Sunday, August 25, 2013

Discovering your Roots in a Book

Through Facebook, a climbing acquaintance connected with me not for a climb but for a cultural event, a book launch he authored himself. Romeo Galang Jr. during his PNB mountaineering days has already been keen on history, churches and the visual arts.

This August, decades after, he launched "A Cultural History on the Santo Domingo Church" at the FEU Nicanor Reyes library.

The scholarly book on Santo Domingo is a byproduct of his thesis on art history centered on churches. Writing the book is motivated by his quest for family roots which led him to discover the rich and documented  heritage of Santo Domingo. It is supported with numerous photos and illustrations from the past lifted from archives and private collections of libraries from the all over the world never before perhaps printed on Philippine media. Book is published by the UST Publishing House.

Jun is also a passionate photographer and a professor of Literature and Humanities at FEU.

"A Cultural History of Santo Domingo focuses not solely on the art objects themselves-the buildings, paintings and sculptures and their forms-with the production, the background, and issues arising from those "artistic works." The book unravels the myriad ways by which expressions of a people were manifested in colonial Manila. It uncovers the economics and politics that accompanied the mode of artistic production. The various manifestations of culture, as embodies in the narratives of the book, help build a history that reveals how the ecclesiastical complex of Santo Domingo characterized the intermingling of European, Latin American, Asian and Indigenous cultures." -Lifted from the back cover

Two Tawangan Articles: Marinela de Leon and Nameless

Mount Pulag via Tawangan Climb: Confessions of a Climb Junkie
January 1, 1999

By Marinela S. De Leon
It’s been six months since I last put on my hardy trek shoes and ascended a mountain slope. After
Foto by TJ
Mt. Malepunyo it was 180 days of pounding not the exciting mountain trails but the city streets where stone-cold buildings replaced my beloved rolling hills and mountains. So, when I learned of PALMC’s Mt. Pulag climb I called Romy Valdez and asked where and when the pre-climb was. It was only after I put the phone down that I realized Mt. Pulag was the country’s second Highest Peak and I wasn’t exactly Super Girl.
But once the will prevailed, the flesh was left with no choice despite the fact that we were climbing Mt. Pulag via the difficult Tawangan trail where horrid tales of swamps with blood-sucking limatiks and fierce wild boars were narrated by the more experienced climbers for the benefit of the aspiring-by-now-scared-out-of-their-wits climbers.
Day 1
In my own quiet corner on the long stretch of Session Road I squeezed myself tight in between the rows of humonguous back packs hoping to fend off the creeping cold. Fire child that I was, the cold is my long-standing foe. All bundled up in my thermal undies, a layer of outer clothes and a windbreaker I was praying that God grant me the strength to make this exciting climb. Images of pine trees, rice terraces, the fog, the mist and the locals descending the mountain distracted me from the long waiting hours for the hired jeep to take us up to Benguet.

Our way up was literally the Long and Winding and Bumpy Road.-prelude to the assault we were undertaking. I secretly took deep breaths and psyched myself up for the climb that was getting scary as the jeepney roared through the steep roads. Mercifully, we passed the Ambuklao Dam where the slowly cascading water seemed like rows upon rows of soft white feathers and the sloping hills where the wind rippled through the cogon grass seemed like the sleeping giants of my fairy tale books. We stopped near a stream and I made an age-old wish come true-plunged my head into the cold running water exactly the way the cowboys in the westerns my brothers and I loved to watch. And as water trickled down my face my fears and self-doubts were washed away by the pure waters of Ambuklao.

Lunch by the lake was serene, where my beloved Balagbag Boys generously shared their breaded chicken and cold steamed rice with co-inductee Freeman and myself. At 2:00 pm we pushed for Mt. Panatayan (2,472m ASL) on our way to Tawangan. Already I was breathless and ace mountaineer Lex Evangelista chided me for being so. “Wala pang back-pack iyan, ha?,” he said as I look with longing at the jeeps carrying our bp’s uphill.

I felt the mountain size me up as I made my way up. Apruebo, one of the strongest mountaineers in the group paced himself with me and asked me the inevitable question “Why do you climb?” In between panting, I answered, “There are sights up in the mountains that I will never see in the city but more than that the towering mountains and the vast skies remind me of my place in the scheme of things.”
On our way down to Tawangan, I slipped and slid down muddy trails and felt like I just trespassed on someone’s private garden of wild sunflowers and tiny white flowers. When we reached Tawangan the villagers welcomed us with the use of their school rooms with their impeccably shiny floors. No one dared bring in their mojos much less their muddied boots inside them rooms.
It was mighty nice of Lex to have boiling coffee for our group. The coffee felt good and warmed us up as we changed to dry clothes, cooked chop suey and sauteed tenderloin strips with chicharo. Right after dinner, I snored my way into oblivion and slept the sleep of the happy soul.

Days 2 Camp: 3
Today, I braced myself against the shock of putting on my soaking trek clothes as we pushed off for Camp 2. Today was the day when my much-feared Baboy Damo trail was at hand. Over and over I recalled a timely phrase I heard over dinner last night-“Do not entertain fear.” Thus, fearlessly I pushed myself up the mountain. And as the slope got steeper which Freeman breathlessly described as a “cardiac assault” I felt my pace and got my rhythm. Soon, I was singing and climbing with the song of the revered mountain playing inside my head. I knew I was way behind the group but I couldn’t resist stopping and committing to memory the majestic canvas painted by Mother Earth before my very eyes.

We reached the wild waters of a river where we had an hour’s respite for lunch. Everybody was cursing the limatiks crawling all over their feet. Fortunately, I intercepted one who was boring a hole through the boots. I felt its hungry tongue suck the tip of my finger as I flicked it away. Quickly, I tore off my boots and my socks envisioning a colony of limatiks draining every drop of blood in my feet. I stared in disbelief at my feet. I was limatik-free! My years of staying away from worm burgers must have paid off. I offered a prayer of thanks to the mountain gods and the Queen Limatik for sparing this wet shivering mortal.

