From T2N Take Two To The Falls Run in Bataan

After emerging victorious at TNF100 2016 with bruised knees, I set my eyes on conquering the 10th Tagaytay to Nasugbu held in May 8, 2016. I already ran in the Tagaytay to Nasugbu in 2014 when it still held two events in a year one in May and another in December. The one I happened to participate before was the 8th T2N, held in a much cooler month of December. This was the last time T2N was held twice in a year and in December. Finishing T2N then gave me a lot of confidence since this was my first time to run under the event of Bald Runner who is known to organized badass run events. Finishing the 10th T2N now when the temperature is searing hot would be a true test of mettle.

 

I thought having survived the hot temperature in the events Batoq 66 and Mayon 360 I would be quite formidable and invincible to the whim of the prevailing surge of temperature brought about by the El Niño. But what had embraced me in the 10th T2N almost brought me down to my knees. Speaking of knee, another thing that almost played a spoiler role in my quest was the bruised left knee I incurred at TNF100. My left knee had swollen and because of it I had difficulty bending my left leg. Thus hampering my walking and with a slightest touch my left knee exploded with pain. It seem that missing T2N was almost at hand and I was willing to accept it. After all my registration to T2N comes from offsetting my previous registration at 5th Fort Magsaysay to Dingalan 65k Ultramarathon an event from last year which was canceled due to typhoon. I planned before to have my registration transfer instead to Mariveles to Bagac the newest run event of BR but the scheduled initially coincided with Mayon 360 and so I decided to transfer the earlier registration to Tagaytay to Nasugbu. It seemed that I would be transferring once again my registration to another event or completely abandoned any thought of claiming offset. By Thursday however, the swelling had disappeared and I was even able to run a short distance though my left knee still hurts a bit.

 

On the day I was boarding the service van, I learned that Shiella the Shuttle service provider, was also running the 10th T2N. This was to be her first ultramarathon. She was converting the van into a support vehicle that would provide hydration at the 25th kilometers and the 46th kilometers. I was volunteering to act as support crew in the occasion I was not able to get a race bib for this event. However, the God of Running was generous with me, I got my race bib and was sure set to run T2N after all. This year the number of participants had shot up to 197. Many of the participants were probably running T2N as part of the requirement for running the 102k and 160k Bataan Death March. As a consequence of this sudden swelling of number of participants there weren’t enough Finisher Medals and Finisher shirts during the event and would have to be distributed later as I experienced in the 8th T2N when runners from the Milo National Marathon upon its postponement due to typhoon registered on site at T2N.

 

In this year’s T2N I saw more familiar faces than I had when I ran in the 8th T2N. This means many of my acquaintances will be running the BDM. Add this to last year’s finishers of BDM many of which were my running acquaintances. It is now becoming clear that most of the people I previously run with had already run the BDM. I am the only one that had been skirting the BDM. Should I feel any pressure? Among those who run in this year’s T2N were Peewee who is becoming a much stronger runner than the first time I knew him, Rob and Speedy Turtle who I ran with in Batoq 66 and Mayon 360. Tina the barefoot queen was also seeing action. So does mang Mando whom I ran with in 3rd Cavinti Trail run upgraded to ultramarathon. Another runners from Mayon 360 were Jhon of Team hero and Elmar another barefooted runner running this time with his five finger Vibram.

 

At gun start I tested the water whether my left leg can handle the task. I felt like there was a stopper lodged at my knee and could only extend it to a certain length. I was moving terribly slow. However after perhaps about two kilometers along Tagaytay-Calamba Road and then hitting the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road, I forgot about what was hampering my left knee. I could run a bit faster though I chose not to tackle the uphill like I did in the 8th T2N. A new concern arose. This time my stomach was acting up and I was in need to take number 2. I tried to endure it for a moment and focus on trying to catch up with everyone I knew including my van mate Dana a finisher of BDM in spite of having run just a couple of 50k ultra. She was a moment ago just running along side of me before she sped away and was gone from my sight. Day light came quite quickly. I remember from my 8th T2N that when I was passing by Mendez and Alfonso the surrounding then was still dimly lit. Now the sun was already beaming when I was passing along Twin Lakes, which was probably around 18 kilometers.

 

One indication that I was probably at the last portion of the queue of runners was when I saw Elmar passed me by while I was tucking my reflectorized vest and headlamp inside my hydration vest. In two races I saw him, he usually finish last. Another indication was my not being able to catch a glimpse of Shiella our Van provider. One of my co-shuttle Van User told me she was ahead of us being paced by another van mate. Finally, I sighted a gas station lying along the left side of the road that I can use to dispense myself of my troubles. As a rule of BR runners cannot cross the right side of the road for whatever reason. Seeking for gas station, which normally has toilet lying on the left side of the road along Tagaytay-Nasugbu was not easy since at the left side of the road was usually lies ravine. Upon reaching the 25th kilometer along Batulao Sandari area the sun was already scorching. This would be the norm all through out the route. I kind of envy those with support vehicles since they have unlimited hydration and refreshments while on my part I contended myself with what was on my back and what I could buy along the route. Bottled water was the most difficult to come by along the stores lining up the road. While those selling coconuts were usually found at the right side of the road. I survived on soda, “ice-water” or premature frozen water and sometime from the generosity of the other support vehicles, which extended whatever they can from fruits, water to sponge bath. The traffic of the incoming vehicle was as it was before which was frequent and unforgiving that was why I usually ended up running along the shoulder of the road ala trail running. The heat had really dampened my stamina and so I could only do a lot of zombie like walking. I was not however, falling far behind for I could still see ahead of me runners, which I could have easily overtaken if the heat hadn’t taken a toll on me. But from a couple of support crew I had spoken with there weren’t many at may tail and I was not far from ending up like how I finished from the couple of BR events I participated with after the 8th T2N, which was usually near the last runner to cross the finish line before the cut off time. In the end I managed to prevail finishing the race with a time of eight hours and thirty minutes. I managed to finish with a rank of 167th out of 188 who finished the race.

A week after Tagaytay To Nasugbu on May 15, 2016, I was thinking that after TNF100 I had enough of trail running for a while. But the trail leading to Pasukulan Falls in Pag-Asa, Tala, Orani, Bataan was beckoning me. I was actually trying to set foothold in Bataan through running so that I can add Bataan among the provinces I was able to run in. Although previously I was able to run in Camaya Coast located in Mariveles, it was more of a beach and trail at the fringes of Bataan. I wanted to have a longer line of road from Mariveles in absence of what running at the 102 kilometers Bataan Death March Ultramarathon could provide. The event 1st Mountain View Road to Trail Run was just one of the way to induct me to the other portions of Bataan.

