Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

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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!

(c) extremedominica.com

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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Limasawa Chronicles cover

“We do swear under pain of friendship lost to never speak of this enterprise to any adult and to never betray its location or its participants and from this day forthwith to boil our own water, kill our own food, build our own shelter, and be our own men”
The King of Summer

On the pages of our childhood history books there’s an island that is said to be the cradle of the Christianity in Asia and the place where a sacred blood compact between Ferdinand Magellan and the king of Mazaua as sign of friendship. It happened more than 400 years ago in an island called Limasawa. It is located in my home province of Southern Leyte.

Limasawa is an island municipality of the province of Southern Leyte. (c) wikipedia

Fast forward to present time,  summer just came and gone already this year. To be honest I never did anything related to summer. I got busy and got stuck in a boring place somewhere. So I decided to stage an uprising to escape somewhere. And I know exactly which place it is: Limasawa Island.

There’s just so much on that island I wanted to see, stories I’ve been told, tales of big waves and mystical creatures.

The reason I want to run the whole island is pretty much because of the picture on the cover above (photo credit from Wow Philippines’ flickr page). I simply want to be on that valley on that of a high cliff. I’ve been to Limasawa before 8 years ago on a Theology subject requirement. We only visited one particular site of the island and left for the mainland that very afternoon. That wasn’t much fun. But this time around I made pretty sure I’m be the actor, scriptwriter, cinematographer and director of this cinematic solo travel adventure back to the island. Remember, this is my only shot at summer.

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Due to lack of detailed maps of the island, a friend from Limasawa drew the schematics for me. Its the best I could find. The right side is taken from my Runtastic app.

After lunch, I caught a boat found for Limasawa after visiting Maasin City to receive my second Blood Galoneers Club award for past blood donations. Yey! I already plotted the course of my adventures in Limasawa. I had my itineraries figured out the week prior. But nothing could have prepared me on what’s waiting for me in the island. It was simply amazing.

I stepped on the island around 2.30 pm in the afternoon, and after settling down on a homestay (I was not able to book on a nearby resort) the first thing I did was to immediately hit the road up north. Let us conquer the North! Sugod sa San Agustin! I hit the road rampaging  for adventure. I brought my Salomon hydration pack as my only means of survival against the heat and the uncharted roads of Limasawa.  And here’s the result of that afternoon run:

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Day 1: covered the northern part of the island on foot. It’s around 12 kilometers.

 

 

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Inita bai oui… dagan dong, dagan!

At first glance the performance indicated on the map was an OK manageable 12 kilometers of fun around the island. But if we take a closer look at the northern tip of the island, you’ll see my stupidities. Lol. (Dotted numbers are the mileage of my run) I got lost somewhere at kilometer 4.8 that by the time I reached kilometer 5 it was an all out trail run at the wrong direction!  haha

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Okay, you’ll be laughing out loud that it took me more than 2 hours and thirty minutes to run a 12 kilometer course, but I have my excuses (or palusot):
Excuse No. 1,  it was really really hot. At 3pm it was the hottest time of day in the island. I was exposed to the elements and the only prior heat training I had was.. two months ago. It was virtual suicide caps lock STUPID. But it was fun anyway 😛
Excuse No. 2: I got lost (I wondered, since the valley is on top of the cliff, why am I going down hill to the sea?). Excuse No. 3: I had fun bumping into the trails of nasty spiky rocks and climbing vines that will make Tarzan jealous.
Excuse No. 4: I got chased by dogs somewhere.
Excuse No. 5 My camera is slowing me down, blame the island’s beauty. Not me haha.

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I thought these guys are cute and warm, until they start chasing me like hell. :( Animal!

I thought these guys are cute and warm, until they start chasing me like hell.  Animal!

But at the end of Day 1 what’s important is I completed the course in one piece and made it to the valley and the cliffs! It was nice up there. There were lots of tall shrubs which were annoying sometimes and the ground is quite tricky because of limestones everywhere. But hey the views are to kill for, as long as you dont jump on the edge. Btw, its not jumpable;  too high and too fatal. I have to settle for a selfie overlooking the long drop below.  Here’s a few pics to look out for when you visit that part of the island:

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By the second day I was heading off for the lower half of the island. But unfortunately, I ran out of batteries in the middle of my run so forgive me for not giving you the complete details of this leg. The scene were scenic. Perhaps you shall discover it yourself mga idol! I started trip down south started as soon as the daylight broke out. I was heading to the white beaches baby! See the map on the south eastern part of the island, yup that’s kilometers (plural) of fine white sand beaches!

