A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is “When?” [Part 1 of 3]

I think it’s been awhile (heck, probably years) since I got to write a political piece once again. Admittedly, most of what I’ve written in the past sound more like rants than an intelligently, well-researched commentary. So, I guess let me begin by begging for your forgiveness in behalf of my ‘young, dumb and broke’ self.

Second, I can’t claim sage-like wisdom and political maturity with this article. I’m simply a typical working girl from a middle-class family who spends so much time sitting on her ass going through the hellish Manila traffic everyday, thus giving her ridiculously large amount of time to think of silly stuff….like the circus that is Philippine politics, I must say.

I know you’re probably getting annoyed that it’s already the third paragraph and I haven’t written any substantial yet, but please let me state this plainly. I am not a rabid Duterte supporter, nor am I a rabid Duterte critic. Sure, I admit I didn’t come as far as to think it was the end of the world when he got elected. Honestly, I found it funny how his critics reacted on social media feeds. But looking back now, I guess I can say their fears are not without foundation. Like, their reasons are terrifyingly real and they are unfolding right in front of us.

Now you might ask, how all of this leads me to talk about, in my opinion, the best form of government in the Philippines. If I’m wary and guarded of Duterte administration, why am I supporting a form of government that moves all focus of power to one institution in a political scene where most legislators are so balimbing to the incumbent president so they can carry out their own ambitions?

Simple. Because the present form of unitary democracy is failing us.

Not that the practice is failing. Theoretically, it’s actually effective in some countries with healthy democracy. The thing is, our Philippine-version of democracy is far from that.

Allow me to discuss what the setup will be if the Philippines adopted a parliamentary form of government. I’m no political analyst nor I claim to be an expert I’m just a temperamental brat, but I’ve observed and researched that this setup is common to democratic countries with a duly-elected Parliament.

I’d like to demonstrate the difference between the two systems with three scenarios: Electing the Head of State, Passing a law into practice and the Party-System. Bear in mind that the government is beyond this three but for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on these.

First, the election.

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Why the Parliamentary form is better? 

Face it. Election in the Philippines is a circus. One’s platform is always second to popularity. These past presidential elections show us how emotional we can be. I think the reason why Duterte won is because Filipinos are simply fed up with Noynoy’s ‘softness’ and seemingly bias towards the rich. Never mind that Duterte is a tough-talking, gun-loving, vigilante justice advocate. He gets things done anyway. Screw foreign policy and common decency. They ain’t gonna feed us anyway.

And this problem is not only evident with presidential elections. From the local office to the Senate, campaigning is simply selling yourself to the people. Emphasize the ‘yourself’ here. Never mind if your family is waddling through corruption and graft cases, never mind that you received suspicious funds for questionable government projects in your last term in office, never mind that you did not attend a single assembly in Congress for the whole year, never mind that you are once an action star and found yourself wearing Senatorial robes without any degree in public governance or a college diploma.

With a Parliamentary style of government, anyone who wants to serve as Head of Government has to work him/herself up to the ladder. You just don’t get elected in a snap. With hard work, commitment and good credentials under your belt, your political party has to believe in you and your platform enough to elect you as their Chairman. The other members of the Parliament has to believe in your party and its platform enough to elect it as the ruling party for that term.

As Prime Minister, you are accountable to the Parliament and the Parliament is accountable to the People.

A Parliamentary style of government does not divide the people, just as what we are witnessing right now. There’s so much mud-slinging and ad hominem going on between the pro-admin and the critics that the more pressing national issues and the present situation of the country are set aside just to prove to the opposition that they are right (vice versa). In a Parliamentary setup, if the Prime Minister and the Parliament did not do their job properly, the People can rally together because essentially, each and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is affected. There won’t be any blame games among the people.

Why the Parliamentary form won’t work right now?

With a parliamentary style of government, the Upper and Lower house will be fused into one. In short, the Senate will be dissolved. And c’mon, can you see that happening in our lifetime? Hardly. There are too many trapos in our current legislature to let that happen.

With the Congress voting to give the Commission on Human Rights a measly budget of Php1,000 (20 USD) on year 2018, there’s no way in hell I would let these people decide how my country will run. On top of that, most people in office are the living proof that political dynasties are still rampant in the government while most are elected because they are simply popular. No, the current government is still infested with turncoats and snakes, backed by oligarchs and the rich. The only thing they care about is furthering their own political ambitions.