 

1st Mountain View Road to Trail was a 26 kilometers run event that started from St. Joseph Bakhita Parish Church. On the way runners passed by Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park, which is located about 1.5 kilometers from the staring line. This was where the concrete road ended and the trail began with steep uphill, which the 36 participants tackled, some like Ricky Runner and Tatay Caesar strongly other like RDF and I leisurely. Along the route in front one had a command view of Mt. Natib with clouds hovering on top of the mountain. One could also espied at the rear portion of the route the majestic Mt. Arayat towering above the sea of clouds while Morong lies at the eastern portion with the sea feeding Subic’s coastline. Trekkers usually traverse the trail from Morong to Mt. Natib. At about 4 kilometers was AS1, which featured Binutas View Deck. After that it was mostly wooded and light foliaged area along the route until Pasukulan Falls. From the moment RDF and I touched the trail I was bit careful with my steps. Whereas before when I was first time running the trail I was usually running without much care at the ground I stepped upon, nowadays I was careful. This was since a couple of trail events when I noticed I easily trip and quite often on rough surface especially when I am already tired. Someone told me I had problem with proper balancing. I almost avoided trail run events because of these but I still dream of running some of Jonel Mendoza’s trail events and I still have to do my revenge run on Mt. Ugo before thinking of retiring from any trail running.

 

Mountain View was not actually one of the most difficult trail events though it has a fair share of challenging uphill and downhill that I was not spared from my usual fare of falling off my butt along the route. There were quite a number of river crossings with one dried that almost looks similar to the one that had me losing my way at Pico De Loro. Some were just a bit of a puddle of muck. I was seemingly off my elements when crossing two of the shallower rivers where I still managed to find my foot slipping off the rock or missing the rock completely and landing squarely on the water. At about 3 hours since gun start several runners had already passed us by returning from the fall. I had hoped since Ricky Runner and Tatay Ceasar had passed us by that the u-turn was just a little less than two kilometers away and the other runners were just having time swimming at the waters around the fall. So that we could level a bit the time between us by just making a quick stop at the U-turn. Finally we heard the unmistakable sound of water falling and voices of people probably taking a swim. We were nearing the U-turn of the race and it look like our target time of finishing the race before 12 noon was indeed achievable. But before we could finally reach Pasukulan we had to climb down a steep slope whose foothold had gotten so loose and powdery that one might easily slip all the way down. Aided by a lone vine I rappelled down. RDF who was in front of me disappeared to which I thought he just simply dashed off. When I reached where a marshal was waiting for the incoming runners, RDF was still nowhere to be found. I thought he might have gotten lost along the way, which was impossible for the path was straightforward. After a couple of photograph session with the falls at the background, I was settling down to take a rest when RDF appeared. It turned out he took a #2 somewhere. Some runners who had came in earlier and had just finished taking a bath at the cold waters of Pasukulan were getting ready to take the trail again. Among them was the Greeneye Runner whose troll hair or wig is the one that is actually green. After a couple of photo ops with them they left. RDF wanted to move closer down the water of the falls but I relented for I wanted to leave immediately. Then those three runners trailing behind us suddenly made their appearance. This was our cue to leave in spite the desire of RDF to take a dip on the water. The need to avoid finishing last was much stronger especially those who were trailing behind us were a married couple and a local runner who had gotten slow after we overtook him after AS 2. On the way back a couple of long steep uphill met us that had me huffing and puffing. But my TNF 100 experience was able to sustain our assault. Then mostly downhill to a more leveled path, which kind of made the rest of our trip less eventful. At AS1 the three runners behind us was almost closing in on us so once again we dashed off. Finally we were on the concrete downhill portion of the race. With a time of 6 hours and 30 minutes we finished the racecourse but not before the 3 runners we thought were the last runners behind us overtook us at the last 2 kilometers. We could not summon enough strength to catch up and therefore was not able to salvage our pride. However a hot Lomi meal after the race was almost enough to assuage our bittersweet finish.

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Run Away from the Usual Topic

There is a saying that all tales are but one tale told separately, differently and profitably. Here is the one tale that will tell it all. The tale where all the other tales originate. Retold in its most pristine and unadulterated version.

The Chronicles of the Games Off Thrown and the Rise of the Dark Knight

I

Previously…Once upon a time the whole seven kingdoms of Westeros finally came under one king. The king ruled the seven kingdoms wisely and peacefully together with his lovely queen who bore him the prettiest and fairest princess of the land. Her name is Kristen Stewart nicknamed Snow White for she is white as snow and somewhat as placid as ice.

One day the king, the queen and the princess were on their way to watch a performance by the travelling theater band by the bard Sir William Shakespeares when the entourage was attacked by robbers. The king in an attempt to save the princess tried to cover her from one of the attackers by shielding her with his body and took the brunt of the knife. The queen saw that the attacker was attempting to stab the king once more, pushes the king away and took the stab herself. The knife hit her vital organ, a pipe organ bought at Las Pinas, which fell on her and killed her instantly. The robbery was foiled. But the death of the queen had a devastating result to the king. He became sad and remorseful. One day news of an uprising reached the king. Without thinking about the welfare of his kingdom if ever he is slain, he led an attack on the rebels. They successfully crashed the rebels.  In one of the carriage that the rebels were carrying along, the king rescued Cersei Lannister of the Casterly Rock. Loneliness made the king saw love in her presence. So upon bringing her back to the castle to recover from her travails under the hands of the rebel, the king proposes  and the next day the king weds her.

II

On the 12th of the nameday of Kristen Stewart she had an urged to climb one of the old and abandoned tower of the castle. She remembered how the butcher’s son Peter Parker taught her to scale the walls very well that she could actually climb the wall even with her eyes close. At about the 4th storey high Kristen Stewart heard voices in one of the window of the tower. When she peeked inside, she saw Cersei with his brother Jaime Lannister the dragonslayer (see the 1980’s movie of the same title), playing a kind of horse back that Cersei seem to not want to play but want to play at the same time. But when Cersei saw Kristen Stewart watching them, Cersei screamed. Soon Jaime was running toward Kristen with his hodor swaying like an enraged elephant trunk. Kristen Stewart for some reason felt she should fled the scene, leapt into the air forgetting that it was another game that she was playing when she pretended to be a bat. She tried to flap her arms but she could not fly. She tried to reach in at her utility belt but all she could get from it are some strings and umbrellas. She was almost near the ground when she hit upon what appears to be webbings. Then she saw someone went through the bushes. After getting off the web net she tried to follow the rustlings among the bushes without noticing a gaping hole in the ground. She fell in. it was a rabbit hole.    When she hit the ground she caught the profile of a rabbit running away. She gave chase until she reached upon a giant room and in the middle of the room was a wardrobe closet. When Kristen peeked inside she saw inside the wardrobe closet were coats. Kristen Stewart heard voices outside the room with one saying “off with her head”. Thinking it might be her head that the chasers were running after she went inside the wardrobe closet. She found out it was much roomier inside.  So she pushes herself further inside which goes on and on. She tried to reach for the other end of the wardrobe closet. At first she walked. Then she ran but still she could not reach the end of it still. She must have run for hours until finally at the end she saw another door. She peeked at the other side of the door. It led to a snowy forest. She was tired and hungry from all those running away, it was not long until she saw a ginger house. She bit in on the door, then at a window. She was half way eating the wall when she saw that there are beddings inside. She tried to lie down on one but it broke easily. She tried on the next until all six were reduce to crumbs. Only one remained. She tried slipping on its mattress and it did not break under her weight. She suddenly find herself ebbing away to slumber. Dreaming of Johnny Depp having tea with her.