After lunch, we trekked for hours passing through thick forests and crossing hanging bridges with an angry river below. At a mountain stream, where fatigue was catching up with me, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how I could haul myself over a huge rock formation made slippery with moss. JoRam, came to the rescue as he reached instructed me to take off my backpack, hand it over to him on the other side and climb over myself. I ate a half a chocolate bar afterwards on the advise of the Loyola Climbers who were with us. I took a sip from my bottle and asked God to bless me with strength.
At the waiting shed when some climbers rested, I joined their huddle, eager for warmth. After 10 minutes I decided to push off as the rains continued and the thick overgrowth made it impossible for daylight to break through. At first, I could see Romy’s red backpack ahead of me. Confidently, I started building my pace. It was a few hours later that I realized I could no longer see anyone ahead of me nor hear anyone behind me. I was walking through what seemed like a long corridor of trees with vines and ferns creeping all over whatever breathing space was there to fill. I realized I was in the dreaded Baboy Damo trail.
“Sama sama tayo pag dating sa Baboy Damo trail. Walang iwanan, walang take 5,” I remembered Romy telling us during the pre-climb. But here I was by my lonesome frightened self with an angry, raging baboy damo bound to ram me down any second. For what seemed an eternity, my head filled up with flashes of red. I scrambled for my whistle. I called out to Romy and prayed I’d see the familiar red of his pack. But the wind just howled and I was hearing imaginary grunts.
I stopped dead on my tracks and prayed the Our Father aloud. With calmed nerves I took out my flashlight and started walking. Unmindful of the growing dark, urging myself to go on. I plunged head on into the twilight never stopping, hearing only the pounding of my heart. “I have to reach the camp, I have to reach camp,” I urged myself until I realized I was faced with a very narrow trail that hugged a wall of prickly shrubs on the right and a deep raving on my left. I closed my eyes for one moment and saw myself hugging the mountainside with sure steps and that after a few more steps I’d see the campsite up ahead of me. The mountain gods blessed my vision as I made it through that narrow trail bend and saw the blue dome of one of the group’s tent.
This night proved to be a long night for me. Our tent, so kindheartedly pitched by Apruebo and Mokey was flooded by rainwater as its roof collapsed in the middle of the night as everyone was snoring contentedly in their tents. I could only heave a sigh and rocked myself to the rhythm of the rain. I sat up waiting for daybreak.
On the third day, the mountain further tested my spirit. The temperature was dropping as we made our way up Mt. Nabaguwan 2510m ASL. I was lagging behind everyone else as I was weak from lack of sleep and numbed with cold. As if on cue, Orly and Jojo of the Balagbag Boys appeared before my side and egged me on. “Kaya mo iyan, Sub!” “Billion nation late na Tao” “Push, Sub, Push” I repeatedly asked them to go ahead of me as I know they were practically freezing and my pace was a tiresome pace for these seasoned climbers. But they refused. Always a step behind me. Pushing me to the limit. Several times I raged and shouted, finding strength in the sudden adrenaline rush and I laughed when I saw Orly and Jojo laughing below, cheering on their “champion”.

Just before the assault to the foot of Mt. Pulag, we caught up with Romy. I told Orly and Jojo I’d just climb with Romy. I told the boys to go ahead. They asked Romy to take care of me. At the plateau, I was greeted by a truly enchanting sight. Mountaintops peeked through thick fogs, rain swept grass trembled with rushing water below and the sky seemed so close I could almost feel them. The world was at its best. Everything was virginal-untouched and unsoiled by the trivialities of mortals. Silence brought the mighty voice of nature and plunged my soul in deep reverie. I was in a magical place with a group of people who offered me friendship and shared with me a deep love for the mountains. What more can one ask for?

“This was paradise,” I said to myself.
“This is why I want to climb mountains,” I murmured.

And as my weary body sought solace from the pristine beauty that enveloped me the howling winds blessed my shivering body and warmed my soul.

Going up the steep slopes, getting muddied, being battered by the rain and the wind and humbled by the beauty of my Maker’s creation is the affirmation of my life-giving mantra-Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

I am glad I made this climb. . . even if I’m not Super Girl.

No. 1 Climb Mt. Pulag in December During La Niña
January 3, 1999
By Nameless of Loyola Mountaineers

The New Year ironically is usually greeted in retrospective. With numerous magazines coming out with lists like: The 10 Best Dressed of 98, 10 Biggest Film Hits to remember that Year of the Tiger. Take the Top 10 Worst Things in 1998. I don’t know exactly what people would put in this list. Maybe other people might fill up the list with the Asian economic crisis, Erap being elected president, or even Clare Dane’s remark. One of the things which will enter the list of some members of the LM would be: No. 1 “Climb Mt. Pulag in December during La Niña.” (It would probably enter the top 10 stupidest things to do in 1998 as well.)

