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Just Say No

Just Say No
by Danny Tariman

“We are concerned for what is honorable not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of others.” (2 Cor 8:21)

“Hi Danny, can we meet this Wednesday?”

“Sure! What is the agenda?”

“Will discuss when we meet.”

This was the exchange of text messages between me and my friend of many years.

Over lunch, we updated each other. He did most of the talking. He told me a lot of stories about his growing business.

In the last few minutes, he requested to me go to a bank for a meeting, where his team will see a manager to discuss a project that his company is proposing to do. He asked me to pretend that I am a Software Architect/Business Analyst representing a competing technology company. I was also told to pretend not to know his team.

I was just listening to him discuss the meeting room scenario. He told me that I have no business card to give because I am supposed to be a new hire of this company that I am “representing”. He further asked me to give my mobile phone as contact number of the company I am to represent.

After about 5 minutes briefing of what I am supposed to do, he said “Bro, you have to go now as the meeting is to start at 2:30”.

I told him that it will be difficult for me. But he insisted.

And so we parted ways, with me walking toward the direction of the bank.

While walking, I prayed to the Lord to guide me as I was not at peace: these are all lies and pretensions. I also called my wife. She too was not at peace and felt that this is not pleasing to the Lord and very deceptive to the client.

With a very clear message from the Lord, I texted my friend “I am sorry bro, I can’t do this.”

He quickly called me to once again prod me to do it. But I insisted and asked for understanding. At this point, he did not press me anymore.

Although I needed a project for a job, I felt free and released from the burden of pretension when I said “No!” As the Bible says “Better to be poor and walk in integrity than rich and crooked in one’s ways” (Proverbs 28:6)

I know and believe that the LORD will honor my trust in Him and my obedience to His Word. I know He will answer my prayers and my dreams will come to pass very, very soon!

Beach Camping in Calatagan

Beach Camping in Calatagan
by Danny Tariman

My family had not been camping for many months now – I mean, really “camping”, that is pitching a tent, setting up the picnic table, setting firewood or charcoal to cook. I personally missed this kind of activity.

Until one day, we stumbled upon on the internet a beach in Calatagan, Batangas which is solely devoted for camping. No resort facilities like restaurant nor coffee shop, not even a decent bathroom nor toilet. Haha! After reading a number of pertinent blogs, comments and reviews on the internet, my family agreed to try this out.

The long stretch of beach of Manuel Uy camping grounds

And so one Saturday, we headed for Manuel Uy Beach in Calatagan, Batangas. It is located between two well-developed resorts – Aquaria Beach Resort on the left, and Stilts Resort on the right. My family had been to these two resorts where we had wonderful family moments. I have separate blogs on these 2 resorts.

We left the city at 4:30am, with the objective of arriving at the beach at about 7 in the morning. Yeah, that early, as we planned to have our breakfast on the beach! Our estimate didn’t fail us; we arrived at the beach at about 6:50am.

The beachfront where we pitched our tent. Really good spot for a relaxing day.

It was a 2 1/2-hour drive passing through Tagaytay, going down to Nasugbu, left turn to Lian, and finally reaching the Calatagan town proper. From the town, it was just about a 10-minute drive.

At the road corner heading to the beach, there was a Tourism desk that asked us to pay the 30-peso per person “Environmental Fee”, which is quite normal in Batangas. This is supposed to be for the upkeep of the environment.

The beach camp entrance is just a very short distance from the main road. We paid 50 pesos per person as entrance fee. Parking fee was Php100.

We were not expecting facilities which are common in the more developed resorts. We were really ready for camping!

As we drove to the beach, we found a good spot where only few people camped, and we pulled our vehicle. It was good location: away from the crowd, we had a lone tree cover, a space for our car and a good flat area to pitch our tent and set-up our camping table and chair, and just the right beach front! We are indeed blessed!

As soon as we settled down, we prepared our packed breakfast, and set it up on our portable folding table with bench. Oh, it was really an amazing experience. Our table was just about 5 meters from the shore where the sea and the sand meets. It was quite windy too! Really relaxing and refreshing environment for breakfast! Haha!

Our breakfast by the beach; just a few meters from the shoreline.

Soon, we just enjoyed the beach and the sea! My son explored the seabed for his usual search for sea creatures he can use for his saltwater aquarium. I also had a good swim on the almost flat seabed – very safe for families with kids.

