Last New Year’s eve, at the comforts of my room, I made a promise with myself. A promise to make 2016, the year that I will focus on dreams and things that I have put off for so long. For the past years, my choices, if not all, were based on other people. On what my parents will feel and on how it will affect my relationship with others. This time I said, this life should be mine to live. For life-changing decisions, I will have to decide for myself and do this part alone.
Call me selfish, but for once, I wanted it to be just me.
I pursued my love for mountaineering and for January alone, I dedicated three weekends for three new mountains (Twin Day Hike at Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Hapunang Banoi and Mt. Batolusong) and my comeback at Luzon’s highest – Mount Pulag.
This has been me, kicking off my year by expressing my love for the mountains despite the questions and raised eyebrows I get every time people see I tirelessly climb mountains after mountains.
Feb: Tugegarao – Buscalan – Tinglayan – Bontoc – Sagada | El Nido, PPS
The tattoo according to locals of Buscalan, symbolizes the mountains and the seas. Aside from my love for the outdoors, I personally chose this to represent my struggles. Four inner mountains which I am still on the process of conquering – my fears, doubts, insecurities and validation of self-worth. The dots below represents my parents, and my struggle to make them proud. The tattoo is placed on my leg, to remind me that I shouldn’t stop bettering myself in every aspect of my journey.
Ma, Pa, this is not an act of rebellion. I know how much you despise tattoos but I got myself inked to remind me of my battles and for my love for you.
For the love of travel, I went solo to El Nido spending Valentine’s by loving myself and my passion a little more. While others were there with their loved ones and friends, I was there alone loving the company of myself.
Speaking of love, before, I have this mindset and strange desire to get people to like me. I have imposed this image of myself as the funny, smart, and outgoing one. Later this year, I realized to put off that selfish mindset and instead to be myself and help people to fall in love with their selves.
March: Mt. Mariveles
Together with my team, we introduced mountaineering to two new aspiring mountaineers. Seeing these two at the summit of their first mountain and knowing that it was a major climb, made me proud of them and the camaraderie that the team had shown. It feels overwhelming how other’s victory feels like my victory as well.
April: A dayhike at Mt. Sipit-Ulang and Payaran Falls with friends. The largest group I’ve brought so far.
Crossed skinny-dipping out of my bucket list when we lose a game with the girls at Masasa in Tingloy, Batangas.
For myself: I started my birthday month partying at my favorite island – Boracay. That’s it. Well, some of the best moments are the ones you can’t post 😉
For others: As part of my New Year’s resolution – to spend my time changing the world no matter where I spend my days, together with other strangers, we went to Baler for a mission to spread happiness and love. It was my first time here in Manila to actually dedicate my time for others. The experience was life-changing to say the least and it made my birthday even more worthwhile.
For friends: Scheduled a birthday climb at Mt. Balagbag – which was another first for me. Under the starry skies of Antipolo, we spent the night drinking and playing Uno.
June: Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
I have always dreamt of backpacking Southeast Asia. It has been on top of my list and I know this time – I have got to do it. A year of planning and saving and after having enough courage, I together with three of my friends went on a 10-day journey across Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Below are some of our highlights:
Twin Tower officers reprimanded us for a couple of times since it was already closed yet we were still there taking photos. We asked for a minute but we ended up staying for a couple of minutes more. Well, you can’t blame us, Twin Towers is just too lovely to let go. The following day, I met my Malaysian brother June who took a time off from work to tour me and my friends in Batu Caves. Terima Kasih!
It was way too funny how pissed I was after going back and forth from Georgetown to Butterworth to secure night train tickets to Thailand since we were tipped that there were direct buses from Penang Center to Hat Yai. And even more pissed after finding out that there were no buses and that trains from Butterworth were all fully-booked. I was too stressed thinking of options that it even came to considering booking a direct flight to Bangkok. Luckily, we were saved by agencies in Penang who offers shuttle service to the border.
On the border of Malaysia and Thailand in Sadao, we were on the verge of crying and breaking out after we were put on hold by immigration officers just because we own a Philippine passport. Our driver that time couldn’t even help us because he doesn’t speak English that much. After settling everything with 50 Malaysian Ringgit each, our passports were stamped. F you Thai immigration officers!