Who among them is nameless?  15 years after, it still is a mystery
At the induction party/pre-climb meeting in the middle of the semester break, Gabby Dizon and Gabby Narciso were chuckling when someone announced that there would be an end of the year climb to Mount Pulag. They found it ridiculous that there would be Mountaineers crazy enough to climb the 2nd highest peak in the Philippines and the highest in Luzon during the coldest time of the year.
Well, eight wacky Loyola Mountaineers collected on December 27 at 4 AM in 456 restaurant in Bagiuo City to join twenty-one PAL mountaineers. They were Jenny “Amazon” Atienza, Jaja “gaga” Reyes, Nick “the quick” Tobia, Ching-I “Buddha’s disciple” Wang, Gabby “Care Bear” Narciso, Caloy “quick-as-well” Tobia, Gabby “Gabo” Dizon and Harry “The Actor” Pasimio.
To give an overview of the climb here are Chito of PAL Mountaineers’ notes: Climb covered 3 mountains-Mt. Panatoan (2,422 M ASL), Mt. Pulag (2,922 M ASL), and Mt. Babadak (2,589 M ASL). To reach the jump-off point, we took a 6-hour bus ride to Baguio and another 6-hour jeepney ride in the mountainous roads of Benguet. Average temperature was 12 degrees C, manageable if not for the intermittent rains and gusty winds.
Why maybe one may ask it would enter the list of the Top 10 worst things to do in 1998? Well here are 10 reasons why.
 #10 The Bus Ride
From those at least coming from Manila rode the 10 PM Victory liner bus which was actually a very pleasant ride. That is until the Bus driver probably to keep himself (and while he was at the whole bus as well) awake with the music of “the best of Aaron Carter” and, then best of pinoy rock which had lyrics like; “Kapag kasama kita-gumagwapo ako.” He blasted his music loudly inside, it was Harry who eventually lowered it during one of the bathroom stops. The eyes of those who rode the bus blinked tears of sleepiness. But in these moments these eyes caught glimpses of what they hoped to see. Fueled by memories of pictures brought back, they took heart and tried to get as much sleep as they could. I guess this wasn’t so bad but I think the mountaineers should have taken it as a sign. A foreshadowing of the discomfort yet to come.
#9 The Jeep Ride to the Drop off Point
After waiting for quite a bit, the two jeepneys arrived to fetch the 29 climbers. The jeeps were loaded up and the six hour trip to the drop off point began. At first the mood was “high” with Harry and Jaja singing the Weezer album song by song soon though all singing stopped and actions were held to very minimal as the jeep “shook up” the passengers by rocking back and forth through the dust roads. Leaving their senses Undone-the jeepney song. But the violent shakes was just the tip of the iceberg as layers and layers of dust began to settle on its passengers. Making many looking like old men and women with white hair. On the way a couple of Jeep problems turned up (aside from the occasional wee-wee breaks and dust offs). There was also a problem of the Drivers worrying about getting back to Baguio City before becoming too dark. So, they brought us as close as they could which entailed some walking while the jeep took the bags for the last part of the ride.
#8 The Pacing of the PAL Mountaineers
When the group arrived at the drop off point. They all had a quick lunch by the lake, which produced a great double rainbow. It was a fairy-tale beginning for everyone. Then the trekking to the village began. Soon, most of the PAL mountaineers over took the LM members. Which was how the order remained throughout the rest of the trip. (LM would have to wake up earlier to pack up and the like to keep up.) On the first day the mountaineers trekked to Tawangan where the group would be able to stay overnight in a school room which was great because that was one day that they did not have to set up the tents.
#7 Communal Mess Kits
To save more time communal mess kits and utensils was born. The LM had their meals in a more bonding way. As Jenny’s fork and spoon floated around. Gabby’s plastic tumbler soon became a cooked rice case. The things will just be tossed around. “Take one down, pass it around.”
#6 Wet Socks
Aside from sharing food, mess kits, and saliva (from using the same spoons), the LM members also shared the cold feeling of putting on the wet socks of yesterday and thanks to the weather the perpetually wet shoes. Cold feelings are brought to a new level after taking 4 squishing steps in mud. And nice new socks stay dry for about 2 seconds. Also in connection to wet socks on the last night in the plateau. Gabby D. suffered greatly as his sleeping bag was discovered to be wet and had to needed body heat from Harry and Caloy to keep him warm that night. Which consequentially kept Harry awake by Gabby’s chattering.
#5 Equipment Problems
It was raining the whole time and along the way to make matters worse some important equipment broke down. It was realized that the less people who climb, the higher probability for things to go wrong in the sense of having a “lack off.” Caloy’s flashlight broke in the jeepney ride. Then Jenny’s Bag broke by the shoulder straps. Then Ching’s shoes broke to be patched up with rope and strings. Then some straps of Jaja’s bag (which the group realized later on was self-contained) gave way on the way to plateau.
#4 Trekking at Night and Irritations
Aside from having some equipment problems on the second day of trekking (which was incidentally the longest day), the group left the school at around seven in the morning. Had lunch at a river with ice cold water. This was also where jugs were filled up. During this 10-hour trek the group unfortunately hit nightfall taking out flashlights to begin set-ups.
To share with the reader the type of irritation we had let me share some quotes:
Since Caloy was not yet there, irrational behaviors Nick said to Gabby D.
“Nasaan si Caloy?”
Gabby D: “Nasa likod ko.”
Nick T: “Iniwanan mo?”
Gabby D: “Oo.”
Nick T: “BAKIT!” As if Nick had a right (NOTE Gabby D. was not the Tailman.)
Ching: “Don’t you remember the MODULES! We must re-evaluate membership.”
Our little camp on the trail became “Sungit City.” Miserable is probably the best word to describe the evening.
#3 Limatics (Like Automatic)
A major irritation aside from that evening of the 2nd day was that it was also the day the Lematics (leech like creatures) were discovered. Alcohol was abundant only at the stops so on the trek we had to take it out with hands only to find it sucking on our finger. Squashing these 1/2 inch wonders was out of the question as they would only slip through our fingers.
1. The dinner of that hell evening had a special spice as it was discovered to find a cooked Lematic in the Adobo.
2. In the morning while packing up Gabby N. discovered one at his ear and quickly removed it causing a bloody mess as a result.
3. Harry also discovered on thinking it was a nosebleed but only to find a wound at his neck. He also wins the biggest-lematic-to-suck-my-blood award.
4. A family of Limatics (all size ranges) welcomed Jaja and Ching when they had to pee in the dampened forest.
5. Jenny deceivers to be mentioned being the most frequently visited by the Limatics among the LM.
 #2 The 2nd Lunch of the 3rd day
This is probably a memorable lunch because it was so cold. One could tell if another was speaking if there was vapor coming out of their mouths. It still was raining a little but it was really so cold because of the wind. It was so chilly that instead of eating in the clearing the Loyola Mountaineers had to stay back down a little to the trees that served as natural wind barriers. This is when Gabby Narciso burned himself (gaining two new birthmarks on his face) trying to open the stove’s fuel compartment with his teeth. It was so cold and probably the bleakest point in the climb. After which was the ascent to the plateau. This was also where Ching and Caloy nearly got sidetracked. It was also really cold that Harry was ready to let Jenny sign the “witness” part of his organ donor card, which he carries in his wallet. He wasn’t certain he was going to make it. When we got to the plateau we got settled down and ate a really good dinner and slept.
#1 The View
Finally, one may think that this would be the redeeming factor, the saving grace of the climb. As the cliché line goes “I’ve trekked long and hard but the view was worth it.” This was one of the motivational factors pushing a lot of climbers. The view from Mt. Pulag was supposedly magnificent. Well, because of the weather there was only fog after the 30 minute run-walk to the peak. Others have requested that beside their picture a witness to sign: That is the peak.
Awful you might think.
This may sound like a cop out answer but let me share with you this idea. Life isn’t really about what you get out of it in the end, it pays more attention to what you may become at the end. Those ten things are a small sacrifice of what we truly became after the climb. The experience, the process is even more important.
From this climb the LM has learned much from the PAL Mountaineers and gained an insight in climbing etiquette. But more importantly we have developed better relationships being with them. Bonds between people are born because of this particular expedition and new friendships were formed with the PAL mountaineers. The LM were their “bunso” group whom they looked after.
The groups have shared more than just misery, but also the multitudes of stories (even beer too). As we leave the climb, it is taken for granted that the 8 mountaineers have brought their own personal relationship with each other to a new level, a “I survived Mt. Pulag in 1998 with you” level. And though it is unsaid there was the existence of these phrases unsaid in words but understood in action. “You were my support. You gave me strength to calm myself. We don’t master the mountain we master ourselves.” One really has to be a different kind of person to climb mountains and keep on doing it.
So there was no heavenly view from the mountaintop but the trek were full wondrous things that make Mt. Pulag beautiful. The “natural highs” of the mountain were bountiful. If the peak was not so fabulous, there are many other instances when the world revealed a part of her beauty. Like the rivers would tirelessly chant their song and though the wind and rain were biting, they performed a gorgeous dance for all that could look up to enjoy. A favorite part is not on the peak but towards both the peak and the campsite-one is gifted with sight of rolling hills. And it’s mystical wonder and one cannot help but absorb the radiant aura of nature only Mt. Pulag could reward one with.
And there something’s that would not have been as good without the trying parts of the climb: Jaja’s pasta dinner on the plateau, riding the top of the jeep, eating lunch on a jeep, breaking bread, eating meat, being passed around, eating Pizza and ordering water. Returning to love ones for a brand new year.
The climbers are also entitled to having one wish being granted a gift for climbing the mountain that is a pilgrimage. I wonder what the eight goofy Loyola mountaineers asked for to prepare them for the year to come.
 Famous Quotes:
“Don’t mess with the bear-dude he’s with me.“-Harry
“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, whatever.”-Jenny
“If gets the job done, it gets the job done.”-Gabby Narciso (after burning his face)
Along the trail a bag was seen. It was Harry’s but Caloy stopped and asked
“Anong ginagawa mo dyian?”
Harry replied: “Nag ma mahjongg-ano pa kaya Caloy?”
Photos by Ching-I-Wang (except where otherwise noted).

