Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘adventure’

​Breathing Adventure: Crashing Into the Waves at Dingalan, Aurora

Having a dose of vitamin sea is never too late when taken on a fair but moody October day. It can be maddening as it can become a concoction for excitement and anxiety. You will never know when the weather might throw some tantrums at you. But it did not matter. All I wanted was to see the clear, blue waters and feel the summer jive of Dingalan, Aurora.

Known as the Batanes of the East, Dingalan is a paradise of tropical beaches, sleeping caves and emerald green landscapes. It’s your preferred breakaway from the toxic city life. Travelling there from Manila would be four hours at most. It is recommended you take along a big van and a battalion of friends to get there.

Travel cost was around P1300. That includes van, boat transfers, lunch, and tour guide. It would be best if you leave at around 1 or 2 am, especially if you’re planning a day tour for this one.

From Dingalan Feeder Port, we were transferred to Dingalan island. We left our bags there before heading off to the Lamao Cave.

On the boat with our tour guide, Kuya Bong Reyes (in grey shirt)

While the others were freaking, I could not help but raise my arms in anticipation at the humongous waves cradling our boat. All I could hear in my head was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries while we were flowing with the giant tide. The cave was not too far but even so, we had to swim at the mouth of the cave because the boat couldn’t dock near it.

These rocks look pretty but they are actually painful when stepped on…ouch!

Rock climbing (and picture taking) is a must at the Lamao Rock Formation. Just take caution because some parts of the rocks are edgy and sharp.

We decided to leave the island when wild winds were already blowing. Five of us were on the boat when the weather had thrown a nasty fit. She made the boat spin a bit wildly until one of its outriggers was broken when it crashed unto the rocks.

I was calm all along because I trusted in God’s saving grace. The other girls wanted to jump off in panic but I waited for the right timing to jump off the boat. Leaping at the wrong time could lead to something even more fatal. Fortunately, another boat had rescued us back to the island. All that time, I could not help but think of His promise that He’s keeping us sheltered under His wings.

 

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The nasty wound I got from the rocks…I was literally bleeding when we were already on the boat…ouch!

We were all a bit shaken but I could not help but be amused by the thought, “This is more thrilling than Survivor.” A little food can ease the panic off. Maybe a boodle fight of the best seafood and the freshest fruits can do the trick.

But nothing could be worse than a shipwreck than wrong expectations. I was too foolish to expect this was all sand and sea (because I overlooked some details of the itinerary). The highlight of this tour was the Mountain View Deck and it could only be seen if you take a little trek going there.

It would have been an easy thirty-minute trek if it were not for the mud caused by that morning’s rain. As expected, I was already grumpy, mostly when I had to take my slippers off (wrong footwear, folks. Just. Wrong.) Still, just like every other climax, that view of the Pacific can take all despair and breath away.

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And not to mention the lighthouse on the other peak.

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Muddy and tired, we had the tour capped at around 4 pm. If I could take home something, that would be some nasty wounds, sand on your flip-flops, and a good story to share.

I will never expect my adventures to be the same again. They’re not textbooks outlined with the same pattern because each has a different impact in our lives. I was amazed I was calm in the midst of danger and I kept myself levelheaded during a crisis. An adventure would never be an adventure without some thrill in it. We need that to break our mundane life. We need a little bit of test to improve our resilience in life.

But next time, I hope my next trip would be a bit more peaceful.

My regards to Khaye Satur for organizing this trip, as well as to our tour guide Kuya Bong Reyes for being such a caring guide for such a mountain slowpoke like me. Also, our trip could not be even spicier without the Hugot Van Manila of Kuya Gherz.

 

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A glimpse of that awesome hugot van…you will find more lovestruck hugot when you jump into the ride. 🙂

Watch out for their next trip through Khaye’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/khayesatours/) and Gherz’s page (https://www.facebook.com/gherz.brizo).

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Breathing Adventure: Travelling Back In Time At Las Casas (Bataan, Philippines)

I think I have fallen in love. No, not with some Prince Charming or some knight in shining armor. I have found basking myself in the glory of history. It’s a place where the past is immortalized through houses of grandeur, their stories resonating in my pure, Filipina soul. By the time I have stepped back into reality, I was never the same again. I think I have just left a piece of my heart in Las Casas.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a place owned by Jerry Acuzar, one of the most succesful and richest men in the province. It was built in 2010 but it is continually being developed until today. 

To get there, one has to take a three to four-hour bus ride from the Genesis bus station in Cubao going to Balanga (that would be Php200) and about an hour’s jeepney ride from Balanga to Bagac (Php50). Then, take a Php50 tricycle ride to the very site. I recommend you to leave at around 7 am even if the check-in time is at 2 pm. We were very lucky because our jeepney driver had agreed to take us straight to the resort while charging us only Php80 per person.