The beach has fine, light-brown sand. Since the sea was quite rough because of a weather disturbance, the water was not very clear. We couldn’t see the underwater view. But it was very safe, because it was almost flat up to a good distance from the shore. During the low tide, I observed that there was not much live sea weeds nor sea urchins which could be annoying when you swim when the water is deep enough.

Another view of the beach. Beyond the cove is Aquaria Beach Resort

The wind and rough seas washed plenty of dead sea weeds and assorted debris onto the shore while the tide was rising. The good thing is that every 30-45 minutes, beach cleaners rakes the debris on the beach and dump it into a pit.

It was a “beach camping site”. We were not expecting nice facilities. We were ready for a true outdoor experience. We took “shower” in a make-shift bathroom, with a water supply that is manually pumped by the house-owner. We used a reasonably clean rural toilet to respond to the call of nature. We have no complain.

The water in front of our beachcamp.

We thank the very hospitable homeowners who opened their house for campers. I befriended them, and when we are about to leave, we were given 2 bunches of cooking banana direct from their backyard! A bonus treat indeed!

Truly a relaxing and refreshing beach camping experience for the family!

This is me in the middle of the sea!
My ladies just relaxing in the freshness of sea breeze.
My family at our beach camp.

Down But Not Crushed

Down But Not Crushed
by Danny Tariman

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained… struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

He underwent a gallstone operation last month. His sister was hospitalized two weeks later. His mother, too, was recently hospitalized for a couple of days. Then early this week, he was back again in the hospital for dengue.

While I watched him at the hospital, his wife called in the middle of the night telling him that their little girl had a fever. “Her fever will be gone,” I heard him whisper on the phone.

It’s easy to give up in situations like these. These are the times when our faith as believers of Christ are put to the test.

The Bible says, “No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As we waited for his blood test results, he continues to hold on to his hope. He is down, but he is not beaten. He will come out victorious from all his trials!

Reflection: “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are my hope. You are my strength. I lift up to You my situation. I am almost crushed. Hold my hand and take me out of this.

[This reflection was first published in both the online and paperback editions of Didache. Was also read in Radio Veritas846]

Cabongaoan: A Tropical Paradise


Cabongaoan: A Tropical Paradise
by Danny Tariman

My family will always remember Cabongaoan as a tropical paradise. With its undeveloped, unspoiled creamy sandy beach, crystal clear bluish water, it was nature at its best.

The pristine, creamy-white sand beach of Cabongaoan.

Cabongaoan Beach is in Burgos town, in the province of Pangasinan, about 310km north of Metro Manila. It was an easy drive from the metro to Burgos town. Leaving the city at about 2 o’clock in the morning, we arrived the beach at about 8am, with few pit stops along the way, passing the NLEX, SCTEX, and the newly opened TPLEX – all of these are expressways.

From Burgos town, it was a bit of a challenge driving as many portions of the road are still under construction, and we have to drive through rough dirt-and-gravel roads. However, it was not ‘that’ difficult drive, even tricycles can manoeuvre the road. It took us about 35 minutes to reach the beach from the town.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the big blue waves splashing to the creamy sand beach. It was high tide, and so the waves were indeed big.

The golden sunset at Cabongaoan.

We checked-in at Roven’s Beach Resort, a simple, no-frills provincial resort. Oh, I need to say that the owners were so hospitable and accommodating. They assisted us in every way possible. Thanks to our hosts – Kuya Inggo and Ate Venus.

We got the best part of the long stretch of Cabongaoan beach! Fronting our resort was all sand beach, in its creamy-white nature. No rocks and rock formations unlike other parts. The seabed too is just alright – no sudden change in depth. My family and cousins enjoyed just lazing at the beachfront, exchanging all sorts of stories. At times we would go to the water and enjoy the waves splashing on us and ‘carrying’ us to the shores.

Scenic rock formations of Cabongaoan

One of the highlights of our adventure is going to the “Death Pool”, a natural pond in the middle of a flat rock formation. This “icon” of Cabongaoan beach is at the right side of the beach, if you are facing the ocean. This can be reached by a short walk – perhaps 15-20 minutes from our resort, passing by a few other resorts.

It was quite scary to jump into pool, as tidal waters keep on splashing into the pond. During our stay in the rock formation, we were waiting for someone to try, but hadn’t seen one jumping into the “Death Pool”. Haha! But we had some photo ops in the area. Really nice views!

