Focus and Shoot

So I got the talk-of-the-town smartphone of 2016. The double lens-ed Leica-designed Android-powered.. The Huawei P9. Released in 2016, the newest wonder in camera phones is now in the smartphone-killer cameras arena. Dual lens camera, professional GUI for manual control of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, large display, bokeh functionality. So I think that’s pretty strong introduction. Basically I tried this camera to capture some objects playing around with all its functionalities.

1. Caesar Salad by Pound
ISO: 1,250
S: 1/17 s
f: 2.2

2. Holidays at BGC
ISO: 250
S: 1/30 s
f: 2.2

Cityscape in BGC
ISO: 1,000
S: 1/17 s
f: 2.2

3. The UP Oblation
ISO: 50
S: 1/120 s
f: 2.2

4. No U-Turn
ISO: 50
S: 1/121 s
f: 13

5. The Sanctuary
ISO: 50
S: 1/1053 s
f: 2.2

6. Busy as a Bee
ISO: 64
S: 1/120 s
f: 2.2

7. Streetfood
ISO: 160
S: 1/33 s
F: 2.2

8. Campus
ISO: 50
S: 1/169 s
F: 2.2

9. Bells Ringing
ISO: 50
S: 1/100 s
F: 2.2

10. Foreshadowed
ISO: 50
S: 1/200 s
F: 2.2

11. Dusk
ISO: 320
S: 1/33 s
F: 2.2

Kasiyahan sa Kalanggaman

We took the plane, rode a car, and weathered the seawaves just to reach this majestic small island right in the middle of Cebu and Leyte.

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A small island 129 kilometers off the coast of Palompon, Leyte. This island will surely take all your stress and problems from the city. The murmuring winds of the easterlies and the soothing sound of waves will relax your mind while enjoying the calm atmosphere of nature. I said ‘calm’ because one thing that got me hooked me here the most is its limited accommodation to people. So you’ll enjoy you’re vacation worry-free from noise of people.

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We took the plane from Manila to Tacloban City which is around 600 kilometers. The travel took us only about an hour and a half. We went aboard at dawn and we enjoyed the sunrise view from the plane.

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Amidst the sea of cloud is the rising sun showering me its ray of lights. It was indeed morning, sunrise and I must not miss it.

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That’s our plane. It’s among the cheapest yet provides good deal of flight in the travel market. I am not their paid advertiser btw (as if I have enough readers to generate traffic mehe).

From the Romualdez Airport, we should be going to Palompon, Leyte to ride a motorboat to get to Kalanggaman. Since it’s a 129-kilometer ride, we have to take a common transportation going to Palompon which is usually bus or van. We prefer the latter. Its terminal is in Tigbao. That’s about 20-minute travel from the airport. We took a cab going to Tigbao, made friends with manong taxi driver and heard stories about Yolanda, his family, his plans in life, his political views, his outstanding loans, and we had that conversation in about 20 minutes.

We alighted at Tigbao, took our hearty breakfast while planning for our trip. Damn I forgot to capture the piece of scratch paper which we used for our itinerary planning! Nonetheless, we almost followed our itinerary. We took the van and braced ourselves for another two- or three- or four-hour ride to Palompon. We laughed inside the van, told each other’s stories, shared other people’s secrets, rumor-mongered whatever topic we thought funny and punny.

Four hours of talk, sleep, and fun and we finally reached Palompon. It’s almost lunchtime but we could imagine eating our lunch at the picturesque lone island so we decided delay it a bit and buy stuff instead for our stay in the island.

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The Palompon site gives a perfect view of sky, sea and the mountains. Rent of the regular boat costs P3,000.00 so we waited for groups to at least compensate for the remaining seats.

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We were able to buy some stuff for our stay and wait for groups to complete the seat. One hour had passed and off we went.

Our mission:
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And our action:

There’s the island, the waves, and the sea. It was around  16 kilometers off the coast and were were running at 10-12km/hr at its peak and 5-10km/hr at the slowest. So you do the math. 3..2..1.. Time’s up. Two hours and twenty minutes. That’s how long we traveled over the sea.

One noteworthy before I share our island experience, I like the locales’ involvement in this tourist spot. They really know what they’re doing. They gave us an orientation on the proper actions within the island – no littering, spots safe to swim, spots where there’s fish sanctuary so it’s a no-no place for us.

Finally, we’re here! The island’s so cool! There is a space in the middle covered with coconut trees. There are ready monobloc tables and chairs, cottage huts, and even lawn area for tents..

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The sands are white and granular, the water is so clear, it’s as if the clouds are talking to you while you’re sunk into the sea..

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It’s as if the waves are inviting you into their world..

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Or the sands are encouraging you to play with it around while being scorched by the tropical sun..

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When you know suddenly you are not alone and the seniors are there watching over you..

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and when one capture of a sandbar is not enough, you abuse your camera with it.

That’s me!

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and when the day is old (corny!) and the night is young, it’s is full of shorrre..

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and you feel your squad shall have the mandatory TV series-ish poses..

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and the moon starts to appear while you’re by the seashore, that freakin’ orgasmic sandbar as the island’s last frontier..

