Category Archives: Trail

Hello, 2016!

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Cebu sunset

When Tatay Cirilo (my Nanay’s father) was last confined in a hospital, he talked about a dream he had while lying in the operation room. In the dream, he was walking in a forest so deep he almost couldn’t see its end. That was one of the last few words I heard from him.

Months before that, he told me maybe I can already start thinking about building a family or a relationship, at least, because my career is already going well. That was the first time I heard him say that. Far from his usual authoritative voice, the suggestion was uttered softly. It sounded as if he was trying not to embarrass and pressure me in front of the other family members. But I stayed true to character and just changed the topic.

We lost him early last year. His life lasted for more than nine decades. Before 2015 ended, I found myself looking back and thinking of his words.

The past few months left me with the lesson that I should stop spending so much time stressing about the future and learn to value what I already have. That may sound like a cliche. But some time ago, I ignored that simple lesson and the hurt I caused was far from being predictable. It was not like anything that I imagined.

Tatay Cirilo handpicked the wooden foundation of the house he built for his family at Poblacion, Morong, Bataan. That ensured that the foundations were of high quality and would last a long time. I only figured out recently that at the hospital, he might have been dreaming of the time he was looking for wood.

Relationships – with family, friends and loved ones – require hard work. For someone who works in a profession that requires careful use of words, I can be careless when it comes to personal matters. This year taught me that in any area of life, I should always make sure that my words reflect my intent. More importantly, take time away from the noise of words and let my actions catch up with my promises. Take time to carefully and lovingly pick the foundations upon which I build relationships. What I want to remember in my last hours is the forest I walked because of love. For people who matter to me.

There are so many people to thank for what they shared with me in the past year. But as I said before, I will just make my life an expression of gratitude.

Thank you, 2015.

***       ***       ***

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River of my childhood in Morong, Bataan

Hello, 2016. Here’s my partial to-do list for this year.

  1. Help set up an art exhibit.
  2. Join the TNF trail run in Benguet.
  3. Train for the TBR Dream Marathon 2017.
  4. Skim and surf in Davao Oriental.
  5. Visit Palawan.
  6. Ride the Pasig River ferry.
  7. Donate blood.
  8. Get a new tattoo.
  9. Start a new business.
  10. Climb a mountain.
  11. Organize a free museum trip for kids from Bataan.
  12. Donate books to a public school.
  13. Finish a painting.
  14. Finish reading at least three of the books I bought pre-2016.
  15. Publish a literary work.
  16. Plant at least 10 native trees in my hometown.

Help me cross out each of these goals before 2016 ends. One by one, I will tell the stories of how these are connected with the lessons from the past year. This will also be a period of learning, collaboration and adventure. Happy new year!

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Salomon X Trail Run in Bataan, some reminders

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Salomon Philippines will hold its 2015 Trail Run in Morong, Bataan on April 25. Weeks ago, I registered and got myself a pair of Speedcross 3 to break in before the race. As far as I know, this will be the first trail race in my hometown, so I got excited to join.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to run this Saturday due to an injury. I wallowed in this sad realization. For about an hour. Then I thought of coming up with this little list of reminders for my fellow trail runners who will join the race.

Leave nothing but shoeprints.

Most trail runners I know care for the environment. Why would you go through the hassle of training, traveling to trail destinations, and enduring a difficult route (with horse shit, slippery rocks, insects you don’t recognize, etc.), if you don’t love the ground you‘re allowed to tread?

If you say you don’t care much about the lovely view and you’re doing this for your ego, then leave it at the starting line. It is sad that in the past races I joined, mostly way up north of the country, there were a few runners who littered the route with energy bar wrappers. I’m not sure if they were afraid that the weight of the trash could affect their PRs.

The Salomon X Trail Run Rules state that littering or defacing of the premises shall be a ground for dismissal. As a preventive measure, we have to demand that the organizers implement this rule strictly and that this be emphasized especially before the race starts. The e-mail address is salomonphils@gmail.com. Let’s drop them a line about this.

