"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

wake up in the philippines, sleep in japan!

"Go ahead then; study, study, and meditate well what you study. Life is a very serious thing and only those with intelligence and heart go through it worthily. To live is to be among men and to be among men is to struggle. But this struggle is not a brutal and material struggle with men alone; it is a struggle with them and one's self, with their passions and one's own, with errors and preoccupations. It is an eternal struggle with a smile on the lips and tears in the heart. On this battlefield man has no better weapon than his intelligence, no other force but his heart.
Sharpen, perfect, polish then your mind and
fortify and educate your heart."

-- excerpt of a letter written by Jose Rizal for his nephew, Alfredo

26th of september 2013
my first update from japan :)

today marks the start of a super set of firsts -- more on this in the coming days, weeks, months...

for now: just this hastily-put-together collage of my trip today
from manila to kansai

i tried my best not to pull out a jacket from my backpack when i went out of the airport terminal but, after a few minutes, i gave in. my body just isn't used to the cold 20-degree C outdoor temperature (it was colder outside than inside the air-conditioned shuttle to the hotel.) i know this will only get colder when autumn is in full swing and will even be colderrr during winter. brrr... 

i encountered a lot of angels today and the events that led me here are worth writing about. my flight was good and going through immigration, locating the bus stop, and getting to the hotel went smoothly. great solo adventure and great day 1, i can really say. still, it's been a long day for me.

oyasuminasai! (good night!)

i have to sleep now because i still have miles to go before i reach my new place. this hotel stay is just for tonight. tomorrow, i will be in fukui.

Friday, September 20, 2013

mission accomplished in iligan city: six waterfalls in one day!

oh yes! it can be done. actually, the target was to go to 7 waterfalls and, if not for circumstances beyond our control, we could have been to 8.

mission impossible and ultimate daytrip experience:
six waterfalls in an eight-hour adventure
 in iligan city

the 8-hour adventure of pinas flashpackers in iligan: 
waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls
08.23.13 six key stops, multiple public transportation transfers, and LOTS of walking | 
iligan -- "the city of majestic waterfalls"

in sitio kalubihon, brgy. dalipuga: [1] pampam falls. [2] unknown photogenic cascade downstream of pampam falls. [3] another unknown falls further downstream of pampam with deeper and more photogenic all-natural pool (accessible from the top of the falls or sa bakilid; just choose your own thrill).

via sitio dodiongan, brgy. digkilaan: [4] dodiongan falls 

via brgy. buru-un and brgy. ditucalan: [5] tinago falls

in brgy. buru-un: [6] mimbalot falls

missed (not our fault): maria cristina falls due to temporary closure of NPC nature's park/MinGen facilities to the public (a security-related proactive measure), missed (time & energy constraints and confusion over the location): kalubihon falls>

before this, the last time i set out to see some of iligan's more than twenty waterfalls was in december 2009.

kalubihon falls | february 2000

13 years ago, this was kalubihon falls -- we climbed above the cave instead of going inside it to eventually get to the foot of the falls. once we made our way down to the foot, we explored the cave. we went back upways and explored the upstream, too.

[watch out for the complete story; this post will be updated in the coming days.]

related posts:
In Focus: Iligan City, Her Lures, and More
destination: tinago falls

Monday, September 16, 2013

breathtaking tawi-tawi, truly breathtaking tawi-tawi

"It is a nature sanctuary with extensive rain and mangrove forests, rich culture, majestic mountains, primeval caves, coral reefs with some of the world’s rarest marine life, outstanding dive sites,
and pristine white sand beaches."

-- from Tawi-tawi, Close Encounters of a Natural Kind

tawi-tawi: what more can i say?
this is part 8 and the conclusion of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

picture perfect panglima sugala, tawi-tawi

tawi-tawi is THE destination you should not miss. the tawi-tawi travel experience is a priceless gift for the senses and this is not an overstatement.

it is true that tawi-tawi is "the backdoor gateway of the philippines to the rest of southeast asia," but this is only a simplified description of the country's southernmost melting pot that has so much in terms of culture, history, natural resources, and paradise spots.

bongao, tawi-tawi
as seen from the sea
on april 22, 2011
a kite eagle flying over brgy. pasiagan | tawi-tawi
on april 23, 2011

i dare share here a few pictures out of the hundreds that i took during our 3-day adventure but know that none of these can ever come close to making you experience the real deal.

