Sky, Sea, and Slopes

There is a bit of confusion as to what the real name of this mountain is, numerous blogs and travel sites call it Mt. Gulugod Baboy. I’m going to go with Mt. Pinagbandirahan, as the locals call it. It roughly translates to “where the flag was raised”.

The story behind the name involves a Japanese plane crashing on one of the peaks during World War II. The pilot somehow survived and hoisted a Japanese flag atop the mountain. I tried looking for further details about this online since the story is kind of sketchy for me, unfortunately I couldn’t find anything (yet).

Getting there

Ben (B) and I got to Batangas Grand Terminal via bus from Buendia along Taft Avenue, fare is 175PhP per person, and travel time is approximately two hours. A quick side-note: friends we met along the trail got lost going to Mt. Pinagbandirahan from Manila because the bus they got on was going to a different grand terminal—in Quezon Province. So, learn the lesson, clearly tell the conductor or the driver of the bus where you need to go to avoid confusion.

We got to the Batangas grand terminal at around 10am, (enjoyed an order of siomai) hopped on a jeepney going to Mabini. We paid 37PhP each for the roughly 30 minute ride. If you want to keep travel time on-the-dot, better factor in the wait-time to fill the jeep with passengers because on this particular trip, it took about 30 minutes to fill the jeep since it was a Sunday. Just tell the driver that you’re heading to Philpan, no need to worry, ours even hooked us up with two other passengers so we can share the fare for the tricycle which is 40PhP per head and 160PhP for special trips. The rode to the jump-off is literally beside the sea which will elate you to say the least. We got off from the long uphill ride directly in front of the registration table, fee is 40Php.

To recap, from Buendia to the registration area we’ve shelled out a total of 409PhP.

The Mountain and the Sun

Now, it’s true that Mt. Pinagbandirahan has a well-established trail and the need for a guide is minimal (fee is 500Php for a small group), but, and I say this with conviction, I highly encourage first timers (as in first-timer to a particular mountain, even if it’s your 100th climb, if it’s your 1st on a particular place, it’s always better to be safe than sorry) to hire one. If you and your friends are on a super tight budget, I suggest climbing on a Saturday morning. There’s a high chance you’ll come across a guided group and you can trail behind them (but don’t be an ass, offer something to show you are remotely trying to earn your keep when you are near them. Y’know, like trail food or something. At the very least be friendly).

We were assisted by kuya (brother) Lito. He’s a relatively new guide but has lived his whole life in Mt. Pinagbandirahan. Kuya Lito, B, and I started our way up at noon—a very bad idea.  Summer is right around the corner and the sun was blazing down on us, it was freaking noon time after all. It was a bad call, I admit.

To those who are saying this is an easy climb or anything synonymous, they’re lying—or, they’re super fit. We started walking and immediately, as in once we’ve stepped out of the registration area, we found ourselves on an assault! Already, my temples started pulsating and my heart was probably visible as it took one labored beat after another. After a few minutes we were stepping on a concrete road again and it was strange for me because I was expecting…well, earth.

It was just one long scorching, cemented, 60° slanted path. We felt like we were beginning to spontaneously combust. It’s a little embarrassing but we had to stop every 30 steps we took. Did I mention all these are happening at noon? Yes? Alright.

Finally, we reached the end of that lava road and reached a small store directly in front of where the earth trail begins. B was convinced he couldn’t make it anymore and I really didn’t mind going back because we can always just hit the waters. But after resting (for a long time) and a little pep talk from the locals who owned the store, we got up and carried on.

“Lakad kayo kaunti, pahinga. Lakad uli, silong uli, pahinga. Kung hindi kayo maglalakad, hindi kayo makakarating. (Walk a little, rest. Walk again, find a shade, rest again. If you don’t start walking, you will never reach where you’re heading)” – Ate (big sister), from the store.

The sun was still roaring. We took ate’s word to heart and stopped from time-to-time. B threw up mid-way, I gave him the option to walk back—same thing you should do if you or one of your friends aren’t feeling too well while hiking. Remember that the mountain will always be there; you can always go back and try another day.  I will also reiterate the importance of having a guide here. If we didn’t have one, and either one of us collapsed, what will happen then? Guides—always a good idea.

