Dec 31, 2010

Lesser-Known Wonders: Nabuntulan Falls in Mt. Isarog National Park

ne of the lesser popular destination in Naga is the Nabuntulan Falls in Mt. Isarog National Park in Brgy. Panicuasion. Tourists and mountaineers alike often talk about their adventures in Malabsay Falls, which is also within the park. My Bikolano friend who invited me over to climb Mt. Isarog, and ever so nice when he succumbed to my request of aborting the climb and hangout at the falls instead, told me that most of the visitors of the park frequent the more popular Malabsay Falls. Personally I haven't been able to visit the same since we ran out of time because we arrived at Nabuntalan Falls a bit late. I was also told that Nabuntalan Falls is the source of Malabsay Falls, although the latter is more majestic than the former.

To get to Nabuntulan falls, you need to hike the mountain trail around 30 minutes or less. You have to take the left turn going up the Panicuason trail going to Mt. Isarog summit upon reaching the junction with the trail to Malabsay Falls which is to the right.

Majestic Nabuntulan
When we arrived there, after battling several clinging limatiks on the way, I was wowed by the force and power of this hydro-wonder. Watermists are everywhere, and it was a very cold part of the mountains since the area is secluded and all that waterforce are creating powerful thrusts of air. I practically sat in a stone most of the time, to keep the cold from seeping to me, while my companion was giddy with the thoughts cool water.

man and nature
See how majestic Nabuntulan Falls is? I can't describe the awesome feeling back there, me staring at the continuous water flow from nowhere that was creating the wind force threatening my newly bought tent that I set up on a boulder a few meters away from my spot. It was literally mist, mist, mist, and I was soaking wet even without having a dip in the cold, cold water.

I really hope more mountaineers and tourists alike will visit this part of Mt. Isarog National Park.

Nabuntulan Falls/11.2.09

Dec 26, 2010

Passport 101 for Dummies (like me)

International travel has never been in my mind, much more the application of a passport. But my recent embrace to travelling dictated a need for one.

I have been known, or I always expect difficulties when it involves my birth certificate. Six years ago, I have these nightmares of attending court sessions just to correct a few entries in that document.

Last year, I tried to set an appointment via the DFA's Online Passport Appointment System. The date given to me fell on a weekday and I was reluctant to take leave from work. Manya Na habit, I know. So that was a chance foregone.

Fastforward 2010, I am browsing pictures of friends who visited foreign lands. At the same time there are lots of tempting seatsale. Plus, the call of mountaineering. This passport matter has to be resolved this year once and for all.

I visited the DFA website often to slowly digest the procedures. I set an appointment for myself and my mother who wants to renew her expired passport. She got an earlier appointment than mine, while I got a December 16 appointment.

A major reason behind why I always delay applying for a passport is my fear of encountering complications when it comes to my requirements. Since I have that newly acquired resolve, I armed myself with every possible document that I can provide them when needed. Had they asked for more documents I am afraid I cannot provide them with any and it will be a culdesac situation.

I arrived in DFA Aseana around fifteen past 3pm, an hour earlier than my appointment. Since they only let inside those with appointments within 30 minutes, I decided to have a stroll and explore the area (parang nasa bundok lang). I found an S&R store behind the office building, and went inside to take a snack. Which is I am thankful that I did because I have no idea it would take me a bit more than four hours to complete the entire process.

pizza love

I ordered New York Style's Garlic Cheese Pizza (php89). I didn;t expect it to be quite a mouthful, but I still managed to devour it to the last morsel. Glad I didn't order the apple pie I have been eyeing when I got inside the store. 

After (over)eating, I went back to the DFA building to get inside.  First, you need to wait outside the main building, in a line while sitting on plastic benches. Ooooppss... I forgot to have my papers verified so I entrusted my seat to another and had my papers checked on the DFA database. Afterwhich I went back to my seat.

long wait

The wait was a bit long, but it is well organized so it is tolerable. Plus that it is late in the afternoon so no more scorching heat for me. After about 20 minutes of wait, we were finally ushered inside the main building.

still on queue

Inside there are still lots of passport applicants on queue. This is the first step, the Documents Verification. The verifiers will check your documents like the application form and the valid IDs. Then they will decide if you are eligible to be processed. This streamlining will eliminate waste of time when people pay then found that they don't have the necessary documents. 

empty chair

I am one of the few who were on the last of the line. Seeing the long queu in front of me, I can also see the few more hours that I will need to complete this whole application process. Upon reaching the counters, I saw that one verifier was being harsh to an applicant. When assigned with a counter number, I saw in the next counter an applicant was being scrutinized for her documents submitted. When it was my turn, I was a bit surprised at how courteous the verifier was, and how she asked me no questions on my complicated situation, me having a foreign sounding name which requires a lot of documents like parent's marriage certificate and proof that I am a Filipino citizen, and how my name was misspelled in the birth certificate and all. All the complications that was holding me back previously, was now zapped in an instant??? Can it just go away like that, people ignoring it? Well I'll be damned. This is just my luckiest day. Plus I was complimented for having organized all my requirements with proper labelling, hehehe. Must be the clothes I wore, I went there wearing my office attire and the verifier read out loud my job position. It is not much, just enough to solicite politeness and courteousy on her part.

pray be seated...

