Travel + Adventure | First-ever Hike Experience at Mt. Pulag

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that mountain.” -Alexander Sattler

I have always turned down all invitation to hike. I never cared how high is the mountain or that the feeling of reaching the summit would be life-changing. Whenever I hear “hike” I instantly imagine myself directly taking in the heat and burns of the sun, gasping for breath, and it’s just unbearable! The thought never enticed me.

Until, my bestfriend Jorzell asked me for the 3rd time if I want to join her Mt. Pulag trip, started tagging me in sea of clouds photos, and said, “I know if I get to the top I’d tell myself, I wish Carla was with me.” And because the girl knows she can get me with beautiful words (hay), I finally said yes.

But, it’s not just about achieving the perfect profile photo with the sea of clouds in the view. I promised myself to say yes to a lot of first-times this year! Also, I agree that the best way to move on from the past is to create new memories, right?

BEGIN

Our team was composed of me, my bestfriend Jorzell, her boyfriend Jie, workmate Sherl, and Jie’s 3 workmates. As you see, most of us would be meeting for the first time. We got Trail Adventours (TA) as our hike agency for P4,500. They asked us to assemble, along with the other teams, in the Victory liner bus stop to get to Baguio that 9 PM of March 3.

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After some stop overs, chopped sleeps, and a lot of tosses and turns, we arrived in Baguio at 3 AM. We stayed there for a bit and waited for the jeepney that would bring us to Benguet before sunrise.

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We finally arrived in Benguet for breakfast at 5 AM in a carinderia serving hot soups such as Bulalo and Papaitan. With rice, all orders cost P100.


After that, the Trail Adventours team brought us to some of the tourist spots in Benguet: Ambuklao Dam and Sulfur Spring. Time to check in and take snaps for IG!

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At around 11 AM, we reached DENR to have the mandatory orientation before hiking Mt. Pulag. Other hikers c/o different hike agencies were also there.

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These guys said our chosen trail, Ambangeg, is the easiest. I believed them.

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After the orientation, TA brought us again to a carinderia for lunch and we had Battered Chicken. We then proceeded to our inn. Finally, we can take a bath and wash our faces! I’ve been feeling so much dirt in my pores after those long jeepney rides.

This is the view outside our 2-storey inn that fit all of us 19 hikers of TA:

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We had the time to rest while waiting for dinner at 7 PM. Some of us didn’t sleep tho, as we have to sleep again after dinner and wake up at 12 AM. Our hike should start at 1 AM to catch the sunrise at the summit!

During dinner, we 19 hikers got to introduce ourselves, socialize, and receive our name tags and TA shirts. Our hike hosts Kim (alumnae of Marikina Science High School) and JP (very very funny guy!) also took the time to discuss the rules and share some facts about Mt. Pulag.

I think I slept for an hour or two. Next thing I knew, we were dressed up to hike!

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From this moment on, I won’t be sharing a lot of photos because when we reached the Ranger station (entrance to Mt. Pulag), things happened so fast and all I could think of is catching… my… breath… for 5 more hours – excluding the time to go down!

When we began walking, I was confidently carrying my handbag (yes, an Anna Sui handbag!!) in one hand, and the flashlight at the other. My reason for not bringing a backpack other than I only have Jansport is that I want to be able to get things fast. I also have scoliosis. BUT despite all these excuses, please, don’t be stupid like me! Borrow a backpack if you may and buy a headlight instead even if it costs P500+ and my flashlight is only P60+. I seriously believe it could’ve been easy for me had I not been stubborn.

Let me narrate my feelings by schedule:

Ranger Station to Station 1 (1 hour):

I was already gasping for breath after the first 10 minutes. I was thinking, “I should have cardio-exercised! Why am I tired already? Maybe because I didn’t have complete sleep.. and rice for breakfast! Why did the team give us only Lucky Me noodles and egg? I badly need Gatorade right now! *gasps for breath* What did I get myself into??!”

Yes. I already wanted to turn back in the first hour. I sat to rest and they asked me “Kaya pa?” But I figured I wasn’t the only one. We all struggled. Thankfully, we were able to rest a bit (15 min?) when we reached station 1, drink water, and eat chocolate for sugar rush! My motivation was that I paid P4,500 and I AM NOT THAT WEAK!

