2013 | Busy But Good Year

This is a long post, I tell you. But I promise to be kind, and I promise it would be a good read, like it has been a good year for me. And because in between travels taught me something more than just the directions to get to somewhere.

The year started with traveling with the boys on January for a wedding to attend at Dumaguete City, and side trips to Apo Island, and Siquijor. Since we were at extending our supposedly 4 day trip, we squeezed in Sinulog Festival 2013 too, and it ended up to be a 2 week trip. It was the first time for me to ever extend a trip that long, and the first of the many 2 week affairs I had with travel.

January was busy, and too full packed. And on the time I thought I was embracing my age, and, uhm, maturity, I had too much of everything that I nearly lost my job because of it.

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So February was for making up, not for making out like the rest of them lovebirds does when this month hits. It was time to make up for loss time on work. And because my skin had to rest from the sunburnt feeling, it needed to lightened up some charcoal shades lighter. I was a few months too early for summer for a sun tan. And because I needed to work, and that I need to ground myself, and my travel lusting for the practical reasons — like responsibilities.
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But March came too quickly, and it dragged on like forever. Early that month I went to Bukidnon for Kaamulan Festival 2013, and to Cebu City again for a speaking engagement the weekend after.


The tour lasted nearly a week of island hop, and stays, and tour of South of Cebu Province. I thought I have had enough after that. But. No.

I had my eyes set on Biri Island, and hoped to visit it before Holy Week. A chain of unfortunate events led me to a quick Leyte visit, and eventually made my way to Biri Island. It was the longest trip I spontaneously, and carelessly did alone, but it taught me that patience, and understanding to wait for the right time is a grace that only one could ever learn to have when put under a lot of pressure. And when our age defines us, I learned to hold on to dreams even if life seems to be throwing you at a different direction.
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And then April came like a breeze I’ve been waiting for a quick breather. I learned to cherish more of the people that helped me on my crazy month’s travel. And I learned to grow in the grace that solo traveling that need not always be lonely, and also to accept that full-packed travel that would leave me haggard, and dead-log-tired was the kind of travel I was willing to let go. It became more clear to me that I am not at my best in solo budget traveling. It won’t work for me — for my own sanity’s, and safety’s sake.
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By May, when I thought I would be staying home I chanced on a flight that would allow me to join blogger friend at Iloilo, and Isla de Gigantes trip early that month. How was I to refuse an invite, when this time all I had to do was enjoy the trip. I decided to tag along, and experience how it was to be a “joiner”. Someone who tags along on an already planned trip. And it was not that bad — after you’ve settle complete trust to your travel buddy, that is.

It was also a month when I promised my mom to be home EXACTLY on the day I said I would. Surprisingly for her, I did. And I learn to accept that some trips are better left not extended — there’s comfort in the bittersweet end of a trip., like closing a chapter, and starting with a new one perhaps.
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June came, and so did July! Months that I spent researching on a trip with an nearly a year old travel tickets bought a year back for a late birthday travel. The very same reason behind why I forgot that THIS blog turned two this year. And months when, somehow, my No Holding Back post slowly creeping up, and reminding me. And looking at it now, I was more open with my thoughts, and with my feelings midyear of 2013.
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August crept in so suddenly, even when it was waited upon. What originally planned to be a solo backpacking trip around Palawan became a third solo, and two-thirds not.

Maybe it would be just luck to find someone who likes to travel to join you, but it is more that just that — maybe the stars were smiling too — when you find someone whose travel type is not so far from yours. And a start of an adventure I hope to justify with my words — when it becomes a story of my own.

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It was a time of the year, I became so tired of putting on  my backpack on my back. But I made a trip back to Bukidnon again — in a heartbeat. This time we went to a less accessible municipality to join travel blogger friends on G.I.V.E. Project for the Manobo Tribe children.
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September came with bloggers participants for Iligan Bloggers Waterfalling Adventure Tour 2.0  #ExperienceIligan, and it was also a month of festive celebration in Iligan City. And like the previous event hosted by the blogging society, the participants became too attached, we decided to explore Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur as well.
It was a month that I appreciated group traveling more. When you travel with different personalities with a passion to travel, and a good heart for similarities. You tend to become more honest, and trustful, somehow travel does that to you. Because traveling is draining — pockets, and more.
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By October, a quick trip to Davao City for the Mindanao Blog Awards 2013! Because this blog was nominated, and was finalist at the Best Travel Blog category — a road trip around Samal Island, and South Bukidnon proved to be the quick, and instant gratification trip! Yes! I use any excuse I could to travel, when, and if I could.
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Busy November came with the #TravelMindanao Project. A month of planning for a month of traveling that allowed us to weave ourselves around Mindanao.

