Monthly Archives: March 2008

The mountain and I are not one (Sablayan Adventure Part II)

Let me tell you something about climbing mountains, and this is coming from someone who has tried it and, well, failed spectacularly. Climbing mountains does not just involve strength and endurance, as I initially supposed. It involves skill as well. It takes skill to walk on steep slopes, put your foot on loose ground, and not come tumbling down. It takes skill to haul yourself up walls of rock and find spaces for your feet among the crags. Skill, and a certain kind of courage, or maybe faith, that gravity will not take you down the mountain as it has every right to do.

My third day in Sablayan was spent in the company of a group of NGO workers, volunteers and local government staff participating in the Global Positioning System (GPS) training that Don was conducting. The training was organized by the Samahan ng Sablayenyong Mapagkalinga sa Kalikasan (SASAMAKA), a local environment NGO. The first of the two-day training was spent on lectures and basic lessons on handling a GPS unit. The second day gets the trainees to apply what they learned under real field conditions, and so we hied off to Sitio Pandurukan, a Mangyan community in Brgy. Pag-asa, Sablayan, the site of one of the rainforestation projects being supported by SASAMAKA and the local government.

The idea was that the trainees, divided into four groups, would take coordinates of the boundaries of the different forest plots the Mangyan farmers were taking care of, so appropriate maps can be developed. Indigenous tree seedlings have been planted in the sites a few months before, and they seemed to be growing nicely, with one of the Mangyan farmers boasting that in his plot, only 3 out of some 100 seedlings died.

So there we were, gingerly making our way up the steep slopes. We weren’t even on a mountain, it was basically just a clump of hills so the elevation isn’t that high, but the slopes were steep. You plant the trees partly to help prevent erosion, after all, so you plant them in steep, landslide-prone areas. And it’s not like there were well-laid out trails to follow, we were basically just following the Mangyan guides because they were the ones who knew where one farmer’s little plot of forest ends and another one begins.

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the happy list

In compliance to a tag from Beng. As I told her in my reply to her post, I’m usually pasaway when it comes to tags, but wouldn’t you be like the ultimate killjoy to resist a tag called “The Happy List?”

Rule: Post 10 things that recently made you happy

  1. the weight of a baby’s head as he fell asleep on my shoulder
  2. the delight of using my new coffee press for the first time (and every time after that, for that matter)
  3. finishing an assignment on schedule, in spite of all the dilly-dallying along the way, which obviously should not happen next time
  4. counting down to our Batanes trip (4 days, wohoo!)
  5. the freedom of being able to sleep late almost every day and work at home (yes, enjoy it while you can, never mind the slashed income for a while)
  6. getting a funny text message from a loved one
  7. going home to the province, enjoying my mom’s cooking and sleeping in my old bed
  8. completing all 12 levels of Tumblebugs (see item 3)
  9. testing out my new snorkeling gear and fins, which I got as a gift (thanks, Don!)
  10. rain that fell right after I got home

I’m not tagging anybody in particular. If you feel you have a lot to be happy about, go ahead, knock yourself out. If you feel otherwise, well, all the more reason to do the list. Really, there ought to be something.

chicken tinola for the soul

The other day I saw a friend I haven’t seen in a while. We tried to catch up on things; I would have wanted to have proper talk over dinner because I knew she’s through some tough times right now, but something came up and she had to go.  When she got home later that night, she sent me a text message apologizing for not being able to stay.

“Na-share ko sa nanay ko mga happenings over a bowl of chicken tinola.  Yummy. Things didn’t look bad afterwards,” she said.

Somehow, that also made me feel better.

You see, I’m pretty sure that my friend is not the sort of person who is stupid enough to think that her problems will be solved by papaya and chicken broth, but she is the kind of person who can have a comfortable chat with her mother over a hot, home-cooked meal and afterwards say, “Well, things don’t look so bad now.  I can take this.”  I just found it so inspiring.  My friend can be sometimes be too nice and too naïve for her own good that we give her a lot of ribbing for it, and she gives off this fragile appearance; but behind all that, I realize that she’s a tower of strength.   Quiet strength, is the phrase that comes to mind. In a world where everyone thinks that his/her problems are bigger than everyone else’s, where the situation is always “complicated,” the power of my friend’s naiveté and chicken tinola can never be underestimated.

Pandan Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Around 6:30 AM last Friday, six and a half hours after my journey’s start, I woke up, took off my hot pink eye mask that allowed me a few hours of relatively peaceful sleep (kailangan hot pink pa talaga no? bigay lang yun), sat up and groggily looked outside. Our boat was approaching the Abra de Ilog pier, and the weather was not looking good. I groaned. Is this going to be another rainy Sablayan adventure? What can this island possibly have against me?

My fears were unfounded, however. Barely an hour after our van left the pier (tama ka Harvey, may vans na nga! At isang beses lang sya nagka-flat tire, ha ha), the sun came out, and chased us all the way to Sablayan. As it turned out, the heavy rains were confined to the northern tip of Mindoro island. A friend called us up when we were nearing Sablayan, asking how we were doing because she heard in the news there was already flooding in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. The next boat trip after the one we took was apparently canceled. In Sablayan, however, the weather was great. Clearly, things went my way this time around.

Anyway, the major implication of the good weather was that we were able to go on a day tip to Pandan Island.

Pandan is a beautiful tiny strip of an island only about 20 minutes by boat from the Sablayan town proper. The website of the island’s lone resort describes it as a “private island.” No such thing, of course, as far as I know, no one can legally own an entire island. But it is definitely “private,” in the non-legal sense of the word. An antidote to the crowded and chaotic atmosphere of Boracay, Pandan is just good, clean beach fun. It’s basically a stretch of fine white sand, good snorkeling/diving areas, a single resort, and beach forest. Should you wish to get intoxicated, the resort’s bar will happily set you up with your beverage of choice wrapped in its very own Pandan Island cloth bottle holder. For a different kind of activity, a trail that starts behind the resort takes you through a half hour’s walk through the woods and out to the lagoon on the other side of the island, where you’ll go, ooohh, so this is where all the rocks are hiding!

The resort is owned by a Frenchman, which explains the fact that the guests were mostly, if not all, French. We were the only local tourists that day, and we couldn’t care less, of course, because we only had a few hours there, and had two spanking new sets of snorkeling gear and fins to test out. I didn’t see the pawikan that Don encountered on a previous visit to Pandan, but there are plenty of other fish to make up for it, and to make me forget the fact that my swimming skills are actually pretty pathetic.

Pandan can also be your base in getting to Apo Reef, one of the country’s top dive sites. For now, I was content with a day trip and a few hours of snorkeling in Pandan, but next time, next time…

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