Debunking Stereotype: Zamboanga Edition

Debunking the Stereotypes as I set foot in the City of Flowers:

Zamboanga is also known as the City of Flowers when the Malay settled at the tip of Zamboanga peninsula and saw a group of ornamental plants that beautifully bloom in the area and called it as “Jambangan”- land of flowers. Other version was the “saguan/sambuan” also from Malay word means paddle or pole which was used by the locals to paddle their colorful Vintas.

  1. Security 101 – Let us be fair in all the cities and provinces across the country. Zamboanga is a huge if not big peninsula and ticking part of Tawi-tawi and drag it to the downtown gives an image of negativity for tourist. Every place has this so called “no to go” zones, perhaps the “no to go” zones of Zamboanga has been in the limelight of media and spreads the news up north. While it is true that you can see army and police visibly around every corner, but honestly,you will feel more secured, and I bet Zamboanga is relatively much safe than some corners of metro at night! Also, Zambonaga is an open city, like any pother other city here up north, the difference perhaps is the factor of insurgency and terrorism, no more no less.
  2. A City where Muslims and Christians lives in harmony – this one is debunking # 1 stereotype in my  head. I must say that not every corner has this so called “Islamic influence” but of an amalgamation of both Christian and Muslim cultures. So interesting isn’t?! Up North in the urban Manila, we always think that Mindanao is a place of insurgency and politico-socio- cultural conflicts, but I say nay. People live here in harmony, you would be amazed how two different cultures interacts with one another with no weapons, no hate and  etc. – so amazing!
  3. Know when to Harvest or forever hold your peace! – I just realized and based from the informal chats I had with the locals, the best time to do agri-shopping here is around September and not early August.
  4. Hablo Espanol? Va en Zamboanga – Zamboanga, being a peninsula, and the last battle front during the Spanish era is the best place to practice your Spanish speaking skills. They would really encourage you to speak the broken spanish (chavacano) and they would love to correct you with your phrase. I remember walking around the market asking the lady “cuanto” instead of how much and we end up speaking in English. 🙂noun_547541_cc
  5.  A  City Like No Other– as we had our mid-night tour around the city, you would feel as if you were transported back in the Spanish era, with a lot of Spanish influences around the corner from the usual set up of pueblo (town) having  the City Hall and other government offices near  with the Church out of brick, schools within the vicinity ruins of history could still be felt in this city a must visit by any history geek!

If I will be ask to go to this city again definitely I will! The 72 hour trip was not enough to explore and indulge this City! hasta luego Zamboanga!

Reference: http://www.zamboanga.net/Arts&CultureZamboangaHistory.htm

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Mt. Balagbag

Take the road less traveled and see the beauty lies beyond the skyscrapers and urban life.

It has been a month since we haven’t had any over the weekend adventure. Buddy and I were buzzin  for some adrenaline kick which a hike, a dive, even a little spice over our weekend aside from sweeping the floor and painting our flat could give.

2 July, just the right start for mid-year assessment,  in work, in  our plans for the year and a kick off for our 2nd semester series of #outofthebox and #extremeadventure, we decided to hike Mt. Balagbag in Rizal.

An almost 2 hours ride from Manila, and more or  less 2 hours of hike to reach the summit and you’ll be able to see series of mountains challenging  you to take the plunge and hike them out! On the North West was the Mt. Arayat in Pampanga (already hiked  in 2014), Mt. Pamitinan and a lot more to discover!

It was a usual hike for  buddy and I, but we were surprised with what  life has to offer- a group of students walked with and literally hiked with us as they did their case study for their documentary. It was a nice Saturday morning and in amazement, they’ve got surprised to know that  buddy and I were no longer uni students, instead working  for the public.

From the usual hike to a search for possible subject of a university documentary we ended up listening to the interview and IR skills were in hype to asked for answers to taboo issues (e.g. child labor, human trafficking, UN SDG, prostitution and etc.) We gave them the not so usual  advice-seek the reality world with questions for you to find the real answers.

