Last week I visited Tacloban to help out with the communal garden project of Bayanihan Tayo and to celebrate the birthday of my mother without any idea that it has been a 100 days since the typhoon.
And while the city has been cleaned up to some extent, everything else has been slowly picking up withstanding the politicking and more of it.
Typhoon Yolanda Update
You cannot help but notice that everything revolves around the aftermath of the typhoon. It has consumed every aspect of the every residents life. From the debate on when the relief goods are to stop, where to get money for todays expenses, the inescapable reality of the long lines just to buy medicine, the distinct absence of air-conditioning, that the word supermarket does not apply in Tacloban, as do the word Mall, getting home before night falls and dealing with the unforgiving mosquitoes at night.
Life is still hard.
Last October 15, 2013 at 8:12 A.M, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Bohol and affected even the Cebu Province which is hundreds of kilometres away. 222 were reported dead, 8 were missing, and 976 people were injured. In all, nearly 69 thousand structures were damaged or destroyed. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in 23 years.
The Relief Operation
Dyan was our rallying cry, initiating the move for a relief operation within the soonest time possible. Everything from there on was a combined effort by everyone.
A frustrating scene at Pier 3 with Lite Jet notwithstanding, we arrived at the port of Tubigon safe and sound. It was then a 30 minute ride to our home for the weekend, the Gudes residence but not before Mai2 unfailingly referred to Dyan as Janine Guadez. Somehow her facepalm moments keep adding up. The trip was a scene straight out of what the newspapers and television stations reported. Devastation was everywhere, some just too hard to rationalize. Multitude of houses laid in ruin and some churches were even worse. Families camped out in open fields fearful of the onslaught of aftershocks.
We were determined to reach those in the far flung areas and on our list was Barangay Mabuhay. The distribution went without difficulty as we had the assistance of the barangay officials who prepared a list of their residents. Dyan and Mai2 handed out the goods while the rest of us were contented enough to watch from the sidelines. Our entire effort of grit and spirit was finally completed. We were happy, and so were the residents of Barangay Mabuhay.
Helping a Colleague
With the day about to end, we headed to Barangay Bugang to distribute the last of the goods. One of the affected was our collegaue from work, Gerissa, making the trip more personal for us. The quake tore right through the earth where their house stood, just short of swallowing it whole. The house though still standing was now leaning on a side. The opposite wall to it was now gone and you could see the interior of broken cement, mangled furniture and other debris strewn over. Nearby the surroundings, water which seeped from underneath and emitted fumes was now cooled down and solidified to black coarse sand. If there was anything that the catastrophe could’t put down however, it would be their tenacity to assert their will to live throughout the entire calamity.
Finally done with our outreach we were in for a feast for dinner. Dyan promised us seafoods the week earlier and on seafoods did we feast. After filling ourselves to our satisfaction, those who couldn’t hold it slept while those who didn’t celebrated the night further with a treat from Nikko who was celebrating his birthday that day. We also picked up the Saridon tagline which left everyone on a last song syndrome mood.
Sunday, Day 2
Come morning, we were greeted by a sumptuous breakfast of more seafoods! Rain, Jepoy, Arn and Nikko left shortly while the rest of us geared up to visit the relatives of Lara who lived nearby. Lara reacquainted herself with the scenic playground of her youth while we enjoyed the brief trek which was highlighted with butong overload! On a personal note, I hail from Leyte where we have lots of coconut trees so it fascinates me when everyone in Cebu is all up and about for butong.
And just when we thought that we had the most sumptous dinner and breakfast of seafoods, we had even more seafoods for lunch! A full day of delicious seafood treat. I feel hungry writing this. We spent the rest of the afternoon with everyone busy idling over PVZ2 games and whatnot. The mobile internet slash hotspot of Princess was to our total convenience.
Plaza Tubigon & Cebu
By 4:00PM we prepared to breakcamp only to find out that 4:00PM something trip was already full and that we had 2 hours to kill. We spent that 2 hours at the Tubigon Plaza which I find to be rustic clean and orderly. I honestly slept through it while everyone was yet again, in PVZ2 mode and all. Ruby and Jedward spent the afternoon as new lovers would, cute couple as they are.
We arrived in Cebu in the early evening. What an eventful weekend it has been – one for the memories.
After 2 years or so of putting up with difficult personalities at RavenMUD, Bathala* and myself are spearheading the transition of all Coven players to a realm which we finally can call our own. Though bitter sweet, it is a move necessary to put into motion the changes that are needed to restore the near lost art of mudding, for Filipinos.
The Mudding Scene
When we started, there were probably around 20 Filipino players, more than enough to form a merry company in our adventures. The entry of MMORPGS’s however was the beginning of the end. Further through the years we lost players not just to MMORPG’s but also to real life commitments. The bleak reality of the end for mudding.
So is mudding a lost art? Pretty grim picture.
Will it ever pick up in the near future? A high probability of no, unless we do something about it.
