Level Up Inn

April 21, 2017
Level Up Inn, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

Signing up for an out of town race entails spending for an accommodation. For Kenn and I, factors to consider should include convenience, price, and image. I've never been to Sto Tomas, Davao del Norte thus relying to the race director's suggestions is a must. There are three must try on the list but we prefer to book a taxi-type accommodation, Level Up Inn.

Level Up Inn, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

Level Up Inn is located in Phase 14, National Highway, Tibal-og Sto Tomas, with 16 rooms secured inside the compound. I find this worth spending for due to the following reasons:

Conenience. It is conveniently located along National Highway and is approximately 800m away from Sto Toma Municipal Hall where the starting point of the race is. Its accessibility permits us to walk around 2 or 3 am on race day in case there is no public vehicle available on that time.

Price. For as low as P250.00, Level Up Inn surely adhered to its tagline "Partner to your vacation." Rates vary for Standard and Deluxe rooms and for the corresponding hours of stay. As for us, a room where we can secure our things while we attend the race and a bed to stretch for the night is all we need without sacrificing our budget.

Image. On personal note, image does not only mean aesthetics but also security. The Inn is nestled within a compound with each rooms having its own gates and garage. Also, staff on duty are stationed in the front office with a good view of the whole compound while off duty staff stay in their assigned cottage situated at the far-end of the compound. That means to say that both front and back of the compound are guarded as they can easily see who comes in and out.

Talking about aesthetics, each Deluxe rooms have different interior designs giving the guests a chance to choose their desired style. The staff gave me the privilege for a sneak peek of the rooms even though Kenn and I booked for Standard accommodation (see few photos below).

Amenities for Deluxe Rooms include Cable TV, separate shower and toilet room, dining table, wide-walled mirror, and car garage. Standard Rooms on the other hand, include Cable TV, bath and toilet room (without shower), dining table, wide mirror and motorcycle garage. Notable difference for the room types is the space.

Level Up Inn, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte
Level Up Inn, Sto Tomas Davao del NorteLevel Up Inn, Sto Tomas Davao del NorteLevel Up Inn, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

On top of it all, I also admire how the staff are very accommodating and friendly. Even the lady who assisted us did a rain check on our needs and made sure we're settled before she left our room. Their hospitality and customer service is way beyond my expectations, which of course, made Level Up Inn my highly recommended accommodation in Sto Tomas, Davao del Norte.

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Gig-Perfect Guitar Amplifier: Orange Tiny Terror TT15

April 11, 2017
Are you gigging around town frequently? It could be fulfilling to entertain people while expressing your passion, but is your guitar amp complementing the style tone you need?  If you answered yes and no, then I got something for you! 
Orange Tiny Terror TT15 Amplifier

Orange Tiny Terror TT15 Mini guitar amp

Orange Tiny Terror TT15 amplifier boasts a 2-stage preamp that has massive tonal range with just three controls. These three dials make the device pretty easy and straightforward to use because it helps you deliver the tonal style you need without adjusting too many knobs, creating sounds that seem unreal. In fact based on the reviews I've read, Tiny Terror TT15 has way better sounding feedback; smoother, warmer, fuller tone. It's also convenient to carry around as it is small and lightweight completed with a padded gig bag. Cool, right? 

Initao-Libertad Landscape And Seascape Protected Area

March 05, 2017
Initao-Libertad Landscape And Seascape Protected Area: A Place To Commune With Nature

Daily demands of adulthood have taken its toll on me. My week-long battle with stress was something that cannot be taken away by a can of beer nor with a plate of comfort foods; either way, it'll only make matters worst. So when work week's over, Kenn and I escaped the city buzz and find solace inside the premise of Initao-Libertad Landscape and Seascape Protected Area.

Initao-Libertad Landscape And Seascape Protected Area: A Place To Commune With Nature

Initao-Libertad Landscape and Seascape Protected Area is situated between the municipalities of Initao and Libertad in the province of Misamis Oriental, hence the name. It covers a total area of 1,300.78 hectares with 50.58 ha of land and 1,250.50 ha of water.

The decision to come here was supposedly to try the activities in Lasang Adventure Park. Unfortunately, that part of the protected area was closed to the public for safety reasons and only Echavez Kitchenette was operating in Lasang. No matter, I believed that surrendering to nature's embrace will (always) be an incomparable moment of serenity and healing.

