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.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

1st Birthday After 40 Years

Dream Come True: A Kiddie Party with Hello Kitty Theme

I was born so deprived of good life. As recounted by Mama Dulcing, my father was jobless when I was growing up. Both my parents would have to farm rootcrops and even the oldest taro root they have to sell in order to buy milk for me.

Every turn of years, I also turn a year older. I always know my birthday every 9th of January. But most often than not it passed without jubilation. Seldom did I surprise my family realizing that it's my birthday. And in order not to embarrass me, my mother would then buy some bread and soda to celebrate my natal day.

Recognizing our inability to blow a party every January 9, I swore to myself that when I am able and can afford I would have to sponsor a birthday bash. So when I turned 22, and was already earning as a college instructor, I held a party at our parents house. My last birthday there before I transferred to Manila was celebrated with roasted pig and seafoods. That was my last year as the Municipal Accountant of my hometown, San Francisco (Anao-aon).

While earning a reasonable amount of professional fee as a consultant, I normally celebrated my birthday here in Manila with plenty of friends. One year I cooked, another year we ate out; one year it lasted for a day, another year a week.

Then came two most compelling reason to celebrate my natal day: one, just found out that my birthdate falls on the Feast Day of the Black Nazarene, and two, my younger sister En married on January 8, 2010. Every year since then is triple celebration.

Now that I turned 41, and taking on the idea that "Life Begins at 40", I decided to rewrite my history of celebrating my first birthday. A kiddie party therefore to mark my First Birthday after 40. My sister arranged the venue and food accommodation. My first choice was McDo but no store was available on the 8th of January 2017 at my chosen time. So we finalized the contract with Jollibee Pearl Drive.

Such a birthday special to be guested by my BFF from Surigao, Dupong, who thank God had successfully recovered from illness, and my great partner-for-life Erick

Of course my immediate family was there, Mama Dulcing and our baby girl, WanWan, who initially feared the Jollibee mascot when it came out

My very special guests and close friends and always my travel sponsors, Sam (Jun) and Ruth Go tugging along my whole extended Parañaque family

The Rivas fanily, where Loloy and Arlene also celebrated their wedding anniversary, so with Jun and En that very day

Ruth, En and Mama D wearing all smiles

Photo opportunity with the kids, the reason for holding the kiddie party

And there were fun games for big boys and big girls

The youngest among my guests, my god-daughter, Baby Shiloh and Lola Salud and the Parañaque group

My small family (beside me from left to right) En, Mama D, Jun and WanWan

Dupong, Erick and myself

Another surprise from Afable Family, my god-son Niño, Tonch and Ruby who chased the party time straight from their Antipolo Family Trip

Photo opportunity with Jollibee

And my moments with Jollibee to top it all!

A picture of a huge crowd to wrap the party up

Monday, January 2, 2017


It’s a “wish granted!” for our family when the Tacloban children agreed to spend Christmas holidays with us here in Manila. En and I thought about bringing our nephews and nieces together this Christmas in the metro and celebrate Christmas and New Year with us, with their Lola most importantly. En floated the idea to our elder brother, Bobby, the kids’ father, who also agreed to pay for their plane fare. 

The four of them, Keith, Ayssa, Kim and Paula, flew in from Tacloban on 22 December. They joined our baby WanWan and instantly formed a flock. Kuya Entoy, the eldest of them all, the only son of our eldest brother, Danny, could not make it this time because he had plenty of stuff to attend to, now that he’s a practicing lawyer and got a son of his own. So he stayed in Mindanao with his mother and his little son. 

Initially, the tow little ones, Kim aged 12 and Paula aged 7 declined my invitation because they fear flying. I told them that in such case they would miss the Disney on Ice Christmas Show. By mere mention of Disney, the two changed their minds and finally agreed to join Kuya Keith and Ate Ayssa. 

