Who we keep

December 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

In life, we let fate decide who we meet. It’s by chance that we got to know some of the people we know now. Two people will have to be at the same place at the same time to have a chance at seeing eye to eye, dancing together, brushing shoulders, or exchanging nicknames and handshakes. When that happens, that’s the only time when we can take chances on them. We try to look into people, into their being, perhaps on the good side and also the bad side. We learn to evaluate, to accept, to embrace, to reject, to scrutinize, to question.

During those circumstances, we then decide what to do with it. We work hard for our relationship with them – to protect, to nourish, to sustain. We can also decide to break trust, encourage success, let down, keep believing, give up, stay behind or fight for them. I think that’s what makes life both amazing and heartbreaking. We have all that power over people. We can reason everything out. We can test logic or feel our gut. We decide on forever, the nth chance, never again, or never ever just with our minds.

In life, we let fate decide who we meet but we decide for ourselves who we keep.


My first ink

November 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

This time two years ago, I got my first tattoo. People asked where it was located. Why I had it written there in the part which was believed by some to be on my inner thighs with this zoomed in photo.


A few asked if it was because of a man. Later on, strangers, acquaintances and friends have asked to see it closely. And when they see the phrase carefully written on my skin, they don’t ask what it means. A French guy I met in Bali even said there’s a similar saying in their language. I wish I had remembered the words exactly.

Just to make things clear, no, I did not get inked because of a man from my recent past. Coincidentally around that period, I learned that my happiness did not depend on being in a relationship. I decided to break my own heart by letting go and letting be. I learned the hard way about what I thought I wanted in a significant other but greater things mattered.

I realize now that Octobers and Novembers of my adult years have become significant months of my life. I don’t know if it has something to do with my birthday and life testing how mature I am. The words of my 24-year old self still reminds me years later that I should never give up on great love but never will I settle for less. I still am and will forever be a hopeless romantic. But I am never without hope.

So maybe I’ll finally get another piece this year. We’ll see.

A time for ourselves

November 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

When we take time for ourselves, we get to remember what keeps us going every single day. You may do some things by your lonesome but you are never lonely because you can take it all in for what it is or go beyond.
Lonesome Traveler

I am one who takes joy in being alone but I am without sorrow when surrounded by people who matter. What I do find comforting is that in being by myself, I bask in the world that surrounds me — the peace in the silence, the chaos in everything that moves while I am on pause, the beauty in the mundane and otherwise left unnoticed. At one point in your life, you may have felt it too. It’s in the rising of your chest with every breath, the howling of the wind through your ears even on calm days, the warm feeling on your skin with every kiss from the sun. You could have never noticed if you did not consciously consider it.


You may have to find time to do things on your own but taking a break for yourself is never selfish. It’s just another way of immersing yourself in a world that you cannot see when you are with somebody else.

Taking notes

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

7:00AM. Fuck. I overslept. I was supposed to be working on a paper! To wake me up, I had to do some social media updating and found inspired by a familiar person to work on a photo blog. So while I was posting an electronic note for myself, I stumbled upon the last thing I wrote which is both interesting and hanging.

2/13/13. I was working on an article for Valentine’s Day, I realized. Perhaps I really didn’t have time to work on it, but I started with something. It could have been something good and I don’t know if I’d still be continuing it.

Love Blog

I found it needs editing. Definitely. Maybe I should work on it. Later. For now,

“Love is almost always the reason you have in your heart to know if it’s worth fighting for.”

7:33 AM. I have to work. Deadlines. Let’s end with that.

If you get bruised…

February 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

If you get bruised, don’t pick at the wound because it just might get worse. If it still hurts, then it’s not yet healed so give it time.

For the past few months, I’ve been riding on a roller coaster of emotions — that of pain, love, longing, hurt, happiness, envy, and satisfaction, to name a few. Most people on the social media sites just know how I’ve been going to lots of places almost every weekend, posting all those photos and videos that I enjoy working on. Then they’d read some positive self-convincing posts in the middle of the stream, which I really don’t mind. I am, in essence, trying to convince myself that things will be a lot better, that there’s so much more in store for me beyond this broken heart, and that I believe the best of my love story has yet to be told.

