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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

January 5, 2015

NEGROS ORIENTAL 100: A Destination and An Ultra


Penguins graphicsFor a couple years already, the Bicolano Penguin has been craving to run an ultra marathon in one of the lovely islands of the Visayas part of our Philippine archipelago. 


Looking thru articles after articles in the internet pointed to the glaring fact that the long distance running scene was happening in the big islands of Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Negros and Panay. It would be a pity if I don't get to taste a piece of the action.  Thus, upon reading of the Negros Oriental 100 Ultra Marathon (NegOR 100) scheduled for Dec 13 &14,  the decision was made to go and join.

The actual distance of NegOR 100 is actually 103 kilometers. The route starts in the provincial capitol of Dumaguete City and finishes in the city proper of Bayawan. The ultra marathon is organized by the Negros Oriental Sports Development Program (NOSDEP) of the Office of the Governor  and the Fiesta Committee of Bayawan City. Providing support from the private sector are local running clubs Metro Dumaguete Roadrunners Club (MDRC) and the Dumaguete Adventure Runners & Striders (DARS).
NegOR 100 route map
From the onset, the NegOR 100 organizers trumpeted the scenic route that awaits the participants from sunset to sunrise to sunset.  We all know of the exquisite beauty of Dumaguete City which made our national hero Jose Rizal gush with eloquence and call it "City of Gentle People." But the towns(Bacong, Dauin, Zamboanguita, Siaton and Sta. Catalina)  and other city (Bayawan) along the 103-km had something beautiful to offer as well.  To quote from the words of its facebook page - "The Negros Oriental  100 race route is not only fun; it also has a number of photo-ops." 

Thus,  upon arrival at Sibulan Airport in the morning of Dec 12, I immediately decided to go on a recon drive of the 103-km distance from Dumaguete to Bayawan. Immediate  reason was for the penguin to familiarize with  the route. But the main rationale was for me to be able to have photos already of the gorgeous sites that NegOR 100 was offering. The penguin, given its slow speed, would not have much the luxury for picture-taking on these tourist attractions  on race day itself. 


As advertised, the 103-km route is something special. with many historic and natural attractions.   Here are a sample of the photos taken a day before the NegOR 100 ultra:

Running along Rizal Boulevard in Dumaguete. 


Yup. I love this City of Gentle People. 


Established in 1901, Siliman University predates UP by 7 years. 
Located in the town of Bacong, the Church of St. Augustine of Hippo was founded in 1849.


The church has the province's tallest belfry. 


The province's oldest main altar with gold leafing.


It has a pipe organ from Zaragoza, Spain installed in 1898.
     
Bacong is the birthplace of Philippine revolutionary  hero Gen. Pataleon Villegas
      
The town plaza of Bacong boasts of huge trees.   
Between the towns of Dauin and Zamboanguita is the jump off point to diving mecca Apo Island. 


There is a souvenir shop in the Apo Island jump off point that sells colorful dream catchers...  


...and animal figure trinkets. 


In Zamboanguita, there is a monument commemorating the surrender..


...of Japanese imperial forces to American soldiers and Filipino guerillas in Sep 22, 1945. 


The Church of San Isidro de Labrador in the town of Zamboanguita. 
The Church of San Nicolas de Bari in Siaton

Between the towns of Siaton and Sta. Catalina is a 40-km+ coastline of cool blue seas
The Church of Sta. Catalina de Alejandria
In front of the church in the town Sta. Catalina is a hundred year old Balete tree.
The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Bayawan City.
The church founded in 1890.  

The interior of the church's dome.

At the wet market in Bayawan City, enjoying ...

...a tinolang isda. 

Bounty from the sea.  Bayawan City has a 15-km coastline.
Truly, I had my fill of a lot of interesting sights along the NegOR 100 Ultra that should make this  a destination run for many ultra marathon aficionados both local and international. 

How about the run itself? 



The NegOR 100 Ultra is  well-organized. From the facebook page and manner of registration , I was given a sense that the people behind this event had in mind to show their best foot forward. Kudos should be given to the Race Director Paultom Paras and his team of volunteers.  I was given a taste of their effectivity in the race bib pick up on the morning of the race.  There were no long lines and the people releasing the race packs were all smiles.  The Race Director was on hand to greet the participants. Also, the official photographer - Joel Balajadia, was already busy clicking. 

Getting my race pack which included a list of the contact numbers of the barangay captains along the route.


Appreciate  the personalized race bib. I get to choose my favorite number.


Enjoying the moment with the bountiful volunteers. 


Meeting the hard working Race Director - Paultom Paras for the first time.   
At race start, there was a short program to make sure our national anthem was honored and the provincial governor be given a chance to greet the runners. Then with a visibly busy yet excited Governor Roel Degamo  eager to fire the gun start, the runners were sent off 15 minutes earlier than the 5pm start. I like this punctuality.   
There were only 2 runners from Luzon:  the penguin and Peejay Herrera of Paranaque Running Circle


The Governor excited to fire the starting gun


Selfie with Gov. Roel Degamo 


Bang the excited Governor goes. The equally eager runners are off and away. 


Will the Bicolano Penguin be running without a buddy the whole 103 kms?
There were more than 90 runners, including five husband-wife teams, who answered the gun.  One of the participants  was Peejay Herrera who is a fellow member of Paranaque Running Circle. But he is way faster than me, so in the first 5 kms of the ultra, I was basically running without a buddy. This is strange territory for me as all the ultras I have done in the past, I was with some running companions. But I need not worry any further for as I left the city limits of Dumaguete, I saw several meters ahead a fellow NegOR 100 participant doing the run-walk. Immediately quickening my pace, I was within hearing distance and I inquired "Can I run with you?"  The runner said yes and off we went on a 4-1 run walk interval. After a few conversations on the walk break, the runner said "We are friends in facebook. I am Ging." That name sounded familiar for a few weeks back, I have been sending out some friend's request on the fb to Negros-based runners.  Ging Gimper was one of those who responded positively. And here we are right now on the asphalt roads of Negros, getting some real face time.  The world is indeed getting smaller with social media. 


