Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 Gear and Things – Review

Certina Titanium Dive Watch paired with Silver bracelet.

1.       ON the CLOUD running shoes.  There’s only 1 word to describe this shoe – LIGHT.   If you’ve been used to heavy shoes with rigid outer sole - like me (think boots, hiking shoes and trail shoes) you’ll have a sort of ‘shock’ on how light the shoes are!  I have used it for cycling, running and short hikes and it was obviously well-fitted for road running.  I will not recommend it for hiking or running on terrain with lots of pebbles or sharp rocks.  The segmented outer sole provides a unique comfort and lightness-feeling but stones and what-nots tend to cling to the gaps.  Its soft and light-weight construction also seem ‘doubtful’ on more serious hikes.   Similar to other shoes, it tends to ‘smell’ especially when being used sockless as the breathability only relies on the mid-front top-outer side made of light-weight, thin fabric.  My version has a built-in stretchable cord (with back-up tie-your-own cord as well) – which I find very useful for lazy man’s quick on-and-off wear (but not tight-trustable if you’re using it for quick and fast lateral action).  The price?  6-8k PHP is med-high for me and if you don’t mind a bit of weight – there are cheaper high-performance brands.  If you love running at top speed and a bit of weight bothers you – this could be your shoes.
On high with ON the Clouds at the amphitheater somewhere in Bicol

2.       Titanium Dive Watch.  I’ve been looking for a good-priced “mid-brand” so as not to overshadow my Seamaster dive watch and so I scouted for something ‘different’.   Liking ‘tough brand’ (military versions) – I decided to hunt for an affordable titanium watch (which looks dull and non-shiny).  In the end, I favored Certina.  I like the big-but-light feel,  and it not being common. It also has an accessible-for-me maintenance shop in Ayala Mall (an often overlooked criteria).  I’ve used it in travel (it has only 1 timezone), for water sports and running/hiking.  What I don’t like much is the locking mechanism (it may just need adjustment), the double locking tends to disengage when I introduce a ‘shock’ (say punch a bag).   The second-hand is also ‘different’ as the main and long one is only used for stop-watch and the real hand is the tiny one in the lower circle – not that I really look and use the second hand!  But overall, it looked beautiful-but-tough, being titanium it’s superbly lightweight for its big size – and it suits most of my casual, smart casual, rugged and sports attire.

3.       Cast Iron Grill Pan!  Don’t laugh - I love cooking!  All men should know how to cook, and do it well!  Shame on you if you don’t.  J  Well, it’s for good health not to merely support your gluttonous requirement.  First, it’s heavy, if that bothers you – just consider the thought that it could also deflect small bullets should the zombie-sh*t-hit-the-ceiling-fan!   But best is that, it can last for decades!  That’s value for your money.  It’s EASY to clean, promise!  It doesn’t use detergent (i.e. eco-friendly), and you only need a strong scrubber to rub off the dirt, before finally drying it and applying a bit of (cooking) oil to mask it from rusting.  I’ve tried many non-stick pans both plastic-based (ex. Teflon) or natural (like ceramic layer).  But nothing really last and eventually – something will stick there at the bottom.  With textured cast iron, dirt and burnt things will stick – but surprisingly – they are not tough to remove. I was like “where have you been all my cooking life!”.   Obviously, my pan is mainly used for grilling and bit of frying.  I’ve cooked veggies, fishes, squids, shrimps, chicken, beef, lamb and other unfortunate meat or veggie that lands its way on a hot searing pan.  Other cast iron version will suit other cooking needs, but I’ll bet it will give the same good experience.  Which reminds me – time to buy that skillet version!
Grill anything you want!  Here, first batch - veggies, before cooking meat sans washing.

4.       Acrylic painting set.  Whoa, why is this in my list?!   let’s just say I’m a convert and now do a kind of meditative, self-healing, destressing ‘static sports’ we call painting!  J  Promise, it’s not as weird as it sounds.   I’m not an artist and will always be ‘Math-IT’, but it doesn’t mean I should not explore and experiment.  What’s good about this acrylic set (unlike say watercolors) is that, I am able to do many more creative things like re-using scrap pallet wood (and paint them with decorations), revive and transform old plates, decorate pots – or other objects that seems to need some revitalizing!  Oh and of course, I can use them to paint on canvas!
Four Seasons.  or Climate Change?  my first (guided) painting experiment c/o Sip and Gogh

Transforming old plates into something new!

