Poseidon's lair

after more than four months, i'm really looking forward to go under the sea. adding to my excitement is the news of the discovery of more than 300 new flora and fauna species in the country by the California Academy of Sciences, most of which were deep sea creatures.
so eventhough
typhoon Falcon is still unleashing his wrath in Luzon, i grab my backpack and went to Pods Cove (aka Bahay ni Lola), a rest house in Batangas which i co-managed with few dear friends. luckily, the typhoon stopped on the next day and we were able to organize a dive - Danny O, an award winning underwater photographer, Roy, a dive guide from Apo Island, and me. visibility is terrible at the start of the dive, maybe due to the storm. but after 20 mins, the water became clearer (or maybe my eyes were already able to adjust) and we started to encounter beautiful sea creatures.
like this rare striated frogfish,
beautiful nudibranch,
a flying gurnard, white stonefish, weird-looking crabs, lobster, giant clam, anemone shrimps and beautiful coral fishes. a very fruitful dive. we stayed underwater for more than 70mins.
the coastal zone fronting Pods Cove is good for muck diving. in fact last year, we were able to see green sea turtles and manta ray in the area. also high chances of spotting octopus and cuttle fish during night dive/snorkel. Mabini waters is also a migration path for whale sharks and dolphins. underwater photos by Danny O.
.... i'm daydreaming and planning to accomplish one of my life wishes - to dive in Tubbataha Reef. hopefully next year :)



after 6th attempt, Mariang Makiling allowed me to enter her realm :)

Mt Makiling has been my unicorn, like the beautiful, mystical and yet very elusive creature. since college days, i wanted to climb this mountain but alas, fate is not always on my side. first attempt was way back 2000, solo dayhike via UPLB trail, but decided to turn back after reaching mudspring. the second and third attempts were with new hikers but halfway decided to cancel the climb due to limatiks, the blood-sucking residents of the forest. fourth and fifth attempts were pushed via Santo Tomas trail but got lost in the confusing trails.

yet despite all failed attempts, the allure of Makiling keeps haunting me even in my dreams, like a seducing enchantress.

but years of waiting paved off, and finally was able to complete the Makiling Traverse or MakTrav (Batangas to Laguna). eventhough the climb was on the eve of typhoon Egay, we were blessed with good weather on the first day, allowing us to have a great view of the Makiling forest (Batangas side), the adjacent mountains such as Malarayat Mountain Range and Mt. Maculot and Timog-Katagalugan’s great lakes- the Laguna de Bay and Taal Lake.

the trail starts by traversing the dead river in Barangay San Bartolome. this is where the trail starts to become confusing. Be observant and always look for trail signs (ribbons tied along the trees, pile of rocks, etc). after the last water source (N14 07.391 E121 10.937), the trail becomes steeper until Haring Bato.
from this point, the climb becomes semi-technical and you need the assistance of ropes (already set-up along the trail) to be able to push forward to Peak 3. climbing a boulder is not an easy task especially if you have a pack that weighs more than 10kilos.
the trail is adorned by beautiful green and red pitcher plants and the view of the surrounding is simply-breathtaking. we spotted an Oriental Hobby along this trail.

Peak 3 (N14 08.025 E121 11.073), with an elevation of 1,054m, has small campsite and a 360view. from here, the trail changes to semi-dipterocarp, semi-mossy forest. pushing forward to Peak 2, expect to climb or crawl under fallen trees, mud, be amazed with blooming wild flowers and moss and encounter thorny rattan and lots of friendly-limatik. we end doing a night trek in this trail and got lost for awhile. lots of pygmy forest frogs along the trail.

arriving at Peak 2 (N14 08.142 E121 11.628), the “highest” point with an elevation of 1,096m, we set camp, cook and have dinner. the peak which also has a campsite is surrounded by flowering plants and dwarfed trees. it started to rain hard in the evening until the next day.

after breakfast, we break camp and start to descend. the trail to Laguna (via UPLB) is more relax and established but longer (around 8km). will pass dipterocarp forest and also lots of limatik. saw elephant yam along the trail. you can also do a detour to Mudspring and Flatrocks .

thanks to Totoy for providing GPS waypoints, very useful especially on the confusing Santo Tomas trail, and to friends who were crazy enough to join me in this climb despite the typhoon and limatik. congratz to my brother for completing his first major climb.

