Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Travel Beyond Blogs

With a few more weeks left before my ultra trail race, I decided to have my training run and break in my new trail shoes during the rainy weekend. While others ran the wet streets of the city for the Cebu City Marathon, I was running the hills in the south.

It was a typical Alegria weekend getaway for me. I packed three sets of clothes, my hydration pack, my running shoes, some fishing stuff and a box of munchkins for the kids in Sitio Tumandok. I was hoping to do a little fishing once I got there but the drizzle never stopped and the sea was turbulent over the whole weekend. The weather also made the kids in Sitio Tumandok uninterested in gathering around for our regular reading sessions so I just contented myself with a PBA game show on TV. Television’s gotten boring for me so I don’t watch TV anymore these days. I am a 90’s PBA fan and so it was a surprise for me to see Tim Cone still in the league and an even bigger surprise to see Pumaren, Abarrientos and Cariaso in suits instead of their jerseys. I watched a couple of more forgettable TV shows after dinner before I turned in. Drowning the sound of the TV still on, the roaring tide was my lullaby.

The following morning, it was still drizzling but I resolved to finish my unfinished route before. This time, I started on the highway in Sitio Tumandok then entered the barangay road in the center of Alegria town on to the trails of the inner barangays and exited at the highway in Sangi (16.8km). It was an out-and-back route so I was able to run 33.6km that day.
My new trail shoes after 6 hours of running the trails of Alegria

And that was another facet of the principle I’ve been championing lately—TRAVEL BEYOND BLOGS. When you travel for real you don’t need to wait many months for the good season to come. This way you get to see how the place is, not just in good times but also in bad. You realize that life goes on for the villagers even if the region is in a low pressure area. They still open their sari-sari stores. They still drink their tuba. Their blaring local country music still makes a pleasant contrast with the quiet and the peace of their community. And they still bathe, fetch water and wash their clothes in the village tubod. When you travel beyond blogs, you’ll see NOT how people make a living (out of tourists) but how people actually LIVE!
Life as usual for this kid in Alegria

Sitio Tumandok is as unheard-of as Sitio Nabalicong, Ballay, Atok, Cabingtan and Badeo. But each occupies a big space in my heart that I keep revisiting them. The truth is, I have lost count of the times I have been to Tumandok. Yes, I am satisfied with revisiting a handful of places! It is not my goal to map the entire country with my footprints and collect all its 81 provinces in my backpack ‘cuz honestly, they all may be different provinces but they’re all the same—great places! I wanna truly experience these places and not just breeze through them in a hundred days! I’d rather spend a hundred days in just one place and truly earn the right to talk about that place and eventually not exercise this right because the hundred days have made the place as familiar as home and the people as ordinary as family.
The Ballagans of Ballay who have become family to me

I don’t aim to see the face of the different shorelines of all the islands in the country. I would rather see the different faces of one shoreline and get to really know it. And if I wanna experience a place, I prefer not to stay in buildings whose owners are represented by smiling ladies at the reception. I don’t wanna buy people’s smiles. I wanna stay in a real house with its real owners and their priceless smiles along with the mosquitos and occasionally, the stench of a pigsty.

One of the many faces of the pebbly shore of Alegria

I don’t look up numbers and addresses on the Internet. I don’t study how-to-get-there’s, where-to-stay’s and what-to-eat’s. I get out there and arrive at a place and call it a destination! Any place is a destination. Whether it is beautiful or not, it is your decision, not the blogger’s. You can decide to appreciate the tumultuous grey sea and not look for the calm azure blue that the blogger promised. You decide to savor a dish as simple as its name—fried fish, and not bend over backwards just to Instagram the hyped pinangat. I don’t mark my calendar with local festivals and celebrations. I go to the place as often as I feel like and chance upon a kanyaw or an ordinary birthday celebration where the host cooks spaghetti in an enormous kawa and each house gets a packed share.
I happened to be in Tumandok during a birthday celebration, and I chanced upon this unique version of Lechon de Cebu

When I’m in Luzon, I don’t make a quest to see the beauty of the popular Lake Sebu in the south. I make do with my budget and decide to be mystified by the unstoried mist of Lake Letep-Ngapos in the north.

A place only gets vapid when we expect to see things and fail to see its unblogged wonders.

And what better way to experience a place than to learn its ways. I had painstakingly polished my throws and consulted Google and YouTube regarding the best lures, lines and hooks but Tikboy, the revered fisherman in Alegria taught me the real deal when it comes to fishing in Alegria. I also learned how to row my boat on only one side and not keep going round in circles under Tikboy’s tutelage. And our next lesson is fisherman’s meteorology! Truly, there’s only so much Google can teach you! It is the place that will make you learn what you need to learn. Just go there with an open heart and a willingness to let go of what Google told you.
Tikboy: You can keep what the Internet has told you. But this is how we fish!

Finally, by now you should already understand why I keep going back to Alegria. I am a dedicated trail runner. Alegria offers great trails that I can have all to myself. I wanna learn how to fish. The Tañon Strait is abundant in marine life! While it seems like the destination has everything to offer and the traveller only has everything to receive, he can also leave something useful behind. If you just really know who you are and what you can do and be willing to do it with all your heart, you will realize that money is not the only way to give something in return. As for me, I am a teacher! And I’m not gonna deny it. I’m one of the best! I thought it best to share some knowledge to the future of Sitio Tumandok.

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