I remember that during the Khao Yai Trail Marathon in Thailand last year, the briefer in the race kit emphasized that aside from the high fine, which was in thousands of baht, spitting at the route can kill about ten thousand elephants. The statement was effective as I kept hearing about it from fellow runners along the half-mary route. It was a commercially sponsored event and the first trail run in the area. See? Just because we all get it that they’re doing it mainly for marketing purposes, that doesn’t mean race organizers have to be so careless.

Trust me, for I have seen Morong’s beauty by car, by boat, by bicycle, by carabao-drawn cart, by old farm-bound kuliglig and by foot. (If anyone offers to lend a chopper, I’d probably resist and say we’re cutting down on fuel.) The best way to fall in love with my hometown is a pie. Since this weekend’s trail runners have been given that privilege, I hope this affair won’t leave the town with scars.

Explore.

Here are some spots you might want to visit:

1. Vietnamese food joints at Barangay Binaritan. The town used to be a temporary home to refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. During their stay here, the refugees were able to pass on their culinary knowledge to the people of Morong. That is why most of us have concepts of hutieu and banh mi, adjusted to local taste and available ingredients.

If you ask me where I usually go, well, I’m partial to the taste of hutieu from Aling Solly’s. Back in high school, I’d put aside a portion of my allowance so that at the end of the day, I can join my friends for a bowl of our favorite soup, best enjoyed with chili and rauram. There was free broth refill to the delight of our teenage hearts. I can attest that the taste has been consistent through the years. You have to give it a try.  

Loleng’s Hutieu-an is also in the area. The place serves Vietnamese and Filipino food. Last month, I tried their bun thit nuong, spabok (which is a known Bataan dish) and halo-halo, all in one sitting. This will be a good place to go for your recovery meal.

2. Montey’s Buko Pie. According to friends who received this default pasalubong from me, the buko pie is good as it isn’t too sweet and the coconut used tastes fresh. I like it mainly because, with clear notes on what time I’m picking up the pie, I’m sure to get it packed right out of the oven. The numbers are 0919-702-4833 and 0928-254-4936. The store is located at Barangay Sabang, a few minutes from the Anvaya Cove where the starting/finish line of the race is set.

3. Pawikan Conservation Center. This is located at Barangay Nagbalayong. I was surprised, in a rather unpleasant way, upon reading from the race website that the Center is the official camping ground of the Salomon X Trail Run. I hope effective rules will be set as to where the tents may be pitched and how the campers should behave in the area. If you’re dropping by, please make it a visit for the purposes of information and conservation. Don’t stress out the pawikans by poking them as I witnessed some tourists do in my previous visits.

4. Resorts. The organizers have partner resorts listed on the race website. In case you’re still cramming for your accommodation, there are a lot of resorts in the town. ERC Resort is at Sitio Panibatuhan. Leave me a message here if you’d like me to connect you with the owners. Bucco Bali, on the other hand, is located at Barangay Sabang. You may check their Facebook account.

Enjoy your stay. Be a responsible runner. And maybe next time, when my injured foot heals, see you at the trail!

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Banaue and Batad trails

Gongstart instead of gunstart

Gongstart instead of gunstart

You know you’re in a different trail race if the organizers say this at the opening program: “This is not a competitive race. Take your time, enjoy the view.”

For the first time in my life, I ran with a camera strapped to my wrist.

Marcky and I started our trip to Ifugao at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, August 22, 2014. We booked seats at Ohayami Trans days before, because the trip to Banaue is just once a day when it’s not peak season. The passengers in the bus were mostly runners. You’ll say it’s easy to see because of the gears they carried and wore. I say it’s because of the energy and the familiar smiles. We arrived at Banaue at about seven in the morning.

The tourist assistance center is right beside the bus station. That morning we found out that the Hillside Inn at Batad was about an hour away from the starting line. We booked a room at Hillside weeks before the trip. It was difficult to reach Hillside through phone, so we wallowed in our worries for a few seconds. It was our first time in Ifugao.

We approached Team Malaya’s booth. It was also our first time to join a race organized by this team, so I wasn’t sure if they’re an accommodating bunch.