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It’s the better leg to run at with breath taking views especially the unspoiled beach front plus the added historical landmarks that made Limasawa on the World Map.  It also happens to be the more painful part. It was not as hot like the day before but the muscle pains it caused to my feet was really taking its toll.  There were killer uphills to cross to the other side of the island (I slept in Triana on the west side,  and I was running to the east side for the beach). And I was dead hungry, I ate a little for dinners and none at all for breakfast. But I persevered. from this day forthwith to boil our own water, kill our own food…

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I knew I have to get to the beach by sunrise to get to that spot, to take a picture of the scene

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From the Dakdak Resort where this picture was taken, I head to barangay Lugsungan where my college classmate and now a colleague in the public sector, Eldieflor Laurejas, lives. He’s the municipal accountant of Limasawa. He offered me breakfast. Thanks God!

Then about three kilometers away is the barangay Magallanes, home to the Magellan Shrine, the wishing Well and that infamous cross Magellan believed to have put and held the first mass in Asia 400 years ago.  But to get to the cross is a long 450 stares of uphill climbing. The stairways to heaven seemed to go on forever and my knees were picking me apart. Fortunately, I meet three boys at the top who offered me buko juice fresh from the tree! I was offered generosity in the most unlikeliest of places.

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Just up ahead of the cross come this very beautiful valley of grass that overlooks the entire island and the crystal blue seas. It was simply beautiful, the pictures just dont do justice to the beauty of the place. There are trees nearby so I gathered myself there and rested under them. I wish I could bring my friends here in the islands and experience the amazing in Limasawa. And before I knew it I began to worship with nature. It was a  Sunday.

Looking back, I’m so glad I made that solo trip to the island to train, to experience the island life and see for myself a hidden gem just waiting for others to discover. I was there, man, I was there. I love every moment of my stay in Limasawa. It’s something I’m not going to forget for a long  time.. both the great ones and the painful ones (including you doggies). I made peace with myself that I never missed Summer at all. She was after all just there waiting for me in the island, a place I can safely call a Paradise. For sure this wont be the last I’m going there, I’ll be tagging along as many friends as I can convince. I’ll do the MTB challenge next time! Because  in this island I am the King of Summer!

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HOW TO GET TO LIMASAWA: 

If you’re from Manila:
Manila to Tacloban City via Plane
Tacloban City to Maasin City –  van transpo for P220
Maasin City – Padre Burgos. You’ll arrive at the Bus terminal, then go to the buses/multicabs going to Sogod via Malitbog.  Drop off is in Padre Burgos town proper. Bus fare should be P30-40.
Padre Burgos – Limasawa Island– this time we ride a lantsa to paradise! Fare should be around P50.00.

 

If you’re from Cebu:
Cebu – Hilongos at Pier 3 ride a Roble ship around P280-400 depending sa accomodation 
Hilongos – Maasin. After arrving in Hilongos, there will be buses and shuttle services waiting sa Port (tip: pareserve daan sa barko palang). Cost around P60-70 for a 45-60minute trip to Maasin City.
Maasin City – Padre Burgos. You’ll arrive at the Bus terminal, then go to the buses/multicabs going to Sogod via Malitbog.  Drop off is in Padre Burgos town proper, and you’ll see the pier. You wont miss it. Bus fare should be P30-40.
Padre Burgos – Limasawa Island– this time we ride a lantsa to paradise! Fare should be around P50.

What I Did Last Summer

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Drawing, Journals
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If you think Summer is voer, you are wrong. You are lucky. Lucky to experience it at all. Life caught up with me, locked me in a dry place somewhere. I couldn’t get out, until now. I missed the beach, didn’t go to an island or two and almost all my plans drifted away. That’s life.

Now it’s June, tomorrow the start of classes at the University. Dark days ahead, even darker nights to deal with. I dont know I still feel lost. Perhaps I still lack a direction to follow. Would it be someone who will give me the answer? Or would it be another strange happening that led me to this path. We’ll find a way.

For now I can continue dreaming of that paradise island, to swim in its crystal blue waters, jump in its cliffs and conquer its trails.. with or without someone. I am my own show, the director of my fate, the champion of this soul.

Now let’s conquer the island! Perhaps Summer is there trapped like hell, like me.

