Going High into the Sky

Philippine Hot Air Balloon, 11th Edition
Photograph by d2digital

Before I get drown in the underground river of Palawan paradise, it's a must see for me this year to take the chance and fly high into the sky. Well sort of. We'll be viewing the landscape of Clark and the rest of what the eyes can see when we take off with the hottest hot air balloons in Clark, just a few minutes away from where I grew up. I just hope that everything will work out as planned.

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Palawan Here I Come

I badly need a vacation.

And the prize for my craving is a trip for two with my lovely girlfriend to the paradise of Palawan. We'll be backpacking on the weekend armed with my D40 arsenal and a couple of old nikkors. I'll be shedding a lot of stress and excess eye bags, while I strive to compose hundreds of shots for one of the beautiful places in the Philippines.

Underground River, Palawan
Photo courtesy of ididj0emama

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The Bora Project

I've been contemplating on what would be the itinerary on my next out-of-town trip.

The Boracay Project spawned when Cebu Pacific Airlines decided to roll out their 1-Peso fares for all domestic flights last February. Of course that excludes the other fees tied in with the airline, such as the gas fee, the government tax, etc. All in all, the fare amounted to almost 2000 pesos for round-trip ticket to the one beach that is famous inside and outside the country.

Ten days from now, 13 persons who majority works in the same office as I do, will head to the white sands of Boracay island. While I'm still in the process of securing a place to stay for the whole group in a three days and two nights of beach vacation, I still am unaware of what things to do or what scenes are there to embrace.

They say the beach is beautiful.

The sand dune is white.

A lot of water sports can be engaged with.

The sunset is beautiful.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Since this would be my first encounter of Boracay, I am delighted to prove myself what makes it so popular with tourists, local and foreign alike. I've been to the waters of Bohol, seen its dolphins wave and say hi. I've also graced the sunrise of Camiguin, a beautiful one I should say. I'm sure would compare these to the beach that one of my friends describe as a place that looks like Metro Manila put in a white sand.

I'm sure everyone visiting it wouldn't concern on the issue where does the island put its garbage given that it is not so big of an island. Imagine all those septic tanks and sewerage, but I guess I have yet to see it before casting my doubts on its declared grandeur.

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Shooting Taytay Falls

What would you do on a Saturday when going to the mall is boring and television shows are crap? I don’t usually work on this day of the week but in the past two months, I’ve been staying in the hard disk drive factory longer that I should be.

With the upcoming Monday (Aug-27) declared as a holiday, I thought it was a great idea to push my wish of seeing the falls in Southern Luzon famous for its chilling waters—the Taytay Falls in Majayjay, Laguna.


I first heard about Majayjay during my first and brief stint as a mountaineer. That was around 2004 when blogging was yet to snowball into a big phenomenon. I was joined with fellow officemates who’ve been conquering mountains longer than I expected.

DSC_1789I literally had been on the peaks of Mount Maculot in Cuenca and Mount Daguldol in San Juan, both in the province of Batangas. Maculot is the mountain just across the sea where Taal sits, if one is to view from the fine landscape of Tagaytay. While the mountain of Daguldol is famous for being a not so easy trek, it is a good start for blooming mountaineers. Ray, one of the active climbers in our company, shared to me a piece of information about Mount Banahaw and the Falls of Taytay in the town of Majayjay.

I was enthralled by the idea of a falls whose waters come from the serenity of the mountain. The water was told to chill ones body as if the water just came out of a freezer.

With everyone else had their weekend schedule setup, I was joined in
with Pizza. I only have one purpose in mind, to shoot Majayjay falls and create beautiful photographs.

Getting there

I started having thoughts about the trip for one week, but I only have my senses focused on it the day before I basked outside the comfort of my shared-rented home in Laguna Belair.

We didn’t have the slightest idea of how to get there, and the only option available is of course through public transportation.

Since our take off started from Sta. Rosa, we boarded a van headed to Sta. Cruz. If we’ll be coming from Metro Manila, we just have to ride a bus bound for the same destination. They are usually found in the terminals in Cubao, and Buendia near LRT.

The first ride was the longest of the entire travel. We passed by the towns of Calamba, Los Baños, Bay, Victoria, Calauan, Lumbao in a hour and half of light traffic on a Saturday morning. All that I can do is stare through the tinted windows as we pass by each town, one at a time. We arrived in Sta. Cruz and ate our brunch.

