Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mount Pulag - The Climb

We made it! I MADE IT!!!

I will always consider climbing Mount Pulag as one of the biggest physical achievements of my life. Before the climb, I had probably read most, if not all, blog entries related to climbing this mountain. I thought I was mentally prepared for it but boy, was I wrong! Before I go through the details of the actual climb, let me start from the misadventures the week of the climb.

In my previous post, I mentioned that we will be joining Vagabond Pinas. I even posted our itinerary. I also mentioned that we booked this group because of the private car, extra food and our early ETA to Mount Pulag. 4 days before the trip, I was contacted by their "travel consultant", JP. He texted me that he emailed me changes in the itinerary. To make the long story short, he changed EVERYTHING. He wanted us to take the bus because another group suddenly "cancelled". He was giving us a refund of Php200 because our meals are now reduced to 3 and we will be reaching the camp at 4PM. We tried reasoning with him and after frustrated calls and text messages, he CANCELLED our trip, lying that we were the ones who cancelled. We did not even get the refund that he was supposed to issue. We are now filing a case against them and I strongly suggest never joining any of their trips. They are very unprofessional!

Anyway, Ayn came to the rescue by giving us the number of Deo Calumba of BACKPACKERS UNITED. Her friend just climbed with this group a week before so at least we knew they were legit. Deo was very accommodating. He asked us to create a Facebook chat group with everyone so we can ask him any questions. He also sent us a detailed checklist, unlike the 10 or so items sent by VP. After introductions and information were exchange, we were ready.

We all met at Ivan's house at 8:00PM so Drei can park his car there. We were using my brother's car and family driver going to Baguio so we can all get some shut eye before the climb. We reached Baguio around 12:30AM. It was chilly but manageable. Some of us went to Jollibee and KFC for breakfast. At 3:00AM, we met Deo and the rest of the climbers at the Victory Liner Bus Terminal. Take note, this is at the new terminal. We made the mistake of going to the old one. Hehe.

At the bus terminal, we rode a monster jeep to Jang Jang's Eatery. Since we have already eaten our breakfast, we just sat down and rested. Afterwards, we went to DENR for the briefing. The DENR representative, Mering, reminded me of a strict professor who cracks jokes out of nowhere. The briefing consisted of a video containing the do's and don'ts on climbing Mount Pulag. Basically, the following are not allowed -

1. Littering
2. Shouting or too much noise
3. Drinking alcoholic beverages
4. Sexual acts
5. Taking home anything from the mountain home (leaves, flowers, rocks, etc..)

When the briefing was done, we were off to the Ranger Station. The road going there is currently under construction so we had to start hiking a few kilometers before. You can hire a porter to the Ranger Station for Php100. Because both our packs were quite heavy, Reg and I got one each. I, shamelessly, also opted to ride a motorcycle for another Php100. Hehe.

When we all reached RS, Deo helped us get a porter going to the campsite for Php500 each, two-way, maximum 15kgs. We knew about this even before the trip so we packed with this consideration.

And.. off to the mountain we go! I tell you, this was a really hard climb especially for people who has no regular physical activity. I had to make frequent rest stops to catch my breath. I even told our friends to go ahead, with Reg staying behind to help me because I really could not do it alone. Along the way, we met another couple, Mara and Ian, who were in the same dilemma as ours. Mara and I were both exhausted and a little dizzy. We were too far up to give up and yet still too far from the campsite as well. We tried diverting our attention to telling stories about ourselves instead. During this time, our guide, Kuya Santi, has been helping us by walking ahead and pulling us up over steep steps. After 4.5 hours of climbing, complaining, almost crying and resting, we all finally reached Camp 2! Our porters have reached the site 45 minutes before us and were smiling as they saw our tired expressions.

