Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

I never really noticed it, but I was reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close on the week of 9/11. It's been a good 8 years since I saw that event covered live on TV, and I don't have to live in NYC to know how heart wrenching it must've been.

Foer's follow up to the successful and witty (in a broken English kind of way) Everything Is Illuminated, is a conversation between 3 persons who has lost someone they love in 9/11. Two parents and a son. You'd smile as how a 9-year old would invent things and ask silly questions, then probably be saddened on how a father would grieve to leave his son.

It's a quest, a diary, and a vivid monologue packed in 300 pages of imagery and text. Claims have been made, lauding it as one of the great 9/11 stories. Haven't really read much books about the tragedy, but, in capturing the heartache borne by people at such a young age, this novel comes, as it says, incredibly close.
Saturday, September 12, 2009

Parting Shots From Mountain Province

Here's the fantastic view fom Kiltepan Ridge just in time for sunrise. It's worth taking at 5 in the morning!

Good morning sunshine!

By the way, once your bus crosses the Mountain Province border, they immediately start playing country hits. I do not understand why. All the shops in Sagada? They play country music. Were they trying to give the place a certain ambience to match with the mountain breeze? Of they have developed a certain fondness for Kenny Rogers? music is 'in' and I didn't know it? Regardless, I seem to have found the culprit:

Local shops sell only country CDs!

Speaking of soundtrack, this trip has been brought to you by the following songs:
First Train Home by Imogen Heap
Fader by The Temper Trap
Love Is Colder Than Death by The Virgins
Rain Song by Calvin Harris
21st Century Life by Sam Sparro
Remedy by Little Boots

Finally, this Sagada will be best summarised by this now-infamous photo. Happy Sliding in Sagada!

The five guys on the trip were mostly newbies, save for expert Benj, but that shouldn't have stopped us from doing the Cave Connection. Wait, I think it was the torrential rains that prevented us from doing so. There, a legitimate excuse. We opted for the regular cave exploration, and it definitely goes down on the list of "Best Hundred Pesos I Ever Spent."

Further down in to the caves

Going down the caves were dead on slippery, but after the initial 20 minute descent, you reach the non-slippery sedimentary rocks double as a very relaxing foot jacuzzi.

Though not a fan of rock formations hidden in the dark, Sumaging Caves in Sagada provided us with a rappel, lots of rock hugging, and plenty of interaction with the cavern. There was even a point where the guide had to lodge himself on the wall, then fling you down like a human vine (and you would be Tarzan).

Runner up reasons why this cave was more enjoyable than Palawan's Underground Cave: 1) it did not smell of bat crap; 2) the jokes about the rock formations were bad, but our guide was admittedly deadpan and honest at the cheesiness of it, we partially forgive him; 3) I did not have to carry the torch and the matching car battery to go with it!
To be honest, I can not remember when the last time I did a mountain/nature trek. Was it the infamous 10k Club up Makiling in 2001? Does the Great Wall count? Oh wait, there was that punishing set of wooden stairs in Sabang from a couple of years back. Either way, that Sagada weekend reminded me that nature trekking is fun; and being several pounds lighter makes it a bit easier for me doing the ascends.

Sagada is blessed with reasonable trailheads, you can do a warm up by following a cemented path leading to Small Falls, or cut your way through the rice fields to get there.

Echo Valley, home of the most accessible coffins (too easy I must add, the coffins within reach have been vandalised and ransacked) is a 15-minute walk from town center. You'll pass through a quaint cemetery, but small town burial grounds have a certain air of eerieness to them and a natural viewdeck to appreciate the area.

Animal head near the coffins Buried with your favorite, errm, easel?

The most rewarding trek so far has been the 45-minute stroll on the way to Marlboro Country. Initially branded as an opportunity to see wild horses, but don't expect to see one, there are only 3 left roaming the area. Horses or not, this is the ticket to go when in Sagada. This panoramic shot below does not do justice to the sublime 360 degree views.

mountain views all around
Fourteen hour buses normally suck the fun out packing your bags for the weekend. Good thing on me, I had a bit of experience, as I've survived 24-hour bus rides twice already. Besides, I miss-scheduled my leave by a week, and had nothing to do since I was transitioning from old to new job.

Going to Sagada isn't much of a hassle - take the 11pm bus from Manila, land in Baguio between 3 and 4 am, then wait out the remaining 2 hours for the first bus to Sagada.

On the road again!

Apprehensive folk worried about landslides and below par roads might be surprised that Benguet roads are well paved, and the Mountain Province section is not that bad, with lots of improvements happening. Plus, GT Lizardo Lines have buses that are in better condition to regular (no AC) buses here in the Metro.

Kennon Road has nothing on Halsema Highway

Arrival time: 1230pm with 3 stops, Baguio, and 2 small towns in Benguet. Payoff? fantastic mountain views left and right.

Travel approved!
Top 15 Movies as tagged from Facebook

1. Se7en by David Fincher
Greed, Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Wrath take center stage in a series of serial killings.

2. Atonement by Joe Wright
Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy act up a storm of lies and romance in war-ravaged Britain.

3. Gosford Park by Robert Altman
A English acting royalty in a dry and witty whodunit set in the countryside.

4. Finding Nemo by Andrew Stanton
Dory steals the show as a forgetful fish on an ocean quest.

5. Garden State by Zach Braff
A quant story enhanced by a stellar soundtrack. Frou Frou, The Shins and Thievery Corporation in a handsomely (and Grammy-winning) album.

6. Amelie by Jean Pierre Jeunet
Lovable Audrey Tautou takes you on a whimsical and hearty tour of Paris in one of the best feel-good movies.

7. Moulin Rouge by Baz Luhrmann
Polarizing with an in-your-face attitude of showmanship, this movie ushered a renaissance for the musical genre.

8. Starter for Ten by Tom Vaughan
Jeopardy geeks unite in a fun romp of quiz-show anxiety and college awkwardness.

9. Elizabeth by Shekhar Kapur
Anything with Cate Blanchett works for me - but this takes the cake for a strong potrayal of the woman behind England's Golden Age.

10. Ratatouille by Brad Bird
Learn from an animated rat how to cook, and strike a balance between your dreams, and familial ties in another Pixar hit.

11. Eurotrip by Jeff Schaffer
Scotty surely doesn't know in this hilarous teenage odyssey around Europe.

12. Wanted by Timur Bekmambetov
Sleek, sexy and just plain badass action movie that's leagues apart from their American counterparts.

13. Shakespeare In Love by Tom Stoppard
Three of The Bard's finest work rolled into joyous tribute to the playwright contribution to literature. The breathtaking beach scene at the end remains as one of the best closing shots I've seen.

14. The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan
The movie that launched high expectations for the director never to be matched again. Absolute tearjerker in the final car scene.

15. The Lord Of The Rings by Peter Jackson
Epic movie and the start of a trilogy that will keep you glued to your fantasy seats.