Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Napantao Skwad

Pip, Nathan, Angus, Lester (me), Lois, Felipe, Leo, Aarron and Sarah!

Its been a two-digit number of days since I left as a local scholar for the Coral Cay Conservation in Napantao Reef in Southern Leyte, Philippines. The adjustment to come back to the outside world was tougher than expected as I had to right away prepare to finish my Masters at SouthWestern Uni and capping off summer for artschool in  UP-Cebu for the Fine Arts degree.  But who am I kidding? I just simply miss all the fun, friendship,  and learning in that remote area. Like most of the volunteers, we just didn’t want all of it to end. But the busy streets of Cebu and familiar papers for Uni beckons me to write at least a descent public post beyond my private journal. I owe CCC that much, so here’s my experience!

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Illegal boating on our off-day Sunday! (c) Leo Willis

I applied to become a local scholar for CCC last February and was fortunate to get selected for the July 19 expedition. But I got moved for the June expedition, which is a real blessing. I knew of Coral Cay for years as an international NGO operating  in Sogod Bay in my home province of Southern Leyte. But I never got the wind to apply or check them out. Until I injured my knee late in 2015 that keep me out of running races and pushed me to rehabilitate through freediving. I fell madly in love with the sea. Since the then I left my job in finance, pursued fine arts and and made tough decisions in life but one thing I got right was spending a month in Napantao to learn the way of the scuba and the sweet science of the seas.

I soon learned Coral Cay in Napantao isnt just about a Europeans’ avenue for research and tropical holidays. Volunteers and staff, Europeans or Filipinos, are there to make a difference to the local community and learning the skills and knowledge necessary to protect the sea. They trained their volunteers and local scholars to have the capacity to collect data underwater that will be used for scientific papers and commendations to set up marine protected areas and other form of legislation. I felt honored to be a local scholar who happens to be one of the direct stockholders of what CCC stands for in the Bay.

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SDP! SDP!

There are two major training each volunteers and local scholars must undergo before doing the actual ‘data collection’ in surveys: learning to dive and learning  the science of the sea. It’s one week of scuba diving course up to Advance Open Water. Then two weeks of  Skill Development Program (SDP!) that includes lectures, exams and underwater validation.  And one week for surveys (you’ll be very proud to be very familiar about fishes, corals, substrates, invertebrates and survey methodologies). I struggled in some part of the training and  I’m not going to throw away excuses that I do have zero background in marine biology nor the fact that I went full 7 years of dumb-ing down my brain in the industry before coming back to Uni.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn for free and I can proudly say “Hey I gave my best and I actually survived it all!” Beers. Beers. Beers.

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The Aarron and Leo Tag Team. (c) Pip Roe

By the end of our first week of the expedition I was the only Filipino left after my fellow scholar Janine of SLSU and Lucas the Filipino volunteer left for valid reasons. So I was the lone Pinoy on the dinner table during the entire time. I wont lie it was scary at first thinking how I’d survive living with the British-heavy European population on the base. Will they accept and treat me like equal? Can I communicate well enough to them? Will I be discriminated on my own bay? But these thoughts are really silly man. Its borderline inappropriate. Everyone from Staff to Volunteers made sure everybody belong and no one left behind (no matter how dumb we are in SDP). My spoken English skills greatly improved thanks to all the long talks and silly jokes we do everyday. Its really different talking to native English speakers than speaking English in a university or office settings. There is no better words I can put this but I have nothing but the highest regards to these Western folks.

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But in Coral Cay fashion, learning about the seas is just one part of the package, the other part is: learning each others’ cultures. Sure we have very very different cultures, educational backgrounds, experiences, and even age gaps but every one treats everybody as family. My favorite part of the base beside doing chores is the dinner table not just for the great meals, but its the area where we can exchange our thoughts, daily plans, ideas and, most importantly, jokes. Their British humor is really divine. There, I adapted to use fork and knife to eat, Filipino uses spoon and fork, or sometimes by hands. I ate less rice but more veggies. I also learn that there’s are several British accents (Asians worship the James Bond accent), I’m most fond of Lois’ Kent accent and dreaded Leo’s faster Bristol version (and I’m closest to the latter volunteer). I’m not sure if they learned from me but I did answered any curiosities they have about the Filipino culture. If they don’t like something about my culture especially corrupt politics and sweet-and-oily culinary, I always blame it to the Spanish colonization. And Felipe, our dear Project Scientist, is Spanish.  LOL.

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A month is such a cruel short time to squeeze in everything at Coral Cay. We are always on a hurry rushing out to meet the day’s dive and daily plans. With two dives a day one mush have a tough mind to survive the grind. There’s always something to do the whole day from the 7am breakfast to the 7pm fellowship dinner. Our personal time mostly comes at night which are spent on reading books, studying, joking around or just chilling at the porch over a bottle of beer. No TV, no Newspaper and shitty internet connection. Life at its simplest best.

It was also a month friendship. I didn’t really have much chances before to meet friends from Europe. Now I have 11 new friends from UK, Spain and Belgium! It was a close atmosphere and I’m thankful for the mutual respect and acceptance. That is what makes really hard to say goodbye to those folks (even if I live just on the opposite corner of the Bay). Those were my brothers and sisters for a brief period of time. Those mural paintings I made at the base, it was a Thank You love letter for all of them. I havent told anyone. But as long as those painting are there I really hope our friendship and learning will last a lifetime.

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Going beyond my Coral Cay sojourn, I’m a better  artist and a nature conscious person now. I’ll just focus my resources and projects about conservation. Its my new niche. But the most important thing I gained here is the awakened passion to protect not just my Sogod Bay but the entire seas. I hope I can really make an impact on my creative pursuits. Its true I put on a massive effort to present art plates last semester centered about marine conservation, but after Coral Cay I’m doing that full time with more conviction and wiser in the ways of the sea. It will be an exciting year ahead  in art school.

