Monday, March 20, 2017

First Duathlon... in Singapore

My trip to Singapore seemed yearly now.  The main purpose for such annual occurrence is fitness.

Last year, I joined the Standard Chartered Marathon, running the 10K category. This year, I went back to experience a duathlon --- the combination of running and biking. My hometown friend and travel-buddy, Anneth Canoy, a hospital chief nurse in Singapore, took care of my registrations.

When the schedule of flight came close, my best couple friends, Ruth and Jun Go, decided to accompany me. So I joined them in their hotel accommodation at Mandarin Oriental, which view from the window was expensive and stunning. The panoramic view includes the Marina Bay and the Sands Hotel, Clark Quay, Merlion Park and Singapore Flyer.

Since fitness was the purpose of the trip so I need to train,  stretch,  and build up before the duathlon the next day. And because I came with friends, so my training should also entertain. I heard about an islet in Singapore which tour normally involves cycling. Curious as me, Jun and Ruth decided to go with me to Pulau Ubin. This time we were joined by Jun's niece who lived in Singapore in search of work, Jhogilyn.

It was cool that all of us could pedal. We roamed around in wheels and sweat, until Jhogilyn fell down and got bruised on her knee and shoulder. It happened instantaneously when she was taking videos of us without minding the abrupt curve ahead. She lost control of the bicycle when she hit the curve right after the hump.

We rushed her to the nearest first aid station. And we continued tour back to the mainland with her in bandaged knee and shoulder. We checked the Sands Mall, climbed the Sand's Skypark, and marvelled at exhibits inside the Gardens by the Bay. Our long day culminated at the Avatar-inspired towers with dancing lights show.

The next morning was the main event.

Anneth and I met the night before. I left Jun and Ruth and joined Anneth in her room at Marina Mandarin Hotel. And we headed to the duathlon area at 5am. There we picked up the bike we rented and waited for the gunstart.

It was absolute fun! We ran the first 1.5 kilometers track religiously, grabbed the bike from the stand and pedaled the 15-kilometer trail, and then leisurely walked the remaining 1.5-kilometer track. Although there were lots of stopovers for photo ops, we still completed the whole duathlon in an hour.

We're not professionals in this field but we were proud to claim and receive the finisher's medal.

The visit to Singapore would never be complete without meeting friends and former classmates. Part of the itinerary was spending one meal per group. That night when I transferred a hotel, lounging at Marina Mandarin were with colleagues of Anneth who also became my friends, Joyryl and Rizza.

The dinner after the duathlon was shared with our hometown friends, mostly are my classmates in grade school and high school. It felt good to see familiar faces in foreign lands! I was particularly ecstatic to see Michelle, Lynette and Rosemarie.

Duathlon--- another tick off my bucket list.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

My Initiation to Mountain Climbing

Mountain climbing is actually in my bucket list but I was not expecting it to realize so soon.

As I was thinking of more ways to do fitness enjoyably, I heard from my colleague,  Biena Duerme, that she's been joining a group of friends who climbed mountains. So I told her how I wished that they could squeeze me in the next climb they shall be having. And then the invite came few days later to climb Mount Batulao.

Mount Batulao, I researched is good for beginners, with two routes available to take,  called Old and New Trails. As most climber posted, the slopes are manageable to climb up the 811+-meter above sea level height peak.

This will be my first, an initiation to a group of friends who love to conquer the fear of heights. Boss Jess is the head of the pack and stood as the organizer. Right after Bien introduced me to the group,  he immediately provided me a copy of the itinerary.

March 3 came and the friday ended at the office but my new adventure has just began. I joined Biena and laid by the time at their place,  which is close to McDonald's of Taft-Buendia as our assembly area. We mistook the assembly time to be 1130pm instead of 130am, so the two of us were the earliest to wait at McDonald's.

We departed on time and arrived at the dropoff at 4am. I dozed off a bit but my excitement took better of me. After some preliminaries, costume changes,  registration and team prayer,  we proceeded to our ascent. The first 3 hours of crossing upward and downward slopes was manageable. We passed by several nipa huts which served as guard houses to register. I later learned that it was so because we were crossing boundaries of properties owned by different individuals.