It was already night time when Ging and myself reached the town proper of Bacong .


Having ran for more than 40 kms already, we found time to sit on the road in the outskirts of Siaton.


Resting at Km 50 in Siaton
So from the municipalities of Bacong, Dauin, Zamboanguita and Siaton, the two of us got to work with another to cover the 50-km distance in less than 10 hours.  Literally and figuratively, Ging provided much needed light on the road.  Arriving at the town proper of Siaton, we gladly consume much needed hot food (tinolang manok) provided by the race organizers.  The Race Director and his team were delivering on their promise to provide hydration and nourishment: every 2 kms there was a water station;  every 10 kms a gatorade station ; at Km 50 tinolang manok; and at Km 70 tinolang isda.   

It was past midnight. So after eating, Ging decided to have a much needed nap at Siaton. It was here that I went ahead and go running solo for the remaining 53 kilometers.  Up ahead was a long stretch between Siaton and the next town of Sta. Catalina.  42 kms to be exact. Good thing, the race organizers made sure that there were a lot of race marshalls and security personnel (army and police units) to provide coverage.  The road was very dark and it was quite reassuring to come upon an army ambulance with a lot of blinking lights every handful of kilometers. I was also accompanied by a First Balfour support vehicle provided by Benjie Dublin our project head in Negros.  The driver Eduard Lobo was now waiting for me every 5 kilometers in these dark roads.


Daybreak found me still in Siaton.  This is a very long town.  I planned a speed of 5 kilometers per hour on the second half of the 103-km ultra but the heat and humidity in the coastal roads were slowing me down to a crawl. You know you are slow when even small kids get to overtake you with a skip and a jump. It wasn't only the heat but the hunger that was becoming a factor.  I had a hearty meal of tinolang isda at Km 70 but at Km 85 was already hankering for some more rice meal.  The ever alert Eduard sheperded me to a local eatery by the road. Downing a freshly-cooked lechon kawali in record speed, I was back on the road recharged for the approach to Sta. Catalina and the final destination of the NegOR 100 - Bayawan City. 


Daytime found me on the loooonnng coastal road between Siaton and Sta. Catalina.


In full heat gear for the penguin. 


But the heat and humidity was too much.  Good thing the barrio folks along the way were very helpful.


Marshalls remained constant  night and day of the run.


Thumbs up for the lechon kawali at a roadside eatery.  


A kilometer way from the town proper of Sta. Catalina


Slowed down and weary but not bowed down.  The penguin did not come this far to DNF.
The finish line was in a park beside the sea.  This proved to be a good backdrop for the triumphant and dramatic finishes. Given the hard arduous 103 kilometers, there were a lot which the photo lenses of the official photographer got to capture. In my case,  did a victory shuffle which I first and last used in my first ultra in the year 2010. 15 ultras later, I deemed it time to show  again a genuine appreciation of the challenge that Negros Oriental 100 offered.  Surviving this ultra marathon is one of the highlights of my running life, thus far.  NegOR 100 at 103 kms is the longest ultra marathon I have joined and finished.   
Clapping my way to the finish line.


Time to ...


...unleash...


...the victory shuffle.


Triumphant...


...at the finish wearing First Balfour colors.


The penguin gets to taste metal just to convince oneself that the medal is real. That the conquest of the ultra is not an illusion.  


The finish line...


...never fails to unleash...


...an impressive display of human emotions. Nikka Khu of Team ADR Cebu showed it best.
For the record, there were   a total of 86 solo runners, out of 91 who started, that got to  cross the finish line successfully. Several Visayas-based running clubs sent runners to NegOR 100.  The biggest delegation came from Team ADR Cebu. The fastest solo runner  had a time of 12 hours & 30 minutes. The waddling Bicolano Penguin finished at 61st place with a time of 21 hours & 20 minutes. 





Thanks to support vehicle driver Eduard and his boss Benjie.


Thanks to Ging for the fun company.
No matter the time, I genuinely enjoyed my NegOR 100 experience. This is a challenging yet well-organized event. Kudos to Paultom and his team for a job well done in making this ultra marathon a key sports tourism endeavor of the province. A lot of fun memories for me. My only regret is that I did not bring along my  buddies from the running 83neans and Row5Runnin. I will not commit the same omission twice for the 2015 edition.   Negros Oriental will be a destination for the Bicolano Penguin and friends come December 2015.



Running is indeed more fun in these islands of the Philippines.  



   Penguins graphics

P.S. 


Thanks to many of the photos courtesy of Joel Balajadia.       
             

4 comments:

  1. Very well-said, Bicolano Penguin. 'So honored to run with you. Thanks and see you on Dec. 2015 for another NegOr100/NegOr100++ adventure. Happy running! hehe ;)

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  2. Thanks Ging. Yup, 2015 NegOR 100 is something to look forward to. More ultra runs for all of us.

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  3. Congrats to you! Good to know that you enjoyed your ultra. Hope you don't mind we will use your story in our local newspaper called the MetroPost, ok ba? :) Thanks.

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  4. Thank you Ms. Irma. Yes please. I would not mind. Will be honored to see my story in your local newspaper. I want to convey the message that I enjoyed the 2014 NegOR 100 ultra and the generosity of the people of your province. If luck would have it, I hope to be back for the 2015NegOR 100.

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