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Back to outside world, it looks like everyone is going back to school this year starting this August with me at UP-Cebu. Leo’s on his last year for his degree in Wildlife Conservation. Lois and Pip (my scuba instructor) will take their masters in Marine Biology. Sigh. Will I behold such beauties again? Angus will take on his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering. Nathan will finish his research on jellyfish for his dissertation after teaching SDP  the rest of the year. Felipe would likely pursue his doctorate. Sarah our SDP fairy god-person is back teaching. Aaron will make a terrific dad and hopefully an exciting new career. And Ben I dont he owes me P1000 for a wicked watercolor frame.

It was damn good month. Now let’s get on with our lives. Salamat Napantao. Salamat Coral Cay!

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Salamat sa pagbasa!

 

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Despite the unrelenting summer heat there are places on Earth where rain never ceases to fall. One of them is in a gorge at the municipality of Libagon in Southern Leyte. The place is called the Uwan-uwanan Gorge (‘uwan’ means rain in the dialect, and a ‘gorge’ is like a mini-Grand Canyon) named after the place’s enchanting quality of making rain-like experience from  fresh water dropping from above the cliffs. Rain literally last forever here. And that alone is one damn good reason to visit!

I’ve been to the Uwan-uwanan Gorge three years ago. However, I did not explore the whole area because we were in a big group and we just love to enjoy the place. This weekend, however, me and my life-long pal Ramil Melano who is on a summer vacation from Manila, decided to check out the ‘rumored’ exhilarating challenge the place offers. We had no idea what challenge we were really up against…

Reminders:

Uwan-uwanan is no walk in the park. It’s ‘canyoneering’ one of the most dangerous (and painful) summer adventure you’ll ever experience. It’s best to bring the following appropriate stuff: Comfortable or compression clothing. Durable Islander sandals or aqua/trail shoes. Helmets and vests are not provided but I really recommend to Challengers to bring their own (see below photo). Foods, lunch is good but you’ll need light carbohydrates rich foods. Water tumblers (water is fresh there). Money for the tour guides at P250 each, and environmental fees at P10. GoPro or any action cams (make sure it wont get wet). Dry bags are a must to store the stuff you don’t want to get wet. And lastly a huge dose of spirit of adventure!

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The Uwan-uwanan Challenge!

The challenge turned out to be an epic adventures filled with bruises, busted muscles, death-defying climbs, but ultimately rewarding with drop-dead gorgeous scenes. It’s a challenge unlike any others we experienced before. For a quick statistics its a four kilometer trek from the starting point to the grand finale, you get to become  frenemies with five waterfalls (yes five!),  climb on four of them,  cliff jump on three and we finished the challenge in 5+ hours. Uwan-uwanan Challenge is definitely not for the faint hearted and the weak. It was survival at its core. So #buwisbuhay mode on and GoPro out!

First Challenge: The Trek – Like almost all journeys it always starts with a single stride repeated a million times. From the starting area at the Brgy. Kawayan, Libagon the challengers must walk a 2-3 kilometer trail of rough roads, bushes, and river crossings. There’s no elevation gains and the river crossings are not a problem.  It’s only  foreplay, the easiest part of the challenge. Survival rate is 100%.

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Second Challenge: Hodor – As of this writing we already learned of the meaning of ‘Hodor’ in Game of Thrones, so there’s no proper way to name this small but very meaningful part of the challenge. After the long trek the challengers will see in a river bank and on its wall are the words “Welcome Uwan-uwanan Gorge”. It basically means Welcome to the main challenge you idiots! This is the passageway to suffering and fun. It is highly recommended to take selfies and full body group shots  in this area (while you’re still whole and fresh and innocent bwahaha). Hold the door and take your selfies.

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Third Challenge: Aqua Extremis – By the time you came out of Hodor only then you’ll realize what kind of challenge you have signed in for: a wet and wild adventure date with nature. And its real. From here on out the trek is purely a long and dangerous climb. Every inch of your body will be wet, every strides are potentially dangerous, every muscle of your body pulled out and yes every climb is non-negotiable! Remember this is a five-waterfall challenge with increasing climbing difficulty  and we ain’t got choppers. So man up and hold the door este the ropes.

WaterFall #1 – The first one’s the easiest one to climb. Just a mere 20 feet with ropes and old tires in the right side of the falls to maneuver. Just a left-foot up, right-foot up then push, and you’re there! After conquering this fall you’ll immediately see the second waterfall and a perfect resting place.

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WaterFall #2 – Let it be known that by the time the Challengers get to this point, chances are people are hungry and tired. At the bank of this waterfall is flat surface where everyone can relax and eat. The water is cold and deep, so swim to your heart’s desires!

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To climb this waterfall, the challengers must maneuver at the right side of the fall’s rocky wall. There are ropes tied like nets or spider webs so climbing should be a bit of a challenge ala Spider-man. But make sure to hold on to the ropes and not look down haha. Once you get over this part, remember This is the point of no turning back.

WaterFall #3 – Now this particular waterfall is a thing of beauty to behold… and a stuff of nightmare when you realize that YOU HAVE TO CLIMB THAT BIG BAD THINGY. To be honest I froze like a white-walker when I saw and analyzed my predicament. Yes its a beautiful body of water, quite high, at least 50 feet but then how in the world will I find the courage to climb it? To climb it using the spider ropes and old tires is definitely nuts. Under normal circumstances that is already beyond my fear threshold, but hey I got a willing soul in Ram.  And besides a group of four (three girls and a guy) was already ahead of  us and climbing it. So what the heck. Kat-kat!

This particular climb is absolutely one of the craziest thing I’ve done in my life. It just that scary and having no helmet, vest or climbing gears doesn’t help ease out the misery. Pro tip: just trust your feet. Make sure to step securely on the ropes in every strides. And savor that moment when you reached the top! High five!

