Postcards from Baler- Getting Lost and Finding Myself Back

It was an impromptu decision on my part to join my officemates to a trip to Baler, Aurora. In fact, it was a quick one that I hardly had time to change my mind. I am not an impulsive person, especially on cases like this. I was trained to assess first prior to making any decisions. However, there is something about the idea of going off somewhere that was un-planned that made me say yes that instant. Maybe I just needed a break.

We left Manila slightly after midnight. I was slightly uncomfortable on my seat knowing that I’ll be travelling to unknown place, albeit I know the people I was travelling with. Luckily, I got few hours of sleep but that bumpy ride on the dead of the night left so much misgivings that I had to wake up several times. Before dawn, we arrived at our destination and the view of the rising sun greeted our still sleepy selves together with the century-old banyan tree.

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Our itinerary was full that day and it did not gave us time to rest. We took the city tour that morning and we visited several interesting places within the town proper. Baler prides itself on its simplicity that it showed in all aspects of the little town’s life. That simplicity of life had a certain innate beauty incomparable to others.

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We left the town by mid-morning to take on the more adventurous side of Baler. We are hyped for adventure that day that we did not care about how hard or how long would the trek be before we reached our destination. And finding ourselves entering the scenic and breathtaking views of what nature could offer us there was worth all the bodyache that we went through. I completely lost myself and I let my mind and spirit immersed into the grandeur and natural beauty of the places. Strange enough, I found a certain peace and solace to these places that I could not care less of who I am. I slept soundly that night.

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Baler was known for its high waves, and long stretch of beaches that make it one of the sought after surfing spots in the country. And the next day, even if our body still ached from the previous day’s adventure, we were determined to try out “riding the waves”. We rented surf boards and with the help of local instructors, we tried very hard to get up into our surf boards. For the whole hour, I rode, paddled, and crashed down on my rented board. As the waves slammed into my surf board, A self-realization had dawned into me that made me change on how I see myself as a person.

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For the last few years, I have been too busy making a career of my own, of proving my self-worth and to look for a brighter future. Little did I knew that I completely lost myself in the process. As the rushing waves came into me and slammed my body down to the water, I realized that I had too much burden within me that affected my being. Too many heartaches, unmet expectations and frustrations and rejections made me tough but then it also eroded some essence of my humanity. Every time I fell down on the board and let myself be carried underwater made me experience the turbulence that I long shunned and acknowledged. I realized that despite the success, I am somehow unhappy, discontented and depressed. The dark instinct is lurking behind me again that if left unchecked, I may not be able to know myself again. So I just let myself be carried by the waters, slammed my body by the waves, fell into the sea and scorched by the sun just so I could let go of all the burdens that I was carrying.

I would have loved to stay a little while but we need to go home after our surfing fun. But I can say that Baler did my spirit and whole being good. It changed my perspectives and I went home with contentment in my heart. I left the place I came back home a better person.

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The Hidden Beauty of the Ruins

I stumbled upon this place amidst the beautiful scenery of Baguio City. It might be thought as out of place if you compare it side by side the tourist spots that the city lauds to the world. But perhaps its being out of ordinary and its grotesque beauty were the reason why I was drawn to the place.

The once Diplomat Hotel lies unassuming atop the mountains not far from the famous Grotto in the City. What was left now of this once majestic architecture are its ruins, otherwise abandoned and un-used except perhaps to the artistic productions that it lends its charms. As we stopped at the foot of its driveway, I was held in captivated by the view of the old charm of the structure. Surrounding this old vestige of beauty is the unparalleled scenery of pines, florals and the mountains coming together to complement the aura of solitude and quiet place. Coming inside the building and exploring every possible nook, I could not help but to imagine the grandeur it had before. And as the sunlight crept into its once doors and windows, I could not help but to whip out my camera to capture the elegance that I have perceived amidst the blocks of concrete and old woods.

It was a pity that we were not allowed to explore further the upper floors since they are not that stable anymore as per the caretaker of the place. But then, as I walked out into the sun once again, I could not help but to give the place a second look. We often look for beauty, oftentimes with the standards setup by the commercial world. But if we only stop looking for the unattainable and learn to seek out the beautiful beneath the shallow surface, we can find that real beauty is within every people and places that we normally would not expect to be beautiful. Treasures troves are found not in the usual places but on the unexpected, unexplored destination that only those who open up their minds to see the difference will understand.

