Mount Arayat Traverse


Mount Arayat is a potentially active stratovolcano on Luzon Island, Philippines, rising to a height of 1,026 metres (3,366 ft) There is no recorded eruption of the volcano, and its last activity probably dates to the Holocene era. The volcano is located in a flat agricultural region at 15°12N 120°45E/15.2°N 120.75°E / 15.2; 120.75. The southern half of the mountain lies within the municipality of Arayat, Pampanga, while the north half and the mountain summit lies within Magalang, Pampanga. Ten miles to the west of Mount Arayat is Angeles City and the former Clark Air Base. Mount Pinatubo is located a further 16 km (10 mi) west. The Mountain is also considered a mystical mountain, the legendary home of the diwata Mariang Sinukuan, and was once believed to contain a wealth of fruit”(


1. This is one of the most challenging climbs on my list because the expected easy climb developed into an exploration when we were led astray by our guide. Several hours before that plight, the group’s captain/organizer anticipated that we can’t make it to the mountain’s foot by dusk. Further, he announced that eleven o’clock would be the calculated time for us to fulfill the traverse. That’s where the little problem arose because of two things:

First, our group is made up of pure daytime hikers to be exact.

Second, we did not bring headlamps; therefore, it would be perilous to descend without a clear view of the trail.

So what our group did was we proffered to be the pacers of the climb on purpose–to set a “racing” pace in blue streak. Together with my able-bodied hiking buddies and friends (Charina, Master Paul, Katrina, Matet&Jay, Ron&Ebalin), we cut the red tape despite our awareness on what was wagered on. As a result, several eyebrows raised.

Based on the information from (pm), it will only take four hours to summit the giant’s head but since this is a traverse, it will take longer for the hikers to complete the journey. Rather than being consumed with giving consideration to the delicate hikers, we transposed our plan as an extra challenge for them to go with our pace and for us to test our limits. We may not have succeeded in making it to the giant’s foot before sunset but we were triumphant to bate four hours from the estimated time of arrival at the washup area. But then again, I am confident to say that if we did not get lost, the plan would have been favorable to our group. Still, I was proud that our group mutated into hardcores for that matter.

2. This is the second time I experienced the deadweight of getting lost on a boondocks’ trail. I actually had a provisional conjecture to that predicament: Some of the hikers acted as campingers thereby bringing the “original spirit dwellers” of the place to fury especially the prenominal deity of the mountain, Mariang Sinkuan. If only all of us succumbed to the “Leave No Trace” principles…

3. So far, this is the only mountain that made me feel horripilated, particularly when I reached that part where I took that glittering photo.

4. I found the surroundings somehow really mystical, and I felt like the air I charged into my lungs is like a panacea that fortified my body systems. There’s an ineffable thing that is enveloping the mountain. The child in me took over as I was writing this note and the last.

5. It’s here where I exposed my “lucky piece”. I am one of those who believe that precious stones have powers.

Mount Arayat is my tenth conquered mountain (23 January 2011).

For more information (how to get to the place, climbing notes, trivia, more stories, etc.), click this website:

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

The Manila Ocean Park, which is located behind the Quirino Granstand in Luneta, Manila, was officially opened last 01 March 2008. Since then, visiting the underwater creatures at the oceanarium has been visible on my bucket list. However, it was only by 16 December 2010 that these maundering feet landed there. A big thanks to our big boss who sponsored our trip to Manila Ocean Park!

Being with the sea animals was therapeutic and entertaining. The oceanarium gave me a great visual pleasure not only because it’s my first time but because sea animals are just simply natural, amazing entertainers. The opportunity of being with them this close is something really special for me. I felt like I was really transported to the bottom of the sea.

For more information (how to get to the place, reservations, promos, packages, etc.), please click this website:

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Trekking the Enervating Trail of Mount “Gulugod Baboy”

“In English, Gulugod Baboy directly translates to pig spine. So called perhaps because of its contour? It has a spectacular 360 degree view of Anilao, Batangas Pier, Maricaban Island, Mt. Maculot, even Mindoro, Mt. Lobo and Mt.

“Gulugod-Baboy is the general term that describes the hills that traverse Calumpan Peninsula. Located in Southern Batangas, the peninsula is more known for the diving resorts of Anilao –- the birthplace of Philippine scuba diving. Since dive enthusiasts are also enthusiasts for anything ‘outdoor’, they began exploring the hills, and soon, Gulugod Baboy became a hiking destination on its right, although today it remains a popular sidetrip to a diving escapade to Anilao, or to the nearby Sombrero or Maricaban islands.

