Unlike last year, I didn't make any wishlist - attainable or otherwise (mostly likely) - this time. I was already set on buying this particular item for myself this Christmas that I sort of made a mental blinder to not get distracted by all things covetable.
2012 has been a good year. There are occasional kinks here and there but overall, I have nothing to complain about. I promised myself to not overly spend, if I spend at all, on things I couldn't hold on for long or treasure. I remember making a list of things I wanted to buy on my little notebook - MAC lipsticks, fancy moisturizers, bottles of nail colors, dresses, etc. - and then changing my mind and resolved to saving most of my money for travelling instead.
Not being a compulsive shopper helped me get through it and made the whole shopping ban bearable. It wasn't a total ban of obsessive proportionz because that's, like, impossible but defo there was a shift of priorities. I really really had to manage my finances well.
Come December, I decided to spoil myself a little bit. From the money I saved up with a little help of 13th month pay (chenks boss), I gifted myself with:
Trese 5: Midnight Tribunal
I collect the Trese comic series - it's Pinoy horror + mythology + a whole lot of Alexandra Trese bad-assery. The authors announced the 5th volume would be released mid-November but National Bookstore branches in Cebu only had them last week.
If you aren't familiar with the series or have heard about it but haven't bought a copy, head to FullyBooked and National Bookstore now and grab a copy of the first book or the five volumes. If you're a fan of Pinoy myths and legends, you're going to love the story. Support the Philippine komiks industry! :)
The Lands of Ice and Fire
The moment I learned about The Lands of Ice and Fire, I knew I had to get one. It is a good supplement for the books. It wouldn't be too much of an effort for me to imagine or figure out where this place and that country are. #tamad
Pardon the grainy camera phone pictures buttt I swear the maps are gohorjuss~! The collection has 13 maps! 13 shades of A Song of Ice and Fire gorgeousness. I'm sure this is an evil marketing strategy to milk money from us but IDC.
I swear I got teary-eyed from excitement and happiness as I carried Trese and TLOIC hugged on my chest when I got them. So OA, DRAMA and LOLERZ but true story.
And I finally got meself a laptop, a Macbook Pro.
I have a desktop PC at home but I need my own laptop (I used to borrow from the boyfriend) when on the road (read: travelling without proper vacation leave permission from the boss which I do often, lol). It would have been nicer if this was Retina Display but 1) I have no reasonable use for it, and 2) I dun have extra 20k~ to spend, okay. This one works perfectly for me and it's so gratifying to finally get hold of something you've been saving up for months!
Aside from giving gifts to loved ones, have you been a Santa to yourself?
What sort of a blogger would update a supposedly series of posts a month after? Not a very industrious one for sure. And yep, that's me.
We only spent a night in Batad and the following morning, we were off to Sagada. But that's not without leg-wobbling trek back to Saddle Point. If it wasn't easy going down to the village, you bet it wasn't a breeze trekking back up. We had to hire a pair of porters for our bags because if we didn't I think we wouldn't have come back alive, lol.
My knee scrape was still fresh and painful and I developed a blister from the trek the day before, so I wasn't in a very good condition. My memory of the trek back is still clear, I could go on about here but to summarize: it was fvcking tiring. I didn't have my backpack (which had a laptop btw because I was hoping I could get some work done, what was I thinking) carried by the porter so it was an extra burden. If I wasn't carrying all that extra weight, the trek would have been a little less gruesome.
You know what I was thinking the entire time? That Kelly Clarkson "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" line. That playing in my head (just that line, lulz) + internal pep talk helped, I guess. We took the short cut on the last stretch - shorter but steeper path, thus much more punishing. The sun wasn't helping, too.
This is us NOT during the trek back, lol. Take those smiley faces and replace them with haggard ones. Photo stolen from Jini.
But we got through it. Of course we did. Our legs hurt so much it was an effort to bend them. I sort of developed a certain temporary repulsion to stairs and anything that resembles them.