Station 1 to Station 2 (1.5 hours):

This time, I suddenly remembered how to breathe properly. Seriously. You have to make sure that you exhale with every step that requires effort. Stop shortly if you must to catch your breath. During this phase, my thoughts are torn between how to narrate this experience in my blog and making the perfect step in the stones and not in the deep mud. It was already raining and I didn’t know where my bonnet has gone. I keep covering my head with my hoodie but it’s so hot. I was sweating already.

Me to Jorzell: “Ilang minutes pa? Malayo pa ba?!” x 75

We reached Station 2 and again, the team allowed us to rest for I think, 20 minutes this time. We can pee at the not-so-toilet toilet (it was just a smelly enclosure with a hole), but I didn’t want to. I ate the apple because Sherl told me it gives more energy than a banana. That time, if she told me a rock could give me energy to get to the top, I’d probably eat it also!!!

Kidding aside tho, I was proud of myself already for being able to endure 2.5 hours of straight walking. I figured it’s too late to turn my back now and I don’t want to be like the one girl that didn’t make it. #pride #ego #NeverSayNeverbyBieber

Station 2 to Mt. Pulag Summit (2.5 hours):

They told us it would only take 45 minutes to get there. IT WAS A LIE! Yet, I think it was an effective motivator to get us going. The steps were not as steep. But we were starting to feel really tired this time. The trail was starting to get super muddy. We had to stop once in a while, until we came to accept that the 45 minutes promise wasn’t really true.

Out of exhaustion, I blurted out these words, “Uy tawag na tayo GrabHeli, please.” “Sa pagod ko naka-move on na ko, guys. Hindi ko na maalala pangalan niya!” Then we walked again, and walked, and walked, and walked.

That point, I was imagining myself at the office. Working hard in front of my laptop and thought it was a better situation than where I was. LOL. I was starting to run out of energy and the sun was slowly revealing itself.

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To be honest, I was being bratty already. I began having negative thoughts to what we were doing. I hated the mud, I hated that I’m already wet all over (even my feet), and I hated the dress-like thermal jacket I bought in the ukay-ukay. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life.

Yet, I continued walking.

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I, however, decided to not take much time in the summit since there is no sea of clouds anyway. I was only thinking of how to go down from up there. I need to pee, I need to po*p, I need to sleep… I need to go down now!! So, I left my TA team and went together with the Vegetable Guy (looks like Carrot Man) in slippers who came out of nowhere. I didn’t know why I trusted him so easily. I thought he was an angel God sent to help me go down safely from the summit.

END

Mt. Pulag Summit to Station 2 (2.5 hours):

Going down from the Summit to Station 2 was THE GREATEST DIFFICULTY I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED IN MY 25 YEARS OF EXISTENCE. No sh*t. I thought I was going to die. I wanted to kill Jorzell. I regret my decision. There was a rainbow like 2 meters away from me, yet I didn’t care. I couldn’t bring my hands to get my iPhone and snap it for IG. I am not myself anymore. Maybe I died.

The Veggie Guy was so nice to stop and wait for me. He also offered to carry my handbag, yet I refused because I would only add to the weight he’s carrying. Awww. “I’d give this guy P100 when we get to Station 2,” I told myself. But, he disappeared when we did! He was really an angel!! God is with me huhuhu!!!

Station 2 to Station 1 (1.5 hours):

I started slipping a lot in the mud. I took the toilet and it had this smell that got through my soul. I still wanted to kill Jorzell and doubting our friendship. I am mad.

I went along these group of nice people and I discovered they’re a group from Victory Ortigas. “How funny,” I told myself. I think my ex attends that church! More importantly, it cemented my belief that God is walking with me to make me cross paths with those church people. HUHU. It gave me the strength to go on.