The adventure did not stop with the  almost 2 hour hike, instead, we opt to take the adventure to a higher level, despite the  gloomy weather and high chance of rain, we chose to do waterfalls chasing. The initial plan was to have it at Mt.Maranat which was a bit easier and way to descend, but we chose the hard way,together with buddy, 3 students, 2 individuals we’ve just met,and  with our guide, we decided to go to  Odiong Falls. As instructed, it was a four hours hike (RT) and see a crystal clear water before you. However, on the onset and in search of real adventure, we were  descending in a jungle like ambiance as the heavy rain poured as if it has no plan to stop, we kept walking. We heard the usual first time hike jitters of leg pain , but continued to walk.

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Unfortunately, since the rain  did not stop, the river turned into mud-like river. As if we were trapped in a secluded area (like the ones you see in Indiana Jones movie),  the adrenaline just started to set in. Our guide  has been a great help when we were about to go home (3pm). He assisted each and everyone of us to hike the steep and muddy part of the mountain since we were no longer able to cross the river. Some went dehydrated, others got hypoglycemic but  we had to move.

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The road less traveled

After a couple of hours,  we reached the registration  area (starting  point) and just as any other hiking adventure we had, muddy, sweaty and dehydrated body welcomed the city. But such wont be a reason not to take the road less traveled – again. Perhaps it was a call to be on the road away from the demands of urban life and let ourselves soaked in the rain.

Itinerary: 

8am: Depart San Jose, Rodriguez Rizal

9am: Reached Brgy. Licao  Licao

10am: start trek

12nn: reached summit

1pm: descended, off to Odiong Falls

2:30pm: reached odiong falls (river, wasn’t able to reached the falls due to heavy rain)

3pm: start trek (going home)

4:30pm: reached registration (starting point)

 

 

High in Badian!

Badian is located at South West portion of Cebu and 97.60 kms from Cebu City proper.

WOW in Badian

Travel buddy and I were buzzin in for Canyoneering which is a popular activity in Badian. Canyoneering is an extreme sport which includes: trekking, swimming, jumping at several falls. PS: if you don’t know how to swim, no worries as your canyoneering guide will help you to conquer your fears both in water and in heights.

Prior to our trip, I searched online for the backpacker price for doing canyoneering and its inclusions. We were not disappointed by what we’ve got. Through highland adventures (insetlrt link), we’ve got the best price for the activity.

What makes it Amazing?

If jumping at several falls which varies in height/ft., , swimming while staring at the natural rock formations as if you were part of the popular Jurrasic Movie, or trekking several rocks till you hit the last pit stop- jumping 35 ft. tall waterfall does not make you feel excited, then stop reading. 🙂 if in contrary, you feel excited, thrilled and have the guts and the adrenaline rush then scroll down! 🙂

How did we get to Badian from Oslob?

From whale shark encounter and chasing waterfalls #2, you have two (2) options: a. via bus going to bato, then take another bus ride going cebu via barili and tell the driver tl drop you off at Brgy. Matutinao or b. take habal-habal / motorcycle going straight to Badian. In the interest of time, travel buddy and I took option b. We left Oslob by 10isham, just in time to reach Badian by 12ish and up for canyoneering by 1pm. PS: the local government has 2pm cut-off, beyond that time will no longer be accepted to do the activity.

There are a number of groups who do canyoneering guide as their means of living, luckily, ours is one of the pioneers who did canyoneering as a lifestyle and part of their daily lives back then.

The inclusions of your 1,500 php payment for the guide includes the ff:

  • tour guide/ canyoneeeing guide
  • under water camera
  • snack/s + drinking water
  • entrance and environmental fees
  • transportation to and from the meeting point
  • use of dry bag
  • lunch or dinner
  • life vest
The entire activity took us around 4 hours (more), due to my cause of delay tactics! I’m pretty sure once you’re there you’re feet and knees would turn into jellies! But surely, after the activity, you’ll feel like katniss who won the hunger games!

Argao in 6 Hours

Situated in South Eastern part of Cebu, approximately 68 km from Cebu City. Approximately, one and a half to two hours travel time from the Cebu South Bus Station.

What to do in Argao?

If you’re an adventure junky just like me, there’s plenty of activities waiting for you. You can choose from spelunking to chasing waterfalls or just simply roaming around the Municipality and see the beautiful old structure that’s being well preserve by the people of Argao.

If you’re up for adventures (e.g. cave diving, and water falls chasing and some food trip), the Municipality of Argao has something to offer for your adrenaline rush cravings.

