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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Argao: After the Race

After the race

Though I was able to wash up in the park, I still needed a bath. After I got my after-race refreshment, I went to get my bags. Then I went to meet up with my classmate and her posse and asked if they wanted to use the shower in my room in the pension house. They declined since they were able to use the parks wash room to clean up. After taking my leave, I went  on my way. 

This is how the dark road looks during daylight.
On my way going the pension house, I passed through the same road I traversed the night before—the pitch dark road. Along the way, I met up an old man who was on his way to his house. He just walked up to me and asked where I was going—the scary approach. Since his house was half-way way towards my destination, he tagged along with me. I didn’t stop him—I did not have the chance to decline his offer to join me on the road—he just went and said in Cebuano, ‘I’ll join you on your way.’

The man was very friendly and very chatty. He dominated the conversation.  He talked and talked. All the time, I was the one listening. I enjoyed the company and the talk. It kept me from thinking about how tired I was.  

The guy talked about his travels. He has lived in some parts of Mindanao, in Negros and in other parts of the Visayas. ‘You’re not an NPA, are you?,’ I asked. He just laughed. He was originally from Pardo. After moving around the southern Philippines, he went back to his family in Pardo. He and his family later concluded that the city air was not for them—they moved again—and ended up in Argao. He told me he and his family had been living in Argao for a year and a half.

A rice nursery of some sort.
When we reached the highway, we parted ways.  For me to reach my place, I had to turn right while his house was on going left.  Before he went on his way, he shook my hand and introduced himself to me—I’m sorry but I forgot his name. ‘If you visit Argao next time, feel free to drop by our home,’ he said.  I said, ‘I will’ and then we went on our separate ways. Too bad, the old man had more stories to tell. I was enjoying our short-lived bonding. It felt like those scenes in the films with a boy hanging out with his grandfather. I wasn’t close to my gramps—he was ill-tempered and he was smelly—he did not take baths. I met other grandfathers growing up—I live in a compound where everyone is a relative—none of my old men were the grandfatherly type.

Low tide, outside my window during brunch.
Upon reaching the house, I right away went to the shower. I was inside the bathroom for an hour—I take long baths—sometimes longer. After I got cleaned up, I packed my bags and then I checked out. I took my brunch in the boulevard. I walked around. I went to the beach. I wanted to go for a swim. Unluckily, the sea was on its lowest level that day. I went back to the park and got two turns with the zip. The zip-line was available to the participants of the run for free. After I took one last look around area, I walked going to the bus stop. Sniff! Sniff! It was around 11:30 AM. When I got my water and snacks for the travel, I then took a Ceres bus going back to the city.

Going home.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Argao: The Mud Run

Finally, I reached the nature park. I asked a runner, who was with me on the same bus going to Argao, for the courtesy booth. After I deposited my bag, I bumped in to an old friend—a high school classmate. Though I’ve seen her in a couple of times in the previous races I’ve joined. I never really came up to her. You can’t blame me for staying away from my high school classmates. I called out her name. She answered, ‘Uy, Carl!’ I don’t know what made me call out to her at that time. Perhaps, inside, I was happy that in a distant new place I met someone I already knew.

After some catching up, she invited me to join her group. She came with her boyfriend, her brother and her brother’s girlfriend.

Finally, the race was on. At the start I was very fast, I was a little behind my classmate and her boyfriend.  Fact: You’ll run faster if you run with your friends. I was not behind nor leading the race. I was ahead of  the middle-runners until the road started to go uphill.

Route info

Going uphill I was already walking. We went up and passed by the Riverstone Castle Resort. And still we kept on going uphill. A girl runner said, ‘It seems to me that we’re going up and up the mountain. Are we ever going downhill and back to the finish line? Seems to me we are not.’ It made me smile.  Fact: Smiling makes you run faster. I was happy when I reached the top where the path was already flat, I ran as fast to catch up with the other racers. I love it when I out run the other runners. It was a fun run though the route was both rocky and muddy.

Going downhill, I slowed down my pace so as not slip and roll down the hill. A slow pace, going downhill, was not a pace I can keep. I tried to out run another runner to show off to the people, who came out of there houses to watch us. Running downhill was gravity-driven. When I started running faster, it seems that I can not stop. I just continued on going down. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. It was faster and easier, though scarier, going downhill compared to going uphill.

Going to the finish line.

Finally, I was on flat land. The route went through rice paddies and through roads paved or unpaved. The paved road was my marker that I am nearing the finish line. Residents, whose houses are located along the route, went out with their children and dogs to watch us. Though I wanted to show off and run fast in front of them, I had to slow down seeing the dog. I did not want the dog to chase and jump behind me. Another turn, I was back to the road where we started—finish line—at last.