There is confusion regarding where the real Gulugod-Baboy is. From SE to NW (from Brgy. San Teodoro to Brgy. Laurel), there are three peaks in the range. The first is 470 MASL, the second is 485 MASL, and the third is 525 MASL. This third has a large, ancient tree as its landmark, and is known to mountaineers as the real Gulugod Baboy. However, locals say that this third peak is actually Mt. Pinagbanderahan, and the first peak is the Gulugod Baboy. Fans of Long Henson, father of itineraries, would remember that he wrote about a Mt. Pinagbanderahan in Mabini, Quezon. This may actually refer to Mabini, Batangas, and is actually one and the same as the Gulugod-Baboy we know. Thus, there are three peaks, from SE to NW: Gulugod-Baboy, Gitna, and Pinagbanderahan”


1. This climb corrected my misconception about the word beachineering.

When I first read the content of pinoymountaineer’s Glossary of Philippine Mountaineering Terms, what I understood about the word beachineering was that going on a hike and swim after summiting or swimming and then climb. Just before drafting this post, I reread what’s on the said Glossary for the subject word just to confirm that it means climbing and swimming or vice versa. I found out that I was wrong.

Beachineering simply means hitting the beach but often used in the context of a group of mountaineers going on a beachtrip INSTEAD of climbing. Sigh! Good thing I checked on the meaning again or else I would be misleading readers with the “supposed” title (Beachineering at The Pig’s Spine and Anilao Beach) of this blog.

2. This climb paved the way for me and Master Paul to reunite with Rhovee The Great that’s why it was dubbed as Reunion of the Masters (“daw”) according to the newer group of mountaineers who joined us on that day hike. The fact is, the real masters are Paul and Rhovee only based on my criteria.

(The peak that looks like the pig’s spine.)

3. The summit of the mountain is marked by cow dungs although the photo below showed just a dung.

4. The mountain’s elevation is only 525+ MASL and one will likely conclude that it’s an easy climb. However, the steep and lengthy trail especially on the ascent was enervating enough to discourage future visitors of this mountain into such assumption.

“Photo of the Climb”

5. This is the first time I’ve experienced swimming (at Anilao Beach) after a climb.

6. This is the first time I “battled” in a boodle fight where every piece of the food was consumed despite the flies’ spits on it. H’m.

7. The spell of wet weather along with rain showers up the summit is always refreshing just like the freezing waters of the beach.

Mount Gulugod Baboy is my ninth conquered mountain (19 December 2010).

For more information (how to get to the place, climbing notes, trivia, more stories, etc.), click this website:

Photo Sources (PS): GE X5 and (some photos from) Master Paul Basco.

Room 303: My First Sharpening Room

It was 19 July 2009 when I finally met my first love, first class at the Sharpening Room. The thought of sitting on what I consider a cathedra in the academe excited me but when I was nearing the door of Room 303 that very day, I became overwrought. I was bombarded with butterflies in my stomach. Howbeit, the moment I sat on my cathedra and looked at the faces of the students in that Sharpening Room, I felt like the Aura gave me the plenipotentiary license to be in charge. Then when I began talking, every atom of the butterflies disappeared. I used every corner of the platform and the classroom as I was delivering the overview of the  course. Seeing the students’ eyes following my every move made me more confident. It must be the roaring voice or my tiger look that got them well behaved. I don’t really know, but I want to believe there’s something–which I prefer to call power for now–that made them act accordingly on that first day until the last day of the semester. Whatever that is, I’m glad I have it. Succumbing to the philomath in me will probably help me a lot on this.

My first class at Room 303 was an attestation that it is not bad to employ unorthodox methods of teaching. Disregarding the precepts on how to review the students for the Civil Service Stenographer Exam (CSSE) started the journey towards the road that was never trekked by the hoary mentors of CSSE in that university. I chose to do it my way knowing that implementing the old ways, so to say, will mean losing the interest of the students.

Refresher Course (RC) is a six-hour subject where stenography, through a series of dictations, and speed building activities, with the use of a typewriter, are its major concerns. I am definitely against the monotonous routine. To date, RC still tops the list of the most boring subjects in our school so I was determined to change that.

Picture this: Dictation is done by of course dictating templates of memorandum and other kinds of business correspondence that usually start with either Dear Mr. Juan Dela Cruz or Dear Ms. Tapia. And, it couldn’t be more pestering if the dictator sounds like a howling cat.

