“Buhay ay langit sa piling mo.”
The line gives me chills not because it’s true…
(In reality, inconsiderate motorists, inattentive pedestrians, litterbugs, people rushing into an elevator before letting people out, and other daily frustrations remind me how far we are from Utopia.)
That line hits me because it presents me with a dream that, in moments, I believe to be attainable.
I may be wrong. But when watching the sunset from a clean beach, sitting atop a mountain, zooming past rice fields, swimming under waterfalls, floating on crystalline seas, slipping through majestic caves, or eating extra asim Sinigang with heaps of soft rice, I imagine this could be paradise.
Might we build heaven – with no poverty, suffering, or oppression, and with justice, peace, and prosperity – in these islands?
Can we build a country no Filipino would wish to escape from?
When I explain the meaning of my tat, I get reactions like, “Wow naman.” or “Nosebleed.” or “Deeeeeeeep!”, which is perfectly fine. Deep naman talaga. Haha.
But seeing people’s exaltation over the legalization of gay marriage across the United States validates my adoration for the symbols I permanently imprinted on my body.
There is tremendous and blatant inequality everywhere, whether it’s between sexes, sexual orientations, races, economic status, religions and beliefs… We are far from a world of equal opportunity for all – and humanity may never even get there.
Thank goodness for the people that never stop moving toward that aspiration.
I salute you. I stand with you. And today, I celebrate with you in this major milestone!
Then, when the rainbow is no longer in the foreground, I will look at my wrist and remember our personal and collective struggle to question existing norms and break the tricky barriers of inequality.
I found myself well beyond my shire and on an adventure I wasn’t quite fit for. For a lethargic couch potato with a bad knee, the quest to the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo was daunting.
The confidence boost came from the knowledge that elder folk and kids would be joining the trek. I could keep up with them naman siguro… right? Haha!
Bottom line is, I made it! So you can, too. In fact, you don’t feel the incline until the final stretch to the crater. And since you’ll be so focused on finding a trustworthy spot to place your next step, time dashes by.
The trip begins early from the jump-off point with a bumpy hour on a 4×4 to the foot of the volcano. The trek to the crater takes around 2 hours. The most challenging section of the trip for me would be the staircase of, maybe, 200 steps to get to the lake.
But oh, what a magnificent sight – still waters floating within the crater of a sleeping volcano! it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; the treasure under the spot marked “X”; the pièce de résistance!
The sights along the trail are also awe-inspiring, should you take the time to look up and around. Mountains of ash with remnants of mini landslides. Boulders and rocks and stones and pebbles. Cold streams – wide and tiny. Sulfur stains. Local tribespeople with smiling faces and genuine greetings… To think, this is the same volcano that gave us the second largest eruption in the 20th century.
The stillness of the crater lake, the calm sound of gentle streams, the permanent placement of boulders and smoothed stones, the delicate hills of dust… The beauty you find along the Pinatubo trail is a testament to the catastrophic Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
While trekking, naturally, you’ll be looking down and ahead most of the way. But do not forget to peel your eyes from the path and appreciate the glory of nature – sheer and brutal beauty. Step into the shot and take lots of photos and videos. Enjoy the scenery. Horror gifted us with this serenity.
If you’re looking to go on your own Mount Pinatubo adventure, there are lots of tour providers from Manila. We used Allan Bognot, who also owns a pension house at the jump-off point.
Just some tips:
Doing the trek early in the morning was great! It got quite chilly (this was end-December).
Use sunscreen. Your trek back which will be around noon to 2pm and you’ll feel the sun much more then. I heard it’s extra hot on any other time of year!
Eat a big breakfast and bring snacks (my tummy was grumbling on the trek back).
Use comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting water and sand in. Hiking shoes would be best.
I found myself crashing a fiesta, jumping off a cliff, and swimming with sea turtles!
I joined the Do Good Get Dirty challenge to make a difference but tables turned and the experience changed me instead! 🙂
I now know a bit more about my country.
It’s a shame I haven’t gone to more places around the Philippines. There are so many interesting pockets to visit and learn about! Negros Oriental is one of those little sachets with a unique history and inspiring stories packed inside. Special shout out to our tour guides Kuya Bong in Dumaguete, Valencia, and Apo Island and Kuya Luis in Siquijor. These guys have an answer for everything! And I really appreciated sharing the experience with people so passionate, knowledgeable, and proud of their home. If you’re receptive, you may just develop a love for the place, too.
