Monday, March 27, 2017

Rock Climbing Mansorela - Outtakes and Lessons Learned

Two weekends ago, the mean boys and mean girls of Cebu Rock Climbing Community revisited Mansorela for a one-night rock trip. The short trip was an experience of a lifetime.

As someone who is some kind of a teacher, I have a keen interest in learning. After all, a teacher is just a learner who enjoys helping others learn. Here are some lessons I learned from the trip.

Climbing involves a lot of walking.

Salsa lessons are useful.

From a certain height, people can look so tiny.

Between gossips and climbing, you can spend time bouldering.

Helmets keep zombies from eating your brain and tiny rocks from splitting the scalp wide open.

It's possible to feel infinite and tiny at the same time.

Some people work hard to make us look good. These people don't get to have many photos of themselves.

People who know how to cook are important people.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mansorela: Loose Rocks, Reggae

It is hard to comprehend this beauty.

I am, unofficially, one of the most useless climbers to climb with. My belaying skills are sketchy. When it’s my turn to climb, I get so scared that I overgrip all the way up a route (provided that I finish it). It seems that my courage is limited to a range between two and eight feet, with a 12-inch crash pad underneath.

The sight of this rock face made us hold our breath.

When I arrived at Mansorela last weekend, it seemed that my courage got a bit of a boost. It was like getting the third vial for tooth extraction. On all the routes I attempted, I climbed with sheer courage until the third clip. By then, the courage brought by adrenaline dropped like a free-falling rock, unrestrained by air drag and freely propelled by gravity.

Mervil sets up a 5.11d route near a river. The sound of water slamming against rock is still one of the purest notes.

But the most important thing is that I made myself look brave in some of the photos because we had our friend Lilay. She has a keen understanding of the connection between landscape and human emotions. She is able to find the perfect angle to capture the interlock of our courage and fear as we find our way up on a rock that was a complete stranger to us.

Lor got hooked up with this move. Slab routes always promise an imminent scraping of the skin.

We experienced a slight drizzle of loose rocks and dust in many of the routes because those are newly established route that were only climbed a few times.

Just as there are Knights who Say Ni, there are also toll keepers that say Moo.

When the universe "exploded," it left shrapnels all over its deck.

The night prior, we turned off the lights and listened to Space Oddity. Hence, the usual belay call was replaced with "Ground Control to Major Tom."

It is hard to control something as primal as fear. But when you manage your breathing, it just dis-a-fears. Yes, our trip was chunked with lame jokes.

I told them about some guy in the city who got caught growing weed. He argued that the evidence was planted.

Photos by Jo, Lilay, Jerald, and Lor. Kudos to Mervil for his quiet leadership.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Anda Bohol - BoWhole New World

Photos by Elki Balbuena

Anda, like most places that I've visited, brings a feeling of happiness and disappointment. It is disappointing for the same reason that most popular travel destinations are disappointing: people just throw their trash everywhere. The people who trash Anda are locals and it's ironic because they're destroying the very place that sustains them.

Getting to Anda

Anda is about 100 kilometers from Tagbilaran. Because Bohol is not cursed with traffic, it only takes two hours and 130 pesos (via van) to get to Anda.

From Tagbilaran Port, you can get a tricycle to take you to the Integrated Bus Terminal, which locals refer to as Dao Terminal. Lamentably, the tricycle drivers will overcharge you so be prepare to haggle for 20 pesos per person. It is still over-priced because the terminal is only 4kms away from the port, but that's as long as the fare could get.

From the Integrated Terminal, you can take a bus or van. Don't overthink your options, either is okay. From the terminal, it's a smooth sail on Bohol's eastern coastal highway all the way to Anda. I envied how well-paved that highway is.

Dapdap Beach Resort

We stayed at Dapdap Beach Resort. The resort is run by a wonderful family but they said they plan to sell it. Hopefully, the next owners are just as nice. I'll just drop their official website here. And yes, they serve good food. If there's three or four of you, get their platter of garlic rice and you wouldn't be hungry for hours.

Marine Life in Dapdap

From Dapdap Beach Resort, you can see a variety of corals just a few minute's swim out into the water. And where there are corals, there are also fishes. I've marked out some spots where you can find corals in Dapdap, here and here. These are just approximations so you need to do some searching yourself.