We waited a couple or more hours at Banaue - had lunch at a carinderia and attempted to take a nap in a jeep that was supposed to take us to Sagada. And in that jeep we met Arnold, a Swiss solo traveler and IC, a tourist guide in Palawan, and his girlfriend Marge. We got transferred to a van so the travel was thankfully more comfortable.
Mel and I post-lunch. Photo stolen from Jini.
It was approximately a two(or was it three?)-hour ride from Banaue to Sagada. At the stop, we met Sophie, another solo traveler from Belgium who was in noses with her Lonely Planet guidebook.
It was a Halloween weekend so accommodations were pretty booked up. We offered Sophie to share our room, we could spare a single bed for her and two of us would share one of the double beds. The Sagada tour guide (that one of his phone on the photo above) found a homestay for Arnold. Us girls checked in at George's Guest House.
We took a quick stroll and tried the famed lemon pie at the Lemon Pie House. And there I found what would become my default beverage for the entire stay (well, aside from water) - Mountain Tea.
Dinner was at Rock Inn Cafe and Restaurant. They got huge serving we could barely finish the food. The dishes tasted okay but I bet they're much more delicious than I remember... Maybe I was just looking forward to dozing off that I didn't pay much attention to how they tasted :((
Being in the mountains, it was cold out but there was a little bonfire outside the restaurant to warm us up for a bit. Our newfound European ~friends didn't even shiver, lol. #tropicalproblems
The following day we went spelunking! Will talk about it soon. (Not next month/year, I hope.)
P.S. Sarreh for the low-res photos, I just downloaded them from Facebook. Too lazy to transfer photos from PC to laptop XD
Let me start this post (and series of post thereof) with a little background of our group/the girls I was with for this muscle-numbing yet fulfilling trip:
Ane, Jini, Mel and I all met online, via blogging and online forum. Around 2003, I "met" Jini on tBlog's message board. We hit it off right away. Jini and Ane became buddies in a Peyups forum of a band they both like (I assume this is Incubus). We were all in college. Ane and I got into each other's radar through Jini and other common blogger friends (side note: I kind of miss the "scene" then, charot). I don't recall if it was Jini or me who "discovered" Mel's blog maybe around 2005 but I vividly recall I instantly liked how she writes. We graduated from the same university (where she now teaches) so it was a nice denominator, too.
In our blogger group (there was quite a number of us), Jini and I were the only ones from Davao and everyone's from Metro Manila/Luzon. I got to meet them when I worked in Makati after college, but I somehow never got the chance to meet Ane (EB or "eyeball" pa ang tawag dati nun, megalolz). I finally met her when we watched Incubus' concert in 2008 (?... basta the second concert they had here!). Jini and Mel somehow got in contact with each other again recently and met (they're both currently in Davao City). Mel and I "re-connected" through Jini c/o Twitter. Ane and Jini was concocting travel plans and Jini invited Mel and me. Ane and I hadn't actually met Mel in real life until that trip. Also, there was supposed to be another blogger friend who's coming with us but he backed out a week before the trip (Hello Mardk, ang pogi mo).
The Manila-Banaue bus left at 9:00pm from Sampaloc and arrived in Banaue around 7:00am. This is the view of the Banaue rice terraces (just some of it because apparently, they're all over Banaue and the Cordilleras region) from the restaurant we had breakfast in:
We still had to take a passenger jeepney to take us to Batad Saddle Point and then from there, trek for 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach the main village. Batad has one of the best rice terraces views and the most challenging trekking trails. It's about an hour away from Banaue proper.
I wanted to ~topload~ on the jeep that's taking us to Saddle Point because you'd get the best view while travelling through rough roads from there but when the jeep's about to go, it was already too crowded on top of the vehicle. Topload dreams quashed. JK.
Our tour guide, this kid JD, fetched us when we reached Batad Saddle Point. That's where everyone's dropped off and starts a hike to the main village of the barangay. Now, I'd like to mention that within 3 minutes of the trek, I injured myself. The left photo above was taken shortly after I stepped on loose gravel, slid, landed on my left knee, and scraped it. We just put a bandage on it then moved on. The pain was bearable but it was such a nuisance when walking through challenging trails for the first time.