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WaterFall #4 – This one looks noticeably smaller than #3 but make no mistake this is one tough waterfall to climb. In terms of climbing difficulty, this one is the hardest part of the Uwan-uwanan Challenge. Like WF#3, your life and success depends on the spider ropes. This time you are facing against the falling waters. Out there it’s Man vs Wild (vs The Ropes). What makes this climb difficult is not the height but on how you pull yourself to the top. The ropes are difficult to climb in because it tends to dance sideways and backwards. Balance has never been this precious. The Challengers must be ready to drain the living souls of their upper body muscles. They must climb with a strong arm and a strong pair of legs. May the Force be with them. Because me, I almost gave up on this one. Too tough, too hard, too tired. I guess it comes in handy to have pride and determination.

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WaterFall #5 – The Hallelujah Waterfall – after the punishing waterfalls in #3 and #4 behold this awesome sight, the Grand Finale! A grand waterfall probably at least a 100ft high that not even a camera can handle its beauty and grace. This is exactly what you came for. Just being there is a trophy moment already. No more climbing, only swimming, selfies and praises to up above. The Challengers must pay their respect and surrender theme selves to nature’s awesome beauty and raise their hands. Hallelujah.

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This is what the goPro can take. A good shot. But the real thing is divine!

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and we met new friends at the gorge finale!

(Note: The guides say there’s still a waterfall beyond, but sadly it’s not for tourists to climb, yet)

Fourth Challenge: Cliff Jump – When the Challengers have their energies refilled and selfies taken at the grand finale they must trace back the exact route towards the starting line. But home is still a long road ahead. Folks we’re not out of the woods, er rivers, yet.  And going downstairs might be faster but it doesn’t necessarily mean easier. Climbing down the waterfalls is actually scary because you can see how high you’re at and how far is your katagakan. But I have one pro tip to offer: cliff jump! All of the waterfalls packed in deep waters below. So jumping is a must try! I jumped at WFs at #4, #3 and #2! Jumping is an exhilarating and liberating experience to let go of the recent painful memories and celebrate thy conquests. And its way faster and more badass. (I almost give our tourguide a heart attack in every jump)

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from 2013. Last weekend I jumped more and higher!

End Game

Now that everything has been said and done it is very important to preserve and promote the Uwan-uwanan Gorge. I know its not going to be for everyone because of its physical requirements but for a Challenger to another please come, test yourself, and have a GoPro worthy good time. You will be challenged, and you will have fun. That I can promise.

There’s still a lot to be done in the area. The Libagon LGU must step in to promote by inviting travel bloggers (*coughs*), instagramers, prints and TV crews etc to take the Challenge.  That’s the easy part. The hard part is developing the area.  Challengers must register and be provided with safety gears. Safety ladders or tighter ropes should be installed in the climbing parts. Of course that entail costs, that’s why its the hard part.

But despite the inherent danger, nobody ever got seriously hurt in the area. Like, never, as what our guide Glenn Toledo assured us. Maybe the guides are good (which they are, so pay them good too), or perhaps in the recess of our civilization, someone or something is looking after the Challengers and the place. I did not have the courage to ask the guides, but Uwan-uwanan is really off-the-charts ‘enchanted’. It’s hard to explain, but I felt there is something beautiful, kind and paranormal in the area. But that’s for another discussion. Whatever it is I am grateful.

Peace Y'all!

Peace Y’all!

How to get there:

The Uwan Gorge is located in Brgy. Kawayan in the town of Libagon, Southern Leyte.

By Air: It can be reached from Manila through a flight to Tacloban City. Then from Tacloban hop in a van to the town of Sogod at P150. Travel time is 2.5 hours.  Then from Sogod hop in a multi-cab or a bus going to Libagon, make sure to ask the driver to drop off at Brgy. Kawayan Elementary School. You should reach the village in 20 mins.

By Sea: From Cebu you may take a ship to Hilongos, Leyte. Then from the Hilongos Port ride a bus to Sogod for an hour’s travel for P80. Then from Sogod catch a multi-cab to Brgy. Kawayan, Libagon.

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My colleague loves the saying ‘the best treasures on Earth are hiding in plain sight’. I knew he meant about some girls I should be dating. At 28, people really want to marry off, but I’m not the marrying type. I have to endure the pleasure of being single guilt of skipping past candidates a bit longer.  TBH I prefer travelling, reading and painting more than dating a person. But hey, it’s summer I believe there’s always something to discover and there is something definitely hiding on plain sight I wantto share. It’s not a girl, it’s an island – the great Limasawa Island.

Limasawa, now an island municipality in Southern Leyte province, was the place believed to be where the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan landed and held the First Mass in Asia en route to discovering the Philippine archipelago in March 1521. The conquistador might have loved the island port then called ‘Masua’ that he decided to rest his Spanish fleet to recuperate. There’s some serious history in that island. Unfortunately, in present time, there’s still a big chunk of our youth here in Southern Leyte who has never visited Limasawa Island. Just at the mere mention of big waves and tales of sunken boats, people are discouraged to go there. They are missing a lot about nature, adventure and their cultural heritage. This time it’s really the destination not the journey that matters.

A painting of the First Mass at Limasawa  by Carlos “Botong” Francisco

A painting of the First Mass at Limasawa
by Carlos “Botong” Francisco

I’ve been in the island a few times before. The first one was a mandatory one-day pilgrimage during college – a Religion subject. The second one I was out of breath because I literally run the whole island! My latest one was a soul-searching adventure. I wasn’t just looking for a place to cool down; I was looking for myself and perhaps a reason to write again… #deep

I live three towns away from the Padre Burgos port going to Limasawa Island, so I was confident to I’ll catch the 9 AM boat trip only to find out that they changed the departure time to 8:30am. I had to wait until 1pm for the next trip! With the free hours, I was able to visit Tangkaan Beach a few kilometers from the port. It’s my first time to visit that beach and was surprised to see white sand beach and rock formations. The place is so peaceful I painted there To pass the time off.

