Telex the Tour Guide, Skype Romance, and the CDO River Survey Experience

In my previous post, I mentioned about Bacolod but it was about me and my friend Tine. I find it ironic writing about Visayas that way when I am actually in Mindanao soil. I was unable to capture the entire experience, but I am saving this subsequent blog post to mention another important person in my Bacolod trip with my friend Tine.  And that is none other than our good tour guide Telex. (No, I have not forgotten you, Sir. I was saving my thank you for this post because your utmost hospitality to me and Tine deserves an entire post in itself.)

With Bacolod being my first domestic leisure trip, I had no other means to compare the experience elsewhere. So when I flew to Cagayan De Oro last October 25 to survey a river, it was the first trip where I really felt a severe homesickness. This place is all new to me, I don’t speak Visayan dialect, and I really appreciated the presence of Tine and Telex more during my last out-of-Manila trip prior to CDO. It’s ironic because CDO is a place of extreme activities and well, I’m not exactly the adventurous type. I climbed seven waterfalls with a mountain level 1 difficulty, and I was already like a rolling and noisy can from 4th waterfall to 7th waterfall. I made sure not to look like it in my photos, but yeah, I was sedentary like that:

Mambukal Falls’ Elusive 7th Waterfall with Tiney

Going back to my CDO trip… I was just with my stuffed toy Cookie and my Milan Kundera novel (which I haven’t got the time to read at all!) as I braved the 2 hour turbulent flight. I hate riding planes and well, I was just gripping my rosary the whole time I was up there.

I arrived here with barely any clue of what to do or where to go. To make things worse, it was Signal Number 1 at the time of my flight. So I had moments where the airplane was moving vertically and people were already screaming a little inside the Cebu Pacific airbus. I stifled my screams because my guy seatmate was watching and waiting for me to scream. I did not want to give him any satisfaction. The plane was not able to land its usual route because of the strong winds. Forever thankful to the ultra-skilled pilot of Cebu Pacific for NOT RISKING the passengers just to land the usual way. He found a way to go above the turbulent parts and made a different maneuver as he landed.

Lumbia Airport on a Rainy Evening Landing


Camwhoring before the Turbulent Flight


My only friends who hail from CDO are both engineers who were working in Manila and Qatar, respectively, at the time of my arrival. Fortunately, I had fellow homesick but homely officemates who are working fulltime on the field with me on the Cagayan de Oro river project. They have been in the area for a month already when I arrived. I lived with them for a week, until I got spooked during Undas by a Sendong ghost in the house by Kauswagan road. It was my first ever encounter with witchcraft, so it was really a learning experience. I no longer want to elaborate but I am just thankful that I am now able to work without those setbacks.  Thanks, St. Benedict and Mama Mary (the Mother of God and the Mother of Paulo). I continue to remember in my prayers the 7,000 missing bodies buried by the same river we are surveying here in CDO. Only 1,000 were recovered during the recovery operations here last year.

Sendong's Cagayan de Oro River - The Powerful Force to be Always Reckoned with

Travel buffs are always posting about CDO’s whitewater rafting activities and its proximity to Dahilayan Adventure Park, the longest zipline in the world. I don’t have that experience from this “workation” but I was fascinatingly able to explore the innards of CDO River’s perimeter. I have immensely improved when it comes to being trained as a seasoned geodetic engineer. Two years of office work could not possibly match the level of technical learning I got from this challenging project:

Engr. Helen Mary Labao – camwhore at the GPS baseline

Surveying a river is tough. It’s not as easy as smiling for a camera in the early morning. (No need to post the evening pics cause I look like shit in them already. LOL.)

The Work-related Fieldwork Debutante in the Barracks

I was not able to participate much in the field activities because I was handling all the data taken from the field since September. While the rest of the team battled snake encounters and sharp grass blades piercing their sunburnt skin, I was mostly battling equations and trying to make sense of numerous leveling, traverse, cross section stakeout, and soundings data from my trusty office-issued Sony Vaio laptop which garnered dust and braved all these mental adventures with me.



Fieldwork Preparation of Coordinates from Satellite Image

This is what we find during actual fieldwork for the same area…


The Leveling Data Monsters I had to slay… LOL (I am at leveling loop 140+ now!)

At one point in my almost month-long stay here in Mindanao, I think I tweeted something like: Home is not necessarily a place, but it can also be a person. And I felt by my lonesome on most days because I miss my family and my boyfriend so bad. And the only semblance of family I have here are my officemates who are not living with me anymore after my first week. I practically lived here and stayed here longer than I stayed in Bacolod, Cebu, or Palawan. So as a reluctant traveler by nature, I really learned a lot. Staying here gave me more appreciation for my loved ones; I easily take them for granted when I am in Manila because I see them all the time. I also got to appreciate the wonders of googling a place you’re going to, and having a well-versed friend from the place of interest such as Telex in our Bacolod trip earlier this year.

Skype was VERY helpful.

Missing my love sooooo bad!