Toper from Team Malaya told me there was a room available at Stairway Inn, where the team also stayed that weekend. Stairway is less than five minutes away from the starting line. We got a room beside the organizers’, which means we won’t be late. Which means, for a moment, I wanted to offer a dance to the rice terraces.

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View from our room at Hillside Inn

After getting the room at Stairway, we went back to the bus station to reserve seats for the trip on Sunday. Monday, August 25, 2014, was a holiday. We planned to spend it as recovery day, so we hoped to get seats for the Sunday bus trip. Unfortunately, the Sunday trip was already fully-booked and we had no choice but to buy tickets for the Monday night trip to Manila. I could already imagine how painful my body would be when I go to the office just an hour after the trip.

But it was our first hour at Ifugao, we had enough good vibes to be able to look at the brighter side. We were lucky the owners and staff of Hillside considered our (desperate) circumstances and allowed us to move the booking to Sunday night. We need not worry about where we would stay next and what we will be doing with the extra day we had. But seriously, up there in the mountains, what kind of runner-wanderer worries about an unplanned day?

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One of our hydration stations. We took a quick shower here.

I started joining races in 2011. My pace in Ifugao is the slowest so far, but I don’t mind. Mini-falls as hydration stations, Banaue coffee at the carbo-loading booth, breathtaking view of the rice terraces as we went along the route, and ah — the sunrise that greeted us a few minutes after the gongstart — setting a new PR was the last thing on my mind.

During the race, I witnessed a runner throwing trash along the route. I e-mailed Team Malaya about this. They were quick to respond and they said they are considering sanctions for this offense in the next races that they will organize.

Note to runners: If you can’t respect the ground you’re allowed to tread, don’t even set foot on the trail. There should be a rule at all trail events that runners who throw trash along the route would be declared DNF. That, or I’ll just kick their faces at the finish line.

The first of our sets of recovery meals that weekend.

The first of our sets of recovery meals that weekend.

After the race, we were greeted by free recovery meal at Dreamers Bakery. That was one of the best after-race food I had. When it comes to recovery meals, there’s nothing like freshly picked ingredients, just boiled and sauteed a little to bring out the flavors of the dishes.

We wished we could stay longer for a few more rounds at the feast there at Banaue, but we had to move on to Batad. We then went to the Saddle Point on board Kuya Jun’s pink panther tricycle.

Kuya Jun, our guide

Kuya Jun, our guide

At Saddle Point, a guide welcomed us and offered to show the way to Hillside Inn. Kuya Jun (wow, the mountains had an abundance of Juns) is already more than sixty years old. He has been working as a tour guide for most of his stay at Batad, where he moved from Nueva Ecija after marriage in the 1980s. That weekend, he said, the tour guides in the town extended help to the runners who joined the race.

On Monday morning, we trekked for more than two hours to Tappiya Falls. Kuya Jun told us the night before that, with our running skills, we can reach the Falls in about forty-five minutes. He might have overestimated our skills and/or underestimated the stalling power of the rain over me and my running buddy.

If you need transport service at Banaue-Batad, contact Kuya Jun through 0910-741-5047.

If you need transport service at Banaue-Batad, contact Kuya Jun through 0910-741-5047.

We set a schedule with Kuya Jun, the one with the pink panther tricycle, and he agreed to meet us at Lannah Junction on Monday afternoon. Then he would be driving us back to Banaue, so we could hop into our ride back home.

The Junction was an alternative trail, which we decided to traverse instead of the Saddle Point route. It was more difficult, even more dangerous than the trek to Tappiya Falls.

When Marcky and I started on our way, without any guide but a few directions given to us, we believed that we can reach the Junction in about an hour.

It took us more than two hours. We were lucky we met new friends from France along the route. They had a guide. Kuya Jun also patiently waited for us even though we were late for our schedule.

I learned that while walking and running at the sides of the mountains, where you could slip and roll down more than a thousand feet of rocks and mud, you can’t help but talk to yourself.

“Ada, live long enough to witness more wonders like this. Please lang.”

I'll climb mountains for this brew.

I’ll climb mountains for this brew.