Stepping through the gates of Las Casas is like stepping back in time. It embodies everything Filipino, right from the building structures, the camiso de chino and the baro’t saya the staff are wearing to the true blue Pinoy values they are exemplefying. Their friendliness and hospitality are very welcoming for us. I even felt a little embarrassed when they have asked us to carry our bags to our room.

I couldn’t contain my excitement because everything is overwhelmingly IG-worthy. By the time we have entered our overnight abode, I screamed. With that, I was ready with my OOTD. I have to make sure I’d jive well with the place.

A jeep would carry us from the reception, to our quarters and to the little village where las casas (yes, the place literally means “the houses” in Spanish) stand. All houses, which were restored or remodeled, have story to tell. Some of them are linked to our national heroes, some had horror stories but others will just simply bring childhood memories of your old grandma’s house where the smell of burning leaves waft in the morning air. I assure you one day is not enough for all of these tours and activities.

One of the tour guides demonstrating some of the most curious things that could be found in an old house.

A room full of curiosities

Many statues like these playing children are placed in the village

Murals that replicate the works of great Filipino artists in one of the houses.

It would be good if you spend an overnight stay on the weekend because they have cultural shows on Saturdays and special activities on Sundays. One of them was the carabao race, which we have missed unfortunately. Still, we were able to watch a play at the end of the tour, which is about the value of the Filipino.

The carabao parade! We should have followed them to see them race. 🙂

Nighttime at Las Casas is very romantic. I don’t mind not having a date because the sound of the singing violin from afar is enough to melt my heart. If you’re wondering where that sound came from, that was from the open Italian restaurant in the village.

I warn you the food in this place is quite pricey but I can also assure you it won’t disappoint you. You just have to choose whether you like Filipino or Italian cuisine. We have chosen Filipino food because it is good for sharing (one viand costs around Php300-Php500 but a cup of rice is Php50). It is very fulfilling because it is tasty and it is really heavy in the stomach.

Ginataang langka

Liempo

Breakfast is just as good as dinner. Oh, the breakfast buffet is part of our overnight package so we can have as much bread and coffee as we want. I would say again the food is satisfying and superb. It’s enough to keep us going through the rest of the day.

That’s daing na bangus with eggs and fried rice, paired with lomi, fruits and coffee, along woth bread and jam. Who says we’ll be hungry the whole day?

The sea was not swimmable because the waves were dangerously strong. Don’t worry, there’s a small pool near the beach where you can waddle for a morning swim. 

Even after check-out, we can still tour the place in the afternoon. We did not miss the kalesa ride (about Php75 per person) but we were not able to take the balsa ride (which should have been at Php250) because it was beginning to drizzle. We’d rather horse around the rest of the day.

Meet Makisig, the strongest horse in town. I couldn’t imagine him carrying six ladies around town. 🙂

As always, we took a visit at the souvenir shop. I would have loved to take a picture while wearing a traditional Filipino dress at their Photography studio but the minimum price is Php800 to Php900! Nah, forget it. It’s not my pre-nup yet. 

Surprisingly, we only remembered to take a bite at around 3 pm (I told you the breakfast is superb!). Let me remind you that puto (rice cakes) at their snack bar costs at around Php110 for every five, small pieces. Kikiam (a type of Filipino dumpling) costs at around Php90! Oh well, we’d be willing to try it for the sake of experiencing them.

We ended the tour (and the picture taking) past 5 pm. If you don’t plan to bring a car at Las Casas, advise you not to leave the place around that time because there would be no more jeepney going to Balanga. The last jeepney trip would be around 4 or 5pm. The tricycles did take us to Balanga but it’s a bit expensive. 

The gateway to the beach.

We all had our hangovers when we had left the place. If only we could stay longer. The place and the experience Las Casas offers are very satisfying. I’d recommend you to take a room for six if you’re going with a large group because that only costs Php10,800 or Php1800 per person during the weekdays (rates are more expensive on weekends). It would be great to visit the place with your best travel buddies.

From the left Tina, myself, Lans, Ross and Ritz…all aboard to new adventures.

What I love most of all in Las Casas is its tag, “Pride in the past, hope for the future”. Such houses are rarely found in the cities. It is sad many modern Filipinos do not have a sense of history. I admire Mr. Acuzar for keeping the Filipino spirit alive by rebuilding these houses. I hope it is not only the experience the visitors would bring home. I hope everyone who visits Las Casas would also carry the vision Mr. Acuzar has in preserving the Filipino heritage.