Without much ado, I bought their plane tickets in advance which their father promised to reimburse in installments. It cost him a total to-and-fro fare of P21,000. Then we identified the activities for the kids and come up with the final itinerary, as follows: 
Dec 22 – Fetch them at NAIA 
Dec 23 – Mall tour and buy groceries for the Christmas Eve preparations 
Dec 24 – Swimming pool party at Los Arcos in Tungko, City of San Jose del Monte
Dec 25 – Christmas visit to Go’s Family at Jackielouville in Sucat, Paranaque
Dec 26 – Disney on Ice at SM MOA Arena
Dec 27 – Manila Oceanpark in Manila Bay
Dec 28 – Enchanted Kingdom in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna
Dec 29 – Mind Museum in BGC, which they missed because they arrive late in the afternoon when the museum is closing
Dec 30 – Tutu’s 7th Birthday at my cousin’s residence in Grand Strikeville 4, Bacoor, Cavite 
Dec 31 – Kidzania in BGC 
Jan 1 – Swimming pool party at Los Arcos in Tungko, City of San Jose del Monte (the repeat) 
Jan 2 – Send them off at NAIA 

WanWan really enjoyed the company of her cousins, especially Paula. Now that she appreciated the fun of having fellow kids around, she find it hard to send them off. Indeed, she cried and kept saying they should not go home to Tacloban. 

This has been the most extravagant Christmas I ever had. I spent lots for the entrance fees or tickets, fuel, gifts, and foods during every trip. Although, En and Jun contributed in groceries and food purchases. Roughly, I shelled out this much:
Disney on Ice - P11,000
Mind Museum - 4,000
Christmas Gifts - 5,000
Manila Oceanpark - 5,000
Enchanted Kingdom - 5,500
Swimming Pool (2x) - 5,000
Kidzania - 8,000
Foods and Snacks - 15,000
Fuel - 7,000
Total = P65,500

I had to juggle my time with work and holiday activities for kids. In between days and time, I finalized draft contents for the website our office was working on, including the revision of the test cases and trai ning guides which was needed to be ready by Dec 29. I missed joining them for 2 days, the Oceanpark and supposed Mind Museum. 

When I interviewed the kids when having very early breakfast with them at NAIA before their departure, they told me that they really enjoyed their Christmas vacation with us. That’s enough compensation for me, it justified my one-month extravagance.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

CFC and Beyond

For a month,  I enrolled myself to a certification program called Certified Financial Consultant,  from September 10 through October 15, 2016, every Saturday.

During thr last week of my course,  something bad happened to Dupong,  my college classmate and one of the bestfriends,  and he was confined at the Perpetual Succor in Cebu City.  I decided to fly to Cebu with another friend, Magelle Labrador-Resullar,  to check the real score of Dupong's health.

I gathered that when Dupong returned to work on October 2 from a month-long festivity in our home province,  he complained of headaches.  It was said that he used to request head massage and fell asleep on his desk after, for 3 consecutive days. It was Wednesday when he did not report to work that everyone wondered, texted him,  and called his phones. He didn't answer them except for his mother, who called that day to inform him of the fire incident in their hometown. His mother wondered about his indifferent reaction, hearing only "uhm, uhm" as answers. mama then called her cousins in Surigao to check on Dupong. When some of them arrived,  they found him lying on his bed almost naked, emaciated and unrecognizable. Dupong even did not recognize them,  staring blankly. They relayed that he was muted and wasted. They immediately called an ambulance and rushed him to the nearest hospital.

Mama and Fr. Ronan, Dupong's brother, arrived early on Thursday and upon seeing his condition decided to fly him to Cebu. At the local's Miranda Hospital, he was diagnosed of meningitis. At Perpetual Succor, he was subjected to CT Scan and brain MRI. It was later found that some nodules have grown in his brain; around 4 nodes.

He was disoriented when we arrived but teary-eyed seeing me. That time he was able to move the digits of his fingers and count them imperfectly. His conversation was left at midsentence. I pitied him,  having all these tubes connecting him and the machines. It was never an attractive sight, hospital is not a good place to be in, much less an ICU patient. I felt strange, as if I am not a nurse.

