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Exploring

This weekend, I hiked Mt. Pulag, the highest peak of Luzon and the third highest peak in the Philippines. I missed hiking; it was my first mountain in two years. It’s my second mountain in the Philippines and the first one I hiked in the dark on purpose. We started at 1 am and got to Peak #3 at around 5 am.

Some things I want to remember:

This sunrise! Korea, you know I love you and your mountain to bits, but I think Philippine mountains have you beat in this department.

The legendary Mt. Pulag sunrise

The legendary Mt. Pulag sunrise

I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the other mountains I hiked in Korea, especially since I was wearing the same outfit and shoes.

With the same hiking shoes I've used while hiking all of the mountains of Seoul

With the same hiking shoes I’ve used while hiking all of the mountains of Seoul

After seeing the sunrise, we hiked for another half hour to the summit, which was 2,922 meters above sea level. It was even higher than Hallasan, the highest peak in South Korea.

Me at the peak! I want to redesign this sign.

Me at the peak! I want to redesign this sign.

Here it was easier to see the famous sea of clouds that makes Mt. Pulag such a popular hiking destination.

The clouds over and around the Cordilleras

The clouds over and around the Cordilleras

The sea of clouds

The sea of clouds

I couldn’t resist doing a kick to send my taekwondo teachers back in Seoul. But alas, my arms were not ok and my back could be straighter. But hey, I hiked for 10 hours that day, so let’s all cut me some slack for today, ok? Ok.

My form is wrong. But hey, I tried.

My form is wrong. But hey, I tried.

It’s nice to be back on the mountains. I missed it so.

May no shopping mall ever befall you. God almighty.

May no shopping mall ever befall you. God almighty.

I was dressed for sailing. At least, that’s what I thought I was going to do when I jumped in the car with some friends early this Sunday morning on the way to the Manila Boat Club in Sta. Ana, Manila. “Boat” has a lot of variations, similar to “house” or “garden”. But it turns out we were going to be rowing. With oars. As a team. Oh dear.

It was a fascinating history lesson as I walked up to the second floor of the old building that served as the club’s headquarters. The organization started in 1895 and is the oldest club in Manila.

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Manila Boat Club

Though I was not dressed for the occasion, we only live once and so I got in. With my feet strapped to the boat, I held oars for the first time. In front of me was the president of the club, James, who regularly came to row. I had to follow his rhythm, which was a challenge since I barely knew what I was doing. It was quite mortifying to be clumsy at my first strokes, and I kept bumping my oars with his and my friend’s behind me.

The dock

The dock

With the coxswain (This is the first time I’ve ever had to use this word!) expertly and patiently guiding us, we rowed along the newly rehabilitated Pasig River, which is now a far cry from the toxic dump it used to be. As I learned how to row, I couldn’t help but remember my cybernetics studies in grad school, whose root word means “to steer”. One wrong move from anyone and the boat changed its intended course or we slowed down. The coxswain gave us corrections to set us back on the path. This is such a great metaphor for every project and exhibition I have ever been on.

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It was a beautiful Sunday morning.

The boat didn’t capsize. All in all, it was a win of a Sunday morning.

Thanks, Manila Boat Club! Check out their site here.

Lately, I’ve been doing research on Philippine art, so it was wonderful to spend a Tuesday afternoon with my dear friend Tiffany at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, about an hour outside Manila.

Right away, the details of the museum gave it a quaint Mediterranean and Philippine charm.

Such a cute bell!

Such a cute bell!

Beautiful colors

Beautiful colors

I love this spot

I love this spot

I really appreciated the art inside the cavernous halls, as well as the fact that it was wheelchair-accessible.

Beautiful gallery

Beautiful gallery

Lovely and wheelchair-accessible

Lovely and wheelchair-accessible

Oh if only I can live here, and write and make art all day.

Such a lovely windowsill

Such a lovely windowsill

I’ve been really interested in Philippine textiles lately, so this gallery of indigenous art was one of my favorites.

I love this gallery of Philippine indigenous art

I love this gallery of Philippine indigenous art

A rocking horse before sunset

A rocking horse before sunset

I love this spot: a meditation garden dedicated to the love of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal and Leonor Rivera.