The materials for typing exercises should be taken as well from obsolete books which follow the old classic pangram: The quick brown fox jumped over a lazy dog.

Doing these activities every meeting for six hours will probably consume their fingers, irritate their ears, and break their backbones.

Those are only two of the immemorial ways of delivering the tasks. Therefore, as I said, I chose to walk on the road that was never traveled before. The articles I used for my dictation and speed building exercises were all taken from books, magazines, blogs, etc. I also gave more emphasis to sharpening the blades of their English bailiwicks by covering different usages of Punctuation Marks and Spelling Rules (Most Commonly Misspelled Words, British and American Spelling, Common Causes of Misspelling, Commonly Confused Words, and Spelling Tips), Proper Pronunciation, and Common and Fatal Grammar Mistakes of Students Today (e.g. advices, to showed, i am, philippines, masteral, cope up, my favorite tv shows is, and their so annoying) that affects directly their Shorthand Transcriptions as I had observed and recorded.

As a stenographer, I firmly believe that knowledge of the English Language is most vital in passing the CSSE. Learning how to improve speed in typing is just secondary. Speed is acquired through constant practice even at home. The rationale: Improving speed in typing is like texting; doing it more often awards mastery of the keys and speed. Although there is Tagalog Steno, the English Stenography is what’s the Civil Service Commission uses in the conduct of the exam. Hence, I concentrated more on teaching them topics essential to stenography. Out of the six hours of every session, I only allocated two hours for Dictation and Speed Building. The alternatives:

1. I required each student to type 15-20 pages of what we call “articles” for speed building and mastering the keys.

2. For stenography, I challenged them to copy the lyrics of whatever unfamiliar songs they may hear on the radio by way of stenography. I also demanded that all the words typed on the 15-20 pages of articles be wrapped with shorthand writing.

The most enjoyable day of my stay in the Sharpening Room was when my students dramatized every lesson and other activities we had ranging from specific topics to the way I frown and sit. Who would have thought that dramatization can be utilized in Refresher Course. That was also anticipative for me because it was the time I witnessed the fun of applying this teaching method in vogue today: The Learner-Centered Paradigm. Dramatization is only one of the ways to apply the method, but in RC, that’s the most effective and fun way, if not the only way, to optimize it. This kind of activity gives a hundred percent participation of the students as they bring out their creativity and for knowing whether or not they remembered the tips and lessons given to them.

Thanks to the Aura up there because I succeeded in my mission to produce successful examinees since then.

My most notable achievement from this endeavor was being the mentor of the school’s top-notcher of the said exam that year. It is actually more than enough because the truth is, I only aimed for one successful examinee yet I got more than than what I’ve asked for–with a top-notcher in it.

My first set of “pencils” in that Sharpening Room taught me the most important lessons so far in my teaching career: to have faith in what I can do and that every student’s wish is to matter inside the classroom. The latter prodded me to keep an eye on favoritism and continue utilizing the learner-centered paradigm as an essential ingredient of my RC syllabus to stabilize the interest of the students.

-Sequel to “My NZT-48 Story

I Believe in Aliens and UFOs

I read the latest post of one of my new favorite bloggers this morning about his most unforgettable summer story (about a man’s ceremony for getting “purified“) as a way of saying good bye to summer. I was inspired to do the same so I decided to share mine, which is a totally different story. It’s about the “CE3K’s spacecraft” I and my younger brother saw in the summer of the ’90s. Eventually, the experience paved the way for stamping out the guilt I once had for this belief.

Back in my younger years, I’ve already believed in the existence of extraterrestrial beings. More so when I began to study science where logic started to tell me that the universe is insanely vast so the presence of other beings out there is probable. However, in this day and age, convincing people to believe requires scientific findings if not explanations.

There’s been a plethora of documented UFO sightings in my country, the Philippines, and in other countries yet they are still not enough to convince the religious majority.

At around 8:00 p.m. of the 27th day of May 1995, my younger brother, Kelvin, and I put to fruition our must-accomplished-activity for summer vacation: stargazing. We then lied on the blanket we spread out on the house’s roof that night. Just like old times with my elder brother, Tom, what we usually search for were the familiar constellations we’ve learned from school namely the Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Bootes, Cancer, and the most popular and easiest to find: The Small and Big Dipper.

