2011 in review: travel and adventure

my life as a lonely traveler began, rather inauspiciously, in 2002, shortly after the bar and immediately after starting work at a powerhouse law firm, when a mapped-out visit to sagada became a solo trip because two of my companions backed out, very suddenly, on the day of our supposed departure. the following day, i received text messages from both of them, one asking what i had planned to do for the day, and the other asking if i had pushed through with the trip. by that time, i had already met someone at the bus station -- also a solo traveler -- who confessed to me some hours later, that he smoked weed. as long as you don't turn into a murderous junkie, i said, i wouldn't mind sharing a room with you.

towards the end of this year, i will be marking 10 years of travel and adventure, both shared and enjoyed on my lonesome. why i have started so late can be easily explained: i was in school and wrapped up in review classes up until the end of september 2002, and although there were some trips in between (conferences to davao or cebu, a visiting student fellowship to singapore, a trip to puerto galera just after law school graduation), i really couldn't say i was a traveler, at least not after i became gainfully employed. this is a burden i share with many others: that although our true calling is to travel the world and write about it, the reality remains that its pursuit is an excess we cannot afford without having to slave ourselves to our day jobs. unless i whore myself out as an online catalogue that publishes praise for business establishments that pay for my trips and accommodation (i.e., professional travel blogger), there is no way i can write about travel and adventure objectively and independently.

so having to work on most days, and indulging in my peripatetic passions only on long weekends and the industry-standard 15 days of vacation leaves i am allowed, have rewarded me with a select number of destinations. while 2011 wasn't necessarily a banner year for my peregrinations -- save for three or four adventures that will be remembered for a long time -- i did get to strike out on my own and with others on some very interesting journeys. not surprisingly, i list 11 of them here in random order:

  1. japan

  2. i went to japan in late march until early april, just as the colors of the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom. why i had not blogged about it is not a mystery: the trip had so overwhelmed me that i could not sit down and pick out which experiences i should write about: the onsen visits that made me blush, the expensive izakayas and ramen houses, the lightning fast trains, the discombobulating subway system, the crazy costumes, the toys, the temples and buildings of historical importance... i did manage to get started on an entry and write down a few paragraphs, which i reproduce below:

    perhaps i should have paid more attention to brian while he demonstrated the proper way to carry a sword in a non-threatening manner. we had just returned from a whole day of walking at akihabara, looking for gyaru, but finding only very shy girls in colorful if not eccentric french maid uniforms handing out flyers and turning away when i trained my camera on them, and he was happy with my acquisition, although he complained about its balance and its odd length. if only security guards in the philippines were as knowledgeable about japanese swords as brian, then i wouldn't have had to go through the litany of explanations i've repeated since the onset of the rainy season. no, it's not a sword, it's an umbrella. and still, i am always asked to unsheathe it. of course, it's all the attention i do not crave: suspicion's gaze is a heavy burden, and i don't appreciate a pair of eyes following me worried i might go ballistic and run amok in a public place, slashing and dicing. the worst i could do, really, with my souvenir parasol, is give myself bad luck.

    the umbrella disguised as a katana is one of the few tangible things that i brought home with me from my recent visit to japan. i did not manage to buy many things there -- never before in my recent life as a gainfully-employed member of the bar did i ever feel so financially inept, that i managed to forget all about giving away cute little things one might find in all these cute little japanese boutiques. i was hoping a box each of wasabi, sakura, and green tea-flavored kit kat would satisfy my friends, and keep them focused while i talked about my journey through the land of the rising sun. which is a bit of an oxymoron in my case, because in all of my 11 days in this cosmopolitan nation, i never once saw the sun rising. but then again, i did see a lot of other things.

    i arrived in kansai international airport late in the evening. brian was going to meet me outside the train station in kyoto, which was about 80 minutes away via a rapid train service. i purchased a 3-day pass, boarded my first hi-speed train, and took an express trip from osaka to japan's old capital. it was the blackest night, but i did see many lights streaking across my window. i was trying to figure out everything based on my traveler's instincts. there had been little or no english translations since i arrived, and i had to deduce where i had to go, where i had to sit, and where i was supposed to get off.

    i suppose i will find time to write about my trip to japan, hopefully before i return there. because although i've never felt more poor in any other country, it is a feeling i wouldn't mind if it meant being in japan again.

  3. batanes

  4. it was immediately after my first visit to batanes in the holy week of 2004 that i entertained thoughts of becoming a full-time travel writer. i wrote an essay on that trip, which some very accomplished writers described as deserving of a spot in the national geographic. in fact, my editor compared my writing to pico iyer, who until then i had neither heard of nor read. but the compliments did get to me and i decided to quit lawyering altogether to pursue what i wanted. but it turned out to be less lucrative than i imagined, so much so that i had to deprive myself of these little trips, so i quickly returned to the world of the gainfully-employed. since then, i have returned to batanes twice, and on both occasions, managed to return with original essays. needless to say, each experience has become so unique and so different, that it was almost as if i had visited different versions of the islands each time.

    in my last trip to batanes, i finally got to visit itbayat, and with it completed my tour of its three major islands. someone asked me recently whether i would venture so far north of the philippines again, and my knee-jerk reaction was: perhaps not. there are still far too many islands in the rest of this blessed archipelago that deserve at least one visit, and many more asking for a return. but then again, that was exactly the same thing i said on my second visit. perhaps i am lucky that way: while others are resigned to a fate of never going beyond planning a batanes itinerary, all my trips to batanes have been consummated with helpings of fantastic memories on tempestuous waters and undulating plains.