My daughter at the edge of the “Death Pool”

My son wouldn’t complete the adventure without scouring the seabed for fish and other creatures for his aquarium. We had some sort of a father-and-son bonding time. I accompanied him in his search. We saw and saved a sea urchin, a tang fish, among others. But the best part of this is his catch of a medium-sized octopus! Wow, we would have taken this home! But it was a challenge keeping it alive in the aquarium as its tentacles would enable this creature to go out of the tank. So he just released it back to the sea.

We have enjoyed this adventure more because we had some cousins joining us. We are actually three families who travelled over 300kms just to enjoy this scenic spot in Pangasinan!

Cousins all: our children with their cousins in one of the rock formations

All of us enjoyed the fresh seafood we bought along the way. We just grilled it on live charcoal, and wow, it was really very tasty as a fresh fish can be! Not content with what we ate at the beach, on our way back, we stopped and bought some more fish in Sual, Pangasinan. Make sure to drop by too, and if you have an ice chest, get some to take home!

My family enjoyed this pure-nature, tropical paradise. With beach so pristine, the sea water so clear, and the waves just right to enjoy, this was really an amazing family adventure!

Family picture on the sands
The resort covered by greenery, taken at dusk by my son on his DSLR camera
A “seflie” family photo taken by my daughter on her GoPro camera
All family: cousins enjoying the early morning sun at the beach
A rock formation near the “Death Pool”

Battery Tested Integrity

Battery Tested Integrity
by Danny Tariman

“The one who lives uprightly and speaks honestly… This is the person who will live in a secure place” (Isaiah 33:15a,16a)

The battery of our car has been dead a number of times in the past few weeks. It happened at a time when all are rushing to go to work early in the morning.

The other day, when I and my wife visited a neighbor, it happened that a serviceman of the same battery brand was servicing our neighbor’s car battery. I took the opportunity to ask about our car’s battery which is just about 2 months before its warranty will expire. He said he will come to us to check.

Good enough, after few minutes, the serviceman came. He checked our sales invoice and noted that the warranty is about to expire. He said that a brand new of the same model can cost us P5,700. He further said that so I can save the cost of a new battery, he can “make it appear to be defective” by destroying the unit, and I can just give him some money. I then can simply call their service center for replacement.

I was uneasy because by destroying the unit, it will be unfair to the battery dealer. I further I told him I cannot lie or allow it because I am “close” to the LORD.

And so I asked him to check in detail the battery condition. He got the voltage reading of the battery with engine off, another with the engine running, and then another with the air-con and headlights on.

Based on his tests, the battery is still good. The alternator is working, only that the idling rpm or “revolution per minute” of the engine needs to be increased to fully charge the battery.

Deep inside of me I praise the LORD for saving me from the falling into the trap

In the end, the serviceman had apologized for offering the malicious “service”. I believe the LORD had spoken to his heart. As the Bible says “You must change the way you have been living and do what is right. You must treat one another fairly.” (Jeremiah 7:5)

REFLECTION: Have you experienced a trap to commit sin is laid before you? How did you respond?

PRAYER: LORD I pray that you grant me the strength to uphold what is right and true in every situation that I may be in. Amen.

Mourning to Morning

Mourning to Morning
by Danny Tariman

“You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:20)

I saw in my Facebook page a group called “Mourning to Morning.”

What a beautiful catchword!

I don’t know the group but it seems a good description of how we, Christians, should handle frustrations, defeats and problems. While we mourn our situations, we should look forward to “mornings” which signify a new day, a new hope.

A few years back, my overseas work contract abruptly ended because of a change in management. I was not bitter, but I was saddened of this development in my career. I had lost substantial earning capacity.

I kept my faith in the Lord. I held on to His word that He is the “God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). I was not able to get a job immediately after I went home, but this gave our family more bonding time after years of being away. We went to beaches and islands, explored mountains and volcanoes, and toured many places. Meanwhile, consulting jobs came in and God prospered us.

God turned my sadness into joy!

Reflection: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” (Philippians 4:4,6)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for all the blessings. I pray that You will meet all my needs, and even my dreams, for my enjoyment. Amen.

[This reflection is published in Didache May 25, 2017 — both online & hardcopy editions]

Family Trek to Hulugan and Two Other Falls

Family Trek to Hulugan and Two Other Falls
by Danny Tariman

It was good sunny Saturday. With all the excitement, my family is all set for the trek to three falls in Laguna.