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We boarded the lantsa towards the coast of Limasawa right after lunch. The boat was carrying my motorcycle, some thirty other passengers and crates of Coca-cola! After an hour’s crossing I saw the familiar cliff the overlooking lighthouse. A sparkling white beach greeted us upon landing at the port. And that moment, I knew I’m in for an adventure.

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Kings' Landing Limasawa

Kings’ Landing Limasawa

Accommodation

I immediately went to my home stay near the Triana port at the residence of Annilyn Billiones. She is a workmate of my college classmate and the island’s Municipal accountant Eldie Laurejas Jr. They have a nice house with comfortable rooms with the basic amenities at a much cheaper cost of P200 per night. There are actually two resorts in the island. One is Dakdak Resort at Brgy. Lugsungan and the newly established Evashore Resort very near the Triana port. The resorts are beyond my budget but for tourists but these are the go-to places to stay. Each have front beaches in their lawn from each sides of the island. Dakdak on the west, Evashore on the east. More details at the end. But here’s an un-updated 2014 map on my moleskin.

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Totoy-totoy

After settling in my bag I looked for Eldie to deliver my pre-loved watercolor materials and to ask for directions to the hill called ‘Totoy-totoy’ that overlooks the whole island. He gave me confusing landmarks and alternative routes which I have zero idea about. So Plan B was to blend in and go local.

One thing every tourist should do in the island is to meet and befriend the locals. People in Limasawa are gentle and friendly, and they won’t mind walking the extra mile (or hill) to help. It happened that afternoon when I asked one local fellow and the next thing I know I have 6 local kids as my tour guides to  Totoy-totoy hill! I’m grateful for their hospitality, really. We climb immediately the nearest hill and told me they are taking the ‘shortest’ and safest route. However, they didn’t tell me the degree of difficulty of the route and the steep elevation the climb. Look, I’m no stranger to trails and hiking hills but they made me look like an amateur. They are fast climbers as if they’re just walking on a flat road. And I’m like, “Can we stop here again?” Under the burning afternoon heat, we finally arrived at the summit. The kids all look fresh and I was drained the living soul out of me. But the view there is nothing short of spectacular! Totally worth the pain (and humiliation).

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And the kids be like, let’s party party at the top!

This kids knows how to party. High na high at Totoy-totoy. #limasawa #summer

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We climbed down fast and furious because halo-halo is waiting. My threat for them!

Limasawa Sunset

It was a fun to have the kids around even after we devoured our halo-halo. We decided cool down at the nearest resort to try out their new stand-up paddle and kayak. The rent for stand-up surf board is at P150/hour, the kayak at P250. We chose the former. I haven’t swam in a while so it was vindicating and refreshing to be back in my element. The stand up paddling is actually easy and definitely a new experience. I used to see tourists in Boracay riding those but never considered renting one. While we dive and swam our hearts out, the sun gloriously set in the West.

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Dinner Time.

The last time I was in Limasawa I had a hard time looking for dinner. Fortunately this time Evashore Resort now operates their restaurant for the tourists for lunch and dinner! Dinner is always a great time to catch up with old friends and Eldie was game for the food trip. We talked about art, our profession and our plans this year. I kind of ordered too much food for both of us. Blame the low prices!  The must try menu are their Limasawa Express, Shrimp Sinigang and mango shakes. And oh, don’t forget their wicked special halo-halo!

Sunrise in Magallanes

We have to remind ourselves about the historical significance of Limasawa Island, we’re talking about the cradle of our nation and the Catholic faith. I’ve already visited the place whenever I’m there. But I must admit I went to the island in search for summer adventures. It is the part of the island where Magellan landed, made friends with the locals, and most importantly held the First Mass in Asia in 1521. Though up to this day, the exact location of the mass is still claimed and debated by other provinces.

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After running in the shores of Dakdak resort in Brgy. Lugsungan I decided to go to Brgy. Magallanes for my morning exercise at the ground of the Shrine of the First mass. When I got there, I saw some improvements in the area. There is now a replica of ancient Masua house, improved landscapes and finally a local historian even on a Sunday morning. The area houses a Parish, the actual Shrine of the First Mass, a wishing well and the punishing climb to the replica of  theCross that Ferdinand Magellan put there to commemorate that event. There were other tourists staying in Dakdak resort who are enjoying the views of the place.

Limasawa v Butuan

Most importantly, I met sir Sam Galvez who is the caretaker and local historian of the area. I even found out the he once studied in my hometown’s agricultural college with my father. He’s quite the energetic guide and always game to entertain us of tales about the place. I believe I must get those history books from the cabinet and dive deep to the 1500’s.

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with Mr. Samuel Galvez

Mr. Galvez told me about the recent visit of the Butuan congresswoman bullying her way  into the island claiming that her province is the rightful claimant of the first mass. Mr. Galvez however was able to explain and hold them off, based on his knowledge of the chronicles of Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s expedition scholar. Limasawa is safe for now, but for how many years has this debate been going on? As much as we need to defend Limasawa, it is also our obligation to revisit and learn our history.

(I found Butuan’s claim does not make sense since Pigafetta clearly stated they docked in an island, and Butuan is part of huge Mindanao area)

Lighthouse

I had to skip breakfast because I overstayed at the shrine because I cant resist intellectual and historical conversations. Lol. My next destination was the Limasawa lighthouse that I mentioned earlier. The cliff and the valley are located up north in Brgy. San Agustin is one of the most photogenic aerial view of the island. The high cliffs in the area are quite a high drop, but sea below is crystal clear. Please don’t jump there. There’s not much there than bushes and solar panels near the lighthouse but it’s like a metaphor on life: we see bushes and boring problems in life below but if on a bird’s eye-view above our lives are so much beautiful than we give credit.

