Friday, November 25, 2016

Padyak Palawan 2016 – Top 10

Ready to go. In Caruray (behind is the bgy hall were we stayed for the night).  L-R: Uncle Bob, myself, Mon, Aris, Russ, Tin, Jilyan, Eng, Charm, Cess, Pen, Levi, Noky, Danny, LA. (missing: Bunny)

A bit of background, Palawan adventure was supposed to be a kayak tour from south end to the north islands of Palawan, an idea that was conceptualized 5 years back – but is a project that I found difficult to start for many reasons.  I mean, a 600-700km paddling trip, on measly sit-on top kayaks, on a country frequented by typhoons (never mind the pirates or terrorists) – is not an endeavor that can easily be pursued without serious challenges.

Now biking comes as a natural, more feasible alternative to the plan – knowing that ‘I can bike’, and there are many crazy guys who want to do this!

The idea is a bike tour, with a bit of rugged terrain (since we’re using mountain bikes), that will traverse the mainland from southernmost point to the northernmost point.  It is aimed in promoting Palawan as an eco-tourism destination!  But knowing how fragile the ecosystem and natural resources of the island, my team decided to make it ‘for a cause’ , and not just campaign for conservation – but to generate funds for our partner NGO – The Center of Conservation and Innovation.

Planning the route was relatively easy – using google maps! :)  I was lucky to have people in the team who know more about maps and routes and navigation – which not only ensured that we’re taking the right road or path or trail, but also gather useful data on the route.

Fast forward after ~700km of biking later, in El Nido – not only did I survive, but now inspired to pursue more bike-touring in the future. The entire team was happy about the trip and will surely be there if or when a second Padyak event comes to life.   

Here sharing my top 10 memorable things of this trip:
(Photo note: my SD card said 'goodbye' during a follow-up trip and I lost all my photos!!! Pictures here are borrowed from the team, mostly from Gabriel Malvar, Cess Que, Jonjon V, Levi N, Danny D, perhaps a few more).

1.      The food!  Thanks to our support crew and guest cook – and all on-site meal providers, we never went hungry!  Palawan is rich in seafood, and largely cheap. Big fishes, lato (seaweeds), crabs and everything that swims or crawls – nicely cooked, are all winners!  During the first half, when my body was in the process of adjusting to a new kind of physical demand -  my intake was 2 to 3 times vs. my normal!   Sub-item: Mr. Bunny the funny man was using a bike with metal basket.  We made a good use of it when we passed by a street vendor selling mud crabs.  While riding, he would spray the poor crawlers with water from his drinking bottle to keep them cool and alive.  

Seafood is FRESH and CHEAP.  Even Lapu-Lapu (grouper) which is perhaps half of the price vs. metro. Pic: Quezon pier to Tabon.

Jake, Bernice and Cocoy - we wouldn't survive without them. A big thank you!
Pilot-Cook Noky showcasing his 'huli',  biking to San Vicente, and hypnotized by the sight of a market, he just went straight in to recon for a fresh catch. 

Caruray. The only night when we didn't have support crew (the Elf couldn't follow). Even with no fresh catch, we ate plenty (dried fish, and a ton of veggies).

Most nights were like dinner parties. That happens when you exert a lot of effort (at least in my case), or at least make that an excuse to pig out!
Crabs-on-the-go!  Good thing Bunny brought a basket. 

2.      The accidental mechanics!  I’ve expected mechanical problems along the way, but not the level of frequency that the team experienced.  Day 1 alone is bombarded with issues such as punctured (outer) tire, flat tires, damaged derailleur and few other minor things.  As the tour progress, there were more to come (especially as the team got bigger from 7 to 16 riders). I felt lucky that I only had 1 major ride hiccup – a broken saddle ‘connector’ (30km before Puerto) which was replaced before the grueling north route.
Navigator-Mechanic Mr. Mon V, with Ride leader Danny D.

Bamboo-maker/Artist/Mechanic Mr. Eng (right), and funny man Mr. Bunny (navigator) - on their way to a party?!

3.      Zero injury.  There’s nothing fun about seeing a major drama.  There were crashes, there were pains and curses – but luckily, there’s no serious accident. I’m thankful for that.
4.      Elf truck.   We started with no support vehicle but thanks to the Provincial sports coordinator – a private truck was made available as our mobile support.  Riding the truck from Puerto to Buliluyan (+300km) with all our bikes in it – we declared -‘business class’ while we sipped vodka and prepped ourselves for the long ride.   Later in the tour, I could see our crew sitting pretty and relaxed in the truck, sometimes chugging beer while cheering us, envious losers.
Guys wearing their beauty mud.  Re: break failure - here's the site were a member lost his breaks during a downhill, and crashed his bike in the middle of the fork.  No injury.  They thought he was just being funny.  

