Saturday, March 30, 2013

Porac, Pampanga: I Flew High In Poracay

Wazzup Pilipinas !
For the very first time, I had the opportunity to try the infamous zipline !

It's my first time in one of these so I wouldn't be able to compare it with the other ziplines in our country, but all I can say is...It's not really what I expected it to be.

There was really no adrenaline rush. I never worried even a little bit. I simply was not overwhelmed by the experience.

Maybe it was too short a ride for the thrill to sink in. Possibly it was not high enough to scare me. Most probably because I have more than enough near-to-death experiences more threatening and death-defying than riding on a 500 meter zipline.

Undeniably, Poracay was truly a hidden paradise in Porac, Pampanga. Imagine seeing such beauty after passing a seemingly ragged desert-like terrain. I'm sure the ash-laden terrains that we passed were images of the former devastation brought about by the Mount Pinatubo volcano eruption in Pampanga several years ago. The rain of ash and small pebbles made Pampanga look like an American village covered in snow on Christmas day. But this snow was black and gray instead of white.

My colleagues and I were all sweating profusely during the trip to the location. We even got lost trying to find the place. Our hired bus driver was rather an impatient lad who took it unpleasantly. Cursing on the road during the entire time while we were asking directions from the locales. We even tried using the GPS system from our mobile phones and knowing we still have a few kilometers while nearing lunchtime didn't quite help the anticipation. It's past lunchtime, yet we were still looking for the place.

But it was definitely a surreal and relaxing experience once we finally got there. We saw how beautiful the place was when we got into the middle of the resort where severals pools were situated besides each other and a huge lagoon where you could go kayaking at the center of all of it. The place had several trees and other plantation to make it look more greenery, a complete opposite of the ash-infested surroundings outside the resort. It was very ideal for our Staff Development activity. But I felt too bad knowing that the organizing committee didn't have any "staff development" activities planned for the two days spent there....or was it because others were busy fixing a work-related problem that suddenly occurred during our stay there. Well, gotta make the most of it. But, it got confirmed when a senior colleague told me, there was never really any staff development activities done since ages ago, and that we were just spending the organization allowed yearly opportunity to get away from the busy confines of our offices.

At at one are were huge colorful letters that spell PORACAY. ..and was intended not just as a signage, but as a photo op area. Many got the idea that it was meant to give you the opportunity to take pictures besides gigantic letters of the alphabet.

We offloaded our bags from the bus into our rented fully air-conditioned and well equipped resort house (heck the entire house was air-conditioned, had its own a fridge to put our drinks and liquors, and a stove for cooking), and tried out the comfy beds as well. We actually rented two houses for our entire group composed of about 50 persons. The houses were color-coded, we stayed at the purple house, while others stayed at the orange house. Each house was divided into three separate rooms with five beds in each room - that means about two people to share each bed to accommodate our big group. It had a centralized living room and kitchen, and outside was a place where you can barbecue.We even rented a videoke machine so we could sing all night while drinking beer and eating "pulutan." Immediately, all the aircons were turned on by my colleagues. We were paying for an overnight stay until 12 noon the following day so my colleagues thought we might as well make the most of it.

After we have eaten our long delayed lunch, "litson" (roasted pig) plus "ginataang kalabasa, sitaw and hipon" (squash, string beans and shrimps cooked in coconut milk), we rested for just a few minutes and hurriedly dipped into Poracay's  many pools.

At nigh-time, we had grilled "liempo" (pork belly) and "sinigang na ulo ng isda sa miso"  (fish heads - don't know the name of the fish until now) for dinner. Sinigang is a Filipino soup or stew characterized by its sour flavor most often associated with "sampalok" (tamarind). Sinigang is traditionally tamarind based. Other versions of the dish derive their sourness from ingredients such as guava, calamansi, bilimbi, unripe mango, and yes, "miso", among others. The Filipino miso is a traditional  seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans. The result is a thick paste used for adding sourness to vegetables, meats, and fishes and normally accompanied by "mustasa" or mustard leaves.

Then rest of the night was spent in enjoying videoke and beer. Filipinos are truly fond of singing even if many have out-of-tune voices only their mothers would appreciate. But it was more enjoyable seeing my colleagues croak, choke, lose their breath, and sing out of pitch, than hearing professional singers belting out a high eardrum cracking note. Laughter was all around.

Back at our rooms, we spent the whole night talking about anything we could think of - while eating some snacks that I could grab from the other house where they stored all the foodies. When midnight came, all my room mates started to sleep already. I couldn't sleep that night so I spent the evening contemplating on what should have been a better staff development event.  Early morning I decided to walk around the place and jog until I got tired and rested for awhile. I probably went around the entire place for several rounds (well, three was several for me already since I never really had the opportunity to jog).