bring yourself there, traveler. your tawi-tawi story is waiting to be told. allow your own tawi-tawi journey to unfold.

tawi-tawi: glimpses and tidbits in random order

tawi-tawi is an archipelago composed of 107 islands and islets located at the southwestern tip of the philippines. it is an island province with rich marine borders. a significant part of the tawi-tawi population rely on what they can have from the sea and it is logical that they stay close to it, if not on it -- either in houses built on stilts or on board boats.

when in tawi-tawi, expect to see lots of houses and outbuildings on stilts!

a lovely sight of stilthouses 
seen from sanga-sanga bridge
on april 24, 2011
stilts and a tropical hut in sangasiapu island | tawi-tawi
on april 23, 2011
a house on stilts in simunul island | tawi-tawi
on april 22, 2011
stilthouses and footbridges in brgy. tubig indangan, simunul, tawi-tawi
on april 22, 2011

the tawi-tawi provincial capitol, with its prominent dome and white walls, looks like a magnificent mosque.  it sits on a hill in bongao and provides an overlooking view of the town and the sea.

the tawi-tawi provincial capitol
as seen from the roofdeck of hotel juana
on the night of april 22, 2011

kat and i with the official seal of tawi-tawi
at the site of the provincial capitol
on april 23, 2011
(kat owns this picture)

black saturday sunset colors
as seen from the site of the tawi-tawi provincial capitol
on april 23, 2011

the venice of the south and the southernmost municipality of the philippines is sitangkai, a real deal waterworld where the known highway is a marine waterway. sitangkai is also the seaweed capital of the philippines.

 a smiling boatman taking the highway in sitangkai
on april 22, 2011

the island of sibutu is the nearest neighbor of sitangkai within philippine territory. sibutu is the island home of skilled seafarers, expert boat-builders, and master woodcarvers. aside from having white sand coastline with direct access to the celebes sea, sibutu also has the makhdum memorial and the kaban-kaban, a deep natural swimming hole with clear freshwater.

glimpses of sibutu island
on april 22, 2011

a known local mecca and pilgrimage site of filipino muslims is simunul, the recognized cradle of islam in the philippines. in simunul's brgy. tubig indangan, where the first mosque in the philippines was built, there is a commemorative arch to mark the 630th anniversary of the introduction of islam in the philippines.

the commemorative arch in simunul | tawi-tawi
on april 22, 2011

the pier in tubig indangan is not just a picture of open invitation. it is a good spot for watching inspiring sunsets, too.

once upon an awesome sunset
seen from tubig indangan, simunul, tawi-tawi
on april 22, 2011

among the many rewarding joys of island hopping in tawi-tawi is seeing the horizon disappear from view. because the sea can be so calm, the surface appears glassy, making it an efficient mirror of the sky.

the case of the disappearing horizon :)
while island hopping in tawi-tawi
on april 23, 2011

clear seawater, glassy water surface, and the vanishing horizon
just off sangasiapu island
on april 23, 2011

the seawater remains very clear, too, allowing you to see natural underwater gardens even though you're looking at them from a good distance.

view of the coastline, the sea, and underwater wonders
from sanga-sanga bridge
on april 24, 2011

the seawater in tawi-tawi is so clean and clear. there is no need for scuba nor snorkel-and-mask to see healthy corals. believe it or not, the colorful coral colonies are visible from the water surface!

a natural coral garden
just off tawi-tawi's tango island
on april 23, 2011

there are underwater areas that are all-sand, too, and very ideal for swimming.

part of sangasiapu island, tawi-tawi
on april 23, 2011

laa island, tawi-tawi
on april 23, 2011

this is a glimpse of how clean and clear tawi-tawi seawater is
photogenic sangasiapu island
on april 23, 2011

there is no exaggeration at all in saying this: breathtaking tawi-tawi, truly breathtaking tawi-tawi! :)

breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier | the series

Thursday, August 15, 2013

destination: balobok rock shelter and thereabouts

"The most rewarding things you do in life 
are often the ones that look like they cannot be done." 
-- Arnold Palmer

once upon a trip to tawi-tawi's balobok rock shelter
this is part 7 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

day 3. april 23, 2011. black saturday.
adventure 1: island hopping -- bongao, tango, panglima sugala, sangasiapu, laa, pababag, pasiagan
adventure 2: destination: bud bongao
adventure 3: destination: balobok rock shelter in brgy. lakit-lakit
adventure 4: destination: provincial capitol

although kat and i gave up our quest to reach the summit of bud bongao, our adventures in the philippines' southernmost province were far from over. among other must-do activities in our list, we had to go and see for ourselves the balobok rock shelter, a recognized pre-historic site in lakit-lakit, tawi-tawi.

