April 11, 2015

reason for deleting the open letter

i'm sure you've noticed that i have re-verted the open letter to draft not because i am apologising for what i have done but to simply declare that i am agreeing to disagree with most of you. i can debate for long. you hurl your opinions, i respond with my stand -- this issue for me is more than just an opinion. it is a belief that i will defend to the death. a belief that has developed in my being for over the years of traveling in and out of country, communing with different kinds of environments, and interacting with people and learning from them. 

another reason is this issue is merely a distraction. i have another little project to execute to help mother nature (i'll be leaving for a few days) as well as other personal stuff that i choose to move away from all this nonsensical entertainment.

the divine architect of the universe, your god/goddesses, your deities, know my heart's content that they manifested their support through the very few people, who sent me a message via the blog comments and via email, telling me that they believe in my cause and they understand the contents of the letter wholly. i don't need a battalion to agree with me. 

for the artists/bloggers/writers who take accountability of the things they create and its impact to others, i commend you. i know a few who are currently dealing with their own endeavours as resulted by their work. i sent you messages. may the supreme beings of your heart and understanding repay you a thousandfold for your transformative artworks and may you inspire more people to be responsible. the cosmic is kind. karma will put things in order.

to all my fellow environmentalists who are fighting the hard fight against unscrupulous institutions, don't give up. no matter how much everyone hates us with our (most of the time) eccentric and rabid ways, let's still continue fighting to save our home. they don't know what we are facing.

ps: it's barking UP the wrong tree not "AT".

April 09, 2015

me, myself, and my selfishness

"To love is to value. Only a rational selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love - because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed value. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone." - Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism

fact: i don't have adsense that's why i am free to post here.

my previous article received tons of tirades against me being solely selfish and proud. i just laugh at them. the few non-sagadians who have read it in its entirety were the only ones who got the heart of the post. thank you. the wave of posters made me realize one thing -- those who dropped negative comments only read the title of the blog entry and were only swayed by he-said she-said.

however, if selfishness means echoing the voice of the sagadians in their desperate effort to save their homeland, then let me say, with conviction, that i am taking the words SELFISH and PROUD as compliments. it is through my selfishness that i have the courage to protect other people and help them through my little ways. it is through my achievements from helping that i become proud as a steward of this earth. a job well done in service to humanity and nature is only called "braggery" or yabang by the little minds who do nothing but rant and expose openly their inferiority via the internet and facebook. 

it is a fact that you can't be generous if you have nothing left to give. as the case of sagada, she is robbed, harrassed, and raped by irresponsible tourists. i, among many others, together with the sagadians, help sagada bring her back to herself -- away from harmful minds and hearts and that is why i, and many others, am SELFISH and PROUD. 

SELFISHNESS is a virtue. call me selfish, call me egoist, call me proud. i love it. because that's who I AM. my selfishness lights my fire.

PS. the wave of flamers did not even care to read the next post about lnt despite linking it to my infamous post. the photos will scare them and that means only one thing: they don't have the heart to care.

April 07, 2015

that thing called "wasak ang kiltepan": an open letter to director antoinette jadaone

the devastation of kiltepan. photo taken by dayanne crisologo. visit the link to the post here. as of today, i was told via private message that sagada has already been experiencing shortage in water supply. with these number of people, i am afraid the locals will suffer. now there's your true devastation. sige, hugot pa.

Leave No Trace - outdoor ethics principles for tourists and travellers
Dagsaang mga turista nakakasira sa kapaligiran ng Sagada - an interview of ivan henares about visitors going to sagada
Save Sagada - a facebook page created by locals and sagada supporters to raise awareness about their town's devastation by unruly tourists
"Often, filmmaking in a place like Sagada, whether documentary or drama, is about trying to "capture" a place and sell the product for a target market. So "That thing" the film product, is sold to be consumed by the target market- youngish metropole consumers with the disposable income to go "Conquer Sagada" and have a weekend tryst with nature. However, "That thing" is also that product called Kiltepan, to be consumed by the target market whose yearnings for whatever they yearn has been tapped into by the film but who have no real relationship to Sagada except for the celluloid image. Typically, directors and producers do not make films for altruistic reasons but as "my art", for commercial consumption."  - a quote from a Sagadian from the Save Sagada Page