​Breathing Adventure: Flying To the Rocky Summit of Mt. Paliparan

My chocolate bar has already melted. I set it before the air conditioning vent so I can bite that sweet piece that would replenish me from that 11-hour hike (which included 2 hours of picture taking). Still, its sweetness is nothing compared to the joy of being in the outdoors again.

We were back in Tanay, Rizal to explore Mt. Paliparan. Standing at more than 500 meters above sea level, it was one of the newly-opened hiking sites that’s fit for beginners and weekend warriors like me. But this weekend warrior had to strip off her title for a while because her little adventure army has chosen Monday as a date to conquer new land. Weekends would attract endless crowds that are likely to clutter the mountain, the view, and our photos with photobombers. 

The grassy trail

Brgy. Cuyambay would be accessible through public transportation (jeep from Cubao to Cogeo, another jeep to Bary. Cuyambay, and tricycle to the baranggay hall where registration takes place). Since we have to reach the place before sunrise, private transportation would be more convenient and safer to take. 

We originally planned the Maysawa Circuit because we wanted to see the sea of clouds. But the tour guides gave us Mt. Paliparan as another option. They suggested Maysawa Circuit would be best visited in August because the rains would make the sea of clouds more visible. Besides, they warned us of the abundance of limatik (leeches) in that trail. Since Mt. Paliparan looked more adventurous, we decided to take their advice.

The trail to the summit is reminiscent of almost all of the mountains we had visited. The vast farmland leading to the trail reminded us of Mt. Talamitam and Mt. Maranat, the grassy slopes was like the trail at Mt. Maculot, while the assault leading to the summit brought Mt. Pamitinan to mind. The rest of the trail was easy except for the last trail leading to the summit.

The first peak

Mt. Paliparan has four peaks. All of these are marked with huge, towering boulders that were challenging to climb. The tour guides have told us the mountain was called as such because it was a site where small Japanese planes used to land during World War II.

The second peak

A small cave can be visited along the way. It is a perfect place for hiding from the nasty heat of the sun. 

The trail was littered with flowers and colorful berries that seemed luscious but not edible. Small amorseco (hitchhiker plants) have annoyingly clung onto our clothing. The tall grasses were not helpful in giving us shade as they managed to annoy and tickle our sunburnt faces. We relieved ourselves with the sight of Laguna Lake, the old cement factory and the wind turbines at a distance.

While the rest of the trail proved to be easy, the assault going to the summit was challenging and quite dangerous. This is the time when gloves are highly needed. The sharp and jagged rocks, though may be helpful in providing footing, can be relentlessly unforgiving on bare hands. 

It requires rock scrambling and rappelling to get to the very top of the boulder that sits on the mountain’s highest peak. It was tempting to give up because I was struggling to carry my body’s weight on the rope. But I was challenged when the tour guides told me, “Since you’re here, you’ll regret it if you don’t do it.”

I felt like a champion when I have scrambled on that rock. Once I got hold of the pink flag that mightily fluttered in the wind, I felt like I have conquered the cowardly giant in me. Everybody was a winner that day. We had to reward ourselves by resting in the Dumagat village which would take about an hour to reach.

The Dumagat people are one of the nation’s indigenous tribes living in Luzon. If you were lucky, they would cook tinola or pinikpikan for you (these are local chicken dishes, one is made with soup). However, there were no chickens available that day. We ended up with buko juice and pansit canton. 

The adventure would not be complete without visiting Tungtong Falls. The trail, which would take another hour from the Dumagat community, lingered around giant, dark, round rocks and cool streams. The waterfall was small but refreshing. Instead of diving, I took a short nap because I was so tired from the trip. 

The tour guides were wise enough not to bring us to the highest falls which required rappelling again. We were so exhausted from the very, long trail. One of us had sprained her knee and ankle. We enjoyed the final stretch of the trail by taking our own slow paces back to the starting point. 

Despite the strenuous journey, I was revitalized with the beauty of nature. Experiencing this is a privilege because it is a gift from the Greatest Artist in the universe. Seeing, touching, and feeling such immense creation is like seeing the very heart of God who made these things because He loves us greatly. It’s something you won’t find everyday in the mechanical jungle called Manila.

The river trail

As I closed my eyes to sleep in the van, I kept a clear picture of the pristine waters, the warm summer heat, and the vast sights from the summit. The memory I had treasured that day was the ability to conquer my secret fear of heights. That instance made me dare for more. I hope that little courage gained would not abandon me on my next adventure. 

