Travel Log: A Day at Masungi Georeserve (November 2017)

Let it be known that I, an asthmatic lampa with barely any athletic abilities and also a notorious couch potato who would rather pretend I’m not hungry than have to walk to the neighborhood sari-sari store at 12 noon to buy lunch, decided one day to leave the house and hike the garden trails of Masungi Georeserve. Hard to believe but it’s true. And the most surprising fact is that I really really enjoyed it.

Masungi Georeserve is a former logging hotbed turned conservation area situated within the grounds of Mt. Masungi in Baras, Rizal. Its name is derived from the Tagalog word “Masungki” meaning “jagged” which is used to describe its iconic karst formations that date back to over a million years old (it used to be submerged in water). What makes it unique from other mountain trails are the fun and exciting rope courses and carefully curated rock gardens that are scattered throughout the area. Its developers have painstakingly nurtured the place for almost 20 years and developed it into an environmentally sustainable tourism project that benefits both the mountain, as well as its ecosystem, and the townspeople of Baras, its major stakeholder.

On my part, I’ve always wanted to go to Masungi after seeing pictures of it for the first time almost 2 years ago. However, getting a slot wasn’t very easy. First, you have to go to their website and register. They only accept a minimum of 7 guests at a given time and the fee must be paid in full. If there are only 3 or 4 individuals in your group and you want to avail their tour, you’ll still have to shell out for 7 people. This is already disadvantageous to me as I prefer traveling solo or in small groups. Second is the availability of slots. Their weekends fill up fast because, of course, most people are free only during these times.

Thankfully, they have opened shared trails to address the first concern. Groups below 7 people can finally book a tour of the place without paying any additional fees. The only caveat is that these shared trails are available during weekdays only, as a way to decongest weekends and to allow more people to experience Masungi.

Luckily, I’ve mentioned in my previous post that the president declared a holiday on November 13-15 (Monday to Wednesday) and when it became official with the memo and TV announcements, I immediately took this as a chance to finally visit the place and stretch my muscles after sitting for hours on end in the office and in the condo. My friends and I booked a shared trail which they opened specifically for this holiday.

It was an adventure, indeed. We didn’t have any car so we had to commute and we winged it using the guide given by the Masungi Georeserve team over email and Google maps. Even though they claim that their trail is very easy with the paved pathways and rails and rope bridges, the trek was still challenging for me, owing to the fact that I’m not really that physically fit and also because we were out walking under the noonday sun. In fact, I was already short of breath and my knees were shaking even before we reached the middle of the trail. There were many times when I was tempted to shout “what the fuck did I get myself into,” especially when walking uphill, but I forgot about it when I saw the view from the top. Thankfully, I was grouped with very enthusiastic and friendly fellow travelers which made the climb more bearable. Our guide, Kuya Mac, was also very helpful and made sure we can catch our breath by making frequent stops.

The hike lasted around 4 hours and we crossed around 5 or 6 rope courses. At the end of the trail, we were served tuna sandwiches, cold kalamansi juice, and bananas. The best part would have to be the ice cold towels. Cold towels after a hot and sweaty afternoon = best feeling ever! It was definitely an afternoon well spent.

Enough of the blabber, though. Photo spam starts here. 🙂

This is the only sign you’ll see from the side of the road.
Silungan – the jump off point.
Paved pathways
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Cloud rat

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My trek buddies

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Kuya Mac, our park ranger, telling us about Masungi’s past as an illegal logger’s haven. That installation is made out of a chainsaw and was put there to remind them of how far they’ve come in restoring the forest.
Trying to look chill even if my feet are already killing me. #poise

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Sorry for the abundant back shots
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Team!