"As far back as i can remember, water has been a perrenial problem of Sagada so i would not be surprised if it becomes worse with the influx of tourists….water system is long gone and most of the houses have to find their own water source, by hosing water all the way from the rivers to their houses. Like the lack of long term plans for waste management, the problem of sustaining water supply in a systematic way, is a concern that the local government, year in and out, refuse to address." - a quote from the Safe Sagada Page

"here's the thing, what lit the surge for package tours to sagada? it's the demand from people but what lit the people's fire in going to sagada? and they just all went there unprepared blocking your streets, desecrating your churches, and invading your homes (as i've seen that some people opened their homes as homestay for people who can't be accommodated by the lodges).

sometimes, artists think their work only has a certain impact, as for this case, jadaone only meant to show the path to moving on and in that pathway, there was sagada and baguio. people have this natural tendency to covet in a sense that they want to experience what they see.

people in the comments blame the irresponsible tourists but we addressed them, "what lit their fire". irresponsible people have always been in existence. in the places i have traveled, especially in mindanao whose people are highly over-protective, they would often say, "when you visit again, only bring responsible people". it is selfish, yes. but when you see a beautiful place and you want to keep it hidden from the irresponsible people, then you will be. how many of you here stated you won't show your favorite sunrise place in sagada?

i have hidden so many places away from the blogsophere out of respect for the place and the locals that are living there but me ajnd a few friends still visit because they trust us. we have proven them that we can be trusted. i know i have that power and i have that reach because of the internet but i choose not to but if the locals tel that they need help, then i'll publish.

people say selfish because they want everything but after using, visiting, whatever, they won't take care of it. would you be generous enough to give information to these people? it has something that most explorers like us take into consideration. the movie may not be the sole reason for the influx of people but it has a large impact during last holy week's clusterfuckery."
- a quote from a supporter, Save Sagada.
note: i am enjoying reading the comments, good and bad. i am called SELFISH and PROUD but i take it as a compliment (sorry not sorry). as respect and as requested, i will filter them all. i will only publish comments that are leaning towards the sentiments of the sagada people. if you are going to post comments that are negative and disrespectful for the sagada locals, don't do it. i'll automatically delete them moving forward.

some sort of TL/DR/note for all the replies i have received: 

please read That place called Sagada: Residents and travel advocates ask tourists not to visit this Holy Week

"“For the past two weeks, I had to personally fetch water from the spring every night. This spring source is shared by 15 households for our village which is covered by Poblacion – the municipality that is covered by the area of hotels and inns,” she said.

Sagada was a “special destination,” and not for mass tourism, said Tourism Assistant Secretary Art Boncato in a phone interview with InterAksyon.com.

In areas such as this, “carrying capacity” must be respected. In fact, the DOT (Department of TOURISM) was not increasing its efforts to promote it to travelers. Tourism would have to take the backseat as environmental protection was the community and the DOT’s main concern."

another good read is Save Sagada, a facebook group dedicated to promoting responsible tourism in sagada. upon reading the threads in the page, i was disturbed by the remnants of the massive diaspora last holy week. to consolidate all their feedback in one post i have created LNT for tadhananers post which inclues LNT principles as well as photos and threads by locals sharing their heartaches.

"Since yesterday, the Sagada Tourism Information Center has recorded 3,000 tourists going inside Sumaguing Cave. The cave is now temporarily closed until the 300+ tourists currently inside (as of April 2 4 p.m.) have gone out the cave"

thanks to the Anonymous people for the links. these give me more grounding because it is a clear and distinct fact that sagada does not speak for itself. there's a reason why people flock there.

i've read the comments of most telling me to stop "blaming" the director because i am barking up the wrong tree. there are a few people who get the point. thank you. those who don't just makes my point stronger. click bait? yes, to get the message across. earning? no, i don't have adsense (a blessing). blame it on tourism? yes, we have been doing so for the longest time. other comments? i just laughed at them but i published them anyway.

here's a thought experiment for you all and this is pretty much a familiar one:

a bad president was voted and people blame the masses for the wrong choice. who are the masses? what kind of education have they all attained? if they are out of school, where are they getting their knowledge? who feeds them to vote the "wrong" person?