Also, I was here in CDO when my first ever successful matchmaking endeavor finally had its fruition. I am really very happy for my two friends Joseph and Maureen for finally meeting after months of BBM and Skyping romance. I love you to bits, you two. <3

Understandably, since I stayed in CDO longer, I was somehow able to discover the good food / accommodation options here despite my missing out on the famous whitewater rafting and zipline activities. I promise to write another post about CDO and show you what I loved about this second place I visited here in Mindanao.

(Trivia in case anyone finds it necessary: My first Mindanao trip was in General Santos City in 4th year high school for a writing contest.)

There’ll be more in the coming days when all this data madness is over.







Bacolod: Remembering Sweet Smiles in the City of Smiles

(One of the boons of exploring life as a reluctant traveler is the severe illness of not being able to update the blog as much as I should. It is putting all these travel experiences to waste. And so, I squeeze in a fraction of my precious time to write about the places I’ve been to over the last few months.)

Contrary to what most people did, I did not go to the beautiful Bacolod in the time of Masskara festival, where the Silay airport is teeming with people from all walks of life. I kind of regret not being there in such a festive time, but I had the distinct advantage of enjoying Bacolod in its off-peak period: Chinese New Year 2012 to be exact. This is a long overdue retelling of the gastronomic paradise experience I had in Bacolod City.

Unarguably, this was a place for people who want to fulfill the insatiable need of the sweet tooth. And while in Manila, I often went to Mang Inasal for another fast food staple, I am now a firm believer in the statement that you have never really tasted chicken inasal in the truest sense if you have not been to Manokan Country:

Bacolod’s Famous Chicken Inasal at Manokan Country

A night before my flight, I opened my fortune cookie and it advised me to “Take chances to gain some ground.” This year, 2012, has been really a year for taking chances and embracing positive changes that made me a better person. And I was sweetly rewarded by this risk taking decision by the yummiest of desserts in the famous Calea cake shop and the super affordable red velvet slice and beverage pair at Cafe Bob’s:

Calea Cake Slices


Tine and the Evening Gastronomic Treat at Cafe Bob’s


The scaredy-cat in me hates flying on airplanes or basically stepping out of my comfort zone. I suffer from homesickness beyond the fourth day of a journey in a different place, local or international. Fortunately, for Bacolod, I had my friend Tine, who successfully helped me overcome my paranoid fears and travel neurosis. She was also the first person who encouraged me to travel. When we were still staying in our Ortigas condo, she posted all her travel pictures on the wall. Despite my introverted tendencies, I was heavily encouraged to step out literally and try to travel for leisure. This is, by far, the first leisure domestic trip that involves riding an airplane. I got to Puerto Princesa and Cebu for data gathering purposes in my old job, but not much time to enjoy myself there. And she had a camera which basically amplified my camwhoring moments. I did have my fearful moments when the airplane did a weird noise on our flight back to Manila. But honestly, there’s no fun to life if you just  stay in the same place. Traveling has added another dimension to my life that helped me discover myself and be more independent as a person.


Sunny day landing at Silay Airport, Bacolod

Bacolod was my first place of travel leisure, and this is the place where I experienced FLASHPACKING. I have often heard of backpacking among the well-traveled individuals I have met. But the word flashpacking was quite new to me. Apparently, when you travel for leisure with a little splurge or provision for some comfort or luxury, it’s called flashpacking and not backpacking.

We stayed in this place for three days and two nights. And it was a place where I had a lot of my firsts in life, including the first climb to 7 waterfalls in Mambukal resort.


Of course, I enjoyed the sights, for in Bacolod, you never run out of things to do. It’s so laidback in there; it’s like time literally slows down and allows you to just chillax. It’s a far cry from the fast-paced urban world that I am used to. Honestly, I did not want to go back to Manila and I agree with what my old lady boss said when she told me that this is one of the best placed to retire in. Our stay in the Sylvia Manor was fairly comfortable. It’s not as expensive as L’Fisher Hotel (which was highly recommended by our friend Mia, who lives in Bacolod), but it has a hot shower, twin beds, and easy access to SM Bacolod and Manokan Country at 800 per head per night.

One of the famous places in Bacolod is The Ruins, owned by a sugar baron who was linked as one of GMA’s ancestors. The place is a frigging mansion. But quite interesting about it is the color transformation it undertakes by sunset.

The Ruins before Sunset



Sunset at the Ruins

This officially opens the chapter of the reluctant traveler’s life. Like we can have the ruins of the past mistakes and the general fear of not being able to make it. But at the end of the day, I realized that I am young, and I have the license for a few years to enjoy myself and take big risks. And so cheers to taking big risks amidst the wholeness and the ruins of life. I am as free as the butterfly I saw in the Butterfly Garden at Mambukal Resort. And this is the perfect time to find my footing in the vast terrain that awaits to be explored by my frightened feet…

Lovely Butterfly at The Negros Butterfly Garden in Mambukal


Thank you, City of Smiles, for serving as a gateway for more traveling smiles to an otherwise homesick and reluctant jetsetting engineer like me.


Still sipping sweets on the airport, flight back to MNL

Most image credits go to Miss Kristine Rowan, friend, ex-roomie, and kickass business school student in the US. 🙂 Thanks, Tiney! 🙂

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