Ending 1998 in Tawangan

By Chito Razon
This article will help relive the moments in Tawangan, a 4-day expedition in the Cordilleras after Christmas of 1998 when we were all in our shining moments.  It was an "alpine" climb (by tropical standards" in the highest points in Luzon participated by 29 trekkers mainly from our club, the PAL Mountaineering Club. 8 from the Loyola Mountaineering Club attached their team to us.

Climb covered 3 mountains-Mt. Panatoan (2,422 M ASL), Mt. Pulag (2,922 M ASL), and Mt. Babadak (2,589 M ASL). To reach the jump-off point, we took an 8-hour bus ride to Baguio and another 6-hour jeepney ride in the mountainous roads of Benguet. I headed a group of 10 members, most of which are professionals. Apru Apruebo led the Balagbag Boys which included Lex E.; Barry Barcelo led a group of mostly members including Christine Medina. Romy Valdez, our EL was with the Balagbag Boys. Average temperature was 12°C, manageable if not for the intermittent rains and gusty winds.
Tawangan is a test of equipment and the human spirit. Like how our dry fit outfits, chairs, stoves, leak and wind proof parkas and tents can withstand the forces for three days.  It’s a test on how long we can hold on without touching alcohol for 4 days. How our body can survive the cold, wind and rain for 2 days. How we open new friendships and deepen current ones. How we manage ourselves in fatal and critical moments. Gladly in Tawangan-Pulag, we passed them all. Now we know why this privilege to appreciate Pulag via Tawangan is only for a limited few.  We trekked for 4 hours on the first day, 9 hours on the 2nd day, 5 hours on the 3rd day and 4 hours on the last day.

A major climb feels like a summation climb. The Ballay walk and the hanging bridges remind me of Ugu, Sagada and Kabayan.  The trek to the schoolhouse is like the Natib trek without the humid air. Lunch at the lake is a Lake Venado setting of Apo. A most impactful scene for me was the walk on the rice terraces amidst the fog with two mountain peaks at the background. You can’t escape the crossing at the last of the 5 hanging bridges where the mighty river was gushing in all the white steam against the backdrop of trees with flowering petals. Walk in the clear running stream is like the Majajay trail.  The lunch at the river is the Gabaldon river crossing done with the Loyola Mountaineers. Second day is San Cristobal and Banahaw rolled into one. Last day is undoubtedly Pulag.
The walk to the plateau where running water shared your boots in the trail was like my first Pulag 5 years ago during a storm. That is why I said I always have to face Pulag prepared.

During the solitary moments in the trail when the temperature was dropping, I said some prayers, both for myself and for all of you that I committed to do so in my Christmas cards to you. I said thanks for the good health, the good fortune, the strong family support and the company of friends. I also asked the sacred mountain to clarify my personal and professional directions for the coming years.  The Cordillera mountain is powerful enough to grant me that.
It was a most fulfilling week, a good summary of all the climbs for the year. I did not experience any fatigue nor shortness of breath.  Our 9 meals were well planned, slept an average of 7 hours in the camp, would knock off at 9 and wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning.  I only felt tired when I boarded the bus in Baguio to go back to Manila dawn of 31st December to reach Manila before New Year.  After breakfast in the house at 7 AM, I was soundly and deeply asleep for the next 6 hours, enough recharge to meet the New Year.
Happy 1999.