the problem is a lot of artists/creators think we're all passive voyeurs when in fact we're not. humans are reactive and perceptive and i know people will definitely react to this post. artists/creators' war cry have always been "i can do stuff i want, i don't give a damn" and sometimes with "art" as an excuse. they don't know the power of their creation unless they see how people move and, sometimes, that's a dangerous thing. case in point, the photo below. irresponsible people/"masa" will always be there. they, like you, are also mesmerised by the things they see and hear. it's not always their fault.

who/what sparked them? who/what lights their fire? no one gave me a definite answer.

dear director jadaone, 

i unapologise (if there is such a term) for the strong message in the following paragraphs. i have a moral responsibility to deliver it as sincerely as i can upon seeing the devastation that was caused by your film's hype. i haven't seen the movie thinking that it's going to be a typical filipino film; however, the moment i saw your trailer, me and my other environmentalist friends only have one thing in mind: "magagahasa to gaya ng anawangin." (this [place] will be raped like anawangin). the photo above just manifested our worst nightmare.

anawangin sunset
but what happened to anawangin? my first visit to anawangin was last 2005. it was a haven for those who seek solitude. turquoise blue waters that barely made any waves, pine trees, white ash on sand, no-fee-pitch-anywhere policy, bangkeros charging just gas fee. at night, fireflies swarm the place as if the stars are just within reach. you can sleep anywhere, even outside your tent. when you wake up, your personal belongings are still inside your tent while the sun bakes you to crisp because you woke up late from being too drunk last night. if you have problems with your family, with your work, and you want the cheapest place to hide to rejuvenate your energy, anawangin was part of the secret sanctuaries list with just a very low budget, a few cans of beer, and a tent. people who visited there were responsible. we made sure to keep the place pristine for other people to have their own moments.

the only footprints in the sand there were only ours
... until jessica soho and her band of media people came. 

the last time (definitely my last time for sure) i visited anawangin was 2009. bangkeros charged 1200 for a roundtrip, tent pitching fee was 150 per tent per day, there was a sari-sari store that sells soft drinks for high rates, there were police officers, there was noise polution, overcrowding, no more fireflies only flies, and my friend's phone was stolen inside his tent. it was an appalling experience.  there was a makeshift restroom which stench seethes for a huge amount of radius. we were even shocked to see that a sign was put up to inform people about discipline because the mass of visitors that went to anawangin no nothing about the principles of LNT (Leave No Trace) or any type of outdoor ethics.

no more liquor allowed because of the swarm of barbaric guests that invaded the once-called sanctuary
i have nothing against media people promoting tourism but the means they are promoting it is as if the place is just like SM where they can litter, loiter, and be the city people that they are. nothing about taking care of nature was incorporated in their segments. i doubt they talked to the barangays on how to properly regulate the amount of visitors (but people who are in charge of tourism in a specific area only count profit and we can only do so much to lecture them). 

humans are stewards of nature as appointed by the deities they worship (unless you worship the lords of destruction and you become their agents). we have a moral responsibility to take care of our environment for future generations to come. since i haven't seen the movie, i doubt you have shown LNT principles nor have talked to the tourism office on how they should manage the influx of visitors as a result of showing your film. instead, we have this devastation -- overcrowding. just look again at the photo below. 

how many people went outside trail just to stand on their spots? how many species of animals were displaced? how much trash do you think would be left after they're done with their "moments"? please read LNT principles. i was told that the story of the movie had the girl deciding to go to sagada at the spur of the moment. that is already the most dangerous suggestion to people -- anyone can always visit the place by bypassing the LGU/locals/DOT and that's their worst nightmare. sagada is a very peaceful place with a very low population. as ivan henares stated in this video, sagada only has 12000 residents. 4500 people per in sumaguing cave alone is way too much to handle. just imagine all the stress the locals' have been through when tourists blocked their roads to park their vehicles illegally but were shunned out of sheer disrespect. if movie directors can cleverly place product placements in their movies, even if the situation doesn't call for it (i.e. an unrealistic supply of corned beef a character's kitchen stash in a horror movie), i am pretty sure you can incorporate responsible travelling as well. you are a brilliant director, your awards prove it. you have a great influence over your fans but i hope you steer things in the right path.