Ever so slowly and countless stops later, we found ourselves at kuya Lito’s place. We met his children and we stayed there for a few minutes to rest and bought cold drinks to cool down. We really took our time and stopped when needed. A couple of feet higher we got to kuya Randy’s house where we met two jolly girls, Jam and Mae. They are the ones I said earlier who somehow ended up in Quezon Province and spent the night there. They said they started climbing at 10am and also took their sweet time because of the heat. They fell asleep at kuya Randy’s house and that’s where we met them, it was already 2:30pm.

Although it was still hot and the trail is a steadily steep ascent, the sun was slowly letting up and the hike became less laborious. Finally, after three hours of wheezing we arrived on top. It was not what I was expecting.


Disbelief is the perfect word to describe that moment. I was in disbelief as I stare at the harmony of the sea, the sky, and the slopes and how it make up such a wonder. Mt. Pinagbandirahan’s 360° view of the beautiful Batangas coast lines cannot be justified in photos, it has to be seen and breathed in.

The other ‘disbelief’ though, is going to leave your heart aching. I did my research before our climb and I have read that some factors will disappoint me when I get to the summit—one of which is the cemented road on the other side of the mountain. Yep. You can ride up to the peak and walk five minutes (not even) to the very top. Honestly I find this slightly intriguing because, through this road, my 67yo mother can come with me and see the beauty that I saw without breaking her fragile knees or suffering a stroke because of the heat. The down side of this however, is it makes the mountain too accessible even to people who don’t care about what they do or how they’d affect the mountain. We got there with two groups who came in late in the afternoon via van. Both groups are rowdy. One of the men even removed a danger sign for a measly photo op and he didn’t put it back where he got it not realizing that he’s putting other climbers in peril.

Another thing that really broke my heart is how the once famous lone tree near Mt. Pinagbanderahan’s summit is now littered with misspelled Tagalog placards of where the comfort rooms are—it’s depressing.

I don’t want to call this climb a disappointment because I truly had fun despite the probable permanent knee damage I’ve acquired…and without a doubt, summit scenes are always–always wonderful.  When you climb up Mt. Pinagbandirahan, or any other mountain, or anywhere else for that matter, be responsible. Be humane. Take care of it so somebody else can see it someday. I do hope you climb up Mt. Pinagbandirahan someday.

The Road Home

Since B was still feeling woozy and it was getting dark (plus my knees were about to give out), we opted to go down through the cement road all the way to Mabini. We gave the driver 250 for the 30-45 minute ride down the mountain and beside the coast. It took a while before we were able to hop on a jeepney back to Grand Terminal (37Php/pax) since it was already 7pm. We boarded a bus to Buendia (175Php/pax) via skyway at 8pm and arrived in Manila at 10pm. Our total fare to get home is 638PhP.

Overall we shelled out 1047 for fare to and from, plus 500PhP for the guide which gets us to around 1,547PhP. If we add in the food, we’ll get at, roughly, 2,000Php for the both of us. Not bad, eh?

My original plan on how to go back to Manila was by going down where we came, swim a little, and go home. You can opt to do the same especially if you have ample time, go swim! I will be setting up another climb here with friends, most likely and overnight to add another S, and my favorite kind–stars.

As usual, the mountain made me appreciate how my heart beats and the strength of my damaged knees. As usual, I loved climbing with B. As usual, we’ve met interesting people along the trail. As usual, the mountains gave me an endorphin high. All these ‘usuals’ doesn’t seem so usual when we deal with everyday life. I needed this high. Much needed, much appreciated.

It you ever find yourself wanting to visit this lovely mountain, please do so with care—for you and for the mountain (and nature, everything). I hope you find joy beyond the aching muscles and the smouldering heat.

Happy painful first climb since Mt. Pulag in 2015!


College Paper: Infer

It was Armani’s senior year in college. As usual, he was late. When he got to his university, it was quiet, nobody was in sight. He walked and wandered around the school grounds. He ignored the hairs standing at the back of his neck as he took one slow step after another. The wind that passes through the leaves and those that fall are the only sound that broke the silence.

Umpisa na ng ika-apat na taon ni Armani sa kolehiyo. At tulad ng kinagawian, huli nanaman siya. Nang makarating siya sa kanilang unibersidad, tahimik, walang tao. Tumuloy siysa sa paglakad, nilibot ang paaralan. Di niya inalintana ang kilabot na nadarama sa bawat mabagal na hakbang. Ang samyo lang ng hangin at ang paminsang paghulog ng mga dahon ang bumabasag sa katahimikan.

He walked toward his classroom, pushed the strangely heavy door and went inside. The chairs and the desks were in place, the lights were on and the fans were working but strangely, nobody was there. He walked towards the teacher’s table and saw money scattered as if it were thrown forcefully. He was about to pick one up when the lights went out.