Initao-Libertad Landscape And Seascape Protected Area: A Place To Commune With Nature
Initao-Libertad Landscape And Seascape Protected Area: A Place To Commune With Nature

As we wandered along the concrete road surrounded by huge trees, I felt a sudden change of atmosphere accompanied by a feeling of fun and freedom. And although there were other visitors during that day, the noise was muted by the sounds of the nature. There were picnic tables and cottages in the area that you ca own by yourself but what's gotten to me was the viewing deck which to me was a good place to get a good view of the sea. So right there and then, Kenn and I climbed up the second floor of the cottage. In there, we seized the moment to let the air blow our anxieties away as we basked in the relaxing hues of the horizon, and to let the sounds of the waves lull our senses before we get back to our daily grind. It was yet another moment of liberating ourselves from stress. Indeed, to commune with nature is the best way to tune off and get in touch with the silence within one's self.

Thus, if you're also looking for a place to be alone with your own thoughts then Initao-Libertad Landscape and Seascape Protected Area should be in your list.

Initao-Libertad Landscape And Seascape Protected Area: A Place To Commune With Nature

More Info:
How to get there

  • From CDO, Ride a bus or jeepney bound to Iligan City. Just tell the driver to drop you off at Lasang Adventure Park or Lasang (the protected park is popular for this name). 

         Fare: 15 Bus, 50 Jeep.

  • From Iligan. Take the bus or jeepney bound to Initao or CDO.

Hours of Operation. Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30am - 5:00pm
  • P100 Caving (1-15 pax)
  • P150 Trekking (1-15pax)
  • P30 Camping (per head per night)
  • P100 Prenup/Debut (per hour)
  • P370 Snorkeling (1-3 pax); P120 Gadgets (per Head/hr: vest, snorkel masks and fins)
  • P300 Boating (per trip; 1-6 pax)
For camping and booking, submit a request letter to ilplspa_12@yahoo.com or contact 0926-692-0221 two days prior the planned date.

Mt Megatong Trail Run Challenge: Exceed Yourself

February 12, 2017
Mt Megatong, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

"Mangadto mog bukid, te?" Asked the innocent child I met me along the way. I've just covered 6K at that point and was already slowed down with cramped legs, even tempted to call for DNF already. But his question awakened me which brought a new light of hope ahead of me. Mt Megatong, I won't quit on you.

Mt Megatong Trail Run Challenge, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

Mt Megatong 32K Trail Run Challenge, which was held in Sto Tomas, Davao del Norte, marks my first longest distance in trail running event since I've joined races in 2014. I haven't originally planned in competing on this but my boyfriend persuaded me to do so. After all, I wouldn't know my potential if I won't give it a shot.

On the day of the event, I was still in doubt of myself whether I can make it or not. Nevertheless, I run with the crowd after the gun was fired. Minutes and hours went by smoothly albeit the muddy trail being a technical one, was packed with challenges. It was, in fact, "one false move and you'll rest in peace" kind of trail according to some. That fine moments though turned to what seem like dark hours when suddenly I found myself slumped in the mud and was struggling to stretch my cramped legs. Alone.

I wanted to wail my heart out but I know I'm always better than being a cry-baby..

Thankfully, a 12K runner came to my rescue upon realizing my pain. He must've been so thoughtful to stop by even if he was running against time, too. The quest continued after the pain temporarily subsided all the while making sure to incorporate brisk walks when cramp signals to set in. And that was when I met the kid. As I was armed with the newfound determination that he did strike, I was able to advance myself - and those who got ahead of me while I was coping up.

Mt Megatong Trail Run Challenge, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

Around three kilometers before the peak, I met a guy on his way back to the finish line. "You are the 6th female runner I encountered. Here's what you do, slow down but don't stop. Take advantage of the uphill then walk on downhills to avoid further cram", was his advice. I thanked him and moved on although at that same time, my second problem set in. Heat exhaustion. I've been mindful with the energy and hydration I was consuming to make sure that I'll make it to the end. Energy partitioning and conservation as per Kenn's reminder, thus I should not pass out. With nobody to talk to, the astounding beauty of the landscapes served as a distraction to my burned out body.