I can understand why some youth groups and activists are so wary of Charter Change and Constitutional Reform. The people elected in office are too untrustworthy, too greedy. With how the past administrations have failed us, we have every right and reason to be.

 

Still, I would continue to fight for better governance and accountability. My idealistic self may be gone after college but that doesn’t mean I have to give up. I still have trust on people in my generation of leading this country to a better future. What I can do right now is to do my part in helping people understand that this current system is failing us and the current government is not that different to the ones before. That the few good ones in the government are often ignored and discouraged to give the service we Filipinos deserve. That we deserve better than this, but we can only get what we think we deserve.

And we deserve better. Gosh, we should start thinking, no…demanding that we do.

 

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This post is the first part of the series: A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is when? For the 2nd part, I’ll be comparing how policies and laws are implemented between the Presidential and the Parliamentary government. Why are we experiencing so many delays in implementing laws and why the Supreme Court has the power to hold it off, sometimes for an indefinite period of time? Is the Parliamentary government more prone to an authoritarian regime and dictatorship? 

For further reading, please check out the links below:

 

All thanks to www.canva.com  for allowing me to create the infographic 🙂

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…..And I’m back!!

Finally, after a five-month (?) hiatus, I worked up the courage to blog again. You may say how I make it sound like a scary thing but it really is….well at least for my anxiety-ridden, perfectionist ass that is 😛

Anyway, I’m about to turn 25 and I can’t say I enjoy the thought of turning 25. When I was a teen, I though 25 as being way old…like 40-something old. I’m not even exaggerating. Most 25-year-old people I knew then are married, have kids, promoted into managers in their line of work or have settled down abroad.

Meanwhile, here I am, having achieved none of these things. And I can’t shake off that dismal thought that I’ll still be ranting about this when I’m about to turn 26, or turn 30, or 45. In this point in time where everything you could do or what you couldn’t do are chronicled in the internet and social media, the pressure to be successful in the eyes of the world just got more intimidating.

But enough about that! At the bright side of things, let me share some exciting news. I finally have my own website! I’m still in the process of moving my old blog entries to the new one so it’s still a bit clutter-y at this point.

Anyway, feel free to check it out!

http://thesentimentaltraveler.com/

I’ll still keep this blog active especially now that I have several projects in mind. I will probably  keep this around until my 30+ years old and I’m still crying about how unfair the world is 🙂

 

 

 

[Traveliries] How Mt. Tapulao brought me to my knees

I’m not one to broadcast my failures online – Facebook, Twitter, this blog….but I promised myself I’ll be more fearless for this year. Posting this may be a good start. It’s quite poetic that my first post for this year is about failure and probably won’t be the last.

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What a wonderful day for a hike (HAH!)

So early last year, I participated in my fourth climb  with two of my college friends – Len and Jam. Len had been an avid hiker long before Jam and I got into mountaineering and when she told us about Mt. Tapulao which features Pulag-like scenery and fog, we quickly said yes to the invite without researching about the mountain. Our blood is singing with longing for the Great Outdoors, a veritable escape from the tediousness of city life. Not to mention the package is cheap! Just PHP650.00 for a day hike which includes transportation and guide fee*. There’s no way we’re gonna pass it up.

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Mt. Tapulao is the highest mountain range in Zambales region. We left Cubao around 9PM in the evening because we need to get be in the jump-off point at 3 AM to start the trek. The three of us were happily chatting inside the bus, blissfully ignorant to the torturous trek ahead. Looking back now, the whole trip went smoothly. Too smoothly, in my opinion. Knowing my luck, I should have known that was a sign for the things yet to come.

Before the sun rose, we set off to the infamous Rocky Road, the first phase of the trek. Why Rocky Road you ask? Just take a look at the picture below. And if you’re thinking ‘Meh, that’s just the quarter of the trek. It can’t go on forever’ then you’re WRONG. The Rocky Road is like 80% of the trek and by the time you descend Mt. Tapulao, the mere sight of a harmless rock will drive you nuts. Nuts, I tell ya! (I can’t eat a rocky road ice cream without having a flashback of rocks, rocks everywhere)

The rocks don’t disappear. They just keep getting bigger and bigger.