– Lapiskamay

 

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I found this article somewhere in my facebook newsfeed. This is a reblog of the same title from a ThoughCatalog.com article written by Charm Vergara. Honestly I got blown away by its sincerity and how it captured some nerves. Beautifully well-written.  Man, it is still awesome to be  a happy and freakin’ single guy. The Dream Girl will come, but for the meantime let me be badass as I wanna be. 

1. Go on as many adventures as possible.

I hope you’re going everywhere and doing everything. Hang out with your friends. Travel a lot. See as much of the world as possible. Try as many exotic foods as you can. Climb mountains. Join Fun Runs. Go diving and skydiving. Explore this beautiful world. I hope you’re starting to check off items on your bucket list because one day, when we’re finally together, I would like to hear all about it. One day you will share all those stories with me, and maybe we’ll try to do them together too.

2. Find yourself.

I hope you’re taking time to get to know yourself. Take time analyzing what you really want to do in life. Love yourself and be strong for yourself. Some people enjoy being needed but I (know) what I like is to be wanted. You are your own person and I hope you know that you don’t need anyone to complete you. One day we will be there for each other not because we can’t live without each other but because life is much more colorful when we’re together.

3. Live your life.

I hope you’re taking risks. I hope you’re not hiding under the covers to make as few mistakes as possible. Go out and make good and bad decisions. Do not be afraid of pain or failures. They are there to make you appreciate the good things. I hope you’re as in love with life as I am. Enjoy the sweetness and bitterness of this roller coaster ride. Life is short and I don’t want you missing out on anything.

4. Take good care of yourself.

I hope you’re keeping yourself healthy and fit. Eat vegetables. Eat fruits. Hydrate. Get as much sleep as you can — more than you think you need. Exercise. Do all these for yourself and for me, and for our future kids. One day when we’re already both wrinkly, we will enjoy the senior citizen benefits together. We will play bingo and have weekly brunch with all of our children and their children. Take good care of yourself because I would like to grow old with you.

5. Pray for us.

I hope you’re praying with me every night before sleeping. I hope you’re praying for me as much as I am praying for you. Pray that we may meet. In the right place. In the right time. Because I’m hoping and praying for the same thing, too.

Cover photo taken from this cheesy named site.  The rest are stolen with the help of Google. Lol.

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It’s becoming obvious these days that ‘trail running’ is definitely the new fad in the running scene. Evidence is on my running friends’ Facebook posts, and yeah successful events like the recently concluded Runnilla Eco Challenge, the Mapawa Trail Marathon in CDO and who wouldn’t want to go to the extremes at the TNF100 in Baguio? It’s natural for Runners to get out of their comfort zones and explore new environments. Some go into multi-sports like triathlon and other cross training sports. But the one area that really got my attention is the trails; into the off-beaten paths, the mountainous area, the muddy tracks, the river treks and the crazy uphills. Thanks Gody my hometown, the Bontoc town of  Southern Leyte, offers plenty of trail options. However, the tough part is finding the trail that will capture the hearts of my running friends to go here and experience a trail on my backyard. I’ve searched far and wide and at short last, I found it!

It’s not a regular rock, it’s a gem so rare only a few souls know about it.

Funny though that I wasn’t trying to look for a good trail when I discovered the route. I was chasing waterfalls.  I saw a picture of a beautiful waterfall on the internet a few weeks back and I was surprised that the falls is located right in my very hometown! Amputa, how come I only heard of the place? I learned there are two falls out there in Brgy. Pamigsian, a remote northern village on my hometown. I thought it needs to be promoted!

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The Botong Falls and the Tag-abaka Falls Photo taken from Point and Shoot Asia, or from these guys in this video: http://vimeo.com/17456726

Me and my running buddy, Kuya Herbie Galdo (the only other marathon in town), decided to pursue Pamigsian  last March but we fell short on time, we started late and the place is just too far when we arrive in the nearby village of Hilaan. So we came back with a better game plan: go out early. It was not a regular trail run, it was an expedition to the unknown of unprecedented dangers and untouched grandeur.

From my place at the town proper we walked more than 20 kilometers off-road on foot into the interior barangays of Bontoc, Southern. I think we practically walked the entire length of my town that day. The roads are mostly dirt roads packed with broken cement roads, stony roads, muddy roads all flavored with killer uphills and constant ascent leading to God knows where. I love to train on these road sometime.  We had to make a pit stop at the Brgy. Hilaan, the second biggest barangay of the town, located up northinto the KM12 of the expedition. There we got ourselves some puto and sikwate for a quick breakfast! Yummy.