The adventure team

​Breathing Adventure: Basking in Hot Springs (Lost in Cebu Part 4)

The entrance to Mainit Springs

I let the cold drizzle kiss my face as I engulfed the fresh and salty air from the sea. I stared at the boats gathered at the whale watching site in a distance, trying to replay every detail of my close encounter with the whale sharks. The adventure could have ended on these shores but we wanted to see more of Cebu.
We had planned to visit a nearby waterfalls but locals have told us this might not be a good time. The weather had been very moody, bringing occassional rains that could spoil a trek. We opted to try the hot springs at Malabuyoc which would take more than an hour’s travel from Oslob. 

A waterfall near Mainit Springs

Upon reaching Bato bus terminal, we negotiated with motorcycle riders who had ferried us to the site. I advice you to better rent a car when visiting every tourist spot in Cebu because public transportation can be more costly. Travel time from Bato to Brgy. Montaneza in Malabuyoc would take almost an hour. 

The Mainit Springs (which is derived from the Tagalog word “hot”) is located in a dense forest filled with coconut trees. These sulfur springs are placed near a dormant or extinct volcano (whichever version you might hear). Entrance fee is only at Php20 and the site open from 6 am to 5 pm. 

The four springs come in varying degrees of heat. The coolest was at 36 degrees while the hottest was at 42 degrees. The coolest spring became even cooler because of the rains. But the ones at 40 and 42 degrees were not as easily bearable as you think. 

The secret to tolerate really hot pools is to start dipping the toes into the steaming water and try to slowly put the whole body little by little. Now, I dream of having my own sulfuric hot springs at home because it’s good for the body. It could prevent me from having a stuffed nose due to allergic rhinitis every morning and that has been proven at my first visit to Mainit in Bontoc (that’s at the northern tip of the Philippines). And because it’s relaxing, I could have dosed off in the pool if were not for my friends who were chatting with me.

Hot springs can increase metabolism. Saying so, I noticed my heart beat became faster after I dipped in the hottest pool. It’s advisable to immerse in immensely hot pools for a maximum of ten minutes. Then splash cold water unto the body briefly to close the pores. 

There’s also a message and therapy room which only costs Pho250. Too bad, the masseur was not there. We wrapped up our visit with a refreshing sip of buko juice (coconut juice) and hot pancakes. 

I can’t help but stare at the sea as our tour guides, who were also the motorbike riders who chaperoned us to the site, took us back to the bus station. Everything around me was a dream that could only come once in a while. I savored every moment and every sensation that surrounded the great, blue sea that lined the highway because within its waves were good memories of a paradise I knew I’d return to one day. 

​Breathing Adventure: Lost in Cebu (Part 2)

A rainy day is a real spoiler for every traveler, especially when the place being visited is a thousand miles away from home. But no dark clouds can hinder us from exploring Cebu, so we headed south on our third day on he island. 
Being mountain lovers, we decided to trek the heights of Osmeña Peak. We had to travel about three hours from the city of Cebu to get there. By that time, I realized that the island was too big to explore and I am just too small to be overwhelmed.

Drizzles were dampening the atmosphere at South Terminal where we boarded the bus going to Oslob (which I will feature on my next blog) We made sure the bus would pass by Dalaguete as there are two different routes going to the far south end of Cebu. The real adventure begins when the bus dropped us off at the town of Badian.  

Every tourist who don’t have their own vehicles would have to take a motorcycle ride to the jump-off point. It took about an hour of travelling through smooth, meandering roads and inclined trails. A backride costs about P200. The most amazing thing was that the motorcycle was able to carry all the three of us!

(From far right) Lans, Ros, and Rhema (yours truly) going crazy on the motorbike ride.

The weather was becoming more dreary as we went deeper into more isolated roads. Fog began to enshroud us halfway going to the jump-off point, making me think I am entering Wonderland. What surprised me even more was when pine trees towered above us along the way, shattering my impression that Cebu was a fully tropical island crowded with sunny beaches and coconut trees. 

Osmeña Peak has a height of more than 1000 masl but the trek would only take about 20 to 30 minutes from jump-off point. We were greeted with young men offering us boots and raincoats which cost about Php50 each. We felt obliged to rent them because the ice-cold rain has been continuously making the trail soggy and muddy for almost a week. But the sunny smile of our tour guide, Evangeline or Evan as she would like to be called, made me enjoy the trek because of her stories.

Some of the flowers that can be seen on the mountain.

Evan said the original jump-off point of Osmeña Peak was at the municipal town hall of Badian which was two hours going to the peak if taken by foot. With the development of roads, tourists have now an easier access to the heights. Still, the town maintained its agriculture industry. Called the Little Baguio of Cebu, Osmeña Peak floirishes with lush vegetation.