We soon parted ways to go to our respective tents. Our friends had settled in so we removed our muddy shoes and set-up our sleeping mats and bags inside. We then went to the "common area" for a short activity. There were 26 climbers with Backpackers United that day and we all introduced ourselves then ate our late lunch of delicious mechado and rice. Afterwards, we all went back to our tents and had siesta while waiting for the sunset. I cannot remember exactly who woke who up but I remember how cold it was. The temperature had dropped significantly from the time we reached there so we all got into our jackets, bonnets and gloves. We had to climb a little more from where our tent was so we can fully see the sunset. Everyone was still very tired with Ivan, pumping himself up by muttering "Sunset, fun set!" repeatedly.

We took loads of pictures before heading back to the tent for dinner. Deo and Ria made a hearty meal out of pork sinigang and rice. The hot soup was heaven! Reg and I even had a cup of Milo before bed. At 8:00PM, everyone in our tent was asleep.

Reg and I originally planned to join the first batch of climbers to the summit because I was slow but we woke up 10 minutes late so we climbed with our friends. It turned out for the better as some members of the first batch were left by the group, made a wrong turn and ended up in peak 3! They had to go down and climb peak 1 all over again! To go back to my story, the stars were beautiful when we went out of the tent. Too bad we were all in a hurry, I was not able to take pictures. The road to the summit was long and steep. It was a good thing we were only able to see the ground we were stepping on as we were all relying on our headlights to see where we were going. We had frequent rest stops too as the grogginess from just walking up and the extreme cold temperature had us gasping for air. Only a few minutes left before the sunrise, our group decided to take the steep shortcut to make it. Kuya Santi, like the angel that he is, suddenly appeared out of nowhere and pulled me up! As soon as we reached the top, I immediately sat down and stopped myself from barfing. There was no time to waste. With the sun rising in seconds, I got my Samsung camera from Reg, turned it on and got the no battery icon of death! I HAD NO BATTERY! The cold discharged my camera and the extra battery was left at the campsite. Grr. Good thing our GoPros all had full batteries and our phones fully charged.

We spent an hour at the top before heading back down for breakfast. We had a big BIG serving of corned beef hash and rice. We rested a bit before packing up our things and starting the descent.

Going down, as expected, was easier than climbing up. Although we were still slower than the seasoned hikers, we reached the Ranger Station in record time. I once again hired a motorcycle to bring me down the last kilometer as well as down to reach the jeepney. We spent the long ride to Baguio sleeping. We first dropped by Jang Jang's Eatery again as we left our change of clothes there. You can shower for a minimal fee but our group decided to just shower in Baguio. Good thing Nina has relatives there who were kind enough to lend us their bathroom. Thanks Tita!

We arrived at the Victory Liner Bus Station. This is where we met our driver again who drove us to Nina's relatives. After the wonderful shower, we went to Cafe by the Ruins for dinner. Review to be posted in another entry. :)

We finished eating around 8:30PM. We did not want to be on the road too late so we went straight to Manila. We arrived  around 12:00 MN. As soon as I got home, I went straight to bed and slept like a baby until noon the next day.

The experience of climbing this mountain was uncomparable to anything I have ever done before. I have pushed myself to the limits and I am proud of what we have all accomplished. This climb also reaffirmed my relationship with Reg. I know that he will not leave my side when I need his strength and support, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I decided to make a video of this trip. Looking at the pictures with my long-time college friends, it got me all teary-eyed. I realized how much we have all been through already. Our relationship might not be perfect but at least we know we have each other to count on when times get tough.

Song: The Sun is Rising
Singer: Britt Nicole
Equipments Used: Samsung EX2F, GoPro Hero 3+, Chesty, Monopod, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5
Link to the video HERE.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jing Monis Salon Velvet

With my birthday coming up, I decided to splurge on a hair makeover. I've been hearing a lot of good things about Jing Monis so I decided to give him a try. I first called their Greenbelt 1 branch to ask if Jing himself will be there but I was informed that he was at their Resorts World branch that day. I figured that since I will be coming from the office in Quezon City, I might as well go to where he is so I booked my appointment at 1:00pm in RW. The traffic was light so I reached there at noon, giving me enough time to grab a sandwich and iced tea from Starbucks before heading to Maxims Hotel, where the salon is located.