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The Long and Winding Benguet Road

It was a breathtaking view that welcomed me as we veered away from the busy streets of Baguio City to traverse the outskirts of the Benguet province. The mountainous beauty and the cool, fresh air invited me to turn off the car’s A/C and savor the freedom of breathing fresh air as I feasted my eyes on the long stretch of greens wherenever I turned my head. Seeing the stretch of the zigzag roads ahead of us and deep ravines beneath each turns, I wondered how one can endure the passage on this steep mountains without the fear of overshooting in a single mistake of the wheel. But then I thought, this adds up to the adventure of the roadtrip aside from the beautiful sceneries that makes it enjoyable.

We were making our ways to Atok, one of the towns of Benguet province that proved to have the one of the most exhilarating views of the vast mountains of this northern province. Atop this quiet town, lies the highest point of the Philippine Highway system. At its viewdeck, one can stare at majestic Mt. Pulag on the other side,providing a preview of its beauty to those who wishes to conquer the second highest peak in the country but yet needs to build the endurance to do so. This is the place where bottled drinks were serve straight out of the shelves but still remain cold to the taste. The food that the hospitable people of this town put on the dining table are always fresh and organic, knowing that they are freshly picked from the numerous “terraces” that are bountiful around the town. And this is where beautiful cut flowers which are so expensive to buy in the metro grows just like one of the decorative grasses beside the road.

Amid each twist and turn of the road, pine trees grow tall all over town. But the most fantastic view to watch are the vast mountain terraces, a legacy of the olden times passed to the new generation and continue to be the center of the agricultural lives of the people. We’ve always talked about the Banaue Rice Terraces of the Mountain Province, but to experience the view of these terraces, one cannot help to wonder that these people have great tradition and are very grateful to keep it that way. These stairways winding around the tall mountains are the testament of tradition withstanding the new world, a statement of pride to the decendants of the culture and the love and pride of these people to the natural God-given beauty to this place.

Going down the mountain at early evening where fog started to cover your view and the chilly winds started to creep into the human body was a very humbling experience. In the midst of the dark road, you can see people coming down from the mountains to the road, walking quietly and unmindful of the darkness that surrounds the place. I have wondered so much of how great is the trust of these people to their surroundings that they were able to be at peace with the darkness where they can walk within it with confidence, without fear of the dark elements associated with it. And I deduced that the place has given its people a sense of contentment that they do not feel threatened of the outside world.

Atok left a big empression on me. Somehow, somewhere amidst the tall mountains, I have learned a great lesson in life. Happiness is not about being in the limelight but being at peace with yourself.

Coming Home

Source: Flickr Author; Shubert Ciencia

There is a little known fact on this place called Candelaria. The place where I grew up, made friends, and had a happy childhood. The place where I had been withdrawn for so long.

Candelaria is one of the towns in the coastal province of Zambales. People live a simple life, go about their business with little effort and worry little of the unbeknownst. Almost everyone knows each other and overall there is a peaceful co-existence on the community. Unlike the big cities, it does not have shopping malls, towering buidings or big parks to go to. It does not have heavy traffic and  no air pollution. The town is almost quiet at early evening, having only few young revelers to meet if you walk down the streets. People are delighted to watch basketball game in the plaza if there is one or attend traditional pre-wedding dance outs where you will find people, young and old, mingling together to celebrate. Overall, life is so laid-back into my hometown.

I have been living in the metro for nearly a decade now.  For those years that I was so busy making a living, I seldom stayed long to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the city. I grew accustomed to the fast- paced world that I have been living for nearly ten years that at times, I neglect to appreciate the charm of this place that cradled me when I was a little girl. It seems that the good old memories of my childhood was long forgotten and was replaced by the worries of petty things. In the long run, I almost lost the sense of belonging to this tiny weeny town.

But the circumstances led me back to this place where I grew up and re-opened my consciousness to this beautiful placid place that molded me to what I am now. It beckons me to come home, stay for a while and drink to its simplicity and beauty, unparalleled to what other place can offer. It encourages me to stop for a while, re-think of my directions and focus to what is more important to me- my family, my friends and my life. Most importantly, it teaches me that life is too short not to enjoy.

Everytime I approach the bridge that connects Candelaria to the rest of the world, I feel my heart skip a bit. Knowing that I will be coming home to a place where everything falls perfectly into place makes me exhilarated with joy. Seeing familiar faces of people whom I knew from the old days makes me feel the reconnection that I have lost. Exploring the once -favorite places once again- strolling into its quiet streets, watching the young ones play in the plaza, buying your childhood favorite food, watching the sun sets into its beautiful beaches- and simply letting myself immersed into its laid back beauty restores my sanity. Most of all, coming home to the little child who taught me to take a step back and live a life, who loves me unconditionally and with such innocence, rekindles my ties to my little hometown.