Imagination was on a roll. I recalled the past climbs I had with my MSU Mountaineering family as I realized how the rolling hills appeared identical to Mt Malinas in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte. I looked ahead and dreamed of myself breathing the fresh air with content once I reach the peak of Mt Megatong. I stared down the cliff and imagine the cold clinging to my body as I dip in Kipaliko River. These thoughts kept me going. By the time I passed by a marshal, he offered me a chocolate. When I finally reached the peak, another marshal offered me wet wipes.

Peak of Mt Megatong, Mt Megatong Trail Run Challenge, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte

As I was there contemplating, I have finally convinced myself that quitting could never be an option. I've been enduring well so far and going back trails for DNF meant wasted efforts. So I pushed a little bit more towards the 32km turning point.

Mt Megatong Trail Run Challenge, 32 Km Turning Point
Behold! The fresh bukos awaits me!

All negativity were washed away as I gulped down the buko juice especially prepared by the Aete Tribe. After re-hydrating, I'm on my feet again to my boyfriend who was waiting for me along the rail. We decided to run together the remaining 16Km towards the finish mark when we met just before I was able to reach the turning point. Kenn was dictating my pace; and although both of us were already tired, we managed to get 'cheezy' over a conversation while running. <3 We got ahead a runner from Bukidnon, who was exhausted as well by that time and to whom Kenn thought was Kuya Ramie's wife. When we dropped by an aid station to eat banana and reload water, another female runner from Team Titans Davao was also taking her break so Kenn and I left earlier. Everything then seemed like a fleeting routine - run, walk, jog, run...

At 6Km point, we were joined by two policemen. They knew that I was the fourth female to finish the race but somehow it seemed pointless to me if we won't make it before cut off time. We all have two hours and few minutes which made our occasional break shorter than usual but enough to catch for breath. I was too worried about time thus passing along cogon grass, rope lines, banana plantation and another open trail, I knew somehow that we're almost there, I kept holding on...and all that reigned in me was faith.

I can make it! I will make it to the end.

The rain poured down in rescue to our overheated body. And although the trail got muddier, Kenn and I were just running until such time that we were turning toward a familiar road. This is it! As I as approaching the finish line, my mind was running backwards from around ten hours earlier. There were too many great things that happened to me in such a few hours to which I am overwhelmed and thankful for. There were those who assisted me pass through the rope lines. At some point, the Datu of Ata Manobo of StoTomas who was running barefoot engaged me in a small talk to distract fatigue. Others encouraged  and was being encouraged as we exchanged smiles of greetings. Some happenings, although minor in details were too vivid for me to forget. On top of everything, I've learned a life-long lesson too:

Always exceed yourself. Doubts, fears, cowardice...it's all in your head. Nothing in this life comes easy at first glance - but if you start baby steps in achieving your goals without giving up, only then will you find out how far can you go.

Mt Megatong Trail Run Challenge, Mt Megatong, Sto Tomas Davao del Norte
Not only was I able to conquer Mt Megatong, I was also able to conquer and exceed myself.

2016 in A Wrap

December 01, 2016

I know I'm thirty days earlier to wrap up 2016, nevertheless, I don't want to wait until January 1st of 2017 to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the blessings I've experienced.

I've been through hell a year prior to the point that I think I haven't live my 22-ish. I've wasted a year too caught up with life's dramas, and the decision to breakout was a total freedom which happened with Divine intervention. I cannot thank God enough for the shower of blessings all throughout 2016; I can't even count with my two hands all the goodness I've received, but in general, I know that in His own way, He has touched your life to be a part of mine. Hence, thank you...

- Readers, for staying with me and being with me on my not-so-many adventures this year. I hope that in the next years to come, as I am now drafting my escapades, you would not get tired of me. I'm also hoping that our roads will cross one day.
- CDO Bloggers, for the warmth welcome, platonic love, and blogging opportunities and inspirations. You are one of the reason why I have come to love Cagayan de Oro. In that sense, I am now convinced that CDO really lived up to its name: City of Golden Friendship.
- Workmates, for encouraging me on my loglog days. You are part of the reasons why I don't want to get away. The bond, although not in a more personal sense, is hard to break.
- Friends, for being with me on my crisis and for trusting me confidential stories. Rest assured, it'll be kept a secret until further notice. :D
- Partner, for braving the storms with me and for being my number one critics to improve my blog. I pray that we'll stay stronger together against all odds.
- To my family, especially to Papa, for understanding my lapses and being always a fan to my every endeavor. As always, I LOVE YOU.

