Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tinandog, Atimonan, Quezon, the “Paradise District”

Atimonan, it’s a climbing area that has been established more than a decade ago.  I’ve heard about it for the longest time, yet have put off visiting the area until early this year.  Reason behind the lack off pull is something of a mystery I can’t fully understand.  Maybe time wasn’t right or perhaps what I heard about the area didn’t quite ring too well in my ear until late.

February 1, 2014.  The early morning chill and the previous closing-down-of-Fat Skillet- night-celebration's healthy helpings of Hungarian sausages, sauerkraut, and Weißbier, pronounced "vaisbeer", the fancy name for beer made from wheat hence called liquid bread, all served well to inspire a text message to be sent early in the morning saying “I’ll be late.”  The meet-up for the Atimonan trip felt too early. My sluggish, heavy head was still drowning in fusel oil, that ingredient in beer that is produced in small amounts during alcoholic fermentation directly related to hangovers, a thing I learned early on in chemistry class in high school.  After snoozing for a no longer accountable number of times, I got up, dumped climbing gear into a haul bag and drove off to meet up with the early campers.  We all had a breakfast of the disgustingly delicious McDonald’s treats and shortly after drove to Quezon Province.

Weather reports sarcastically said it was going to be a fine day for climbing.  The gray skies were continually looming, following wherever our convoy of three cars went.  Little by little droplets of rain started to pitter-patter the windshields, one, two, three, four, until counting them became impossible.  We arrived at Lucena, met up with Pastor Noel, the man directly responsible for the development of the Atimonan climbing.  He was all too happy to see us and I felt a warm fuzzy feeling when he said he was so ecstatic to see me finally making my way to Atimonan.  He had been inviting me to come over to climb with him there and finally I took the step.  He was animated in sharing local climbing stories of the past, the days when bolts were of no existence in the area.  His tragic and funny recounting of “Mike Test” and “Pocket Full of Dreams”, routes aptly named for their history, was the perfect distraction from the continually worsening weather.  There were still a few kilometers left though from Lucena to Atimonan and so we bid goodbye for the meantime and expected to see Pastor the following day.

We arrived at Tinandog, the “Paradise District” a little after lunch.  The weather did to the rock as we expected.  We saw the crag from the roadside and all we could do was chip-in for beer to pass the long afternoon of what promises to be one of no climbing.  After long hours of starring into nothing and more beer, the rock started to change to a lighter color shade.  The rock was finally drying up and there was still enough sunlight for a few climbs.  The “North Wall” area was dry enough and we spent the remaining hours of the day climbing in the cool shade.  Huge bats flew out one of the routes and it was a spectacle that signaled a good afternoon of fun climbing.      


The thatched roof of the open-air nipa hut that stood still on the small hill a few meters from the rocks was all that sheltered us from the cloudless starry night.  We all took turns sipping throat burning gin and sweet rhum to help warm the night.  Soon the hammocks hung heavily with our weary bodies.  The lights from headlamps turned off one by one and the dark of the night lulled us to sleep.  The stars, the sky, and the cool breeze sang a single tune assuring us that the next day promises to be a longer happy day of climbing under the warm sun, with the wind in our ears, with friends, with kindred spirits, and with the large open landscape of freedom.

Potential hard lines

Nice flow stone features

Slightly overhanging rock

Good clean topouts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Place, Product, Price, Promotion

The fundamental P’s of marketing are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is much more beneath the P’s and I’m sinking in the deep cold waters to see just how much I can understand. Why is there just so little that is readily exposed whereas the fuller picture lies buried cold?  Like in free diving, there is need to gasp for air lest one drowns and die of lack of oxygen. This sudden need to write is me gasping for air from all the P's and what lies beneath it.  It is a needed respite from the suddenly heavy weight of the week ahead.  Exams. Designs. Papers. Work.  I don’t even want to expound.  Yikes! I’m being eaten alive by the system.  Actually though, it is a welcome change.  But, I’ll leave the P’s for a while for some recollection of C’s and A’s, CLIMBING and AIKIDO. 

2013 marked the beginning of a few changes.  Climbing wise, the new summer of the snake slithered fast away.  I was able to finish a boulder project that I’ve put off for sometime.  The “Avenger”, a short, crimpy, and overhanging boulder problem at the Kambingan Boulder at Wawa, Montalban now has a 2nd ascent.  It feels awkward stating the fact.  It is not as if it’s a huge momentous event and it’s not even high on the list of 5-star boulder problems to tick-off or finish.  Still, it was a highlight I want to remember and to my perception, it still is one of the harder problems in the area.  Sweeter to think too was that the ascent was filmed by Gameplan, a now “webisoded” format of the old production that it was.  It’s now on its nth web episode, probably on the 61st?  It was a fun day.  Three episodes of Gameplan and one for Green Living were shot that day.  Aside from that the summer just faded.

The rains came shortly after.  Boulders got wet, approaches got muddy and the motivation to get out and get dirty just dwindled fast.  The cold mornings weighed down the blankets that pressed me down flat on my back.  The comfort of the dark soulfully tasted like the hot and soothing chicken soup I remember from back from when I was ten years old.  Climbing in the gym, the solution to wet weather, rapidly became monotonous.  I needed something new.

It was time to get into something I’ve put off again and it came like a cool breeze on a hot humid day.  Aikido, the martial art of harmony, was sunrise to the canvas of gray mornings.  The time I started climbing was the time I stopped practicing Aikido.  After 14 years, the pull towards it again became hard to ignore.  The first time I stepped into the dojo, after more than a decade of absence, I hesitated donning my hakama for fear of not remembering anything I have learned before.  The urge to relearn, however, was big.   Soon, I got my techniques back. 

Aikikai Hombu Dojo sent the new Waka Sensei or the young sensei heir to the founder of the art, O’Sensei, to conduct Aikido seminars here in the Philippines.  The timing was perfect.  When it comes, it comes, and it fed my decision to further pursue the course I was glad I started again.

I now teach Aikido classes in Ateneo de Manila every Mondays.  On other days, I just practice.  I’m amongst teachers, philosophers, students and other fellow aikidokas, all "yukyusha" or beginner by heart.  On the eve of a hot humid February 9th, Seki Shihan 8thDan, granted my Nidan.  After a hiatus of 15 years, getting my form back, and after enduring hours and hours of practice, it felt reassuring that I was moving in a direction I wished for.

The summer of 2014 is now fast approaching.  The end of the P’s will give way to new C’s and A’s.  I have my fingers crossed.  I now ride on the catapult of previous climbing trips to Atimonan and Baguio, and the new responsibilities of a Nidan.  P’s … Why is there just so little that is readily exposed whereas the fuller picture lies buried cold?  Seek and you shall find?  Where there is darkness…light?  Perhaps it just needs to be that way.