Shining moments in the expedition:
- The wash up with a view at the Palancha arranged by TJ and Jojo Ramos
 - Drying up tents and other wet stuff at the Palancha grassland with a great view
 - Jeeps on time at the pick up station arranged by Mitch and Romy at a fair price
 - Presence of guests Larry and TJ. Larry recorded schedule and highlights
 - The sentimental weather from the grassland to the Ranger station perfect for muni-muni
 - The fine Plateau weather at breakfast time perfect for cooking but not long enough to cover packing
 - The fine Plateau weather at dinner time perfect for cooking but not long enough to cover eating
 - The assault to the peak led by Apru and the Balagbag boys with winds pulling them down to the ravine but completed somehow with the Loyola climbers
 - The reformed, detached Balagbag Boys during the trek
- Lex Evangelista humbly sweeping, Gerry Balignasa ably assisting
 - The shortened distance between the 2nd day camp to the Plateau to Romy’s surprise and to our delight
 - The cold, windy and rainy weather nearing the Pulag Mountain range
 - Black garbage bags, clear backpack bags generating heat while in motion
 - The hot water prepared from an MSR Expedition of TJ at the Plateau campsite at the height of the strong winds and rain. What presence of mind!
 - Tents that wouldn’t leak, tents that can be set-up and dismantled so quickly when rains and wind batter the campsite. Perhaps all including the Loyola Mountaineers’ Coleman held on.
 - The team spirit evident in all groupings
 - Meal schedules followed to the letter with surprisingly top quality taste
 - Perfect rice all throughout the expedition
 - Water all the way
 - The dip at the cold river
 - Photo coverage of Ching, Danny, Mitch, Lex, Christine, TJ
 - Emil saved from falling down the ravine
 - Mitch saved from slipping in the white wild river
 - Loyola male climbers Gabby, Gabby, Nick, Harry, Caloy shaping up and getting stronger each day
 - Loyola female climbers Ching, Jenny and Jaja relating with the group
 - Freeman’s and Subs fighting or frightening spirits
 - Cartoons talk of Jojoy, Emil and TJ
 - The shortened trail between Coral and Plateau
 - The rice terraces against the series of mountain peaks
 - Rope tied shoes of Barry and Ching
 - More equis than checks from the Balagbag Boys
 - The shortcut to the emergency campsite
 - Apru and Christine’s excellent choice of campsite for the 2nd day
- Emil and Barry’s tarp
 - Reunion of Jojoy, Barry and Emil
- Christine’s pacing, matched by Larry’s
 - Apo boys reunion-Orly, Jojo, Jerry, Art, Mitch, Chito. Loyd, Dulce and Russell were at the Baguio bus terminal
- Art’s Baguio accommodation for his teammates Cooking area the corridor of the Tawangan Elementary School
 - Freedom to snore at the Tawangan Elementary School classroom
 - Lunch at the Lake on the first day reminiscent of Lake Venado
 - Lunch at the river on the 2nd day reminiscent of Kabayan River
 - Trail foods on the 3rd day providing heat to the body
 - Presence of mind in tent setting, trail blazing
 - Popcorn during socials, adobo on the big dinner night by Mitch, vegetable in oyster sauce by TJ, pears in cream on the 2nd dinner, apple in the elfin forest waiting shed, chorizo, dried seafood of Juno
 - 3 working stoves, 3 clean cooksets per group
- Bonsai at the Plateau water source
- Moss in the alpine forest trees
- Limatic and Larry’s violent reaction to Limatic
-The baboy damo family
- The no-show muddy trail at the Coral compensated by the all water trail to Pulag
- The all-reliable, ever dependable “reformed” Balagbag Boys
 - Jojo Ramos’ map and compass reading
- Barry’s professional group
- Loyola Mountaineers determination
- Chito’s organized, discipline and equipped group
- Juno’s fatherly presence, TJ’s vigor and strong feel for outdoor survival, Danny’s endless initiatives, Mitch’s open accommodations, and Chito’s quiet presence
 - Close to a thousand and five hundred pesos expense almost a week of togetherness
 Romy’s confidence and cool disposition

What gift has the Cordillera’s given you? Guests Larry and TJ received them, I don’t know if they realize it.  Orly, Apru and Jojo were reminded of their physical limitations, Jerry, isolation. Emil and again Mitch were reminded of their life.  Mitch got a gift. even before the climb. Sub, Mokie and Freeman perhaps got the biggest package. Barry, Christine, Jojoy, Art, Lex, Danny, Juno, Jojo, Ching, Jenny, Jaja, Gabby, Gabby, Caloy, Harry, Nick surely got theirs.  Romy will get what is due him for bringing all of us there.

Ruby G. of Meralco MC crafted a fitting tribute to our climb.  “I should say there’s a lot of value in a well-prepared climb. Instead of having to struggle against the forces of nature (which we already knew would extend no mercy!), we can calmly delve deep into our core for that intimate conversation with our soul-to give thanks for all our blessings and pray for enlightenment and guidance.  Standing as a mere speck in the vastness and overwhelming magnificence of the Cordillera Mountains, one can’t help reflect on one’s worth, fate, and purpose in this life. I understand some of us climb not merely to explore the mountains but to explore our inner selves.”

Photos by Mitch Soria and Ching-I-Wang

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sweet Child of Mine

Climbing Mount Apo in ’97
Seryoso sa simula
Tahimik lang sa akwal na akyatan
Tamang tama ang lamig,
Halos walang init, walang ulan
Lahat ay pinarating sa tuktukan
Pero huwag ka, pagkababa, wild na wild ang pagdiriwang
Ginunita ang ganda ng kanyang pinakita, ang mga puno, Lake, buwan, mga bituin, ang peak at sa mga kasamahang climbers
Iyan ang Mount Apo, King of the Mountains
 Mount Apo got the respect due its stature as the highest mountain from us. We came prepared and behaved. Two pre-climbs facilitated by E.L. Russel Aguinaldo with the support of other members Noel Rebuelta, Mayan Gutierrez and operations manager Elmer Cabotage paved the way for a well-paced, well-managed event as planned for 32 climbers and eventually down to 25.  The 4-day trek via Kidapawan starting Wednesday 27 August noontime ending 30 August noontime showed us the grandeur that is Apo. We were treated to a visual feast of flower-lined trail, cool clear rushing Marbel River waters, therapeutic and refreshing Mainit waters on our first day. As we ascended to Lake Venado, we were welcomed by giant trees wrapped around with moss and the 87º rock climb.