The salon was smaller than I expected but very well lighted and clean. I was early but I only waited around 15-20 minutes before I was ushered to my seat then off for shampoo.

Acer was assigned to me and he was very attentive. He was very gentle with my hair and even gave me a nice head massage. Afterwards, I was back to my seat and was offered drinks. The stations had nice pullout tables where you can put your laptop or iPad. It was a nice touch especially for people who need to catch up on some work while having their hair done.

My haircut came first. Jing came to me with a smile and asked me how I was. He was very nice and friendly. He asked me what I wanted and I told him that when my hair dries, I feel that it's all over the place and it feels hot. He explained that I needed layers and my hair was too thick. He then spent a good deal of time cutting it. We also discussed what hair color suits me. I wanted it lighter and he said that honey blond would be a good choice with lots of highlights.

Waiting for the highlights to stick.
Afterwards, Jing gave Acer some instructions and he proceeded to color my hair. I tell you, sitting without much movement for 4 hours in no joke! My back was really starting to cramp. Good thing I had Psych episodes on my iPad to keep me company. I asked Acer if I needed to colour my eyebrows since my hair will be lighter. He consulted Jing about it when he came back to check on the progress. Yes, they did need to colour my eyebrows.

The colouring and highlighting went on for a while until it was time to rinse it. At this time, I saw Jing go out of his office with his bag and instructed Acer on how to colour my eyebrows. He was leaving and it was sort of disappointing as he did not even say goodbye. I was hoping to get a picture with him with my new hair! Haha. After this, since I still had some time before my brother arrives, I also had treatment done as I did not want my hair to dry.

Anyway, I was kind of shy to do another selfie so I had to wait until I came back home to take a picture of myself.

I love the new haircut!
Overall, I was happy with the result! My hair feels lighter and the colour looks natural. Even after showering the next day, it dried up nice and did not feel like "broom" hair! Of course, these kinds of results are equivalent to the amount you pay. Let's just say I'm not going to visit a salon for the next 6 months (or a year)! Haha.

I strongly recommend this salon if you are in need of a great makeover. Price is very steep but it is worth it! :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Munchkin Baking Class 2014

We recently just finished conducting our Munchkin Baking Class last Friday. We had four (4) students!

Pink Chocolate Chip Cookies
Day 1 consisted of Cookies! We first made a batch of very girly Pink Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were crunchy outside and chewy inside.  The perfect cookie consistency!

Sugar Cookies
Next, we made the sugar dough for the sugar cookies so we can let it rest before cutting. The girls had fun cutting the different shapes. :)

Sugar Cookies with Fondant
We used fondant to decorate the sugar cookies. They were tired from all the colouring and kneading! We also made Pub Cookies loaded with candied peanuts and salty pretzel and Cinnaman Roll Cookies. :)

Day 2 was Strawberry Day! We made four (4) different kinds of strawberry desserts and drink.

Strawberry Jam Tarts!
We're so happy the girls loved our homemade strawberry jam! They were all licking their spoons after filling their tart shells!

Strawberry Ice Cream Milk Shake
These Strawberry Ice Cream Milk Shakes were so rich and creamy.. Perfect for the hot summer! We made Strawberry Crumble and Strawberry Chocolate Chunk Muffins too!

Day 3 was full of CHOCOLATE!!! I think this is probably our favourite day as we love, love, love everything chocolate!

Frozen Banana Pops
The Frozen Banana Pops were coated with chocolate then decorated with rainbow sprinkles and chopped nuts! We also made Chocolate Crunchies, Chocolate Pudding and Rice Krispy Easter Eggs. :)

We were all smiles as we distributed their certificates! Three (3) of the girls will continue on to our Munchkin Cooking Class the next day. I'll post more pictures soon!

