Tag Archives: throwback

Fighting Fears: Canyoneering, College and Conquests

You’re standing above a vast landscape of the sea. Clear skies. Cool breeze. Sparkling ocean. And you’re standing at the edge of a cliff. Do you think you could jump?

Have you ever felt so scared that the hairs all over your body stand, butterflies turn into vultures in your stomach, and you feel like you’re going to poop? That’s how I feel every time.

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Heights is one of my worst fears. I don’t know how I got my fear of heights as I don’t recall any traumatic experience. I just found myself one day, around the age of 5, riding Enchanted Kingdom’s Jungle Log Jam and crying my intestines out, begging my father to just throw me over to the crew on the side of the river before reaching the upward rail.

Ironically, 2016 had been full of heights and high jumps for me.

This same month last year, I went canyoneering in Cebu with good fellows. Canyoneering’s main feature is, apparently, the canyons–which are really high FYI. And yet, my super-beginner self did not get any hint that it also involved a lot of cliff jumping!

So, I was there, at the edge of the cliff, and my fellows were already in the water screaming weee!, while I was still up there screaming MOM!!!

After a while, I started to feel jittery. It wasn’t because I was scared to jump though. I was worried that my friends were leaving me behind. They all looked so happy, and I certainly didn’t want to miss whatever fun they were having down there.

I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience.

1… 2… 3…? Uhm, okay, threeee!!! Then I finally plunged into the water. I overcame my fear of heights because I was more afraid of getting left behind. I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience. I don’t always get to visit canyons, and it was scary to miss this chance.

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Looking back to the good ol’ college life…

When I was in college, I stopped schooling for a while and got a job. I was young and totally hooked on earning and spending. A year later, I knew I had to go back and finish what I had started in college.

I walked into my university with the intent of taking the first step of readmission. And that’s when I saw her. She was behind Window 5 (if I remember well) for readmission applications. I approached her and asked with a kitten smile, “Ma’am, may I know the process for reinstatement?”

She responded with stuff like “Did you fill out these forms already? Did you write a letter to the College Dean? Do you have these documents? What, why not?”

I kept getting peevish answers from her that made me feel stupid and so embarrassed, and I got scared of asking anymore questions. She, along with the tedious lot of requirements, made me feel like reinstatement was going to be hell and it scared me.

It took me another year to go back and try again. At first I was hesitant, but I thought, this was already way overdue. I looked back on my freshman year and remembered my dreams after graduation. I thought of my parents who were excited for me to graduate.

At that point, I found a greater fear. The fear of not realizing my dreams and disappointing my parents. I held on to this fear as I walked back to my college and faced the grumpy lady again. She was still as scary as ever, but I held my position, politely and patiently until it was all over. It wasn’t so bad. I got reinstated! And two years later, I finally graduated.

There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

I conquered my irrational fear of jumping into a tedious process of college readmission with a better kind of fear. There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

***

Life is a vast, intimidating sea but it is also the most beautiful thing. We should not miss the chance of experiencing life just because we’re too afraid to jump out of our comfort zone.

I jumped off terrifying cliffs. I got one of the best experiences that nature has to offer.

I jumped at the tiresome readmission process. I graduated!

And then, I jumped at my first Toastmasters International Speech Contest. I joined the contest with the fear of messing up and not winning. But I fought it with a greater and more meaningful fear.

I was more afraid of letting the chance pass–the chance of learning and the chance of sharing my message to others.

We all have different kinds of fears. Whatever your fear is right now, take the time to think: is it a good fear or a bad fear?

There are fears that hold us back, keep us confined in our little comfort zone. And there are fears that push us to our limits so we can become better, and stronger.

We should find the latter. When times get too difficult and too scary, let’s use the good fears to fight our bad fears away. Let’s fight fear with fear.

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This was originally my contest piece for my first prepared speech contest. It was an opportunity for me to share a bit of my experience canyoneering in Badian, Cebu, and a bit of my struggles through college.