I met kids in the area and told me they were going to dive for fishes. In their hands are ‘pana’ or long fishing rods to catch fish and they wore wetsuits.  I had to resist temptation of diving with them since I brought my phone.  Hopefully next time I could bring a goPro to document their hunt!

Hidden Beach

One thing I love about Limasawa is that there’s always something new to discover in the island. It’s only lately that I realized I accidentally discovered the hidden Bitoon Beach two years ago when I got lost on the road finding the lighthouse two years ago. To get there one must trek a rocky trail and unpaved roads. It’s exciting and the beach is quite a catch! I swam like a kid and dived in the blue waters. I heard there’s a fish sanctuary a kilometer away but I still saw some coral and school of fishes in Bitoon.  As a far as my count goes I’ve been to three really good beaches of Limasawa: the one in Triana, the one in DakDak resort and Bitoon beach.

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Uncharted territories

My two-day stay was almost done when I came out of Bitoon. It’s a really quick visit but that is how my vacation always goes. There’s still a few places I haven’t been to like the Fish Sanctuary and diving spots, the underwater caves, the ancient clams in some hills, the pagatpat area and I haven’t eaten their famous ‘swake’ (sea urchin paste) and ‘buwad nukos’ (dried squid). Another activity that I should do next time is to rent a boat and go island hopping. I heard there are whaleshark and dolphin sightings now and then, so crossing fingers!

Tourism Promises

The problem with the current powers that be of the province of Southern Leyte province is that they are focusing so much in developing the tourist spots in Maasin City when we have an island paradise hiding in plain sight. Millions are spent developing the Danao Eco Park that also houses the Maasin Zoo. Roads were built to get there, and landscaping took a big chunk of the budget too. But people only go there during jamborees. However, after visiting the island, I believe there’s a clear and present need to talk seriously about Limasawa Island. One is it’s history and one for its tourism promise.

It’s the election season and I hope whoever sits in the Capitol will pay close attention to Limasawa. The destination is there for the taking but the main problem is how to attract tourists there. There’s marketing works to do. The historical claims must be decided once and for all.  The roads must be repaired and completed. The government must strive to attract investors to put up resorts there. And sadly, the island only has electricity from 1pm to 1am (an improvement from the 5pm-1am before). Hopefully these problems will be addressed in the coming years.

With a heavy heart I left the island after lunch. Two days of stay in paradise is just isn’t enough. So much to explore, so much to see. For my mission, I believe I was able to spend time with myself to ponder on my future. I decided to pursue something I should have fought for a decade ago. They said no man is an island, but it took an entire island to find the man that I should be. Limasawa with its beauty and soul-searching power is a paradise worth fight for. And as far as cliché goes, I shall return!

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Seascape in Dakdak Resort

How to get there:

By air:
– Book a morning flight from Manila to Tacloban City. (Tacloban airport only caters flight from Manila and Cebu).
– From the airport go directly to Abucay terminal via motorcycle or jeep.
– Ride the V-hire or Van for Maasin City. The price is around P150-200. Travel time is 2 hours
– From Maasin City terminal, ride a bus or a multicab for the town of Padre Burgos.  Fare is usually P50-70. Travel time is 20-30minutes. Makes sure to drop off at the port, not on the Municipal grounds.
– Ride the ‘lantsa’ or passenger boat to Limasawa island. There are daily trips to the island at 8:30am and 1:00pm. I’m not sure about special boat trips. Travel time is 1 hour. Fare is P50 only

By sea: (especially if you’re from Cebu)
– ride a night trip to Hilongos, Leyte at Pier 3.  Shipping lines like Roble Shipping and Gabisan departs at 9am and arrives in between 3Am to 4:30Am. Fares starts at P250-400 depending on accommodation type.
– from the Hilongos Pier, you must ride the boat service buses going to Maasin City, or ask for the buses that goes directly to Padre Burgos (via Maasin). Travel time is 1hour+. Fare is P70-90.
– Once in Padre Burgos, ride the ‘lantsa’ or passenger boat to Limasawa island.  daily trips to the island are at 8:30am and 1:00pm. Travel time is 1 hour. Fare is P50.

 

Where to Stay:

Dakdak Resort – Contact numbers 0915-520-3660 and 0906-642-6868. I am not sure about the price range but it’s definitely P1,000+ minimum. They have huts and room accommodations.

Evashore Resort – Contact number 0917-874-1302. Price of rooms are P2,000 good for 6 persons.  You may visit their facebook account here:

Billiones Residence – (where I stayed) Contact number 09169261266. They have rooms for accommodation at P200 per head a night.

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There was another reason I visited Davao other than running the Milo Marathon. I went shopping. For art materials.

I’m a Cebu guy and I’m completely aware of the art materials available in the market (or the pure lack of it). National Bookstore are now madly in love with Best Buy brushes, Best Buy paints, Best Buy everything made in China. Gone are the days of Sakura, Winsor & Newton, Lyra and other names that most budding would look for after getting past the beginner level. We can’t level up on Made In China alone. Our only realistic option is to buy whatever is available online or go to Manila’s art shops to hoard. Yes this is an artist’s rant paragraph.

But Davao City’s Morning Light Art Gallery and Shop erased my frustrations. I instantly fell in love with the place. The brands, the wide options, the price range and warm people. Why go to Manila when Davao got you covered?  It’s practically a one-stop shop for every artists’ needs. They have a lot of selections for many mediums in art be it in watercolors, acrylics, oils, pencils, charcoals and etc. Let’s just say that I did got everything I needed and purchased a few items to experiment with.