5.      Aborlan route to Apurawan.  It was the best decision to include the more arduous but scenic western route.  In the South, we went to Quezon (west) from Espaniola (eastern side), and took the rough and bumpy road to Apurawan in Aborlan – one of the best riding day in the tour (but perhaps the most dangerous).  We got so tired that right after lunch, a quick sit-rest turned to a deep nap. I recall that when Danny woke me up - there was a brief moment when I struggled to remember where I was. 
The South team in Apurawan.

6.      Caruray-Port Barton-Poblacion route. Up north, we turned west for Caruray (from Roxas) then on to Port Barton, to Poblacion of San Vicente before hitting Taytay.  3 days of dirt road and sometimes with a series of extreme/ non-rideable sections.  Mud surfing, sandy pedalling, wet-rainy rides – you name it!  We rode down a very steep section which the locals called - ‘Ay Dios Ko’ (or “Sus ko Lord”) more like ‘OMG’ in English translation; we crossed a mountain path where a ‘road’ is still being bulldozed and repaired, we were ‘blessed’ with relentless rain (I like rain), and experienced a variety mix of route from normal dirt road to muddy, to gravel-sandy, to beach-sandy types. Just amazing!
A no-ride section. We can call it "Bike-Mountaineering"

End of the road, for our Elf. Time to be self-sufficient.  Mud on a flat road is fine, on downhills - a nightmare!

Scenic mountain routes are spectacular! 

7.      The beauty of Palawan.  Traversing the mainland by bicycle from the southern-most tip to the northern-most will surely allow one to see both the known and not-so-known parts.  My personal highlights would be: Tabon cave (Quezon), Aborlan west coastline, Port Barton, long beach in San Vicente, and El Nido. And oh – spotting a group of Palawan Hornbills, a mere 30m from the road (on the way to El Nido), was a blast!
Inside Tabon Caves complex (Quezon), this is the site were old human remains were discovered (50,000yrs old)

'Accidental waterfalls' on the way to Caruray (from Magara, Roxas)
My smartphone shot of Palawan hornbill, ~30km before El Nido.  My close-up shot (3 hornbill in a frame) was a goner (in my SD card). 

8.      Awareness. The trip is about conservation awareness – for us, and for all those we wish to share the experience with.  Hearing or reading about issues is one thing. Seeing for real is another. Like observing large areas with (invasive) palm trees (for palm oil production) is surreal. Seeing large mining areas in the South is disheartening- (especially as we learned that there are hundreds of mining permit applications that will potentially cover almost the entire forest cover of mid-southern Palawan). 
(pic fr PCSD website).  Palawan Pangolin.  Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world.  Stop the buying so the killing will stop.

Large forest areas were already converted to agricultural land.  Worse is the introduction of non-native species like palm trees.   Control and regulation is needed.

Logging / log poaching is but common in Palawan's forest.  More destruction threatens the entire ecosystem of Palawan.

9.      The local supporters!  Sometimes we get free meals from LGUs, even accommodations, or free use of support vehicle on most sections.  But what is truly inspiring was the kindness and genuine care and support from people – who went extra mile just to help us.  I was telling the folks back home that DepEd (c/o Mr. Jess) was one key helper and they were like ‘ why department of education’?! Ha ha!  Didn’t matter, we got help and a minor return of favour is a simple visit of schools.  A name called ‘Manong Sunshine’ was also key especially for our Elf support.  A sports coordinator for the province who for some reason only learned about our effort a day before we started.  That didn’t stop him from quickly lending extra hand just to see us through. Even the Marines of battalion 12 ensured our safety, escorting us on the first leg of the trip.  My team’s sincerest gratitude to them, and all other folks who were instrumental in making this happen.

At our Puerto Princesa base. thanks to Lizzie and Love Ubaldo for their generous support.
UP Mountaineers based in the island also made extra effort to make us feel at home.  Here at Shaui's Boodle fight restaurant during our El Nido lunch stop.  Thanks to Lizzie, Gerry and Manny as well, for all their support/help.

10.   My Team.  There’s a plan, then there’s a ‘crazy plan’.  And for the latter – I will always rely on my own troop to ‘get the job done’.   With FUN.

A big THANK YOU to our major sponsors for making this crazy plan – a fun reality:  CORE of Primer Group of Companies and DOT MIMAROPA.  And thank you to Center of Conservation and Innovation for the partnership, and other sponsors both formal and 'accidental'... :)
Like what we always say - "Sa uulitin" :)

Padyak Palawan is Presented by: CORE In partnership with: UP Mountaineers Major Sponsors: ROX, DOT Mimaropa Region, Tourism Promotions Board Official Airline Carrier: Cebu Pacific Minor Sponsors: Primer, TNF, FOX, Blackbeard's Seafood Island, Powerman Philippines Beneficiary: Center for Conservations Innovation Inc. (CCI)

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