Anyway,  I inquired that the physician incharged of infectious disease was ruling out the meningitis diagnosis; the neuro-surgeon was advising a brain surgery; the oncologist was demanding a biopsy and all.

Everyone who knew Dupong was praying for his fast recovery and indeed he was recovering remarkably. Within days he was conscious,  able to converse although limited,  and ambulatory. I observed this progress within the weekend I was there.

Mama and Fr. Ronan were reluctant about the brain surgery insisted by the assigned neuro-surgeon. Then the Bishop of Surigao Diocese recommended transferring Dupong to Cardinal Santos Medical Center in Manila. I heard from my friend and mentor,  Ma'am Stella Salas that this hospital specializes in neuro-surgery. She relayed to me the successful operation of her husband who also have brain tumor,  with gamma knife.

Dupong stayed at Cardinal Santos Medical Center from October to November end. I visited him along with more collegemates and friends. We found him recuperating faster than expected. He underwent the known gamma knife operation after having finally diagnosed of multiple abscesses in the brain, but not due to meningitis. He has negative results in all tests and procedures,  no cancerous cells,  and that the pus was shrinking with the medications, up to oral meds.

We strolled with him around SM Mall of Asia before he went home to Surigao to spend Christmas with more families and friends who were so excited to see him back and well.

I hope that he would totally recover from his illness,  which is a unique case, kind of weird,  scary, and of course, expensive.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May Bakasyon, May Big Celebration

As scheduled, our family readied for the summer vacation.

En and I followed Mama Dulcing, Jun my brother-in-law, and Baby WanWan on May 14. They went on May 8 ahead of us for Mama to vote the May 9 National Election and for Jun to celebrate their home-barangay fiesta with his family. Following the same route, we flew to Butuan airport and was picked up by our nephew Entoy, accompanied by Jun and WanWan. We drove to straight to Surigao  finalized all preparations with Ate Emily for May 15 celebrations, from spices to desserts, before proceeding home to Anao-aon Surigao del Norte.

May 15 marked a day of many celebrations, plenty to be grateful for. Our whole family commemorated the First Death Anniversary of Papa Tantong. His younger sister, Auntie Tina and Velarde family came to join us. That day also was a Thanksgiving Blowout of Atty. Entoy, our oldest nephew from our oldest brother Daniel and Ate Mely who passed the Bar Exam held in November 2015 which results had just been released in April 2016. It was also the Feast day of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers like Papa Tantong. And on that day, our Auntie Sidra, our father's youngest sister, celebrated her 56th birthday.

All my friends I invited came. It was very memorable to accept back to our fold one of my long lost friend, Victor Ortiz whom I cut communications with after some business issues. Refer to previous articles. That was also the very first day for a very long time that I joined with friends to go to Parang, Gigaquit that celebrated the fiesta during nighttime amidst heavy rains and thunderstorms in order to visit my ever dearest Madam Rebecca Febrero, our dean during my Accountancy years in St Paul University Surigao.

Our family vacation lasted until May 20 and in between I attended more parties like the birthday of my friend and a MBA professor, Windrow Bugas on May 18 and my cousin Manang Neneng Candia's on May 19.


We also enjoyed going to the beach, like on May 16, we talked to the nearest Punong Beach to witness the marvelous sunset and on May 19, we spent the whole day sunbathing at Looc Pebble  Beach.

Other than visiting Papa Tantong's tomb, I also offered flowers and lit candles to the sisters, Tweet and Caca Lozada's tombstones. They were both my dear friends in Surigao, who both died of Lupus Erythematosus (?).

And on May 20, while Mama and En went to Butuan ahead of me to process their passports with DFA Butuan, I met with more lady-friends, Juris, Annabel and Manang Lolong (Liza and Nanan were absent but we three were together during the trip to Parang) and treated them to a coffee and pastries at Figura in Gaisano Surigao. I joined Mama and En at  Dotties Hotel in Butuan where we passed the night before flying back to Manila early the following morning.