Monday, December 26, 2011

Lagalog Postcards from 2011

Indonesia - Borobudur with Dramatic Nightsky
Dramatic Borobodur before dawn
Traveling is not just about moving from  one place to another but also about moving from one moment to the next.   It can be about a change in one's comfort zone or on a more dramatic scale, a change in a place I've visited before.   Change can be good or bad, depending on the situation but I guess that's one thing that's constant, and one thing that makes traveling dynamic and well, ever-changing.  At a time when it seems most places have been discovered and there's little to surprise us that's not been written or noted in some guidebook or blog, the aspect of travel that appeals most to me now is how each place and experience have enriched my mind and spirit.  It's also amazing how from year-to-year, nothing seems to be the same.

Going to Birdland.  Lagalog's trip journal this 2011 started in the wetlands of Candaba in Pampanga.  Two years since last visiting it, I was surprised by the diminishing bird sanctuary, the open waterways and vegetation now replaced by rice fields.  While I don't think Mayor Pelayo's place will further shrink in size, I dread to see what will happen next when the wetlands get crowded.
Candaba - Leafless Tree and Hovering Bird
Candaba scene
Temple-hopping from Yogyakarta to Surakarta.  My first long break for 2010 had to wait until January 2011.  It was worth the wait as aside from passing through relatively uncrowded airports, it was fascinating to see Borobodur after sunset and before sunrise, marvel at Prambanan under the rain, watch Ramayana performances in Jogja, and admire the architecture of temples and structures in Solo.

Following the compass northwards to Ilocandia.  It's always a pleasure to revisit Ilocos, even if it's for a photo assignment and I can't stray from the fixed itinerary.  And I haven't exhausted the sights either as I've managed to do new things during my latest visit. Aside from stepping onto the dramatic rock formation of Kapurpurawan, I was able to visit the Paayas dragonfruit plantations, sink my feet into the Paoay sand dunes, hike to Kabigan Falls and venture farther beyond Saud beach into the blue lagoon of Maira-Ira.
Nagsasa - Inland Lake
Beautiful Nagsasa inland lake
Roughing it out in Nagsasa.  The big earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March, threatening the country's eastern seaboard.  But that didn't stop us from spending overnight in Nagsasa in Zambales.  Many campers canceled at the last minute, which left the cove uncrowded and relatively peaceful.  The cove is breathtakingly beautiful, reminding me of Anawangin when it was still unspoiled but regular kaingin-like practices (slash and burn) and plans to build resort structures threaten the raw beauty of this place.
Claveria - Mabnang Falls Shrubs & Cascades
Chasing waterfalls in Claveria

Going north by northwest.  Towards the Holy Week, we headed farther north to Claveria up in the Cagayan Region.  It's not everyday that you find yourself in a town where you're just about the only tourist and where the start of the fishing season means you are welcomed with a feast.  Everyday yielded new sights to see from beautiful  falls to majestic coves.  It was tempting to extend our stay and I just know we will have to come back soon. Afterwards, we took the opportunity to ride the Florida sleeper bus headed for Tuguegarao to revisit Callao and explore Sierra Cave.
Batad - Amphitheater Undulating Greens
Batad green field
Finding our way back to Batad and Bangaan.
Not even a year after last trekking Batad, I went back with our Backpack Photography participants.  It's always a pleasure to share our passion for nature and landscapes, even if the hike to Batad and Tappia is never an easy one.  A trip to picturesque Bangaan completed the experience, nevermind the tubes of Bengay and doses of painkillers necessary to momentarily quell the pain of creaking knees and achy legs.

Return to Corregidor.  It's been years since my last visit and our ocular trip took us to places I haven't gone to in my four previous trips like spending sunset at Tailside and seeing Battery Wheeler in the middle of encroaching vegetation.  I've always said it and I'll say it again -- spend overnight at Corregidor to maximize your enjoyment, nevermind the ghost stories.
Ilocos Norte - Adams Lovers' Peak Fog and Grassland
Misty Adams morning
Finding Adams.  Mid-year, I was able to satisfy my curiosity for this small municipality hidden further inland way from the Pagudpud coast, up the mountains.  Adams is the quintessential farming town where falls are plentiful and serenity a priceless attraction.  If you love nature and put a premium on peace and quiet, making the extra effort to get to Adams is worth it.

Exploring Sagada anew.  Sagada has always been my escape place. Now finding new attractions to explore here was on top of my list this time around.  Finding Pongas Falls was providential, never mind the dishonesty of our guides.  Ditto with getting lost and finding friendly cows in the fog on the way to Lake Danum and enjoying the canine company at Rock Inn, two kilometers away from the town proper.
Bislig - Magical Tinuy-an Falls by Day
Magical Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig

Drifting south to Bislig.  Having gotten promo fare tickets (something I consider a rarity nowadays with the difficulty of bucket-pricing bookings of Cebu Pacific) to Surigao early in the year, we ventured to this easternmost city of the Philippines where the country's widest falls, Tinuy-an, can be found.  It was well worth the wait and the lengthy land travel.  We came at the height of a big convention but our fortunes held.  By stroke of luck/serendipity, we also got to explore Hagonoy, a private island off Bislig and if only for a day, experience the quintessential islander life, thanks to a most kind hostess and a series of fortunate events.

Malaysia - Petronas Tower at Night
KL's Petronas Towers at night
Flying off to Kuala Lumpur.  By a strange twist of fate, I got an invite to visit Malaysia from AirAsia Philippines.  With all those "Truly Asia" commercials running on cable TV, it was good to finally see a bit of Malaysia for myself.  From racing at Sepang to dancing at the SkyBar, it was a whirlwind two days but a blast, nonetheless.  Seeing Petronas towers with my own two eyes was a great experience as well.
2011 Ligligan Parul - Calulut 8
2011 Ligligan Parul

Seeing the stars fall down on Pampanga.  We came back to San Fernando for the Ligligan Parul Giant Lantern Festival and just like before, the creativity and artistry of the Kapampangans never fail to amaze me.  Sta. Lucia repeated as champion and deservedly so but all of the ten barangays who poured a year of their time, talent and energies into preserving a Filipino Christmas tradition, are all winners in their own right.
Postcript.  Lagalog is nearing its 8th year (it's going to be eight this third week of January which is like eternity in the blogworld) and while I really don't know what's in store for next year, where this site is headed to or where life will take me next, I'm really, deeply grateful for all the trips, all the assignments, all the breaks and opportunities, and for all the friends and acquaintances I've made along the way.  I'm also thankful for the mixed blessings I received in 2011 -- including authoring my very first book, going to Malaysia for free, receiving another nomination in the Philippine Blog Awards for the fourth straight year and being a finalist in the Batangas AlaEh Photo Contest.  As I write this, I am still working on some projects that needed to be done within the next two weeks so I'm busy but deeply grateful.  Shalom!


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