III

 Tyrion Lannister who live in the gingerbread house along with six other dwarves who once held seven powerful ring forged by Sauron saw who was responsible for the destruction of the beds. Kristen Stewart Snow white all fair and white was lying on the only remaining bed.  Tyrion Lannister the banished brother of Cersei who had never yet set an eye on Kristen Stewart, his half sister was smittened with the young princes.  Thus it came to past how Kristen Stewart nicknamed Snow White came to live with the seven dwarves until she came of age and became a rival to the iron throne upon the king’s mysterious accident when he fell inside a box and the box got buried underground.

The witty Tyrion Lannister was trying to have a conversation with now 24th name’s day old Kristen Stewart who just seem to smile with every words he had spoken but never said much beyond that. Tryion was thinking that maybe it was high time to tell her his true feelings for her. He had already sent his sister a raven telling her that he will soon be going home to Kings Landing to be reunited with his sister and brother towing with him a girl whom he will wed. He has no doubt that his sister will like her because after all she was fairest of all seven kingdom.

When Cersei got the raven that Tyrion sent and the raven spoken Tyrion’s message, she realized that the step daughter Kristen Stewart lives and therefore a threat to the throne which she now held as Queen Regent for his son Prince Jeffrey (of another 80’s movie of the same title) now 14th name day old. So she sent his brother Jaime the dragonslayer to seek out Kristen Stewart Snow White and eliminate her.  But Kristen Stewart is protected by Thor the brave scarecrow and Tony Stark the Tin Man, Aslan the cowardly Lion and direwolf Toto.

IV

Cersei sent out for Loki to plot a scheme that will keep Thor and Stark occupied while Cersei sneak up on Kristen Stewert and tries to poison her with the same poison that killed Jon Arryn the former Hand of the King . Loki consulted with Moriarty and had almost succeeded having Thor and Tony Stark distracted, while Cersei hand Kristen a poisoned ipad that had Kristen Stewart in coma.  The arrival of Edward (not eddard stark mind you) woke up Kristen from the coma with a kiss which later the traveling balladeers and minstrel called the smiths will sing a song about and give it a title, “girlfriend in a coma.”

Cersei realizing that her scheme did not work and her reign is in peril to end nastily. She tried one last time to rally an armies of orcs made from the trees of the enchanted forest,  zombies and new born  vampires from Seattle in one great battle facing up with the armies of 300 men from Sparta led by Kristen Stewart and Abraham Lincoln.

V

The armies of Cersei were overwhelmed Cersei fled to an island met Odysseus of the Dokito raisers of cocks (male fighting chicken) because they are lovers of cocks or cock suckers or suckers for cocks.   Cersei tried to seduce him to give her ships and soldiers to fight Kristen Stewart and reclaim the Iron Throne now ruled by Jeffrey her son.

VI

After defeating Cersei’s armies . Kristen Stewart/Snow White together with Aslan (the Cowardly lion), Tony Stark the tin man, Thor the brave scarecrow and the direworlf Toto sought the advice of the Wizard who live in the Emerald City on how to go home and claim her right to the throne which now being ruled by Jeffrey baritone voice prince, who assumed the throne the moment his mother Cersei the Queen Regent marched to war.

“I sense great disturbance in the force”, said the wizard and warned Kristen Stewart of more sequel to follow but no Oscar nominations.

VII

In the meantime Jeffrey was arranging to marry Daenerys of Stormborn although Jeffrey was feeling bewitched bothered and bewildered who is seem to be hopelessly drawn to Daenerys’ brother Virile dragonskrutz. However, since Daenerys commands the Stormtroopers and tradition dictate that the King must marry someone who can be Queen. Unless the king is really a Queen in that case he can marry someone who can be king. Jeffrey needs the Stormtroopers to crush the rebellion led by Kristen and to see to it that his mother does not return to seize back the throne for herself.

VIII

Lost in an unidentified island of Caramoan, the survivor Cersei succeeded in seducing Odysseus of the Dothraki who was returning from Troy after 10 years of pulling the Trojan horse for his beloved Helena Bonham Carter. Odysseus agreed to lend Cersei fleet of his able men back to Westeros to do battle with the rebel Kristen Stewart/Snow White.

An epic battle seems to be broiling.

IX

The wizard finally tired of Kristen Stewart pinings and mopping around revealed one important secret that will turn the tide in favor of Kristen.  According to the wizard, Kristen’s father Lord Darth Vader the first of his name former king of the Iron Throne, ruler of the seven kingdoms did not sire Jeffrey. Jeffrey in fact was the son of Cersei with Jaime Lannister. He knew this because he was the one who delivered the baby. When he slapped the baby Cersei had the wizard killed but instead of being killed he escaped. So the throne is legally belongs to Kristen Stewart who was the true daughter of Lord Darth Vader.  This caused the eyes of Kristen to twinkle.  But Lord Darth Vader has another son, a bastard son from a woman before Kristen Stewart’s mother. The son’s name is Lord Voldemort Vader alias Eddie Vedder, employed as the king’s pearl jammer. The wizard cautioned Kristen Stewart to be very careful of him for he is actually the one pulling strings and is behind all these sick plots that occurred in season 1. Now in season 2 he is finally revealed and it is supposed to make thing more exciting or confusing. He also had Moriarty killed for failing to execute his vile plan. Loki in the meantime was more lucky to remain alive and looking for new script in the whole scheme of this series.

X

Tyrion Lannister grew more fondness of Kristen Stewart Snow White Vader as days passes by but couldn’t yet find the perfect opportunity to reveal his feelings especially when he finally knew that his sister is out to kill his beloved. Since Lannisters are known to always pays for their fondness (just look at Cersei’s and Jaime’s fondness for each other), Tyrion decided to go on a journey along with twelve other dwarves to retrieve one of the powerful ring that got stolen by the dragon Smaug (yehey may dragon na). This ring would even up the odd against the powerful Lord Voldemort now revealed to have dark powers,  which the Goddess Hera helped Lord Voldemort acquired. Hera apparently was angry at Lord Darth Vader who once bedded her but wasn’t able to make her happy. The wizard agreed to go along the quest for the ring with bad premonition that this quest will lead to three more movies about how to destroy this f#@4*&! ring that they are about to seek. A Bad habit that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Kristen bid the wizard goodbye. What about Edward Cullen, whatever happened to him after he kissed Kristen to wake her up from her coma? Edward Cullen actually absorbed the poison which had the baddest ass effect on him for it severed both his hand. He fainted and was in turn comatized . His hand was replaced by tony Starked with scissors.  What do you expect from a Tin Man? He only had scissors in his pocket. He need to stave off the infections that were attacking Edward’s severed hands.

XI

Kristen Stewart with her small band was heading to the Avenger Tower located in Winterfell where Tony Stark the Tin Man offered his father Eddard Stark’s ward, Theon Gayjoy of Pyke’s Iron Men’s support for her campaign.  Thor the braves scarecrows on the other hand although neighbors to Winterfell  which lies just a little further north of Winterfell in a place called Asgard, could not volunteer his black brothers’ support.  They are assigned there –as what else? – as guard against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim  where Loki will end up with.