At the Lake, the sky was clear and the stars were sparkling bright. Highlight to me was the awesome Lake Venado scene at 3 a.m. at a chilling 5º Celsius.Peeping from the tent, you can see fog floating at the lake and the moon topping at the fog-like a giant ice cream float with a white nata de coco on top. The ultimate of course was the expansive and open peak in bright, unobstructed panoramic view of the whole of Mindanao. At 7:30 in the morning 29 August, we were the tallest human beings on top of the Philippine soil.
 All these experiences merely set the stage for the persons in us. And it was the best in us. Like the “Von Trapp” family group of Ruel Manito, Allene Gutierrez, Nelia Pallorina, Loyd Alcaraz, Orly Amolar and Jerry Balignasa. Ang grupong malakas! Malakas ang climbers, malakas sa lamunan, malakas sa tagayan, malakas magbigayan, malakas magkodakahan, malakas sa buto’t balat, malakas sa sayawan. Higit sa lahat malakas sa pasensyahan. Madalas nga lang ang palitan ang mga nanay. Nangunguna sa tagayan, sa trail at sa sayawan.  Frequent visitor si Russel dito para sa tsinelas.

There is the quiet and low profile group of Mitch Soria, Chito Razon, Ann David, Joy dela Dingco, Hilbert Lim and Dennis Reyes. Syempre sino ang may influensya dito? Beneath the quiet profile are the excitement in their inductee’s lives. A clean-shaven Brutus emerging as Tetey in Lake Venado with a female date from the other mountaineering group. Kaya lang he suffered a cut. He also eventually lost his cookset cover at Lake Mainit, his fork somewhere and his date at Lake Mainit dahil inunahan ni Noel sa campsite ang ibang grupo. Tetey eventually earned them all back in the form of a big heavy stone in the final cardiac assault to the PNOC HQ. Dennis, our Red Cross lecturer and PT expert taught himself his own lesson. He sprained his foot. Our reluctant team leader Mitch may not know it but he held together the biggest group in the expedition including this satellite trio. Mayan Gutierrez, Noel Rebuelta, Butch Ballesteros.  Like the group it attached itself to, the trio was behaved, quiet and concerned (?). Truly, they were the silent organizers-handling funds, relating with the government, making jeep arrangements, certificates and itinerary, check ins and luggage and other things when our TL declared he has done his mission for us. But the drama that happened inside their North Face tent was beyond us all. All season kasi.  Meron bang nangyari?
Foto by Norbert Calderon

What can we say about the trio of Norbert Calderon, Marlaw Ragudo, Marlon Paguila? It is a more than self-contained group that can carry everybody’s pack and feed everyone. Originally planned for a group of 7, they were down to 3 on the actual expedition but the food allocation remained the same. Lahat ipinamigay sa sumunod na Davaeño climbers na nawalan ng gamit. Lahat pimamimigay sa mga kasama huwag lang ang gin at ang Sprite! This group has two simple dreams. To climb Mt. Apo and to climb Mt. Halcon. So far, they’ve covered half of their goal. Norbert, our favorite and most generous photographer, also a returning climber and Halfcon survivor has reached 1 1/2.  Ang grupong nagexpress ng “This one goes out to the one I love!” Inampon din nila ang bagong grupong nawalan ng gamit sa ibaba.
Then there is the group of Joshua Vizcarra, Beng Reyes, Jonathan “Jojo” Almedilia which was forever on tutorial from Joshua on how to walk.  Kung hindi sila nangunguna, sila ay nahuhuli! It’s also called the triangle group.  J and B? B and J? J and J? Sagot ni Jonathan, hindi na po!
Russel Aguinaldo, Art Guanlao, Ato Gonzales, Aldrin Galang topped as the leading group. It is the EL and LQ group. Agawan hindi sa tubig, pagkain, gamit, babae, lalaki o silya kundi sa tsinelas. Russssseellllllllllll, ang tsinelas ko! ang sigaw sa madaling araw, araw-araw. Dinner for 2 ang spaghetti nilang isang bandehado-good for 2 days. Breakfast for 2 ang tsamporado nila-good for Philippines 2, two thousand. Nagadopt kina Ato at Aldrin kasi iniwan silang poor ng mga kasama nila.  No food, no bread but with garbage. May orange juice naman.

Trek was honored with the presence of PAL MC ex-president Joey Quimpo in the company of Jojo Sindayen, Benjie Lara, Leomax Reyes, Glenn Imperial, Lolita Ramos, Sikorsky Delena. What can we say but thank you for the guidance, the seniority, the fun, yabang and company. What can a PALMC climb be without them?
Posted at  Cadbury Roadtrip Entry on FB

Salamat kay EL Russel, sa lahat ng members, sa mga inductees (Jerry, Orly, Beng, Marlon, Marlaw, Jojo, Hilbert, Dennis, Aldrin), sa ating mga porters, kina Uncle Sam at tatlo pang sumasakit ang balikat sa bigay na pinabuhat, kina Uncle Jack Chin, Sikorsky, Dr. Nonoy Tan at kay kaibigang Tanny Wenceslao na naghahanap pa rin kay Art sa Paradise Island (ok lang sana nagkita naman tayo sa Annie’s.) Kay Eugene Montallana for the ticket arrangements. Sa lahat ng nagpahiram ng gamit at pera.  Sabi naman ni EL sa ating dasal, “lahat po ng ito ay galing sa inyo Buong Maykapal.”

Mt. Apo showered us with its magic before, during and after the climb. Despite the impending storm, we proceeded. Land travel delays did not stop us. Trek weather was perfect. And look at our Sabado night! Bakit nga ba ganoon ang Annie’s night natin?  Woooo, sweet child of mine aaaaiiiinnn.
The climb was not easy, neither was it that difficult. But it was Apo. That’s why it presented itself to us like a dream as we sang in the song “parang kailan lang, ang mga pangarap ko ay kayhirap abutin.” With our bonding and fine company, we were proudly declaring “. . . tatanda at lilipas din ako ngunit mayroon awiting, iiwanan sa aking alaala, dahil minsan tayo ay nagkasama.”
Kita-kita tayo uli!

