Monday, 27 February 2012

The Whale Shark Madding Crowd in Oslob, Cebu

the whale shark of Oslob (photo by Gigi Santos)
It was indeed one last Sunday in Tan-awan Bay in the small town of Oslob (about 2-3 hours drive from Cebu City). At 6am, there were already 50 or more people huddled around the Oslob Whale Watching Center to register. And we thought we got there early...

Apparently, this sleepy town averages 300  people per day during weekends. The frenzy may be attributed to a fisherman named Dodong (wearing green in the video) who somehow managed to train the whale sharks, the largest fish in the world to be friendly. Yes, friendly! Marco Santos of  Aquaholics said "Oslob is the only place in the world where the whale shark comes to the people."

Fishermen are now called 'Gentle Giant Defenders' 
This phenomenal hand-to-mouth relationship with the whale sharks started in June 2011.

Traditionally, the fishermen of Oslob catch fish by collecting krill (Note: as corrected by Scubarazzi, the local name is uyap and the scientific name is Acetes sibogae, from the family Sergestidae) at night and use the krill as bait during the day.  As Marco narrated in the video  "One day, Dodong started throwing the krill into the water and a whale shark came to eat.. instead of shooing away the whale shark,  he said to himself that  he will keep feeding the whale shark until it gets full...  Dodong is actually the only one in the world who has domesticated the whale sharks."

under the whale shark's belly (photo by Gigi)
Today Oslob is bustling with weekend tourists - both local and foreign - who want to swim or dive with the whale sharks. We were lucky to have gone early and enjoyed a one-hour encounter using scuba diving gear. The number of divers has been limited to at least 12 per group although this is not strictly enforced.

We spotted five; however, Gigi counted six.  The whale sharks would normally go from one boat to the other looking for the "feeder boat".   We found a huge one, more than 25 ft., diagonally upright (top and left photos), happily devouring krill  and wouldn't leave despite the splashing and kicking of the snorkelers on the surface, the bubbles from us divers below, and the bancas (outrigger boats) bumping into each other. Believe it or not, after  twenty minutes,  we actually got tired of watching and swam away to look for others.

LGU mans the ticket area

Business is definitely thriving in Oslob and now everything has a price. The local government unit (LGU) currently issues tickets - P300 for ordinary viewing (meaning, stay on the boat), P320 for snorkeling, P350 for diving and an additional P100 for camera equipment. Likewise, a penalty of P5,000 is imposed on anyone caught touching the whale shark.

The life vests are rented out for P30 each and the restrooms cost P5 to P10. There are also eateries, barbecue stands, mini sari-sari stores, and t-shirt vendors.

I have mix feelings about the the fishermen. Although they are now organized and call themselves the Tanawan Oslob Whaleshark Wardens and Fishermen's Association (TOWWFA), fishing is no longer their main source of livelihood and I don't know how sustainable this whale watching tourism is. The LGU has come into the picture and split the fees collected, 40% goes to the fisherfolk. I hope that the 60% goes to coastal resources management, education and protection of the area especially from poachers.
Early morning at Oslob (photo by Marge Buot)
Gigi checking the dive equipment 
Loading of dive gear on the raft
 Villa on the Cliff with the view of Sumilon Island

Places to stay: Villa on the Cliff (Oslob), Sumilon Bluewater Resort (on Sumilon Island), Club Serena  (Moalboal).

Monday, 20 February 2012

Wet, windy and cold in Mt. Pulag

with first time climbers Gai, Eveline, Victor and Marge
There's a saying that goes "Heavy rains remind you of challenges in life. Never ask for lighter rain, just a bigger umbrella." Well, for last  weekend's climb to Mt. Pulag we needed a gigantic umbrella.

Mind you, we heeded all warnings before the climb. First, from our organizer Jay who repeatedly reminded us that it was going to be extremely cold. He was up two weeks ago when the weather dipped minus two degrees Celsius. And another from Tessa, who was in Nueva Vizcaya the day before filming, advised that it was going to be wet. In fact, she said "non-stop rain like mega putik (mud) and very cold at night. Bring raincoat and boots."

The telltale sign was the road condition from the DENR office to the Ranger Station. The jeepney had difficulty negotiating the muddy and slippery road and stopped several times. In fact, at one point, it was towed by another jeepney.
Spectacular view of Ambuklao River (photo c/o Gai)

Jay (second from the left) at one of the stops.

Muddy road to the Ranger Station 

Despite all the preparations for the cold and wet weather, the five of us - Gai, Marge, Victor, Eveline and I- were not ready to face the damp camp conditions and the winds. We arrived at the campsite early at past four in the afternoon and refused to leave our tent for fear of either getting blown away or soaking wet.  Jay was kind enough to deliver hot sinigang to our tent.  The wind also made the flysheet stick to the sides of the tent and thus, rain seeped through creating little pools of water inside. Yes, it was challenging to sleep.
The Ranger Station

Fortunately  due to strong winds and heavy rains, the assault to the summit at 3:30 am to view the phenomenal 'sea of clouds' was canceled.