5.       A taste of Gold.  Past years’ revealed a disappointing performance for most monetary investment instruments (for the little I have, I also got very little) and the global economy is not always looking bright, and acquiring so many things are really mostly just ‘expense’ with no or fast-declining re-sale value (like cars, most watches, expensive bags, and like all the items I mentioned above).   Other than being a “tito”,  I realize that buying gold pendant or necklace or other wearable bits - is a better investment AND cash-storage mechanism, plus the good side is that you can actually wear them!   Now the good news is that, not all gold is super expensive.   There are stores that actually sell second-hands which trims the ‘mall price’ just a tiny bit, and there are ‘small portions’ where small-time gold converts can afford to ‘store’ their cash salary and potentially keep them for a long period of time.  Gold was a treasure from millenniums back, and still a treasure today -  and there’s a very good reason why.

*This is not a paid or sponsored post, no gears or gadgets were provided and all contents are purely my opinion. 

My Year-2018 Highlights

at Bryggen, Bergen (Norway).  Using a small 2x2ft rain puddle to create this reflection effect.

Once again, the whole year zoomed by so fast that I barely had enough time to plan for everything in my to-do list!

But I can’t complain – it was but another good year with a good mix of planned and unplanned surprises.  So time to do my short version of introspection by revisiting some highlights of my 2018.
Wacky shots with fellow supporters and the marathoner - Louie.

Friday, November 16, 2018

An Autumn in Tromso

Disappearing Aurora captured by 15 secs of exposure.   It later re-appeared in different shapes.

There are but a few reasons why a traveler would want to visit the cold northern parts of Norway -  in late autumn or even winter…
And to see the Northern Lights would be on the top of the list!

Tromso – at 69-degree latitude, is above the arctic circle (66.5 degrees) and naturally cold, gloomy and dark in winter times and have short day light during late autumn and early spring.  For usual travelers visiting the warmer parts of the world,  a short day span or cold winter nights is not a very welcoming proposition to ‘have fun’!  But if one wishes to see the enchanting Aurora – that’s the only best chance. 
Of course, winter time will also offer other interesting activities such as dog sledding, visit to the wilderness to see the reindeers, snow mobile rides – albeit in a cold, gloomy or dark night.   If you don’t mind the cold or not seeing sunlight, and love partying at night – then it would be a good, unique travel destination.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Thai Cave Rescue - a Feel and Glimpse

A leisure caving that quickly turned into survival scenario.  Java Indonesia

Disclaimer:  I am not a cave-diving specialist.  The fiction narrative below is based on my experience as a Scuba Dive Master, limited wreck and cave-diving experience, and a few spelunking (caving) trips – including 1 major trip in Java where my team got lost for 6 hours with no map, guide and extra provisions.  And although part of mountain and water - Search & Rescue team, hands-on experience are mostly reef-diving related.

Invite me to participate in the Thai cave rescue and there will be no second thoughts to say NO!  Or I’ll think 100 times, 99% saying No.  That 1%? – It’ll be ”If there’s no other choice” and/or a loved one was trap in there.  It will be a big life risk – equally, if not more dangerous than climbing a high-altitude mountain ridge with a sudden squall.  Caving alone is dangerous, but mixed with diving will be something else.  Further mix it with a complex task to rescue teenagers – that’ll be a perfect recipe for disaster.  There’s very little margin for error, if at all.

Now, inspired by Discovery Channel’s feature -  here’s to provide a (fake) story to give some audience a ‘feel and glimpse’ of what it could be like for the rescue divers…. The fear, the daunting tasks, the thankless job.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Picture Poetry Series 2

See Picture Poetry Series 1

As a past time and constant mental sharpening :) I write - or try to, :) pieces of poetry posted in my Instagram account.

Here are some of them...

Mt Ama Dablam, Nepal

Big goals- lofty and high,
Getting there can make you cry;
Goals require a sacrifice,
Success - always has a price.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Picture Poetry Series 1

See Picture Poetry Series 2

As a past time and constant mental sharpening :) I write - or try to, :) pieces of poetry posted in my Instagram account.