That proved friendships — that I could trust my life, or my future kids lives kind of trust, and not that momentary company kind of friendships — can form from travels.
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Finally the year ended with December (duh! ofcourse!) with  nearly wiped off travel destination for the #TravelMindanao Project — Camiguin. And because we met a travel friend the month previous, she joined us to help scratch the last travel destination off of our travel advocacy project list.

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When I started 2013, I told myself to Not Hold Back, and I’m glad I started it that way, and saw how interesting the year went with that perception. There’s a lot to be thankful for other than the travels I had, but that is for another post somewhere. I currently do not have any travel plans for 2014 yet. The dust has not settled from the busy 2013 travels I had, and I’m still enjoying how the year has went. Ask me again next time though.
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“Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin.
And there are many things that don’t really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way.
Ends are not bad and many ends aren’t really an ending; some things are never-ending.”
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Pinay Travelista shared her 2013 year end post for the
An entry to PTB December 2013 Blog Carnival
on the topic “Let the Curtains Close on 2013”.

Remembering the Brief Leyte Visit

Much as I would like to write in details about this trip, as of its writing Leyte, and other parts of the Philippines has be ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan. I can only but capsulize my half a day tour around Tacloban City, and it’s neighboring municipality, Palo, Leyte through the images I got, and the memories I had of it during my short visit. I woke up way too early than I should that morning. Maybe, even after having resigned to staying at the hotel I was doubtful at, I never called it my temporary home, but more of a shelter for the night. The hot pink color for curtains may look good on a teenagers room with it’s lime green walls but I was too tired to celebrate it’s complimenting match.

I figured, Biri Island is not going anywhere, so I quickly washed my face, and grabbed my stuff for more exploration before taking a long land trip ahead. I asked the receptionist how much it would cost me to hire a pedicab to tour around the city, he looked at a lounging pedicab driver, and said the rate. 300PhP may not seem bad, but I only wanted to go to a few sites that should I commute won’t cost me near half of the agreed rate. It is like this instance that I wish the local tourism would regulate fare rates, and fees. Then again, I was renting the pedicab by myself, I might as well make the most out of the obvious rip-off.

MACARTHUR LANDING MONUMENT

 

 

I figured that our first destination would be the furthest away from the city proper, or the city itself. Neighboring Tacloban, Leyte is the the Municality of Palo – one of the historical towns of Leyte. Well known for the site of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines together with Philippine and American military forces after a period of exile in 1944.

Standing massively, and with confidence with the sun rising at it’s back is a memorial at the beach site where MacArthur and his troops landed. It is now locally known as the MacArthur’s Park. Ofcourse, the pedicab driver took to my liking when he genuinely accompanied, and offered tell-tale breathes of alcohol over conversations. Someone had a good night out last night, I thought, when he shouted at me to “lapit ka sa monumento madam!”. So I did like any tourist would, and smiled more that I would. Only because the guy was using a hot pink camera I handed earlier. The sight of that!

ROCK GARDEN OF PEACE

The rock garden is in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Gulf Landing. It is also located at MacArthur’s Park. The monument stands between a row of rock slabs from different peace-loving countries. The form an outer circle ring where one can read the inscriptions of messages of solidarity, friendship, and goodwill.

MONUMENTS.


The monument of the 50th Anniversary of the Leyte Gulf Landing. Rock Garden, Palo, Leyte.

12th National Jamboree of the Boys Scouts of the Philippines Site Monument. Palo, Leyte

The Filipino Soldier.

HEADING BACK TO TACLOBAN.

 

 

Heading back to Tacloban city proper, the driver asked me if I was up for a short walk. With a yes, he brought me the the boulevard near the Tacloban City Convention Center or the Tacloban Coliseum. Since the sun was not so high up yet, I took a short leisure stroll along the boulevard. Looking at the pctures now, and hearing about how Superstorm Haiyan hit this city, I gravely wonder how those homes built near the water.

 

STO. NINO SHRINE, AND HERITAGE MUSEUM.


Sto. Niño Shrine, and Heritage Museum. Tacloban, Leyte.

I was honestly excited to see the Sto. Niño Shrine, and the heritage museum being a repository of the Marcos’ collections. Maybe because it was because of the museum nutcase I was but it was not yet opened when I got there. The is a supposed entrance fee, and a tour guide for each group of 5 guest. Taking photographs are allowed but with a fee for every camera. I opted to just checking out the grounds, and the old building itself, took a peek inside the shrine through an open window, and hopeful that someone was awake, and took pity at the early travelista. So I hopped back in the pedicab, and went on my way to the next destination.