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From Hilaan we push for the remaining 8 kilometers towards the Pamigsian village one of the northernmost  places of the town. From a subtle dirt road, it suddenly became a road constantly going up and up. By the time we were in Kilometer 15, I really thought we are on top of a mountain already! The air got thinner and if there’s another sign we were at par level with the nearby mountain which looked so high already.

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Finally we saw a village up in the mountain! Party party!  It took us around four hours to reach the new village of Pamigsian.I really felt like we crossed the finish line of Cebu Marathon all over again… only it wasn’t, not even close.  We only just started. Trust me, the long trek to Pamigsian is just a foreplay, it’s completely optional (heck we could just ride a motorcycle to get there).  We immediately dived into the village and ask the locals if they know the waterfalls or know someone who can take us there. The people are friendly out there and very accommodating as if we are see some foreigners (or aliens). The tambays in the bilyaran volunteered to take us to the falls but they ended up giving us the finest of guides they can offer: Julius and Edward.

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What happens next completely blow all my expectation away!

To get to the falls from the village we have to go through an initiation set into motion by Mother Nature. To get there, one must be tested and challenged to measure one’s worth to get her treasure. Suddenly I found one of the most beautiful trails the province has to offer. The trail was long and really hard to traverse, but the experience is an absolute Eureka to a trail runner’s inner being.

The first challenge comes in the form of a mind-blowing downhill trek. The village is on a really high place and you can see the old village on the ground that looks really small. The catch is the down hill is so steep and so muddy, one misstep could mean 200 meters of rolling in pain and broken bones.

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At the foot of the hill we went through the old Pamigsian village which is surrounded by hills from the north and southern part. Right after the infamous 2005 Guinsaugon Landslide tragedy the authorities decided to relocate the entire village to that high place that we  just passed through. It was like a ghost village with ruins and empty houses, abandoned and forgotten with only wild animals roaming around.

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The next challenge is the exciting river trek! Man, I love passing through rivers. This is the point where I said to myself  “I finally found the trails I’ve been looking for!” I was really having a good time traversing and balancing myself through the rocks and waters. All the climbs, the jumps, the crawls and the occasional wipeout. I cannot wait for my running friends to experience these trails. And I’m still a long way pa.

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Perhaps the most dangerous part of the trail is the final stage of the challenges which are the ravines that leads to the area of the falls. It’s the point where we have to hang-on and crawl on for dear life on some steep cliffs near the river. It’s only around a 50 foot drop, so one miss step and a certain dose of bad luck is some serious trouble below.  We had no choice but to climb and get pass through the ravines because the river rock formation below is too high and slippery to climb (I swear to God that if ever there’s another way to the falls, I’ll take even if it means another 20 kilometer hike).

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This is the hardest and most dangerous part of the trek. This image is taken at the foot of the ravine that leads up to the falls. It’s the only one I managed (we were crawling on all fours), up there is a struggle for life and some leverage.

I guess what makes these trail so beautiful is that not only is the journey so epic and beautiful but the destination itself is a view worth fighting for. In like 6 hours of pain, sweat,  and dangerous journey we finally reached the Botong Falls. It was beautiful. Any words to describe that experience is beyond my abilities, basta nindo jud! I love the experience as if falling in love at first sight and definitely all my body pains and exhaustion vanished. The falls is surprisingly taller than the pictures but hey that’s one really gorgeous lady out there. Only then that I finished my swim in the pool at her foot did I noticed how freaking hungry we were. Look we did not have our breakfast, only ate a cup of puto three hours ago and perhaps a few lives later. So we have to save the Tag-abaka Falls on the next trip 🙂

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Isn’t she beautiful?

 

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Looking back into that epic adventure two weeks ago makes me want to hit that trail right now, but I’m not going back there without bringing a few friends to experience the hidden trails of  Botong Falls has to offer. I’m just happy I found a trail I can boast of to anyone who is addicted to trail running and nature trekking. Life definitely is more fun out there on the road and on the woods where nature is beautiful at its finest, asserting its glory over the mortality of humans.

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with Edward and Julius, our two fighter guides to the falls. Thanks buddies!

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The List

I’ve been to places, and I’m lucky enough to have worked in a few cities like Manila, Cebu and Boracay. One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received from friends and workmates after hearing where I’m from is this one: “Anong maganda dun sa (Southern) Leyte? (What’s good out there?)” Sometimes, I found the answers harder to explain because for one thing they’re not even aware there is a Southern Leyte. I love to answer jokingly to them that there a lot of wonderful and good-looking people (ehmm like me) out there in my province! Unconsciously, I think  I failed my province (Oliver Queen/Greet Arrow can you shoot me now?). It deserves more introduction than a cheap joke.