Here are some of them...
Mt Vinson Massif, Antarctica (to high camp)

Just like a ghost, quietly it follows,
In the high mountains, or in the shallows,
It mimics you, in triumph or in pain,
Shooing it away will just be in vain.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Freezer Training

Inside a freezer sharing layering principles and techniques; temp at around -25C with Louie (FWD North Pole marathoner), pic c/o FWD Insurance
I must admit that this recent 'freezer session' supporting FWD North Pole Marathon candidate’s training was my first.
At first, I thought that it was a joke, and that if ever - the freezer would be some sort of active cold storage facility complete with dead pigs and huge tunas!  Not that it was very surprising as I also heard of the same idea from GMA 7 - when they were still on their planning stage on how to go about training their crew in a winterish environment (to document part of my Everest expedition).
Hearing that the FWD representative has no previous snow/ ice/ winter experience – I thought that it was the logical (if not the only available) approach.

But just to share my own thoughts and opinion for those who are planning to short cut the process and really consider doing a ‘freezer training’, here are some things to consider:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Winter Survival - Quit or Not Quit?

Session with Louie - the North Pole Marathon participant, along with coaches Ige and Ani.

I know that we should seldom entertain the word ‘Quit’; but reality dictates that we should be practical and smart in our approach, whether that’s attempting a summit in a very cold place, or – as these questions are designed for, attempting a marathon in the North Pole!

I used these questions to preempt my one-on-one sharing with the marathon candidate, to see his risk perspective and detect what should I highlight in our discussion – and sharing this to you in case you plan to climb or do any winter endurance sport. 

How many ‘Quit -yes’ will you answer?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Year-end Review - 2017 Highlights

“Reflect on the past – to design your future…”  J
A review of past year’s events, activities, as well as top picks on gears and stuff.

That was fast!  2017 seems to have went by too fast too soon! Perhaps a guilty feeling that there were unfinished work.  But focusing on the good side and big highlights – I can say that it was another wonderful year!  Yey!

So, here’s my top picks for 2017…

1.        (event) History Maker Awards! (Read past post here).   It was an honor and a privilege to be part of History Con 2017 as one of the awardees!  Recognizing mountaineering feat is always a good help in promoting life-nurturing adventure activities.  And to be lined up with big names is both humbling and inspiring!  Thank you, History Channel and all event stakeholders!

Artists, musicians, physicist, celebrity stars, adventure riders, athlete, among others

2.        (advocacy) Mt Apo 25,000 trees!   This is a UP Mountaineer project (partnered with EDC and various volunteer groups) that I started Sep of 2016 - and I’m glad to report that we’ve finished planting 25,000 trees since Nov 2017!  There’s another 3 years of maintenance effort to ensure the trees grow nicely – uprooting invasive grass and replacing dead saplings!    My team is promoting Adopt-a-hectare to outdoor organizations that are willing to help. Visit  and send us a message if interested.

Volunteer group from UP Mountaineers with DENR monitoring team - Sep2017

3.       (product) Uniqlo outwear campaign! (see related post – What to invest on – for mountain climbing beginners).  The campaign allowed me to check and field-test some garments and it was a good surprise that those that I’ve used were truly functional, and equally important - affordable for thrifty buyers.  Some variants even have better specs (i.e. material blending) compared to more expensive brands. In the early days – it was a struggle to find a good brand that are highly useful for outdoor activities – especially alpine mountaineering.  Uniqlo’s various options for winter (and general outdoor) wear were good in its class,  but differing favorably in prices.

Instagram Post (How to fight cold) wearing a seamless down parka

4.       (travel) Hawaii trip!  It may be a “been-there-done-that” for many, but this recent trip was my first in this island!  Or rather, group of islands!  The hike around Kilauea volcano and visit to Pearl harbor were good highlights!  Of course, I have to add the ‘good scenery’ in Waikiki and Kona beaches!  Read trip post.  
Hiking at Diamond Head crater near Waikiki.