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2 Broke Girls: Sassy in Nagsasa

Exactly one year ago, in the same month of April, I was in probably the most stressful job I’ve ever been in – in the field that is in fact notorious for high demands and long hours of work. Sleeping in at the office was the norm. We often went home past midnight or past the hour that I should’ve been eating dinner at home.

Without the time for a refreshing sight of family and friends, having companionable colleagues was a great solace. One in particular was even game for a bit of spontaneity and self-indulgence.

With the hopes of temporarily escaping all the work and heart-related stress, two broke girls went on an unplanned escape trip to Zambales in April last year.

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The 2 broke (but sassy) girls in Nagsasa Cove

I won’t go into detail about the itinerary or the expenses as this is not what it’s all about. This is about the best memories of two sassy girls and a proof that sometimes unplanned trips have a greater chance of materializing. All I can say is that it was supposedly a really cheap, budget-friendly trip to Nagsasa Cove, which two splurging girls couldn’t manage.

I remember well that it was a Saturday, and it was a national holiday. And we refused to answer any work call or any “request” to come in for weekend work. It was crazy right from the start. Since the trip was mostly unplanned, we came to the bus station without reserved tickets. Many buses were fully booked, which we didn’t expect, and we had to wait for about two hours to board. What was expected to be a 9 AM trip turned into a sun-struck 12 noon trip.

Since we were unfamiliar with the route, there were moments of panic when, for instance, we found out we were in Bataan and doubted if we rode the right bus because we thought Bataan was a place on the other side of the world (it’s not!).

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Seeking shade in Pundaquit while waiting for boat-mates
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A bonus: met a handsome new friend!

When we arrived at Pundaquit port, we were clueless about how to find a boat after failing to get a hold of our contact person. In our attempt to save money by splitting the boat fee, we made two new friends. We practiced our social skills and said hello to two newcomers and asked if they’d like to share their boat. They agreed—how could they say no to cost-cutting?

We got to the beautiful innocent beach of Nagsasa Cove late in the afternoon and immediately got ourselves busy with setting up our tent before going for a swim. There are no hotels or fancy amenities in Nagsasa Cove. Everybody goes by with a tent and a bonfire at night.

The time was perfect to get soaked in the water because it was already late in the afternoon; there was still light from the sun yet it wasn’t scorching anymore. I lay on the fine volcanic sand of Nagsasa Cove, a by-product of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the ‘90s, and relished the waves that rippled through my body.

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“Can’t believe someone left trash swimming around,” I uttered to my friend as we approached what looked like a plastic bag underwater. Another step closer and we shrieked and swam for our lives—it was a giant bluish jellyfish! And then we saw another one. Eeek! I was traumatized.

In the evening, we invited our boat-mates for a little drink and bonfire. A bonfire could be set up by the shore with a small fee, which again we divided among the four of us so it was much cheaper. Our two new friends, who were obviously awkward to us at first, got a bit more comfortable and spoke up more. I and my friend also learned more about each other. The night was lit up by bonfire and laughter.

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Resting on calm water

On the next day, I and my friend woke up early to catch the sunrise and take some pictures while the beach was still empty. It was also a perfect time to appreciate the place. It was a view surrounded by trees and mountains. The fine ashen sand sparkled as the first sunlight hit it. Fishing boats were resting on the shore while fish were wide awake.

We ate canned goods, which we bought prior to the trip, for breakfast. We packed them partly because we knew there were no restaurants in Nagsasa, partly because we didn’t want to carry a portable stove in our bags and partly because we were skimping. We were on a very tight budget that we seriously debated whether to buy two cups of halo-halo that only cost Php40 each. In the end, we thought screw this, it’s a hot day and we’re going to enjoy halo-halo by the beach.

There’s a small hill on one end of Nagsasa Cove where visitors could go on a hike to get a bigger view of the beach. I left my friend behind (she’s not in good terms with the sun) and went for a short hike with one of our boat-mates. It wasn’t really high; it was only steep and dusty on some parts. But once we got to the top, we could feel the wind and take panoramic photos of Nagsasa Cove. From above, the water looked perfectly blue, embraced by a crescent bay. This was not Boracay or Puerto Galera where people went for an exuberant vacation. This was a modest place, with scenery I could enjoy without it being tainted by banana boats and jet skis in the water or a bunch of people tanning on the sand.