A good number of people know how random the personal messages I send them can get. Sometimes I’m well distracted that I forget about what I’m going through. Most times, it just hits me. I get a good idle moment on a bus, while trekking, during my sunset run, in a line at the canteen, and I think — whether or not I have done everything that I can to make it work, if I have given enough of myself, if I have been patient and kind, if I did anything to cause hurt to others, if I deserve this kind of pain. In those idle moments, I start writing text on my phone and later decide whether to hit send or not.

Eventually, I resolve that I feel what I feel because that’s how my heart is wired to react. If I don’t feel loved, then there’s definitely something wrong. If the happiness is gone, whatever I do will not suffice to keep the relationship alive. If I feel that I need to say something, I will so I cannot regret not having done so. But I can only do so much, I said. So this thing is no longer in my hands and maybe I will be content with whatever God has planned for me in the future.

Maybe we could just be friends. I have come to accept that we weren’t meant to be together but just maybe, we could still share anything under our umbrella of interests. And that may be just fine. I can handle that. That will be enough, I thought. So there was that acceptance part which is the end-all of this loss. I think I skipped some parts in those five stages of grief. I just kept on going and going about my daily life, wanting more out of everything I’ve been fond of doing, doing what I do best. And when I finally came to that point of acceptance, I realized, “Hey. That’s a good thing. I can do this. Maybe friendship will be enough.”

So I was done with it. Eased my way into re-establishing a friendship. But then some pain resurfaced and I couldn’t handle it. I then reconsidered, maybe it’s not yet time. If pain still persists, then I am essentially not yet fully healed. All my friends have said I should give it time to heal. It won’t happen immediately but it will happen. It dawned upon me that heartbreaks are like wounds. We were always advised by our elders how to take care of our wounds. If you get bruised, don’t pick at the wound because it just might get worse. If it still hurts, then it’s not yet healed so give it time. In reality, we have been learning our lessons on overcoming heartbreaks back when we were kids. It’s really very simple and very cliche. At the end of the day, time heals all wounds.

Right now, I am a bomb full of emotions and I’m letting myself explode. My readers may not understand why I am doing this — exposing myself raw and open. I haven’t written such entries in a long time but I remember how writing reminds me of what I believe in. Even after several years, I look back and recall that that Ayla was real and hasn’t changed much. She’s still a believer, still trusting that this will pass. Later on, there will be no pain, no hurt, no resentment. All that I need is time.

2922 MASL: Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg

January 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

An amateur’s guide to conquering Mt. Pulag.

Mt. Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon and majority of this National Park belongs to the Kabayan Municipality in Benguet and is bounded by two other provinces: Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya. Being 2922 meters above sea level, it is the second highest in the Philippines next to Mt. Apo, and boasts of the best views of the sunrise amongst a sea of clouds.

Amongst the Sea of Creation
Mt. Pulag is well known for having a sea of clouds covering the hills below. It gives you a feeling of being afloat. At that time however, the clouds weren’t so thick so the smaller peaks were still visible.

The Park has been declared by the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) as a National Protected Area. A visit then requires a permit from the DENR Visitor’s Information Center, an office three hours from Baguio City and 10 km away from the Ranger Station of the Park [that’s about another hour].


Our trip was arranged by my good friend and UP Mountaineer, Mark [If you need help in setting up your own trip, let me know. He’s been there eight times already through the Ambangeg and Akiki Trails]. He had rented a jeepney at a fixed rate good for 18 pax plus baggage to fetch us from Baguio and bring us to the Ranger Station and back. There were only nine of us so we had enough space to throw ourselves around especially with the zigzag cemented paths and bumpy rides through rough and dusty roads. However, having more passengers will lower your share on the rental and will give you anchorage and more shoulders to sleep on while on the road.

Dusty Road

A brief orientation will be given at the Information Center with the help of a video about respecting Mt. Pulag. The other one I saw years back was sort of a generic “Leave No Trace” themed introduction to the visit of National Parks so this one was a lot more appropriate and encouraging.