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I’m not going to elaborate on the brands but they have entry-level to artist grade materials. Their people will assist your needs amigo. They have a wide range of brushes and I certainly found my first ever liner brush (yes! Finally after 3 years already) and the versatile dagger brush. I’ve juggled watercolors and acrylics lately so I am happy on the selections paints they have for these mediums. I specifically bought a travel-friendly Sakura Koi 18 watercolor kit to upgrade my Prang and Reeves. For acrylics, again, I went to the Sakura brand. There were a lot of color to choose from but for starters I settled for the three primary color tubes. I bled for 65 pages of Canson watercolour papers, something Cebu desperately lacks. Here’s my spoils of war:

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The medal is not included. Earn that one next year fellas! from top to right: a bowl of gesso, 3 Sakura primary colors and tube of model wax (for textures), 65 pages of Canson watercolor papers, Sakura koi 18 (must-try!), postcard watercolor papers (for Christmas gifts), 1 liner brush, 1 dagger brush, and a block of canvas bind like a sketchpad (I want another block of this!).

 

New toys. Canvas be ready!

New toys. Canvas be ready!

And I didn’t really spent a fortune out there. Believe it or not I spent below P2,500. Way below my budget. I’m no businessman but I know costing and market price analysis (haler!). The prices are spectacularly lower than those sold in the bookstores (if they are stocking at all). My siblings are lucky I brought them pasalubong.

To be honest the real highlight of Morning Light is not just about the art supplies but it’s more about the very nice people behind the shop. It was a great pleasure to to talk and chat lengthily with the owner, Maam Miyen Lim. We really talked specially on the business side of the shop because I told her about the prices if they are for real. It’s a family business but more of a passion project for a family of artists. It’s not a financially rewarding business because of the high overhead cost and they don’t put too much mark up on the materials. So a Cebu branch is not on the horizon, yet, but sa #TamangPanahon. But in return, it’s good for the soul to give Mindanao artists the access to good materials for their crafts and for others to try Art as a new hobby. They want to keep it as affordable as they can.. “so that art students don’t have to starve and skip their lunch just to buy art materials“. It was a cool conversation and I really opened up to her about the struggles of having a career in finance and a passion for art. There’s an overwhelming goodwill in this place. And I’m a lucky guy to have visited it.

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It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the art materials but one must not forget that the place is a gallery. And these are just beautiful artworks from Maam Miyen and her husband. The expressive surreal kind! That’s my actually goal  in acrylics painting (I should apply to this shop hehe)

The Morning Light Art Gallery and Shop opens every Monday to Saturday during mall time. But it’s not located on a mall (yet) but in Marfori Heights in Davao City. Quick tip: just grab a taxi. I was not the only out-of-towner out there because there was other girls who came all the way from Cotabato City for the same artistic reason I have. It’s that popular, dinadayo talaga for all the good reasons. Definitely, Morning Light is a must-visit place in Davao. You can check their facebook page here.

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Hello! I’m back now. And I guess I owe you guys an apology for being out for so long . Let’s just say I have a bit of a year-long soul-searching. Still got a lot of decision to make but we will get there. I need your prayers. But I kind of miss writing and sharing parts of my life so I needed to write this one down.

This weekend I was in Davao for the Milo Marathon Davao leg. This is actually my second trip to Davao this year because I attended a week-long convention out there last summer. I had a great time in the city and fell in love with her charm so it did not take another soul-searching to decide when to go back. As soon as Milo published the 2015 Regional eliminations schedule I booked a flight for Davao. It fell in the very day  Yolanda visited the country 2 years ago.

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Last Summer!

Let me be honest, I trained the wrong way. Yes, I’m under-trained that’s a given because one has to pay for the trip and survive. But I focused on the speed part of training. I did not have any long runs at all in the months leading up to the race. I only took some 4k and 6k on the road whenever I can get out of office in the afternoon. Most of the time I ramp up my speed so I can get to work sooner at night. And it’s all in flat cement roads.. just like all the Milos I’ve joined. I only have to let my youth and adrenaline carry me through 21 kilometers in Davao.

Idiot.

race route

Come’s race weekend. Imagine my surprise when I learned (the day before the race) that the organizers of the Davao leg actually changed their route for this year. Gone are the flat course and hello uphills! By 4:30am at SM Lanang they fired the gun start and off we, the brave 300-something runners, attacked that punishing course. It was a relatively smaller headcount than I expected but by the seventh kilometer I knew the reason why. It really is a tough uphill-heavy course.

So for a happy-go-lucky tourist and not-so-trained runner what are the odds of surviving finishing 21 kilometers of rolling roads under the mandatory 2 hours and 30 minutes cut-off? I’d say it was pretty slim, or as they call it an uphill battle. By the time I traversed the first uphill portion my legs were already starting to fail. My body is simply just tired. What caused this premature breakdown? Ah the whole week I was lacking in sleep due to overtime and travel times days before the race.

photo from: (c) Wilmer Mostrales

Look at that elevation gain. Sheyt. Photos from: (c) Wilmer Mostrales.

I could have just quit right there and surrender.  But hey did I just traveled all the way from Southern Leyte to become a quitter? What kind of face will I show to my family? To the Yolanda survivors commemorating today? Somehow I need to survive this fatigue and this goddamn uphill course.

So I budgetted my time and decided to just enjoy the race. I’m lucky I can still run at all. It’s a 21 kilometer course and I have exactly 150 mins to complete it to take home the bling. So I have to run each K at a pace of at least 7 minutes/km. I know that’s slow by most standards but I cant afford to go overboard with those crazy hills all throughout.

I run the flats, jog-walk the climb, and steamroll on the descent. Drink in every station. Eat bananas sparingly. Sip half-a-GU gel for every 7 kilometers. Check the GPS to make sure I don’t go above the 7 pace. And by all means never ever stop. And believe it or not. I finished it two (2) minutes before cut-off!! #happy #survivor

Only shot I had of the race. Blurry but happy!