After a while though, I gave up walking with them and decided to sit down on a big rock for a while. I badly needed to rest. I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. My Anna Sui handbag is muddy already. I ate the remaining chocolates I have until another alone woman sat with me. I told her it’s my first time, I only had Lucky Me for breakfast, and I hated my friends. LOL. Then, I saw Jie (Jorzell’s boyfriend) running and he couldn’t wait for me because he need to catch the motorcycle at Station 1. YES THERE IS A MOTORCYCLE AT STATION 1 AND I WANTED TO CRY!!!

I continued to walk and finally, I reached Station 1. But, the locals told me I still have to walk for 20 minutes to get to the road. WHAT??!

So okay, I walked for another 20 minutes and it was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I ran when I saw the motorcycle line-up.

It costs P150, yet I didn’t mind. I would pay them P500 to bring me to our inn! I got there at 12 PM.

For the record, I walked for 11 hours (1 AM to 12 PM).

– – –

Key Learning:

1) Indeed, a journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step.

2) One step to the wrong direction can cost your life.

3) Don’t forget to breathe. Rest if you must, but do not quit.

4) If the ground is too muddy, step on the grasses.

5) Wet wipes is life.

6) Do a lot of cardio exercise prior to your hike! (I should’ve!)

7) Buy lotsa Gatorade!

8) Invest in a good pair of shoes – one that’s water/mudproof like Merrell.

9) Mt. Pulag – the tallest mountain in Luzon – is not advisable for the not-so athletic, first-time hiker like me.

10) Make sure that it wouldn’t rain on your hike. But, how can you?

Sure, I felt like a walking dead after our hike, but the exchange of stories afterwards was priceless! It was a memorable experience, like I’m Katniss in Hunger Games, and something I would proudly narrate to my kids. I don’t regret it after all. Jorzell, Sherl, Jie and I restored ourselves in Baguio afterwards.

We had breakfast in Cafe By The Ruins, went for a Swedish massage in Nuat Thai, and shopped in the night market.

This Pulag experience deserves 5 stars! As for Trail Adventours, I really loved our moderators, Kim and JP, but I’m disappointed with almost all the meals we had. Can we not get a Gatorade instead of a name tag? Also, the sidetrips were unnecessary, for me personally. Better if we rested in the inn instead and get a full sleep.

Still, a BIG THANK YOU to you, guys!

TRAVEL KOREA | NAMI ISLAND + PETITE FRANCE (DAY 2 OF 6)

As promised, I’m going to share with you my 6D 5N trip to Seoul weeks ago. We spent Day 2 at Nami Island before visiting Petite France. If you missed my Day 1 of 6 post, click here.

I woke up around 9 AM to quickly have breakfast (bread + egg) in our hotel and to prep myself. Ate Emma asked me to search online how to get to Nami Island and Petite France, and if we can squeeze in another location after those two. As you can see, being busy women, we were unable to plan our strolling before we flew to Korea, hehe.

Korea4Expats.Com provides clear and complete instructions on how to get to Nami Island via train, bus, and taxi. However, we still got lost in the Dongdaemun subway since you have to walk a lot, go up and down a level or two.

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The great Seoul railway system, hehe

We reached Gapyeong – last station – at around 12 PM, then took a taxi to bring us to the port. The water vessel (should I call it ship?) ride costs 10,000 KRW, but as foreigners, we paid only 8,000 KRW after presenting our passports.

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Selfie before we get on board the small ship


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Waiting for the ship


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Inside the water vessel with lots of national flags on it


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Nami Island, yeah!


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Japanese tourists everywhere


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Struggled to have a photo in between these trees!


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Us three!


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Ate Emma with the post-it’s by visitors (so many Filipinos have been here!)


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I look like my eldest sister, right?


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‘Kumusta ka’ (Filipino) means ‘How are you’


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Into the woods and lovin’ it!


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The bridge that’s so IG-worthy


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We so cute!

After taking enough photos, we decided to take the ship back to the port. There were mini cafes where you can rest and just enjoy the view and the cool weather. The chicken sandwich I had (8,000 KRW) was enough to get me through lunch.

They also sell souvenirs, hand gloves, etc. We went inside a station for foreigners, where  we asked some officials on uniform how to get to Petite France. Then, we took a taxi that costs less than 8,000 KRW for around half an hour ride.