Lumakad si Armani patungo sa kanyang silid aralan, tinulak ang tila mabigat na pinto at pumasok sa looban. Kumpleto ang mga upuan at lamesa, bukas ang mga ilaw at bentilador ngunit walang tao. Lumapit siya sa lamesa ng guro. Nakita niyang may mga perang papel na nakakalat, waring galit itong ihinagis. Pupulot sana siya ng isa nang namatay ang mga ilaw.

As quickly as he turned his head, the lights were back on. The table was gone. It was now a bloodied bed. Panic struck and he stumbled his way through the door but it wasn’t the same on the other side. What was once the corridor is now just a narrow staircase… ever so slowly, he made his way up.  On each step he saw blood, as he got higher there were more, as he reached the top step—a handkerchief with an embroidered A. It was crimson red.

Dali-dali siyang lumingon at nagsindi ang mga ilaw muli. Ibinalik niya ang tingin sa lamesa ng kanilang guro, isa na itong higaan – may mga ilamsik ng dugo. Lumabas siya ng silid na halog madapa sa pagkataranta ngunit sa pagbukas niya ng pinto ay walang ibang daan kundi ang isang hagdan paitaas na dati’y wala doon. Dahan-dahan niya itong inakyat, at sa bawat panhik sa bawat baitang, may tanda ng dugo na nadaragdag sa pader at nang makarating siya sa tuktok, isang panyo. Meron itong burda na letrang A. Balot ito ng dugo.

From where he stood he saw another door. As he opened it slowly an agonizing shriek from the rusty hinges filled the room. He saw a silhouette of a girl dancing. Armani was drawn to her, as if he was caught in her perfect pirouette. As he was about to reach out to her, she stopped. Faced him dead center and said “Sophia.”

Sa kanyang kinatatayuan, naaninag niya ang isang pinto. Binuksan niya ito at kasabay ng nakabibinging langitngit, nasilayan niya ang isang babaeng marahang sumasayaw, hindi niya maaninag ang mukha nito. Patuloy ang babae sa pag-ikot, patuloy rin si Armani sa paglapit. Biglang tumigil ang babae sa pagsasayaw at nagwika ito ng Sophia.

Armani froze as she spoke. Rapidly he realized; the money on the table, the bloodied handkerchief, and her voice—a light shone on the woman’s face, it was Luna.

Sa pagmutawi niya ng pangalang ito, isang sanggol ang marahang tumawa. Natigilan si Armani – ang pera sa mesa, ang panyo at ang tinig na iyon, dumampi ang liwanag sa mukha ng babae – si Luna.

He opened his eyes as tears escaped him. Armani shifted his body to the left and saw his wife looking at him. He let out a sigh and breathed, they smiled. He pulled his wife close to his body, she buried her face on his chest. Armani thought he heard her moan in pain, and then there it was again, louder this time. She screamed and wailed—Armani was awake now.

Namulat ang mga mata ni Armani, humahapo. Tumagilid siya sa pagkakahiga at nasilayan ang mukha ng asawa na nakatitig sa kanya. Nagnakaw ng isang malalim na hinga si Armani, gumuhit ang ngiti sa labi nilang dalawa. Yumapos sa kanyang kabiyak si Armani, maya-maya’y umungol sa kanyang dibdib ang asawa, umiyak, humiyaw – bumalikwas si Armani.

She was in pain crying. She clamped on his arm, digging her fingernails into his skin. He couldn’t comprehend what was happening. He knew this was bound to happen but his thoughts were drowned out by his wife’s screeching. He couldn’t think—his wife let out one last earsplitting yell—and then silence. Even the voices in his head were quiet.

Nagising siyang umiiyak ang asawa, mahigpit ang pagkakakapit sa bisig nito. Lito si Armani, gulat. Nilulunod ng mga hiyaw ng asawa ang boses niya, hindi siya makapag-isip. Sa pinakahuling hiyaw ng asawa’y nanahimik lahat, maging ang mga boses sa isipan ni Armani’y walang imik.

Armani couldn’t remember how they got to the hospital. The next thing he knew, a door slowly opened as a doctor came out holding a child. His wife was still asleep, exhausted from giving birth. Armani held the baby, he looked at it intently. He was amazed with every minute movement his child made.