Mt Makiling

Sto Tomas, Batangas - Los Banos, Laguna



how to end a week

after almost 2-hours of beach clean-up, it's nice just to sit back, relax, have some snacks, barbecue and wine while watching the sunset, counting egrets and night-herons lazily flying towards their roosting areas. a very pleasant Sunday afternoon in Freedom Island with fellow advocates from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.
Note: the Las Pinas-Paranaque Coastal Lagoons (the brackish waters and mangrove forests beside the coastal road connecting Manila-Cavite), including the Freedom Island, is a declared bird sanctuary. Aside from huge volume of toxic trash filling up in the beach and mangroves, the whole protected area is also planned to be reclaimed (but I think the proper word is land-filled) to pave way for commercial and business establishment, high-rise condominiums etc. Our "green chief" Sec Ramon Paje of the DENR already issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate on the said project. The destruction of the Coastal Lagoons will have a great impact to the adjacent below-sea level communities and result to loss of habitat to millions of migratory and resident birds.
Freedom Island, Coastal Lagoons


... in the durian city

a trip to Davao is not on the immediate list, but since I need to be in the city to facilitate a multi-stakeholders environmental forum, might as well maximize the opportunity to do a weekend adventure hehehe.

initial idea was to again climb the majestic Mt. Apo with ecoactivist-mountaineer friends in Mindanao but luckily, Anne agreed to join me – so this trip was my birthday gift to her. changed the itinerary to birdwatching and more relax trekking in Baguio and Marilog Sub-districts. the Mt Apo climb will be set for another date this year…

who wants to join? :)

first stop was the Philippine Eagle Center, a research and education facility for the care and propagation of the endangered Philippine Eagle through captive-breeding. Standing in front of the majestic Philippine Eagle, felt humble and meek, as if in the presence of the King of Kings. the center is also a rehabilitation facility to other raptors such as scops-owls, sea eagles, hawk-eagles and kites that were caught or recovered from wildlife traders and poachers.

next in the list, Epol Waterfalls in Marilog. the bus conductor missed our drop-off so we end up in Bukidnon, another unplanned trip hahaha.

we took the return bus, for free, courtesy of the helpful bus inspector. the drop-off point (N7 27.196 E125 14.231) was difficult to spot because there are no markers or road signs.

the trek to Epol was relaxing. we saw a yellow-breasted fruit dove, a lifer, and lovely sunbirds, flowerpeckers and white-eyes. also spotted endemic pitcher plants and a snake along the trail.

the small waterfalls is beautiful and the water is cold, sarap mag-swimming. of course, every adventure should be accompanied with good native food like the balbacua and the bitter baklay na baka.

sadly, missed the durian because it’s off-season, tsk

our gratitude to Ate Wella, her kids and five-ten-lost the count lovable dogs, except the two masungit na great dane (and to my dear friend Willie Garcia) for hosting us and to Lia Esquillo and family for a very wonderful breakfast.


Davao City


Backpacker Tips:

a cheap and comfortable accommodation in the durian city is the Mindanao Resource and Training Center ( located in DMSF, Banaja, Davao City.

From Davao downtown to PEC, take a bus/jeep to Calinan (bus costs P45). From Calinan, take habal-habal or trike for only P15. In front of the bus stop in Calinan, there is also a restaurant that offers a good variety of meals for budget price.

From Davao downtown to Epol, take a non-aircon Rural Tours bus to Cagayan (CDO) for P100 but remind the conductor to drop you in Epol Watefalls (formerly Green Valley). You can also take the aircon bus but the fare is P260, quite expensive. Need to pay two houses (P10 each) before you reach the waterfalls. Marilog District is also a wanderer’s haven, lots of waterfalls and caves. But you need to set 2-3days to explore the said areas.