It was time to go meet the rest for Pinatubo adventure. I gathered my things,went to the bathroom and changed into my outdoor clothes. In a few minutes, I had stuffed ziplocked cooked rice into our packs. Jette, the team leader of our adventure, and myself- the photographer were ready to go. We took a cab to the bus terminal and met the rest of the 35 plus trekkers for this Pinatubo dayhike which we had organized. With the cool air and raindrops sliding down our backpacks , I felt the adventure already begin.

At Victory Liner Pasay terminal, many of Jette’s friends had already arrived. Edsel, Alex and Dennis who are some of my photo friends were there toting their camera bags. The atmosphere was one of excitement. But it was drizzling and I was a bit unsure about the weather. Heia, our co-organizer who had called Mang Edwin (the 4×4 jeep driver) the night before said everything was fine and that it wasn’t raining in the Pinatubo area . Again, Heia, wanting to make sure that heavy rain wasn’t pouring in the morning of our adventure, called Mang Edwin from the Victory Liner station just to check. It was 3:30 am. Again, the answer was satisfactory. So, we piled into the Victory Liner bus and got comfortable. Identification cards were distributed just so people would at least get acquainted. I noticed many corporate types (forgive the term-I was one too) in the participants and concluded that people from the city really needed to get away from the concrete jungle once in a while. I hoped the day would be magical for us all.

Philip,Leander,Riza,Clinton in Dau.We arrived in Dau at exactly 6 am. The 4×4 jeeps were all ready and waiting for us. After a quick briefing from team leader Jette for the transpo assignments, we also had to announce a delay because the group’s lunch had not yet arrived. It was in a separate car driven by our friend Roskie who was also our cook. The delay turned into an hour. By then, I was fidgeting and impatient with the turn of events even if Chincha, our fourth co-organizer and food preparation head was in that car with Roskie. People were naturally wondering what had happened. We found out later that the food folks had gotten lost and took the route to Mabalacat and ended up in Santa Ines. Geeze. So that was not a good thing. X mark for us, you might say.

Our 4×4 driver Mang Minyong had to gas up and so we drove off to Petron together with Mang Edwin,the head driver. But minutes after driving off ahead of us, we saw that Mang Edwin had parked on the side of the road and was on his cellphone. He had just received word that two 4×4 jeeps that had gone ahead to Pinatubo with foreign guests were asked to turn back by the Philippine Airforce. Whaaaaaaaaat? Darn. What now?

Jette talks to the Major. Jette, who was on another vehicle had to be informed about the events.Then she asked to talk to the Airforce guy who was in command. Communication was choppy. In the end, when we saw the skies turning a nice light yellow on the east, we thought it best to just proceed to the Pinatubo hot springs at least. There we could probably negotiate for a positive response to our request to climb Pinatubo. We did throw the idea of going to JEST in Subic as an alternative plan just in case we wouldn’t get past the Airforce command. But Pinatubo was the reason we were all together that Sunday and maybe we could persuade the guy who was in charge of the Pinatubo area.

We all drove to a barangay that was closest to the Airforce Major’s headquarters. Jette and Roskie were tasked to go and negotiate with the major. After an hour, they came back and said we had been allowed but up to a certain area only. The skies were still grey and gloomy and so were some of the faces that I could see from the open 4×4 windows. I had already scratched out the blue skies and green water pictures from my mind. I was thinking that maybe the landscapes would be better in black and white.

We drove on again past carabaos grazing in the field, Aeta families walking to and from their homes with the children grinning at us from the road, and a landscape of wide rivers,lahar sand and slight jagged mountains that were the beginning of the Pinatubo terrain. As I gazed out of the 4×4 jeep, I remembered trekking the Pinatubo trail via Zambales a few years ago. That trek was not as wide nor as lonely as the vista we were now seeing.

I guess I think it’s lonely because you notice how a person can simply be a small dot on the horizon in a landscape like that.

The rest of the land is stamped clear as Mother Nature’s turf.

At a certain place called Durungawin,we were met by 3 Airforce personnel who had feared that we would ignore their command and just drive on. Their detachment was just nearby. From there, they raidioed their headquarters and said that we had arrived and were just looking around. Many of the would-be trekkers got down from their 4x4s and brought out their cameras and walked around to see what the place was about. I felt heavy disappointment in my heart. This was an unexpected situation. The 4×4 drivers had driven guests before under worst weather. If it was just drizzling, why must we be kept from climbing to the crater?

A few hours later—after playing in the lahar sand, we came back to the Airforce detachment which was next to an Aeta village and met the man who had asked us not to proceed to Pinatubo. His name was Major “Hellboy”. Major “Hellboy” announced that we are not allowed to climb Pinatubo. Well, why not,Major Hellboy?…I don’t need to ask the reason why he is called that. Anyway, he explained that there were students who had been rescued a few weeks ago and that took a lot of effort on their part. I guess, in other words, he didn’t want to do the same thing for a bunch of Manila tourists who were raring to go up the volcano. Bad trip, I thought! In the Philippines, the military have a way of lording it over even the local government units. And that’s an understatement. There’s also this certain view of things emanating from a particular mindset–maybe from their barracks environment, perhaps? But that’s another issue altogether…Sigh.

We ate Roskie’s menu of delicious chicken adobo, steamed vegetables, ensaladang talong,grilled porkchops (which was supposed to have been the surprise dinner for everybody), and fried bangus. There was enough food for all and the military personnel got to eat too plus the untouched food were given to the Aeta families in the village.

Although the sight of the Aeta families peeping at us from their huts also made me think. The Aetas there live in the barest minimum possible

After lunch, when everyone seemed to have had a fill, Jette announced that instant coffee would be available. We brought out the Salazar goodies of brownies, choclate cupcakes and other breads. Those that had a sweet tooth made a beeline for the sweets. In dire situations like that, instant coffee could be gold. Maybe because it was cooked mountaineer-style on an MSR stove?

Then it was time to visit Tambo Lake, which was formed after the Pinatubo eruption. It was a 45-minute drive from where we were through the same rough terrain. The Tambo Lake was suggested as a small way to make up for not being able to get up to the Pinatubo crater. And it is usually bypassed during normal Pinatubo treks by the DOT or the local tourism unit.So, it was a good chance to see it. Even with the grey weather still hovering above us, it was a nice treat to see a freshwater lake in the vicinity. Normally, I’d already be splashing about or swimming and having fun in a lake like that on a bright f16 day. But not that day . So we all wandered around with our cameras. I photographed some local women fishing. Then there were Aeta families just standing around near us. They had their children with them. But there was not much time to linger and get to know them.Maybe I could document their life near the world-famous volcano sometime.

After Tambo lake, we all got in the 4x4s again and headed for the Victory Bus terminal in Dau, Pampanga. It was back to the city, to the reality of a Manila life of jobs, bosses, deadlines, traffic, smog, business concerns, email, mind-deadening television, and the general routine of the weekend warrior. But we had plans of coming back to reach the Pinatubo goal next time. Maybe it will be blue skies and green crater lake water by then.