Monday, December 21, 2015

A Worthwhile Day with UP Travel Society

Me upon receiving an email from UP Travel Society -

I was like "OMG, what is this? An invitation to give a talk. Maybe they inadvertently sent the email. Oh but wait, I saw my name."

So, it's confirmed.  And then I got excited.

Yes, undeniably, it is a great privilege to speak before the students of one of the top universities in the country. But more than anything else, I was so excited because it's really my aspiration to impart my knowledge [about hiking for this particular case] and it has been my dream to teach (yeah, as in a classroom setting). And this one? It has initially fulfilled that dream.

This is not my first time to become a speaker and talk in front of many people but definitely this is my first time to be invited by an organization which I would say just found me even in the vastness of the internet. No, I am not popular blogger to begin with.

So I was like smiling the whole day.

The event was sponsored by the UP Travel Society in participation to the alternative classroom learning experience a.k.a ACLE in which the University of the Philippines (UP) - Diliman holds every semester. This aims for the university organizations to hold their own program and choose a topic that they would like to discuss for their group. The students in the university then are given the opportunity to attend the ACLE that appeals them the most.

The UP Travel Society, on the other hand, is a duly recognized socio-civic organization based in UP Diliman - Asian Institute of Tourism. "We are the first travel-based student  organization in South East Asia," as mentioned by Rowee Tanafranca who was the one that emailed and invited me to this event.

As an active participant of  ACLE, the UP Travel Society conducted an event called "Take A Risk: Adventure Tourism in the Philippines."

Photo courtesy of UP Travel Society
Can you see, I am posting this one here in my blog this late? [blame it on the tight schedule at work] hehe.

The event aims to share knowledge about the different kinds of tourism activities in the Philippines and the thrills/dangers in partaking into these kinds of activities. It is also intended to promote domestic tourism by identifying the places that the bloggers can recommend and encourage to visit.

I really appreciate UP Travel Society in this advocacy. Admit it, tourism in the Philippines is getting popular because of the exposures in the social media. And yet we have to be cautious. Yes, everybody can visit any destination but we still have to be mindful of the risk that can be encountered throughout the trip. Yes, every traveler or tourist should be responsible in visiting these wonderful places (for the love of our country, please). I guess it is always a better idea to hear personally from those that have actual experience of a particular place.

L - R: Gem, Jed and Me
So yesss! By the way, we were three bloggers who were invited to give a talk to this event. It was my pleasure to meet Mr. Jed Rosell of Biyaherong Barat and Ms. Gem Muzones of Travels with a Hobo. Maybe one of the best things in meeting fellow bloggers is hearing their ideas that you can apply to your own craft in travelling.

One of the unforgettable pieces of advice that I heard from Jed was this: "Speak positively about our country." Wow, that was something meaty! In a country bombarded by almost undesirable news and publicity every day, particularly  corruption, politics, being worst airport ever and 'forever and ever ' traffic, it must be hard to think and speak otherwise. Well, folks, the good news is, the Philippines is not 100% bad.  Explore the Philippines and you will know the answer. Jed has explored the Philippines through his restless backpacking activities and he really can attest on the true beauty of this nation.

Similar to Jed's stand is Gem's sort of campaign to travel the Philippines first and she has circulated online her advocacy through the hashtag #Philippinesfirst. See more of this on her blog: An Open Letter to Filipinos: Travel the Philippines First.

I would like also to showcase below some of the insights I shared with the students [purely from my own experiences and Basic Mountaineering Course]:

Really, it was my privilege to speak before the students in the said university.

Together with the officers of UP Travel Society...

As my conclusion, I imparted to them the favorite quote of mine that I heard from a good preacher a long time ago... and which have inspired me in climbing since then.

Thanks UP Travel Society for having me! :)
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Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Quick, Sweet Escape to Callao Cave

Location: Callao Cave, PeƱablanca, Cagayan Valley

"A heart that feels the wanderlust. A mind that keeps on wondering what could have been explored and insisting that I can reach further. And the feet that couldn't stop and remain restless... So tell me, how can I ever be stationary in all the places that I visit?"