For more information about our classes, please see the flyer below. :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Shang Palace Dimsum Buffet

Reg and I finally had time to try out the dimsum buffet at the Shang Palace in Makati Shangri-la Hotel last week. My mom has been raving about it and being dimsum (and food) lovers ourselves, we decided to go check it out. For Php888++ per person, I think we ate more than our fair share of dimsum.

Order Form
Hongkong Style Order Form
Sweet Corn Soup with Shredded Chicken
 This soup had just the right amount of sweetness and the chicken matched the sweet corn perfectly.

Honey Glazed BBQ Pork
This dish was just so-so. The meat was tender but a little bit dry. I would appreciate more glaze on the sides.

Steamed Crystal Skin Shrimp Dumpling
We loved these Hakao. The shrimps inside were plump and sweet. The rice wrapper was thick enough to hold what is inside but thin enough not to hinder the taste.

Shanghai Xiao Long Bao
These dumplings were good. They had broth inside and the minced meat were tasty. My only complain about this is that the ginger slices that they came with were cut thickly. It would have been better to have thinly sliced ginger like the ones they have in Din Tai Fung.

Spinach Dumplings Stuffed with Shrimps
Reg loves anything with shrimp so of course, we ordered this as well. These dumplings were like the first ones but with added chives inside. The spinach in the skin just made them green but nothing to make them more special.

Deep-fried Lapu-lapu Fillet with Sweet Corn Sauce
We made the mistake of ordering this because it just tasted like fried fish smothered in the corn soup that we just had. It also arrived quite cold.

Sauteed Scallops with Asparagus in XO Sauce
We loved this dish! The scallops were sweet and cooked perfectly. The asparagus were tender but still had a good crunch in them.

Lohon Style Steamed Rice Roll with Assorted Mixed Vegetables  
The waiters mistakenly served this to us and because we were a little dazed from all the food in front of us, we merely nodded thinking that these were the Barbecued Pork Rice Roll. The sauce was good but we were not big fans of the kuchay taste. 

Steamed Barbecued Pork Rice Roll
These were really good but they would have been better if they were served hot!

Steamed Pork Dumplings with Fish Roe
Of all the different kinds of dimsum, this has got to be Reg's favourite. The dumplings were delicious and the fish roe very fresh.

Steamed Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce
When this was served, we were so full already. Nonetheless, we still had a bite each so we can taste it. The pork ribs were pretty good but there were more fat in them than I would like.

We also ordered Yang Chou Fried Rice as well as the Fried Rice with Mince Beef and Garlic. They were great but I suggest you let these go and save that tummy space for dessert!

Deep-Fried Stuffed Sesame Balls
Butchi Balls! We never leave a dimsum buffet without ordering these. The skins were crispy and light, not too greasy. The filling had enough sweetness but they could have been better with more filling.

Four Seasons Halo-Halo and Chilled Mango Puree with Sago and Diced Mango
The Halo-Halo tasted like our local Halo-halo without the ice cream. It was just okay. The Mango Puree tasted good and had a lot of sago, which we loved!

Steamed Chinese Cupcake, Mai Lai Ko
One of my favourite cakes! As a pastry chef, I am always curious in sampling these. Choi Garden makes wonderful Mai Lai Ko but these came close. Soft and buttery, a must-try!

Empty Dishes!
BUUUUUURRRPPPP!! We bid our diets adieu and embraced our inner and outer fatness. Haha!

Before I forget, they charge their hot tea per person so if you are not a tea drinker, you better tell them about it. We always drink tea when we eat Chinese food so we did not mind the charge.

Overall, I recommend this buffet to anyone who loves dimsum. There were a lot of varieties and the quality is great! Try it and tell me what you think! :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mount Pulag Preps Part 2

Reg and I spent labor day at the mall because we wanted to finish our checklist. I was happy to find that almost all the shops in Trinoma were on sale!