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At Patak, the raindrop shaped hanging house

Duyan
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Great place to rest

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Yungib ni Ruben
Another one!
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A view of Nanay from Tatay’s peak
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A view of Ditse and Duyan from Tatay’s peak

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Comfiest hammock ever
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Going down the Bayawak’s back
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Trail done! Time for snacks. 🙂
Finish line! Last course: the Sawa

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Travel Notes:

  • Registration fee is P1500 for weekdays and P1800 for weekends. Visit their website to request a visit.
  • It’s better if you have a car because public transportation is quite unreliable in that area. But if you’re going to commute here’s what you’re going to do: In Cubao, ride an FX going to Cogeo. Asked to be dropped off at Gate 2. Go to Cogeo Public Market and get on the jeep going to Tanay, Rizal. You’ll have to wait around an hour (or maybe even more) here as the jeep won’t leave until all seats are filled. From Cogeo, it takes around 30-40 minutes to reach Masungi. Going home is a bit trickier. You’ll have to wait for a passing Cogeo jeep to pick you up. Because trips are few and far between, the jeeps that you will come across are often filled to the brim. What happened to me and my friends was that we took the first jeep that arrived even though all seats were taken (some were even on the roof). We ended up sitting right in the middle and we were there for like 3/4 of the entire ride. It was hard and super uncomfortable but we have no choice because we don’t know when the next jeep will come. Anyway, the FX fare from Cubao to Cogeo is around P35 and the jeep from Tanay to KM 47 / Masungi is P40 as of the time of writing.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring arm covers because it’s really hot especially when you’re on top of the cliffs. Water and biscuits are a must have, too. The park ranger will provide you with a helmet.
  • There’s a locker where you can keep your bags. Fee is P20, I think.
  • When you sign up for a trail visit, you’re also sponsoring one tree in their reforestation project. They said that they will invite us again after 10 years to see the progress of our tree. I’m already 38 by that time so… I don’t know if I will still have the strength to trek at that age. But it’s an exciting prospect to return again and I look forward to it. The future holds so much promise.
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Comic Book Haul 2k17

Hello again, stranger! It’s December already and I do hate to say this because it’s such a cliche but time flies fast, indeed. I realize it’s already more than a month since I made my introductory post here about wanting to start blogging again. Oops. I’m such a joke. Remind me to not make any more promises about posting here regularly. Clearly, I don’t know how this thing works, okay?

Looking back, November has been a pretty busy month at work especially since I’m handling a retail store account so you can just imagine the inordinate amount of job requests they’re sending for their Christmas campaigns (re: a lot!). That’s why the three-day holiday the president declared last Nov 13-15 was a bit of a godsend for me because it gave me a breather from work which I spent on catching up with my pop culture consumptions (Stranger Things!) and basically just doing whatever the hell I want.

As luck would have it, the first day of my “vacation” – November 11 – is the first day of Komikon! I’ve waited for this the whole year because I missed last year’s convention and I felt really bad about it. I really made it a point to go this time because (a) I have to complete the volumes of the series I’m following (way overdue), (b) I want to discover new titles to obsess over, and (c) I’m a nerd.

So off I went to Komikon and — whoa! The crowd was crazy! I was there at least 20 minutes before 9am and the line going inside Unilab Bayanihan Center was already spilling to the sidewalk. Last time I went there in 2015, I just breezed right in, no lines at all (although it was a little past the opening time – but, still…!). Thankfully, the line didn’t take too long once it started moving and I got in without a hitch. Whew!

I already had some titles off the top of my mind so these were what I looked for as soon as I got in through those doors. Then after getting all of them, that’s when I started exploring new titles. I think I spent a total of just around 2 hours inside because it was too crowded and my introvert self was starting to panic. Also, I couldn’t risk buying more because stupid me forgot to bring an eco-bag and the paper bag where I placed all of my comics was starting to fall to pieces.

A week after Komikon, Komura happened. It’s a small book fair focusing on interactions between book lovers and creators more than actual profiteering – as per their press release. I was actually hesitant to go there because I don’t have someone to accompany me but, after finding out that Hulyen’s comic book UGH will be released there, I found the courage to venture alone.