i hate being the holier-than-thou white knight but i need to in stating my stand. when i visited mt. guiting guiting for the first time, i was told by the denr about a traverse trail. out of curiosity, i visited the place of sir remy robiso, whose backyard is the jump off of the traverse trail. i haven't taken photos of what his backyard was before but if you've only seen it, it had barb-wires and a sign which said, "bawal ang mga minero dito" (no miners allowed). judging from what i've seen, robiso is a hardcore environmentalist fighting against mining. the traverse trail was infested by illegal miners and something has to be done.

remy robiso
"that moment" at the summit of mt. guiting guiting

last 2009 (yes, 2009), me and a few friends collaborated with denr and sir robiso to re-open the trail. our goal was to get more tourist to visit the area to scare miners away. after our climb, we spread the itinerary to all mountaineering groups we know. when i visited mt. guiting guiting again for a solo climb in 2010, the barb-wires and the signage were gone. he built a house for resting mountaineers instead. the visitors have scared the illegal miners away. however, my job didn't end there. i visited the place every year for 6 years constantly reminding sir robiso and the first wave of guides about LNT. i have suggested a limit of 12-15 people per group, a mountaineer to guide ratio of 3:1, and a relaxed itinerary of 3-4 days. i have also encouraged mountaineers to give the guide's association their extra gear. 

this is just a small thing a small person can do. it's been a while since i last visited sibuyan so i'm only hoping for the hopeful that they've sustained what we have started. you, ms. jadaone, with a very high influence in philippine media and perhaps a high profit from your movie can surpass what i have done. as what f.sionil jose wrote, "... artists in our time have a duty to make this nation and people ethical." since the damage has been done, i am requesting you to go back to sagada tourism and initiate a continuous improvement project to prevent the same devastation of nature again. it is not enough that you have shown the world how beautiful our country is. mother nature is not a slut you just simply pimp to get profit from. she is your mother, your mother's mother, and the mothers' before them. since you have worked with star cinema/cinema one/abs-cbn, you may collaborate with ms. gina lopez as she did a stellar job in promoting tourism in sibuyan. 

truth be told that i haven't visited sagada yet. our vehicle only passed by. i hope that when the time comes that i get to visit the place, i could also call it paradise and have my own introverted moments.

please help us take care of her.

a small person who loves nature

March 12, 2015

climbing halcon the legal way

DISCLAIMER: please be advised that mt halcon is a major climb and is one of the country's toughest mountains to climb. hiking mt halcon is not a walk in the park. if you wish to climb this mountain, you need to be physically prepared.

TL/DR: mt halcon is open for climbing from february 1 to may 31 of each year only. please secure your permits and book your schedules with the baco tourism office. say no to ninja fixers!  if anyone from the tourism meeting which was held today reads this, please feel free to message me re any clarifications or errors posted.

sunrise view from supercat ferry
i rarely post in social media where i am going until i reveal my photos. however, this case is different.  there have been some online gossip circling around facebook that mt halcon is closed... for good and a few "privileged" people are getting access to climb backdoor, a.k.a. "ninja moves". having been informed previously by some trusted mountaineer friends that the mountain is legitimately open, i gambled time on visiting mindoro to know the true status of that mountain. 


it was synchronisity at its finest when you're seeking for information and the right people are there. just a while ago, the baco tourism, barangay captains with jurisdictions near halcon, the mangyan presidents of mountaineering guides and porters, and a few mountaineer representatives (mostly from halcon mountaineering society a.k.a. halms). they had an intense 3-hour meeting about the new laws on mountaineering to be effective immediately. i was informed by belen jardinero, barangay captain of dulangan III that amendments had to be done hoping for the hopeful that the illegal climbs would be stopped. quoting jardinero, "para rin 'to sa safety ng mga mountaineers" (this is for the safety of mountaineers) and i am overjoyed that they are doing such measures for us. two people have already died in halcon and they don't want another death in their record. after giving me a gist of what they have discussed inside the meeting room, they gave me a copy of the amended laws. i asked capt. jardinero if i can share this information via internet and she and the tourism team gave me green lights and, of course, our slots :} and yes, without further delay, the new rules (i apologise as this is only in tagalog. i will give a brief summary in the next paragraphs).