Ursa Major & Ursa Minor animated constellations

Image via Wikipedia

After having some of those groups of stars located, we paused and gazed back at the eternal heavens. Our built-in binoculars stayed there for like a minute or two until, out of the blue, there was a strange spacecraft that surfaced just about three meters above our bodies. The spacecraft appeared somewhat transparent (which is the most distinguishing feature); with little globular objects on the edges and around its anterior; and shape is elongated circle about five meters in length. All we saw on that floating thing were those tiny globular objects twinkling like the stars. The features I’m describing are similar to the aliens’ spaceship in the movie “The Abyss (1989)” while it is submerged in the ocean. (The reason why I gave emphasis to the word “while” is because when that spaceship surfaced at the end of the movie, it turned white.) The said spacecraft I’m describing stayed in its position upon surfacing for about three seconds, enough time to make me recall the stated features, then it moved forward slowly for another three seconds. After that, it suddenly disappeared or flew at the speed of light.

Lenticular cloud

Image via Wikipedia

We were both overwhelmed by what we saw; it took a few seconds for us to regain composure. The first thing we both uttered was, “What was that?!” Then we hurried to the window to share the encounter with the rest of our siblings. This paved the way for us to moot about UFOs and ETs. It turned out to be a very captivating discussion that we ended up going to bed after midnight.

Lying on my bed that same night brought me recollecting what one of my elementary teachers once told us: “Believing in aliens and UFOs is a sin. They’re nothing but products of imagination.” As a result, guilt sprouted from my system because I’m a Christian and I still couldn’t defend my stand regarding the matter. I chose to value more the teachings of the elders like that teacher who disproved the existence of the subjects, until then.

The following day, my grandma, who was once a teacher for 21 years and a religious person, came over for a visit. She’s also one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. The adjective I used for my grandma triggered the idea of eliciting her say about aliens and UFOs amid the fact that I was indisposed by her possible answer. I wasn’t certain if she will entertain such thing, but I did it anyway.

It was already lunchtime when I approached her at the sala where she inclined her body on our botaka and spoke out my straightaway question: “Grandma, are aliens and UFOs real?” She gave me a squint look and said, “Why did you ask that?” I replied, “I just want to know what you have to say about them. That’s all.” A few seconds after, she began expressing these words which are now vividly resonating through my ears again: “The universe is limitless so it’s probable that other creatures such as aliens exist out there.” Her answer came as a surprise considering that our reasons contain the same meat.

Since then, grandma’s words have been supporting my belief but after more than a decade, affirmed by experts, Mr. Jaime T. Licauco and Father José Gabriel Funes, S.J. The article of the former last 26 May 2008 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Inner Awareness: Believing in ET’s is not in conflict with Christianity) says it all. The source is the Catholic News Agency‘s article published last 13 May 2008 from the 45-year-old Argentinean priest, José Gabriel Funes, who is the current director of the Vatican observatory. Here’s an excerpt of the article:

The Director of the Vatican’s Observatory, Fr. José Gabriel Funes, said in an interview with the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, that believing in the possible existence of extraterrestrial  life is not opposed to Catholic doctrine.

The 45-year-old Argentinean priest heads the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII with offices at Castelgandolfo, near the Apostolic summer palace, and another in Tucson, Arizona. Fr. Funes has been in charge of the Observatory since August 2006.

The astronomer began the interview titled, “The Alien is my Brother,” by saying that, “Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective. In this regard, and here I speak as a priest and a Jesuit, it is an apostolic instrument that can bring us closer to God”, said Fr. Funes in the interview. 

Regarding the beginning of the universe, Fr. Funes says that he personally believes that the “big bang” theory seems to him the most plausible, and that it does not contradict the Bible. “We cannot ask the Bible for a scientific answer here. At the same time, we don’t know if in a near future the ‘Big Bang‘ theory will be superseded by a more complete and precise explanation of the origin of the universe.”

When he was asked about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Director of the Vatican Observatory responded that “it is possible, even if until now, we have no proof. But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded.”

Asked is he sees a contradiction between the Catholic faith and believing in aliens, he said, “I think there isn’t (a contradiction). Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent (beings), created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God’s creative freedom. To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’, why could we not speak of a ‘brother alien’? He would also belong to the creation.

I must say that stumbling upon that article made all the difference. Aside from the affirmation it presented, it also erased the guilt that was once tattooed on my belief.

So now, I want to formally give my regards to our extraterrestrial brothers and sisters.