Thank you so much everyone for being God's instruments of love, hope, and inspiration. Thank you so much for being a part of me. Now, as 2016 come to an end, I hope that our relationship continue to grow.

Cheers to another year of abundance and adventure!

xoxo, Johanns <3

Mapawa Trail Run

November 26, 2016
Mapawa Trail Run

6:27PM. Hi. I just did my laundry and at the moment I got no task at hand. Rain keeps on pouring outside, its sound brought me back to a memory from four weeks ago - my first Mapawa Trail Run.

I've been eyeing to join Mapawa Trail Run since 2014 but time and the lack of training restricted me to do so. To be honest, I am even apprehensive with this year's Mapawa Run because Kenn registered me to 15K night run, which to me, the thought of night is quite repulsive given how I rely on seeing my surroundings to keep myself up under strain. However, 29th of October is inescapable.

On the day of the race, Kenn and I went to Centrio Mall to ride a jeepney (as hired by the organizer) to take us to Mapawa. When we arrived in Mapawa, I sat on the bench near the stage and quickly changed my outfit. I still have two hours to spare and all I ever wanted to do was sit - Kenn and I wasn't able to get some sleep right after work; and he was more anxious than I - no sleep, no Pharmaton, so wish me luck.

Mapawa Trail Run, Camp Site
There were tents pitched in the area. I was tempted to doze off.

By 6pm, when all 15K runners were called for, I positioned myself at the back of the crowd as the countdown to Mapawa Trail Run begun, with myself overthinking about the night, the uphill's, lack of training and not being able to finish in three hours; yet, despite all doubt, I run. I clicked my stopwatch when I passed under starting mark then slowly, as the cold wind challenged  my breathing, my focus shifted. I SHOULD BE IN TOP THREE.

What the mind conceive, it can achieve.

Since I stood almost last in line, I mandated myself not to stop for me to catch up while making sure that no one can get ahead of me. I walked on the first uphill I encountered to condition my knees then run fast on downhills. I continued running 'til I hit a flat terrain, then I saw a group of men running with three women. I made them my visual target. I aimed to get past three of them, so I pushed myself a little bit more. I succeeded until later on I noticed that a woman from that same group was just behind me and I thought, "now I got a close competitor, but I don't want to fail myself. I need to be in top three."

I was actually praying, asking God for strength while I was running.

The next challenge I encountered was a trail so muddy it seemed impossible to walk on. I cannot run anymore because my shoes were already clogged with mud. I even slipped, got my shoes stocked and my shoe laces got loose - waste timers, really. At that time, I was already walking with a competitor still close behind me. I maneuvered along the grasses (deep inside I felt sorry for the plants I've stepped on), and get back on the mud from time to time on dead ends. The muddy trail was quite long I don't know how many minutes have I spent walking when everything became a blur - no, I didn't pass out. It seemed that I was already running in autopilot. The next thing I knew, I was already trekking and jogging up a mountain.

Halfway through the peak, the night wind blew comforts to my exhausted body and a smile then formed on my lips. Nature surely has a way of sending off anxieties. I felt relaxed and confident of achieving what I've aimed for. I looked up at the dark sky filled with gratitude, thanking God for the bliss.

I worked my way up trying to ignore the nagging knee pain for I know that after all of it, downhill is waiting for me, which by the way, trekking/running downhills is my strength since mountaineering days. The terrain was so steep and in as much as I wanted to descend facing the 'wall' it would only slow me down, hence I positioned half my body on the tall grasses while the other half (left legs) made contact with the stones/soil. In that way, if ever I lose balance, I can easily grasp the grass and less impact would be applied. 

Mapawa Trail Run
Never get lost. Follow the trail signs along the way.

I continued my quest continually praying for strength because cramps have already set in and I still have another 3K to cover, when alas! an orgnizer said, "ma'am ikaw second!) (ma'am, you're in second place!) I was overwhelmed by the news.