There's a guy on Panoramio named Peter Kock who was able to snap some nudibranch in the area. Our eyes are not as good as his so we didn't see some nudis. Also, Panoramio will be gone soon so you'll have to check out his photos before November 04.

Cateres Cave

Cateres Cave is just five minute's walk from Dapdap Beach Resort. It's more of a cove than a cave. Its tiny lagoon is a mix of salt and fresh water. Be prepared to be greeted by trash on the way to the lagoon. I'm talking about junk food wrappers, empty liquor and soft drink bottles, and shampoo sachets. The lagoon itself is clean.

Dapdap Beach to Quinale

Quinale Beach, at the heart of Anda, has the reputation as the finest white sand in the town but it's too dirty when we went there. There was litter everywhere and the water smelled of sewage. It is rather unfortunate because the sand is indeed as fine as the sand that you could see in an hour glass.

But don't let that stop you from going to Anda. When the tide is low, you take a walk from Dapdap Beach Resort all the way to Quinale Beach and you'll find many beautiful spots. There are tiny cliffs and coves everywhere. It's a four-kilometer stretch punctuated by several beach resorts.

You can still find empty lots where you can chill under the shade of coral rock coves. I think now is the best time to go to Anda, while it is not yet as crowded as Panglao.

Lamanoc Fish Sanctuary

I don't really like most of the tourism offices in the Philippines because it seems that they're just sitting around and raking in money. It was true in Bohol, a few years back. But now, I can feel that Bohol's tourism office is on to something good.

They give away free maps and brochures that offer legit information. The brochures don't cover the small things (I guess the whole point of traveling is to find out the small things that make places remarkable) but they're good enough to start with.

One of the things that you can find in the brochures is Lamanoc Island. It is an island that used to be a burial site for the natives and has remains of Boholanons who walked this earth a long time ago. I can't say much more because we didn't really go there.

We just went out to snorkel on the waters that meander around Lamanoc Island. I'm cool with dead people it's just that I'm more interested in living fishes and corals. If you want to get the whole package for the Lamanoc Tour, you'll just have to pay 300 pesos. For snorkeling, it's 130 pesos per person.

A local guide will take you on a boat to the snorkeling site because the water near the coast is too shallow. Also, the corals near the coast have been wiped out by a number of typhoons and they're still on the way to regrowing. However, there are some interesting things to see at the snorkeling area and your local guide will tell you where to go.

Can-umantad Falls

Water rapids scare me because even if you're just two feet deep in them, they can knock you off balance and take you to your unplanned demise. And when you go to Can-umantad Falls during rainy season, you can expect to cross a stream with strong rapids. But I'm not discouraging you from going there -- just giving out a word of caution.

It is best to go to Can-umantad by motorbike because they road going there is scenic. It is one of those times when you can say that the journey is as good as the destination. Or maybe I'm overstating it -- I'm just probably overwhelmed by the lack of pollution.

On the way to the waterfalls, you'll pass by Cadapdapan Rice Terraces. I'm not particularly crazy about it but I like it anyway, mainly because I love rice and I eat a lot of rice. The fields look golden when you go there an hour or two before sundown.

Motorbike Rental

We rented a motorbike at Dapdap Beach Resort for 300 pesos. I didn't realize right away that the bike we rented didn't have a working headlight. I got quite anxious about getting back to Anda before sunset but I didn't drive faster. I know some people would push the speed on their bike when they're in a hurry but for me the risk is not worth it. It's like saying you saved $50 on an overpriced dress because it was 50% off.

There are many bike rentals in Anda if you just walk around town. If you're lazy, you can go straight to Anda's tourism office where you can rent a bike for 500 to 1,000 pesos per day. Or a more convenient option is to get the bike from your resort. It's hard to pin an exact price because bike rental is not a regulated industry.

I wasn't at all upset with the bike that we rented for 300 pesos. It's a good deal anyway, and if it had a working headlamp it would have been perfect. Nobody likes to drive in the dark (which we didn't because we made it back just before dark).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Camels Crossing - Trip to the Belly of Negros Island

I used to be able to do this breakway look back a lot. Now, my cardio sucks.