We first went to a shop called BaseKamp because I was there last week and their Vasque Hiking Shoes were at 50% off. When we got there, I was really turned off by their staff. I asked what were the sizes and colour available and they acted as if we were such a bother. I asked where the shoes are so I can show them to Reg and they were so rude in answering us. Apparently, the shoes are at their warehouse downstairs and are scheduled to be pulled out to the main office but according to the saleslady, they can still be sold. Their salesman there especially was making irritated faces. My eyebrow was already up when I asked him to get our sizes. I mean, c'mon, do not be in the service industry if you do not want to serve. While waiting, I wanted to check out the store beside it, called Mountain Hard Wear. We tried getting the saleslady's attention to say that we will be back but she pretended not to see us so we just left. It was a blessing in disguise that we did because lo and behold, the store beside it had Columbia Hiking Shoes on sale!

Columbia Original Sierra Winter Hiking Shoes
We got these at more than 50% off. The original price was Php7000+ but we got them for just Php2000. Only men shoes were on discount so I was lucky that their size 8 was perfect for me. The shoes are mid-high cuts, have very comfortable lining and are waterproof. They even came with an extra pair of laces! The tongue is a little stiff so we still have to break them in. :)

Me in my "office" attire and my hiking shoes.
Day 1 of shoe breaking (?). Everyone in the shop reacted with laughter as soon as I came in because I looked funny!

Mountain Hard Wear and Columbia Waterproof Jogging pants.
We were also able to find a pair of jogging pants each. Reg got his from the same shop as where we got our shoes and I got mine at The Travel Club. His pants are water resistant and mine is waterproof. I just need to wear leggings inside because it has an umbrella-like fabric lining. :)

Tonight would be our second training day. We'll be wearing our new shoes! Hope we don't get blisters!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mount Pulag Preps

UPDATE: We went up Mount Pulag with BACKPACKERS UNITED. Vagabond Pinas is an incompetent and unprofessional group. We are currently filing a case against them.

I met with the girls, Nina and Ayn, over brunch last Holy Thursday because we have not seen each other since Joyce came for a visit. Tin had to go to Bulacan for the holidays so she was not able to go too. We met at IHOP in U.P. Town Center because we were all craving for pancakes. Sorry, we were all so hungry that I forgot to take pictures! :)

We got to talking about where our next trip would be when Mount Pulag came up. I'm not really the hiking type of person but I have been reading a lot of blogs that documented their experiences in Pulag that I felt that I had to go at least once in my life. Since I am always the unofficial planner of the group, I asked Nina to give me the contact number of Vagabond Pinas, the company who is going to help us with the necessary preparations for the climb. It takes quite a while for them to reply but I have already spoken with their travel consultant, JP, and have also made our down payments.

Here's our suggested itinerary:

Day 0
8:30 PM Jollibee Cubao Farmers MALL Near Mrt Station
9:00 PM ETD Manila to Baguio

Day 1
2:00 AM ETA for Baguio ( Breakfast)
3:30 AM ETD for DENR (Via Monster Jeep)
7:00 AM ETA DENR (Briefing)
8:00 AM ETD for Babadak (ranger stn.)
8:30am - Start Trek
11:30namETA Camp 2 Grass Land/Pitch Tents/Photo Opps
5:30pm Dinner and Socials
8:00 PM Lights Out

Day 2
3:00 AM Wake up call (time for summit)
3:30 AM Trek for summit
5:30 AM ETA Summit Sunrise Viewing
6:30 AM Return to campsite
7:30 AM ETA Campsite EAT Breakfast
8:30 AM Break Camp
9:30 AM Start Trek (to ranger stn.)
12:00 NN ETA Ranger Station Lunch/Wash up Area
1:30 PM ETD Ranger to DENR
2:00 PM ETA Denr/
2:30 PM ETD Denr to Baguio
5:00 PM ETA Baguio
5:15 pm ETA Baguio – Manila (Dinner along the way)
10:00pm ETA manila

Of all the itineraries from other companies I've read, this is the one I like the most because we'll be using a private car going to Baguio and we'll be at the camp before lunch.