Only shot I had of the race. Blurry but happy! (c) Jun Guerrero

I am happy I made it. Thank you Lord! But the most important thing is truly enjoyed the race. Yes it was painful and tough but it was very rewarding. I finally saw the bliss Davao runners are blessed to have: Beautiful city, clean air, disciplined people and a working local government. Most cities are lucky to have one of those. I want to live in a city like that. Ultimately my reason to run in Davao is to give thanks to this  city that helped Leyte a lot after Yolanda. I was a volunteer too that time and I saw first-hand how much Davao offered to the affected communities. Gratitude, that is how I commemorated Yolanda.

I even wore a Milo Marathon singlet as volunter in Tacloban. And a lot of Davaoenios were there too.

November 2013. I even wore a Milo Marathon singlet as a volunter in Tacloban. And a lot of volunteers from Davao were there too.

Thank you Davao and congratulations to the organizers of the fantastic race! You guys just crafted a masterpiece, preserve that course so people like us will go there for the challenge. And special mention to my good friend sir Jun Guerrero for the warm hospitality and friendship. Congrats on your fifth Milo Marathon medal and yes, dozens more to come!

Breakfast of Champions/survivors.

Breakfast of Champions/survivors.

June 23, 2016

To my 21 year-old self,

It’s kind of weird writing to you but hey this is like a scene of Days of Future Past! So where were we six years ago? Ah you just graduated from college and you’re in CPAR Manila for your review! I’m so jealous of you because you’re so full of life, carefree of all the pressures in life and surrounded by friends; the old and the new ones. Please do send my regards to the Power Rangers and to your manyakis roommates at Room 205 in Glodenco Dormitory… I miss those guys! (Isama mo na rin sila Jean, Jen at Ginny..hehe). Don’t worry in my timeline all your friends are doing very well in the profession and we’re still friends!

I read your journal entries during those years and I remembered you really didn’t have much of a summer vacation at all. You stayed in the boarding house right after graduation to devote in studying subjects for the board exams, all summer long. You did not even come home to celebrate you psychotic idiot! That was our summers in college; full of sacrifices, eternal studies and perseverance because you want to become a CPA. Or is it because you want to go to Manila to see her? Hey you just went out with her right? Four years in business school all for that one fateful night with her… was it worth it? Hhmm, universe happened and it’s the last for the two of you and colorful people like cartoon characters will come pouring into your life. (She was hot and gorgeous though, then you fade away)

It gave you a new appreciation for The Smiths.

(c) popsugar.com

Well I have news for you, you will fall in love with a movie called “(500) Days of Summer” it should come out in a few months (btw don’t ask Jean, watch it with the boys instead!). But here’s the thing, the next few summers ahead of you will be, well, uneventful. It’s work, work, work. That’s why I’m writing to you that I finally got to experience a decent summer where I got to do the following stuffs:

1. TRAVEL – well, in between our timelines there’s going to be a lot of traveling on the road. I think you haven’t discovered the joy of travelling yet. But it’s in you because you were born to explore: you are young, hungry, brave and an adventurous bastard. I will not tell where I’ve been to all these years because you have to explore and experience it yourself. But I cant contain myself but to indulge you to two of the many places I’ve been to this past summer:

a. Davao City – Hurrah! I finally managed to visit Davao because I attended a convention, as to what sector I cant tell because you’d probably freak out. Just promise me you’ll stay focus and committed in your review and God will do the rest. I finally met Mayor Duterte, he still runs the city and still kickass than ever! The place was beautiful and peaceful. I was able to met up with my colleagues in the profession and we explored the city. First on the list was of course the museums and I was so inspired by the art scene in Davao  and the richness of their history. I also meet a lot of people there. And we made sure to see the tourist spots.

Tabatchoy in Dabaw!! I should really plan my running route around here.

A post shared by Lester Glenn Tabada (@lapiskamay) on

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b. Dapitan City– Yup, it’s not a joke. I’ve been to that town where our beloved Dr. Jose Rizal spent the last years of his life. I retraced our greatest hero’s footsteps out there; I stood at the very spot when he went to Church, I climbed the ‘lover’s rock’, I saw the replica of his old house and the water system he installed. And would you believe me that I’m planning to visit his old place in Hong Kong? Don’t freak out. And oh boy, I got to visit the Dakak Resort which was really awesome

 

2. ART – You still have it in you. I know we decided to kill our artistic side because we failed our plan, we flunk the UPCAT where we could have took FA in Cebu as scholars. We were damned  and forced to chose the fine art of Accounting because it’s cheap, challenging, and lots of jobs opportunities. But, as they say, old habits die-hard. Through the years it’s been an on and off love affair with the Art side because it’s going to be a frustrating yet exciting journey, without a mentor I was lost, but people kept coming as they unconsciously inspired me to create. It only took one “I love your Art” to start it all, full steam ahead. I’ve taught myself some crafts from sketching, portraiture, painting in watercolors, coffee and recently acrylics on canvass. Im doing well in the Art side, I love it. And most of my stuffs are for my friends, and I never charged a dime because we’re just sharing our blessings the same way they are to us.

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And oh, do you remember that cute girl from Davao, Patricia Santos, in the Miss Palarong Pambansa you were crushing on? You really have to keep an eye on her. She’ll eventually become a popular volleybelle and hot like this:

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3. RUN – Don’t be shocked but somehow you’ll become a runner in your near future and I’ve been doing it for some time now. I believe people recognizes me more as a runner than anything (i.e. writer, artist, blogger etc). I’m not fast, but I am a strong one and with a big heart to it. Trust me the sport of running is going to explode in Manila while you are burning candles at the review. Soon you’ll be joining races for a cause starting in 5k, then 10k, 15k, to half marathons and yes, you’ll become a marathoner! And you’ll write about them and get to know many people in the running community.  This summer though I became an Ultra-marathoner and did a slow half-marathon in Matalom. You’ll realize you’re a stronger person than you thought (and more hardheaded and stubborn than you can imagine). You’ll go to places because you run. It will be a lot of fun. And oh, Bad News: you wont be able to play baseball again nyahaha (evil laugh).