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The day ended with so much food, fun, and waves. I never got the chance to capture it because, as I said, we had so much fun.

The day after, we visited another amazing place in Leyte. I’ll post my story here next time.

Planning to visit? Here’s the breakdown of our cost:

Manila-Tacloban-Manila Flight – P3,000.000
Cab from airport to Tigbao – P100.00
Van from Tigbao to Palompon – P100.00
Palompon boat to Kalanggaman island – P3,000/boat – P300/pax
Envi fee – P150.00 (Actually I forgot, I’m not sure with the price sorry)
Tent rent – P300.00
Food, food, food – approx. P500.00

add and divide them all – that’s around P4,000.00 including flight! That amount is equal to a memorable experience in the lone paradise of Kalanggaman!

So yeah. Visit the island now!

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My favorite shot during our visit

Pullin’ Off that Pulag Pool

Mountain hiking is so appreciated nowadays that I myself felt the urge to climb the highest peak in Luzon. Towering at 2,922m AMSL, climbing Mt. Pulag is no joke. More than the needed agility to brave the steep slopes, one should be ready enough for at least five-hour walk ascent while catching up with the thin air at a cold atmosphere, and another five-hour walk and some hours of rest and taking pictures descent the mountain. Albeit its altitude and cold atmosphere, the mountain enthralls the mountaineers and hobbyists alike to climb the mountain, and if luck allows, a sea of cloud is waiting for you to be more mesmerized while biting your teeth due to sharp blows of the wind.

Before I start telling my Pulag stories, I took the liberty of plotting our path and reflecting it on a 3D map for me to able to understand further the geology and environment of the mountain. I tried to look for a plugin which could read a raw 3D version of the file I did for better appreciation of the terrain but I can’t find any. Hence, this lame picture.

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Simple 3D rendering of Mt. Pulag with Ambangeg trail (yellow line) and several camps (green, blue, and red; Camps 1, 2, and 3 respectively)

The yellow line is our track which took us about 5 hours to walk ascent and around 5 hours descent. Since we’re all newbies in hike and I’m not into promising and professional hiking, we took the easiest path – Ambangeg Trail. Seen in yellow line on the image.

<note: this section will discuss how mountains are formed, you may skip this paragraph if you hate history, geology, and science>

Mt. Pulag is just among the lively and vibrant mountains in the Cordilleras. Millions of years ago, during those era when humans were still inconceivable, mountains were just two flat continental crusts separated by oceanic crust. A continental crust is like a landmass floor the earth which oceanic crust is the earth floor oceans. Since continental crusts are lighter than oceanic crust. One continental crust subducts itself under the oceanic crust thereby creating a layer of elevated landforms stretching the whole continental crust. I am not sure but I think Mt. Pulag is formed through the Kayapa fault system.

When landforms are formed, plants and birds shall form their habitat in wherever they are possible to survive and thrive. With the non-challenging seasons of the country, i.e. Wet and dry season, diverse plant and animal species have formed in the ranges. Due to its enormous altitude, the life forms have adapted to each altitude category with which they fit.

<end of Geology lecture>

People in this barangay carry a good vibe attitude. Well that’s actually a common atmosphere in provinces. Fiscal affairs are not a thing, and it’s cool.

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Organic crops by local farmers. Taken during our first day at the homestay with an altitude of ~2,321m

Fronting our homestay is this beautiful, definitely organic, veggie plantation. They produce leafy veggies such as pechay and root crop such as carrots. I’m still quite awed with the strength of the old folks here. Some are almost or more than 50 I think? Yet they can flexibly squat and effortlessly sow their crops whole day.

Teasing us with a cold wind, and with an approximately of 2,300m of altitude, and a very quiet atmosphere farm, I felt the relaxing feeling I’ve been needing.

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When you brought your millennial behavior to the mountains. Taken at the homestay with an altitude of ~2,321m

Dishes are also very local, native, and organic. Our lunch was Adobo, it was awesome. We requested for a Tinolang Manok for our 2nd day lunch and they granted it. Hihi. #perks

The Hike

Our preparation started at around 11pm in our homestay. Checking every backpack we have, hiking gears – check. Candies – check. Water – check. Emergency kits – check. Flashlight – check. It was exciting and thrilling at the same time. I am not really into hiking so I know my limits and capacity. In case I cannot make it, I can simply wait at a nearby stop and wait for the descent – I thought. That calms me every hike.

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The infamous “sea of clouds”. If you will notice the small dot on the lower left of the image, that’s an alive human being. Imagine the scale. Taken at the summit with an altitude of 2,922m AMLS

After 5 hours of walk, talk, walk, rest, walk, and more walk, we finally reached the summit. Lucky enough, it was a cloudy weekend in Pulag thus exhibited a sea of cloud at the peak. Damn, it was heavenly, and legen.. wait for it.. dary! This was around 5:40-6:00 AM, just in time when sunrise was bathing on the sea of clouds.

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Pictures and more pictures. Turn around. Pictures. and more pictures.

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The sunrise shot where the universe bombarded us with tsunami of clouds and freezing cold wind. Taken at the summit.