Hindi na alam ni Armani kung paano sila nakarating sa ospital. Ang sunod na niyang namalaya’y ang pagbukas ng silid nila ng asawa at ang pagpasok ng doktor na bitbit ang isang sanggol. Tulog pa ang asawa ni Armani, pagod sa pagsilang ng kanyang panganay. Kinuha ni Armani ang kanyang anak, tinitigan at namangha sa bawat kisot nito.

Armani cradled his daughter in his arms. He told her the story of his first love, Luna. He also told her about Sophia, his daughter that never was. Armani begged his daughter to never leave him, he promised he would never hurt her—ever.

Idinuyan ni Armani sa kanyang bisig ang anak. Kwinento niya ang nangyari sa kanyang unang mahal na si Luna at ang kanyang unang anak na si Sophia. Ipinakiusap niya sa anak na huwag siyang iiwan nito, ipinangako sa kanya na hinding hindi niya ito sasaktan.

His wife’s eyes slowly opened. He introduced the child to her.  “Say ‘hi’ to Sophia Luna”.

Namulat na ang mata ng asawa ni Armani. Ipinakilala niya rito ang bata sa kanyang bisig, ang kanilang anak – si Sophia Luna.

Continue reading “College Paper: Infer”


New Leaves

Well, so much for being more present. *Sarcmark*

I’m sorry (in its very essence, this is for me). The reason behind my absence is because I’ve been spending my “writing time” on this site I stumbled upon (stalking a friend’s Tumblr account) called 750 Words. It’s a site where, well, you write 750 words a day. Easy peasy. Of course you can just type random words to reach the 750 mark, it will count per word even when it doesn’t make sense, but you’ll only be fooling yourself. I mean, c’mon.

Anyhow, it works like an online diary but no razzle dazzle. No formatting. No photos. Just you and your thoughts put into a visual form. The topic depends upon your state of mind for the day. Mine varies from my inner rage to my furry buddies or youtube finds. Did I mention it gives you a scary-accurate analysis of your state of mind when you’re done? Yep. It’s not overbearing though. It doesn’t tell you what to have to do (except to write until you reach 750) nor does it tell you to act on your sadness when it tells you that you might be, it doesn’t dictate what you should talk about even. You can be as silly or serious as you want. You just have to be honest and really commit to the task. I like it. It gives me that I-did-something-today feel.

Only recently  though, as I was blurting away on said site, did I realize that it’s all that I’ve been doing (well, mostly, because I am now really focusing on my freelancer life) and that I’ve been missing my target posts for XanWrites. So today, even if it’s a Friday, I’ll start again. We should totally stop that first-day, first-month, first-year madness. It’s counterproductive, I think. I mean, if you were drowning in fear on the first day of March, are you seriously just going to wait ‘till the first of April to move? You’ll be making a fool out of yourself then (I am nodding at the genius of the unintentional pun I pulled off here).

Anyway. I’m turning a new leaf—again—on a Friday. I’ll be using this YouTube channel that does super in-depth analysis of the nerdiest things which make me nod my head in awe. It blows my mind how they are this observant and knowledgeable about a lot of things from art to religion, to mythology and noticing references from old movies and shows—all of which are presented in my favorite language—comedy. New Rockstars have these lingering questions at the end of every video, they’re a couple of open ended questions that are just begging to be answered. I guess I will be making a new category here in XanWrites for prompts I find from my new obsession.

That’s my rambling for today. I hope to be more expressive from here on out.

Don’t stay sane.


FN: If anybody reads this, let me know if signing my entries with x (for my nickname, xan) is okay? I don’t have anybody writing for me so maybe this is strange? I’ll love to hear from you (considering that by you, I mean somebody is actually reading this).



Drowning Sun

Drenched and a little thirsty, she sat on the sand and stared out to the drowning sun. She held herself with one hand, her knees close to her chest. She tasted her salty lips as her hand traced abstract on the sand. The sky was painted orange and purple.

The last trickle of light shone, sparkling amber caught the corner of her eye. She dismissed it as an illusion of dusk but it was persistent and she slightly turned her head. He handed her a bottle of beer and he sat beside her. He didn’t say anything, didn’t make a pip, only moved occasionally to drink.

The sky has now completely turned night blue, she’s still entranced by the waves she can now only barely see. The waves crept higher and gently touched their resting feet. She coughed a little and felt as if her heart skipped a beat. The moon was out now.