OPERATING HOURS: 8-11 AM; 1-4 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: 200PhP/Pax
MISC. FEE: 30PhP/Camera

STO. NINO CHURCH

Sto. Niño Church. Tacloban, Leyte.

 

Considered the most religious site of the province of Leyte, the Sto. Niño Church houses the miraculous patron saint of Tacloban, the Sto. Niño. I like how the subtle orange color, and the tall bellfry is visibly obvious among the city skyline. The interiors mirror the church’ facade is simple, and plain without much details on it. It does however has has ornately decorated saint’s encasement at the altar that matched with the simple but elegant chandeliers that hanged from the high ceiling.  I just missed the early mass in local dialect when I got there. I lit some candles, and whispered my prayers instead.

 

GODDESS OF PEACE & THE MODERN DAY PENITENCE.

Fenced in bars of steel, and brick columns is the monument of the Madonna of Japan. I was not actually expecting this along my short trip around town. It was the driver who brought me to the place, and said that I could take my time around because it was quiet there. The image of Madonna of Japan is also known as Maria Kannon, and a gift from the Japanese people to the Philippines, as a symbol of peace, and friendship among two nations. It is stands on an open enclosure near the Modern Day Penitence at the Calvary Hill that is overlooking the San Juanico Bridge. I was not able to go closer to the the 18 foot statue of the Sacrad Heart of Jesus at the Modern Day Penitence, and its life-sized 14 Stations of the Cross because it was under repainting then.
PROVINCIAL CAPITOL & KM 0 MARKER.

 

The Leyte Provincial Capitol stand massively proud in white paint, and wall scultures of historical happenings. It was constructed in 1944, and was the temporary seat of the Philippine Commonweath Government Pres. Osmeña landed at Palo with the American troops. At the intersection of the road leading to the Provincial Capitol is the Kilometer Zero or KM 0 for the Leyte, where all the “kilometerage in the island of Leyte, and in the cities of Tacloban, and Ormoc are reckoned from this kilometer post.”

SENDING THOUGHTS FROM TACLOBAN.

 

I then stopped by the Tacloban Post Office to send to postcards for two different addresses, one for home, and one for someone who kept me company along my trip. I asked the driver to take me back to the hotel I was staying in a route that I could see much of Tacloban City. It was different to see it lit, and with life. The night before felt so empty, and cold that it was a welcome to see life around the city. I thank the driver, and paid him the agreed rate, and bid him well.

BRIDGED.

 

I decided that I would not be taking a walk along the San Juanico Bridge as much as I wanted to. I needed to get some shut eye after the drama I had that night, and before taking another land transit bound for Allen, Northern Samar. I only get to admire the bridge that connects islands Leyte, and Samar from the open windows of the van. It may have been a quick visit but I know that someday I get to go back, and visit it again. I was okay watching the snaking bridge slowly enveloped by the land ahead not knowing how the rest of my day would go.

You might also like to read the rest of the Leyte posts here:
Unexpected & In Tears At Tacloban City
Remembering the Brief Leyte Visit

 

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“The Filipino Soldier. He needs no eulogy from me or from any other men…
He belongs to history as one of the finest examples of successful patriotism.
He bolings to posterity as the structure of the future generations in the principles of liberty, and freedom,
and he belongs to the present by his virtues, and his achievements.”
– Gen Douglas MacArthur
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EN ROUTE NARRATIVES | Unexpected & In Tears At Tacloban City

Here’s why Tacloban has a soft spot in my heart. So I publish a post that has been hibernating in my Drafts Folder because, even after Super Typhoon Haiyan, I will always remember my first Tacloban visit as it had happened.

 

Wednesday | Around 9PM

 

It was a Wednesday, nearly a week of a Cebu visit for a talk, and a tour around the province. Occupying only a third of the bed with stuff in disarray on the covers, and on the floor, I was not caring, packing will be married with panic tomorrow, I thought. I missed the overnight ferry from Cebu City to Calbayog, Northern Samar that day. It was a no-hassle route but Cebu City was selfish ( I think ) – for wanting me to stay there longer than I should.
Thursday | 10 – 11 AM

 