I actually enjoyed eating buko-y stuff!
Mababaw, maybe, but there are things I’m certain about and one of those things is my dislike for the taste of coconut and coconut milk. I would rather eat crickets than gata! (I know I’m weird.) But I told myself to step out of my comfort zone during this trip. And, apparently, that meant eating Dumaguete Express (made with coconut milk) and I even ate buko pandan dessert! The awesome food trip would not have been complete without Dumaguete Express. I loved it! And it has opened me up to trying food I normally wouldn’t.
We all jumped.
A 30-foot drop into a crystal clear sea… Lui, Tim, and I were all afraid of the jump for different reasons. Tim was afraid of the fall. I was afraid of the landing. And Lui was afraid of the water. Still, each of us made the leap! It was thrilling and empowering. I am so proud of Team Dumaguete!
I was reminded of how we are all connected.
The highlight of the trip was Apo Island – a marine sanctuary where sea turtles like to chill out. Every month, the community gets together to clean their beach. This is a very tight-knit community, quite literally all family, of about 1,000 residents. It was moving to meet them and be a part of their monthly routine.
The target, really, is plastic. They explained that the sea turtle or pawikan feeds on seagrass and algae. Sadly, it is in these seagrass beds that many pieces of plastic get tangled. Eating the plastic can poison the sea turtles and kill them.
As a group, we started cleaning up the beach from one end to the other. I honestly expected little trash here and there considering they clean up every month. Unfortunately, I was wrong. There were way too many little and big bits of plastic, most entwined in the seaweed washed up on shore. What’s alarming is that most of the trash isn’t even from the Apo community, nor is it from tourists that snorkel or dive. The garbage comes from the sea (which, in turn, came from the rest of us). And the recent storms have increased the volume and frequency of this dumping of waste on Apo Island.
One of the most jarring moments happened when I was already snorkeling with the graceful pawikan. I was swimming after one and noticed a string of plastic stuck around its tail (You know the kind they use to secure boxes?). We aren’t allowed to touch the marine life so I pointed it out to our guide. Thankfully, he was able to pull the string free from the poor pawikan.
I’m certain this isn’t unique to Apo Island. I wonder how many of my wrappers have found a way, somehow, onto a pretty beach (or worse). I rarely think about where my waste goes after I throw it into a bin. But we never know, right?
Even unconsciously, the little things we do can make an impact on others and the environment.
I got to thinking about the mass production of all plastic packages and bottles and ropes and strings… And how we don’t really think about how much we consume and how much garbage is produced in the process.
There is so much natural beauty in the world. How long will it take for us to wreck it all?
My trip to Dumaguete and Siquijor was one for the books. It was fun and exciting and insightful and inspiring and magnificent! (I even witnessed the most beautiful sunset.) And while there were challenges here and there, I realize the bigger challenge is sustaining the “Do Good” part of the campaign wayyyyy after the experience.
While I have no control over what everyone else does, I am responsible for my own choices. And there are a whole lot of things I can do to minimize my impact on the environment.
Using a reusable water bottle instead of buying disposable bottled water, using reusable bags for groceries, being more mindful of what goods to buy and their packaging, maybe buying in bulk instead of tiny sachets, ensure my waste is disposed of properly, eating less or no meat, buying locally produced goods, use less energy, unplug, don’t waste paper, etc.
Maybe sometime soon, I’ll find a way to make a bigger and more lasting impact. But, despite the cheesiness, I do believe that it starts with me. I have to live it.
I found my taste buds rejoicing! One of the things to love about the Philippines is definitely food.
It was my first time in Dumaguete City, Oriental Negros, and we were greeted with a feast fit for a sweet tooth!
This was the appetizer – hot chocolate with the native delicacy called budbud (just like sum an) and a sweet ripe mango.
There are two varieties. One is typically what we Filipinos are used to, made from sticky rice. The other is a bit more unconventional called budbud kabog and is made out of millet (which is actually sold as bird seed!).
Believe it or not, I preferred the budbud kabog and I’m now wondering when I’ll taste its loveliness with poured tsokolate again… (Leads, anyone?)