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After we got down, it was very hot so we soaked in the clear and cold water near the hill. I told our boat-mates about our scary encounter with jellyfish and they, too, got caught in the paranoia. We were moving around in the water so it caused some air bubbles to rise, and seeing a bubble startled us every time because we mistook it for a jellyfish ambush!

Our boat came back for us in the afternoon to take us back to Pundaquit. The sail back was another unforgettable memory for me. The waves were a bit fiercer now than it was the previous day. And one thing I realized was that it’s scary for the boat motor to die down and the boat to stop parallel with the waves because it felt like the water was going to knock us over. I love swimming but am not enthusiastic about swimming with big waves, so I didn’t want us to get knocked over.

I was thankful for reaching land alive, but the predicament didn’t end there. I and my friend were then confronted by the possibility of not getting home because we didn’t have enough money. At this point, we regretted buying that halo-halo at Nagsasa Cove. We failed to properly keep track of our spending.

We checked every corner of our wallets to no avail. Pant pockets—nope. Backpack compartments—nil. Kitty coin purse—nada. We looked at each other with awkward, panicked laugh. “You must be playing a joke.” “No, but you are. Take the money out now.” It was a few seconds later that nobody moved to take out money that we started freaking out.

So, we found an ATM to check each of our cards, knowing damn well they were empty. But who knows? She inserted her card—empty. I checked one of mine—hopeless. I desperately tried another card and, lo and behold, we squealed and jumped and it had money in it!

Two broke girls could miraculously go home.

A Look Back on Good Ol’ UPLB Days

I graduated and left my university almost two years ago now. I lived in Los Baños, Laguna for a good six years, so surely it will always be a place with lots of memories to look back to. Los Baños, or Elbi as we call it, has been and always will be my second true home.

This Saturday, I will be going back to spend a day and a night there. And the thought of it makes me reminisce about the good ol’ days when I was a student of UP Los Baños.

My year as a graduating student was perhaps the best time of my college life. It was busy, with most days filled with anxiousness on finishing my practicum manuscript on time while fulfilling other major course requirements. I am happy I pulled through all those rather smoothly.

And this was how I did it. I recount here my daily routine as a graduating student in Elbi.

1. I would wake up at 4:30 AM and go out for a jog. My apartment was a short distance to the university campus. UP Los Baños was not only a good place for the brain but also for the body. I would always find fellow joggers at UPLB Freedom Park, a rectangular field about 1.4km in length. There were only a handful at 5 AM, and then shot up around 6. I would finish my rounds at 6 or 6:30, depending on how much drive I had on that day. I usually finished five to seven rounds of alternate jogging and walking. After jogging, I would spot a vacant concrete bench, usually the one nearest the big tree in front of the Student Union (SU) building, and sit for a while so I could breathe in the fresh morning breeze and just watch the surroundings. On that spot, I contemplated on my manuscript, on crushes or on the innocence of the morning. Only a few vehicles ran in the morning. It was only a few hours ’til they overpower the sound of crickets and birds (and cats, every once in a while) once again.

2. After my early morning jog, I would either take a nap or have breakfast at the two big fast food joints. It depended on my mood which one I chose. Mcdonald’s and Jollibee in UPLB had different vibes in them.

I would go to Mcdonald’s with my backpack that contained my yellow pad, laptop and pens. I contemplated, if not writing anything, on my manuscript. Mcdonald’s was students’ haven in UPLB because it was open 24/7 and closer to the campus. I liked to immerse in this environment early in the morning, so I could somehow absorb the scholarly vibe. My usual Mcdonald’s breakfast was a meal of two-piece pancakes and coffee.

I would go to Jollibee when I wanted to just space out. I would get my usual order of breakfast steak and coffee and take a table on the second floor, where I could get a view of Mt. Makiling against the houses and buildings below, and just contemplate. It was a relaxing sight. I didn’t usually bring my manuscript when I came here. There were fewer students, and families and elders were a more frequent sight in the morning. Jollibe, for me, just meant chill.