lakit-lakit is a barangay in nearby sanga-sanga island and is about 9 kms from bongao. for us to get there, we needed some means of land transportation. alvin called ismael, one of his younger relatives, and asked the latter to join our group at the foot of bud bongao in pasiagan. ismael wasted no time and soon arrived with his tricycle. although he was not familiar with balobok, he was as eager as we were to check out the place. kuya jan and alvin, although locals of tawi-tawi, were not familiar with the place either -- they just knew the direction to lakit-lakit but not the exact location of the balobok rock shelter. even so, we knew the place was just somewhere there and the five of us -- kuya jan, alvin, ismael, kat and i -- were all game enough to pursue the adventure together.

destination: balobok rock shelter and thereabouts
our adventure party of five :)

we followed the road from pasiagan until we crossed sanga-sanga bridge and went past the msu-tawi-tawi campus and the airport in sanga-sanga. eventually, we ran out of good road to take and ismael had to skillfully drive his tricycle through rough, uhm, rocky road. from time to time, we had to stop to ask for directions and affirmation from the few locals we encountered in the scarcely inhabited area. for the most part, the rough road was lined with dense vegetation on both sides and we only saw a few houses. truth be told, due to the absence of helpful signages and clear directions, there were moments when i felt that our trip was simply like following a road to nowhere. nevertheless, we pressed on and, finally, arrived. whew!

a not so rough part of the road to balobok in brgy. lakit-lakit, tawi-tawi

looking back, i think it took us about an hour to reach the place and the fruit of our perseverance tasted sweet. however, i also remember the bitter aftertaste of my realization that i savored it too soon. haha. we were at the right stop, yes, but we could not find the balobok rock shelter!

we were expecting to see a boardwalk leading to a natural rock arch. we looked around and did not see any boardwalk. what we did see was this shed and, close to it, a barely defined footpath leading to a beach some challenging steps down the cliff.

our "welcome marker"-- a waiting shed at the cliff

we carefully made our way down expecting to eventually stumble upon a hidden path that would direct us to what we were looking for. errngk. no such luck.

we explored the beach and enjoyed the moment. the feel of the place was very rustic. with driftwood here and there, it seemed to me that nobody ever went there -- nobody except for time and the waves.

the beach at the bottom of the cliff

on the very irregular surface of the cliff wall, there were several natural openings and some make-shift footbridges that gave us hope would lead to a cave or cave-like structure. we followed those and, again, did not find what we went there for. at one point, i thought, "could it be that we are already looking at it but just couldn't recognize it?"

searching in vain for balobok cave and/or rock shelter

after encountering a few dead ends and accepting our lack of reliable knowledge of the place, we gave up exploring and made our way back to where we left ismael's tricycle. up the slope, kuya jan saw another make-shift footbridge. he followed it and the rest of us didn't. we just waited for him to return.

searching for balobok cave and rock shelter
kuya jan's path to his brief solo adventure

we watched kuya jan as he crossed to the other side of the planks. he walked on and we soon lost sight of him due to the vegetation and the highly uneven terrain. a few moments later, he called out to us because he saw a cave-like opening. since he had my point-and-shoot camera with him that time, i asked him to just take pictures of the place for me.

when kuya jan rejoined our group, i checked the photos that he took and, indeed, there were snapshots of a huge limestone chamber which looked connected to somewhere else. no doubt, what he saw during his short solo exploration was, indeed, a cave -- perhaps, one of the many caves (or, maybe, a part of a complex cave system) in the massive karst that makes up part of tawi-tawi's brgy. lakit-lakit and nearby areas.

i took photos of the surrounding areas where ismael parked his tricycle. should some of you want to go to the balobok rock shelter, too, these photos will be of help to you: these landmarks will tell you that you already went past and, therefore, missed the turn for the boardwalk and the balobok arch!!! ^_^

a giant tree and the integrated agricultural research center for marginal areas
brgy. lakit-lakit, bongao, tawi-tawi

yes, we were in the right area but we actually stopped too far and missed the boardwalk and the natural rock arch by several hundred meters! haha. hahaha.