5.       (travel) Transformer - Universal Studio Singapore!   Ha ha!  I have to add this.  I’ve been to Universal Studio Japan (where unfortunately I heard more Nippongo than English) and I’ve concluded that Water World and Terminator were the best.  In Singapore (where there’s no Terminator and have an exact the same Water World show) – I’ve concluded that riding Evac (the unknown Autobot) while escaping the clasps of Megatron and other decepticons was a thrilling experience - even for a grown-up man like me!  I did wish that we were given a big weapon to help fight at least.
Joking around.  Universal Studio Singapore - Near Transformer area (behind me/ covered, is Bumblebee). But yes - Star Wars has nothing to do with Universal ha! ha!

6.       (product, top picks) Uniqlo down jackets.  Seamless down parka - this product has a lot of potential for alpine and high-altitude mountaineering use.  Or just any winter country use!   Being affordable (less than 100$ in local store) can make it an easy choice! Mountaineering brands will cost 200$ and up, and perhaps 150$ for cheaper or on-sale brands.  The Ultra-light down is also a good entry, being light weight but highly useful as additional layer or stand-alone for less-than-cold scenario.  And a lot cheaper!

7.       New product experiment – Inabel Neck Warmer.  Still part of my Inabel hand-woven campaign project – I’ve created a new line of brand that is small, functional and very cheap!   The 200+ pieces of gift order I got last Christmas was a good enough reason to pursue this product line.  Hopefully distributed to partner store – Lagalag, this quarter.  Wearing one is advocating the use of local and hand-made / artisanal product.  Or just being fashionable.   The cowl is long and is typically worn in double loop to cover the neck.  With 1ft width, it can also be used to cover either the face or hair typical of shorter neck warmers.  It comes in various colors usually using the popular ‘Trambia’ weave pattern.
UPM team at Mt Apo's Maag camp.  Field-testing the neckwarmer.

8.       (product/gear top picks) Bags by Rubber Tree – “corporate backpack”.  Wanting a laptop bag that is artisanal but corporate has been a challenge.  I even designed (custom-order) a Tinalak-plus-leather version a while back.  Full leather will be more professional-looking however, but being a “backpack-person”, I wanted something different from the usual messenger type.  Fortunately, Bags by Rubber Tree owner (a friend from the outdoor community) gave in to my request J  i.e. re-using their brown leather backpack design to come up with something special.  It’s proving to be a good buy so far, with its smooth leather – it is easy to clean and shine.   It doesn’t have a built-in laptop compartment nor cushioning – so I just put a paper board divider inside, and now more careful to avoid banging it against a hard surface.  It’s big enough to hold my laptop and various accessories, but small enough to be carried easily through crowded areas.  In a nasty scenario, running with a backpack is better than running with a messenger bag!  

No big climbs or long expeditions for me this year – but that’s by design.  One has to respect the ‘season of recovery’ (if not the season of saving cash or attending to family needs).  =)

Let’s see what 2018 will bring… 

Happy New Year!

Best Nine of Instagram 2017

More than photos, the quotes or poems are added 'entertainment' to my Instagram postings!

As part of my personal challenge, I have to come up with a quote or poem that is relevant to the photo that I am posting.
Here's my 2017's best nine photos and their corresponding quotes/poems...

a. We can either read, or write history. 
     Event photo during History Con 2017 awarding
b. Adapt to thrive, not just to survive.
     Uniqlo's outwear campaign, re: layering tips

c. Dark, cold and lonesome - are problems of the unprepared man.
     Uniqlo's outwear campaign, tips on keeping warm

d. Fitness is a means to accomplish something, not an end goal.
     Climbing Mt Cho Oyu

e. Sometimes, life is about toughing it out together...
     Summit shot of Mt Aconcagua

f. The mountains will stay, 
    the forest will regrow; but we... are simply passing by, 
    and will disappear before the sky. 
     Mt Makiling traverse

g. Limits are but mental boundaries 
    broken by strong mind and will...
     Mt Everest's camp4 at South Col (+26,000ft)

h. The birds chirped and flew by; the insects buzzed then went by;
    A lonely cloud floated overhead, a sudden wind blew it to shred;   But We? We never tire, looking at each other - the mountain and I.    
        -revised version of one of Li Bai's (Li Po) poems
    Mt Apo Reforestation Trip 2017

i.   Be strong like a rock and patient like a mountain. 
    Life is tough and the journey is long...
     Mt. Denali - during one of the rest days in high camp.