As far as I remember, the route to Mt. Tapulao covers 16 stations of which I don’t know how it was divided. Let’s just say up until Station 14 or 13, you’ll be tripping on rocks until you finally enter the pine tree forest, the most scenic part of the hike. Jam and Len went as far as Station 14 while I, worried about the dusk, decided to climb down earlier. It was around 1 PM and we haven’t reached the peak yet!

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In my previous hikes, I used to enjoy the descent more so than the climb. At least, I have some help from gravity when it comes to pacing. With Mt. Tapulao, the hike down is just as painful to the knees as the climb. The rocks are slippery and my knees are close to buckling down from exhaustion. I swear I have to ask my guide to have a rest every ten minutes or so. And when things couldn’t get any worse, it rained. Heavily.

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Pictures of the pine forest courtesy of my good friend Jam. Check out her amazing blog https://wandergirldiaries.wordpress.com/

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Jam’s cool shots near Camp 1

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Good thing I brought some extra clothes and underwear for the occasion. When we arrive back to the Rangers’ Station, it was nearly 3 PM and I changed off my wet clothes without some competition from other hikes. After comforting myself with a cup of warm noodles, I collapsed to one of the benches and slept until evening like a wimp.

TIPS BEFORE GOING TO MT. TAPULAO:

  • If you’re a beginner, I STRONGLY recommend you to join the the overnight hike instead of the dayhike. If you want to challenge yourself, prepare prepare prepare weeks before the actual hike.
  • A walking stick will be very useful especially during descent. By this time, your knees may buckle anytime and it’s good to have a stick to support you.
  • Always bring a poncho or a raincoat. Don’t take the weather lightly.
  • Wear comfortable footwear. You’re gonna rely on it especially during the Rocky Road.
  • Mt. Tapulao is also a perfect pre-major hike climb. If you want to take on Mt. Pulag’s infamous Akiki challenge, Mt. Tapulao can prepare you for the terrain and the altitude.
  • And don’t get discouraged! Whether you reach the summit or not within the allotted time, it doesn’t matter. We have revenge hikes for a reason 🙂
  • Have fun! Make sure you file your one-day vacation leave after the hike.

 

Is it fulfilling to work in an NGO?

More than two years ago, I applied for a job in a local NGO. Fresh out of the dazzling and glamorous world of the media, the experience is similar to moving in a quiet, pastoral town after spending most of one’s life in a thriving, noisy city that’s always on the move.

My career-driven aunt was against my decision. And until now, she is. I was on the right track prior to my resignation from one of the biggest newspaper names in the country. Why didn’t I stay in my career path as a journalist and a writer? Why did I make a drastic move in my early years of being professional?

The closest reason I can think of is Supertyphoon Yolanda. It wasn’t the main reason but it certainly played a major part. Back in 2013, I remembered sitting in the cold newsroom that smelled like coffee and old cigarette, monitoring the news and weather updates as the hulking beast of winds and gusts cover the entire seaboard of Leyte. I remembered receiving text messages and photos from our field reporters of the damages and deaths the supertyphoon has caused, how the government and the community were left in tatters in its wake of destruction.

It was the NGOs and foreign organizations who first gave the relief and the aid all those people need. Don’t get me wrong; the media has played a vital role in consolidating information for places that need help, maintaining that momentum of urgency for assistance the victims need. It was thrilling to work in the media but journalism is not for me, as I have belatedly realized. I don’t dream of becoming a reporter with the camera focused on my face. When I first saw my name with a ‘writer’ attached after the comma next to the headline, elation and pride don’t quite describe it. I feel relief that the story was published and I don’t have to look forward in answering any of my editor’s calls.

But now you ask, did I find my calling in working for an NGO? Not quite, either.

NGO presents many ways and opportunities for service and ideas for serving. I think the three years I spent working here is not a waste but a roller-coaster of achievements and disappointments, same as in any career. People often ask me if I feel fulfilled in serving others, in traveling to places I never dreamed of going or meeting other people who lived a completely different life from mine. Yes, I do. I was quite happy with the experience. Only that you won’t always feel fulfilled. Actually, you will feel more frustrated than fulfilled lots of times.

When you consider working for an NGO, you have to assess yourself and study your motivations. Because if you just wanted to feel fulfilled and useful for others, you’ll find yourself  looking for another job after one or two months. Yes, there is joy in serving, in teaching others how to fish rather than giving them all the fish they would need, in envisioning sustainable development in a community, but there is also disillusionment in many areas. Why did the project fail? Why did the donors want to fund this and not this? Why are people always looking after their own self-interests? Why do morons in the government outnumber those with good sense? Why can’t people just go out there and fish?