Afterwards, when the rest of my colleagues were still asleep, I also helped prepare breakfast the following morning. I seem to enjoy cooking for others.It gives me great pleasure when I see people enjoying the food I painstakingly prepared under the heat of the stove. It also adds pride that I could cook well when most of the men in my group would just prefer waiting to be served by the ladies.

The lagoon kayak ride the following day was also quite an adventure. I was worried I may be too overweight for the kayak, and might tip overboard and get myself all wet. I was not yet wearing my swimming attire that day when my colleagues decided to try it out. My co-riders in the kayak (it was a two or three rider) were just too excited that they hurriedly rowed with all their might.

I didn't quite enjoyed it because the constant rowing and trying to keep up with them made my arms all sore. I would sometimes stop and just let them have all the fun rowing vehemently. If I could only have it my way, I would just slowly row and enjoy the ride as a smooth and tranquil experience. I would like to savor the moment peacefully as if I was truly in paradise.

After that boat ride, I tried the 500 meter zipline where they would also take a picture of you after the back and forth ride as part of the package you paid for. It was my first time, but like I told you earlier, I was disappointed it didn't rocked my world.

When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it spewed volcanic ash and rock materials which buried several barangays in the province, and killed several people in the process. The Earth shook and the day turned into night.

Day one, June 9, was eight hours of ash-laden steam clouds ejection ushered one of the world’s most violent and destructive eruptions of the century. This was followed by pyroclastic flows which flowed down Pinatubo’s gullies into the Maraunot and Moraza rivers. These pyroclastic flows reached some 4-5 kilometers from the center of activity. Finally, Philvolcs issued Alert Level 5 in the afternoon as intermittent occurrences of small pyroclastic flows persisted the whole morning.

Day four was more intense. On June 12 Independence Day morning, intense seismic activity was followed by three major explosions, the most powerful of which ejected a "huge, grey, mushroom-shaped cloud" that reached 20 kilometers above the vent. Ash, pumice, and other larger volcanic fragments were also ejected by Pinatubo. Major rivers and tributaries radiating from the volcano overflowed with cascading pyroclastic flows. Shortly before midnight, a second series of strong explosions hurled clouds of ash and pyroclastic materials 25 kilometers into the air.

Day five, only 24 hours after the first major explosions, another violent eruption occurred triggering heavy ashfalls that blanketed most of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. Prevailing winds also blew the volcanic ash hundreds of kilometers away in all directions.

Day six, the fourth major eruption occurred in the afternoon of June 14, with Pinatubo ejecting another vertical ash column that reached a maximum height of 25 kilometers above the vent. This was followed by smaller, intermittent eruptions. But in the afternoon, a much bigger eruption produced a cauliflower-shaped column that ejected volcanic debris to a maximum height of 30 kilometers. Pyroclastic flows ran down the Maraunot River towards Sitio Ogik reaching 15 kilometers from the source. Three smaller eruptions followed during the night.

Day seven, two more explosions occurred at dawn accompanied by incandescent pyroclastic flows that moved at speeds between 70 kph to 80 kph. These were followed by seven more eruptions lasting up to midmorning, producing ash columns from 15-18 kilometers wide at the base and heights of up to 25 kilometers above sea level.

This time, pyroclastic flows advanced to areas as far as 16 kilometers away from the center of activity. At that same morning, a violent eruption ejected a 40 kilometer high eruption column. This was followed by five similarly strong explosions sometime around noon in such close succession that they appeared to be one continuous activity. Philvolcs recorded a total of 19 eruptions that day. Eruptions that occurred after this last eruption until the next day, June 16 - Day 8.

If I was in the middle of Pampanga during those days, then that would have definitely shaken my likewise chaotic world!

I was safe in Manila where the only thing I felt were a little bit of ash fall. The news tells of stories of devastation in Pampanga, but I was still studying back then having my own worries of exams and report submissions. Engineering class was tough, and so I thought. I was young and naive, and never realized I would soon be more "connected" to the world later on.

I've had my fair share of "disastrous" events than would be comparable to a series of violent volcanic eruptions, but like the lahar-shapen new world of Pampanga, it also molded me into a new person. For better or worse, I couldn't really tell. For I see myself trying to make a difference, but all others would just see me as just one of the few hopeful idealist trying to think of themselves as crime-fighting superheroes less of bat-caves and amazing gadgets.

Am I really fighting a self-imposed war on my own?

Poracay is located in Balik Barangay Manibaug Pasig Porac, Pampanga. You can check out the details at its  website:

Manibaug Pasig, Porac Pampanga, 2008
Phone: +63 (045) 436-7088
Mobile: +63 (915)792-5734 / +63 (922)843-0725
Here are their rates and pricing:

You can click on this map to enlarge and hope it helps you find your way. Good luck, though, because it surely wasn't easy for our driver.

*credits to Poracay website, Chronology of the Earth's Most Violent and Destructive Eruption and to all the owners of some of the photos above

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