18 4 / 2014

We had our longest conversation in this trip over breakfast at the hotel on the last day of our trip. They were mostly about high school moments, those things that even if you know you might have talked about in the past but you continue to bring up. Maybe there’s always a fresh take whenever we talk about them on different occasions and in different times. Maybe it comes with age, that we tend to have different perspectives of those unforgettable experiences that glued our friendship.

Probably we are also interested to know our versions of our high school saga, those little things that did not mean much to others but was a big deal for some. And because we have grown together, respect each other and value our relationship, whatever issues our 13-16 year old selves had back then now just seem as perfect material for humor and laughter. 

It does help to talk about them after enjoying a bumpy (this is an understatement) 4x4, ATV and sand surfing at Paoay’s sand dunes that ended up along a beach with a sentimental sunset. Or simply all those experiences, from the local food that brought excitement to our taste buds, to the colorful history of the places we visited and the seemingly small, insignificant moments but are most of the time the ones that define and solidify our bond. 

Photos by our friend JC Tuclaud.

Follow him at pensievebyjehsee@tumblr.com 

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18 4 / 2014

I have heard about how unreal the rock formations are in Ilocos Norte and was recently amazed when I saw my friend’s pre-nuptial photos. It was a sight to behold. But the more or less 5-minute journey on top of a pony going to the breathtaking view was also unforgettable, at least to me. 

My pony went ahead of the four others who had my friends on them. The guide was an old man, and I particularly picked him because I thought he was the most experienced. Albeit  tiny, riding a pony was something I didn’t want to miss. Summer was scorching as well in this part of the country and I didn’t want to have a long walk. 

I was uncomfortable by the sheer size of the animal and my body weight. But my guide assured me that his pony was strong enough that it usually carries him and his wife. I was relieved.

The ride was smooth. I was even taking pictures of the sites. I asked my guide if we could wait for my friends. He advised against it saying that ponies have the tendency to panic more when they are with a group.

When we were almost at our destination, I felt that I had bonded enough with the pony that I gave my guide the camera and asked him to take pictures while I take care of the pony myself. It was fun. It was different than riding a regular horse. I felt that I was too conscious of my body weight unlike when I’d be on a horse’s back where I feel I have to keep my best posture like a real horseman. 

I noticed that there was a shoot going on near the rock formation. My guide, who was still busy taking my photos riding the pony, told me that it was for a TV show. That explains the number of people and guides walking past right us. One of the guides who was walking slightly ahead of, maybe trying to be comfortable with the summer heat, removed the shawl on his neck to try to fix it. The next thing I knew was my pony’s from legs went up in the air and I fell hard on my butt. 

There was a commotion and the pony was panicked and was trying to run. I could feel the pain on my behind but my mind was on my left foot which was stuck in the pony’s strap. My instinct tells me that I should try to kick as hard as I can until it goes off. Otherwise, the pony will drag me in the rocky terrain. I was scared.

Finally, on my third kick, my foot got off, and the pony run wild. The guide who removed his shawl came to my rescue and next thing I knew, the first aid team from the TV production and other guides crowded on me. They were checking for wounds, scratches, asking if my back was fine. They were actually more worried than I was. They started cleaning up my legs, removing the soil and dust. It was only then that I realized I had scratches on my legs, hands and a long but non-threatening cut on my right leg.

My friends then started to arrive with their respective guides. Three of them were medical students on their senior year so I know I was lucky. they let the first aid team did what they supposed too but they were giving some instructions as well. 

It was unexpected. Who would have known. And I was pretty confident with my pony!

I didn’t want this to spoil the trip so when I assured everyone that I could handle it, we proceeded on. And despite of the incident, I’m  glad we did this trip. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is out-of-this-world. 

I could not help myself trying to do the jump shots at Kapurpurawan and even on our next stop at the Bangui Windmills. Ilocos is lovely and sometimes it comes with a price. But maybe it’s worth it! The experience reminds me that maybe I’m right in traveling and daring while I am young. I would not have been able to survive if I was already 70 years old!

Photos by our friend JC Tuclaud.

Follow him on pensievebyjehsee@tumblr.com

Some photos by guide :)

17 4 / 2014

As a UNESCO-heritage site, Vigan is known for its centuries-old, Spanish era houses lining up the cobbled Crisologo Street (Calle Crisologo). The mansions are picture perfect anytime. 

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During the day, they make old photos from history books come to life. And at night, they are perfect for lovebirds who are up for romantic, tranquil, night strolls at the lamp-lit street. 