basically, the general rules of the new laws are (take note of the items emphasized):
  1. mt halcon is open for climbing from february 1 to may 31 of each year only. this is for everyone's safety since the said months are part of the dry season in ph when typhoons are less likely to visit. they will only allow climbing off season if there is a valid reason (i.e. rescue/recovery ops, and other critical situations).
  2. there are two legitimate jump-off points: lantuyang and bayanan. you cannot pick where you want to stay. the tourism determines where your entry point is to give fair share of funds to both mangyan tribes residing in each place.
  3. medical certificate and any climbing training certifications are one of the pre-requisites for one to get a permit.
  4. 7:1 is the ratio of mountaineers to guides/porters. if you are 8 in the team, you will have 2 guides/porters. you can also have as many guides/porters as you want. just coordinate with the tourism officer.
  5. climbers and guides/porters will have a load limit of 15 kg per head. this is due to the complaint of the guides/porters who were loaded by their guests up to 50 kg packs of mostly mountaineers' personal belongings and group provisions. as i've said before, you choose to climb, you train to carry your own load and stop slaving other people! if you're not fit enough to load yourself, shell out money for another guide. if you don't want to spend extra cash or carry heavy loads, you've chosen the wrong hobby.
  6. in relation to #5, the tourism officer will inspect your items. they will check your items for potential trash so you need to surrender your trash bags at the tourism office. they will dispose your trash to make sure you won't leave them somewhere in the bushes or anywhere in the trail.
  7. in relation to #6 and 7, dropping by the tourism office and the police station is mandatory as they will weigh your bags. moreover, they need to see the members of your team and confirm their identities. 
  8. in relation to #7, you need to provide your personal information to the attending tourism officer. you will have to leave a valid i.d. at the tourism office before you climb then claim it to log out.
  9. maximum number of days to climb halcon is 4.
  10. after the climb, you need to give tourism the following: photos and videos of the climb, climb report, and your comments and suggestions to improve baco tourism
  11. you need to personally drop or send via courier your letter of intent to climb mt halcon, which includes the target dates of your climb and the complete names of the members of your team
the fixers

let me get this straight that i am not a white knight nor holier-than-thou but i am just one of them people who were denied information and are relentlessly pursuing for the truth. those who have been following my blog pretty well know how our so-called "legal" climb ended and i don't want it to happen again to myself and to others. 

mt halcon was closed for quite a long time and the closure has compelled other people to craft ways on still regularly climbing and earning from it while remaining invisible to the lgu's for years. a few people in facebook claim they have "special connections" and can "ninja move" their way to the summit. moreover, they will tell you the following (based on my and other people's experience):

  • mt halcon is closed. the lgu's are only giving a few trusted people permits to climb and they are the special trusted ones.
  • that the denr/pasu and tourism put on so much red tape, which are very much costly for the mountaineers, so they'll make things easier for you. 
  • they only allow a minimum of 20 people to get a permit which costs 1500.00 PHP. 
  • inclusive of the 20 pax minimum permit, there's a default 6 porter/guides which you will have to pay even if you are only 7 people in the team. 

LEGAL: minsan asawa, bihira akyat
they will let you in their team but after numerous discriminatory and "palakasan" level of filters. after which, they'll charge you an exorbitant amount just to step on the coveted dive board. prices can go as high as 3500.00 to 4000.00 PHP per head for those who are really eager to complete their philippine mountaineering bucket list. and because the fixers want to accommodate many, the repercussions are unorganised climbs which sometimes put their clients' lives at risk. clients just keep the fiasco to themselves because, after all, they joined an illegal climb and can't complain.

ergo, don't be fooled. if you were, like me, just charge it to experience and thank heaven and hell that you are still alive.


one thing's for sure: climbing mt halcon, especially with many buddies, is cheap. let's assume we're in a climb of 20 people with a 4 day itinerary, compute for the individual cost with the following rates in PHP:

that thing called "gastos"
bus (round trip) = 270.00 to 334.00 depends on where you are coming from
permit fee = 375.00 per head
supercat roundtrip tickets = 250.00 (highest price)
batangas terminal fee = 30.00
mindoro terminal fee = 20.00
jeepney rental (round trip) = 2500.00 (or 3000.00 if you want to go to puerto galera after)
food = depends on you
guides/porters = 6000 (3pax for 4 days)

done? so if someone's organizing a climb and they are charging you 3500.00 for a team of 20+ without your  own personal guide (not team guide), insurance, freebies (shirt, id, etc), set meals (not canned good meals ffs!), and side trip; and the organizing team is not even a registered travel agency at department of tourism, there's something gravely wrong. ninja fixers take advantage of organising climbs for business because mindoro is far from manila and the tourism office staff rarely browse social media to provide essential information about the climb. ninja fixers and other participants keep this information clandestine to keep the money coming.