Tyrion Lannister managed to kill the Dragon Smaug but Smaug unleashed Balrog to chase after the remaining fellowship who bravely sought to retrieve the ring Smaug had stolen. However, the ring was not retrieved instead it ended up with Smeagol who was badly hurt by one of the dwarves before escaping with the ring.  In order to save Tyrion Lannister, Wizard chose to stayed behind to engage Balrog which he was able to successfully pushed into a dark pit of unspeakable dept but Balrog’s whip caught the wizard, which wound up around him and was carried along into the dark pit.

XII

Aslan the cowardly lion keep on disappearing whenever a slightest ruse happens. This always elicits from Kristen Stewart’s companion the question, “Asan si Aslan?” until each time they ask this, they no longer ask in worrisome tone but began to laugh afterwards. But this last time that Aslan appeared after running to take cover he was hit by an arrow from the possessed Hawkeye.  Aslan instead of dying turned into thousand butterflies that finally released from the lion form to complete the circle of life his father King Mufasa promised him when Rafiki lifted Aslan as baby lion to be present to the pride.

Hawkeye was subdued by Tony Stark who was about to kill Hawkeye but Kristen Stewart stopped him. Kristen Stewart knew Hawkeye seem to be not himself.  Later Hawkeye revealed that he was tricked by Peeta Mellark or Littlefinger the Lord of the Coins.  Littlefinger with the sigil mockingbird grew up with Hawkeye’s wife Katniss at District X.  When Katniss came to a marrying, she was arranged to be married to Legolas the elf but Legolas died in a mysterious accident when an elephant fell down on him from a tree. Hawkeye succeeded his brother Legolas in marrying Katniss. Their marriage borne him a son named Robinhood.  Littlefinger who was the only one in the holdfast of LaSall who could not shoot arrow from a bow because of his little fingers which are attached in both of his little arms was laughed at by the others.  It was considered not manly to not to be able to shoot arrows. They think that a man who could not shoot arrow could not also shoot more than just arrow to bear children. This greatly disdained Littlefinger and made even more by the fact that he loves Katniss so much but she’s marrying Hawkeye instead of him.  It was so easy now for Lord Vortimort Vader to use Littlefinger for his orchestrations.

XIII

Smeagol before dying gave the ring he had taken to Tyrion Lannister to Hal Jordan.

By another twist of fate, it turned out that the slain dragon Smaug was Virile Dragonskrutz’s twin brother. Virile is actually a dragon himself the last of his kind, or so he thought, because his kind were hunted down to extinction by men like Jaime the dragonslayer.  Virile’s mother who herself was a human feared that his sons would likewise be killed by her kind, casted a spell that turned Virile into human form but before she could do the same with smaug she was killed.  Meanwhile the female daughters of dragon borne of human mother normally were born as human.

When Virile Dragonskrutz learned of the death of his brother, he despaired and wept until he fell asleep. Watching the whole thing from the slit of the door of Virile’s room, Jeffrey began to sing Paul McCrane’s hit song from the movie Fame, “Is it ok to call you mine”.  By the end of his song Jeffrey was walking toward the window. Virile awakes and this time he is the one looking at Jeffrey who is unaware he was being watch. Virile sings, REO Speedwagon’s, “I can’t fight this feeling anymore”.  Jeffrey finally noticed Virile who is now standing few inches from him and looked at each other.  Daenary saw the two from behind the shadow sings, Shayne Ward’s, “What about Me?”

XIV

Cersei’s finally reached shore and was marching her army in land. Odysseus earlier was killed after being taunted to fight Achilles. Achilles wounded Odysseus. Odysseus in the evening had high fever from the infection of Achilles’ inflicted wound. In the morning he is dead.

The Stormtroopers of Daenary are also marching to war. Jeffrey was determined not to allow his mother Cersei to take back the throne. In the north Frost Giants were mounting and soon will be harassing the walls of Asgard. They were led by Loki who was rescued by the White Witch or Narnia.

While all sorts of armies were marching and crisscrossing each other, sometimes engaging each others in battle, none of these armies were able to catch upon the group of Kristen Stewart because their group was so insignificant, they were thought of as merely excursionists.

Tyrion finally met up with Kristen Stewart. He reported that he failed to secure the ring and lost most of his companions including the Wizard Gandalf. Tony Stark suspected that Tyrion now revealed as a true Lannister may have actually betrayed his companion and soon would be betraying them. Kristen Stewart as usually couldn’t decide and instead ordered to prepare for supper. At Supper, Kristen Stewart expressed sympathy for the hardship Tyrion experience including being trampled underfoot by the other dwarves during the adventure to get the ring. Tyrion taking cue revealed his feeling. Kristen Steward simply remain stolid and expressionless told Tyrion that she is actually in close affection, not yet in love, though but in the process, to Toto the direwolf who actually turns into a man named Jacob every evening when it is too cold to sleep alone in her tent. Tyrion was devastated went away that evening to return to Kings Landing and offer his services as a hand or even as a footstool to whoever is left of his kin running the kingdom.

But on the road passing through Riverdale he was captured by Ser Jughead and brought to Lord Archie. Tyrion was being accused of killing Lord Archie’s son Justin Bieber Baby.

XV

The wizard Gandalf slowly awaken. He was soaking with river water. He remembered how he escaped the whip of Balrog but couldn’t remember how he ended up where he is now. “Coming winter is hmmm” a gruffy voice startled Gandalf. He looked around to see whose voice it was from. A tiny creature with a pointy ear. “What…?

“said I, coming winter is”. Repeated Yoda.

“…this forest, lush it is. But now no more.” He continued.

“ It seems both our forest shared the same fate. Ours had turn to icy forest of dead trees. Where the enchanted forest once lies now a deathly hollow exist” Gandalf replied to Yoda.

Yoda explained that Lord Vortimort Vader was not simply using dark powers to manipulate the minds of men and the situation of the seven kingdoms so that he can rule the seven kingdoms himself. But rather, was actually trying to raise Sauron who was put to sleep by the Gods when Sauron led the Titans of yore to challenge the supremacy of the Gods. Soon when Sauron has awaken Lord Vortimort Vader would be unstoppable. His body would become the vessel for Sauron.  Lord Vortimort Vader tricked Hera into revealing where Sauron was incarcerated which is deep inside Mount Mordor is the gate to Tartarus. There Sauron is bound with strong chain and underneath the Rock of Ages. The Titans were however, more easily freed for they are only in stasis which the Lord Voldermort Vader knows how to awaken. Now Hera and the rest of the Gods are busy defending themselves from the Titans who are the first to be unleashed. The Gods could not lend a hand to help stave off the rising dark powers that will engulf the whole of Westeros.

XVI

“I tell you my Lord, I wouldn’t lose a sleep over a kid like that son of yours.” Tyrion said while still smarting from the aches from the rope that bound him like hog and from the bumpy ride that brought him to the Castle of the Lord Archie of Riverdale.

“In fact, I might even suggest to have the mother held in chain and kept in the tower for such abomination. But that is just me” Tyrion continued.

“My hands are tied, I have no love for the kid myself but you know how women are sometimes.” Lord Archie replied.

“They say men fought each other for women but women fight each other for kingdom. They are the stronger ones. I understand your situation, my Lord. That is why I chose to remained a bachelor, to avoid such consternation.” Tyrion answered.

Lady Betty walked in.

“My condolence for your loss milady” Tyrion intoned.