The truth is Southern Leyte is one treasure trove of wonderful places. When I was in the town of San Juan last Tuesday for a funeral, I made this list of places, of tourist spots and places of historic importance here in our Province. I made two columns; one for the places I’ve been to, and one for the places I haven’t been. I came up with a long list, in both columns. My God! All these years, I’ve been like sitting duck under a pile of gems and I never bothered to notice! So to celebrate the founding month of Southern Leyte let me at least offer this travelogue of the wonderful places the province can offer.

This is the SoLey Travelogue. For the whole month of July, and maybe until August I’m going to feature the places on that List. And yes, I’ll be travelling during weekends in the Province. So if you have any places you want me to cover. Just drop by your suggestions in the comments section. 🙂

The Uwan-uwanan Gorge

To start off the series of travel blogs featuring Southern Leyte, let me take you to this captivating place called the Uwan-uwanan Gorge. It’s not just a waterfall, it’s actually a series of waterfalls along a hard and treacherous trek located in barangay Kawayan of the Libagon municipality. I was able to visit this place before summer with my friends and colleagues from BCCI , as a send-off adventure for me. And the whole experience from the roadtrip to Libagon, the challenging trek, the wipe-outs by the river, the falls and the bonding with friend under this Mother Nature’s truly hidden gem completely blew my expectations away.

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These guys really have no idea what they were up to. hihi

It was amazing out there. And that place needs some serious promotional effort to attract the young and wild-at-hearts to visit.

So how to get there? If you’re from Tacloban ride van or bus to Sogod town. Don’t ride a trip to Hinunangan since there’s already a new highway that takes on a different route straight to the Pacific towns. From Sogod hire a multicab to Kawayan, Libagon and stop at the Kawayan Elementary School. Then look for the Barangay Hall nearby, they will provide you with the guides and a quick briefing of what’s really ahead: Adventure! So Keep Calm and Pay Your Dues, but not much though.

So we head off  in search for this hidden adventure. And here’s my step by step advice on how to maximize you journey. Trust me, this is based on experience.

Step 1. Traverse the kalibunan and try to make good friends with the river. Easy huh? It’s just a good 30-45 minute trek on foot and safety is really no guarantee. Expect the slides and the wipeouts (which I proudly did! haha) for the stones are wet . This is no walk in the park and you’ll be crossing the same river a few times.  Word of advice: Have mercy on your Havaianas. Just bring a good pair of tsinelas or a pair of mountain shoes. Quality over style.

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Step 2. Get wet. The term Uwan-uwanan is derived from the word “uwan” which means rain. And it’s not called Uwan-uwanan for no reason at all. Because it really rains non-stop in some parts of the trek. Well not literally rain from the sky, but the gorge is surrounded by falls and cliffs that spreads down waters to create the raining effects. Amazing.

It's raining in middle of summer.

It’s raining (and always will) in the middle of summer.

Step 3. Pack up. You should know upfront that you’re in for a really wet adventure. And I mean completely wet, before you even reach the finish line. Fake rains will inevitably fall into you, you will have to swim your way accross, and you will literally climb waterfalls to claim that eternal glory of conquering the gorge. So please bring lots of plastics to secure and seal up your clothes, your foods, your cameras and your other gadgets.

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Wet. And I mean this wet. We are not even there yet.

Step 4. Trust your tourguides. Because they take you to the place, carry your bags, your foods and even yourself if you want them to. By the way,  right after swimming across a river ledge, you will climb up a waterfall – literally (see pics below). Don’t worry the guides will take good care of you. And for Pete’s sake pakan-a ug bayri  tawn na sila! Give them food and pay them good.

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Oh scary! Nyahahaha

Step 5. Bring a camera. Okay, this the no-brainer part. Of course, every adventure needs a little something to remember just make sure to secure it from the waters. This blogpost is completely impossible without the trusted underwater camera  and an SLR from my beloved friends brought along. There’s no way I’m writing this without those stuffs. I love you guys.

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“Oo na, kayo na ang may camera” – ang nakaDSLR

Step 6. Swim! You’ll get there eventually to the place where there’s a beautiful waterfall and a very relaxing natural swimming pool with matching colossal rocks by the side shielding you from the sun. In another words, amazing place. Your hurts and bumps will all eventually pay off once you get there. So relax, and swim like a mad man once you get there.