After our lunch meal, out came the plates of silvanas and SANS RIVAL, the delicious desserts Dumaguete is known for. (SANS RIVAL is in all caps because it was HUGE. SOLID. INTENSE. And must be said and heard with a deep, monstrous voice.)
We were all in awe of the SANS RIVAL. And we all looked up to the heavens with a resounding. “Mmmmm,” after taking a bite. Duh-freaking-licious!
I suppose Sans Rival and Silvanas taste pretty much the same anywhere. I guess what gave these an edge was the consistency. The Silvanas had a heavenly crunch with every bite and the Sans Rival was so easy to slice. (My mouth is watering while writing this… and I just had a bar of chocolate!!!)
Dumaguete goes beyond dessert, of course. For a legit-happy-tummy meal, look no further than Lab-as(meaning Fresh)! We got to try the Dumaguete Express, which I found surprisingly yummy. Surprising because I don’t usually like food with coconut milk or gata. This one, though, blew me away. And because of this dish, I’m now more open to try other coconut milk-based food.
By the way, I heard Lab-as’s sister bar and resto serves the best pizza in town! Something to try out when I return to Dumaguete.
Speaking of pizza, I must give a shout out to the fish pizza in Apo Island! Apo Island is a marine sanctuary with sweet sea turtles to swim with. Naturally, you’ll get hungry after all the snorkeling. ORDER THE FISH PIZZA!
For a quick and cheap meal, Scooby’s is the spot to run to! It’s Dumaguete’s very own local fast food joint. Their cheeseburger was pretty good! It reminded me of an improved Tropical Hut slash Mushroom Burger cheeseburger.
But the pleasant surprise was their Asado Siopao. OH MY GOODNESS. I had this favorite Asado Siopao in Manila (from Chocful of Nuts in Greenhills). It was my absolute favorite. It made me so happy! But that’s all in past tense now. Scooby’s siopao superseded my expectations and overtook my past siopao experiences! It had shredded pork asado instead of big chunks, thick and tasty sauce, bits of pepper, and just the right amount of fat – strategically located. When am I going to taste this again?!? Ugh. It’s so sad that I’m so far away from my new favorite siopao. 😦
There are a whole lot more places to try in Dumaguete! This quick rundown of my food experience cannot do justice to the foodie city. If you have any tips of restaurants and delicacies to try, go ahead and leave a comment so I can try ’em out when I head back to hoard Scooby’s siopao. Haha! 🙂
I submitted an entry to the Do Good Get Dirty Campaign. Now, I’ll just have to wait and see if I win a trip! There are 2 days left to join so if you want to get your hands dirty for a cause in Puerto Prinsesa, Dumaguete, or Mt. Matutum in Mindanao, visit www.dogoodgetdirty.com and submit an entry!
It’s more than just a travel opportunity.
It’s the first time I’m seeing a promo and giveaway where the prize includes immersion and volunteering. I’m interested to know how many people join in to travel for a cause.
Whenever our country goes through a disaster like Ondoy or Haiyan, we find loads of people donating relief goods, packing them, and sending them via volunteered trucks to relief areas. We can pat ourselves on the back for that.
But I wonder about the rest of the year.
If you think about it… suffering, poverty, and environmental degradation doesn’t end a week, months, even years after a calamity. Every day, there are people and places that need helping hands. Will suffering ever end?
What is it that will get us to step out of our bubble, speak out, and help out? This is a question I ask myself constantly. (And if you have an answer, I’d be happy to read it on the comment box.)
It’s so easy to get trapped in a daily routine and our never-ending to-do list.
But the world needs us to look up and see if what we do is making a positive or a negative impact. It really is just one or the other.
My goal is for the tasks on my to-do list to be things that will improve the world and people’s lives. I don’t want to live any other way.
I’d be interested to see how many others feel the same. How many would see volunteering as an opportunity – a prize and not a hassle? How many others would join a contest for the chance to do good and get dirty?
My goal this year was to jumpstart my career working for causes and for positive change in the world.
I believe I’ve made strides by doing a whole bunch of everything in GET. It’s a great start. And although it’s extremely taxing, I am still crazy committed to pursue a career in development.
But I will admit, I miss traveling.
My mom, sister, and ninong (godfather) just flew to Dubai and I’m so inggit (envious)! So what do I do? I Google. (Research helps me deal with my emotions. Thank you, interwebs! HAHA!)
