From Mt Pulag to Banaue (and everything in between)



Banaue, Ifugao. Remembering the last 364 days is made easy by the sound of water streaming across this little town famous for the handiwork of its forefathers. From where I sit, I can see the mountains carved over the last few hundred years by industrious human hands: the famous Rice Terraces is bathing in the soft glow of the morning sun.

Two days ago, the INTP in me made a last-minute decision to ride a bus to Banaue. I was a chance passenger for the 10.45 PM Florida trip from Sampaloc, Manila. It was a decision prompted by my fear of spending New Year’s Eve alone: the first time without any family member with me.  I call this my year-end retreat: a remembrance of things past.

This year was remarkable. There were a few disappointments but I was able to tick 6 out of 8 major personal goals. 2013 will also go down my memory as the year I traveled the most: 4 foreign countries, and 12 Philippine provinces.




Dahilayan 2

Q1 2013

The first quarter of the year was marked by an unforgettable Mt Pulag trek which was also the first ‘solo’ trip I ever did. I consider The Mountain Whispered my personal favorite blog entry.  In February, we had a strategic planning near Taal Lake. In March, I mended a pseudo broken heart in Santiago, Isabela.

 It was also in March that I had my first out-of-town trip with friends from J&J – we managed to squeeze in 4 Northern Mindanao Provinces in 4 days; waking up as early as 3 am just to stay within our schedule. This trip reminded me how nice it is to be young and full of energy.

Dahilayan 2

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thai food


13 Q2 2013

The second quarter was all about new experiences and time for family. In April, I started the 7-day out-of-the-country trip in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Here, I met warm, friendly people – the last thing you’d expect from those who have been through much difficulty because of the Vietnam War: they wear the badge of experience on their sleeves without remorse or regret (and full of hope!). From Vietnam, I went to Bangkok to join Songkran. I met the fun people of couchsurfing and spent 3 days visiting temples, eating delicious Thai food, and ‘getting wet’ in Khao San Road. In this trip, I got to meet a lot of new acquaintances with whom I continue to connect through facebook. A week after my Thailand trip, we had a Finance Group outing at Mt Pinatubo (my second time there).

In May, I went home to spend Mother’s day with my mom and grandmother. It was a quick trip such that a visit to nearby Guimaras did not push through; But I was able to have my fill of Guimaras mangoes (which I miss a lot) – I boarded the plane smiling.

Before the first rain of May, I went to Singapore for training and stayed at Fairmont – my favorite hotel, so far. We ended the four-day business trip with an unforgettable Singapore Pub Crawl experience – I boarded the plane with a little hangover (but still smiling).  In June, I traveled with Mom to attend my uncle’s wedding in Ilocos. Bagnet, longganisa, and the old streets of Vigan are still in my mind. I am yet to write about the experience in this blog (I’m hoping I’d be more productive this coming 2014!).



Q3 2013

The third quarter was a blur. It went by fast like water rushing down the slopes of Banaue. I downed cups of caffeine and unintentionally collected stars in Starbucks while writing my Strategic Management paper. Looking back, writing that paper (which ended with a successful defense in October) almost strangled this blog to death – I had a hard time going back to the habit of writing after being absent for 3 months.  I also had to cancel Bohol and Palawan trips because of conflicting schedules.

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fall in korea


Q4 2014

I visited Tacloban in October after my Oral Defense. It’s unfortunate that only two weeks after that visit, a very strong Typhoon ravaged the city. The same typhoon destroyed much of my hometown. It was a sad experience; but one that made us stronger (and hopefully more ready in the future). 

In the third week of November, my trip to Korea with friends from Petron challenged my perception of the country and its people. I never knew I’d be very fond of Seoul. The Korean embassy gave me a multiple entry visa; and I might break my promise not to return to a country I’ve already visited to prioritize those I have not yet been to.  It was a liberating experience- something which can be likened to walking naked among strangers. Which I did, after downing 2 cans of beer, through a  jimjilbang experience.

I spent Christmas with my family in the province, played with my young cousins and before I knew it, the 5 days ended.

Now, I’m here in Banaue nursing a sore body from yesterday’s trek – or maybe from everything that happened in 2013.

I don’t regret making this last-minute decision to celebrate New Year’s Eve here because it made me realize that I have come a long way from the guy who would never start a conversation with strangers.  Before I started writing this entry, I was engaged in a warm exchange with a Vietnamese couple whose road trip started in Baguio, Sagada, and now, Banaue; and with two German guys who talked about their plans of visiting the southern part of the country.  

 I’ll spend the rest of the day writing my plans for the coming New Year. It will be about the things I want to achieve in 2014, the people I want to share them with, and all new experiences close to my heart

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6 Responses to From Mt Pulag to Banaue (and everything in between)

  1. Bama says:

    I’ve been enjoying your posts, James! Not only you write well, but you also take great pictures. I really love the one showing the ripples on a calm water. Wishing you an even more enjoyable year ahead!

  2. I was really envious of your Korea photos. I have a ticket to Seoul around end of March but I don’t know if I can get a visa. Sigh. Happy new year, James!

  3. Nice adventures. I particularly enjoyed reading about your Philippines escapades. I have never been to the Philippines yet (one of just 3 countries in Asia I have not visited) but would love to sample Boracay, Bohol, and Manila for a little while.

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