There is joy and sacrifice. You will feel inspired and at other times, jaded. You will learn from others as well as from yourself. At the end of the day, it is your choice to feel fulfilled in whatever you are doing, whether you’re in the corporate world or in an NGO. It all boils down to priorities, really. Most people around my age prioritize career growth and prefer a fast-paced lifestyle; I like to slow down every once in a while and meet new people, be in different environments and plan my own schedule to explore other options in my life.

If you don’t feel fulfilled anymore, and your career feels like it’s going nowhere, it’s perfectly fine to leave too. To feel cynical or disillusioned. To feel disappointed. Because ultimately, apart from helping others, you have to help yourself too.

Time Machine

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Me (in red) and my cousin during happier times

She was the one who revealed to me that I’m going to be a big sister once again. After more than thirteen years. It was somewhere in November and I remembered being satisfied by a hearty meal of footlong and coke, making myself comfortable outside the novelty shop my mom and cousin set up for the bazaar market during the Christmas season.

My cousin baited me with a question. “What would you feel if we tell you your mom’s pregnant?”

I was in my second year of high school and for the longest time, it has always been me and Mico, my brother who’s two years younger than me. The thought of having another sibling didn’t appeal to me that much and it didn’t help that my parents never discussed to us any possibility of having a new member in the family.

“I don’t believe you,” I said with a smile, unable to wrap my head around the idea that my mom is pregnant once again. She and my father seemed to reach a decision to limit the family into four. A reasonable decision considering our financial situation that time.

My cousin just smiled knowingly. Her black almond eyes lit up with mischief, her round chin quivering with poorly-hidden mirth. Growing up, I grew familiar with that look when she used to sneak Mico and I some snacks before dinner time or when she describe some gory details of my childhood to our other cousins.

“You’ll warm up to the idea.” She said, patting my knees affectionately.

And she was right. A few months later, my mom gave birth to an adorable baby boy whose features are a mix of Mico and I. I immediately fell in love with Miggy, just as what my cousin foretold. Having spent the majority of my childhood with her, I should know better by now to doubt her instincts.

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Going home to Romblon, our province. Mico is the boy in blue

My cousin, Ate Me-ann, was diagnosed with Lupus when she was around 35 years old. I remembered my mom greeting me with a question of what Lupus is after I got home from school and I remembered thinking that it must be a disease you get from dogs or other rabid animals.

“The doctor said it targets your immune system,” my mom said worriedly. “President Marcos died because of Lupus, didn’t he? It must be a rich man’s disease.”

I told her not to worry that much. After some brief research on the internet, some people with Lupus were able to live their life to the fullest.

Later I found out that the difference between these people and my cousin is that, they have the money. My cousin is a college dropout with no family left except her sister, my mom and our other cousins. And as you may have guessed, none of us were millionaires.

Ate Me-ann earned her living with the annual tiangge or bazaar market by setting up a gift item shop from September to late February of the next year. My mom practically raised Ate Me-ann here in Manila after her mother left her and two sisters in Romblon and her father skirted off to raise another family. The three of them lived as orphans in every sense of the word, but my mother seemed to have sensed Ate Me-ann’s potential to earn money on whatever venture she set her eyes upon. She is friendly and confident and it’s not difficult to trust her. It never took long before she gained financial independence from my mom and started her own small-time business in retailing. She was the star of our local tiangge; a trend-setter of toys and items. Her ability lies on knowing what the consumers want before they realized they want it for themselves.

Before Lupus got the best of her, she was the best in the game. Her energy is infectious and she made sure to accommodate each customer herself. Once a customer expresses an interest in the item she’s selling, it’s rare to see that customer get out of the bazaar without taking anything.

Her medicine, her medical procedure, her dialysis sessions twice a week. All of it, she can afford because of her earnings from the last season. She was a veteran businesswoman; hard to bargain with but she would always soften up when Miggy asks for a free toy. She spoiled Mico and me under her care; Miggy is no exception, even if he’s thirteen years late.

————————————————————————–Ate Me-Ann died without a husband or children to grieve by her bedside. She lived with a female partner for years, loved her and sent her to an accountancy school. That partner was forced to marry by her own mother to an acquaintance living in Canada for a more ‘secure’ future. We haven’t heard from her until now, even after Ate Me-ann died.