So we really are just a couple of bored people with a passion for mudding, looking for a new home with the skillsets to get something going and the vision to share the gaming experience to anyone willing.
Bathala is taking the lead on development and we are building everything from the ground up. The idea is to put up a Filipino MUD server and provide them a game experience that they will truly enjoy. Solo adventure, group runs, quests, tournaments, specialized skills, races, clans, culturally Filipino inspired areas and the whole lot of everything.
– e –
A couple of years back which now feels like a millennia ago, I was off for vacation to the Luzon mainland and about to take my first plane flight. I was also travelling alone. A little bit naive more than I am today, the thought of not knowing how to buckle the safety belt, in all honesty, worried the bejesus out of me.
Enroute to the Airport
I left for the airport with nothing more than two hundred pesos in hand as I still hadn’t received my first paycheck from my new job. My allowance money on the other hand all went to securing the plane fares there to Manila and back. I only realized about my plight when I got into the cab; that I had no idea how much the fare would cost. I haggled with the cab driver for a fixed rate to which he, thank God, agreed.
I arrived early and that was good enough for me. I enjoyed a cigarette to appreciate the day to be, and the vacation that looked promising. The plan was to stay at Manila for a day or two then head over to Baguio where I was to stay with one of my good friends from high-school and college.
I promptly checked in when the counter opened and thought everything was going to be fine from there on. Then there I realized my folly; I didn’t have ANY money to pay for the terminal fee! Maybe it was because of inexperience or I was more concerned on how to buckle the safety-belt. Maybe no one cared to tell me that I had to pay the terminal fee or maybe it was because I traveled alone. A multitude of reasons came to mind, none sadly to my deliverance.
The nice lady from the check-in counter suggested the ATM’s just across the hall. The truth of the matter was, I couldn’t even afford a ride home even if I wanted to.
I asked the stern man manning the booth if I could leave my phone with him as collateral of some sort. No luck. A couple of minutes later, and I don’t know if this was fate, another kid, a bit younger than me, had the same problem. He was only a few pesos short though and the stern man, shook his head in probably disbelief, and gave him a pass. I bet he was thinking on what the odds were of the same lunacy happening to people in the same time of the day.
And so there I was, standing right next to the toll booth waiting, ascertaining, for a single person who would be kind enough to lend me 200 pesos. I took a chance at a man who stared at me with a blank face. He said he would get back to me but I didn’t count on it. Probably a polite way to say no to a story dubious in detail.
Heroine in Ponytail
And then she came. She was this girl, in plain white shirt, sneakers, ponytail and a day-pack. She listened to my story, took out her wallet and gave me two hundred peso bills she seemed to have hidden so well in one of the pockets. I gave her my number as she asked for it then sped off. And there I was, my vacation saved by a total stranger.
I always feel good when I relive this because well, this story is bigger than it really is. It tells us that there will be people who you barely know and not second guess on helping. And even when we live in a time where hate, despair, poverty, malfeasance and evil persevere; there will always be good in people. It will warm your heart and make you feel better about things. More so if you’re lucky, she’s going to come awesome as mine did.
I owe you a lot stranger. Thank you.
Our Mt APO summit bid, our 2nd major climb for this year 2013, was laid out as early as December of 2012 and was organized by our outgoing Club President, Teresa. The plan was simple really, get promo fares while enduring the 6 month wait, get some activities done for the club and, well, climb all the way to the summit and get back. Have fun and memories while doing so.
Saturday, Day 1
Rain almost didn’t make it because he fell asleep while waiting for the 3AM call time. Calling him didn’t work and we were now desperate and running out of ideas. With no other option in hand, we got on a cab and set out to pick him up even without knowing where his house was. So there we were, batang 90’s noisy and all, in C. Padilla with no idea which alley to take. It helped that daylight was just about break and that people were slowly starting their day. Of course it’s a bit unusual for people to look for someone at 4AM so we were polite all the way. Ohh, and we found Rain’s place in around 20 minutes.
Arriving at Davao Airport, we were greeted by our guides, Michael and Bentoy. Davao is a bummer place to be for smokers. We had breakfast and changed clothes while waiting for the rest, Ampao, Oding, Melvin and Dyan, who would arrive at 10AM. Weather had been overcast all morning but at least it didn’t rain as it did the previous days.
With their arrival, we departed for Digos City where we would buy our provisions, have late afternoon lunch, and leave some belongings with the grandparents of Bentoy. Digos has really bright yellow colored tricycles. Kind of reminds me of home where tricycles are colored red.
From Digos it was still another 2 hour of travel, now slowly climbing up to our Kapagatan jump-off. For the fun of it, and one of the more wilder aspects of mountaineering, Lara, Rain and myself got into the top of the jeepney and enjoyed the scenery from above. Almost arriving at Kapagatan, we were stopped by a caravan of trucks who couldn’t proceed because of the bad road condition ahead. 3rd world country being 4th world. But our guides had everything figured out being the amazing guides they are, they called their habal-habal contacts who then fetched us. From there it was all habal-habal until our jump-off. Afternoon was almost over though and and we would have to forgo of Camp 1.