The other thoughts that ran through my head were:

Oh, I can’t wait for that natural high from going through the route without injury. I think I need to have laser eye operation already, just so I can efficiently climb mountains. I’ll be back, but maybe during the dry season. And, this same time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting in the office, may be typing an e-mail and waiting for manong to deliver a hot serving of ginataang bilo-bilo, as I sip my coffee from Krispy Kreme.

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Trail running and a love letter

 

Recovery food from a hole-in-the-wall at Slaughterhouse, Baguio City

The first time I tried to use the word “heart” in an article, my co-editors said it was uncharacteristic of me. To add credibility to this entry, I guess I need to quote someone else.

In the biographical film Without Limits (Warner Bros. Pictures; 1998), Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) speaks of how Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup) taught him that “the real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test to the limits of the human heart.” 

Take that from a runner who once held the American record in seven different distance track events from the 2,000 to the 10,000 meters.

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 Photo from http://www.thrillofthetrail.ph

I fell in love with trail running in 2012. Somewhere along the 11-km. route at The North Face Benguet Challenge, I decided that if I will take running seriously, the trail will be my focus.

Last week, my friend Marcky (who took the recovery photo above) and I joined the 22-km. race at the TNF Challenge. I set out to run faster than I did in the same category in 2013. There are a few excuses I can list down but it’s better to just accept that I didn’t reach my goal.

When you’ve wanted something badly, made time for it in your less-than-relaxed schedule, prepared, waited, ignored other options, focused, and then failed to have what you gave up a lot for: it feels like a year-long cramp.

So I’d rather talk about the happier part, the preparation, or what can be more accurately called The Cramming.

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I got less than one month to train for the course. The bulk of my running sessions were spent at the road and trails from our house in Morong, Bataan to the Subic Gate, and back. That’s about twenty kilometers. I would wake up at five in the morning to prepare and then run before the sun rises.

During my running sessions, I found out that the roads of our town are so much busier now compared to how they were during my younger years. Back then, you can have the road all to yourself for a long time. Now you need to be more careful because you’re sharing it with more vehicles. Once in a while motorcyclists would slow down, not to snatch anything from me, but to greet me or offer a ride.

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Along what used to be a quiet route, I also saw a few Mustangs and a Ducati speed away. “Someday,” I tell myself. Someday. But out there, with my trail shoes and already sweaty running clothes, I knew I was appreciating the view in the best way possible: a long, slow, lovely distance run.

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The town doesn’t lack potassium stations. You can pack your belt light and just load up at the banana stalls along Sabang and Mabayo, the two adjacent barangays where the course runs through.

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Hydration station? Try the stream or the river. Bring that expensive bottle with filter if you must, then go back to the urban jungle and tell everyone how you “roughed it out” in the province. When I was a kid we’d fill up containers of water from the spot shown above. It felt nostalgic to stop there all those mornings that I trained.

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I also got to spend some time cooking for my parents. They’re pescetarian, well, most of the time. They have to cook pork and beef meals once in a while because the babies (i.e. eight medium and large breed dogs) need something to feast on. I took the opportunity to overhaul my diet and make room for more vegetables and fish. I was so glad to find out the my favorite edible fern sells for about fifteen pesos in our town.

When you’re serving fresh produce, a little boiling or grilling is all you need. Whenever bored, I experimented with the wine left from holiday festivities and used them on the dishes.

For some time during training month, my routine was: run in the morning, work on some cases and on my business plans in the middle of the day, drive around town in the afternoon, then swim at the beach before sunset.

The preparation for the race made me want to have a healthier lifestyle. Now the challenge is how to stick to it since I’m back in the city. Friends advise that I try squeezing the Insanity Workout into my routine. But the past years the only workout I’ve been able to stick to is Necessity, brought by broken elevators and high gas prices. I remember a time when I lost more than ten pounds of weight in a month because of that.

Anyway — heart. I still don’t have a lot to say about this. But there are rare moments in your life when you want something so bad, it helps you learn to love yourself more. And one way to learn that is by testing your heart’s limits.

See you at the trail!

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