Being the person I am, I used to think things would have been different for them if the Philippines has a law for a civil union for the same sex. Her partner wouldn’t have to marry someone else to alleviate her family’s fear of allowing their daughter to enter into a union not protected by the State. But I’m just being political. All Ate Me-ann would have wanted was to see her partner’s face before she drew her last breath.

When it’s not the tiangge season, I spent most of my weekends during my college years in her home. She lived in the same city as we did. Our afternoons are filled playing role-playing games in a thin, secondhand PlayStation she bought. She said it made her feel nostalgic. Back when we were kids, we used to play an endless string of games with our father’s console in my parents’ room without him knowing it.

“Things were simpler back then,” my cousin said a few weeks before she died. I finally got the chance to visit in-between my out-of-town work. I rarely got the time to see her when I got a job and if it wasn’t for my mother’s insistence, I would have never seen her alive. She was laying on her bed, her skin hanging loose. She had already missed five dialysis lessons and her lupus had returned with a vengeance. She was vomiting and excreting blood and she was too weak to stand by herself.

The past Tiangge season had been hard on her.  She didn’t earn that much and her most recent girlfriend left her without a word. To top it all that, her workers from the Tiangge stole from her earnings each day but she was too weak to look for any replacement.

That night, she made a simple request for me to massage her legs with her favorite baby oil. I complied and she smiled gratefully, but I turned my head away so she wouldn’t see my forced smile.

“My greatest wish right now is to have a time machine.” She continued lightly. “Just so we can return to happier times. Back when you used to suck Iced tea or coca-cola on your baby formula even though you’re already seven years old that time.”

“I wasn’t seven. I was younger than that.” I replied, stung.

“…And the time you used to wet your bed all the time and you blame it to Mico who’s not even on the same bed as you.”

“At least I don’t sit in one corner of the room and poop in his pants like Mico does.”

She chuckled at that. That was the last time I saw her laugh.

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She stayed at the National Kidney Institute for two weeks. One week to treat her internal bleeding and another week because she doesn’t have the money to pay for her hospital bills. She was literally imprisoned inside the hospital and she kept on crying to go home. Her dialysis treatment had gone too late; the infection reached her brain.

I went to her ward that she shared with three more people. I found her at the farthest end of the room – tossing on her bed. Her sister who had been taking care of her for more than a week now gave a small smile of relief, her bloodshot eyes showing signs of relief after seeing me. My mother was not healthy enough to take care of Ate Me-Ann in the hospital following her chemo sessions the year before.

“How’s ate Me-ann?” I asked my cousin.

She shook her head and I turned my attention to Ate Me-ann, at first, refusing to look at her face, fearing for the face that will look back at me. She was conscious and she lost half of her weight. Her eyes are bulging out of their sockets but what clenched my chest is the lack of emotions, any spark of recognition, in her black eyes. It was like staring into the mouth of a cave. There was no easy smile she would give me, no change in her expression. She sat up and started counting from 1 to 12, her voice rising at each number.

I knew for a certain that the person who had taken care of me since childhood was no longer there. The one sitting across from me is nothing but a shadow of what my cousin used to be.

Her sister told me to ask Ate Me-ann is she still knows me. She barely knew anyone by now and I expected it will be the same case with me.

She answered my name, her gaze unwavering. I smiled weakly. She still knows me, but ever since childhood, she would call me by a different name. I asked her what her name is and she gave me an invented name in a sing-song voice.

I kept on denying it but the truth was clear on her unflinching eyes. We already lost her.


The day my cousin died, the whole country voted for the 16th President of the Philippines. A few days before, my mom finally found a way to pay her hospital bills and they took her home, granting her wish to die at peace in her own house.

Before we go to our precinct to vote, my mom answered a call and took it outside the house. A few minutes later, she went back, tears flowing against her scrunched-up face. One look and we all knew: Ate Me-ann breathed her last.

When we went to their house a few minutes later, the silence of the neighborhood was interrupted by a shriek and a cry. My mother rammed her away through Ate Me-ann’s door, crying uncontrollably, uselessly. My cousin who is in medical school is already there, sitting beside the body like a statue of an angel in mausoleums. The whole house shook with their cries, their wails that I remembered feeling nauseous. Being the only able-bodied man in the house, Mico went inside his ate Me-ann’s room to help my cousin lay the body against the mattress. But he stopped short, his body rigid despite my cousin’s instructions. I think that’s when the waterworks begin in my face.

