Saturday, March 25, 2017

BTMS Out of Town Reunion

The travel bug bit me again when I started to settled in the BTMS Project. I never thought my younger colleagues also have the  same travel bug I felt waiting to be awakened. So our fotmer QA team member, Francis Olivarez, organized an island hopping trip to Isla Verde in Batangas City.

Stopover for dinner at San Pedro Foodstop

The Slumber Party

This was definitely the first for BTMS team, involving reps from the Joint Venture, FreeBalance and Globe-Innove, and the Government's Project Management counterpart. Six persons signed in, Luch, Alma, Aya, Bien, myself and Francis. We were joined by a friend of Alma, a friend of Aya, Francis' fiancee and sister.

The journey to Batangas started after the last hour at the office on Friday, March 24. Two cars were convoying, one of Francis and another of Luch. The ten of us squeezed in the vacation house of Francis' girlfriends' family to spend overnight. Before that slumber, we spend few hours at the rocky beach side of Brgy Ilijan playing the "bobo" (translation: brainless) game and drinking liquors in between.

Brgy Ilijan shoreline

"All aboard"

Isla Verde first stop: Rock formation

The islet is true to its monicker, Isla Verde, because it's all green and unspoiled piece of land. We started our hop at the other end where a parcel of clay coated rock shut up so close to the seawaters, and it's backdrop is the silhouette of Mindoro islands. The group spent a while snorkeling around the area, while I was busy taking my almost naked selfies.

Then we cruised the opposite end of the islet which is the best site for picnicking. The rock formations in this point of Isla Verde is impressive, picturesque, and so natural. Here we spent most of our time, grilling fish and meat for our lunch, observing locals doing their industry (collecting rock fishes for sale, catering to markets fond of maintaining aquariums), and taking more selfies of course.

Huge rock along the shoreline

Another huge rock in the middle of the beach

The nautical highway in between Isla Verde and Luzon mainland

Where the small community can be found
Isla Verde's fishing industry

After the sumptuous but late lunch, we headed back to the mainland. The tour did not end in Isla Verde, it continued on to jumping and diving at Ilijan Falls.

The falls is located in the remotest area of the barangay. Although the road is paved and some parts of the area are developed, we curious guests reached the peak where only brave and fit individuals could get. Since it was summertime, the fall was expected to be thin and safe for cliff diving or just mere jumping.

The BTMS had an enjoyable weekend... and proud to have discovered unique tour destinations in this side of Batangas City.

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.