Monday, June 24, 2013

Conquering Taraw Cliff

View from Taraw Cliff. Overlooking the El Nido town proper.

EL NIDO, PALAWAN - I thought we were in for a 30 minute hike. But no!

Locals say that if you're on the slow side, it'd take you 45 minutes to climb Taraw Cliff. I allotted an hour, knowing how 'fit' we were. To my surprise, it took us two whole hours just to go up and another two to go back down. 

Four hours! I never expected it to be that hard.

The first wall of rocks. This is when I realized that it won't be a walk in the park.

Climbing Taraw Cliff has got to be the most difficult thing I've done physically. No amount of Zumba could have prepared me for it. We were literally rock climbing. And we didn't have any gears! There wasn't an option for it anyway. We just had our bare hands and slippers. 

Being physically 'fit', I got tired 10 minutes in. My hands and knees were shaking. I was drenched in my own sweat. And it didn't help that I saw blood on my legs. 

Good thing our guide would always tell me that we were near... even if we weren't. 

In Cuyunon, a Palawan dialect, “Taraw” means mountains. The rocks here are limestone karst.

They're huge, steeply formed, and very sharp. I remember how painful it was to hold and step on them--even with slippers on. It didn't help that these were damp and slippery that day.

Seeing the view, even from this halfway point, made up for all the pain and exhaustion.

There were also some parts of the climb that were ridiculously dangerous and scary! One wrong step and you could fall and seriously hurt yourself. 

It was the first time I actually got scared of heights.  

My most wa-poise moments.

"Kuya, may pamaypay kayo?"
I felt like I was going to die from exhaustion!

On top of the world.
Best feeling ever!

Battle scars!

The cost of this tour is Php 300. Don't worry, it's guided. It's advisable to start at around 5am to hopefully catch the sunrise. 

1. Wear rubber shoes or extra thick slippers. Havaianas will do, though sayang!
2. Allot ample time for this. I'm sure you can do it in less than four hours, though.
3. Don't bring a big bag. It'll be extra difficult to climb. 
4. Bring water and trail mix--nothing salty to prevent dehydration. 
5. Bring a face towel and a fan of sorts to deal with the heat and being all sweaty.

Dead tired.
Super thank you to our guides for being extra patient with us!

I'm proud to have conquered Taraw Cliff. I don't regret doing this. All the blood, sweat, and the big tear on my shorts were definitely worth it. 

But I don't think I'll ever do it again.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Roro Bus going to El Nido

It isn't that long a ride and it's still the cheapest way to get to El Nido. This is via the Roro bus from Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

A one-way bus ticket costs Php 330 (non-aircon) or Php 483 (aircon) and the ride takes around five-and-a-half hours. This is a lot cheaper compared to riding the van (~Php 700) or the four-hour boat ride from Coron, which costs Php 2,500... or private planes.  

Roro bus schedules going to El Nido as seen from the San Jose bus terminal in Puerto Princesa:
4am, *6am, 8am, *10am, 12pm, *2pm, 4pm, *6pm, *10pm.
*aircon buses

To be on the safe side, we physically went to the bus station at around 5pm and bought tickets. We reserved the seats that we wanted and returned an hour before the trip. Best to reserve a day.. or at least a few hours in advance, especially if you're taking the 10pm trip like we did.

There are plastic benches to sit and well, rest.
There are food stalls around but not really apt for dinner.

Route from Puerto Princesa to El Nido.
Duration: 5-6 hours

The ride was tough. The road was forever winding and there were certain parts that were very turbulent as the road wasn't paved yet. It was like being inside a vibrator! Pretty tolerable, though. We were still able to sleep along the way.

El Nido is the last stop so you don't need to worry about overshooting. 

We arrived at around 3:30am and we rode a trike going to our hostel for Php 50.

Bus terminal in El Nido.
Same schedules coming back to Puerto Princesa.

Pictures from our ride back to Puerto Princesa. We took the 10am trip.

Some of the roads are still being done.
Hopefully this will be complete within a few years.

Fantastic view from the right side of the bus.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Applying for the new SSS Card

One of the grown-up things I did recently was to apply for the new SSS card!

While I have an SSS number, I've never had a card. I hear that it'll be like an all-in-one valid ID. If you have an SSS # and you're a regular contributor, you're eligible to apply. Why not, right? It's free!

Applying was easy. Lines can get a bit long at the main branch, though. I finished in 2.5 hours.

Here's how to apply:

1. Fill out form. Download here! You may get a copy of the E-6 form in SSS. Read instructions! Don't forget your valid ID and no need to have it photocopied.

I noticed that the back portion of the hard copy is different from e-form. Go through this for additional instructions and reminders.