thanks to an act of hospitality, we experienced a great turnaround. a local going about his late afternoon activities took time to exchange pleasantries with us. when he learned that we were looking for the balobok rock shelter, he went out of his way to show us the path. we had to walk many, many, many steps back on the road! no wonder then why we initially did not see what we were looking for.

kat (left) walking with the kind local who showed us the way to the balobok rock shelter

the boardwalk and the balobok natural rock arch

the boardwalk which i got to know through the pictures shared in www.ironwulf.net was barely recognizable. a lot of planks were missing and some sections were in various stages of decay. it was sad to see that wooden walkway leading to the arch and to the rock shelter in such a state.

the boardwalk to the balobok rock shelter

despite the already really run-down appearance of the boardwalk, the balobok natural arch remained a mesmerizing sight to behold. it framed the cove fronting the rock shelter so perfectly. with parts of the boardwalk passing through it, there's a striking contrast that registered well in the several pictures that we took -- the robustness of nature's sculpture and the vulnerability of modern mankind's work.

the balobok natural rock arch

the balobok cove

beyond the massive circular rock arch and at the other end of the damaged wooden walkway, is the balobok rock shelter -- a shallow cave-like opening fronting the sea. it does not look impressive in the picture but it is, in fact, an important archeological site which, according to researchers, was "occupied during the mid-holocene (5000-8800 years before present), a period of neolithic (new stone age) culture expansion in the philippines."

the balobok rock shelter

the cultural and geological layers found at the balobok rock shelter are represented by the balobok column (or "haliging balobok"), which is displayed at the the national museum of the philippines. the column is a layered sculpture and looks like a short totem pole of hardened mushroom heads.

the balobok column 
national museum of the philippines

this is the english version of what is on the tablet:
"This column is a reconstruction of the cultural and geological layers uncovered in the excavations at Balabok Rockshelter in Tawi-tawi which dates to the Neolithic Period. Three cultural layers were identified by researchers, all of them being shell middens -- dumps filled primarily with shells. Each of the layers is slightly different in color. The artifacts and ecofacts found in the various layers were shells broken by human beings to extract the meat; bones of fishes and pig*, some of which indicate charring due to cooking; flaked stone tools; polished stone adzes; a bronze socketed adze; a red opaque glass bead; fragments of polished shell adzes and knives; earthenware pottery, and human teeth.  The shell and animal bone remains indicate the dual source of food available to the inhabitants of Balobok -- brackish water for shells and the forested land for a variety of animals."

*the Filipino version of the tablet states: "mga buto ng maliliit na mga hayop tulad ng ibon, paniki, baboy at usa" which translates to "bones of small animals like birds, bats, pigs, and deer."

there's definitely more to tawi-tawi than just being the philippines' last frontier in the south. tawi-tawi's balobok rock shelter is significant not only for the prehistory of the philippines but also of southeast asia. because of the neolithic period items found at the rock shelter, we know that tawi-tawi cradled the early inhabitants of the region and also preserved in her folds tangible records of their existence and cultural development. as early as thousands of years ago, there were already people who had this place as their vantage to view the rest of the world from.

up next: breathtaking tawi-tawi, truly breathtaking tawi-tawi

breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier | the series

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

from many angles: tawi-tawi's bud bongao

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends,
but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers.
The mind can never break off from the journey.”
-- Pat Conroy

destination: bud bongao, the natural watchtower of the southern seas
this is part 6 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

bud bongao location
and the starts & stops of our island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi

image source: google maps
(i provided the red and blue labels)

day 3. april 23, 2011. black saturday.
adventure 1: island hopping -- bongao, tango, panglima sugala, sangasiapu, laa, pababag, pasiagan
adventure 2: destination: bud bongao
adventure 3: destination: balobok rock shelter in brgy. lakit-lakit
adventure 4: destination: provincial capitol

a closer look at the google map: bud bongao and pasiagan

bud bongao (or bongao peak) is a prominent natural landmark in the southernmost province of the philippines. at 314 meters above sea levelit dominates the municipality of bongao and nearby areas with its flat top (read: table-like) appearance. people at sea or from neighboring islands can tell where the island of bongao is just by locating bud bongao in the horizon.

