Sunday, February 8, 2015

The climb that started it all: Conquering Mt. Pico de Loro

Yesterday was definitely a day full of firsts. I never thought that this day will be all about facing your fears and conquering it all at the same time.

Thanks to Couchsurfing (CS), I discovered a new found love that matches my thrill seeking side. I've been seeing hiking photos/selfies over various networking sites this past couple of months. I always wondered why do they keep doing it regardless of how tiring it is, for sure. It seems to be a common hobby now, unlike in the past where hiking is a strenuous activity that is only left to the pros. Now, thanks to hiking groups and tours, a lot of people is starting to get in the fit zone through hiking.

Don't they get tired of being tired? haha! That's what lazy bum, like me, thinks. It's totally being out of your comfort zone to start with. But then, after trying it for myself, I now realized why many people can't get enough of it. The view. The feeling of achievement. The friends you get to know better. The new perspective you get each time you climb. It's a totally new world up there. You get that high (pun intended) after dealing with your first climb and so, you’ll want to do it over and over again to experience the thrill and be on the top of the world for a moment.

I only chanced upon this event 4 days prior to the day and only confirmed my attendance exactly a day before the hike. In short, biglaan, bahala na.  HAHA. I first doubted myself as I don't even do sports or any exercise. The only exercise I get is the walk along the long path from Paseo de Roxas to Ayala MRT after work. So to at least condition my body, I used the stairs in our office, 7th floor to ground before the day. Instant warm-up? haha! And this is where I doubted myself for a moment after losing my breath upon reaching the 5th level. haha! I seriously need to get active.

Meeting time of the group was set at 5:30am at Mcdo Pala Pala. I was already awake at 2:30 am and can’t go back to sleep. I haven’t yet prepared my things, and I almost decided to just sleep again if only my friend didn't call me up at 4:30am telling me she's ready to go. So just imagine me getting ready and throwing inside my bag anything I see that I think would need that day – within 15mins. I even tripped over while running around the house which seriously hurt my toe badly. What a good start. 5:40am we arrived at Mcdo. Just in time as they’re still buying their lunch for later.  As for me, I was able to prepare a sandwich (yes, I was even able to prepare a tuna sandwich in less than 5mins. haha!) while running around the house earlier but my friend had more than enough for her lunch so I bought rice too.

Good thing, 2 cars were brought by my co-CSers just enough for us 12. It took us more than an hour to reach the jump off point at DENR Ternate. At 7:30am, several cars are already parked inside and outside the compound. As expected, prices of food will be higher here. 1000mL of water costs 45Php and a regular sized C2 sells at Php40 which is normally priced at Php25-28. Registration fee costs Php25.  According to one of our co-CSer, who’s already climbing mountains for the past 5 years, there’s also another fee to be collected on the way up. But that was the case with the old trail which was already closed to public by now. According to lola, who seems to live there, the new trail that hikers will be using has just opened last week. The old trail used to let you reach the Pico de Loro falls which unfortunately not the case now with the new trail. :( After saying a short prayer, we now started on with the trail!

Mt. Pico de Loro, also called as Mt. Palay Palay, is located between Cavite and Batangas. This is also where the famous Monolith/ Parrot’s Beak is located. Mt. Pico de Loro is considered the highest point in Cavite so you wuld be able to see the wide plains of Cavite once you get to the top.
The way up to the first summit is surrounded by the lush forest that shades the trail making the almost 3 hour long hike up bearable for beginners like me. We also stop from time to time just to catch some breath but generally, the hike up was not so taxing. That is why Mt. Pico de Loro is considered a mountain for beginners. The shade and the cool breeze definitely helped my tired body recover and push through. There are some slight challenges with steep slopes but generally, the hike up is tolerable and fun!

Almost there!
You know you’re only minutes away from the saddle camp when you see those bamboo shoots bent like an arch.

Upon reaching the saddle campsite, the area’s already filled with day hikers resting and some campers who slept on their tents for the night. There are also stores that sell snacks and drinks. A 1000mL water costs Php50 while a regular sized c2 is Php40. As expected, prices would be higher but let’s just take in consideration the effort of hauling up these goods there. From here, we can already see the summit and the famous Monolith a.k.a. Parrot’s Beak because of its shape.

the view from the saddle camp

After some minutes of rest and selfies, some of us left our bags in one of the store to prepare for the hike up to the summit. Now, this is where the real deal starts. Maybe the hike up to the saddle camp is what they consider as for beginners, but definitely this way up to the summit needs a bit of "technique" and "determination" as the soil is loose and slippery.