We left the city at about 5 in the morning for a long 95-km drive to Luisiana town in Laguna. With a brief stop-over for a quick breakfast in Los Baños, we had an easy comfortable drive. We were headed to Bgy San Salvador, the jump-off point to the falls. We arrived in this fresh-mountain-air rural village at about 8:30am.

The awesome 95-meter high Hulugan Falls:

We were impressed by this small village’s organized system in handling trekkers. Upon turning right going to the inner road (there is a big tarpaulin marker announcing “Hulugan Falls”), we were greeted and met by a lady who introduced herself, and gave us some directions on how to proceed. We were also assigned a trek guide – “Kuya Boy”. Upon boarding our car, the guide led us the registration desk and the nearby parking area.

My family at the start of the trek

After a short 5-minute briefing, we started our way to the falls. Oh, by the way, we were warned to get our rubber shoes wet, or wear rubber sandals. Good enough, there is a store that sells rubber sandals at a fair price.

We boarded a tricycle which took us to the starting point of the trek. It was maybe a 2 to 2.5-km ride, but it was okay, since we saved time and energy for the mountain trek. It was an easy 35-40-minute hike going to the first falls. Passing thru a dam, and a river bed, a little down hill hike, and some up-hill trek we finally reached our first destination: the Talay Falls.

The tropical rain forest along our trail

The Talay falls has two down-streams. The first to greet you is a small “falls”. We had some good rest here as the place has bamboo benches and tables for picnic goers and trekkers. We had our snacks taken in this place too.

The Talay falls: our first stop

Few steps away, passing thru the big rocks or boulders, you will see the quiet beauty of “Talay-2” falls. This one is taller and the flowing waterfalls is slim.

The downstream from Talay Falls. This is where we had a rest for some food.

After a few minutes of rest and some photo ops, we proceeded to our next falls destination: the “Hidden Falls”. This is a short trek – about 15 minutes – from Talay but a bit challenging as it was an uphill trek. The good thing is the trail is lined with bamboo poles which serve as handles, so you can hold onto these while navigating through your uphill climb.

The Hidden Falls was a refreshing sight! Large volume of water gushing in-between big boulders. I reckon, maybe it was named “hidden” because indeed you won’t be able to see this beauty from the path of the trail. You will have to jump over to the rocks and boulders before you will see and appreciate this natural beauty.

The Hidden Falls.

We continued our trek to the final and the third falls for this adventure. It was a bit long trek.

We passed through a farm where pandan as large as trees abound – this is the variety which is used for making baskets and mats. There were even some “trees” with big fruits falling on the ground. We were told by our trek guide that some trekkers stay overnight in this area where they pitch tent and build bonfire at night.

The pandan farm along the way

After about 35-40 minute walk, with long down-hill hike, we reached our final destination: the Hulugan Falls. We were greeted by this wide rock formation where water flows freely. I thought it was IT! But it was just a ‘preview’. We were able to see the main scene when we stepped into the rocks and saw this awesome, very tall body of water, gracefully flowing down! We were told it is about 95 meters high! And it was so wide – providing a white veil that covers a wide portion of the cliff!

My family upon reaching Hulugan Falls

After looking for a spot to keep our backpacks, we immersed ourselves into the fresh gushing river from the falls. Wow, it was really refreshing after almost 1-1/2 hour of hiking! While my wife rested in a shaded area, me and my children had a good splash. We really enjoyed it!

Enjoying the gushing downstream from Hulugan Falls

Oh! We had our lunch right beside the huge falls! And our water for drinking was taken direct from a dripping water under the rocks! It was really refreshingly natural!

Fresh “mineral water” direct from the rocks, where we got refill of our drinking bottles.

After enjoying our river plunge, we trekked back passing through another route. This was the most difficult trail in this trekking adventure. We climbed almost vertically from the falls. Remember the falls was about 95 meters. And we had an almost vertical – well maybe 80 degrees – climb. We had to rest every 10 or 15 minutes! Haha! The nice thing is that the locals had placed bamboo poles as handles throughout the trail which we can hold while maneuvering the rocky path.

With my children enjoying the refreshing swim

I wouldn’t recommend this “return trail” for those with weak heart. It was really difficult. We managed to reach the pick-up point after about 30-40 minutes trek, mostly uphill. With my and my wife’s age at over 50, it was indeed a feat to pass through the uphill trail from Hulugan Falls.

Wow, this was really another great adventure for my family.

A fantastic shot of Hulugan Falls, with my daughter at the foreground