3. After my breakfast, I would take a bath and prepare for my classes. I didn’t have a full schedule of classes during my last year in college, so I usually had a lot of vacant time to work on my manuscript. When I didn’t have any class, one of my favorite hangouts during the day (there’s a different favorite for the nightly work) was the university library. Thank heavens to whoever championed the improvement of facilities at the library. In my first few years of college, the university had bad air-conditioning and only a few working computers that didn’t have access to the Internet. It used to be one of the worst places to be in when you had research to do but had no other choice but to go there. It was an old building.

Upon my return in the university after a few years of AWOL, I was so delighted to find the library with cool air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi for students! I could stay there for a whole afternoon. It was very conducive to studying and writing my papers. I would grab as many books as I could, lay them on my table beside my laptop and read on. I was productive when I was in the library.

4. If I wasn’t in the library, I would be in IRRI. IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) was another favorite hangout during the day. It’s just a quick jeepney ride from CEAT (College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology). Sometimes, I would even walk the whole way. The road from CEAT to IRRI is lined with trees and your surrounding is painted by nature. It was another refreshing activity for the mind and body (I looove IRRI). Another thing I love about IRRI is the good food. Sooo good! And when I say good, I mean healthy. IRRI specializes in agricultural research, focusing on rice and food security. Its cafeteria serves various dishes of meat and vegetables in different cuisines. Not only that, meals are also reasonably priced–very affordable for a poor student like me!

After finishing my meal (or meals if I was super hungry) and bussing my table, I would transfer to the café next door, where coffee and pastries were also affordable, with an added bonus of pleasant surroundings. A pond with a cute resident turtle at the back. A small garden on the side. And a larger field at the front. The café was where I either wrote my manuscript or just doodled on my journal.

5. Another favorite daytime hangout was Bon Appetea at UPLB Grove. Their “Love Potion No. 9” milk tea was my favorite. Surely it was a mysterious potion that made me fell in love with it. I forgot if number 9 meant anything–all I knew was that it had some oreo and milk in it. Because the place had free and fast Wi-Fi, it was another place I could hang around and bury myself in my manuscript for a long period of time.

6. In the afternoon, I loved taking a walk and going on a street food trip! My favorite street snacks were kwek-kwek (battered quail eggs) right outside the campus and proben (fried proventriculus) along Ruby St. in Raymundo. Super Cup’s milk tea was a super thirst-quencher. An afternoon walk was also a good time to refresh my soul by spending it with a friend. I usually called up my “Rumey” – an old roomie when I used to share an apartment with friends.

7. At night, my top and all-time favorite hangout was Coffee Blends, a modest café farther out UPLB Grove. They opened at around 6 PM, and I often came on time. Then, I would spend the rest of the night there, working on my manuscript or just daydreaming, while sipping on my favorite brewed coffee.

What I loved about Coffee Blends was that it’s a simple place, nothing fancy. Small tables, painted wooden chairs that looked more appropriate for kindergarten, no Wi-Fi. Even so, I still loved spending time here.

Maybe because food and coffee were cheap? I usually ordered brewed coffee for Php50 (Php75 if with a refill) and burrito for Php60 if memory serves me right. They also had pasta dishes and toast at about the same price.

Or maybe because of the ambience? Coffee Blends had ambient lighting, complemented by the tuneful songs they play. It was also rarely noisy here. I guess that helped inspire my creativity and emotions.

Or maybe because the service was good? The beautiful owners managed the café themselves. Although quite shy, they were always attentive and graceful.

Or maybe it was all of the above that made me love Coffee Blends so much. Like I often say, the best coffee places have no need to offer free Wi-Fi!

***

There are many other places and activities that I remember and miss in Elbi. For now, these are what immediately came to mind and made me want to write. Tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to Elbi. While I’m aware that there have been a lot of changes while I was gone, I still hope to find these old places again and relive my college days.

See you in a bit, my dear Elbi! ❤️