It was already 11am and the heat is undeniably at it’s peak. Kuya Lando and Kuya Nick who approached us while we were resting offered us help going up to the summit. It’s not really required to have a guide, but as almost all of us are beginners we opted for one. They don’t charge fixed rates for their service and they keep on saying that it is up to us if we will give a tip of any amount. According to them, it would only take about 20 mins going up to the summit.

Unsurprisingly, this trail up to the summit was definitely a challenge for us as the soil was loose and slippery. There’s not enough grass to hold on so I was really grateful to have Kuya Nick help me “walk” up to the top. It was seriously slippery that from time to time I just opted to go on all fours and crawl my way up. Haha! From what I noticed from the expert guides who helped us, it’s better if you walk up fast and steady and go on the direction where the solid rocks are. It seems easy for them, but seriously it’s hard to get the right balance, maybe on the long run I'll get the technique.

It was such a relief reaching the summit. I almost doubted my decision on joining this day hike while crawling up that slippery trail. Haha! But anyways, it was so fulfilling. Once you get to the top, you would thank yourself for not giving up! Just like how life is full of challenges, you won't reach your goal until you push yourself. Naks! Life lessons brought to you by the mountains. haha! The view from up there was just amazing, you can see the vast view of the mountains and the waters nearby. The famous monolith is also standing nearby, taunting you and challenging your guts.

I can see from afar how excited those people who then magically emerges from the back of the rock, jumping up and down and shouting once they get to the top. Crazy. Strong. I’m happy for them, good job to you all! As for me, I'll just settle on the summit and wait for the time to get down. But no. I heard Kuya Mike, our seasoned climber in the group already asking on who’s gonna go up to the monolith. And all I could say was, “WHAT?” “SERIOUSLY” “SERYOSO?” “HUH?”,”PAANO?”. And that is when I confirmed to myself that I have an acrophobia (for a moment). I continuously asked some question (how do we go there? Do we need to climb up again? Are we going thru it all again, really?) to which I only got vague answers. I have never been the one to chicken out on extreme challenges but this is a first. What I only understood is that all of us are going and the way down is through the monolith (with the latter obviously not true). So we climbed down or might I say slide down, for the trail is still composed of slippery rocks and soil and there’s not enough support to hold on.

Upon reaching the base of the monolith, there are already a lot of people sitting on the rocks waiting for their friends and some waiting for their turn to climb up. It turns out that on the side of the monolith there’s a part where you scale the rocks with only a rope to hold on. Once I saw that, I got very excited and thankful for peer pressure. Haha! I always wanted to try and do rappelling and this one’s a very good opportunity! We waited for I think almost an hour before we all were able to climb up the monolith.
The foreign couple that made scaling rocks look 'easy'. Thanks to their long limbs.

The way up using the rope was a bit easy as I can see where I can place my feet but going down was another story as I completely slid my way down as I can’t seem to feel a flat rock to step on. I can just imagine how humiliating I look on my way down. Haha! It would be good if you have gloves with you so your grip on the rope won’t hurt much like what I experienced.

After that rope climb you’re life is already on your own hands as you will be passing through a narrow walkway and climbing an almost chest-high rock on the edge. Yes, one wrong move or one slip of a grip might just be an end of it all. If climbing up the summit was a struggle, climbing the monolith was twice the danger. And that is when I realized that I wasn't specifically afraid of heights but instead with the fear of uncertainty or not having something certain to depend on (is there a term for that?). The monolith was definitely the ultimate feat in Mt. Pico de Loro. Conquering the monolith requires a great amount of strength and guts to face it. This monolith seems to be the ultimate test for beginners. But once you overcome the fear and muster enough courage, a 360 degree view of the countryside is what you will be rewarded with. It was just crazy being there. Being a first timer, I still can’t believe that I was able to overcome this much.

After taking all the selfies and groufies we could have, we started to make our way down back to the summit and into the saddle camp. Passing through all those slippery trail, again. Everything’s was still a struggle but I already had more courage and determination this time after conquering that one heck of a monolith.

 After some time, we are back in the saddle camp. After resting our tired feet and having our lunch, we started our descent back to the jump-off point. It only took us about 2 hours this time going down. If you want to wash up after, you may do so when you’re back in the jump-off point/ DENR. They charge Php5 for using the public restroom.  