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Like we were in France! Cute houses

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You can get inside the little houses and find these

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Great view! Christmas is here!

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Feeling like a royalty beside this guy


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IG-worthy!

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So cold but I have to look nice beside this tower


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‘Secret Garden’ was shot here, it says everywhere


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Bffs


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Thanks for the great view, Petite France!

Back to Gapyeong Station via cab again. We went to Myeongdong for the street foods, which served as our dinner. Also, Round 1 of our make-up shopping, hehe!

Expenses (Day 2 of 6)

Load for my T-Money – 20,000 KRW
Taxi (Gapyeong to Port) – 2,700 KRW (8,000/3 pax)
Ship ride to Nami – 8,000 KRW
Ship ride back to Port – FREE
Chicken Sandwich – 8,000 KRW
Taxi to Petite France – 2,700 KRW (8,000/3 pax)
Taxi to Gapyeong – 2,700 KRW (8,000/3 pax)
Train to Myeongdong – used T-Money for this (less than 3,000 KRW even if you get lost)
Street food in Myeongdong + Make-Up Shopping – 10,000 KRW
Taxi (Myeongdong to Hoehyeon) – 1,500 KRW (4,500/3 pax)
= 55,600 KRW  or 2,357 PHP 

Blogs on Days 3-6 of 6 to follow! Happy holiday!

TRAVEL Korea | This is how cheaper make-up and other beauty goodies in Seoul are

One highlight of my trip to Korea is going to Myeongdong to shop for beauty essentials. I called them essentials to justify the need for me to hoard some, haha! But kidding aside, cosmetics, masks, toner and facial washes are, indeed, unbelievably cheaper in Seoul!

Since my birthday is fast approaching and I thought I may only visit Korea once, I might as well make the most of it and get myself a piece of the brands expensive here in Manila.

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Innisfree, It’s Skin + Tony Moly

In the photo, you’ll see the items I bought on our first night of shopping. For the second time, we went inside Urban Kiss and I got two more items: an eyeliner and lip tint.

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Urban Kiss Real LipTone Tint + Skinny Fixx Pen Liner

Let me present you with the breakdown of how much I saved on these items:

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I couldn’t find any price of Urban Doll Kiss Skinny Fixx Pen Liner, but isn’t the 2,889.55 PHP enough to make you believe it’s really CHEAPER in Seoul? Especially the sleeping pack and toner.

Stay tuned for my beauty reviews of these products!

TRAVEL Korea | How I Enjoyed Seoul for 6D 5N On A Budget (Day 1 of 6)

Three months ago, I gave in to my sister’s offer to come with her and Ate Emma (her best friend) in Seoul, Korea this November. It can be my birthday gift to myself (Nov 27), it’s Autumn (beautiful season), and it is best to come with her (family is always reliable when you’re short of cash!), she told me. Despite knowing I won’t have much money to spend for the trip, I said yes since I have MasterCard!

Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t promote living beyond your means and abusing the credit limit powers you have. In my case, I am confident I can pay off my loan before the due date. To add to this, I am always willing to spend on experience, as I believe travels nourish the soul – a good investment, therefore.

After one day..

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I booked a round trip ticket – Nov 16 to 21 – in Air Asia. Including Travel Insurance and check-in baggage allowance of 20kg for each flight, I paid 11,310 PHP all in. It was the cheapest deal we found in September.

A week prior to our arrival, we booked for 5 nights stay in Dream Guest House. It’s an affordable dormitory/hotel near Hoehyeon Station and Myeongdong (shopping paradise) and according to Ate Emma, it gets many positive reviews from Filipinos. You know how critical we are when it comes to room cleanliness and comfortability, right? It costed a total of 317,000 KRW, so each of us would pay 105,700 KRW.

Ate Emma also rented an LG pocket Wi-Fi: 5 SGD for 5 days = 25 SGD. 8.33 SGD then for each of us three. We need internet connection in case we get lost! Also for checking in on Facebook (hehe).