Meeting a good friend in Bangkok after almost traveling for a day. Together with Kara and the squad, we shopped until we drop at Chatuchak, ate insects at the streets of Khao San and partied all night just like the good old times. We traveled to the eastern part of Thailand the following day with me having allergies all over my body. And worst, we swam at the rat-infested beach of Pattaya.
Cambodia was a shock to the senses – literally and figuratively. On our last night, we had its famous meal – if you know what I mean.
How do I even start with Vietnam? I love every bits of it from the food to the people. Well, maybe not all of them, as my friends were scammed on our last night. They were threatened to pay a huge amount of dong when it only would take around 5-10 minutes to get to our hotel from Ben Thanh Market. The driver was already screaming at them and he won’t let them out until they pay the amount that he was asking. Given that they already ran out of dong, they paid in ringgit, baht, riel and even in peso. Tsk.
July: Mt. Maynuba | Cebu
Truth be told, no matter how I stick to my plans of just listening to myself, I couldn’t pass over the fact that I still listen to your voices inside my head. You guys are my conscience and for the life of me, I won’t miss for the world the celebration of the love that has brought me into this world.
Please know that I am working as hard as I can to become half of the humans that you are. I love you both.
My last climb for 2016 was in Mt. Maynuba in Rizal. The crowd there was my main reason why I decided to rest for a while. Mass climbs, friends organizing events even if they are not that equip disappointed me.
August the month when my stubbornness and itchy feet took me to Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi. “Isn’t it scary?” I always get that question every time I tell people that I’ve been to the southernmost province of the Philippines. Bes, fear is a product of our imagination. Do not let the media limit you. Break the stigma. Give Mindanao a chance. It isn’t always guns and war down there.
After fulfilling my promise to myself to set foot in Mindanao once every year, I fulfilled another promise but this time, to the kids of Baler. That their Kuya Ken will be coming back. I personally made it to a point to visit them again after I heard the kids talk during our first outreach last May.
Kid 1: “Kuya Ken balik po kayo ha para laging masaya.”
Me: “Oo naman!”
Kid 2: “Di na yan sila babalik gaya nung mga nauna.”
A lot of groups may have told them that they will be coming back. And it breaks my heart to know how people can easily make promises and not make it. We went there to instill hope but if we cannot walk our talk, how big of a difference are we making?
I was on a self-imposed travel ban for the month of September and that gave me the freedom to say yes when asked about our company’s outreach activity at the Kanlungan ni Maria. The outreach made me realize that time is always enough and is the greatest gift that one could give to others.
October: Bacolod Masskara | Lakawon Island
My short stay in Bacolod were mostly spent with family and friends. I partied with Negros Love Dance, had dinner with the family at Manokan Country, went out to the streets to celebrate Masskara and travel to Cadiz with friends to chill at Taw Hai Floating Bar.
Siargao isn’t even part of my top list of places to visit, but when I got there, surprisingly it felt like home. It gave me answers and chills and all these raw emotions I didn’t even know I was capable of feeling.
Out of all goodbyes, you were the hardest.
It was like a kick in the balls. I was hit hard with the realization that I have ego conflicts. How I have ruined relationships just because I refuse to admit that I was the one at fault. That I have become this unapologetic man who wanted to be seen as impressive as always. It took me a flight to Bali and a portion of my 13th month pay to make me realize that all this time, being self-centered is no good at all. The trip was my mirror. It was my turning point.
I came to Bali sure of who I am not knowing that this time, I have lost myself in the process. I wasn’t this man. I was caught up in my own little box because I focused mainly on myself and my own happiness. But what I have learned during my stay at the island is that, I also do have the ability to right wrongs and communicate. The three nights and four days may be short, but it was enough to help me see others more than myself.
This 2017, I urge you to fulfill that list, accomplish that dream, and live that life. But also to not forget to see your ability to understand, pour love and support. Take on board all of the things you have learned this 2016. Remember, you are in control of your own happiness. Make yourself your priority but never ever forget to blend it with love. Because as far as I know, loving yourself, is never an act of selfishness at all.
This entry is part of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival: “Prosperous and Exciting Year of Travel in 2016” hosted by Mervz Marasigan of Pinoy Adventurista.