My headlamp's battery was dying by then, so i took my smartphone and used its flashlight instead of changing new ones. I run/walk the remaining 3K n a slower pace until I saw a familiar road bend towards the finish line. My heart was once again fluttered - another wave of overwhelming congratulations was received when I got the finish line. I was ecstatic!

My first Mapawa Trail Run was a night to remember. I didn't expect to end up in second place with 2:21:08 time yet indeed, when you set your mind into something, it will happen.


About Mapawa Trail Run

The mapawa Trail Run is a popular race in Mapawa National Park located in Cagayan de Oro City, Northern Mindanao, Philippines.**  In 2016, it has became part of Asia Trail Master, a trail running series in Asia with focus on all runners.

Gears to bring when running the Mapawa Trail

  • At least 500ml to 1L of Hydration
  • Blinker
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Cellphone with full battery and load
  • Trail food
  • Wind proof jacket
  • Cap/Bandana
  • Important: Wear a comfortable trail running clothes and shoes.

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A Magic Awaits in Sohoton Lagoon!

November 06, 2016

One sweltering hot afternoon in the Hayanggabon Port, we sailed off the coast to experience whatever-magic-awaited me and my family in Sohoton.

We endured a 40-minute butt numbing boat ride, when soon enough, a paroxysm of serenity superseded personal huff. What a pleasant view have we been sent! Quite an irony from the ugly view of Carrascal and Claver's open-mine pit. As we arrived at Sohoton Cove Tour Registration Center, Aunt Fe took charge of our registration while some of the members of the family indulged in small talk while I did documentation. Later on each of us took our respective life vests, settled in our assigned pump boats and tour guides, then...

...our Sohoton Cove Tour begun.


Luscious green islets come into view as we approach entrance to Sohoton Cove, thyself multitasking - talking, documenting and listening to our tour guide's classified info.

Heads almost touched the ceiling upon entering Sohoton Cove's entrance, a eureka to my senses having finally understood why Aunt Vic kept on warning us earlier that we won't be able to take the tour once tide rose up. (see video)

Sohoton Cove, a visaya term which means "to pass-through", is only accessible on low tide and is the only way to enter Sohotn Cove National Park. And exactly true to what others claim, SOhoton Cove National Park is captivating!

Horse's Shoe or Horse's Tail is an important landmark in Sohoton Cove National Park.

After passing through the cove, a beautiful rock formation resembling to horse's shoe or horse's tail awed us while the guide spilled its importance.

Then few meters away, a limestone cliff to which name I've forgotten, are the operators' second landmark. It's quite a sight as well but on the spooky side, do you know that sounds relating to piano and church bells were once heard a top the cliff? *goose bump*

The tour continued when I noticed two boats ahead of us stopped before an opening, us heading towards same direction. Forgive my ignorance but unknown to me at that time were activities we need to engage ourselves with.

Entrance of Hagukan Cavern.

First stop was in Hagukan Cavern (Hagukan derived from Haguk in English means snore), named after the fact that it creates snoring sounds during a specific period of tide's recession. I was not able to hear such sound since the tide that time was rising nevertheless, a bedazzling glow of water inside the cavern was observed. I felt like a kid floating and playing around, trying to disturb the water's flow in order to illumine its glow while the younger cousins picked on me to take off my life vest and swim. Indeed, a sad life when one can't swim, eh.

Exit of Magkukuob Cavern, where thy soul and body parted in less than a minute.

Next we head to Magkukuob Cavern for a quick adrenaline. We slowly wade inside, as though being careful not to hurt ourselves with clams added to the fact that it was pitch black inside with only a faint light coming from our tour guide's flashlight guiding our path. One by one we took a short climb on steep rocks, myself last in line, whence after a daylight indicates another opening - from somewhere up, like on a second story if it were a building! And the best way out? Jump!

My aunts and cousin posing before the jump.

We went back to our boat and journeyed back to Sohoton Tour Registration Area. Somehow, it felt like the tour ended too soon, so my aunts planned to pay additional fees just so to visit the sanctuary of stingless jellyfish. Unfortunately, we we're told that its best to visit in summer, on their breeding season, to fully enjoy a swim. Hence, we end up swimming near the registration area; nevertheless, that short trip provided me interesting facts and tale which had me want to go back in summer.

Also, watch my Vlog on YouTube and see why many are captivated with Sohoton Lagoon...

...but of course, you need to be there to experience its magic!

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