Komura was held at Warehouse Eight, a co-working space in Chino Roces, Makati. I arrived there really early so I was able to roam around before it got too crowded. The place was small and very intimate; it seemed like the people there knew each other so I felt kind of… out of place, actually. Overall, it was fine. There was beer and coffee, music from live bands and beanie bag chairs to sit in when you just want to read. The sellers were kind enough to let the people browse their works and they sometimes engage in pleasant small talk especially if they feel like you’re interested but too shy to ask anything (i.e. me). But, as I said, my only real goal here was to get Hulyen’s UGH so once I bought it and had my copy signed, I was out. The only downside of leaving early was that I wasn’t able to maximize the P200 entrance fee for the event.

Anyway, here is my happy haul from both Komikon and Komura:

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Tabi Po (story and art by Mervin Malonzo)

It’s currently being adapted as a TV series in Cignal TV’s Sari Sari Channel so when I dropped by their booth (Haliya Publishing), there was this huge set up of a balete tree where you can take pictures with a girl cosplaying as an aswang (edit: wait… is that Phoebe Walker of Seklusyon???). I watched the trailer on Facebook a few weeks back and I really liked it because it was different from the usual Filipino TV fare we’re all accustomed to (blood and gore, anyone?). So I thought, hey, why not read the source material and see what the original story’s like so I bought it. I was also glad to have shaken the hands of Mervin Malonzo. He was so cool about the fact that I discovered his comics through the TV show first and not the other way around (some people look down on you for that). He’s so kind and he talked to all of the people coming up to him and having their books and prints signed. So nice!

Kabuwanan (edited by Aliyah Luna)

It’s a compilation of one-shot comics from some of the best komikeras out today – Hulyen, Trizha Ko, Hannah Puyat & Laraine Gazmen, Lizette Daluz, Mich Cervantes & Pauline Rana, Kay Aranzanso, and Emiliana Kampilan / Dead Balagtas. I’ve always wanted to have this to serve as an inspiration for my still secret desire to make my own comics one day. Pfft. A girl can dream, right?

Muros #2 & #3 (story by Paulo Chikiamco, art by Borg Sinaban)

I already have Muros # 1 from the last time I visited Komikon and I was fortunate enough to get #2 and #3 to finally complete the story of Caloy Loyzaga and the Cemetery Girl. The story is like fantasy-noir (I made that one up) of a Taga-Sagot with a murky past who is on a mission to find a missing girl in a Manila that’s both familiar and totally alien at the same time.

Patay Kung Patay #3, #4, & #5 (story by Mike Alcazaren, script by Noel Pascual, art by AJ Bernardo)

This one is also included in my must-buy list from Komikon. It has become quite a hit because of its excellent straightforward storytelling and its not-so-subtle commentary on the prevailing power structures in Philippine society. I met Mike Alcazaren and he signed my copies so that’s really neat. 🙂 Originally set out for only 6 issues, the story will be having 2 more and I’m really excited to check out the next issues to see what will happen to the crew of TV8, the Muguerza family, and the mysterious figures leading the undead.

I’m a Legal Alien # 1 (story by Francis Concepcion, art by Patrick Concepcion)

Well, this one I was talked into buying by the writer himself, Francis Concepcion. He was able to convince me because I thought the story’s concept of discrimination and prejudice in the form of an alien vs human thing is really interesting and relevant, considering the times we live in today. They just released the third issue during this Komikon so that means I have a lot of catching up to do!

P*cha Edi Komiks Pa Rin Vol. 2 (by Toto Madayag)

It’s no secret that one of my favorite webcomics out there is Toto Madayag’s Libreng Komiks. His humor is irreverent and very observant of everyday realities which is something that I really dig. You know sometimes you just want a good laugh and that’s what Libreng Komiks (although it’s not ‘libre’ or free anymore LOL) give me. I’m so glad I got this compilation. I’m still looking for the first volume, though. Hope I can find one in the local bookstores.