A few meters before the finish, instead of continuing through the road, we had to turn left and jump in to the muddy rice paddy—that’s why it was called Mud Run. I have no qualms getting in to the mud, unlike most participant of the race. One runner—some varsity athlete—even ditched the mud pool. He went through the finish line following the road. After removing my shoes, I jumped to the muddy pit and ran even though it was difficult since the mud was inches above my knees. It was a race; I did not allow the mud to slow me down. Some of the participants took their time through the muddy obstacle, like they were on a tight spot and that they needed to face the problem slowly and calmly.

Instead of continuing through the road, you jump in to the mud and follow the flags.

When I got through the mud pool, I just walked, slowly, going to the finish line. I was not able to put my shoes back on since my feet were very muddyI wasn't able to run since the pebbles hurt my feet. I finished the race after an hour, five minutes and twenty four seconds. I ran seven kilometers. My time was disappointing—I can do betterway better. I wanted to hear my named called out when I crossed the finish line. I wanted to be recognized for finishing the race but instead it was some guy’s name that the announcer called out. It did not matter really, I was glad to have finished my race.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Argao is a 1st class municipality in located at the southeastern portion of the province of Cebu, approximately 68 kilometers from Cebu City.

Going to Argao

The idea of traveling to Argao and participating in the Argao Mud Run has been discomforting.  I’ve always wanted to go to the southern town. I was very excited since it would be my first visit to the place. Well, I’ve traveled farther down south, passing through the town, but I’ve never really stopped in Argao. I asked some runner friends if they are joining the racethey said, ‘No, it is a very far place.’ I also asked some friends if they wanted to come with me to Argao even if they won’t participate in the fun run—they also said, ‘No.’

January 21, Friday, two days before the race: I was able to talk to one of the organizers on the phone regarding the race. The guy on the phone informed me that they will be providing a free bus ride to Argao to the participants. The bus will be stationed near the Fuente Osmena Circle, by the Chong Hua Hospital entrance, on the afternoon before the race.  According to the organizer, the bus ride will be available on a first come, first served basis and will leave for Argao at around 4 PM. 

Saturday, the day before the race: after spending the whole morning and the early afternoon thinking about going to Argao, I decided at the last minute to join the 1st Argao Mud Run. I was only able to make up my mind at around 3 PM. I only have an hour to travel from my house going to the bus pick-up station. One other problem is the heavy traffic during the weekends, especially in the afternoon where most people are on their way to the malls.

I had no time to waste; I right away packed my bags. Yes, bags, it was more than one—a sling travel bag and a shoe bag. ‘I am going to Argao to join the fun run,’ I told my parents while I was running on my way out of the house. They didn’t have the time to disapprove and they didn’t have time to remind me of my manners—they were entertaining a cousin, a visitor, at that time. I was in a hurry. I even skipped my bath. I got a jeepney, with route number 21B, going to the pick-up site. I arrived at the Fuente at around 4:15 PM and was relieved to see that the bus was still around. I’ve thought of taking a bus in the South Bus Terminal if I was not able to catch the free pick-up.

An hour later, we were off to Argao. The driver was very kind to wait for the other runners.  The travel going to the southern town was smooth though I really did not enjoy it. Blame chivalry! I was seated beside the aisle; I prefer to sit by the window. A lady asked if she could take my seat by the window—I was such a gentleman, I gave her my seat. Honestly, I was too shy to say no to her.

By-the-aisle-seats are scorned because: you are awoken from your sleep every time someone passes by, your face is in danger of being hit by the other passengers’ backpacks as they pass by and a walking passenger may grab you when they loose their balance. The thing I dislike the most about the by-the-aisle-seat is that it is beside the vendor’s spot—perhaps this only apply in the Philippines

Sometime during your travel vendors may go up the bus to sell their merchandise.  The most common items they sell are snacks: junk food, peanuts, chicharon and the like. I have nothing against vendors walking around the aisle selling their merchandiseI just hate the smell of vinegar. Vinegar, to me, is like garlic to a vampire.  Chicharon and vinegar are inseparable.  It is already expected that the vendors will carry them around.

We arrived at the Argao Nature Park at around 6 to 7 PM. It was already very dark. Everyone went, right away, to pitching their tents while the others went to find a place to eat and a place to sleep. Me, I found a seat in the park’s dining hall and waited for the organizers. The organizers were so disorganized—they were not able to find my race kit and instead gave me another person’s race number. 

Outside the Nature Park.

After I got my race kit, I went out and looked for a place to have dinner. I asked a local, a friend of one of the organizers, where I can eat. He told me of a place they call the boulevard—it was a strip of carenderias and barbecue stalls beside the highway and overlooking the beach. He pointed me to a dark unpaved road and told me if I went straight I’ll reach the main road and if I follow the main road going right, in a few steps, I can reach the said spot. It was nice of him to offer to look for a trisikad or a tricycle, for me to take to reach the boulevard. I declined his offer and decided to walk alone through the dark road.  He tried to stop me but I was unstoppable. I was proud and I was brave. Before I left, he assured me—I made him—that there was no ravine or there were no holes where I can fall to my death.  The only thing he couldn’t assure me was not stepping on mud, a snake or cattle dung. 