DSC_1772Sta. Cruz is like a meeting place of public vehicles from across all destinations coming from it. A jeepney ride to Majayjay town was all we took to get us near the falls. Dropping off from the jeepney terminal in Majayjay town, one more ride and I can already see my body splashed by the cold showers of the falls.

However, my excitement was silenced and delayed when I learned from the kundoktor, that we have to wait for at least another hour because we just missed the recent trip. Jeepneys going to Taytay only take off every hour, or unless the demand is sufficient enough to force a driver to put his feet onto the gas pedal and pull away.

DSC_2020So we waited. Since we just decided to witness the falls several hours before, we didn’t prepare food. The only edible thing we brought is a bread pan alongside tripod, digital cameras and a pair of swimming shorts. Good thing there is a turo-turo in the terminal and Pizza bought a regular meal of two pieces of fried chicken parts and a bottled water.

When the jeep was already half full, the driver decided to jumpstart the engine and rolled off. We were joined in with three guys carrying large bags that appeared like they’ll be climbing the mountain of Banahaw, which later I learned that they will just be camping somewhere near the falls.

15-Minute Walk to the Falls

As soon as I put my feet back on the ground, I found myself standing in the soil of Barangay Taytay of Majayjay, Laguna. Visitors are required to register in the books of the barangay office with a corresponding fee of 20 pesos for day trekker and 40 pesos for those who will be pitching their tents. We paid that part and immediately walked into the site.

It will probably need 10 minutes of slightly brisked walking to start hearing the sound made by the splashing waters and at least 15 minutes to finally embrace the sight of the beautiful falls.

The ground was also wet, a proof that a heavy downpour just hit the place the night before. And this was a good sign that the falls will be quite wider and stronger.

A Rare Opportunity: Lunch near the Falls

The moment we saw the falls, I spared no time clutching the camera’s body and started pressing the shutter button continuously. But our stomach was wailing and we fed ourselves right in front of an astounding background.

We finished up and kept our garbage in our bags, in the interest of preserving the environment. I just find it sad that some plastics, bottles, and other wastes were scattered around. It’s a good thing we found out there are people tasked to oversee the place and see to it that human residual are put into their proper place.

Water Falls

Shooting Endlessly

I gazed around the falls. Watched the people already there swimming, eating and having fun on their own. We found a place near and there I setup my tripod for a seemingly endless picture taking. I even didn’t mind the cold moisture around the falls that could bring disaster to my precious D40. All my mind was thinking is how to get that perfect picture of the falls and awesome scenes that can be framed into a digital jpeg file.

Gush Forth

Part of my vision of learning the art of digital photography is to expose myself to nature and produce pictures I would be proud of. I treat my creation not as likely as I would with my day job, but would be like a measure of how much love I put into the art. And hey, I’m still a budding shutterbug anyway.

The Description is True

The day wouldn’t be completed without a swim in the cold water and touch the raging waves of water falling straight from somewhere the top of Mount Banahaw. I was planning to put the bottled mineral water we brought along and submerged it in the basin where the water is temporarily held to test whether the water is freezing cold.

I forgot to do that part when I finally wade my feet and in the direction towards the falls. The metaphor that the water of Taytay falls is as cold as that coming from your refrigerator proved to be true after all. I didn't last more than 20 minutes and when I get myself near the rampaging buckets of clear water, I decided to rise out of it and back to where Pizza is.

The basin has many rocks, huge and small. Care is a must at all times when bathing. One accidental slip could lead to serious injury.

From Majayjay and Back

After a few hours of shooting and brief swim, it was 230 pm and we realized it's time to go back. I shoot a couple of pictures more before, packed our things, changed clothes and headed for our journey back to Laguna Belair. We didn't want to trouble ourselves going home because the last jeepney trip back to Majayjay town leaves at 5pm.

DSC_2053Along the way, we bought a pair of Suha, a giant citrus that abounds the place. I expected that the fruit will taste sour but the ones that they plant and harvest here are actually sweet. We feasted our hungry stomach on our way back to Sta. Cruz.

It was also an opportunity to take a hold and see the Church of Majayjay in full. The church is huge and really old, it has been standing since the 17th century and has overcome the ages.


Majayjay church history traces back to as far as 1571


Inside the Church of Majayjay is thrilling site of a real vintage church

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Racing with the Rapids

The flight to Cagayan de Oro city was a pleasant one from take off in the NAIA runway until we exit the airport of the city. This is the first installment of the two one-peso promotional plane tickets we bought from Cebu Pacific Air early this year.