I was still under the impression that I did sleepwalked that night but the busy SM Cebu Travelers Lounge reminded me to deposit my baggage for a few hours to get a ticket for home. I felt I needed wanted another week away. Somehow that feeling has been constantly creeping up on me, and that moment was when I started to become more receptive to it.
I troubled friends that day — it was not going to be a dead cause. So I ended up getting a ticket for Ormoc and try doing the longest route to Biri Island from Cebu City. I guess I was not ready to go home yet.
5: 15 PM Cruising down the Mactan Channel
Passing under the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, the fast craft skimmed on the the waters surface slowly before it sped away from Cebu to Leyte. It was a 2 hour trip of half, and half. Half calm, and half crazy ride. When the night fell, and the remaining hour was a bit turbulent, the old lady beside me was apologetic for her obvious anxiousness. I offered to distract her with a conversation. It was her who said that a bus transfer was available for 2Go Fast Ferry passengers bound for Tacloban. She was a bit concern that I might arrive late, and gave emphasis on me traveling alone. It was a tone I’ve become so familiar with. I lightly said that one of these days, I won’t have to. And she smiled at that. For some reason, I did too. That maybe I might as well dive into solo adventures now, because I might not be able to do more of it in the future.
8: 16PM says the illuminated watch
The better judgement of staying overnight at Ormoc City escaped me, it was around eight in the evening when I took the shuttle bound for Tacloban from the port area. Ormoc was dark when I got there, and I could only make out the dancing lights that reflected on the water’s surface.

Then I found myself slow speeding in a shuttle to my final destination for the day. I took out my mobile and wrote, “If buses were people, the one I am riding now would be too old to work, be still strong enough to go around wherever he may want to. Some buses needs some retiring, but bus companies have other things in mind. So I sit at this chair good for two, but with only half my bum sitting on it, I silently hope that the bus won’t all of a sudden break off into pieces or what. The road up ahead is poorly lighted by the old headlights, as this bus full of some sleeping, some tired, others observing travelers, and one really optimistic female traveling solo. Too optimistic to silently cheer the bus traveling on snail speed. I want to get to Tacloban early. Like badly.”

8: 47 PM

An Australian traveler behind me started a conversation after seeing over my shoulder that I was writing my thoughts down. Quickly, the conversation led to travel, the obvious point of interest. Having frequented traveling at Eastern Visayas, he was giving me, a local in the country, tips on how to go around, and which places to check out at that part of the country. I found the conversation ironic, but humbling. You do not always get moments like that when on the road. When you do, one should be thankful.

10:41 PM. Tacloban Bus Terminal
When the shuttle stopped at the bus terminal, I was tempted to take the bus bound for Luzon. It’s route will pass by the the jump-off town for Biri Island, but a quick calculation of time travel duration made me decide to stay at Tacloban instead. I checked the list of hotels I asked Jam to check for me hours before. Yes, I troubled another soul that day. Memorizing the first three on the list, I secured my mobile in my bag before heading to a city hours past their bedtime.
Near Midnight at the dark streets of Tacloban City
With my backpack on, and a carry-on at one shoulder, I told the pedicab driver the name of the first hotel on that list. He dropped me off later in what looked like an old building, and a lobby that screamed budget hotel. I checked out the rates, but got easily dismayed at the rooms it went with. For a budget hotel, it was a not cheap. Don’t get me wrong here, I would spend, or be really dirt cheap, but I’m the type who want to get her moneys worth. The point is, I felt was robbed face front. It was a terrible feeling at that late of the night. I decided to walk along the streets, and looked for another place to stay. After checking out the hotels nearby, I was near to dropping to the ground. The universe has conspired with humans to hold a convention at that same time. Fully booked. The guy from this third stop assisted me by giving me the directions to another accommodation nearby, he looked apologetic. I felt deserted, and the small voice of hate crept in. After maybe more than 10 blocks of going around in circles, I was close to tears, the only thing that’s stopping them from falling was looking up at the dark skyline for the familiar old building where I was first dropped off. I gave in —- I needed shelter, and some sort of security from the dead of the night. And I looked at it like that, that Tacloban, even in darkness was welcoming even to the doubtful traveler.
It was not the day I told myself how fearless, and lucky I was but a day I realized that courage is not the absence of fear, it is putting up with your crap, holding on to your sanity, and facing the fact that you’re in one shitty situation, but one must get moving — quickly.
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10 Months After My Tacloban Visit.

I could only imagine the loss of lives, and properties that were visually represented through media when Tacloban ( and other areas) took a beating from Haiyan. But in the midst of loss — there was, and is help. And it came in numbers, and it comes with passion. Even in rubble, in steps to rebuild self, Tacloban is calling out. For now, it is for help, but soon, it will be asking for a return visit. Hopefully, Tacloban will soon be in a better state than it is now, and that I will be more prepared, and braver than what I tell myself that I am. Banggon Tacloban, I can not wait.

You might also like to read the rest of the Leyte posts here: