Monday, December 27, 2010

As it should be

As it should be

Formless.  There is simply nothing profound of what can be said here.  There are days when there is a continuous flow of ideas that rush up the neurons enveloping my brain.  It’s those days that I wish I had pen and paper or have myself sitting infront a blank word document. Today is not one of those days. I’m still waiting for a good thought…

I’m waiting for Faith’s food to cool before I can serve my finicky four legged friend her meal. She’s always picky about her food. Though sometimes it makes her cute, it’s not always the circumstance.  She barks at me when she doesn’t like what she sees, or smells, or tastes. She would cower down and plant her nose in between her forelegs as I try to spoon her some food to help her get started.  She does get all the attention she wants when she wants it. Even this writing isn’t intended for her but she manages to creep in here…

The year is close to an end and a bright new one will begin in just a few days.  Posting this time frame allows me to focus on finishing some writing before the year ends.  The year has once again been kind and has allowed me to see lots of amazing things. 

Climbing, travelling, shooting photos for sponsors, attending a photo shoot for sponsors, travelling some more, climbing some more… right, feeding faith, taking her for shots… hmm… alright, I’m out… suddenly I just feel like a blank wall. 

What else could there be to write about?  It feels though much of my time revolves around climbing.  It seems like the perfect thing for me.  Though sometimes, it gets me into trouble. I’m just glad there is always a way around it and I’m blessed with some amount of good fortune.  If ever there was something like a character life card, or something close to a basketball stat card for me, mine would have “luck = 8/10”.  What I feel though is, which also is a bit bothering, am I doing what I’m really supposed to be doing?   Weird thought, but every once in a while I’m faced with the question.  Right… so you get born, go to school, play, grow old a bit, attend school some more, play some more, grow old a bit some more, get married, have kids and then you pass down the same question, you continue your path, ask the question to yourself again…  In between all these there should be a greater purpose.  Or is there?  I’ve been to the family reunion a few days ago.  I saw all the grandpas and grandmas and wondered what’s on their minds?  Have they answered that same question?  There’s good food on the tables, kids running around and the number of cousins, nephews and nieces continue multiplying by the dozen.  Our linage came from a family of farmers and it seems like a big leap to find ourselves, after three decades, celebrating our reunion on the roof deck of one of my cousin’s own building.  An impressive leap, considering the roof deck is on the 5th/ 6th floor! That is a pretty big leap from the ground.  So maybe they’ve seen this progression and already have answered in a big part the question they needed to answer. So what else is there to answer?  Like always, as I’ve learned from economy class in high school, man is by nature insatiable.  It indeed doesn’t stop there. 

The family is evolving into different directions and I’m still unsure if what I have will be something which qualifies as evolution.  But… what feels good should be good.  It’s a radical way of thinking and some may even say it’s quite brave and, to an extent, foolish. This is the way I grew up and changing this point of view isn’t easy. So…therefore, if climbing feels good, it must be good.  All those who have opened up their minds through rapid brain activity could fully understand this.  The many ways to express this cannot simply fit on a single piece of A4.  We should just leave it at that…  just like Nike’s motto, “Just do it,”  it can be explained in numerous ways but in the end, when your neurons are all numb, you come back to the same line…”Just do it.”

Anyways, while going around tables and greeting everyone happy holidays, one of my cousins asked when I would be moving into the new house. He asked whether I’d be putting up a climbing wall up there.  So I answered, why not?  Interesting thought… Shortly after, a nephew of mine told me he’d trim down and then expressed intent in joining me for some climbing.  I quickly recall one of my high school teachers during a reunion saying “keep doing what you do, it’s an inspiration to us all.” These thoughts just keep popping up.  If these are clues, they have been laid down fairly obvious not to be picked up on.     
I think I’ve dug too deep a hole already that it will be difficult to crawl out off.  It might be easier now to just keep digging until I can burrow out the other side of the sphere.  So…  climbing it is.  You need not doubt it.  Best be prepared now for the full length of the digging.  If others will follow they should be bringing their own headlamps.  The tunnel is long and dark.  But, as they say… it will be an adventure!  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chapter 37 - "Ondoy"

Chapter 37 - "Ondoy"

The wet morning felt cold and the chill it sent crawled up my skin. A slight breeze raised the hair up my nape as I stood at the open doorway. I welcomed the sensation as I sipped the freshly cupped brew I nursed between my sleepy palms.  The warmth I held felt a good contrast to the cold dank morning that blurred before me. Only the night before, I was amongst friends enjoying a similar dark liquid whilst storming over a strategy that best suited goals of initiating a new website for Climb Philippines.   Crissie, Ina, Miel, Cali, Alex, Rina and I glowed in orange firelight coming from the lamp that hung over the comfortable corner of the café we huddled in.  The length of the evening extended as we often times shot in and out of topic.  One moment we’re all immersed in one of Cali’s intense explications of web design, which at times found me just playing good listener then to shift abruptly to Alex’s recent epic into the workings of applying for a Helvetian Visa.  Judging by the number of times Greecepops into the discussion; it really became apparent how the consul of the same country’s embassy played Zeus and Alex a mere mortal having the fits over an inconsiderate god. Between considerable intense listening always came bursts of laughter. We always found something funny amidst whatever topic, mostly compliments of sponge diving in Greece. Then there was also the little boy on the outside window darting stares with Rina.  I’m not sure though who stared first but I’m not one to blame a small boy. It was a pleasant and flippant scene though and I too tried coaxing the child into a forced smile. It was a distraction from the sometimes semi-serious flow of discussions but after effortly glimmering the boy to pursing his lips to what I thought was semblance of an up-curving line, I quit and resolved to the obvious that I lacked of Rina’s charms. It seemed either the boy was intently flirting with her or I had as much charisma as a cinder block’s.  I would prefer the former though, after all the boy did what was demanded of him by instinct.

The polished white ceramic slowly burned into my palms.  The instant the heat seared past my awareness, I am once again awakened to a darker foreboding.  The rain continued throughout the previous night.  What helped me slumber also woke me as the spatter of rainfall deafened as they hit the steel sheets of the roof harder in the waking hours.  The big hollow cavity that separated our ceiling from the high pitch of the roof only seemed to drum the rain louder left and right of my brain.  Heavy clouds and not a single silver, an orange, a purple or a blue line hinted the skies as I took my first cup of coffee with me as I sat down for a while in front of the computer.  It has been a bit of a relapse for me to check out what’s up on the world wide web in the mornings to see if anything was amiss. Nothing new, nothing a bit interesting, I logged off and started mulling over what can be done for the day.  It was a Saturday.

Friends texted up for another reunion shortly after I started finishing my second cup of the bittersweet brew. Not a month has passed since we celebrated amongst our Marist brethren a huge drowning in beer and spirits inside the confines of the new gymnasium inside my old Alma Mater. Some failed to make it last time and so they arranged for a part two. A smaller one in scale was the plan but equally tempting all the same. The afternoon also presented an option for me to listen to an appealing lecture on the usage of words and how to weave them into a design that’s both artistic and compelling.  I’ve been inquisitive lately on how much there is to learn of this language and how to entwine rivers of thought into a series of visible and clairvoyant curving lines on paper. And finally Miel’s cousin, Rina, was bound for Londononce again.  There was an open invitation for a send-off bash on her behalf at Miel’s house that night.  Though it sounded more like a family gathering than a party out with friends, I still weighed the thought over.  It might not be for a long time before our paths cross again or none at all.  The latter was a sad thought but such a harsh reality I’ve learned to accept in my travels. 

The hours spent along fast and the rains continued with a heavy spatter on the roof.  Echoing throughout the household, the sound of infinite number of beads hitting steel sheets drowned all sound.  It became more foreboding that the dark weather could go on the entire day.  Water started pooling within the  high walls that enclosed the garden.  There was nothing much to do but wait. The void created by a blank stare outward while leaning onto the doorway with crossed arms to fuel some warmth, helped swell a gut feel that the rain will persist and stay as strong for a few more hours. The few minutes in the insecure position instigated an uprising within my restlessness.  I took off into the rain and started feeling energized as I started soaking in the freezing formula.   It could be compared to downing an energy drink but far better.  None of those bottled energy liquids could ever deliver that same natural rejuvenation.  I always feel the same way somehow when I’m out communing with nature. Either it be climbing on a cliff, struggling with a boulder, swimming in a river … just being outside with the pure elements fuels me I think.  I stretched out my arms and tried to catch as much rain as I could.  My skin felt sensitive to each drop and I felt I could count each raindrop as it touched my bare arms.  I resolved not to though as my mind was preoccupied with images of my youth running and playing around in the rain.  I became mindless of how much my fingers went cold and white as blood drained from them. My blood rushed towards my core to stave off the cold.  Not long then, the smell of citrus rushed into much of my head.  It woke me to another faint realization.  The closer I got to the tree, the more my senses woke.  I picked some of the small fruits that looked like green little globes that hung on the small twiggy branches.  Every time a globe came off to my pull, a piece of a mind puzzle, a memory perhaps or a recollection of something seemed to fall into place. More of the fruit found their way onto my shirt which I folded to a front pouch.  Then just like a fastball coming straight at me, the puzzle became whole.  I began to realize why I get entranced by the citrus smell some women  fashion on their skin.  It hints of fresh citrus flower or crushed lime leaves, a simple whiff of which transports me into a trance that dances me off into childhood.  Whoever thought of that formula was indeed a wise man or woman. It inspires me to wonder however if that person exacted the potion to serve as a dream enhancer to settle anyone back into his youth or to magnify a person’s urge to run wildly into the woods with a better half that wore the perfume. I lingered on the scent with a scant recalling of faces as rain forced my eyes to relapse into small slits.  With the makeshift pouch filled with the calamansi fruit, I took off to leave the tree.  It was a hard enough act that took a bit force of will as I had wanted to prolong my intoxication.  I reasoned that the tree will still be where it would be for longer and it helped ease myself to the breaking loose of the spell.  As the day grew colder I forced myself into coming out of the rain and into the warm rooms of the house. If it weren’t for the sight of my gingerly nurtured callouses on my finger tips turning pruney, white and soft I wouldn’t really dry myself and would have stayed under the open skies for much longer.  My minds eye immediately recalled a certain episode.  “It’s not my turn to wash the dishes, I did that yesterday!”, always thinking of how much to save on callouses, I spoke to  Anthony, not in an unkind way, during one of our climbing trips.  We always took turns putting one over the other as much as we could.  More of the same memory rushed in and forced me into the house.  I’m a climber.  We take care of our hands, skin, and fingers and revere them more than any fair skinned lady would hers. It sounded strange.  I smile at the thought,  believing in the absurdity.

Unrelenting darkness, rain, anxiousness and nothing much to do bored through much of the day, setting a theme that seemed to wallpaper the vista.  The rain hit harder, the wind grew stronger and the water in the garden pooled even higher.  In a few more hours I decided to peer out the tall gates that guarded our home.  Whatever divined me to do so I can not know.  It was perhaps the instinctive smell of something terribly wrong or the curiosity driven by restlessness. The intricate patterns of twisted steel bars lacing  the gate gave no more contrast to the surrounding darkness.  The latch holding the steel door in place sent a wave of cold warning as I held it to open.  Voices from the opposite side were muffled by the rain.  Sounds from the street outside were slightly unfamiliar, foreboding to be accurate.   A rushing river of red and brown greeted my eyes as a wider focus spanned in the open gateway.  I ran my eyes down the length of the main street.  The river was seven meters across and about almost half a foot deep in the nearby shallows.  Turning my head right horrified me as I saw people wading in waist deep water.  None like that ever happened right there where I stood.  I rushed towards the rear gate that cornered the other side of the house.   Brown red water flowed from underneath the gate as I held the latch.  As soon as the scene unfolded across my eyes, shock gripped air out of my lungs. The flooded street on that side of the house creeped faster up the ramp.  The rear gate was higher than the street by at least three feet.  All that height filled with flood water.  A couple was wading waist deep in front of me as I stood there beset by the sight.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chaos and Order

Chaos and Order

"Chaos" - Found on the Redemption Boulder, Wawa, Montalban

We cannot deny that the world thrives on chaos.  No matter how much we try to resolve or fix something so chaotic, such as our drawers, bookcases, or work tables,  just like all of life’s inherent obscurities, everything always reverts back  to  chaos even after so gingerly applying a thick layer of order.  Yet, humanity always seeks order, it is as I’ve learned, a very human thing to do.  To find order within the chaos is a long sought after solution to a lifelong dilemma.   This built-in human response keeps us all moving forward, wheeling through life with a purpose.  

This whole “chaos and order” business is another infallible reason why I’m so endeared to climbing.  It aims to put into order the chaotic nature of the features on a cliff, a route or a problem.  That primal need to seek the order, the sequence on a route, quenches that human need.  This is the reality of climbing.  Once you’ve sent your problem, there is still a burning need to seek out that next harder problem to sink your insatiable need into.  Maybe this is why projects, the things so impossible for you, tastes so much better than easier, less than your own burl-level problems.  To know the sequence is one thing, to be able to handle the sequence is another.  “ Whatever it takes…”,  a passionate mantra I’m now accustomed with, to the point of letting go and then catching my fall again, has been ringing loudly in my head.  It drives me forward, sometimes mindless of several forked ourcomes.  “Whatever it takes…”, a rallying cry for the seemingly endless dance with chaos.

"Order" - lower right corner of Redemption Boulder

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why do " I " go rock climbing?

Why do " I " go rock climbing?

Something I dug up...The piece I used at the "Where Trails End, Journeys Begin" talk on rock climbing at R.O.X.  Re-titled it to "Why do "I" go rock climbing?"  from "Why do we go rock climbing" as I feel we all have our own reasons...

The answer to the question is as varied as the number of climbers you ask.  It may vary with age, with level of climbing whether they’re just beginning or have been climbing for a number of years, with gender, with social or political status, geography, religion, etc.…there is probably an infinite number of answers to the question.  But there is one very common ingredient with everybody’s perception of climbing and that is it’s FUN !  It’s so generic but I can try to define fun in a number of ways.  

One of the many routes under the big arch of Getu Valley,  shot taken during the Petzl RocTrip 2011
Unfinished business at Banyang Cave, Getu 
It is most definitely natural to go climbing.   Since children we’ve all been climbing.  There is nothing so technical about going up.  It is just climbing…you get one hold and then the next, step up one hold and keep moving up.  Nothing too hard about that?  It’s so easy to understand. As children we’ve all been given that ability, maybe some have forgotten, maybe it’s just a matter of relearning these things.  Maybe it’s just about having fun again like children. Play around on the rocks, get all dirty and still look good… Meet new people to play with and not have any pretensions.  It’s like kindergarten, everyone’s your friend.  It’s a life less serious. You will learn to let go of ego.  It will keep you young.  The more you climb the younger you get.  You will begin to see life in a whole new perspective.  You will realize that time does not exist if you live fully in the moment.

Doing something new is definitely an adventure.  You’re moving into the unknown.  Rock climbing is an adventure.  Imagine yourself on the cliffs, climbing maybe 120ft. high, maybe you’ll find yourself hanging on for dear life, both your feet in the air and you have mere seconds to get back on the rock and get that good hold for a rest or maybe just sucking up and letting go and then screaming at the lop of your lungs as you let your belayer catch your fall on the rope.  Scary?  But scary doesn’t stop you from seeing a horror flick.  It is most definitely a ride you would surely want to try.  Falling and screaming are things you’ll get used to or at least try to get used to.  Then there is also success, when you find yourself at the top and you can fully appreciate the spectacular view you fought hard for.  It’s not just the view, it’s that intangible feeling that lasts only for seconds.  For sure it will be something you’ll want to feel again and again until it becomes an obsession.  You celebrate a little and then move on to another adventure, another route equally fantastic or even better.  The only way to find out is to climb it.  

Gran Boveda, Rodellar, Spain

Everything is new in climbing.  It never grows old.  No two routes are ever the same so there is always new learning.  Every movement is progressive.  It’s not a repetitive sport or activity.  You get on the rock and climb up for sometimes 100ft and no two moves will be exactly the same, unless it's a long crack.  :)   For this there is none to get bored off. 

Shek-O, Hong Kong
Climbers I think are amongst athletes with the greatest core tension.  It doesn’t come with grueling hours of unwanted exercise. You climb because you love it and physical fitness is actually just the residue, not the other way around.  You’re not climbing to get fit but you get fit because you climb.  Climbing in the gym is only the tip of the iceberg.  Climbing exists far beyond the gym walls.  If you join rocktrips, you’ll see why we try and hone our skills.  The outdoors provide so much inspiration why there is a need to keep climbing. Sometimes the most beautiful routes are the harder ones.  Also,  rock climbing burns so much energy.  You keep eating but they burn off easy.  Sometimes we climb on a route and we want to finish it in one try, so no matter how long it takes we keep to rock, climb it, rest on it, recover and then push again…I’ve experienced climbing on a single pitch route that took me 45  minutes.  Time flies by so fast and you never know it’s been taking you too long already. I can not say the same for the belayer though.

"Red Dragon" - Yangshou, China
There are so many combinations of hand and foot movements involved in climbing. Sometimes doing a wrong sequence prevents you from completing your climb.   Do you hold your core now or just a second earlier?  Do you crimp with the left or with the right hand? But there is a rhythm, a flow of movement you have to feel and get your groove on.   It is fun trying to unlock this.  Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes you just can’t get it and you have to clear your head overnight, maybe several nights.   There is a searching involved and it is quite a challenge sometimes.

"Vagabond", Ceuse, France
Climbing is also not just about power, strength, endurance or anything in the physical.  It’s also about problem solving.  True, no matter how strong you are or powerful you are, if you don’t think, you’re up for a very difficult time climbing.  Surfers read the waves and rock climbers read the rock’s most efficient sequence.  When you thought rock climbing was for jocks, if you try you’ll find out that it’s for also for the intellectually inclined.  Some rock climbers are actually rocket scientists.  It is about executing the right move at the right time.  It’s a game.  It’s a puzzle and the more you do it the more you get better at it.  The rock equalizes everyone.  It’s fun to go out climbing with different people because you see so many ways the route is solved.  

I personally feel more alive when climbing.  All your senses are on overdrive.  Specially on the harder routes, your mind is racing with your senses.  While your finger tips are holding on for dear life, your feet are pushing down on the foot holds to keep you steady.  Your breathing keeps you calm while you’re thinking of how to get yourself just one more move higher. You’re doing so many things at the same time but your mind is still where you are.  It’s not wandering, it’s with you and sometimes that gives  you peace.  You feel so active and yet it rests your mind from other things in the world. As quoted from Chris Sharma,  “You are in your own world and nothing else exists”..  Everything around you blurs and all you hear is your breath.     

Perticara, Italy
Every now and then we discover new places.  We go to new areas and explore.  We look for new rock, new boulders that haven’t been climbed.  Sometimes they’re in plain sight and sometimes we have to hike through jungles and cross rivers.  The searching is part of the whole package of climbing.  Often, while searching we get to see a lot more than what we ask for.  Sometimes these places haven’t been visited by anyone or by just a few.  All these places are spectacular.  We wonder sometimes why these places are taken for granted. There are so many beautiful places we get to see and we hope we could get more people to see these places.  The experience could really change your perspective of our country. 

Rock Climbing is very interactive. You’re out on the rock, crimping the rock, sometimes almost smelling it.  You’re breathing life to an inanimate object.    The rock comes to life and maybe this is why we begin to value what nature is offering.  We climb on these rocks, we hold them and somehow, after climbing for a while, you would feel the rock holding you.  You feel it’s energy and you’re one with it.  

To go out there, to brave the lack of comfort and immersing yourself in the search, you start your own journey.  The more you wander off the beaten track the more personal it gets.   The more personal it gets, the more transcendent it becomes in all that you do.  You’ll find your self forever recharging yourself in climbing. 

Here's a short video by Joe Kinder.  I just had to insert it here because I like it and I hope many more get to see it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Resistance and Flow

Resistance and Flow

Early  mornings are slow going on my side of the mountain.  This early January, specially, is exceptionally dawdling.  The cool mornings only effectively secures me deep in my blanket. Even though my thoughts run ahead of me, my body only sluggishly responds.  On better days, I set my alarm to go off 5:45 in the morning and “snooze” me every five minutes.  By the time I’m fully awake it’s already 6:30 a.m.   I pack hurriedly.  I cram my “evolvs”, and chalk bag into a small sling bag, and throw my crash pads into the hollow of my pick-up truck’s cab. 