Reg and Drei will be joining us also. I think Ivan might be too but we're still waiting for his confirmation. :)

Here are some of the things Reg and I have initially prepared:

Mountain Trails Sleeping Bags
The first thing we ever bought for this trip is a pair of sleeping bags. The camping tents are already included in our package but JP told me that we still needed sleeping bags because it gets really cold at night. We got these at 30% off from Handyman in ZSquare. Each came out around Php700+. That branch always has discounts so we thought of checking there first before buying from other stores. Excuse the folded bag, I did not want to open it then roll it back into that position again. It takes a bit of muscle to fit everything inside the sleeping bag compartment of the backpack without compression bags. :)

CoTima 72L Hiking Backpacks
Reg and I were in Subic last Sunday with his family and saw these backpacks in Royal Subic at 50% off! We bought a green one for him and a pink one for me.

GE LED Camping Lamp
We also bought this from Puregold Duty Free in Clark. We need it at night because there will not be any electricity there.

Krispershock Trekking Poles
Reg's brother and fiancee went to Pulag last year so we asked them what are the other necessities we needed for the hike and they said we need trekking poles. The ones in Trinoma are selling at Php1750 each but I found some online that are way cheaper. I got these for just Php250, wholesale price because we bought 5 pcs.!

TravelJohn Jr. Disposable Urinal
Public bathrooms are always a big problem for me. This is one of the reasons why I am not an outdoor person. Since there are only makeshift toilets in Mount Pulag, I did some research and found this great new product called TravelJohn Disposable Urinals! Good thing my Atsi and Camille were still in Singapore earlier this week so I asked them to buy some for me.

Firmoo RX Sunglasses

I've worn glasses since I was in Grade 3. My current eye grade is above 500 already! I cannot wear contact lenses too early in the morning and I did not want to wear glasses outdoors because I have high astigmatism. The sunlight might make me dizzy. Good thing I found this website that makes graded sunglasses at really affordable prices. I think I spent less than Php3000 for a nice pair of RX sunglasses. A great deal considering it costs around Php11,000++ for a pair of graded frames locally. I got a pair for Reg too!

That's it for the stuff! The only things left to buy are trekking shoes and zip-off waterproof jogging pants. :)

Oh and another thing, our bodies are so not in shape for an 8KM climb currently so we have started our training as early as now. I'm not one to go to gyms but I think the best way for me to do this is to go to the treadmill, incline it to 15 (the max) and just keep walking. I did it for an hour last night and it was bearable, although the gym had air-conditioning and I was watching some TV series so time went by fast.

Anyway, that's it for now! I will post more stuff as our trip gets nearer! :)

New Things, New Beginnings

It has been a long time since I've posted anything in this blog. Life has given me a lot of unexpected new things so I have been pretty busy!

First things first, I am now a proud owner of a pastry shop called Joanie's Cupcakes. We opened on October 2012 and has now gained a bit of a following. After more than a year in the business, we are currently focused on providing our clients with beautiful customised cakes for their special occasions. We mostly get our clientele from our IG and FB pages since all our pastries are made-to-order. :) Shameless plug, please like and follow /joaniescupcakes!

Here's a sample of one of our cakes:

Summer Olivia's Kate Spade-themed Cake

My mother and our close family friend, Hazel, have also partnered up to open a small restaurant called, Green Pigs Kitchen. It is located in front of our shop. They serve delicious entrees like Baby Back Ribs, Grilled Pork Belly, different pastas and sandwiches as well as shakes! I'll go to more details on my next entry.

Anyway, I hope I can blog more regularly again. I miss it! :)