As the plane lands to the valley of Cagayan :)

This trip is actually an add-on activity to the intended trip, Yes, a sidetrip but I wanted to share it anyway. The real purpose was to witness the wedding of a dear friend in Cagayan Valley province. Fortunately, I was able to book a cheaper flight in Cebu Pacific Air. Ask me how cheap was this? It was a round trip ticket for PHP 1K only; even cheaper than the two-way trip via bus to Tuguegarao City, the capital city of the province. Isn't that perfect? And the time of arrival was at 1pm of that beautiful Friday in September. The wedding was held on a Saturday. While everybody was either tired and wanted to sleep at the hostel and the rest were having the long bus ride, my room mate and a good travel friend, Bev was having the same mind as mine. We wanted to maximize our stay particularly that we heard that the popular caving destination is just around  30-40 minutes away from the city.

Honestly, we were only able to go out at around 3:30PM. Thankfully, a tricycle driver agreed to rent out his vehicle back and forth for PHP600, which we thought is fair enough (but yes, still costly). But it was reasonable, since we are two and can divide the cost among ourselves. The burden was somehow relieved.

We passed by a bridge which made me remember a scene in a Filipino romantic comedy movie that I watched a few years back. I felt the excitement because I would now see for myself the church featured in that movie. And that church was actually a cave and it is really amazing.

So I should not expect too much i.e. convenience on the whole trip as the tricycle ride was truly shaky. It may sound uncomfortable but it is this kind that I enjoy the most. The speed of the vehicle jived with the winds and the winds distorted our faces as we moved on. That was a little more than an hour ride. Now, that was the spirit of adventure!

At 4:50PM, we reached the barangay called Callao, hence the name of the cave, which is situated in a town named PeƱablanca, A student guide was provided for us by the tourism people. I admired this student as she delivered well all the descriptions she could tell during our tour. She must have been well-trained and informed.

So here's the 100+ steps prior to the entrance of the cave. Here's how they've adapted well and taken care of this tourist spot that a well-established stairways are provided to the visitors.

For someone, who have endured and pained a bit with the numerous steps upstairs, you'll get to smile right away once you've finally reached the sort of door of the cave. I grabbed the phone immediately and had a solo photo of myself. I was delighted.

There's a vast wholeness of the cave that a first timer would not be able to expect and imagine. It's really huge and has a series of chambers. The second/third chamber is the chapel, however, it wasn't an opportune time for us as the day is about to end and it was a lot darker inside. The guide advised to visit earlier.

We went further on the succeeding chambers but we are limited by the chambers that can only be visited at daytime. Like any other caves that you would visit, there are many unbelievable rock formations of the stalactites and stalagmites inside. Undeniably, the cave is really huge!

In one of the deepest chambers has a hole on the top which really provides good lighting to the cave.

Look how huge is this cave that we were able to take a photo of this kind of art. Surreal!

Unlike any spelunking that you could do, this one in Callao has a very, very established path that you do not need to gear up and anyone of whatever age can visit. Well, just bring a flashlight and you'll be fine.

As per student tourist guide, the cave is housing a much very old "labi" of the ancient man, just like the Java men in Palawan.

Here's a beautiful sunset while we were exiting the cave.

This tourist spot appears to be already known by many, evidenced by their bulletin posts e.g. photos featured on media.

At 6:30PM, we're already back in the city. How satisfying that even if it was only a quick visit, we were able to taste an astonishing countryside of Penablanca. It was a good nature tripping indeed even for a short while; it's a must-see spot that anyone shouldn't fail to miss. :)

And their dialect, I have read some of them...

No one would leave the province without tasting their famous dish, 'pansit batil patung'

Now I can say, the Cagayan Valley province gets a check on my list.

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