I ride up the small hillside and come over the ridge to cross over from Marikina to San Mateo.  The drive doesn’t take too long and the newly smoothened out asphalt road inspires a sudden thought to go skate.  A dreamy skate ride plays around my mind as I drive towards Wawa.  I almost feel the no resistance state and I’m suddenly so relaxed.  Time felt surreally slow for a moment.  Unlike waking up too early in the morning, this new flow, I felt, seem to beckon.  I’m aware of the many resistances in the world.  Civilization as we know it today is only starting to see the effects of centuries old resistances it faced in the hands of natural order.   I myself, after climbing and fending of gravity for quite a while, feel the call of “going with the flow.”  Carving down that smooth asphalt near home couldn’t be a too bad an idea.  I know it’s going to happen but somehow I still felt too at home with taming a resistance I am all too familiar with. 

I get off my truck and haul up the pad.  Aling Norma’s Eatery is a sight for sore eyes.  I’m greeted with so friendly smiles that warms me a bit from the chilly air running beneath the giant Acacia trees. I set down everything I have and start picking something from the counter for breakfast.  Two cups of coffee and then Aling Norma’s home cooked “goto with egg”, charming! I love the picking part and then chatting with Aling Norma while enjoying breakfast. It’s always fun sharing short conversations with her.  I’m almost at home there.   I must admit though, I haven’t been to Wawa for the longest time.  Years of constrained access issues plus the continued decline of the natural state of the park contributed to my gradual dislike for the area.  Now however, I’ve gained a bit of an acceptance and I’m able to take in Wawa for what it is today.  It’s not saying I like what’s happening to the park, I’m just able to see it for the charms it still able to give.  What can I say, she’s old.   I can’t be mean to an old lady. 

Breakfast comes to a close and I lug on the pads and hike slowly towards the “Kambingan boulder”.  I’ve a boulder problem to finish.  It’s become a project and it’s the reason why I woke up early.  I could feel the resistance already just by looking at it.  The line is simple and direct.  From under the boulder’s roof, the line follows a series of good holds and then just over the lip, the problem becomes heavy.   A crimper for the left bites down on two fingers. Several tries on the problem later, I’m nursing deep pricks on my fore and middle fingers.  The whole of the morning I spent under that boulder.  It’s the only thing a came there for.  In the process though, I’ve come to realize the better things about Wawa.  Counting them all can be a bit boring but there’s one funny scene I’d  cherish somehow.  I had the opportunity to share some funny stories with two small kids.  The chit-chat was funny from the get-go.  Adin and Jen-Jen, if I got the spelling’s right, stayed with me the entire time I was under that boulder. Adin’s 10 and Jen-Jen’s 8.  They’re both boys and they looked fairly small for their age. Topics shot from how Ondoy wrecked havoc in their small barangay , to ghosts, to snakes, to trash and to how come they look so small.     I’d rather not recount their Ondoy experience but that piece of the story did ground me more to Wawa.  They’ve taken the experience lightly even while speaking of what to me sounded like harrowing ordeals.  On a lighter tone I asked, “10 ka na? Ikaw 8?, eh’ bat ang liit nyo?” (you’re 10 and you’re 8? Why do you look so small?”),  somehow I thought they would answer  somewhere like, “kasi di kami masyado kumakain” (“because we have little to eat”), but instead they answered, “Kasi tatay namin pandak!” (“because our fathers are excessively short!”).  Their answers merited a huge fit of laugher.  They continued on comparing whose father was shorter.  I didn’t care anymore, they were witty for their age.   The whole conversation with the two made the project lighter, though not enough for me to finish it.  There was the “flow” feeling again.  It felt very natural, it made things more casual.   Wawa once again is growing on me and though the fear of losing the park to more and more informal settlers still looms over the river town, all hope is not lost. Maybe there’s still hope.  I was able to connect with the kids and probably that’s the key.

In the meantime, I’ve to run off to the gym, crank in some more resistance.  It is after all what I do.  I gain more craving for “flow” through living in “resistance.”