“But the Bieber Baby was not mine, your Lordship. It was Lady Veronica’s. Mine is Lindsay Lohan and Bruno Mars”.

All the while Tyrion thought that since the kid was blonde, the mother was Lady Betty’s but it turned out it was not. “My Lord, I think I know who your murderer is. Who would to gain with the murder of Lady Veronica’s child Beiber if not the mother of Bruno Mars the next heir to the throne.”

Lord Archie replied that it was the Lady Betty who would benefit. “Wrong. That would be the case if Bruno Mars is the true son of Lady Betty. But it is not. Bruno Mars is the true son of Veronica while the Justin kid is Lady Betty’s. Apparently when both babies were born which was at the same time, the babies were switch so that one would succeed the throne while the other will not. Why one will not succeed the heir although the mothers were both wives of the Lord of Riverdale? Because one is not really the son of Lord Riverdale but the son of the one responsible for the switch. Ser Reggie your son with Lady Veronica, Bruno Mars would have been the heir to the Riverdale if you succeeded in making me answerable to the death of the legitimate heir of Riverdale.” Tyrion turned to look at the Lord’s head of guard.

“What it is all lies.” Cried the Ser Reggie.  “This is an outrage” says Lady Veronica. There is only one way to sort the issue. Trial by hunger game.” Says Tyrion Lannister as he is Dr. House.

“Take Lady Veronica, Lady Betty and Ser Reggie to the arena. Ah take also ser Jughead to even things up. I am sure he might have sired one posers to the throne as well.” Ordered Lord Archie.

Before releasing Tyrion Lannister, when Lord Archie was alone with Tyrion, he asked the latter how did he came to the conclusion. To which Tyrion Lannister replied “elementary… you desired to get rid of both Ladies because they constantly badger you. So you had your son Bieber killed by Ser Jughead. Now you are free to marry Lady Lohan whom you adopted as erstwhile daughter but really someone whom you earlier met at the brothel. ”

XVII

In Winterfell fearing that the Frost Giants will soon overwhelm the walls of Asgard, The Iron Men that Theon Gayjoy sent were preparing to defend Winterfell. On top of the Avenger Tower surveying the horizon for any sign that the Frost Giants had breached the wall and toppled the defense put up by the Asgardians, Tony Stark told Kristen Stewart that she will have to continue her journey homeward on her own because he and Thor will stay to fight the Frost Giants, Loki and the White Queen. Kristen Stewart would only be endangered if she remained in Winterfell. But Kings Landing is so far away it will take her too long to journey. Then from the distance they saw something coming. It was a white horse with a rider and it was speeding its way towards the Avenger Tower until it finally within the tower’s gateway. It was Gandalf now shining white. Gandalf relate how Yoda rescued him and taught him about the force. Also how to wash clothes so white. Gandalf said that his horse Shadow fax can ride faster than any other horse can. Gandalf will take Kristen to Kings Landing faster.  So, they rode.

Lord Voldermort Vader wearing in his neck the six powerful rings strung together like necklace but needed one more ring, the one that Hal Jordan now Green Lantern has which Smeagol gave him before dying.  Together the seven rings will be powerful enough to free Sauron. But Green Lantern has no connection with the Games of Throne series so, Lord Voldermort Vader thought of sending some expendable men to harass Kristen Stewart who is herself heading to Kings Landing. This will attract the attention of Green Lantern who will attempt to rescue her and then count on falling in love with Kristen Stewart in the process just as it happens in movies.

Soon enough Kristen Stewart and Gandalf were attacked by Sir Silvester Stalone, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Jason Statham but as predicted Green Lantern came and subdue them. Now Green Lantern joins the journey to Kings Landing.

XVIII

Kristen Stewart and company reached Kings Landing but Cersei was already there ahead of her. Kristen Stewart fought Cersei and when finally Kristen had the upperhand and was about to slew Cersei with a long sword, Lord Voldermort Vader appeared. He was urging Kristen Stewart to go into the darkside and kill her stepmother.  But Tyrion appeared and tried to reason to Kristen Stewart not to give in to the darkside.  Lord Voldermort Vader tried to stop Tyrion with magic from his wand but Green Lantern intervened. In the melee that ensued Lord Voldermort Vader was able to seize the ring of Green Lantern and escaped. Tyrion Lannister was about to follow Lord Voldermort Vader but Virile Dragonkrutz appeared. Recognizing Tyrion as the one that killed his twin brother the dragon Smaug, Virile Dragonkrutz transformed into dragon and attacked Tyrion. When he was about to slaughter Tyrion a sword stabbed Dragonkrutz. It was Jaime Lannister the dragonslayer. Dragonkrutz turned to Jaime Lannister and launch on him. But another swing of the sword and the blade hacked Dragonkrutz. Dragonkrutz withdrew badly hurt by the sword. Dragonkrutz slumped and transformed back into Virile. Prince Jeffrey ran to him weeping. Jaime Lannister also hurt laid unconscious. Cersei  went to him.  My “kingdom for Dragonkrutz” says Jeffrey.

Meanwhile Daenery was engaging Achilles in a battle. From their exchange of words it soon dawn to Daenery that Achilles was her textmate or rather raven mate.  It was not long ago that Daenery in her loneliness sent out a raven to seek out someone to talk with. Achilles mistook the raven as one of the rare wild cocks that he was hunting down to domesticate. It was not long he was exchanging message with Daenery. It was not long also that they were falling in love with each other through the raven’s spoken message.

Jeffrey told Kristen Stewart that she may have the Iron Throne just leave him and Virile alone. Cersei likewise told Kristen that she has lost her interest with the throne as well so long Jaime lives. But Kristen Stewart says that would be like living in sin of incest for Jaime was her brother. But the door to the throne room swung open to reveal walking in Sir Sean Connery (this scene occurred in the 1995 movie “First Knight” starring Richard Gere and Julia Ormond) the father of Cersei. Sir Connery says that Jaime was not really his brother. He was the son of his close friend Sir Roger of the Moore who died fighting with him in the Crusade. Sir Connery promised that he will take Sir Roger’s son and treat him as his own to honor his friend’s memory. In fact Jaime real name was Bond, James Bond. So there is no impediment for Cersei’s love to Jaime. But what about Cersei’s crime of murdering Lord Darth Vader? Well, Lord Darth Vader was not really murdered.  The man thought to be Darth Vader was really Johnny Depp the Vampire and father of Edward Cullen. Upon unearthing him he will be able to revive Edward Cullen from his coma with his fatherly kiss. So where is Lord Darth Vader?

Lord Voldermort Vader nearing his victory was about to unleash Sauron from his punishment when Lord Darth Vader appeared behind Lord Voldermort Vader. Darth Vader asked Lord Voldermort Vader why he was doing this. Lord Voldermort Vader replied he was doing this because in a dream Sauron promised him of the fatherly affection that was deprived of him. But Lord Darth Vader says Sauron was only tricking him. If fatherly love he sought now is the time Lord Darth Vader can give it. Now that he has abdicated the throne. He disappeared because he wanted to find out the truth about Jeffrey being not his real son. Along the way he realized the wrong he did to his son Lord Voldermort Vader and now is willing to make up for it. Lord Voldermort Vader turn to look at Sauron and then turned to Lord Darth Vader and realized that Darth Vader is more father material than Sauron. Lord Voldermort Vader walk toward Darth Vader and hugged him. Then said just to make sure no one would take his father away from him he use his power one last time. Both Lord Darth Vader and Lord Voldermort Vader disappeared.