 * EL-Russel Aguinaldo, Art Guanlao, Ato Gonzalez, Aldrin Galang
 * TL-Ruel Manito, Allene Gutierrez, Nelia Pallorina, Loyd Alcaraz, Orly Amolar, Jerry Balignasa
 * TL-Mitch Soria, Noel, Rebuelta, Chito Razon, Ann David, Joy dela Dingco, Hilbert Lim, Dennis Reyes. Mayan Gutierrez, Butch Ballesteros
 * TL-Joshua Vizcarra, Beng Reyes, Jonathan “Jojo” Almedilia
 * Joey Quimpo, Jojo Sindayen, Benjie Lara, Leomax Reyes, Glenn Imperial, Lolita Ramos, Sikorsky Delena

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tweet from tochsr (@tochsr)

tochsr (@tochsr) tweeted at 4:21 PM on Tue, Aug 20, 2013:
Power of Tweet: You get tweets at an instant from all sources depending on who you follow. Tweets come in so fast and in large batches. Hot!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Tweet from tochsr (@tochsr)

tochsr (@tochsr)
Most heard Pilipino words on TV (last word syndrome):

Nagmistulang. Lumikas. Humupa. (Seemed like. Evacuate. Recede).  From the morning news.

Humagupit-Beat hard repeatedly.  Ragasa- Impetuous.  Lumusong-Descend.  Walang humpay-Unceasing attack.  Hinakayat-Trickling of water.  Nanalasa-Impetuous wind.  Rumaragsa-Deluge.  Delubyo-Disaster, great amount of rainfall.  Pumalaot-Get in the middle.  Manaka-naka-Intermittent.  Di-matinag-Unmovable.  From the late night news over State of the Nation.

Mga salitang nadagdag sa bokabolaryo ko mula sa news TV habang nagsabay ang Habagat at si Maring sa Luzon na nagdulot ng matinding baha sa Kamaynilaan at sa probinsya ng Bataan, Rizal, Laguna at Cavite.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Electrifying You Pay My Rent

You’ve got the looks, I’ve got the brains, let’s make lots of money”.  Never has this song become more relevant than now.  Thank you for reminding that this is still an option two decades after, Pet Shop Boys.  During our J. Walter Thompson and Ace Saatchi days, it was all fun, all work and never about money. Those were the days when "we were never boring" with the music of the PSB at the background.

The Electric Pet Shop Boys concert at the Araneta Coliseum was electrifying. Araneta was converted into a lights and sounds spectacle. Neil Tennant's distinct voice was given body with a superior audio system. It brought back memories of their Discography even if a handful was interpreted on their 1st visit to the Philippines.

But "it’s a sin, father forgive me" I cannot relate to the new electric techno pop songs. It validated that it takes some exposure for one to relate to new songs despite their catchy tunes and meaningful lyrics. Familiar songs particularly by the Pet Shop Boys have strong associations with events, persons or symbols in the past. New songs still need to intrude into your life, if ever you pay notice eventually given the clutter all around. Appreciation may come in due time.

To complete my experience  after the 1 ½ hour concert, I played their Discography Album from  West End, Love Comes Quickly, Opportunities, Suburbia, It's a Sin, What Have I Done to Deserve This, Rent, Always on My Mind, Heart, Domino Dancing, Left To My Own Devices, It's Alright, So Hard, Being Boring, Where the Streets Have No Name, Jealousy to Was It Worth It?

"Was it worth it?" certainly, after all the duo is an icon symbolizing English Electronic Pop having sold over 50 million records. Their music will "always be on my mind." And thanks for the upgrade, "what did I do to deserve this?"

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Viewing Reviewing Writing Posting

Writing reviews of entries to the Cinemalaya 2013 Film Festival
View the film
Frame the point of view
scribble on a computer generated receipt
Get the facts right
Transfer written notes in Iphone
Review. Edit
Upload in Facebook and Blog
View the next available movie

(Puedeng isulat habang nakapila o nagmimirienda o naghihintay ng LRT.)

Maraming magagandang pelikula.
Ang galing ng Pilipino filmmaker.
Ang daming mahusay magsulat tungkol sa pelikula.
Ang sarap magsulat at mabasa!

Isa sa dahilan kung bakit proud ka maging Pilipino, dahil sa pelikulang Pilipino!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Cinemalaya. Freeing the Mainstream from its Own Norms

Sana Dati from the Master Digital Storyteller. Jerrold Tarog is a master digital storyteller who establishes, builds up, reveals and closes with an impression. He presents a non-linear story in a structure in Sana Dati. The writer-director-musician-technical in one is a master of his craft choosing an appropriate cast, confident of his technique in staging and teasing to delivering a message to move the viewer.

All the elements in spite of the complexities are neatly woven together as cohesive. The character Dennis Ceasario portrayed by Paulo Avelino covered and uncovered a civil wedding and preparation mainly to "remember the bride." A man can identify and look up to Dennis’ character-intense, insightful, cool, confident, family driven, appealing and a loving brother. A woman (Lovi Poe) can easily fall for such a character. Line why he does what he does said by Dennis “gusto lang kita makilala” is a giveaway on how this story on closure ends when the credit rolled.

Quick Change jolted my sensibilities.  Subject on collagen injection on transsexuals is new to me. Syringe injected in the buttocks is tolerable but when done in the face made me squirm on my theater seat.  Practitioner has no medical training. At the early stage of the story, collagen put on form and curves.  As the plot develops, it was evolving as a new type of addiction, decay and eventually death. Practice when discontinued is taken over relatively easily by another enterprising transsexual. Quick Change, a Cinemalaya entry of Director Eduardo Roy, Jr. added another dimension to the medium. It did not entertain nor informed nor imitated life but jolted the senses with forthcoming realities. Sadly, this experience is already a reality and right now evolving in our midst but we are not aware of. Quick Change expanded further my liberal outlook.

Debosyon.  Obsession with icon and Catholic ritual challenged by myth, paganism and relationship. Narrated well (in poetry and music), technically supported most impactful for me are the devotees' grand procession and the language of Ina, Bicol and the authentic nature scene, the mountains.