The drizzles made the climb more challenging but aided to cooling off our feeling from exhaustion. We reached the wet camp sites at 7am. I enjoyed myself counting down the camp stonemarks. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7... They were all gradual climbs. Then a sudden and difficult trail towards camp 8 followed and we endured. Another steep climb using a knotted rope followed to reach camp 9. And then we found ourselves down, crawling, with our full arms grasping the earth, until we afforded to stand on equilibrium at the summit. We shouted silently of relief and jubilation when camp 10's stone marking came in sight.

We celebrated the successful climb with a breakfast sandwich, mami noodles, and hot coffee. There were other groups of climbers arriving from both tracks. And at 8am, the summit was packed of conquerors. It was foggy around, so we only peeked about the view below once in a while until the call to start descent arrived at 9am.

We never expected that our way down the new trail was harder than going up. The slopes are steeper, the dirt drier and slippery, humid weather, and more knotted ropes. We were back at the pickup point at around 12 noon.

Having washed up and changed, we went drove back to Manila. But first as per itinerary, we dropped by Tagaytay City for the famous bulalo meal.

Monday, January 16, 2017

BTMS Portal Team Building

Miguel Ramirez, our technical expert from Guatemala, is interested in Philippine beaches. We promised to give him one on his next visit.

As promised by my BTMS Portal Team, Alma,  Andrew, Wendy and myself,  we booked a trip to Boracay Island upon confirmation of his next arrival to the Philippines.

To celebrate our minor success with project website,  now that the BTMS Portal is ready for public viewing, that Friday afternoon of January 14, Miguel,  Alma,  Wendy,  and myself convened at NAIA Terminal 4. Andrew regretted.

Although we experienced delay in our flight departure, we still looked forward to our fun days in one of the best islands in the world - Boracay.  We reached the white sanded paradise via Kalibo Airport around midnight.

We stayed at a budget hostel-resort for 3 nights and ate at food places where credit card is not acceptable but pure cash. So Miguel still  has to withdraw from ATM first, and so Alma took care of his share as his advance.

We wasted no time, but experienced immediately the first night in the island and slept very late.

Despite the lack of sleep,  we found ourselves that following morning queuing up for the island adventures. We agreed to do together the banana boat ride but Wendy set out when we did the helmet diving.

It was a different way of enjoying Boracay. For the few times I was in the island I only availed of island hopping,  purely swimming on the beach,  walking to the Grotto and back. There was once when I joined a beach fun run.

That following night we dined at a beachside restaurant that cook fresh seafood, served with entertainment - a firedancing showdown, and acoustic music in between. When the time to bill out came,  we were informed that the dining place accepts credit card payments.  Miguel decided to pay using his card and so went alone back to the hostel to get the card he left. We waited for him for more or less 30 minutes then saw him arrived so defeated.  He lost his way and haven't located our room accommodation.

Our second and final day in the island was spent fully in the long queue for the parasailing. We flew by twos,  Alma and Miguel,  Wendy and myself.  Alma and Miguel went ahead of us,  flying overhead for 15 minutes.  Upon their descent, Alma was found so pale,  sick and so tongue-tied. When it was our turn to sail above,  dangling and swaying, blown every now and then by the wild wind,  I realized why Alma came down in such condition.

We realized in the end that we wasted too much time in the queue to parasail; we lost the whole morning actually. It was already lunch time when we landed back to the island and we have to leave right away to catch our flight in Kalibo at 3pm. We hurriedly packed our things and checked out,  but then waited for Miguel who later we found was lost again on his way back to the resort.

We commuted through the airport via tricycle from resort to island port,  boat to Panay mainland,  van from Caticlan to Kalibo. To insure our seats,  we checked in through the web. We then claimed our boarding passes upon arrival.

Thinking we would again suffer delay in AirAsia flight back to Manila the way we were on our way here,  we decided to have a bite after skipping lunch. We looked around and found a Japanese restaurant across the terminal.  After few spoons of ramen, I volunteered to just take out my share and go back to the terminal to watch out for the boarding time.  Funny enough,  the boarding was raised when I arrived there,  so I called them over the phone.

I still didn't see them coming when I climbed up the ladder to the plane. As per their recount of the event,  they were paged for final boarding.