We spent the night at the Paradise Campsite, roughly 45 minutes away from the jump-off and right after the wild habal-habal ride. It was a frigid evening courtesy of a drizzle which coldly welcomed us. Paradise was like a ghost town with everyone nestled cozily within their homes early in the evening. Lights were out as early as 9PM. We didn’t mind. Morale was high and dinner was something to look forward to. We had pork dished out adobo style, hot noodles and perfectly cooked rice. Credit to Ampao for the main course and the rice to our ever zealous guides who never seemed to run out of enthusiasm throughout the climb.
After our meal we huddled together at their mini stage, instead of taking our tents out, which amazingly accommodated everyone. We slept rather well and a badly needed one too since some of us only had an hour or two of sleep coming from graveyard work. I hope this is not going to be a habit.
Sunday, Day 2
We woke up early but couldn’t make it in time for our 5AM break-camp. It was a little overcast but Mt. APO was visible ahead, sulfur fumes reeking and the high summit. Breakfast consisted of corned beef, noodles and coffee which was ready by the time we woke up. We ate hastily, stretched out and took pictures. A prayer was also in place. A little afterward we headed out. It was 6 in the morning and the start of a long day ahead.
A couple of minutes further Lara started complaining about her stomach which bothered her immensely forcing her to lag behind the group. She would later take it out at Mother Nature behind a bush, giggles and all, a big smile afterwards. Right after, she was back to her pacing and we were off again on our merry painful way.
We stuck to a unagreed agreement of 2-3 minute only rests and everyone obliged, except Lara who would groan before Bentoy could turn to look. She did get what she wanted at some point which we took as an opportunity to feast on our trail-snacks. I think another reason why the quick breaks work is because the longer you rested, the colder it got making you feel very uncomfortable.
The uphill climb was long but nothing too grueling. Technical at some point through felled logs, over and under them but enjoyable still the same. At times we would get a view of the summit and later lose it to the forest foliage. The nearer we got out of the forest the more streams we crossed and more of waylaid tree trunks. Thankfully everyone was on a steady pace and at around 9AM, we arrived at Upper Sabwang. Our first campsite on our original itinerary.
Continuing with our trek, we arrived at Godi-Godi camp at 12noon. Godi-Godi camp was massive in space and beautiful similar to the Aeta campsite of Tres Marias though alot wider.
They say that tribesmen make camp at Godi-Godi for weeks selling basic necessities to campers. That’s akin to having a Quickstop or Everything To Go in your neighbourhood. They weren’t there when we arrived though. We had quick lunch and started off again at the soonest since we needed to be at the boulders early. After an hour of trek we were now out of the forest trail and was now at the foothold of Mt APO. The boulders and sulphur gases in sight.
The Foothold of Mt APO
One of the amazing elements of mountaineering is coming to understand how you got from one point to another when everything seems impossible. Earlier that day we were gawking at the sight of the summit and now, 6 hours after, we were there, all overly happy and stoked at its foothold.
The sight of the boulders were both anti and climactic, at least for me. Climactic because in a few hours, we would stand at the highest point of the Philippines and done as what the other mountaineers had before us. An achievement for ourselves, for our reasons why we joined the climb, as a member of MALAKAT and as mountaineers. What we didn’t really realize at that point was that the boulders was the antithesis of everything we felt good about reaching the foothold.
The rush would eventually ebb out. The boulder ascent was very hard having to go through what our climb guides regarded as the hardcore trail. The common route takes you through the right flank of the sulphur vents while the direct assault (our trail) was via the left flank. It was all rocks for most of the time, big rocks and more bigger rocks, though at the top were dwarf trees or shrubs? and wild-berry plants. I saw a low flying bird but lost him the moment as I saw him.
Mt APO Summit & Campsite
We would all make it to camp, a couple of meters beneath the summit, at late past five. No celebration in place, not even a handshake. Weather had gone from bad to worse so shelter was the priority. Fierce wind blasted through all directions and light rain added to the biting cold.
The campsite sits at around 2850ish feet, an easy five minute descent from the summit and sheltered by tall grasses which aptly break the symphony of any strong wind. Trash is prevalent which is scattered all throughout, different from Godi-Godi where there is an unofficial official dumpsite. Our guides lamented that while there is a cleanup climb every October, spearheaded by the mountain guides themselves, there is still a lot of room for improvement with abiding the LNT principle of packing in what you pack out.
It was warm and comfortable inside our tents and everyone was oblivious to the harsh weather outside. But it was really cold. Right after dinner, the rest treated themselves to a few round of drinks. I didn’t join them for being outright lazy to get out though the persistent merriment from the other tent was genuinely inviting. The uphill climb had got the better of me and Lara was already fast asleep so as early as 8 in the evening I called it a day. Recovery for the day ahead was very important.