So what about the Frost Giants attack on Asgard? It turn out that Loki was leading the Frost Giant towards Eddark Stark of Winterfell to tell him of the willingness of the Frost Giants to serve as bannermen to the Stark. The Frost Giants were noisy and angry most of the time because the White Witch was always in foul temper and making the Frost Giants lives miserable in the process but when the White Witch rescued Loki they fell in love and the White Witch became kindly and pretty.

Thus the terrible story of ends with a Four Weddings (Cersei and Jaime, Loki and White Witch now called by her real name Tyra Banks, Daenery and Achilles, Virile and Jeffrey) and a Funeral (Lord Darth Vader  and Lord Voldermort Vader’s funeral although only Lord Darth Vader’s helmet and Lord Voldermorth Vader’s wand were the only things found at Mount Morder by the brother Frodo and Harry Potter).

What happened to Tyrion Lannister? He became the hand of the Queen Kristen Stewart but when Tyrion again tried to ask the hand of the Queen and got refused again, he resigned as hand of the Queen and went on many adventures of his own. Apparently besides, the rings Sauron also forged a lot other items like earings, necklaces, bracelets which held powers. So, these items need to be found and destroyed or Sauron would again one day rise.

Blitzrieg Trip To The North

The following piece was written three years ago. It has nothing to do with the photograph except that both transpired in Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

Blitzkrieg Trip To The North

The Long Ardous Planning and Preparation to Assault Batad

Emong had just ravaged the Provinces of Pangasinan and Ifugao.  Here I am returning from the Florida Bus Station near Lacson Boulevard on May 9 Saturday, a day after Emong had officially left the country, was desperately trying to find the first bus going to Banaue, Ifugao.  This was despite of the news that 80% of the roads in Ifugao were closed down due to landslides and the weather forecast for the rest of the week was 40% rain in Banaue.  What choice did I have? I got summer thesis jury assignment on Friday.  Rescheduling the trip for the following week was simply out of the question due to other commitments one of it being the premiering of the movie “Angels and Demon”. Summer was already winding down and the rainy season might come in pretty soon.  Wait a minute, the rainy days had already arrived. Flashes of scenes of my being stuck in Espaňa Boulevard a few nights ago due to flood began playing. I desperately need to conquer an inner urge for an adventure to somewhere I have yet to visit. Batad, Banaue was teasing me to traipsing along its trails leading to the amphitheater of rice terraces. So, for lack of any other good reason not to go, I decided that there was no other better time for me to go to Batad than that very moment – suddenly, I was wearing mountaineering clothes with gears.

However, I was walking back home sulking and a failure.  For my first try to secure a ticket to Banaue was fruitless. The Florida Bus which currently the only bus that I know plying Manila-Banaue in Sampaloc, Manila area can only managed a foothold to Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya the gateway to Ifugao Province due to many debris left by landslides.  I have to contend myself with seeing the movie, “Star Trek” at Robinson Place and a “Heroes” Season 3 marathon at home in the evening so that I can forget for the moment being excited and catch the necessary sleep I need. Earlier in my excitement about the trip I was feeling kind of sickly due to lack of sleep. The next day, was indeed another day. Jogging around the UST Grandstand strengthen my resolved to hike Batad. By afternoon I was able to procure the coveted ticket for a 9:10 p.m. trip.

To Batad or Bust

On my way to the station rain began to pour – an ominous sign perhaps telling me to reconsider my plan.  But, I already bought the ticket. I was feeling kind of shameful to go back home not accomplishing my plan. I already failed getting married at an age when I thought by the time my son reaches his teens I could still play basketball competitively with my son and now I’m going home simply because the rain started pouring in and my destination could still be reeling from the aftermath of a typhoon. If I have to die trying to get to Ifugao the P450.00 is worth dying for.

At the bus station the scene was bedlam. All vehicles were trying to park on an area where all the people and their luggage were standing waiting for the second coming of Christ. The seats behind them were immaculately devoid of occupants. Probably being reserve for Christ’s entourages. I had to leave the taxi right in the middle of the rain into puddles of water and slammed myself at this formidable wall of people who seems confuse why I am forcing my way through them as if I was the one not thinking properly. I breached the wall but I had to scale human stupidity and unexplainable compunction of people who grunted words I rather forget. Rainwater began to threateningly submerge Lacson. The bag I bought was starting to fall apart at the seam literally. I had an enlightening realization that a brand name for a popular skateboard gears does not translate to good mountain hiking back pack. I have not yet finished the “Heroes” Season 3 series maybe there was still time to go back and just consider everything as a feverish ramblings of a guy who couldn’t accept that Harrison Ford couldn’t possibly come up with another sequel of Indiana Jones that will not suck as the last one did.

At 8:45 p.m. I quickly rush to the incoming bus and boarded it as if it was a pit stop in “Amazing Race”. I was the first one to arrive and as the winner of this leg of the race, I’m the first to take a leak at the bus’ toilet cubicle. It was really an amazing experience. But would it be even more exciting if the bus was already moving in Dalton Pass and you’re trying to connect your pee to the toilet without hitting the toilet seat, the wall, or yourself from your pee’s ricochets.

The Proposal

At around 5:00 a.m. we arrived in Ifugao. The sky was showing promises of not having rain at the moment. However, the roads to Banaue were littered with debris which kind of damped my optimism. I was guessing I just missed a day what could have been an unpleasant experience in Ifugao (flash scene of a snow avalanche).  The tricycle driver that took me to People’s Inn told me that the day before, rain was pouring pretty bad.  I don’t know if I should sigh a relief for the good weather or (change of backdrop and background music to something ominous) consider the moment as the silence before the storm and I was just being set up for a tragic scene where I will be forced to pit with nature for survival as I struggle afloat the open sea and avoid getting pulled down deep by the strong sea currents and waves (pan camera to the gigantic wave behind me and I turned to watch it about to engulf me). Ahh! The tricycle driver was still talking about how it was while typhoon Emong was vacationing in the area. Now all I had to worry about was how to get to Batad and get there without being: a) lost in the mountain (scene from my previous experience in Balbalasan, Kalinga when I got lost, “Noooo!”  b) killed via slippage on rocks and falling over ravine (flash scene from my Sagada trip and slipped at Echo Valley and somebody shouted, “Oh no! they killed Kenny again!”), c) rained over (flash scene of waiting shed filled with people snuggled together pressing toward me in Morayta fronting Espaňa while raining heavily).  The scenes began to playing in my mind over and over again until the tricycle driver offered to accompany me to Batad for P2,000.00.  I told myself, this young tricycle driver who is just entering college as freshman this class opening have mistaken me for a novice traveler who does not know my way around places (flash a scene in Pangasinan where I fell from a bicycle and another scene where as I was boarding a bus my head hit the installed TV set), who had been to Ifugao in several occasions and was really determined to succeed conquering Batad using my own resources was being duped into spewing P2,000.00 just to be accompanied to Batad? I acceded to the offer. The tricycle driver then mentioned that I need also to pay an additional P350 as environmental fee. I answered yes to it. That I should also pay for our food. Again I said yes. I think if he mentioned that I should carry his bag I might have also accepted.