Bakokak (story by Gerry Alanguilan, art by Kevin Ray Valentino)

Gerry Alanguilan is back! And this time he partnered with fellow Komikero Kevin Ray Valentino to come up with Bakokak, a story about a giant frog wreaking havoc in Metro Manila. This purchase is a no-brainer for me. I will buy anything with a Gerry Alanguilan on it. I just love his works! (Erm… except Rodski Patotski – that one, I didn’t like that much.) Anyway, I’m really interested how the Pinoy treatment of a giant monster invasion will turn out. It’s not like we have that kind of stories here owing to the fact that (a) the Philippines don’t really produce nuclear-shit to ever cause a weird mutation on innocent life forms (fecal matter & mining run-offs pwede pa), and (b) it would be laughable to see our government using advanced technologies like mechas to fight off monsters when they can’t even fix the fucking train. So yeah, this is something new and I’m sure it will be pretty enjoyable.

After Lambana (story by Eliza Victoria, art by Mervin Malonzo)

This one I bought at Komura. I know nothing about it except for the blurb at the back which says that it is a story about diwatas, and a man’s lonely search for a cure for his illness. I’m partial to stories using Philippine mythological characters so I took a chance on this.  At the same time, I really like Malonzo’s art style particularly for this one because of its psychedelic use of colors. So exciting!

UGH (by Hulyen)

UGH vol.1 is the long-awaited comics compilation of its first three issues and I’m so happy for Hulyen because people are finally noticing her stories and recognizing her talent (obviously, I’m a fan. Hulyen, please don’t get creeped out). LOL! I’m so attracted to the humor of UGH probably because I see so much of my own blunders and musings in the travails of her characters which are mostly bored Catholic-school educated Filipina millennial with a bit of an inner rebellious streak or a perpetually-tired and struggling corporate slave. I can’t wait to read it, and I can’t wait to see more sardonic stories and comics from Hulyen!

***

That’s about it. I’ve only read snippets from most of them because of my busy schedule but, after this campaign is over, I can finally chill over the weekend and maybe finish all of them. I’ll try to share my thoughts when I’m done (Keyword is TRY.).

If you have any suggestions of really awesome Filipino comics I should get my filthy hands next, please let me know, stranger. I’d love to read more of them. And I know there are a lot out there.

 

Hello, stranger! :)

 

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chibi version of myself from bebinator.com

I don’t know how you ended up here but welcome to my little corner in the interwebz. My name is Armi and I’m a 20-something anxiety-ridden awkward introvert living and working in the chaotic urban jungle of Metro Manila, Philippines.

This blog has actually been in existence since the early part of this year as some sort of space for me to practice my writing. Three months and five posts later, I gave up. Well… cliche as it may sound but life happened. I’m an adult with real-life concerns and aspirations so whatever illusions of being a blogger I had took a backseat when the outside world came calling.

But I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that I simply got too lazy to keep up a blog. How many sites have I left for dead in the vast Internet wasteland? How many times have I lied to myself (like a bad boyfriend that keeps on promising he’ll never cheat again but keeps on texting other girls anyway) that I’ll keep on writing, that this will be different, that this is it – only to end up deleting everything after a while?

You might be wondering why I do this all over again if I know deep down in my black hole of a heart that it will probably end up as another half-forgotten blog? I mean, it’s not like anything has changed; my new work is much more demanding than before, I’m still not over my commitment issues, and I remain as high-strung as ever. So what’s the point?

I don’t know. Maybe there’s joy in the futility of trying and trying, like how Sisyphus probably enjoyed pushing that boulder up the hill. Or maybe because this is what I need at this particular point in time. Is it because I like the feeling of being able to start anew without much consequence (which I don’t get to do in the real world)? Does it even matter why I write?

Oh, fuck it. I’m just plain crazy. And I’m an oversharer – at least, on the Internet.

So, here we are again. You won’t find life-changing stuff here. Just a lot of incoherent babbling on things and places and stuff and hobbies that this dork likes.  I named it Wonder | Wander because I thought it sounded really witty (but I bet there are hundreds of blogs out there with the same name) and also because I feel like it encapsulates my being constantly curious. Yes, I may be lazy but I’m always curious about the world and the things around me. My mind wonders and wanders most of the time. And this curiosity is what fuels my writing.

If you’re still reading up to this point, stranger, I’d like to congratulate you. Really. It’s a remarkable feat of patience to endure this poor piece of an introduction. Next time, I promise, I’ll write something more useful. ‘Til then… bye! 🙂