Upon registration, each individual must pay the following (as of March 2009):
PhP 100.00 Entrance Fee to the National Park
PhP 25.00 Green Fee for the Municipality of Kabayan
PhP 50.00 Camping Fee per Night


The Ranger Station is the jump-off point for the trekking of the Ambangeg Trail. It’s the easiest among the four trails from Benguet and will require you about 2-3 hours to Camp 2 with timed stops for rest.

Kuya Larry will gladly entertain you and refer you to the local guides of the Park. Each guide’s service will cost you PhP100.00 per visitor. Our number only required us to take one guide, named Vienna, and allowed us to hand her a lightweight pack without any additional fees. If you have more to bring, porters can be hired at PhP500.00 per guide. If this is good for an overnight stay, I don’t know. You just probably have to negotiate depending on the weight of the load and length of stay.


1. Timing is everything.
February to March seems to be the best time to visit Mt. Pulag as the temperature at the peak is at its lowest without rainfall. During the day, the sky is made of a blue backdrop with scattered cotton clouds.

The country

Scheduling the trip on a full moon will also give you the best blanket of stars above your head until the break of dawn. Capturing the scenic night skies should be assisted by a lightweight tripod for photography enthusiasts. I chose not to bring mine because that will automatically burden me with 2 kilos.

With regards to the actual stay, be strict about the time so you don’t suffer the consequences. Our itinerary was perfect. We got to the Ranger Station at around 10:30AM so we had time to repack, cook and eat lunch. Come 1PM, we were already a few meters through the Ambangeg Trail.

To the Shire

2. Hiking is done best with a light load so bring only what you need.
A vertically expanding pack should give your back a good suspension so borrow or invest in one. Just make sure that you pack in an orderly manner so you don’t have to worry about wasted space. A rolled earth pad can be used to line your backpack after which you can stuff it with your clothes, mess kit and other essentials. You will know you packed well when the bag is erect once placed on flat ground. [So don’t pack it bery kwik, okay? Hehe] Other things you don’t need, you can store in a duffel bag and leave at the Ranger Station until you get back. This includes your change of clothes for the trip back to Baguio.

Keep your arms free to move about during the trek. It will help you climb the 40º steep slopes you will encounter 30 minutes into the trail. It is also advisable to let your camera hang from your neck but keep the camera bag hooked to the main pack.

3. Rest if you must.
Make 2-5 minute stops every now and then to slow down your heartbeat. Breathe slowly and recharge. Having accessible water containers and trail food will also minimize unpacking and repacking during times of rest.

The park is rich in flora and fauna. It’s not bad to enjoy the view. Stop and smell the flowers. 🙂

Small yellow flowers

4. Protect yourself from the weather.
Although the weather during the trek is generally cool, the hiker will definitely sweat so it’s advisable to wear dry-fit clothes you’d usually be in during a jog. A sleeveless top and sun-blocked skin will also ensure a tan-line free pair of arms. A head gear for your nape and standalone arm sleeves can also work for weatherproofing.

Sleeping on a tent below zero degrees Celsius is no joke so be ready with layers of clothes and the proper gear and thermal underwear. On top of your shirt, you should have a thick sweater or fleece, a hoodie, and a rain jacket. Pairs of jogging pants, warmers and socks can also be worn on top of one another. Aside from that, you also need a bonnet, scarf and gloves. These things you can buy in Baguio City but you might have to endure some itchiness while wearing them unwashed.

For this trip, I brought a very big tent I borrowed from a friend. The cold allowed seven of us to fill the space with no suffocation problems. However, without waterproofing, the occupants at the sides are left to suffer with dew condensing on the surface of the tent so prepare for this. The ground is also cold and an earth pad will help insulate and a sleeping bag will give you added comfort.

5. Be prepared.
Like in any camping trip, be prepared. There will be no butlers, no waiters, no room service, no hot showers and no toilet seats. Be responsible enough. Bring your food, water, medicine, cook sets, mess kits, wet wipes, tissue, trash bags and working flashlights or headlamps with batteries. [Note that batteries will be less efficient in cold weather so bring extras.]

Do not leave your things outside the tent. Waterproof and store properly. For your electronics, keep them in a dry bag with silica gel or other dessicants to protect them from acquiring moisture.