Up until now, it still feels surreal. It was such a good experience for my first climb as I have never even did anything riskier than this before. I’m just thankful that our prayers before the climb helped us get away from any harm. If only I had my own bucketlist, I think I already ticked off a lot in just one day. Climbing the monolith might scare you at first but it is something to be proud of once completed. Everything that happened was all worth it. And to quote my co-CSer's fb status, "In the mountain, you are in a world without strangers" which is just amazingly real as everyone we met and cross path with on the trail greets and wishes us all well which of course we give in return. It's such a nice place to be at, everyone's very friendly and encouraging. A proof that everything that God made is perfectly awesome. Looking forwards to more climbs with this group this year! :)

The rocks on the way back. (c/o Roann)

On top of the Monolith with the CS group! (c/o Roann)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A night with Michael Bublè in Manila

Last night, I bet Mama just scratched out one thing off from her bucket list (if ever she had one). She had been telling me over and over in the past that if ever Bublè will do a show in Manila, may it be in a hotel or a big dome concert, she won't definitely let it pass without seeing it. The Canadian singer-songwriter, Michael Bublè, who definitely has a voice as smooth as a butter (what a comparison, sorry. Haha!), came to Manila for a one night concert as part of his 2015 Asia tour. As a superstar crooner and four time Grammy award winning artist, Michael Bublè had surely captivated a lot of Filipinos. But even before he wasn't this big, he had already established a following in the Philippines. As a proof to that, he even personally shared last night on how the Filipinos were the ones who believed in his talent. His manager said ver since back in 2000s, he had already started a following in the Philippines. Personally, I started to love his craft from the moment I heard his song "Everything". Well, it was everything. :) I thought I was just an outlier in the mass as I thought older people are generally the ones who love his songs. Then as I was browsing through the net and from what I've personally seen from the crowd in MOA Arena last night, I'm not the only one :)



After more than 10 years since he was in the Philippines, Michael Bublè is back in Manila for his one night only concert in MOA Arena. His audience was a mix of couples and women in their 40s and up. This has also been a family affair for some. We went onside the arena around 7pm and there are already a lot of people entering the gates. Before I went to our seats, I first had my caffeine fix as my eyes are seriously trying to close already. Starbucks inside the arena had a crazy line that night. After almost an hour of lining up, I had my order and went fast to our seats just in time for the front act. Naturally 7, an acapella group, got to first perform for the crowd. They did a number of songs and some vocal acrobatics or "wordplay". They were undeniably good in hyping up the crowd. Being an acapella group, they reminded me of Pentatonix (if you don't know them, I pity you. Haha.). Can just somebody please bring them to Manila? Calling all producers, you're definitely missing this.



Past 9pm, the moment that all have been waiting for, familiar intro music started playing. The stage literally fired up in the start which, I may say, is perfect for opening the show to Bublè singing "Fever". And 2hours of lovely music filled the arena. His set list was perfect. "Everything", "Home" and "Haven't met you yet" are still my favorites and it just gets better hearing it live. He also did some pop songs like "Everybody" and "Don't stop believing".  In between, his witty and funny side showed up with the intros he made. Even some sexual innuendos were also thrown here and there. Haha! He also got some smooth moves sliding and swaying as he performed his songs. 


Team Bublè





2hrs just passed by that fast. It's easy to get in the zone and just cherish the moment hearing his voice live. He's also good in making his audience feel special, nice to have that feeling that the nigh pt has all been worth it. The "last song" he did was "All we need is love" with heart shaped confetti blown up all over the place. That was one of the highlights of that night for me. It was just some proper moment right there. 


And also, may I just say, I love the production design with all that lovely videos and effects. They did an excellent job in there. Love it! 

For his encore, he did 3 songs;"Cry me a river", "Save the last dance for me" and a "Song for you" which he sang, for the last part, without a microphone. 

I'm not good in describing concert experience but one thing I'm sure of is I'm glad I' didn't let this pass. It's much more fulfilling to hear him live, his voice sways like the wind. It was such a great night of feel good music and swoon-worthy songs. With his wit and charm, no wonder he got a sold out concert for the night. This just shows that he always have a space here in the Philippines and he should be back the soonest. Thank you Michael Bublè, for throwing that great party/show of yours. All worth it.. 

We booked a night at Tune Hotel, Aseana City so we could already rest and avoid the post concert traffic jam.