criticisms on the new law

although it's nice for them to share us the new laws on climbing mt halcon, here are my criticisms which i gave as feedback to the tourism officer:

  1. 7:1 is an unfair ratio for the guides - sure the tourism officers will weigh the mountaineers' bags and probably seal the bags of the guides. however, during the climb proper, one thing could most likely happen: mr guide softens up and asks for more load from mountaineers. of course, abusive mountaineers would want that and there's 7 people within 1 guide/porter's scope, the guide will have so much to carry.
  2. 7:1 is a dangerous ratio for the guides - i had my friend blogger lagataw post the new laws as well and he pointed out the same concern that the guides cannot fully supervise all 7 people probably losing their order in the trail. the 7 mountaineers are strangers to him so he wouldn't know which ones are his or another guide's.
  3. too much inspection prior to climb - i'm ok with sighting confirmation of member credentials and weighing bags but inspecting each item inside each person's bag is too much. this will be a huge delay in every itinerary's day 1. those who have not researched about this will have problems especially if they only have filed for exact number of leaves for the climb.
  4. indeterminate turnaround time for requested documents - after the climb they're requiring you to give the photos and/or videos, as well ask a climb report. that's no biggie since in every climb, the team scribe documents the climb. however, they haven't determined yet if you're going to turn over the documents right then and there or after a certain time period.
  5. tourism determining your entry point - this is a bit difficult especially if you want to rest for a night before climbing rather than going straight ahead to camp. climbers will definitely need a whole day prior to their climb to get settled considering the tourism visits.
  6. 200 pax cap - 200 is such a huge number of people! one reason why you need to turn over trash is to ensure that there are no garbage left in the mountains. actually, if they don't want too much garbage in the mountains, they should lessen the cap to only 20 per day.
  7. they are trying to formalize the climb process but there are no preventive measures against fixers bringing people to mindoro - the thing is, fixers bring in people during off-season. so i told them that they should have a tourism representative to check the people entering the city via the port. once they spot someone or a group with an overhead pack, they should immediately ask for credentials and escort them to the tourism office. the truth is, they really can't prevent illegal climbs with just an elaborate system of filing for permits. fixers already have contacts at their preferred entry points already that most of the time they are not asked for any kind of permit. apparently, they do not have a tourism desk at the port informing people where to go and recording their visitors unlike guimaras. if they have an attending tourism officer at the port, right then and there they would know if the mountaineers are trespassers.
  8. tree planting - i asked when, where, and if they're going to organize one but got no answer yet. i am also not sure if the species of the trees mentioned are indigenous to mindoro/mt halcon or wherever they're planting it.
wrap up

we got our slots.. legally :} the procedures may be tedious and for sure there will be issues on our climb days but as i foresee it, it's not something as the disaster we had with our previous hosts.

i hope this post helped you in clarifying some issues as well as planning your next adventure. i cannot promise to answer all questions as i was only oriented of the new rules. you may contact the baco tourism office for further concerns.

January 24, 2015

it's time for you to rest my dear friend :)

yes, i made "the switch". 

i finally accepted the fact that my old camera already needs to retire. 35 mountains and over a hundred destinations in the philippines and abroad with my oly is hard to let go. the camera already became a part of me. i never though i would be too attached to an item. i placed it together with my books in my mini library just as how my father glorified his very old om-d.

our new pair of eyes is a canon 5d mark 2 with a 24-70mm f/2.8mm mark 2 lens. it hurt our budget but it came to a point where the demands of business calls for high end gear. i am now a full-time artist getting paid to do the two things i love doing -- writing and photography. this means a closer bond with the husband.

the new gear is heavy and not as light and compact as my old oly. i still see myself buying an om-d just for traveling but for now, i will have this gear continue where my old oly left.

i am surfer stoke to build a new future with this one. for the mean time, enjoy the following test shots from the new camera. photos were taken from my mentor's house.