Written in Bicolano which sets up the tone, it is engaging even to a native Tagalog. Someone with attachment to nature and a devotee can relate well with Debosyon by Alvin Yapan. When nature and prayers collide, heaven opens up.  Mythical!
I am a fan of Alvin not as a cinema goer yet but as a radio listener. As a guro, he story tells well his hurdles when he worked on his first film Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Paa. Tuned in at DZUP 1602 AM months ago, he with partner Alemberg Ang kept us glued on the radio listening to how the film was created. In that interview, it was acknowledged that the movie put Paulo and Rocco in the limelight. Alvin expressed wanting to work with them again but may not be possible already. Even that remote wish was granted with Debosyon.

Everyone is in transit.  The Cinemalaya movie of Hannah Espia explores the individual and collective lives of Filipinos working in Israel closely immersed with the Israeli’s culture.
Movie deep dives into the struggles, angst, insecurities and even some joys of hiding in a foreign land by a single father, separated mother, young child, daughter and a distant relative.

Transit moves because of the excellent acting of Ping Medina, Irma Aldawan, Marc Justine Alvarez as the young Joshua complemented by everyone else in the cast Israeli’s included. Each of the three projected big moments: father's pain of interrogation, mother's  disappointment with the daughter and son's fear of discovery. The Filipino actor’s proficiency in the use of the foreign language Hebrew adds to the fluidity and mystery of the technically well-crafted movie.

As Transit is a journey, it is paralleled with a dramatic Hebrew tale of a thin soldier continuing with his search for the rainbow after setbacks in the struggle. Soldier can choose to be swallowed or to search for the rainbow. Gladly, Moises plans to come back to Tel Aviv still searching for the rainbow rather than being swallowed after bringing home his deported 4 year old son Joshua.
Amor Y Muerte, Love and Death by Cesar Evangelista. When push comes to shove, your native
affiliation prevails. The snake eating the rat, casting, language, visualization, carnal scenes, storytelling, voice characterization effectively seeded to me the messages of obsession with colonialism, paganism, sex and ego. Be careful with colonizers. “They are not one of us!” is the natives’ battle cry. Amor y Muerte has a bold theme executed well.

When I saw the photos of Spanish Friar, Kuya Manzano, he is not as tall and powerful as he was projected in the movie, Adrian Sebastian as Apitong is dashing and not as native and Althea Vega as Amor is not as innocent but maybe a hottie.  I was made to believe that Markkie Stroem is Spanish but in truth is Fil-Nowegian. Amor transformed them well!
Nueve as a Movie lifted from a Docu. A digital movie interpretation of a true story inspired from an audio-visual documentary aired on local non-prime network. Facts were researched from real life interview of the victim and members of the family. A mother at 9, raped by her own father whose mother was raped too by the same man. The story in itself, a taboo is shocking defying all social norms. Docu aired on TV is provocative and informative eliciting strong reaction on senselessness. The movie, shot indie style allowing cinematic and AV capture has not come close to the reactions on the docu and the idea.

Are some elements wanting? Am I too exposed to the story? Is the material so sensitive the interest of the victim, an underage was protected? Or is it my bias? I’ve seen the documentary on GMA News TV, deeply moved by the courage of the girl on how she is coping and empathized with pain she has been going through via narration, interview and intimate video coverage. The movie, despite the reenactment by big stars, cinematic attributes and the projection of the rural site as picture perfect cannot truly come close to the agony when one has come that close to the real protagonist even just on TV. Nueve is a creation of Director Joseph Israel Laban, an award winning documentarist.

Ekstra. They wrote in Twitter "Ekstraordinary ang lead players citing Vilma Santos, Cherry Gil, Pilar
Grabbed from Ekstra Foto
Pilapil and the big stars" in bit roles  I retweeted and wrote "Ekstrahusay sina Marlon Rivera as Direck, Vincent de Jesus as the Assistant Director and Ruby as the Line Producer." I pay tribute to the three as truly, they are the extras in Jeffrey Jeturian's film where the leads are performed by known celebrities. Because of their sterling performances portraying the roles of Director, Production Manager and Line Producer, it diverts my attention to these professionals as the unsung heroes of cinema production.  Direk, PM and LP bear the pressure of deadline, quality output and acceptability to the production’s stakeholders who may not share the same points-of-view. Along with the Ekstras, they are the ones we owe our tribute to.

Purok 7 written and directed by Carlo Obispo pictures the simple joy of a rural farm living-toiling the soil, drawing water from a pump, walking in the woods, interacting with other purok-mates and appreciating the social core unit of a family, sister and brother without a mother and an absentee father. The company of a sister (Diana portrayed by Krystle Valentino) and Julian (Miggs Cuarderno) is more than enough joy.  Basic shelter in a hut in an isolated farmland is provided for with staple food in abundance and a sense of belonging to a community. Even done daily, it was not humdrum for the two. Diana and Julian who are separated from their OSW mother, a victim of drug carrier penalty and a father who attached himself to someone else have been surviving on their own.
Purok 7 captures in motion and in sound the enjoyment in doing farm chores: picking mangoes, fishing for frogs, taking a shower, preparing and eating their meals, reaping appreciation, falling for a city boy and watching town plaza dancing. Rural living is periodically going to the feria for the customized and mobile carnival rides and attractions.

Their enjoyment of simple life is set however against a backdrop of a grim reality of mother to be executed in a foreign land, father to father another child from a strange townmate and an apathetic government.
Diana and Julian will survive because Purok with the members of the community molded them well, independent, resilient, family-centered, sensitive and above all, human.

Film as a medium for social commentary. That is what Rekorder recorded well. From the point of
view of a 21 year old filmmaker comfortable with the digital medium, Rekorder, a film by Mikhail Red makes a social commentary on what is wrong with the city and how day-in day-out it is slowly decaying. Rekorder offers no concrete solution as Maven appropriately put to life by Ronnie Quizon, eventually became weaker emotionally, morally and physically.  Hope is implied through the use of the medium itself when the digital medium in outdated and evolving form is used to report and to reveal perpetrators.

To make a sound commentary, one must have personally experienced disillusionment. To document it for broadcast, one must be proficient with the new medium. Without a doubt, Mikhail has both as he delivered a strong message. -Chito R.