Quit with the long introduction already, It’s so very 80’s movie.

After a breakfast of omelet and a half sausage which had never taste so good before and eating it while staring at flower pots that was standing in the way of my view of the rice terraces, my enterprising tricycle driver/Sherpa arrived.  I was told that we could finish the trek to Batad in less than a day and still have enough time to hike to Bangaan and see the four Banaue Rice Terraces view decks including the one that was featured in the one thousand peso bill. He mentioned it in such a way as if he was just telling me after shopping at Glorietta Shopping Mall we could catch up the movies and still have time for a quiet dinner. Initially, I was planning to stay over at Batad for the evening and upon returning to Banaue the next day catch the bus to Baguio. But the trip to Baguio via San jose Nueva Ecija next day was scheduled to leave at 7:00 a.m.  So, it was an imperative to make the journey to Batad a short day trip and spent the evening at Banaue. I opted to rent a room at People’s Inn.

Part of also of my consideration for the Batad trek was the expected very long hike from I don’t know where it was supposed to start, but after traversing the initial phase of the trip via tricycle, I realized that I was not THAT prepared. Our trip to the place called Junction took us about 45 minutes and several bumps in the head and my mangled body. Under normal condition vehicles can still go beyond this point until the place called Saddle Point if the vehicle was a privately own or hired. Otherwise, public utility vehicle going to Mayaoyao will only take you until Junction and the hike begins here. Towards Mayaoyao , Bangaan another tourist must-see place forked to the right while to Batad ascend to the left.  The other reason that we started our hike at the Junction was because the way to the Saddle Point was being cleared of landslides debris. Our tricycle which already suffered blown tires could not be taken any further up lest I end up purchasing the bits and pieces our tricycle might turn into if we solely rely on our Revicon brand vitamins thinking positive mantra that would cause the road to miraculously turn smooth and will be accommodating to us because we never visited brothels in our entire lives.

We walk for about an hour and a half until we reached Saddle Point. At Saddle Point there are refreshments and a souvenir shop. You can also take a peek of the next peak which is already Batad.   I stupidly told my guide how lovely Saddle Point look like in the Internet, seemingly implying it was less so in real life which I didn’t meant to say but Freud already knows that there’s in everyone of us another self that would bound to get out once in a while and wreck havoc for being brutally honest. I almost kicked myself that time but I’m too tired. I tried to recover by saying that digital imaging does magic by making things look magical even when it were not so, to that effect. Not even close enough to covering up my faux pas.

“Mumbaki” sequel and the movie in my mind

From the Saddle Point we travelled downward on slippery steps and cemented pave way. My Merrell hiking shoes that have tractions fitted for mountain trail were almost totally useless on flat surface. The trek from the Saddle Point was seemingly more than an hour. Along the way there were souvenir stall installed to tempt you with both loots of crafts and cold drinks I imagined must cost a fortune.

We finally reached Batad view deck.  I felt like the handsome Hiram Bingham from Yale when he discovered in 1911 the Inca citadel known locally in Peru as Machu Picchu.  The amphitheater of rice terraces was strewn below from where I stood aghast was actually 3,700 feet above sea level. Right in its bosom or rather belly bottom was the village of Batad. It was a landscape of green for the rice stalk were just growing and were still quite fresh looking. The terraces were showing the stone wall support as against the Banaue Rice Terraces’s mud wall support. I immediately dropped my gears at the nearest structure which is the Heritage restaurant, set up my tripod and began snapping photographs like I was gulping water after walking long right in the middle of the desert.  I was told by my trusted guide that if we walk further down to the village, I might need to stay overnight.  I decided there will be a sequel. For now, I contended myself with the knowledge that I reached Batad. Soon after, other tourists began to trickle in. First a long haired Caucasian male with hardly a gear on him except for a manual camera. Then he was followed by some of those I came with from the Florida Bus. I learned that they were medical doctors who were doing volunteer work of helping set up health centers in Batad and following up their progress.  As well as conducting medical mission. I felt I was speaking with the real character that Raymart Santiago played a role of in the movie, “Mumbaki”. While we were hiking I was also contemplating on a possible movie about Ifuago. It would be based partly on F. Sionil Jose’s short story “The God Stealer”. I was thinking of throwing in AH1N1Flu virus infection of a village when a Caucasian financier infected of the virus illegally entered the country to force a U.S. based Filipino film maker to steal from his Ifugao Chief uncle (played by Kidlat Tahimik) an ancient Bulul.  The film maker was an eager beaver to be the next John Woo or Ang Lee but couldn’t get the backing needed for his ambitious film. On the other hand a financier who is also into collecting and trading “exotic” artifacts was urging the filmmaker to come up with a documentary film on “Head-hunters of the North of Philippines” which will perpetuate that noble savage view of the “cultural minorities“ of the Philippines.  The film maker was reluctant to go to Ifugao and do the film because he is ashamed of his part Ifugao heritage. His father a former US serviceman eloped with the daughter of the character played by Kidlat Tahimik against his wishes. However, the film and partly the financial support promised became the filmmaker’s motivation to go back to Ifugao.

I must have looked funny when I was dazed and was picturing the film in my mind. I realized I was supposed to order our lunch when I travelled to that imaginary film. A thunder clap punctured our lunch. It was time for us to hustle or risked getting caught in the rain in the middle of the trail. So, just as when we were beginning to digest the large viand of rice we ate along with chopsuey and noodle soup ala onion we packed out things up and departed Batad.

Once again we chance upon more foreigners going to Batad. Most of these tourists were without a local guide and heavy gears. I felt more like the foreigner one.  Rain began to pelt but by the time the rain started pestering us we were already a few yards to the Junction where our tricycle was waiting for us. It was already 2:00 p.m. I decided to call off going to Bangaan which is just beyond Junction. However, if we hike it, it will take us about half an hour going to the village and another half an hour to hike back. The rain might get stronger by then.  I told myself, of course discreetly only, have already seen it when I accompanied my former Interior Design students on their fieldtrip to Banaue and Sagada. It wouldn’t be that much loss on my part.  My determined guide was really trying to make my P2,000.00  worth parting away, he volunteered to continue with the Banaue Rice Terraces view decks and even offered to have me walk the terraces in one of the view deck that has access to the terraces.   By 4:00 p.m. the weather was getting really uncooperative. We were already in our last leg of the visit to Banaue Rice Terraces. I asked if we were to hike one of the terraces how long it will take us?  A good thirty minutes going to the edge of one of the terraces and another thirty going back.  Then in that case it will become part of my itinerary on my next trip. With that decided, we motored back to the town proper. Bought myself a ticket for the 7:00 a.m. trip to Manila via San Jose Nueva Vizcaya and finally to the Inn.