charming flat top | the table-like mountain of the south
bud bongao as seen from the pier in tubig indangan, simunul island
during sunset

because of its height relative to the rest of the landscape, bud bongao is also considered as a natural watchtower of the southern seas. at the top, the islands of sanga-sanga, sibutu, and simunul can be seen. more than that, sitangkai and even malaysian borneo are visible on clear occasions.

bud bongao, the natural watchtower

for the locals, bud bongao is more than just a landmark and a natural watchtower where foreign land (borneo) can be seen. for them, bud bongao is a sacred place where they go for pilgrimage and offer prayers.

during our 3-day tour in tawi-tawi, i had the privilege of seeing bud bongao from many angles -- from the national road as we crossed the bridge connecting the islands of sanga-sanga and bongao, from the governor's residence, from the middle of the sea as we were heading to sitangkai, from tubig indangan in simunul, from sangasiapu island, from the shores of pasiagan, and up close during our trek. from those different vantages, i took snapshots and clearly understood why it is unthinkable for bud bongao to be not part of one's tawi-tawi itinerary.

bud bongao and the landscape it defines
on bongao island and nearby sanga-sanga island:

photographed from mid-sea

bud bongao is difficult to miss -- this natural landmark is "everywhere" so much so that to be already there in bongao and not take the chance to experience it simply makes the journey incomplete.

seeing bud bongao "everywhere"
from top-left clockwise: bud bongao from beyond sangasiapu island,
bud bongao as part of the land transportation franchise sticker,
bud bongao as a t-shirt print design, and bud bongao from pababag island-side

on the day we arrived in tawi-tawi, bud bongao's towering presence and vegetated rocky slopes already made an impression on us. even when we went to the governor's place for a courtesy call, the mountain remained visible in the distance like a dedicated guard standing proud.

bud bongao watches over the governor's compound like a sentinel

bud bongao defines a very photogenic landscape in tawi-tawi's bongao island. whether from near or far, it is such a charming sight to gaze at.

bud bongao as seen from simunul's sangasiapu island

bud bongao, a closer look

on the shores of brgy. pasiagan, the mountain can be seen as an enchanting backdrop to a shrine simply adorned with white cloth.

bud bongao as seen from pasiagan

we were told by kuya jan and alvin that the shrine is actually a tomb of a revered virgin 'princess' -- a daughter of a royal family -- who lived and died centuries ago. the tomb of a revered male elder, also a member of a royal family, is one of the two graves near the summit of bud bongao. my impression is that, and if i understood correctly what kuya jan shared, this is how it is for the local pilgrims: "first, visit the daughter at the foot of the mountain, then go to the top to pay respects to the elder."

appreciating the mountain from afar and, eventually, up close
our bud bongao trek started where our island hopping adventure ended -- in pasiagan. after a day and a half of looking at the mountain from afar, we were finally at the foot and eager to conquer the peak.

kuya jan, alvin, and kat
my bud bongao climbing buddies

it was early afternoon when we started our trek and pasiagan was sun-drenched. the heat was draining our physical energies but, once we began our ascent, the vegetation of bud bongao gave us enough cover. the forested nature of the mountain allowed us sufficient respite from the sun as we followed the trail.

a coastal view of pasiagan
as seen from a few meters up the slopes of bud bongao

along the way, my attention was won over by some of the exposed rock layers that make up bud bongao. the patterns are interesting clues to how bud bongao was formed by the gentle might of the forces of nature.

bud bongao's rocky layers
the other things that got my attention were some abandoned pairless slippers, detached soles, and broken footwear -- it was easy to see that quite a lot already used the trail and not everyone had an easy time going to the top and back.

we had only gone up about one-fourth of the way to the summit when kat and i decided to retreat. awwww. the climb was not technically demanding and we already conquered higher peaks in other places but, on the slopes of bud bongao and after having been exposed to the sun too much during our island hopping adventure, we found ourselves already too exhausted to complete the climb.

we did not push any further and gave up thoughts of rewarding ourselves with views of tawi-tawi from the peak. we agreed to shift our excitement to seeing the balobok rock shelter, which was the next destination we listed on our tawi-tawi itinerary.

the long-tailed macaques of bud bongao

although kat and i failed to reach the summit, the long-tailed macaques of bud bongao still rewarded the time and effort we spent in visiting their protected mountain sanctuary. they showed up long enough for us to have a good look at them and to take their pictures. hooray, they did not drive us away! :)

up next: destination: balobok rock shelter and thereabouts

breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier | the series
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...