The City's RunwayIt is actually the second time I visited the place. Last year, my good friends in the office, Glenn and Yelli were with us-- me and my partner both in crime and in heart, Pizza. We basked into the Island of Camiguin as our main destination and managed only to pass through Cagayan de Oro or also known as CDO. What we missed last time was the famous white water rafting.

So last weekend, our plans worked out perfectly. This time around, we were joined with other close friends. Fellow IT engineer Markus was with his girlfriend Hya. Pizza’s colleagues in the planning department Drew and Angel, and housemate Evie alsoEsem CDO tagged along.

Esem CDO

Since we weren’t able to purchase tickets of the same flight schedule, we waited until Drew, Angel and Evie came out of the arrival area of CDO Airport. So what a better way to spend more than 3 hours of waiting is to try out the SM mall in CDO. We ate lunch at P. Joe’s, some dine-in we thought of not found anywhere in mega Manila, chit-chat with Pizza’s little kins and stroll the familiar façade of the mall.

We ate dinner in Bacolod Inasal located in the Divisoria version of Cagayan De Oro. And I can tell you, their Pinakbet is as good as that cooked by Ilocanos. At a price of 80 pesos, I thought it will only satisfy my stomach, but I was mistaken in the end. The amount of their serving is good for at least 4 persons. The ambiance is very relaxing too, with its wooden and bamboo emblazoned facility.

A few more hours later we found ourselves resting in the house where Pizza grew up. This one is literally found a few meters away from the sea shore.

Gear up for the Rapids

Waking up early in the morning didn’t come that hard. The nearby sea shore was silent and the morning temperature chilled the skin enough to take refuge with a blanket. By 5 AM, we geared ourselves in preparation for an hour travel to the starting point of the water rafting course.

We met Marku and the the rest of the river guides at the heart of the city of golden friendship, where a historical bust of Justiniano Borja stands, an honest public servant, tagged as most admired and respected mayor of Cagayan De Oro.

We initially read the waiver attesting that we fully understand and realize the danger at hand, and that accidents could happen at any time during the activity. We signed the waiver and began our journey.

Stop by at Macahambus

Macahambus Adventure prides itself as a warming up stage before the main water event. It features a Skyline bridge connecting very tall trees that go down to more than 100 feet of altitude. Braving the 1 feet narrow bridge would send chills to those who are afraid of heights. That’s where the challenge lies. For a price of 300 pesos, one can traverse the bridge and back through a zipline. And for those who are up for tougher challenge, an additional 200 pesos would let you rappel down to view the creek and cave down below. Of course harnesses and safety gadgets including helmets are provided for this kind of sport.

As soon as we reached the destination, I was unaware of the time. In a split second, rubber boats have found themselves readied to hit the waters. Bunch of paddles, life vests and helmets were scattered all over, waiting to be grabbed and owned.

Marku led the briefing of everyone, including other groups we were joined with. He explain the safety reminders we need to keep in mind, putting emphasis on what reactions should be exerted once the boat turn over or should someone fell outside of it and onto the deep river. Keep afloat and feet apart facing towards the flow of water, not against it, this would at least prevent unwanted accidents of hitting rocks.

High Five and the 13 Rapids

The white water rafting course stretches to as much as 12.5 kilometers of the river. It serves as a boundary between the city of Cagayan De Oro and the province of Bukidnon, known for its vast plantation of Pineapples.

White water rafting in CDO is still young considering that it started only 12 years ago. The group of river guides that accompanied us was the first to establish their position in this kind of sport. And through the years, they were able to coin names to the 13 rapids we were about to hurdle. They called them Washing Machine, Macabundol, Standing, Surprise, Face The Wall, Paolo Santos Drop, Snake, and the other names were taken away by the river and failed to register in mind. Nonetheless, these carry a distinctive characteristics that give justice on why they were named as such.

Washing Machine. Once on the rapids, the boat will flow in a rotating fashion creating a spinning effect and thrill to the paddle.

The Macabundol. Macabundol is Bisayan word for "crash". It features a curve flow in the rapid and the point where the river switches direction is a massive wall of cliff and giant rocks. The danger and exciting part was when our boat bounced in to the wall, there was little space between the waters and cliff which forced us to lie down and avoid getting hit. This had happened very fast.

Standing. Probably this was the easiest of the rapid flows of water since we were asked to stand while paddling through it.

Surprise. It wasn’t easy neither difficult. The hair-raising part is when the boat just suddenly drop. The feeling is synonymous to riding super fast buses on a superhighway and crossing an elevated bridge would make your stomach twitch.

Face the Wall. This is quite similar to the Macabundol. The difference is that the boat is automatically position so that all rafters will be facing the wall. Synchronous back paddling will helped avoid hitting it.