6. Be careful.
The trek is not a race. Take each step carefully.

The trails can be as narrow as half a foot wide so keeping your balance while walking in a straight line is crucial. Some parts of the Ambangeg Trail have already been lined with tree trunks, stepping stones and hard soil carved into steps so it’s relatively easier to walk on but you still shouldn’t be in a hurry.

Hiking in the early hours of the morning is also very challenging as you can only see where your artificial light can reach. The trails going around the hills will leave one side with vast space sloping downwards vanishing into the dark. It’s scary but just stay alert and you’ll be fine.

A hint of sunshine


Waking Up.
For the morning assault to the Summit, you should be awake by 3AM, if you were able to sleep in the first place. This will give you time to not only nourish yourselves with instant food like noodles and coffee, but also to get your gear on and try to relax your brittle extremities in the cold weather.

Temperature Zero

Keeping Warm.
Having a poor tolerance on low temperature conditions, I had three layers of upper body covering and two layers of pants and socks. But it wasn’t enough. That morning, I had to slide my plastic-covered [adds insulation] numb feet slowly into my rubber shoes.

The Trails.
It’s safe to leave Camp 2 by 4AM to catch the sunrise. Several trails are available. There are shorter trails that pass through the hills but are a lot more difficult to climb. And there are the longer ones that go around the sides with relatively flat surfaces. Whether you take the long or the short trails, all routes lead to the Summit.

You will know you’re going in the right direction when you see the sign “Grassland Summit 1.5 km.” The trail has also improved as there are a few hundred meters of stones arranged into steps. It makes each stride easier and longer.

Two trails

You may also find white crystal-like substances reflecting light and lining the trails — they’re frosted grass made with dew drops precipitating on the lawn. When you touch them, they’re as solid as ice shavings for halo-halo.

To the Summit!
You might be deceived by the smaller hills and trails. If you’re not on top of everything, then you’re not yet on the summit. The only problem is if you can’t place yourself in the scene due to zero visibility. Just keep moving up or look for people resting on flat tops and eventually you’ll get there.

Halfway through the climb, you will start to regain sensation to your frozen toes. And you’ll be sweating despite the cold. Breathe easy. By the time you get to the summit, the temperature would be already tolerable with the help of the warmth of the sun.

The Summit.
When you get to the Summit, pause for a while. Breathe. And look around you.
Praise God for the scenic views. Smile and take a picture or two. 🙂

Warmth By God's Grace


Mark brought his cook set, water, and a bunch of insta-cook food. Before leaving the Summit, we recharged with a good cup of noodles. This will prevent your stomachs from growling on the trek back.

I also suggest you apply sun protection before going down as the rays directly hit your face. You’ll get sunburnt in the nose and cheeks like most of us, not unless you want the rosy cheeks feel.

Leave no trace.
We got back to the Camp Site at around 8AM. The boys prepared breakfast as the girls rested. Soon we were all enjoying corned beef and tuna omelette. By 10AM we were already fixing our stuff and breaking camp. Make sure you don’t leave any trace of your stay in the camp. Collect all trash and bring them with you to the Ranger Station.

An easy breezy.
With uphill strides cut short by long stretches of flat grounds and downward slopes, you need little rest. Sometimes, you feel like wanting to stop but when you reach a peak, you just keep moving forward like you’re on autopilot.

Back to Base.
In less than two hours, you should be back at the Ranger Station… sweating, dirty and relieved. So get ready for ice-cold water to refresh you in one of four cubicles there free for everyone to use.

[Warning: This is very much different from the water flowing through the faucets of Baguio or Sagada. It’s the feeling you have when you punch your hand through the ice and water of a cooler filled with bottled drinks while trying to find the flavor you want. It hurts!]

The Science of Strategic Bathing.
Through the course of your well-calculated bath, you will be an expert in strategic bathing:
1. Using a carabiner, hang your pouch with all your bathing needs.
2. Make sure there’s enough water in the pail or a flowing supply.
3. Take off your clothes.
4. Bend over and wet your hair. Get some shampoo and come up with a rich lather.
5. Slowly wet your feet and a bar of soap. Rub the bar of soap against your skin.
6. Work your way upwards without having to directly wet your skin. Just keep on dunking the soap into the water.
7. Once you have covered everything, start rinsing your hair with your head bent forward.
8. Remove the soap from foot to waist.
9. For the final rinsing of your upper body, inhale and pour water to your chest and back.
10. In 15 minutes, you should be done [it takes this long because the water will leave you feeling numb and afraid of the next wetting].