  5. bagasbas

  6. some of us keep returning to the same places we've already visited for a variety of reasons: the feelings they invoke, the memories they rekindle. whatever it is, i find myself going back to bagasbas specifically on the weekend of the summer surf festival organized by joey cuerdo. during the last festival, he invited me to take the stage to share why i keep coming back, but rather out of character, i declined and just reveled in the beer and the beat. i haven't gotten better at surfing, but my threshold for beer has significantly improved that i actually outdrank two germans and a russian.

  7. mount mantalingahan

  8. my entry on the induction climb isn't even a month old so i have nothing much to add, except that my two climbs to this mysterious and misunderstood mountain have endowed me with both humility and pride, that there is hint of haughty modesty in my story, in how i managed to rise above my own perceived weakness while admitting that i was too eager to surrender to it too quickly. i suffered four subungual hematomas after my first climb to mount mantalingahan, which is about the same number of toenails i lost in the last eight years that i've been climbing.

  9. kalibo

  10. i had to wait an entire year to return to kalibo after i canceled my first trip in favor of a close friend's wedding. i've always been a fiesta man, and following my ati-atihan experience, i just knew that i would keep returning to kalibo to dance on its streets and accept suspect liquids from strangers. i'm also rather keen on wearing a costume for the festival, because i'll be going back in two weeks.

  11. boracay

  12. i was in boracay twice last year: immediately after ati-atihan and the day following cris's wedding in roxas city. on neither visit did i return with a good photo: on the first i was too hungover, and on the second i was close to being sent to the hospital for a stomach flu having eaten too many oysters that have apparently not been cleaned too well. come to think of it, i do not exactly know how to experience boracay any more than the first-time traveler overwhelmed by its sensory delights. i no longer think of it as an island paradise of leaning coconut trees, where an endless stretch of powdery white sand tickle my bare feet. i just think of it as a party on the beach. which is a pity, because despite the looming environmental crisis that threatens to destroy its fragile ecosystem and ruin its tourism capital, it is actually a nice place to enjoy a lazy, relaxing weekend, sipping on a tall, cold glass of fruit shake while getting a tan.

  13. singapore

  14. i keep going back to singapore for one reason: because it's so accessible and i have enough friends there to expect that i would actually have a place to stay for free. last year, i went again to singapore in order to run my third standard chartered half-marathon, and while i did finish, i decided not to blog about it (not as yet) because of my terrible time. i did, however, surprise myself with the fact that i managed to refuse the temptation to spend. in fact, the reason why my 2011 was rather lean on travels was precisely this: after japan, i realized how much money i would have saved if i trimmed my wings a little.

  15. AMCI open climbs

  16. last year i organized two open climbs and introduced non-members to "the AMCI way". i also managed to recruit a few people to join the BMC training, and three of them got inducted. i couldn't be happier. in this generation where my club makes membership ever more difficult, the alternative -- joining an informal group where showing up for a climb is all that's necessary to get regularly invited, without however the requisite sharing of knowledge and skills necessary in mountaineering -- seems rather inviting. we are aware of the shortcuts to membership other organizations offer, which is all the more reason we keep to our rigorous regimen. it's what makes us different, what makes us better.

  17. marinduque

  18. i only agreed to participating in last year's big brother big sister program because i've never been to marinduque. unfortunately, although we did spend one extra night there because of the typhoon which canceled trips back to lucena, i did not manage to see much of it outside what the itinerary through its central spine of mountains offered. i have heard of beaches and secret coves in this drop of land wedged between quezon and mindoro oriental, but i didn't see any of that. i imagine going back during the moriones, perhaps, since i'm eager to complete my festival series, but my holy weeks are always filled. maybe one day i'll get to see more of marinduque, and by that i don't mean just being at bellaroca.

  19. crystal beach

  20. i was actually at crystal beach twice last year: the first to accompany my friends glenn and jason, and then again for the AMCI anniversary weekend. i have never been there previous to those two trips, and it's a pity because it is a nice, accessible place to get very wasted in.

  21. climbing with the storm chasers

  22. i joined three training climbs for this year's BMC, not counting the one which we aborted due to a typhoon that sent the mountainside hurtling onto the only highway that connected kibungan to the rest of benguet. all these climbs were marked by foul weather; or at least the forecast in all of them was bad. nagsasa's wild horse creek became deranged after patches of rain that poured on the surrounding mountains converged to be flushed out onto the sea. it didn't rain during TC2, which would have turned the mountain into a monster. i am almost afraid to imagine how the river would have looked like if the clouds let lose the buckets of rain they held on to precariously. and i began to entertain thoughts about the batch chasing storms when after the kibungan climb was aborted, the one organized to replace it also suffered its own wild weather turns. our day 2 on the mount ugo was visited by a storm signal number 2, which reduced visibility to as little as 50 meters, sent branches of pine trees falling, and fired down with cold, horizontal rain. in sharp contrast, there was almost no rain during the induction climb in mount mantalingahan.

thighs and legs
i get excited everytime i see that you have a new entry. well, i dont really read your blog, oh well i sort of read it. oh well let me cut to the chase. i hope everytime that i will get to see your sexy legs and thighs .(i am serious) ... ( i do not mean to make bastos.( i hope comments do not automatically get approved) good luck to your travels and adventures. (gay guy po ako)... huag mo ako trace ha. :)
Is it just me or you went to Japan and didn't climb Mt. Fuji?
you're absolutely right, i did not climb mt. fuji. it wasn't at all part of the itinerary.