And Candelaria will live on to nurture more children into good people that by time it will relinquish them to the world its fervent hope is that the town will never be forgotten.

Anawangin

They say that beyond the commonplace existence, you will find one place that will captivate you and make you fall in the love that you wish you can stay there forever. As our boat approached the beautiful Anawangin Cove, I was enamoured by the scenery that I instantly fell in love with the place. Perhaps the sense of serenity is so inviting that it attracts the senses and makes you want to explore the mystifying beauty within its shore.

As I set my foot ashore, amidst the playful rush of waves, I cannot help but feel the peaceful vibes of the island. It is such a place where time stood still and all your worries and cares of the commonplace world will be forgotten. The fine, white sand welcomes you and the majestic hills that embrace the place is so lusciously green that you automatically respond to the relaxation that it is offering its guests. The place is literally void of the technological advancement of the modern world, having no network coverage, no electricity and no advance water source (aside from one hand pump) . But its primitiveness adds up to its charm and it does not devoid one’s experience of valuable existence. One would think that for our modern generation who basks into the glory of modern living, one could not survive the non-existence of the amenities that we are commercially feed to live in. But surprisingly, this quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, will lead you to inner peace that only communing with the nature can bring. Perhaps, our DNAs are programmed to embrace the world in its natural and earthly charm.

As the night approaches, the songs of the crickets are music to one’s ear and I wondered how many young people have missed out the simple joys of hearing such wonderful works of nature today. And in this place, I rediscover the things reminiscent of my childhood- shadow plays, story-telling with friends, listening to the plain, unedited renditions of lullabyes and songs; things that bring reconnection to the people and things I valued most and rekindle my passions which were set aside in exchange for chasing city lights and living the modern life. I come to the realization that happiness and contentment are not always relevant on how much you achieve by working hard. Most often, they can be found if you have inner peace in your heart and in your soul.

I left Anawangin a different person. The beautiful experience was embedded in me that to write about it this day was like a journey back to the place; as if I have been transported to this cove once again to relive its charm. And the beauty of it will be imprinted into my mind until the time that I can come back and fell in love with the place all over again.

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The Beauty of the Amber Skies

There is always a different captivating beauty of the sunset skies. I don’t know why, but I am drawn to the mesmerizing horizon of the setting sun that produces a colorful skyline between the light and dark. What fascinates me most is that the magical effect which is no more than a fleeting show but produces lasting effect on one’s human soul.

I have been to many places in the country and as always, I collect beautiful memories of the amber skies as souvenirs. And no sunset is the same, each produces different aura that delves deeper into consciousness. Here are some of the most memorable sunset views that I have enjoyed in my travels:

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The Skyline
Antipolo is the window at the outskirts of the metro. Wherever you look during sunset, one can find the striking contrast of the skyline to the cities below coming alive with little lights like fireflies awaking to the night sky.

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A Peek of the Pacific
Calm and colorful, sunset at Manila Bay is one of the breathtaking view one can experience. The blue and calm waters of the Pacific playfully enjoins the last vestige of the sunlight, making the skies above a canvass of colorful hues that paints into the hearts of those who are mesmerized by its magic.

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Stairway to Heaven

Somewhere along the winding roads of the Atok, Benguet stood the high and mighty mountains of terraces that seems to extend up to the heavens. One cannot help but to stop for a while and admire these stairways to heaven while the sun is coming down to kiss them and pay homage to the ancient people who labored hard to pass on the everlasting gift of love to their proud descendants.

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Laid back Horizon

The cold breeze touches your skin while the soft lapping of the sea wave to your feet presents a lasting charm to your consciousness as the sun quietly meets the high seas at the horizon of Anawangin in San Antonio, Zambales. The songs of the crickets that signals the approaching peaceful night will lull you to sleep unless you want to stay up a little bit and huddle in a bonfire to savor the serenity of the place that makes you want to stay forever.

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Coming Home

There is nothing more humbling than watching the marriage of the sun and the seas in my own hometown in Candelaria, Zambales. The magnificent and playful shadows of the approaching night is a reminicent of my youth, of the childhood fantasies and the small footsteps towards realization. Coming home to the sunset that nurtures your being is one of the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Perhaps the reason why I was drawn to sunset is because It presents inner peace within. Its possesses a vibrant appeal amidst its amber horizon. It heals the heart and the soul from the hustle of daily living. Or perhaps, the reason why I love the sunset is the promise it brings that tomorrow will be another great day to look forward to.