Maybe no more than 10 minutes since I scraped my knee, I lost my balance again. Stupid pebbles. I mean, I felt so ridiculous and wimpy when we hadn't even reached a quarter of the entire walk yet! So I had to suck it up, dude.
We reached the main village maybe after 45 minutes to an hour of walking through uphills and downhills and checked in at Hillside Inn. We had a basic room - 2 double beds, pillows and blankets - but had a great view of the ampitheater-like rice terraces.
Dining with a view:
We rested for a bit and started the rice terraces tour at 2:00pm.
It was scenic and beautiful up there, and like Araling Panlipunan/HEKASI/Social Studies in the flesh. But I gotta admit I felt scared shit and a casualty up there. I've never done ~serious treks/trails~ in my life and my acrophobia kicked in. Though not a severe case, my fear made me slow, unsure, nervous and paranoid.
The above photo was taken by our tour guide because he thought it was cute and smart to document how scared I was. He actually took a couple more while telling me words of encouragements before he decided to help me out. That kid's a piece of work, lol.
Confession: I almost tore up while walking through the narrow edges of the terraces. I was so slow and scared and my heart was beating like crazy and consumed by the thought that one misstep, I'd fall on muddy paddies and break my neck. Know what I did? I took five deep breaths to hopefully subside the fear - just like what Jack taught Kate to do when she'd be gripped by fear in one of Lost's first episodes. (I had been watching loads of Lost before the trip.) I think I felt more scared there than when I skywalked at Crown Regency.
Mel, Ane, me and Jini
When it was time to trek down to Tappiya Falls, JD the tour guide told us there's a steep part going down. That immediately sent an alarm to me that I might trip and injure myself again. As much as I wanted to continue, I wouldn't risk being a casualty again. Basically, my willpower crumbled just by hearing the word "steep".
Ane, Jini and Mel trekked to Tappiya Falls while I slumped on a bench looking at mountains and the river below. I must have stolen some nap too because the next thing I knew they were already back. I let the tour guide take my camera with them so I can still have pictures of the falls. But he didn't adjust the settings so this is the most decent photo of Tappiya Falls I have:
Still a pretty good souvenir even when I didn't actually see it. Ha!
It was already close to 5:00pm so we decided not to trek through the main Ifugao village in the valley anymore and just head back to the inn.
We were so tired even moving a muscle was such an effort. Okay, maybe that was a bit exaggerated but I couldn't even properly bend my legs to sit (plus my knee scrape's still fresh). After taking a very cold bath, we laid down and surrendered to the local masahistas.
It was already evening when we went down for dinner post-massage and witnessed a cultural show of sorts. It was full moon.
The next day we were off to Sagada but that'll be on the next post.
The first time I thought of joining a fun run was last year, around the time of registration for the 35th Milo Marathon. I wanted to join to find motivation to get out of the house, get some morning sunshine, and sweat the accumulating fats off. I thought of hopefully finally giving up couch marathoning and get some exercise other than punching the computer keyboard. The cellulite are getting aplenty and my midsection's getting wider, too.
My maternal grandmother died of heart attack when I was six. On 2009, my paternal grandma passed away of the same, too. A year after, my mother had a stroke and didn't survive (she bumped her head on something when she collapsed which led to a hemorrhage and went into coma). My father has high blood pressure, too. So you see, I have a lot of reasons to get worried of my own health with a history like that. More than vanity and ~aesthetics~ (it sometimes brings me to tears when clothes I like don't fit me), I need something to make my blood pumper happy.
I didn't get to register for the Milo run last year, though. I wanted someone to do it with me so I urged the boyfriend to register too but I guess he was busy and wasn't into the idea...yet. I didn't want to go to Cebu City Sports Complex to register alone and maybe too lazy to even go there, too (see, the height of laziness!). When something's too unfamiliar to me, my normal course of action is to back off or let it pass for a while until I become comfortable and confident to deal with it. And, I guess at that time, when the health alarm went off, it wasn't on red light yet (at least to me).