Brand New Day Brand New Adventure

The sun was just contemplating on getting up behind the terraced hill that served as a  commanding view of People’s Inn I was already devouring a Filipino breakfast with bacon this time. While having breakfast I can’t help looking at various photographs of Cordilleran landscape and people pasted at People’s Inn wall along with some other printed ads. One particular printed ad of a website ran a featured on “exotic tribe from north of Philippines”. Cordillera is still being promoted abroad as if time had stood still and everything else about the Cordillera’s “exotic” culture remain unspoiled.  What astounded me was that the way this stereotyping of Cordilleran people was being endorsed by no less than the owner of the Inn.  I understood this hard sell might encourage more tourists to come and therefore more business to the place. But then it struck me that tourism has only benefited fewer people actually, while encouraging the local people to play out their lives in accordance to the expectations and for the benefit of the tourists. The other thing that kind of ticked me off was that being a photographer myself seeing how photographs had contributed in perpetuating certain idea about certain people, I kind of asked myself the question, “what am I really photographing of when I’m photographing, let say Cordillera?” Why am I photographing it? Am I photographing it for something I am aware of that might not necessarily for the benefit of the subject and yet willingly does it just the same?

In a few while even though there was still enough time, I raced to the KMS bus terminal. As usual, I was the first to deposit my gears at seat number 9 of the bus. The sun finally roused itself and was shinning a warm shine on the window of the bus. The bus bedecked with posters of John Cena, Britney Speare and a White Castle Whiskey barely clad model was playing country music and Von Jovi intermittently. Passengers were beginning to arrive and occupied the seats. I thought the bus was air conditioned if it were plying the day trip.  Finally the bus roared into life and began to move. We slithered the road out of Ifugao passing by the fresh deposits of debris from last evening landslides.  The trip was actually uneventful and uninteresting. I imagine the route of Banaue-Bontoc-Benguet was the better route to take going to Baguio.

Upon arriving at Baguio, I noticed that the sky began to turn to dark. I can’t help conclude that the gloomy weather pursued us from Banaue.  As I alighted the bus rain began to pelt.  I did not have a chance to process what was going on. I got no bearing of my location nor decided where to go. In my haste to get out of the rain, I just ran like my head had been cut off until finally idea began forming in my mind as to what direction I should go – SM Baguio.  At the end of Governor Pack Road lies the old Victory Liner Bus terminal. There were inns lining up the terminal, I ended up renting one room in one of the motel there.  I dropped by gears at the rented room. After taking off my Merrell hiking shoes which had almost earlier cause me to slip while scampering for cover against the rain and wore instead a pair of slippers which has its right sole gaping as if it just got the punch line of a joke, I proceeded to the Victory Liner Bus, booked me a 4:00 p.m. trip to Manila for the following day.  Rain was unrelentless, my spirit felt withered and in need of comforting.  Since, I left Manila for Banaue on a Sunday I missed my Sunday spiritual obligation, so I decided to do it now. I hailed an FX and told the driver where my spirit and soul was aching to be, to SM.

I couldn’t believe it Star Trek was playing at the Cinema. Have I known it I could have decided to skip watching it in Manila and opted instead to watch it in Baguio. I had dinner at Bodhi’s at SM Food Court, I almost gone vegetarian the whole trip if it were not for the half sausage and bacon that came with my Filipino breakfast at People’s Inn so a little more vegetable meal wouldn’t hurt that much. Starbucks was filled with warm bodies, I ended up coffee-ing at Figaro at the third level.  Taking place was a breathtaking vista of the sun (yes it did manage to show itself behind the clouds and mist as the rain began to dissipate and mist marched in) sinking behind the houses decked hills that seem to resembled Max Ernst’s surreal landscapes frottage.  The sky around the sun and even after it sunk displayed a marvelous colors. Mist continued to flow covering and then uncovering and then covering again the hills.  Too bad I left my camera at my room collecting moist. Before nightcapping with the Sarah O’ Connor’s Chronicles series, I decided to take a walk some more this time along Session Road debating whether I should have a bottle or two of SMB lights in some folk house or have a pizza instead. The temperature was really turning low.  I suddenly find myself desperately in need to take a leak. As in very desperately.  I rushed back to my accommodation just in time before my bladder burst. Having relieved myself, I realized the feeling was close to what it might have felt like wanting nothing else in life or probably how I would have felt if I was just lounging around in a pool in some resort or bathing in the warm sun in a private island paradise.

After waiting for eternity for NBN TV network to report about the weather, which it didn’t even at the end of the news program, I decided to take a hot bath. It finally occurred to me why both the ceiling of my room and the rug beneath my feet were damp, the mist produced by my hot bath engulfed the room and some other sources of moistures were condensing inside the room with nowhere else to disappear to. I imagined that maybe later in the evening when the condensation became too heavy it will precipitate like rain inside my room. It might even produce thunderstorm and flooding. Flashes of images of my being stuck in Espaňa, played again in my mind. I went out of the bathroom naked to examine the ceiling further. The pattern formed made the hair in my skin stand up. I realized the window inside my room actually opened to the mezzanine were there might be people. Out of fear of becoming a spectacle myself, I dressed and turned in quickly forgetting about the despicable ceiling and threat of drowning from flood while sleeping. Instead I travelled to Batad again this time with the pretty lass I saw at SM who was hold hand with a local boy.

I still don’t get it. I mean, I just don’t know what to do in Baguio. I had a few hours to spend in Baguio before I return to Manila and all I can think of is SM. I don’t know where else to go. Not as in I don’t know my way around Baguio. Simply, I desired solace. Solace knows no place and being in Baguio to spend that moment of solace even while at SM Baguio’s Starbucks is already the trip worth taking.

It was already 10:00 a.m. sipping coffee at Starbucks while armed with pen and paper, I began planning again of my final acts in Baguio before I finally set of into the sunset and back to the arms of my sofa bed back home. A lunch down town or at Volante Pizza, SM if they have side entrance. I already checked out of the  motel so I am lugging along my back pack. If I decided to enter SM I will be subjected to bag inspection. Too inconvenient. Where should I go, the persistent theme? It was easier when I was trekking Batad, the bag was supposedly necessary to carry my things. Here in the urban setting, I am the one calling attention to myself. I am being “exotic” by advertising I’m a backpacker who currently have no home to leave my things behind so I can blend in with everyone else. I’m now the foreigner I was staring at people arriving from the Florida Bus terminal in Banaue just as we were leaving the place. The foreigners I kept on seeing in Ermita, Manila with backpacks. I thought SM was supposedly a great equalizer in Baguio or maybe everywhere there is one. A place where local and transients couldn’t be distinguished from each other because they all seem alike now. Everyone was even speaking the same tongue as if Filipino language has finally became the national language it was being propped up to be. Now I find myself starting to feel displaced and foreign as if I am backpacking in Singapore or somewhere else. It would even be funny or a bit overkill if I brought out my camera and began shooting. I will be further reinforcing the construct I am different.  To my mind I may think I am superior for knowing something most of the local don’t while in the mind of the local I seem to appear as odd. The local may ask in their mind the question, “Why this person shooting photograph? Was this the his first time here?” I will either look kawawa or mayabang or like a person wearing a ten gallon cowboy hat.

This is what I like about travelling. Too many thoughts comes out and gives you plenty of things to ponder about while sipping coffee. Slows down heart beat and get a chance to catch up with breath. Exercise the neurons. Being healthy is really expensive.