I was instructed to pay at the cashier on the second floor, and have my details encoded and picture taken. After paying at the cashier, I proceeded to the courier services because I opted for my passport to be delivered. Then I got a number for the waitinglist of applicants to be processed. 

my digits

I waited more than 2 hours as there are more than 500 applicants ahead of me. I stared blankly on the computer screen announcing the numbers for processing, and regretted at the same time that I haven't brought a book with me. The next best thing was the ebook stored in my cellphone, the ever so unfinished "Lolita" by Nabokov. I passed time trying to read it. 

When it was my turn, they made me remove my colored contact lens! I wore blue that time and asked them jokingly to put in my details that I am blue-eyed.

I finished around 8pm. I asked around on how to get to EDSA northbound. Afterwhich I decided to have dinner on Robinsons Pioneer with my fave Mongolian in mind. At the bus I decided to try the cafe that I was eyeing for quite some time now. This is for reward for overcoming a task that I keep on delaying.

it's Thursday so there's Banchetto

Tokyo cafe at last!

You can read my Tokyo Cafe experience here.

1. Be there an hour before your appointment.
2. Don't bring any food. It is not allowed inside and will be confiscated upon entrance. Eat first before going inside.
3. Don't forget to have your papers verified first before queueing.
4. Be extra polite to the people inside.
5. Get a number first upon arrival at the second floor, before paying the cashier and proceeding with the courier.
6. Don't wear colored lenses.
7. Bring enough money.
8. Bring a pen.
9. Most important of all.... choose the earliest appointment possible. In my case, the 500+ applicants were accumulation of earlier appointments.

Upward Trail: Packing Light for Mountaineers

Blogger's note: This article was "borrowed" from a site, as credited at the end of this post. I have this posted in my Multiply account a few years back, and reposted it here in This piece helped me a lot in my mountaineering trips, and this formed part of my informal BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course). I find reading this again, a bit refreshing. It's like the old days back when I was still a newbie, and was really wowed by the things I've learned from this. Till this day, I might not practice this all religiously but I definitely know this by heart. Thanks to the author of this article.

Fast & Light Backpacking Revolution:

There’s a gear revolution going on right now. Our load is getting lighter than ever before. What’s more, backcountry innovators have developed new techniques that let you go light without going to extremes. Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, you’ll find useful tips for lightening your load by a little or a lot. So join the revolution. It’s making backpacking feel like day hiking.

Here’s the real trick for traveling light: Scrutinize every piece of gear. Why take a three-pound, multi-zippered, multi-pocketed, expedition jacket when an eight-ounce windbreaker is sufficient? Why take a heavy full-length air mattress when, with the right campsite selection, an eight-ounce foam pad is enough? Why carry a ten-pound tent "tested on Everest" when, if the point is to be outside, a four-pound tent is terrific? Why take a bulky sweater when a featherweight down vest is adequate? Why carry extra food when you’ll never eat it? Why carry extra water when you can move from stream to stream to purify what you need? And now that you’re carrying half the weight, why use a seven-pound backpack when a three-pound pack is fine?

Gary Barnes: "I Tried to Climb a Mountain Today"

Mt. Kilimanjaro

I tried to climb the mountain today. As I inched my way up the path, I felt overwhelmed, so I had to turn back.

I tried to climb the mountain today. On my journey, darkness started to fall, and I was full of fear, so I had to return to a safe place.

I was ready to climb the mountain today. But it was so hot outside, I thought I better stay in my nice air-conditioned house and rest up for  tomorrow's attempt.

I was about to climb the mountain today. But I had so many other things to do,so instead of climbing the mountain I took care of much more important tasks. I washed my car, mowed the grass and watched the big game. Today the mountain will just have to wait.

I was going to climb the mountain today. But as I stared at the mountain in it's majestic beauty, I knew I stood no chance of making it to the top, so I figured why even bother trying.

I have forgotten about climbing the mountain today; until a friend came by and asked me what I was up to lately. I told him I was thinking about climbing that mountain some day. I went on and on about how I was going to accomplish this task.

Finally, he said, "I just got back from climbing the mountain. For the longest time I told myself I was trying to climb the mountain but never made any progress. I almost let the dream of making it to the top die. I came up with every excuse of why I could not make it up the mountain, but never once did I give myself a reason why I could.”

“One day as I stared at the mountain and pondered, I realized that if I didn't make an attempt at this dream all my dreams will eventually die. The next morning, I started my climb."

He continued, "It was not easy, and at times I wanted to quit. But no matter what I faced, I placed one foot in front of the other, keeping a steady pace. When the wind tried to blow me over the edge, I kept walking. When the voices inside my head screamed "stop!" I focused on my goal never letting it out of sight, and I kept moving forward. At times, I was ready to quit, but I knew I had come too far.”