I’ve never seen a sign that says “Camels Crossing,” not until that time we pedaled the road between Murcia and La Carlota. I didn’t have the time to take a photo because Ride All the Way, who was on the lead, was pedaling on a solid pace. It wasn’t blistering, but she was relentless.

It was the third day of our bike trip in Negros. But let's go back to day one first.

Bound for Negros Island

We left Cebu on the midday of the 24th of February. We went to Toledo through the Manipis Highway. From Toledo City, we boarded a “fastcraft” bound to San Carlos City. We paid 180 pesos for our fare, plus 50 pesos for each of our bicycles.

We were initially charged with 75 pesos for each bike but I didn’t think it was fair because after we took the tires off our bike, it didn’t really take up much room.

The boat ride was not pleasant at all. I don’t mind a bumpy ride on an outrigger (bangka) because it’s in open air. But being cramped in a dimly-lit space that smelled of sweat, crude oil, and burning rubber is recipe for a vomit spree -- which I somehow managed to contain.

Bacolod via Ecotourism Highway

We arrived in San Carlos City after an hour and a half that seemed like forever. We stayed in San Carlos Guest House, a place with lots of wooden sculpture and vinyl. They also have a two-foot jar filled with 25 cents.

In San Carlos Guest House. These are made from recycled 1.5L soda bottles.

We left for Bacolod via Ecotourism Highway. It was a trip that was supposed to only take four hours but we did it in eight. There were so many reasons to stop.

One of the many stops that delayed our trip. It was a welcomed delay.

My favorite stop was Mowgli’s Cafe -- 53km from Bacolod. It was the first time that I paid 20 pesos for brewed coffee. But the most memorable part of that ride happened somewhere outside the town of Prosperidad.

Mowgli Cafe, 53kms from Bacolod. They serve brewed coffee for 20 pesos.

Ride All the Way had to have her brake fluid refilled and we didn’t have the right size of screwdriver with us and the wrench to bleed the caliper. We were happy to a machine shop somewhere along the road and were able to borrow what we needed.

One of the many bridges we crossed. I was so caught up in the beauty that I didn't bother to list down the places we passed by.

The hydro hose accumulated so much air that bleeding the caliper twice was not enough. That’s when our mechanic hero stepped in and did the job for us. He undid the bolt entirely, and used his thumb to control the bleed at “thumb point” accuracy. And we were immediately back on our merry way.

Before we reached Bacolod City, we stopped by a tattoo shop that serves batchoy. The server’s forearm was inked with Bob Marley’s portait and Tupac Shakur on the other.

Powerup Gym - Bacolod

We didn’t have much to do when we arrived in Bacolod so we dropped by Powerup Gym. We found it by accident while looking for a place to stay at.

Powering up at Powerup Gym.

It was really good to hang out with the Bacolod crowd. They had everything figured out. The live in a chill city. They didn’t have much to offer in terms of natural attractions but their food, culture, and art is there.

The people at the gym are very supportive. And, best of all, they sell soda. I love soda.

Bacolod - Day Two

Going up a dirt track that leads to Murcia, Bacolod.

We stayed in Bacolod for an extra day to meet up with Ride All The Way’s friend. As with all other people from Bacolod, she was really cool. And I learned so much from her husband -- I asked him questions that range from fitness, competition mountain biking, and politics.

“Kung nastre-stress ako, nagba-bike ako. Ngayong hindi na ako stress, hindi na rin ako nagba-bike,” (I bike when I get stressed out. Now that I’m not stressed, I don’t bike) were his words of wisdom. My favorite.

“Kasi itong mga taga-Bacolod, kung anong bago ‘yun ang tinatangkilik nila. D’yan sa Strip noon hindi ka makaupo sa dami nang tao. Ngayon, kahit saan, pwede ka nang umupo.” (Probably not his exact words.) It does reflect how Filipinos choose the places where they hang out.

Warmup Cafe in Bacolod. The best things in life are not free. But you can put them together in one place and that's worth paying for.

The dinner we were treated to was one of the other highlight of our day two in Bacolod. Of course, there was Warm Up - a bicycle service shop that doubles as a coffee shop. Somehow, someone was able to fit two good things that were larger than life - coffee and bikes - in one space.
Bal Marsius