 

4. DATES – Yes, you’ll be dating quite a few girls in the years to come. Be proud isa kang tunay na lalaki! But remember to respect the women you go out with the way you love and cared for your mom and you big sister. At this point in my timeline I have to be honest I am not exactly a lucky guy when it comes to matters of heart and in loving someone. This is one of the main reason I’m writing to you because I think I  made a mistake on the way we approach the subject.

After the board exam, whatever the result, you are going to ask God for a good woman to love and to spoil with your great big heart. He heard you and He will sent you someone the next day. What comes next is a great love story I’m sure I’ll be able to write into into a novel someday. But then He will take her away in a manner that will perhaps damage you, beyond repair. You wont look for love and relationship for a long time until you will  suddenly meet this really amazing lady suddenly appearing out of nowhere and at wrong time and at the wrong place. You’ll get to know her enough to realize she’s someone too precious and too fragile for me to handle. This year, including this summer, I started dating a few ladies perhaps for all the wrong reasons. I was really hoping that if I go out with other girls I’d be able to take her charms off me and that I’ll find other ‘right wrong person’ to love. It backfired anyway, it felt so bad. The charm got stronger. Now I’m ready to give her up than risk hurting her badly. I have to protect her because she does not deserve a half-baked love from a half-hearted person. Some people simply deserves more.

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This Summer I realize the finer details of my life. Yes it was really good one and very refreshing after all those years of hardwork. But somehow, somewhere in between our timelines I lost the capacity to fully love another person. I’m sorry and I don’t take pride on it. It’s either I got too selfish, too contented being alone and too in love with myself; or I learned to protect myself from another heartbreak. Or both. Let’s just accept the fact that this time our awesomeness have failed and your twenty-seven year-old self is simply Not Worth of something.

Perhaps you’ll ask me why am I saying this things to you? What’s the point since you’ll have to live every moment of it anyway? To tell you the truth, I don’t know either. I lost so much this past year my friend, even the drive to write. So please believe every word I say in this letter because they will eventually happen, the good ones and the nasty ones. I love you my dear younger self because you’re a good man with strong conviction with God (things I’m not sure applies to me nowadays),and I want you to know that I’m very proud of what you’ve achieved and the many great things you’ll accomplish in the future. I only wish to spare you from all the major heartbreaks and depressions that will come along. I can only Hope that should this letter finds you, you’ll be able to correct my mistakes and change the course of my timeline. This is how the X-men: Days of Future Past works in the movie adaptation. There’s no fvckg time machine in it (not even Cable) so I have to send this part of my consciousness and the secrets it holds. Learn from them, OK?

It makes downtown LA look romantic and beautiful.

(c) PopSugar.com

Whatever the outcome, you have to live and be of good courage!

Your twenty-seven year-old self,

Lapiskamay
(now that’s a really weird pseudo-name, isn’t it?)

All Roads Lead to Hong Kong

Posted: February 6, 2015 in Journals, Running, Travels

Hong Kong it is then, next year in 2016! I will visit one of the best cities in the world,  for film geeking, touristing and of course running a great marathon. At least that’s my goal, my dream and my next epic destination. Something sparked inside when I visit Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, like a will to explore and to  see beyond the rural landscape. I want to see Asia! I know that’s a damn cliche (at least it’s not I-wanna-see-d-world thing). This age is a great time to travel.

The plan is basically summarize on this Instagram post of mine (pls dont throw up):

I came to Singapore solely because of the Singapore Marathon, which was really awesome and tough, but then it’s something I did not dream of visiting only until the race was announced, that my sister is coming. I’m just contented with just visiting a foreign country. It was a hand-me-down travel and I’d be forever grateful to that opportunity. But Hong Kong is different..

Hong Kong, my goodness. It’s a city of legends, of things great and marvelous. I devour Asian movies for years now, especially those from this island state. As a movie lover you cant help but simply fall in love with the industry and its stars and filmmakers. For years, I secretly dream of visiting Hong Kong.

But again, my passport for going to HK is another running event. This time it’s bigger and colder than SCMS, I’m talking about the infamous Hong Kong Marathon or the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon (SCHKM). 73,000 participated in this year’s event just two weekends ago. I just got to find every damn way possible to join next year’s edition. And the reviews about the race positively raving about the beauty of the course, the cold weather, event execution and the enchanting allure city. Its the unspoken thing as the best marathon in Asia.

Back to movie stuff. Let’s admit I’m going to geek out in Hong Kong! Hahaha. I have these favorite movies from Hong Kong and I’d really love to visit the actual location where they film them. Some of the movies and the scene I’m talking are:

Infernal Affairs

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Chung King Express

In The Mood for Love

In the mood for love / In the mood for love

Game of Death. Enter the Dragon. Or any place that’s been part of Bruce Lee’s filmography. Every place.
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These movies are the first that came to my mind (and I’m already freaking out droning the exact locations haha). Expect this list to file up in the following month. Remember I treat their modern Kung Fu actors like Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and many more as gods of kung fu. Even the Batman movie The Dark Knight and James Bond film Skyfall both shot great scenes in Hong Kong. This will be fun.

Without getting into details, I’ll definitely check out the usual touristy stuffs in the travel guide for fun and compliance purposes. I’d be stoned to death if dont haha. But most importantly I’ll go visiting the area where my hero Dr. Jose Rizal lived in Hong Kong for more than a year. He even practiced ophthalmology there! So I’ll be hunting this sign (as if I haven’t droned it already haha):

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So yeah, that’s my tiny-little secret no more. All reads in 2015 definitely leads to Hong Kong. Because that’s where my dreams come to life.