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Step 7. Cliff Jump. Yup we are not done yet, you see there’s a cliff by the side and it’s climable and it’s very very very enticing. I heard it say climb up, so I did it. I heard it again saying don’t fall, and I jumped. Don’t worry the water is very deep and please it doesn’t kill.

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I said to my cameraman I will jump on the count of three. But I jumped at “1”. Can’t help it, I was excited. Thus this awkward looking shot of an idiot (tsk tsk). Hahaha.

Step 8. Eat and Shoot like there’s no tomorrow!

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Step 9. Explore the Beyond! There are still a few sceneries and falls awaiting on top of the gorge that were not taken by the camera. It was a dangerous additional trek but really worth it. It was a killer view. Just see it for yourself when you get there. It’s a bonus.

I hope you guys gets to visit this wonderful place. 🙂 It’s more fun in Southern Leyte!

Beach outing this summer without the games and activities is no fun at all. It’s the time of the year where the heat of the sun is at its highest. Where office labs loves to burn some leaves and where students gets their freedom from classes.  So People love to cool down, go to the beach, and make cool with nature. Fortunately Boracay, being one of the best beaches in the world, has plenty to offer when it comes to water and summer activities for tourists and locals.

Speaking of getting wet one must never miss scuba diving, snorkeling and helmet diving, oh man the water here is so clear and fishes like humans. If you need speed try kiteboarding, parasailing, speedboats, jet skis, banana rides and island hopping.  For sports enthusiasts one can try horseback riding, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball and ultimate Frisbee. Other exciting activities are the Zorb ball (big ball, people inside, rolling in the hill), ziplines, wall climbing and go-kart racing. And my favorite is BayWatching – sightseeing heavenly bodies that involves spotting the hot from the not.

I must admit I’m planning to try all of these activities listed above before I move on to a new city/country. I am now praying real hard for good weather, healthy body (and flatter abs), and mental peace of mind to savor them. But the trickiest part of the prayers will be convincing the Lord Almighty to grand me financial resources to pay for expensive activities. May God bless Lester Pencilhands.

The Octobre Family

My first answered prayer came last week. A family friend from our hometown in Southern Leyte, the Octobre family, came in the island for a vacation. The eldest daughter Ate Deborah went balikbayan mode all the way from Tennessee with her American husband Michael Stock.  The youngest sister, April, was a childhood friend and classmate.  Oh man what a relief to see some folks from home. The international buffet launch compliments from them was fantastic. And I get to go island hopping with them – for free!

Island hopping was so freaking nice people.

The Shangri-La Resort, I wonder how expensive that place is.

that rock formation reminds me of some portal to another dimension.

It’s my first time to see the island from afar. The trip was to go around the entire island. The shorelines of the white sand beaches were shining shimmering from afar. The clear sea water allows you to see what beneath. I realized the island is not surrounded by beaches. There are rock formations everywhere, caves there, forest here, and luxurious resorts coming out of nowhere (yes I’m talking about you Shangri-la). We stopped one time to do some snorkeling which I really enjoyed. We stopped a couple of times more at the middle of the sea and I can only blame the engine for being so nasty.

While doing snorkeling in the sanctuary its really nice to drink some coconut juice and fresh courtesy of the floating vendors.

a very colourful beach party-party

And my lesson for the day: I got my dream of circumnavigating the entire island on foot shattered. That was my runner’s goal. How silly, and it’s officially over. Rocks formation and stiff cliffs are everywhere at the back beach making it impossible to traverse on foot. To add to the damage, some private resorts set up security limits to avoid some aliens from entering (oh yeah I’m talking to you Cojuangco family).  I have to settle on running the main road from tip to tip, dulo to dulo, that’s around 10 kilometers. If I’ll run it back and forth then I suddenly got my 21K goal this year. Not bad and it’s worth a shot.

After seeing this scenery, I knew there's no way I could navigate the island. At least the sight is beautiful.

Again, island hopping in Boracay is really nice. One boat is good for at least 4 people with standard price starts from P2,000.00 to P10,000. But I managed to struck a deal for P1,500.00. How I did it? Just leave some comments.

this looks like Batman's cave.

This Manny Pacquiao's West Cove resort.

Paris Hilton I think I wanna marry you.. if you'd buy me a toy like this. ^_~