Last Leg.
Don’t be deceived by the high noon sun. Even at that time, the wind can still give you chills from the Ranger Station so have your jackets ready.

Eat your lunch.
Pack your bags.
Load and say goodbye.
Leave your comments and suggestions at the Information Center.
Sleep on your way back.

[Originally posted March 11, 2009]

Solicitation/Snatching Modus Operandi

December 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Soliciting money by going door-to-door has been a practice in Metro Manila communities especially for basketball teams trying to raise funds for their uniforms in an upcoming league. Nowadays, however, the method of showing pieces of paper with the text of one’s “story” seemed to be enough to get the message across.

Around Quezon City, I have encountered street children getting into public utility jeepneys as soon as the traffic light goes red or when it stops in the middle of heavy traffic. They then put pieces of white envelope on the lap of passengers, waiting for money to be slipped into it (essentially “begging”). Some older ones approach you during a meal in a restaurant or while hanging out in a mall and hand you a piece of paper while they carry goods that they sell like Yema, Polvoron, or some handicrafts. Just earlier this evening, though, I encountered something different.

Since it was a generally cool evening, my friend and I chose to dine al fresco in one of the restaurants along Maginhawa St. in U.P. Village. We were the only ones staying outside and so children frequented our table with their Christmas Carols. At one time, I did hand a twenty-peso bill to these three young boys just so they would stop. They did the usual “Thank you” carol. On all other occasions, we would say, “Sorry, next time.” Or just do the SHOO!-Go-away! hand gesture without looking at them.

Now this guy, around his mid-twenties, comes to us in white rubber shoes, cargo shorts and a jacket colored black around the arms and shoulder, white from below the breast down to the waist and outlined with yellow [I didn’t get to read the yellow text at the back of the jacket and don’t recognize its association]. He showed up with pieces of paper at my left whereas the kids normally approached us from the right which is along the road. I immediately said no with the similar hand gesture. I looked at the front page he showed. It said something about basketball which seemed to fit his profile but I didn’t bother to read any further. He kept on lightly waving the papers just a few inches above the table as we continued to say no. He didn’t utter any word. As I have the habit of securing my stuff when strangers invade my personal space, I decided to move my things at the corner of the table at my left side. That included my wallet and mobile phone both of which are mounted on my tablet. To my surprise, when I tried to blindly grab my phone from under the sheets of paper, it was no longer there and I caught it in the hand of the stranger! All I could do while getting my phone back was say, “Gago ka ah!” He smiled at me, walked away, hopped into a motorcycle standing by five meters away and left with a helmeted rider.

It was a good thing that I was alert but DAMN I swear I could have given him a blow to the stomach with my elbow. Well, my initial feeling was shock and couldn’t really bother to think of any way to stop him. I thought soon after the incident that I could have given him a beating since he was thin and just a few inches taller than me and I’m pretty sure I could handle him. We could have sent him to Camp Karingal for a lesson. It was too bad that he got away and he may do the same thing with other innocent people.

At this point, though, I cannot do anything but write and be mindful. Most establishments would warn “Do not keep your things unattended.” However, this may not be enough especially if too many people move around your area. So I’d like to leave a few reminders:
1. As much as possible, put your belongings (gadgets and all), in front of you. If you’re not using them, store them in your bag or place them on a chair that you will hide under the table. Bag hooks are perfect for these times, ladies.
2. Keep your stuff away from the traffic. That prevents it from being intentionally taken (wherein it will disappear in a matter of seconds) or accidentally nudged off the table by passers-by.
3. When approached by strangers, move your valuables close to you. Although it may seem a bit discriminating, even a nice-looking and neatly dressed person may be up to no good.

Anyway, I’m glad my things are complete and I am intact. It wasn’t that bad but it is a reminder that some people can do us harm. Take care of your stuff but more importantly, take care of yourself. Christmas is coming soon and some people will find ways to get resources for the season.

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