This year, I knew I wasn't going to pass the opportunity anymore. Ed and I only started joining runs early this year. The first time was such a great experience that we decided to continue joining in more. Despite dealing with some running douchebaggery and motivational hurdles (I get easily bored running around on tracks), I guess one has to press on if you want something to change.
While running (more like jogging actually) an 8km in one of my previous runs, I told myself it'll be the longest distance I'll ever dabble on as I huffed, puffed and cursed through uphills. Guess what, I broke my own word.
So on 36th Milo Marathon, it was 10.25km. We started in front of CNU at Osmeña Blvd., down to Escario Ave., turned left to Gorordo Ave. and then right to Salinas St. At our turning point I already felt I was running out of gas. I practiced on slopes to almost never so tackling Salinas and Gorordo was hard for me. In Without Limits, Bill Bowerman (Nike co-founder) said running isn't about winning a race, it's about testing the limits of the human heart. When everything in your body hurts, your will - your ~heart~ - is what keeps your feet step one after the other. I guess that's what happened to me for the rest of the race.
On the last three kilometers, the pep talking in my head became as fervent as ever. I didn't put music on so I had to rely on thinking about something nice and happy to temporarily block thinking about how my legs hurt already. "I just want to finish within an hour and 30 minutes, is all", I thought. On that last stretch, I imagined devouring BonChon chicken - "F*ck this, I'm gonna f*cking eat fried chicken after this sh*t". It's probably not smart to reward yourself with food after serious ~goal-setting~ activity when you're trying to lose weight, but I gave up eating pork just for this so I gave myself a little slack.
I finished in an hour and 28 minutes. That's already slow to seasoned runners but that's a personal record for me. I wanted to cry upon approaching the gates to the Cebu City Sports Complex oval and towards the finish line, but I couldn't start emotional when the person you want to bawl your heart out of happiness was still on the road fighting for a decent 21K finish.
At some point of the run, I swore again that I'm never running longer than 10 kilometers. And again, I'm breaking another word - I registered for a 12K. I still have loads to fix and improve in training, and if I want to be faster, stronger and to run longer than 12K in the future, I'll keep thinking of my mother and the women before her.
Unlike our trip to Ilocos Norte and Sur where I stressed over where we'd be staying, this time I resolved to book the first best & nicest place I could find. Good thing Hibiscus Garden Inn wasn't very hard to find. It is, if I'm not mistaken, the highest rated hotel in TripAdvisor. When I saw that the reviews looked genuine and their photos looking pretty, I booked for a 4D/3N package with them right away.
Hibiscus Garden Inn isn't located along Rizal Ave. where most accommodations and dining spots are. It wasn't a disadvantage though because this meant we wouldn't be waking up to a sight of buildings and public transport. It's also very accessible via tricycles, anyway.
Island hopping and snorkeling at Honda Bay is one of THE things-to-do in Puerto Princesa. When you do packaged tours, expect it to be in the itinerary along with the city tour and going to the underground river. Well, even when you just do a DIY itinerary, it's highly recommended you include it. Our tour guide constantly reminded us that the correct name where Snake Island, Pandan Island, etc. are located is Hunda Bay, contrary to how it is popularly spelled.
My skin hasn't completely recovered from baking it under the sun. I'm nognog-er than ever. My sunblock didn't last long or must have worn off faster than it should as I enthusiastically snorkeled.
I am including videos in this post as I am bad with adjectives and describing things, so I thought the videos will do the job for me at showing you how underwater life is so amazing there! We just took them using my phone (used protective casing but was so nervous the whole time!) so it's not the best-est quality. It's also shot in portrait orientation, lulz.
Dos Palmas sighting
Lu-Li ("lulubog-lilitaw") Island
Tickly sea urchin
Ed trying out sea urchin, one of his food adventures in Puerto Princesa (he ate tamilok at Baker's Hill and catfish at KaLui)
Our tour group
Starfish Island, part two
At the end of the tour, our snorkeling guide gave us these cute leaf creations...