Day 1

Before departing in Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I changed my 5,000 PHP into 118,029.01 KRW. The Money Converter has been my friend during my whole stay in Korea. My plane will get off NAIA Terminal 3 at 7:30 AM and arrive in Incheon International Airport at 12:30 AM. Time in Korea is 1 hour advanced compared to Manila. My sister, Ate Thess, and Ate Emma would be arriving late at 10 PM.

Me myself and this melted face paint earlier today ✈️ 🎎

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I was thrilled hearing the pilot announce we’re landing in Incheon in a bit, at 3 degrees celsius. I was underdressed for the cold with my white shirt, purple jacket and white pair of Keds, I thought. The next thing I knew, I was queuing in the Incheon Airport Concourse to get to the Passenger Arrival terminal with other Filipinos. Did what I do best – act like I knew what I was doing, but was actually just following the other passengers, haha!

Touchdown!

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Wi-Fi was strong at the airport. I messaged some friends about my arrival, while trying to figure out whether to leave or just wait for Ate Thess and Emma’s arrival. Of course I was worried I might get lost with no internet connection and phone line.

 

Always a fan of airports and how they gather people 🛫

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In the end, although I got myself a T-Money card (reloadable card for transportation that does not expire) for 4,000 KRW (card alone, without balance) at the airport CU Mart, I bought an Airport Railroad Express (AREX) train ticket to Seoul for 8,000 KRW.

 

It took me 47 minutes to get to Seoul, but I didn’t mind because of the fast Wi-Fi, view (I used to see only in Korean movies and series, huhu), comfort of my seat, and ‘Train to Busan’ movie feels (huhuhu)! I couldn’t contain my excitement and gratefulness to God for the chance to see Korea that my heart is crying tears of joy deep inside. The guy student who sat at my back was an angel to help me carry my heavy supersized luggage to the shelf.

Train to Busan feels! CARLA WAS HERE hu hu hu ❤️

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Arriving in Seoul, Rome2rio told me to get at Line 4 to ride the Korail train going to Dongdaemun. I should alight in Hoehyeon, the nearest station to Dream Guest House. When you use the subway in Seoul, take note of the correct Exit numbers, guys. In my case, way out is Exit 4, then I can just walk to our hotel. I had my first rice meal in CU Mart for 4,500 KRW, and arrived in my destination thanks to the good-looking guy receptionist of the T Grand Hotel. Hihi.

 

Dream Guesthouse was a boutique hotel. The receptionist recognized me when I told her I am ‘Emma’s friend.’ She guided me to the 3rd floor (there are 4 floors), into a locked room that houses 3 separate rooms for different groups and a shared toilet. Our room was small, but the area was clean. We have our own toilet and I liked how the double-decks each has a curtain, 2 switches (for charging of gadgets), and light. How smart and private!

 

I rested and slept from 6 PM to 11:30 PM until Ate Thess and Ate Emma arrived and I had to open the main door since there is no more reception to welcome them (closes at 11 PM). We went out to have dinner at the nearby Korean restaurant to eat Bibimpap, Pork Cutlet and Kimchi – their staple side dish. Each meal costs around 4,500-7,000 KRW.

 

Authentic #bibimbap

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We liked it! The auntie was also nice to open the TV, mix the Bibimbap, and have a short talk with us. Even though we couldn’t understand her since she doesn’t speak English, her smile was warm and friendly. Unlike in Singapore, Koreans serve free water and tissue.

 

Here’s the breakdown of my expenses for Day 1:

 

11,310 PHP – Roundtrip Ticket

1,600 – Travel Tax, NAIA

4,477.45 PHP (105,700 KRW) – Accommodation for 6D 5N

291.62 PHP (8.33 SGD) – Wi-Fi connection for 5D

169.44 PHP (4,000 KRW) – T-Money

338.88 PHP (8,000 KRW) – AREX train Incheon-Seoul

42.36 PHP (1,000 KRW) – T-Money load for train to Hoehyeon, I got some change!

190.62 PHP (4,500 KRW) – Heavy pork cutlet meal in CU

232.98 (5,500 KRW) – dinner in Korean resto nearby

 

= 18,653.35 PHP Total (440,352.93 KRW)

Our Day 1 ended at 3 AM. Stay tuned for my Day 2 feature of our visit to Nami Island and Petite France!