How to Get to Local Tourism Office of Argao?

From Mactan International Airport, take a cab to Cebu South Bus Station which would cost around 150. Take Ceres bus going to bato via lilo-an and tell the asst. driver (conductor) to drop you at Argao’s Town Proper / poblacion. From the bus stop you may opt to take:

  1. a tricycle ride (around 8 pesos each) going to the Tourism office or
  2. just walk.

If you opt to take the latter, from the bus stop, cross the national road, straight ahead, turn right at the first corner then turn left and straight ahead you will see the Cabecera de Argao sign warmly welcomes you to the Municipality of Argao.

It is best and highly advisable to contact the Local Tourism Office of Argao if you want to try spelunking and exploring Balay sa Agta. The reason is always due to safety precautions and the travel time from the Tourism office to the starting point is quite far.

The standard package of the local tourism office costs us 600 each with the following inclusions:

  • habal-habal(motorcycle) ride to and from the tourism office and starting point;
  • snacks (their famous delicacies- torta over a hot locally grown chocolate de baterol/ Cocoa);
  • transit and guide to Bugasok Falls;
  • Payment for two (2) tour guides;
  • equipments (rappeling ropes, saftey gears, helmets and headlights)
  1. Spelungking (Balay sa Agta)

– Situated in Barangay Conalum and is believed to be the dwelling of Argao’s mythical giant, Mangao. Large quantities of guano or bat droppings are found in this cave. Also, one of the largest caves in Cebu.

It is a standard Procedure to have 2 guides one in the front and one at the back, it was risky to assist a team of 2 or more individuals upon approaching the starting point of the cave.

The entire spelunking took us around 3 hours, (1.5 hours) each way, with fruit bats, various rock formation welcomes you and as if waving their best spot for your camera to capture.

The highlight of the exploration was the image of a giant seems staring at you from above (we were requested by our tour guides to switch off our headlights to see the image). Honestly, it was really creepy as if someone really  staring at you having his cigar on his mouth. We tried to take a photo of the giant but we were failed, as if he’s not social creature. 🙂

  1. Bugasok Falls

As part of the package set by the local tourism office, my travel buddy and I took our liberty to capture the beauty of the falls.

After a creepy encounter with the giant, you will be amazed by the eye candid view of Bugasok Falls from the top. As one of our guides find us (me and my travel buddy) a bit adventurous, our guide opt to take us to a nice view spot of the Bugasok Falls.

Before, some professional mountaineers used to rappel from the top and have a nice dip on the falls. unfortunately, when we visited the place, it was no longer allowed. I am not sure for the reason.

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3.Torta & Tablea

Argao is known for its delicacies such as torta and tablea/cocoa. Torta is their version of “mamon” made out of flour, tuba (coconut wine), margarine, yard, sugar on top and milk. We tried Jessie’s homemade torta over a cup of hot cocoa/tablea. The torta has its soft, yet a bit dry in texture (perhaps due to the wine) and the sweetness hot cocoa (due to its freshly harvest/freshly brewed) compliments the torta which made it irresistible and you would ask for more.

  1. Riverstone Castle

Are you familiar with the Medieval Structures and castles back then in your history class? How about pictures of cavaliers and other Medieval aged personalities settled in one place? That is how Riverstone Castle was made of.

It is actually an inn for those tourist who want to indulged themselves in different time and ambiance. The cost per night is 1,000 pesos without breakfast though.

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  1. San Miguel Church

-Every backpacker has their adrenaline for old churches (which Cebu has a lot to offer). A rococo-baroque church built in 1734 but finished in 1788.