First two photos not mine. 
Crappy photos all mine. :)

Hotel Review: Tune Hotel, Aseana City

For the one night, we decided to stay at Tune Hotel at Aseana City for convenience as we will be watching Michael Buble's concert at MOA Arena. 
Tune Hotel is a chain of budget hotel which has branches around the world. They has this limited service concept where they able to lower cost by removing costly hotel extras that guests generally don't use. Theyhave branches across Asia and also in UK. Tune hotels is headed by their group CEO Mark Lankester, who some may know as one of the Advisor in Apprentice Asia. He had worked with and known Tony Fernandes of Air Asia for some time now which I think was also the reason of the rsemblance of the hotel's color scheme (red and white) to Air Asia.

I arrived at the hotel before 2pm and was able to check in immediately. It also seems to be a popular choice for backpackers and foreigners as I've seen pairs and groups in the lobby when I checked in. Being a budget hotel near the airport and Mall of Asia, it's strategic location is hard to miss. I like how the red and white color scheme looks neat and clean. The interiors are very plain and simple that makes the place look very inviting and accomodating for budget travellers. 

Cute doodle wall behind the front desk

Basically what Tune hotel aims to provide.

The lobby was spacious and well lighted. Rows of seats near the entrance are available for guests to seat in while they wait. There's also a row of desktop computers available in the lobby that you could freely use. 

Checking in was fast. Provide your valid ID and sign a form with your name and contact details then your room access card will now be given to you. Free wifi was also given (username is your room no. and password is your surname). 

Tune hotel has 10 floors --. Our room was on the 5th floor, rm 522, a deluxe room. With 2 single beds. True to their limited service concept, room only provides the most basic needs of their guest. A bed, a bathroom and a space just enough for you to walk on. :) For my first impression as I entered our room? Small. It reminded me of the room we stayed at in Singapore which has just enough space for one to walk. Luggage should be put aside the wall or else the room's gonna be a maze for you. Haha! But aside from that, rooms were fresh and clean. But they are fairly new in the area so we still yet to know if they would be consistent as time pass.

View from the 5th floor

 Toiletries provided was a soap and shampoo, and ofcourse a towel. Infairness to their bathroom, it's not too cramped up like other budget hotels. Shower area and toilet is separated with a transparent glass. Tissue paper and duvet is also available for your number 2 needs. :) 

Hairdryer. I don't think most guests use this, they should have just excluded did. Don't you think?

Bed was soft and comfy. 
There's only one bedside table though a foldable one mounted on the wall on the side of the bed could be pulled down as a desk. 

Flat TV was mounted up in the wall which provides a good perspective point while watching in bed. Pointed that out because I can remember one hotel I've stayed in that had their tv placed exactly in front of the foot of your bed. Labo.

Power sockets are near the bed side perfect for charging your electronic devices. A safebox can also be found below the bedside table. One thing I noticed though is that no phone is available in the room but then I found this phone near the elevator. So I guess convenience has also been limited. Maybe they promote health wellness so you could do some walking down the front desk in case you have questions. Uh, ok.

I found this phone beside the elevator in case you need assistance. Uh, ok.

A large ceiling fan is amusingly installed in the room above the beds. You could switch off the aircon and just turn on the fan if it already gets cold. Let's help save more energy. Why not?

For your meals, you may go down to Cafè 1700 which is open 24hours. They offer a variety of affordable meals that covers different cuisines. For room services, they charge Php 50 and you may contact them through the cellphone number provided. Pizza Hut, Chowking and Jollibee is a few steps away from the hotel. Walking a bit farther, you will see Mcdo and Greenwich just in front DFA.

Menu of Cafè 1700

Spa and tour services

Overall, it's a budget hotel that aims to provide the most basic needs for travellere. If you're the type who just needs a place to rest and freshen up for the next day, this is the perfect place for you. Clean, neat and comfortable. It would have been better if they provide free shuttle going to MOA as even though it's akready in the area it's still quite far as you would be walking past a highway and you know how Manila heats up on most of the days.

I checked out their website and saw that they have this option for add-ons (wifi, toiletries, aircon, etc.)  where they charge you additional fee. So better if you just book your room in sites like Agoda or Asiatravel as the rates there already have this add ons included and in a lower rate.

How to get to Tune Hotels, Aseana City?
-In case the taxi driver's not familiar with it, just tell them it's near DFA Macapagal or S&R Macapagal. 
Yellow cabs from Mall of Asia going to Baclaran also pass here, just ask them to be sure you're riding the right one.

Address :
Tune Hotel - Aseana City
Lot 38 Block 2, Bradco Avenue,
Aseana City, Paranaque City 1700,

25-30minute walk from Mall of Asia
10-15 minute walk from Baclaran Redmptorist Church