Click to enlarge. It's hi-res.

2. Get a number at information counter. 

They were serving #380 when I got there.

3. Enrollment / Evaluation. When your number is called, the SSS officer processes your form.

People were called in groups of fives.

4. Picture taking, fingerprinting, signing, and confirming of billing address. 

Selfie at a government office.
Super lovin' the ID picture station!

After that, I went home. Card will be mailed within 2-3 months. (That long?!) 

Let the waiting game begin!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Impromptu Getaway: Pook ni Maria Makiling

It was a normal Friday at the office until my colleagues thought of going on an impromptu overnight trip to Laguna. Being the ultimate kaladkarin, I didn't think twice about going.

My initial concern: clothes. Fortunately, I had a backpack of clothes stashed in the office for emergencies--impromptu getaways included! I even had flip-flops and swim shorts in my caddy!

By 10pm, we were off. We rented a van going to the Pook ni Maria Makiling park. We took a bit longer than expected--more than 2 hours. The uphill road was pitch black and we got kinda lost.

The Pook ni Maria Makiling park is around UP Los BaƱos, the Jamboree site, and the National Arts Center. Its main attraction is the humongous Olympic-sized swimming pool surrounded by greenery.

The park is ideal for day trips, quick overnight getaways and team-buildings. For me, its major downside is its lack of eating facilities--not unless you're okay to bring your own food or preparing outdoor-DIY-picnic meals.

Sadly, some of the existing facilities aren't well maintained. But it's something you can shrug off, supposing you're not high maintenance.

We reserved two rooms for the eleven of us, but we ended up sleeping snugly in just one. Slumber party!

Breakfast Area
This is also the reception area. This is where we brought our instant noodles and bread to eat.
Php 5 to get hot water.

Stairs leading nowhere.

So what did we do there? 

Hang-out, really. The usual: story-telling, joking, and of course, tsismis!

The morning after, we swam before heading back home.

Rates (sorry, can't exactly remember):
  • Php 3,000 - Php 3,400 -- accommodation good for 6 pax
  • Php 25 / pax - entrance
  • Php 40 / pax - swimming

For the whole trip, I remember shelling out less than  Php 1,300. This included the van rental, accommodations, groceries, entrance fees, swimming, and the next day's lunch.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting Your NBI Clearance at QC Hall

I had to get my NBI clearance as a requirement of my new employer. This was my first time. 

I opted to go to QC Hall since it was most convenient and nearest to my house. The NBI was a covered area directly across the QC Red Cross building. It's not air-conditioned. 

The process was pretty straight forward. The heat and long lines just made it frustrating. Without the queue, one could finish in less than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I finished in 3 and a half hours. 

At 8:45AM, the line was already outside the covered area.

Sooooo hot!

The many lines for each step.

What to do:
1. Photocopy valid ID(s) at the entrance. Submit photocopy to NBI staff beside photocopier. 
2. Fill out application form after photocopy of valid ID has been submitted. Use black pen.
3. Pay Php 115 at the "Step 3" counter. Amount is for local employment purposes.
4. Encoding at "Step 4" counter. NBI staff types all info in application form. Check for typos! 
5. Picture taking and biometrics at "step 5" counter. Smile!
6. Printing and releasing of NBI clearance at "Step 6" counter. 

There's food in case you're hungry.
Hotdog, siomai, buko shake, and even ice cream!

The guard assists those who have inquiries. He also entertains the people with his reminders:
"Sa 'Religion' part ng form, isulat ang relihiyon niyo! Yung iba kasi sinusulat 'Region 1, 2. May NCR pa!"  

Important things to bring:
1. Original and photocopy of valid ID(s). Better to photocopy ahead to avoid paying Php 4. 
2. Black pen and white-out, if prone to erasures. Black pens are sold at Php 10. 
3. Pamaypay and umbrella. It was sooo hot.

Best to arrive at around 2pm as lines have subsided significantly. If you must come in the morning, make sure you're really early. 7am, perhaps? Don't do what I did. I came in at 8:45am
NBI Clearance.
Goal is to see "No record on file" on the form.

Good luck!

Officially on Vacation

I'm officially on vacation! 21 days to be exact.

It's been four days in and I've been far from being a bum. So far, I'm proud to cross off my to-do list:
  1. Get NBI Clearance
  2. Process my SSS card
  3. Replace damaged ATM card, and doing other miscellaneous bank errands.
I feel so grown-up!

For the real vacation, I'll be off to Puerto Princesa tomorrow! Will meet my friends there and will take the bus going to El Nido at night. We don't have a firm itinerary yet. But I'm not stressing about it.

I just can't wait to let go, let loose, and chill.