(Sample Itenerary for Argao)

Breakdown of Costs:

TIME ACTIVITY COST
5:00 am – 7: 07 am  MLA- CEBU 2,321.92 (Seat sale for 2)
7:20 am – 8: 20 am Airport to Cebu South Bus Station 257.00 (Cab)

 

8:36 am – 10:30 am Depart Cebu South Bus Station to

Municipality  of Argao (via Ceres Bus)

2  hours travel time

 

 89.00/pax
11:20 am- 12:45 pm *LUNCH

**Waiting time at the Tourism Office

Pay Local Tourism Office of Argao for the

activity

 

 

104 for 2 pax

600.00/pax

included in the package

–       Spelungking

(Balay sa Agta)

–       Bugasok Falls

–       Snack (Jessie’s Torta)

 

12:46 pm-1:20 pm Transit to Brgy. Conalum via habal-habal
1:21 pm-5:30 pm Start of Activity

 

5:30 pm-6:00 pm Eat Snack at Jessie’s Torta

Back to Local Tourism office

 

6:05 pm – 9:00 pm – Transit to Oslob for whale Watching  73.00/pax

 

*You can have your Lunch at Carmen’s Eatery the food is nice and it’s budget friendly, it’s a walking distance from the Bus stop so no need to ride a tricycle; There’s plenty of Carinderia along the Highway so you don’t have to worry about starving.

** If you don’t have reservations you have to wait for at least an hour for your tourguides who’s coming from Conalum. So it’s better to have your reservations ahead of time to avoid waiting.

Source:

Local Tourism Office- Municipality of Argao T: 485-8063

Office of the Mayor: T: 367-7542

Mt. Gulugod Baboy

A 48 hour trip to detoxify and be offline  for a day or two while satisfying adrenaline rush and crave for out of the box.

Target Place: Mt. Pinagbandirahan also known as Mt. Gulugod Baboy
Where: Anilao, Mabini, Batangas
Level of difficulty: Some bloggers/mountaineering enthusiast rate this with 2/9.
Hike time: 1-2hours depending on the pacing of hike

How to get there?

Option 1: If you are coming at nearby area like Cavite, you may opt to take a van ride going to Batangas and drop off at Bauan Town Proper. This will cost you around 140 each (from Dasmarinas Cavite)
From Bauan town proper take jeepney ride going to Mabini town proper (20each). From Mabini town proper take tricycle ride going to Philpan dive resort at Anilao which will cost you 40 per person. You will be required to sign up for registration which is 35 each and do sign off once you’re done hiking.

Option 2: Take bus ride from Cubao or Buendia bus terminal going to Batangas grand terminal or Batangas port.
From Batangas grand terminal there are jeepney rides going to Mabini. Either you rent the jeepney and pay 100/90 each 12122524_10205708109561832_7967857725059396427_ndepending on haggling skills.:). The jeepney will pass through Bauan, and Mabini town proper. If you opt to rent the jeep, the driver will take you to Philpan, Anilao Batangas for the jump off.

Register at the Barangay hall which would cost around 35 each and you’re off to go!

There are no stations by the way, unlike the usual hike where you will be able to see trail marks and stations, in Gulugod Baboy there are no signs, no trail marks, just a plain and simple train uphill.

It was a night hike, with 5 of us (ladies) who tried and exceeded our personal limits and defeat the stereotype of being fragile, and vulnerable. Since there were only  two of us who were used in climbing, the rest of the three were newbies, it was indeed a good start.

A Remarkable hike

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Reached Top at 8pm

It was indeed a remarkable hike for one of our friends who got tired at the start of the trek. She’s not use with long walks and even have a heavy bag with her. Pack light as the norm for backpacking and hiking was validated. While suffering from cramps, and difficulty in breathing, we kept ourselves calm as there’s no room for back-off and not having mental alertness. Luckily, while on our way to the top, a family of 5 were at our back waiting for their turn to be on their way to home. Unknowingly, Kuya Randy (our guide), became helpful in a thousand reasons. He was able to carry our friend’s bag and her 4ltrs of water and accompanied her as she walked bit slower. He also managed to gave us a nice spot on top where we set-up our tent and be prepared for the next day.

Nightmares

October 11, around 1am, we were suddenly woke up by soft rains yet, a bit strong winds hit o12074499_10203707140637522_2006758066096682189_nur tents. There was also hustling sound that made one of our friend more scared than ever she’d been. Certainly, It was a scary early morning as we don’t know when will the rain stop and if our tent is suffice to beat the strong wind. Personally, I was thinking of how the team would descend in a sticky and muddy trail? The rain last for 30 minutes and we go back to sleep only to find out that it was already early in the morning as the sunrise saying hi to us.

12118659_10205708100281600_6835207906858791226_n Sunrise or Sunset?