“Nica, come here!” My cousin called me instead. I took big gulps of air, my shoulders shaking controllably like the last time I had a severe asthma attack many years ago. The tears came and went away  just as fast, but that was the first time in many years I cried that hard in front of my mother, in front of everyone.

I didn’t know how long we stayed inside the house until an ambulance came and the guys from the funeral parlor took the body. I remembered going outside to see the sky brightly lit-up, the sun throwing golden sunbeams filtered by the lush leaves of a nearby Mango tree. The air smelled fresh and new. A helicopter passed by, its distant engine sounding like a drum roll as they carried Ate Me-ann’s body to the car, her body inside a bag.

It was the day my cousin died and I expected the intense pain that comes with it. Like anticipating a syringe piercing your skin. What comes is a dull, empty feeling, and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not.

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After they led the body away, we are expected to follow them on another vehicle. Now that things have calmed down a little, I saw that almost all my cousins were there, the same people who joked with Ate Me-ann, the same people who shared stories with her, the same people who visited her at the hospital and accompanied her during her dialysis sessions. If there’s any consolation to all of this, I felt comforted that Ate Me-ann died around people she loved, and people who love her as well.

My mom is surrounded by her nephews and nieces, being consoled as we all knew she was the one hurting the most. She never even got the chance to say goodbye.

We returned home from the funeral parlor and was welcomed by Miggy who had just woken up. I explained to him, as delicately as I can to a child, that Ate Me-ann had passed away earlier this morning. This was the first time I explained death to a child and to simply put, I loathe the idea of doing this again.

As soon as he heard it, Miggy immediately went beside our mother and hugged her as she broke out in fresh tears once again. He subtly wiped a tear from his eye. Just like me, he hates crying in front of anyone, even if it’s in front of my mother, even because of this reason.

“Where do you think she is now?” Miggy asked me later that day while we’re on our way home from the voting stations. “Is she in heaven? Is she with the angels now?”

“Maybe, but I pray she’s happier now.” My mother, being a Catholic, was disheartened to know that the priest hasn’t arrived on time to give Ate Me-ann the last Sacrament. She began to arrange for the prayer meetings on Ate Me-ann’s 9th day and 40th day. At least the arrangements for her funeral and other things distract her from the pain. Another good argument why funerals are created for the living, not for the dead.

“What do you think heaven looks like?” he asked again.

“Like a giant mall. Spacious. Cold. Has a nice smell inside.” I replied, smiling at my own made-up theology. “It will be sad once you get there because you won’t be with your family anymore but it has lots of things that can make you happy. Like a time machine.”

“I don’t believe you,” Miggy replied with a smile.

I tussled his hair, committing all of this to memory. One thing I learned from Ate Me-ann is to create new memories with our loved ones and relish the moment with them. This would be one of the moments I’ll file in my mind as I gripped his neck in a faux-wrestling neck lock and he laughed merrily, trying to get away; memories that will guide me in the afterlife. And perhaps, if I ask, God may just allow me to travel back the memory lane.

Just maybe.

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[Travel] Masungi: Where ‘Hanging Out With Friends’ Takes a Whole New Level

The province of Rizal is comparable to that of a sweet uncle who, at first glance, looked downright boring with his tweed pants and shoeshine loafers. But once you get to know him, he can fill your afternoon with great stories and jokes, drawing you in until you can’t get enough. As someone who was born and raised in Marikina, then lived in Taytay, Rizal for a few years, I never thought Rizal as a treasure trove for scenic mountaineering, noteworthy museums for art and history, and thrilling adventures.

One such adventure took us to the Masungi Georeserve Park. Now even before they opened it for the public, Masungi trended in social media because of its famous “Giant Duyan” or hammock (see below)

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But Masungi turned out to be more than that place with a giant Duyan. It will force you to test your guts, your latent fear of heights and maybe your ability to take a selfie with nothing but a network of ropes keeping you from plunging to your death below. That’s why they call the Masungi trek a Discovery Trail in the first place.

 

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The Park has been a center of land-grabbing issues between the owners and the government. Minor skirmishes were common and some soldiers were stationed due to the threat. Otherwise, it was relatively safe. 

