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

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

Need to Breathe

3 hours of sleep did not stop me from doing this trip. I arrived home around 10 pm, due to traffic, and I need to do some bailing out agreements so that I can take this weekend getaway.

Most people who work in the metro would take advantage of holidays, long weekends to get out of their routine and travel. Since, I started to work again in the metro where the lowest temperature of the aircon will give you, plus the traffic, beaming lights inviting you to groove with the hip music.

It was not actually a pure weekend getaway, but I opt for an escape of urbanity via volunteer work.

So far, in day 1 of this ‘spontaneous’ trip things and situations before rekindled:

  •  I now fully understand why my hhc wants to go out most of the time. It is soooo cold in an office that all you want to do is sleep or grab a cup of coffee. While, if you’re on the road, you see loads of things (e.g. The fields, birds, Carabao, farmer tilting the land and etc.) will make you feel good.
  •  Going on a trip stimulates your creativity and imagination. – just look at the clouds, how are they formed? Use your imagination to kill the boredom! 🙂
  • There are ups and downside of traveling in daytime.
  • Happy yet unsecured or unsecured yet happy? – would it be mean being happy as you are would make you a selfish person?
  • Sunrise really gives you good vibes. This is really true, I spent the whole week in the metro and living with it made me feel sick and weak, I can no longer see the sunrise since I need to get on and off the bus before it rise or else I need to endure a hunger games like traffic.

Will I hit the road next time? Probably yes, it gave me a sense of direction and re-aligned my perspectives about life which I think no amount of money and even an nth number of books could give.

3 Years over 3 Cups of Coffee

It has been 3 years of not seeing each other and I thought there would be strange feeling of being left behind from their routine and the topics being discussed; yet, I find myself in total awe- not because of being left behind, but because I found myself in total open discussion.

The Chatty and the ice breaker

When I was in university, I could count in my fingers the persons that I could share personal stories with. These group of people thought before that I was a bit conservative in my perceptions about life, career and etc; but it was not. Perhaps, I was not that open before about discussions about career and reality, what I’ve got was the utopia- like the republic of Plato.

After series of experiences that I had (in my work and exploring the other side of the coin), I just realized that life is not about the “big picture, but of the small details that makes it”. I was having this kind of discussion with a very chatty friend of mine as well, – by all means, chatty as I am; yet, as idealistic as I am(before). There was no dull moment, random things about life has been talked about, no more no less which I enjoyed the most – aside from the sumptuous meal that we shared.

Reality v. Utopia

Having the chat with these ladies (no longer little girls who roam around the university campus discussing about why the oil prices gone down, what’s next after Arab Spring, or practice speaking in Japanese); but more of having a chat about life, about careers, my volunteer experience (I am proud to share my volunteer experience with them) my work, their work, our moans, angst about life, our love lives, our goals, trips and a lot more.

We are no longer living on the ideal hype- I should be in this industry, or I should be working if not being engage or traveling, or just enjoying the NOW if not still searching for answers.

Keep the Reel Rolling!

There are still bits of something that pulls everyone back- and it differs, I don’t know the reason why, but I think it is more of the “norm” rather than the personal perception of how you live this life over 3 cups of coffee:

  •  Who cares if someone is working and the others are not? – no one really cares and no one does.
  • Step out of your own comfort zone- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (why bother dealing with the latter if you can enjoy the former?)

It is strange- and it will be for the next few days, weeks, months and even years, but what matters? It is not about the perception of the people around you; it is more of how you see things in different perspective – like a kaleidoscope.

Coffee Date at Bag of Beans

Coffee date at Bag of Beans

Mt. Manalmon

Money should not be an excuse to enjoy life!

It was only a day hike but it was more than body aches that I’ve got- new friends, real-life lessons and a free cultural immersion!

Mt. Manalmon- bring it ON!

There were 12 of us with diverse lifestyle, but with same passion and goal for that day-to conquer Mt. Manalmon.

We met at around 7am at the Fivestar Bus station along EDSA in Cubao, and departed on the same for Brgy. Camias, San Miguel, Bulacan. We took local transportation-tricycle from the drop-off point going to Sitio Madlum. There were at least 3 barangays that you will need to pass by and would entail a 45 minute ride.

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Reached Sitio Madlum! Hello Mt. Manalmon.

There are two ways to get into the registration office through the Monkey Bridge or the “balsa”.

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The Monkey Bridge.

Before the real hiking, we were asked to do register which costs us around 70php per head. We have 2 tour guides since we need a front and back guides in case there will someone might get lost.

Upon the orientation, we were asked which trail are we going to take. My friend and I did the talking- we chose the hard one! as if we are already pros.

Our tour/trail guides are Kuya Dong and Kuya Carling who did an excellent job! No one got harmed, nor lost plus we’ve got some trivia about the Mountain.

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Prepared to get wet!

We passed by a virgin stream which was so cold! as if you would like to spend your night there!

Since we took the hard one, we should expect it would be stiff and yes! it was! I thought my asthma would recur during our hike, but it was a mere reaction  that my lungs are working! hehehe..

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The summit.

The hike to summit took only 1 hour and half depends if you have a lot  breaks and capturing moments. When you get into the summit, all the pain, the hardship that you’ve surpassed were all paid! As if you own the world! No one will tell you to do this and that in a snap of their fingers, no pollutants only the nature and the cool breeze!

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Conquered Mt. Manalmon.

All of us were tired, but our adrenalin keeps on telling us we need more! So we indulged ourselves to Bayukbuk cave.

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Bayukbuk cave.

We sweat as if we went to gym and burned some fabs, but we did not. 🙂  If  you are claustrophobic, I suggest try to do some closed-door encounter with your room, lights off, for you to get a glimpse of what is like inside the cave.

The Spelunking experience would start passing by the “male reproductive organ” room, you got the idea what it is like inside that room 😛

Next would be a rappelling down to the music room. It was a bit tough to do rappelling since it rained the day before our spelunking escapade, so it was muddy and the stalagmites and stalactites were slippery aside from the fact that they are sharp.

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Getting ready for rappelling!

In rappelling, you should trust your guide and your body, if they say stretch do it otherwise say goodbye to the world! 😀

This is the music room, supposedly, if you try to tap one of the stones there, you will hear a drummed like echo . I have been longing to climb a helicopter-ladder, I only used to watch those in Indiana Jones movie doing this!

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Helicopter ladder.

Lessons Learned:

It was my second time to do mountain climbing; yet it was another experience that was worth it! It was not a simple escape from urbanity but a mere enlightenment; to act on your dreams and work for reality. I learned it was not tough to change nor explore something new, it would entail courage – yes, but at the end of the day, there will be no regrets, no what ifs. What if I did not join my friend in this weekend getaway? I might regret, – definitely will; what if I don’t allow myself to get used to crowd? A lot or what ifs that I will surely regret or should set as a challenge?

I think this is just the start- that is for sure! There will be more weekend escapades, more mountains to conquer!