The pond inside the park. 

At the starting point (snickers!), the place where the light from the plaza and the darkness of the road met, I reached inside my bag to look for my headlight—the one I got from the Energizer Night Race—to my disappointment, I wasn’t able to bring it. That’s what I got for rush packing. With only a dim light from my phone and the shy moonlight to light my path, I went on my way. While traversing the dark passage, I was surprised and scared to death, seeing a group of women praying at a scarcely lighted wooden shrine. They were also surprised to see me come out of the dark. I looked invisible in the dark. I nodded at the women and continued on my way. 

Those aren't UFOs.

I was already halfway when I felt going back my steps. It was too dark to continue but it was also too dark to go back. It was very dark but I kept walking. When I saw lights—coming from the vehicles traversing the high way—I ran never minding if I’d stumble. What a scaredy cat? I reached the highway in fifteen minutes and continued on my way to the food stalls.

A look behind the barbecue stalls.

I was famished when I reached the stalls. I had two pork chops, an order of rice and lemon soda. After the delayed repast, I went to the sari-sari store, which was three stalls away from the carenderia where I had my meal. I bought three one-liter bottles mineral of water—I drink a lot of water. I also bought three packs of potato chips and mints to counteract the meat's fatty aftertaste. Their prices were higher than the prices in the city.  I also asked for a good place to spend the night. The nice old lady, she wasn’t very old, told to me proceed right, a few steps away, to get to the pension house.

When I reached the pension house, I found out that the other runners were also checked in in the same house.  I got a room for 1000 pesos. The room included an air conditioner, a bath, a TV, a fridge, a dinning table, and a small kitchen with an electric stove, an oven toaster, water heater and cutlery. The room was kind of lonely though. The room was quiet, but not quite, from my room I was able to hear the passing of buses and motorcycles in the highway. The highway is  in between the house and the beach. I would have preferred to listen to the crickets and the sea but the crickets' chirpings were too distant and were easily drowned by the zooming of vehicles. The sea was very silent.

When I turned on the TV, I found out I only have two choices of channels—ABS-CBN and GMAboth have bad signal in the area. I played MP3s on my phone instead and went to take a shower. I did not get to enjoy my bath that much. I was in the middle of my bath when the lights went out. There was a blackout. I quickly finished bathing and slipped on my clothes. I sat outside, in the stairs, where it was not very dark.

My room

For almost two hours there was no power—the lights did not come back on until 9 PMI decided to go to sleep. Though I don’t sleep without the lights on, I jumped in to bed. However, it wasn’t until the power came back on that I fell asleep. My sleep was very good. I slept straight. I woke up at a quarter before 4 AM—I didn’t need any alarm. I did set my phone alarm at 4 AMI always got up very early when I sleep in unfamiliar places or in other people’s home. 

The pension house as seen from the beach.

After taking a refreshing bath, I went right away to the Argao Nature Park. The starting line was right outside the park. I went out when it was still very dark. There was only one store open. The store owner offered me puto maya for breakfast but I had to decline since I don’t eat breakfast before I run. I tried to look for a tricycle but the highway was empty. One tricycle passed by but it was fully occupied. Unable to find a ride, I decided to walk going to the park.

I didn’t want to pass through the dark unpaved road that I traversed on Saturday night; I decided to go around and along the highway and through the main road to the plaza where it was heavily lighted.

It was still very dark. Plus, the shadow of the large trees contributed to the darkness. For a stranger in a new place, it was brave of me to walk around Argao's dark roads. I was happy to see a lighted corner and a guy waiting for a bus. At first, the guy was facing the other way; he didn’t see me coming towards him. He turned around and the sight of me gave him a tremble. He yelled out, ‘Kuyawa nako nimo dong!’

‘Ga-puti pa gyud ka. Hastang kuyawa gyud nako nimo dong.’ he added.
      ‘Sorry ‘nong! Padung man gud ko sa nature park.’
 ‘Kasayo gud. Mag-unsa man ka didto?’
     ‘Apil man ko sa mud run.’
‘Aw, apil diay ka ato dong.’
      ‘Layo pa ba ang eskena padung didto ‘nong?’
‘Duol na lang. Ara dira straight ka gamay niya abot na ka sa eskena.’
      ‘Salamat manong. Sorry pud wala gyud tuyo-a.’
‘Wala ra ‘to! Nia nay bus ay. Mo-sakay na ko.’

The bus stopped right in front of my face. A little closer then I would have been a fatality. When the bus left, I continued on my way.