“Time and time again, I reassured myself that I was going to finish this journey. I struggled to make it to the top, but I climbed the mountain!"

"I have to be going," my friend said. "Tomorrow is a new day to accomplish more dreams. By the way, what are you going to do tomorrow?"

I looked at him, with intensity and confidence in my eyes, and said…

"I have a mountain to climb."

- Gary Barnes, 1999

Dec 25, 2010

Travel Plan: JANUARY 2011

This year I hope that my travels will all be fruitful sans ire and aggravation from the tourism mindset of the locals. To start the year, I plan to spend my weekends on the following destinations:

Mt. Banoi
This is merely a daytrip, exploration style since I don't plan to have a guide other than my research and tips from friends who have been there. I was told that it is safe to climb solo here. This is one of the several peaks in Batangas area.

Dec 21, 2010

Marinduque: Year-End Climb Trip

Every sensible traveller prepares an itinerary of the trip beforehand to ensure that resources and time will be maximized to fully enjoy the experience. This ideal itinerary I prepared does not promise a foolproof adventure plan, but rather will serve as my guide as I travail the depths of the island. 

You might be a bit surprised with the dates in this itinerary. And I am sorry to my mother who kept on wishing to ground me if only for this Christmas. Don't worry Ma, I will be on the ground for New Year.

I hope this post will help other future travelers of this wondrous place.

Dec 20, 2010


It was my second year in mountaineering, but it still feels like my first. Afterall, it is only this time that I started to take this hobby seriously. Moreover,  I am now cultivating my new-found confidence in traveling. For my year-end climb, I have set my mind to the famed Bakun Trio... after setting eyes on Mt. Kabunian. I did a massive research starting as early as September 2008, and started contacting groups known to have scaled these babies. 

I found a group called SABIT Mountaineers who was scheduled to do these 3 mountains for the year-end. But unfortunately, they have to cancel the last minute. Since I am a person known for resolve in climbing, I made sure that this will push through, with or without them. So I informed my then buddy Liz about the situation at hand, and we prepared ourselves to do this adventure on our own.

To date, this is the one climb that I am very proud of. This trip gave us the confidence that we have now. Confidence that with sufficient planning and research plus ample resources and good amount of faith in people's goodness, we can go almost anywhere.

Dec 14, 2010

Halloween Climb: Mt. Kalatungan Traverse

 This climb had been a long way in the making. During our descent from the Mt. Kitanglad-Dulangdulang climb, our 3-man climb party spotted this another majestic mountain range just the opposite side of where we had been. We were told it is the Mt. Kalatungan Range. 

We told ourselves that we will visit Bukidnon again, perhaps before the year ends, to climb this imposing range. We manage to have a 7-man team,  3 of which were climb guests from Bukidnon proper.

Dec 12, 2010


My supposed Naga trip was detoured to Cebu when I found out that I could cut along my connecting flight.

Then Cebu is in danger of being trumped now that I am considering an invitational climb in Ormoc that coincides with my Cebu trip date.

Afterall, it's just one ferry ride. Hmmmm....

Southeast Asia's Highest

As a seasoned climber, one can't help but dream of a bigger horizon far beyond our own comfort zone. We all know that Mt. Everest is the highest in the world as of today, but do you know the highest mountains in your region? Here is a list of the highest mountains in the Southeast Asia as per Wikipedia.

11. Singapore: Bukit Timah (163.6 MASL)

Bukit Timah Hill

Dec 9, 2010

Gingoog City: Climb-turned-roadtrip

Northern Mindanao Solo Roadtrip: Part 1 of 3

November 27, 2010

Sometime July I promised myself that I will visit Camiguin again (my last time there was November 2008), and climb the highest mountain in the island, Mt. Timpoong. However due to the circumstance that I already went there last November 1-2, 2010, I decided to reroute and go backpacking/mountain climbing someplace else instead.

At first, my target destination was just Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental, having been almost there the other time. But then... one dreams of covering as much land area as possible. So my horizon expanded to Butuan City in Agusan del Norte, and even Surigao City in Surigao del Norte.

My 4D3N solo journey in Northern Mindanao started when I boarded a plane bound for Cagayan de Oro on November 27, 2010. Cagayan de Oro, or what we fondly refer to as CDO, is one of the gateways to Mindanao. You can hop on a plane to CDO, land on the northernest airport in Mindanao, and travel your heart out whether by land, by air, or by sea.
Best sunrise ever

Bring it on, 2011!

I can't wait for my 2011 to kick-off. For sure it will be filled with budget-friendly trips since my 2010 taught me well.

What's in store?:

Dec 7, 2010

The Choices that We Make

People make choices in life. We all do. We all have to. We make choices on how we want to live our life, on how we should, and what we will do to make both meet. And the most important of all is deciding the path of your journey.