 

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Masungi’s name is derived from the word “masungki” which translates to “spiked” – an apt description for the sprawling limestone landscape found within.

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The famous Sapot

 

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Going down the Duyan

 

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Complimentary snacks await you once you overcome the Duyan (100% Organic!)

 

 

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So how will you plan your Masungi Adventure? It’s easy. For one, you don’t have to worry about the terrain that much. Masungi is for regular and beginner hikers, limited to persons 13 years and above.

First thing to do is booking your trip. The last time we went there, it was around April and we heard most of the time slots were fully booked until this coming November.You can check out the dates on this site: http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/  I don’t think they would accept walk-in tours by now. They limit the guests to preserve the area and for security reasons.

I don’t think they would accept walk-in tours by now. They limit the guests to preserve the area and for security reasons. See, even the name of the park has a word ‘reserve’ on it.

Second, plan a trip with more or less thirteen people. If you’re traveling in small numbers, just join the ‘joiners’ package’ on mountaineering groups on Facebook. If you already knew some climbers or avid hikers, you guys can create a tour of your own. You need to have a group of more than 7 hikers and a maximum of 13.

Third, know the rate so you can budget your transportation accordingly. We paid PHP1, 400.00 per head, regardless of how many we were. Since we had no idea how to get there, we decided to rent a van and that’s where the beauty of traveling with a large group comes in. You can save a lot of energy and money, especially when it’s time to go home and your energy is almost depleted with the hiking. Hiring a van or a jeep is not that necessary but it’s a huge relief to do so.

Fourth, plan your timeslot. Most of the timeslots in the mornings are already taken, but traveling around mid-day is not that bad either (that is if you can endure the early afternoon sun) Make sure to consider the places where your fellow hikers would be coming from.

Remember that the trail will take around 3-4 hours, depending on your pace. Some people opt to have side-trips like Daranak waterfalls if they took the early morning slot.

Masungi is really an unforgettable adventure on its own. I don’t think my pictures or my words can encapsulate how awesome the experience was. You have to be there to enjoy it, as cliche as this will sound.

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Locator map from the website

 

 

 

Why Train to Busan is probably not for the faint-hearted

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Train to Busan is the first South Korean film I’ve watched on the big screen, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.It was a nerve-wracking, heart-pounding, hair-tearing experience. It’s not just a film; it’s an experience.

Like many other romantics, I’m also a fan of South Korean comedies and dramas but I’m not overly fond of the zombie genre. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting that much, though I’ve seen nothing but praises and recommendations of the film on Facebook. Maybe because after watching the South Korean film, The Host (2016), I can’t take the whole monster thing seriously.

To avoid major spoilers, I’ll just tell about the main story. Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo from the Coffee Prince) travels with his young daughter, Su-an, to a train to Busan to deliver her to his wife whom he is estranged with. We learn that Seok-Woo works as a fund manager in an agency and seldom spends time with his daughter. His workaholic and seemingly indifferent attitude distance him from having any relationship with his daughter who would rather prefer living with her mom following the separation of her parents.

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Onboard the train is some characters who are not just zombie meat but actual people you’ll grow to care for. We have this school girl with an adorable crush from one of the guys on the baseball team, a couple expecting a baby boy, two elderly sisters and a homeless guy who may look clumsy and idiotic at first but has a golden heart (I wouldn’t spoil this too much)

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Gong Yoo is so good in this. I mean, all characters are, even the infuriating ones. And let’s not forget the grotesque, cringe-worthy performance of the zombies. We are left with so many questions and speculations with how exactly the infections started, or if the infection already spread globally, and how the survivors are going to survive the aftermath. Even with that, we left the cinemas greatly satisfied, adrenaline singing in our veins as we babble on how awesome that experience was.

Train to Busan is not just a horror and a zombie flick. It has a heart and the team behind this movie know exactly where they wanted the story to go. And it actually reached its destination. The ride will leave you breathless and it will leave you wanting for more despite all the tension and stress you’ve experienced. It will be the longest roller coaster you’ll ride on.

At this point, all I wanted to say is, “Well done, South Korea. You’ve done it again. We wanted a sequel deserving of this one, you hear?”

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Maybe in the SEQUEL, we can have some action from North Korea as well. It will be so good!

For the trailer, watch the link below:

Train to BusanTrain to Busan

 

 

 

 

 

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