 

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Another epic view of the ridges of Mt. Pulag. This is the mountain when facing northwest. Taken from the summit.

Shrubs..

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This will be the start of the long walk. I took this upon descent from the summit which was around 7AM. This has an altitude of around 2,750 hence still grassland but approaching mossy forest.

and grasslands everywhere.

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Approaching the mossy forest, the sun is in its full shining glory hitting us. This was taken 2 kilometers away from the summit, with an altitude of approximately 2,730m AMSL.

Let me discuss a bit of detail here. We know that Mt. Pulag is 2,922m. But its environment has 4 different vegetation zones. As every hiker will observe, as one ascends to higher altitude, the environment changes.

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I plotted the elevation with its corresponding dominant vegetation zone. The summit is basically grassland while the next category altitude is dominated by mossy forest. It is evident with the pictures below taken betwee 2,400 and 2,700 meter-elevation.

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I don’t know what type of flower this is, I’m still looking for it. These species are the welcome committee in the mossy forest. Their fiery red flowers remind us to revitalize ourselves for the coming long trail. Taken with an altitude of approximately 2,720m AMSL.

Lower altitude but within 2,400 range is still dominated by mossy forest which is characterized by cool species which I cannot name because I don’t know them. But they’re cool.

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Trees are already dominant in the this vegetation zone. Trees thrive in the mossy forest with enough wind, sunlight, and cover from the mountain ranges. Taken with an altitude of around 2,710m AMSL.

A took them randomly because they just stand out along the trail.

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A lot of species of trees, plants, shubs, thrive in a rich forest. Taken with an altitude of around 2,710m AMSL.

A lot of species of ferns are also covering the forest. Several insects are also seen in the mossy forest with mostly bugs, snails and cool organisms. (yeah, idk them yet so I called them cool.:P)

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Ferns and plants in the forest with an altitude of around 2,700m AMSL

Good thing I have my powerbank to power my phone to capture all these stuff. I think I was among the tail and whip in the group. I walk slow and enjoy the view, and check the altitude.

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Seeing this relieved me a lot because this rice field is just near our jumpoff so it must mean, we’re almost done with the hike! Damn! Sahleedd! Taken at around 11AM with an altitude of approximately 2,400m AMSL.
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So this concluded our hike at the alluring Mt. Pulag. We were about 12 in the group and some have went home earlier, perhaps they missed our homestay badly. Hehe.

So what are my key takeaways in the hike?

  1. Mountain hiking may be enjoyable because you get to hike with your friends, but it is also not a joke because it requires physical strength and power. Nonetheless, at our age, we are young and energetic, it is best to put one of our neverending energies in hiking.
  2. The environment is irreplaceable and therefore non-renewable resource. Imagine, it took the mountain’s flora and fauna millions years to survive, thrive, and enrich to sustain the biodiversity of the mountain’s environment. As a mountain hiker, it is best to maintain, if one cannot help, the environment of Mt. Pulag.
  3. The ENRO (Environmental  & Natural Resources Office) is taking steps to maintain and restore the diminishing life ecosystem in Mt. Pulag. I saw their effort to information and mitigation drive, the stone guides created to guide the hikers to walk only along the trail.
  4. Mt. Pulag is among the surviving museum of environmental and geologic monumental feature. When you haven’t seen it yet, you must, but be wary of your responsibility to maintain the environment.
  5. People are the key factors to Mt. Pulag’s destruction and restoration. Locales and tourists alike may have committed mistakes in the past but they’ve already learned from it. It is good to meet the locales of Mt. Pulag environment. They are meek yet vibrant, submissive yet pursuing, and simple yet remarkable. The complete the allure that Mt. Pulag has.

Sidetrip:

Hikers won’t be hikers without them being adventurous and stray. Aside from the usual Mt. Pulag hike trip, there are some wonders – artificial and natural, that are worth seeing before going to the community in Pulag.

We took a sidetrip to Agno River and Ambuklao Dam Water Reservoir with the Ambuklao Hydroelectic Plant. It’s a massive infrastructure built during 1950’s. Imagine, this structure is half-a-century already and it still looks new and fine – well-maintained perhaps.

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The Ambuklao Water Reservoir
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view from the bridge in Ambuklao Hydroelectric Plant.

We also visited the hanging bridge and the drying tributary connecting to Agno River. I am not sure what happened or what is happening to this river but I think this is drying up.

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Of course, this won’t be possible without my gang, my colleagues, my college friends, Jackie, David, and Eugene! Special mention to Jackie who painstakingly prepared the whole hike for us. She’s the lost twin of Mariang Makiling and lost daughter of Lam-Ang. Very strong and adventurous friend. Till our next hike.

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That mandatory selfie with your friend when on a typical tour. The gang with the Ambuklao Water Reservoir as the epic backdrop.

 

Sources:

Hipol, R. M., Tolentino, D. B., Fernando, E. S., & Cadiz, N. M. (2007). Life Strategies of Mosses in Mt. Pulag, Benguet Province, Philippines. Philippine Journal of Science , 11-18.

UNISDR. (1982). Tectonics, Seismicity, and Volcanism of Luzon., (pp. 32-39).