Paolo Santos Drop. This was the rapid where the once famous guitarist-singer fell onto the raving waters.

Snake. Allan, Our river guide has a lot to say when it comes to this water sport. He is part of the national team that will compete in Korea next month in an event dubbed as the world cup of white water rafting.

And in this portion of the river he said snakes often come out when the temperature is hot. Dangling lines and ropes are a favorite spots of snakes where shed skins are visible. We thought we would see a great boa constrictor but managed to see one though, a small live green snake.

Water sport has never been part of my active lifestyle. This one put my experience to another level. I’m sure to see myself doing this again in the near future.

Next Stop.. Caving

We ate lunch in a seemingly old-fashion, happy and festive way, the boodle fight. A pair of lechon manok, a fishnet of shrimp, slices of grilled pork liempo, especially cooked rice covered in a stack of weaved coconut leaf, topped with the best serving for the day, a basin of delicious crabs.

I guess a great way of celebrating a successful rafting is a good lunch under a shade of tree and using a piece of a banana trunk as a plate catapulted the afternoon into a good moment worth keeping.

The next destination however also involves water, but underneath the ground. Mambuaya cave is home to a galore of stalactites and stalagmites similar to that found in the caves of Sagada, This time however, the golden shades of stones and collection of white crystals are smaller but larger in numbers. Since majority of the group has already traversed the greatSumaging cave in the Mountain Province, one can’t avoid to compare the scenery that laid before our eyes. There is a portion of the cave where you have to crawl with the neck and the rest of the body submerged in water to get through deeper.

Mambuaya Cave however has sort of been tampered with. According to the person’s in charge of guarding the precious cave, the mayor has ordered to put up lighting inside it, forcing metal screws into the stones. It does provide lighting inside the cave but it damages the whole view since electrical tubing can be an obstruction to the viewing eye.

Nonetheless, Mambuaya deserves its piece of attention to nature lovers. It’s not everyday that you see these kind of stones, unless of course one resides with close proximity into it.

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Trip Down South

"We Are Back!" Glenn empathetically and repeatedly mentioned these words as we stepped inside our hut in Laguna Belair.

We literally just got back from our wonderful double trip to Cagayan De Oro and the Islands of Camiguin.

I'm seated again in my office. I will write a good article about our travel deep down south, later.

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Luneta Para sa Masa (Luneta for the Masses)

Jose Rizal's Monument

When was the last time you visited Luneta? asked Ivan in his blog a couple of weeks ago.Rizal park was paved to commemorate the place where the Philippines’ national hero died. History tells that he was sentenced to death for his writings and being part of the revolution for freedom — which let you and I, right now, have and cherish.


The park is home to dozens of busts and figures of other heroes who had their share in restoring our freedom from “mananakops” (invaders).

Family day

Behind the stillness in the face of Rizal’s statue, the park has been home for the common Filipino: the masses. I was there last Sunday a perfect day for lovers in pairs, a family having a picnic, and children cheerfully playing. This has also been a perfect opportunity to do business, just like Caloy, who’s been a bystander photographer since 1972, the time when Marcos was still the president. He was carrying with him a vintage Konica film SLR, a proof that he’s been there long before I was born. Usually they offer 50 pesos to 75 pesos per shot which will be printed while you grace the scene of the park in about 25 minutes. I had my shot taken twice and printed into a 5R size photograph and he only charge me 100 pesos, maybe because I save him from the hot sunday afternoon by breaking his boredom.

Children Playing in Rizal Park

Fortunately for me, my eyes are still virgin to the place. Yes, you read me right.During my elementary days in a public school named after Dr. Clement N. Dayrit Sr., I wasn’t able to join my classmates when they had field trips to places such as Rizal’s house in Calamba, Laguna, the Manila Zoo, Luneta park. These historic landmarks are usually included in public classroom’s curriculum, if not part of their activities in closing out a school year.
My mom is a typical housewife, (a term regarded as occupation for some) and my dad works in a construction as a carpenter in Saudi Arabia. So it was certain that they won’t afford to send me in the educational trips. And I never insisted since I already understand that the payment for one field trip will already feed us for a week.
I carried this in heart and mind as I grew up, went to high school, finished college, passed the board, and became an engineer working as an IT analyst in one of the firms in Laguna.
I owe to my parents what I have with me and what I am right now. This blog is dedicated to them as I tasked myself to see the rest of the Philippines, and hopefully the rest of the world.

Proud to be a Filipino

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