Doing a bunch of research on how to travel for free, I came across the idea of “Volunteer Travel”. Exciting!
There are actual travel tours that incorporate volunteerism in the package! Check out Contiki or Volunteer Travels for cheap travel and immersion: take care of animals in a nature reserve, help educate orphans, or join environmental projects – in South America, Europe, or somewhere closer to home!
Spending time immersed in a foreign culture does wonders to your perspective. Imagine actually getting your hands dirty and becoming part of a solution instead of just complaining about a problem? I’m certain that would be an enlightening and an empowering experience. I would lurrrrve to be a part of that!
Since I’m on a TIGHT budget, I found the perrrrrfect option. Plus you might be able to come, too, because it’s for free. 🙂
I came across the Do Good Get Dirty campaign of Green Cross. And just in time, too! (I think you can only submit entries until October 3) You just have to submit a short video for a chance to travel for free as a volunteer. How awesome is that?
I’ll have to choose a destination, though. You can pick from 3. I’m still deciding between Siquijor and Sarangani (since I’ve already been to Puerto Prinsesa)… What do you think?
Yes! There are tarsiers outside of Bohol. And Endangered Species International is working with the local tribe to protect the tarsiers and their habitat.
Siquijor: APO Island Marine Sanctuary
First off, it’s in Siquijor – a place known for their aswang (a mythical monster in the Philippines). The scare-factor alone entices me! And I’m in need of a tan… So. I’m leaning towards this one. HEEHEE.
In truth, either one would be awesome. Environmental Conservation is a cause close to my heart and I should do more to support it. It’s not like mother nature has a voice we can literally understand; it’s not as if wildlife can represent itself and voice out concerns to government or the U.N.. And, being Filipino, it’s one of the few remaining things that make me proud of my country – the Philippines’ natural beauty.
If you’re interested in joining, let me know! We can support each other by voting and liking each others’ videos and things like that. It would be cool to go on such a meaningful trip with strangers that can turn out to be wonderful friends. 🙂
Milk Tea Madness around Metro Manila! Milk tea stands are sprouting up everywhere. It’s like the pearl shakes all over again; but now, these places have it all from pearl shakes to coffee-type stuff and, of course, ZE MILK TEA!
I understand it. Milk tea cravings haunt me. And I do enjoy the typical ones everyone tries like Cha Time, Happy Lemon, etc, etc.
But, for moi, my faves would have to be those in actual restaurants! Mm-mm-mm!!! So… I just want to share my favorite milk tea so far. You guys might want to try em out. Doesn’t hurt that in these restos, the food is good, too. You can enjoy lunch or dinner then cap it off with delish milk tea, as I do! WHEEEEE. I WANT.
In no particular order… Here goes!
5. Banana Leaf Asian Cafe’s Iced Milk Tea Hong Kong Style
SO GOOT. As for the food, my regulars are rotti canai with curry and the Hainanese Set Meal! That can feed 2 people already… Unless you feel like feasting which is perfectly fine in Banana Leaf because they have loads of tasty food. YEAY! There are a few branches all around the metro so it’s easy to find – Greenhills Promenade, Greenbelt, Rockwell, etc. Plus, they’re one of Philippine’s Best Restaurants in 2011!
4. Thai Dara’s Milk TeaI tried the quaint Thai Dara in Kapitolyo – you won’t miss it! They have another branch somewhere in QC as well. Their milk tea is gootenberg! And it’s great with spicy curry orders!
In case you didn’t know, milk relieves your tongue from the heat of spiciness. THAT is the cooling power of dairy!
3. Ang Mio Kio’s Milk Tea
Yummy Singaporean food in Ang Mio Kio – The Podium. And they have a range of delicious drinks like their milk tea and the milo dinosaur!
Komrad in Eastwood is a haven for people who enjoy spicy food. I LOVE IT THERE. Spiced up Chinese food for the win! But their hidden gem is definitely their milk tea. SO GOOD. I want to run over there right now and buy a glass!
1. Som’s Milk Tea
Som’s Milk Tea is sold in plastic bottles, like them typical PET bottles – very easy to hoard and stock in your refrigerator. And they’re REALLY good. I believe they have 2 locations – one is near Rockwell and the other is in the Maysilo circle across the Mandaluyong City Hall. I’d drive by there just to take a few bottles home.