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When going to lovely places such as Vigan City, it is best to bring along a good camera. And we are fortunate that our friend who has a passion for the lens is enthusiastic not just on the city’s picturesque beauty but also on our vanity. We couldn’t help it. The place was just too beautiful.

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Aside from the mansions, several other activities and surprises are in store in this underrated northern city. One must not miss the pottery village where anyone can be taught on how to make one (did this on my last trip), the historical churches and their food. Bagnet, which is a nationally-acclaimed dish of crispy, deep-fried pork belly comes from Vigan. The most unforgettable dining places were Cafe Leona and Grandpa’s Inn restaurant. And have I mentioned that the best way to get around is to be on horse-drawn carriages?

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All photos by our friend Jan Carlo Tuclaud.

Follow him pensievebyjehsee.tumblr.com

17 4 / 2014

Like in any other cold cities, it’s best to stay indoors at night. Nocturnals rule the evening until dawn, and in Baguio there are plenty. 

Days before our trip, I asked a friend based in the city if there were any clubs in Baguio similar to those we are used to in Metro Manila. Initially, he said there’s none. Maybe sensing my frustration, he quipped that there are two newly-opened nightspots in one of the city’s grand hotels. 

My friends and I first went to 18BC. From online reviews we thought we’d be able to grab something for dinner. Unfortunately, there was none on their menu. It was more of a chillout place for live band music perfect for a post-dinner, laidback group date. WE knew we weren’t going to stay there and after maybe three to five songs, we left and went to the newly-opened clubs.

Initially, we wanted to go to Nevada Square. Everyone we know has told us not to miss it. Accordingly, it’s the center of Baguio’s nightlife where barhopping can be done— literally. I don’t know that yet because on the way, the cab driver showed us the two clubs my friend mentioned. As soon as we saw the crowd outside and the place’s flashy signages, we decided right there and then, without even consulting each other that we would be spending our night in there— in Spade and Verve.

Here’s the thing, I wanted a lot of Zedd, Avicii, Swedish House Mafia and maybe David Guetta that night. I didn’t get 100% of what I expected. Their playlist and the DJ were not the best. However, they had it at the venue, the lights, the beautiful people and well, everybody was jumping when jumping had to be done! There were also a lot of Koreans. We were told that there’s a considerable Korean population in Baguio. While they are a fun bunch, they can be rowdy and obstructive at times, but maybe it’s just cultural differences. 

It was a fun night. It was also a refreshing comeback for my self-imposed hibernation after an unforgettable open-bar experience months back in Manila :)

17 4 / 2014

Traveling with high school buddies will most of the time make you feel and act like you’re still teenagers— carefree, daring and sometimes a little irresponsible (or stupid) :)

So for this trip, we didn’t book our accommodation in advance. We’ve been told that it’s easy to find one from the fixers at the terminal. When we finally chose our hotel, I asked the guy, “Does that room have an AC?” and with a puzzled look he said “Oh no Sir, it doesn’t”. This was followed by a panicky “It doesn’t have an AC?!” response from my companion and me to which our other friend quickly responded, “You don’t need an AC here. It’s cold. The last time I was here, our rooms also did not have that”. And with an in-your-face kind of confidence, the friendly fixer said, “Baguio is centralized air-conditioned.” Okay.*

It wasn’t that cold. But the 15-20 around this time of the year is exactly what Baguio was made for. The wind was gentle but cold, especially in the evenings. And it smelled clean, fresh and natural.

For breakfast, Pan de Sal from Cafe by the Ruins was not only rich more importantly, it was enormous. The restaurant changes its menu regularly, depending on the available produce during the season. My Mountain Braised Duck lunch made me so full I could have skipped dinner. But this was vacation so dinnerless weekdays do not apply. Besides, we had to have the burger at the infamous 50s Diner where we endured the seemingly endless queue.

Like other tourists, we did the usual itinerary especially because it was the first time for one of our friends. My only condition was that I will never have a photograph with the pink horses at Mines View Park. It’s just to circusy as well as cruel to those Albino horses (I hope I’m right).

Visiting one of BenCab’s babies, Tamawan Village, was a treat. And in true Bencab/artist fashion, we had our portraits made by the village’s resident sketch artists.

It may be the cold that makes the city still laid-back during the day despite of the apparent commerce. But as the sun sets beautifully on the mountain ranges of Benguet Province, the colors of Baguio’s blooms attracting all attention during the day is matched by the colors of its unpredictable nightlife.

*The first time I went to Baguio, our hotel room had an AC. I thought, like in other places, it was the standard. Well, it’s the opposite! 

All photos by our friend Jan Carlo Tuclaud.

Follow him pensievebyjehsee.tumblr.com