We have seen the sunset the day before while we were on hike the mountain, as we woke up, we were greeted by the fog as zero visibility waves his hand saying hello! The feeling was surreal, as we climbed and reached the peak (note: the camp site is not that far from the peak), the feeling of a winner sets in. Winner in terms of conquering your personal inferiority, stress at work or home, feel independent and responsible for your own well being ( as no one will care if you got caught in  the middle of the night with  a dog bite- of course that is a bit exaggeration), a dose of positivism lingers till you no longer know the word pessimism and negative vies.

Time to Descend or Wait till Dawn

We left the camp site around 7am and started our way to the trail again. We met Kuya Randy again as he guide and assisted us on our way descending. As expected, it was a sticky, muddy and full of challenging trail awaited us. One of our friends got her shoes broken due to the mud, in result, she walked the trail barefooted. The descend took us 2 hours, as it was not that high mountain. We reached the jump-off by 9am.

Sidetrip

One of the perks of doing hike is to explore more of the place and even the community. It was a nice community by the way, as we planned to booked a nice boat ride to one of the islands in the nearby area. A trip to sumbrero island cost us a fortune, instead, we opt to take the not so popular island- Oscar’s Island. The cost was around 500 each (for group of 5) as we rented a boat and traveled for 45 minutes. We did a quick stop at Sumbrero Island before heading to a much crystal clear beach.

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High at Sumbrero Island

A feeling of relief, that anything can be conquered, and beat any challenges ahead of me. Let’s wait and see for the next trip! 😀

Recharged Peens

It has been 7 months since our placement has ended in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. 7 months of rekindling our experiences, our counterparts, our host homes and what keep us busy at the moment.

#Clingypeens

So strange, that I took the courage to ask for my boss if it would be possible to take an half day break, and he affirmed. With high conviction and determination, I rushed to meet those  who have been my sister, brother, a friend, a special friend, a close friend and for sometime a foe, for the past 3 months of placement. As if social media does not suffice ourselves with the usual hello how are you, I found myself being energized again. It is so strange that for the past few weeks I have been down and yet just seeing these guys physically and having a nice chat made me feel as if our placement just ended yesterday. I am sure it is not only me who feel that kind of ‘kick’, I am certain my lil bro’s, sistah’s and even our PS’s, felt the same way.

Out of the box Peens

I haven’t use that phrase “out of the box” for quite sometimes. But with these guys, it was as if in a snap I could think a lot ‘out of the box’ ideas, spur of the moment thing and voila!

Celebrating an advance birthday party with a co-volunteer with a bang of cake, pizza, chicken and of course drinks, was a de ja vu.

I certain believe that there were no accidents in life. Perhaps one of the reason that I love my work at the moment is because I am being inspired by my external clients, In development world- the community. People will not judge you if you wear a shirt, a jeans and a backpack. People tends to give you positive vibes aside from the sunlight.  A simple chat could create a beyond the surface level of friendship, of trust and certainly a friend to call in time of need.

Inclusivity is the key

Our placement was simultaneously being conducted in other parts of the country. Cabiao for disaster risk reduction management, Cebu for deaf community and Bohol for environmental sustainability. Seeing volunteers from Cebu-deaf community, I found myself as blessed and at the same time challenged. These deaf volunteers wants to make a change in their own way, while I, on the other side, keeps on questioning things if not moaning.

One of the speakers said, ‘if you are having a lot of negatrons consider volunteering, it will give you tons of electrons to be on the beat.

Calibrating Tea Break

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It was a nice Saturday chillin out in my parent’s humble abode while enjoying a nice cup of tea and a nice pastry to complement my afternoon break.

For the past few days of settling down at the metro, with rush and pressure that has been your foe, I felt fed up and wanted to go home. I felt abused, underpaid, unproductive and incompetent if not having the confidence.

Everyone needs a break- so do I

My minde demanded to shut it off, since it was a long holiday, I assumed that I will be reading my favorite books if not just being laid back in my room.  I think, being laid back once in a while is good, to re-aling your perspectives, as of you’re in a bus and saw a nice scenery outside and decided you  want to see it for more hours.

Working with the demands of our reapective  jobs is a must. But be sure to enjoy what you’re doing, otherwisr, you’re making a big fool out of yourself.