Soon she thought she felt him move. “This is the best view,” he said, finally breaking the silence. She broke her gaze from the sea and looked at him. He was lying down and looking up to the night sky. She turned her head towards the sea and realized it was just an endless blackness and she gave in, she let her back rest.

She thought the moon was a little too bright against the ebony sky so she shifted her gaze. The stars were fluttering, pulsating. She moved her hand to her chest to feel if the beat is in sync but it wasn’t. “What are you doing?” she heard him ask. She wanted to say “nothing” but she was choked up, so she shook her head instead. There was a lump in her throat now.

It must be late, she thought. She lifted her wrist to look at the time, it took her a while to focus. Her waterproof watch said it was half past eleven o’clock but the second hand wasn’t moving. She tapped it twice, and nothing. She turned her head towards him but he was gone.

She sat up and looked left and right, no one. She was alone. She figured he must’ve left for a while and she didn’t notice since she was consumed by the stars. As she motioned to lie back down, she thought she felt the sand wobble. She dismissed it to be alcohol after effects but she barely took two sips. It was eerily quiet now.

Suddenly she was drowning in thought; all at once the voices came out screaming. She held her chest, it was pounding, and she was having a hard time breathing; she couldn’t ignore the voices, no not anymore. She shut her eyes so hard, it was painful. There were voices calling her name, it didn’t belong to her or to anyone in her mind. She opened her eyes but it stung, everything was a blur. She heard them again calling her, their voices panicked but muffled. She woke as she felt the seawater slither down her throat through her nose. She was back now. The sky was blue and so was everything around her. She saw the sun and then not, they were playing peak-a-boo while she tumbled underwater. She could’ve been a great acrobat; her cartwheels were effortless in suspended animation. Everything was chaotic now.

She opened her eyes when she remembered that final lift, she saw who were calling. The sun pinned her down on the sand as she lay flat and wet, her hair sprawled, tangled, decorated with sand. She wondered as her mind raced to explain to her what had just happened. It was the moon she saw, wasn’t it? It was the moon that shone, she was sure but not anymore. She felt the sand she was on; it was much warmer than she remembered. Wasn’t she just looking at the stars? How is the sky only blue now with a few scattered thin clouds when it was just filled with glittering stars? Wasn’t it just night time? It was almost midnight. She lifted her wrist to her face. It was almost noon now.


Without I 

This is not an existential type of post, no. Sorry. 

I’m typing this using the WordPress app because my laptop’s keyboard is acting up (it rhymes!). Late last year I noticed that some of the letters on the right hand side are getting harder to press. This year, I and M aren’t working at all anymore. J, O, 7, 0 are also beginning to show signs that they wouldn’t last very long. I’ve opened the onscreen keyboard so I can at least use my laptop but, it kinda kills the momentum. 

I may have to say goodbye to my 7yo wumbolappy  soon (I’m one of those people who name their stuff, okay). 


Cocks Ablaze

It flew by me. A flaming cock zoomed past and poof-two months in for 2017.

A lot has happened, I wrote about it (and some from the year we do not speak of–it’s 2016), but I haven’t posted any-because Angono internet, geez. Anyhow. Last month, my mother and I went to Hongkong, our first ever out-of-the-country trip (will post about it)! I got on a plane again which I absolutely love (will post about it)! We also took a side-trip to Macau via ferry, great stuff (will post about it!)!

I’ve also experienced a crippling panic attack twice already (will, yeah.), my cousin lost his six year old son and I witnessed the bravest front. Also this month, I somehow found my self and my mother as villains in my sister-in-law’s life story (will fucking write about this, absolutely. Because how the fuck did that happen!?). Lost “custody” of my nephew-which made me experience my worst anxiety… so far!

Yeah. What else… oh, hey! I have five new kittens!



Winding Down

I don’t know what happened but the news says it’s almost Christmas. That countdown to the merriest time of the year is more of dread to my ears.

Anyway, I’ve been struggling to find the time to properly collate my writings and to actually map out when to post a particular piece. I thought I’ll be up to date on what’s happening in my nugget by October, but that hasn’t happened yet. So. Ho-hum.

I think it’s best not to have order on my blog just yet and to just slowly fill it in one day at a time. I wont do that new year thing I always do and never finish. This time, I choose a different take. A freer take. Like doing extemporaneous posts like this one for the remaining days of 2016. Hopefully, by next year, I will be able to gingerly participate in WordPressPrompts as I initially envisioned and to actually be actively writing.

Smile like a lunatic. Xanity, over and out.

(I will think of a better kicker in the coming days, I promise.)