Mt. Pulag is the highest mountain in Luzon at 2,922 meters above sea level which is a few meters less than Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the Phlippines at 2,954 meters. (To benchmark, Mt. Everest is 8,848 meters high).

The climb was supposed to be a walk in the park considering we opted to take the easy Ambangeg trail and Jay's crew did everything from setting up camp, pitching tents and cooking plus we hired  porters to carry our personal belongings.

Taking a break at Camp Ground 1 from left Joshua, me, Gai, Eveline and Carlo
After all that we've been through, we're planning our next attempt to reach the summit this coming March when it's sunny and warmer! To first timers, I strongly recommend to waterproof all your stuff with garbage bags and separate clothes with ziplocks. And to those with queasy tummies, pack your own breakfast and lunch!
Here's our itinerary:

Day 0
21:30 Assembly Victory Liner Cubao
2200  ETD Manila to Baguio City

Day 1
04:30  ETA Baugio City

05:30  ETD to DENR Station  (Breakfast, own account at eatery)
08:30  ETA DENR Station (for briefing and to secure permits and guides)

PAWB superintendent Mering who advised us to Respect Pulag and no kissing, etc.
10:30  ETD to Ranger Station
12:30  ETA Ranger Station for lunch and hire porters
13:30  Start trek
15:30  ETA Camping Ground 1 (rest in waiting shed)
16:00  Resume trek
1800   ETA Camp Ground 2* to set up camp/dinner/socials
   *we got to camp at 16:00, total climb was only 3 hours.

Day 2**
03:30  Wake up call
04:00  Summit assault and sunset viewing
06:00  ETA Summit/exploration/picture taking
08:00  Start descend to Camp 2
09:30  ETA Camp 2 / brunck/ break camp
11:00  Start descent to Ranger station
14:00  ETA Ranger Station to wash up
16:00  ETD to DENR to log out
18:00  ETD to Baguio City
23:00  ETD to Manila (to arrive in Manila at 5:30am)
   ** since the assault was canceled, we arrived in Baguio much earlier and thus in Manila at midnight.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Fuerza Bruta: Look Up in Manila

Look up indeed!  The hour-long interactive show will thrill your senses and wow you from start to finish. The voice over announced  before the opening act, more like aptly warned  "you will be asked to be moved around the space..". Well, we weren't only moved around but also smashed with styropor, showered with water, squatted and danced at the end.

The show will run for six weeks in Manila Hotel's tent. Of all the scenes, my  favorite was the water performance where mermaid-like swimmers jumped into a pool (mylar material) and  danced,  grappled, wrestled - then, the whole contraption descended down to us where we ended squatting and some,  tried to reach up to touch the surface. Absolutely incredible!

Here are some scenes to whet your appetite. 

Monday, 13 February 2012

Crossfit Manila's 30-day Paleo Challenge

Daily food points
Yup, I signed up again to do another Paleo Challenge despite the fact that I lost in the last one - i.e. Gai's challenge.  Well, one thing for sure, this is an official Crossfit Manila tourney and from Feb 15, the official start date to March 16, there will be NO merry making. A tip for those would be challengers is NOT to do it during Christmas time.

I'm team # 1 and my team mate is gungho and ultra strong Mel, so I must be in good company.  Miggy, the organizer, made it easy for us to monitor our progress by posting an 'update daily food points' online. Basically minus one point per occasion  for carbs/legumes/dairy intake, including sugar and processed food; and minus one point per glass of alcohol consumed. I don't smoke so I don't have to deal with minus 3 points per stick of cigarette used. The plus points are: 2 points per night for eight hours of sleep, 2 points for one WOD per day and 3 points for head-to-head which Miggy says "you compete versus another team on a day that you both agree on."

Paleo is short for Paleolithic because the diet mimics that of the cavemen where they hunt and gather food. For protein, the general rule is to eat lean meats (preferably grass-fed), eggs from free roaming chickens, wild fish, and wild game (venison). For carbs, preferably organic vegetables (or if possible, grow your own), avoid starchy vegetables (potatoes) and legumes (peanuts, beans, peas and soybeans). Fruit is also a good source of carbs, but avoid genetically modified organisms and fruit juices. For fats, use organic and cold pressed oils so they remain chemically unchanged (preferably coconut and olive oils), avocados and coconuts (both are my favorites), nuts (walnuts, pecans and macadamia),  seeds and drink lots and lots of water. And for coffee drinkers, take it black or add unsweetened almond milk. The diet excludes agriculture and  processed foods - such as dairy (again, eggs are not dairy!), grains, legumes, refined sugars - - and also, no sugars including agave, organic honey,and  molasses.

Well, since MDP's retreat, I'm now a vegetarian. Hmm... I wonder how long can I sustain this Paleo vegan style of eating since I cannot eat carbs or legumes (string beans, peas, corn, etc). Hope I survive!