Squeal! A meditation garden dedicated to the love between Jose Rizal and Leonor Rivera

Squeal! A meditation garden dedicated to the love between Jose Rizal and Leonor Rivera

Inside was an old-fashioned writing cabinet with the instructions to write a letter to The One Who Got Away. The letter should be placed in the cabinet undelivered. Then the person is instructed to move on with his life. I was so tempted to read the letters but I swear I didn’t touch them.

The instructions: Write a letter to the one who got away. Place it in the cabinet undelivered. Move on.

The instructions: Write a letter to the one who got away. Place it in the cabinet undelivered. Move on.

The museum was bigger than I thought. I didn’t have a clue where we were on the museum map.

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I feel like I’m back in Barcelona.

Thanks for a lovely time!

Pinto Art Museum

Pinto Art Museum

This weekend, I tried to up my diving skills in Anilao, Batangas. It’s my second time seeing Sombrero Island:

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It reminds me of this island in Jindo, which I nicknamed Little Prince Island since it looks like Exupery’s drawing of the hat with the snake inside. (I wrote about it before here.)

This looked so familiar.

This looked so familiar.

I’m less buoyant. Hurray!

Thanks to a bit of downtime after my exhibition opening, I was finally able to check off another thing on my to-do list this year: getting my scuba diving license. As I expect to do more expedition-based projects, I foresee myself having to go underwater at some point. For what project, I still do not know. But! It’s definitely important to be trained for this, especially when there’s some math and physics involved, not to mention encountering endangered species.

The checkout dives were in Anilao, Batangas. The rainbow-tipped cloud wave that we saw on our way to our first dive spot boded well for our weekend.

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I’m happy to have seen a Philippine turtle, nudibranches (hurray!), beautiful yet poisonous fish, multicolored worms, an abundance of starfish, and amazing coral. This opened up a new world for me, and I can’t wait to see what projects will come out of it.

On a side note: it was great to be exposed to the anti-apocalypse. After months of being involved in climate change, I’m just happy to see something that I want to see this time. I hope this place keeps being so.

On a trip to Corregidor Island, the largest of the island defenses west of Manila and a memorial to the Filipino and American forces that fought the Japanese during World War II, I came across this acacia tree that survived one of the bombings. You can tell—there’s a concrete block still stuck to it.

An acacia tree that survived a bomb explosion. Go, tree, go!

An acacia tree that survived a bomb explosion. Go, tree, go!

Let’s take a closer look.

Close up of the concrete block

Close up of the concrete block

It’s quite a poetic thing to see in an island that has seen both grisly and heroic things.

(Pulau Ubin, Singapore)—My final natural excursion in Singapore was a trip to Chek Jewa wetlands in Pulau Ubin, an island northeast of the country and according to people, the second most famous island off of Singapore next to Sentosa, the latter of which I confess I have never been to because of the excess of crowds and commercialization.

Pulau Ubin is as wild as it can get here in the police state. There are insects here I have never seen before:

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I decided to walk all the way to Chek Jawa, an eastern spot on the island that is preserved due to the large amount of biodiversity. I slightly regret that choice—an 8-km bike ride would have been easier than going about it on foot. But I think about my Seoul43 project, and I suppose this far from the hardest thing I’ll ever do. And so I began to walk, and along the way, I came across quirky homes, such as this one with a battered statue of Cookie Monster:

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There were some abandoned houses as well, looking peaceful and gloomy amidst the dense forests:

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Signs warned me of wild animals, such as monkeys and, oh dear, wild boars. There was a little army of monkeys who were following me and some other hikers, having learned to associate people with food. I warily walked past them on the trees. After I passed, they appeared on the trail. I was only able to get this quick blurred shot before I fled.

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Upon reaching Chek Jewa, I saw this lovely coastal forest.

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I also saw these beautiful mangroves, as well as organisms that live near it, such as crabs, sea grass, etc. I groaned at the sight of a discarded plastic bottle, and gave the stink eye to two men smoking nearby.

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Walking back, I passed by a cluster of nipa trees. There was an observation dock you can climb the top of, allowing you to see the tops of the trees and beyond. I felt like a flea finally seeing what lay beyond the realm of a dog:

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And so was my final expedition in the Lion City. Thanks, Singapore! The past four and a half months were oh so very lovely. You kicked my ass, just as I hoped you would. Salut!

The Holiday Hackathon is an exploration/discovery project of me spending my last couple of weeks in Singapore. I just finished an art/science residency, and I’m hoping that asking questions and going to new places will help me figure out that next step/project. 

 

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