Cabbage heads planted on the mountain

The place reminded me of Benguet as huge round cabbages flourished on the mountain side. Evan told me locals in this town have a very simple lifestyle. Most houses could not be brightened up by electricity at night and residents use fire and wood to cook their food. Just like the farmers of Benguet, they would carry their harvested vegetables to the lowlands and trade them for fish. Evan had this vibrant spirit and singsong chuckle as she showed me plants that would only flower at night and other strange plants that could only be seen at the site. And just as always, I was the only person Evan guided along the way because of my tendency to lose balance.

The cabbages being loaded on trucks, ready for trade.

The winds became stronger as we trudged near the peak. Unlike what we saw on the internet, we saw no green hills but only a white blank space on the horizon. The signage harrumphed noisily as the wind slammed violently on it. We screamed as we posed before my already wet camera. Evan maintained her pose and her eternal smile as she calmly took a picture of our panicky faces. 

Seeing nothing on the mountain did not fully disappoint me because of the discoveries I made along this short trip. Besides, the vibrant spirit of the locals was enough to energize us. It did not turn out the way we wanted it, but just as they always say there’s always a next time. Should I return, I’d return there by April as the locals have advised. And I hope Evan would guide us again – this time along dry land and beneath clear skies.

Our groups takes a pose with Evan (in black jacket) after the trip.

We ended our cold trip with a bowl of batchoy (warm pork noodle soup) and a day full of laughs. Boarding on the bus going to Oslob, I kept my eyes on the blue-green sea that lined along the highway. Tomorrow shall be another day of adventure. And this is the one I was looking forward the most.

A nice hot bowl of batchoy to close the trek

​Breathing Adventure: Lost In Cebu (Part 1)

I was exhilarated and nervous at the same time. I gulped my coffee before I boarded on the plane. I felt my first panic check-in attack after a two-year flying hiatus. I had great trouble fixing my luggage one day before take-off. But I was still numb from the fact I was about to head to the far-away island of Cebu.

I thought I was transported back to Recto, Manila when we dropped by Colon in Cebu City. One of the curious little facts of this city.

Cebu is one of the major islands situated in the Visayas region. Travelling there by plane from Manila would take about one and a half hours. Called the Queen of the South, Cebu is the region’s main economic center. It is known for its beaches, dried mangoes, native guitars, otap (flaky biscuit covered in sugar), lechon (roast pig), and its yearly festival called Sinulog (an event dedicated to the island’s major saint). I honestly am not interested in religious festivals. I wanted to tag along with my friends because I wanted to experience the magic this island has to offer. 

Masks being sold at Sinulog Festival.

Curious as a cat, we strolled around the city despite missing the Sinulog parade. Like little kids, we had face paint, bought hats, and looked at what the crowd was looking at. I was surprised when Cebu City appeared to be a prototype of Metro Manila. Colon itself was reminiscent of Recto, scenes around the Church of Sto. Niño was almost identical to that of Quiapo, and the markets looked like Divisoria. I felt like I have been transported back to Manila so we tried to see other spots where we could stroll along.

Rains had spoiled our second day so we ended up in Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro. The latter looked like a mini-version of Manila’s Fort Santiago in Intramuros. The reason it is so is because Cebu was one the Spanish conquistadores’ main headquarters before they moved to Manila where they built a similar fortress as Fort San Pedro. Entrance is only at Php30 and it is here where you will get a glimpse of Cebu’s history. 

For those who have studied at schools around Manila’s Intramuros, you might mistaken this as a lane at Intramuros but it’s actually in Cebu’s Fort San Pedro.

A canon overlooking Plaza Independencia. One of the similar sights in Manila’s Intramuros.

One of the galleries that could be found in Fort San Pedro. This one is filled with pictures from this site’s history.

Another gallery featuring portraits of some of Cebu’s founding fathers and historical figures like Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu.

Toss a coin to make a wish at this wishing well at Fort San Pedro.

The best part of our initial stroll was the food trip. From street food to mall diners, every meat comes with a serving of pusô (not the heart, but it is rice wrapped in leaves). 

Pusô in a basket.

Ranging from Php3 to Php5, they are being served on baskets along with a viand of siomai, pig’s face (yes! The skin made to be thin and crunchy before your eyes), or spicy lechon (somebody help my diet!!). 

A vendor slashing the pusô in the middle.

These handful of packed rice has been slightly slashed in the middle so you could easily open and eat it. Make sure you’ll count all the pusô you’ll be eating because they’ll charge you for each one you’ll gobble. Just don’t expect to eat with a spoon and fork because you have 

Street food siomai with pusô.

to eat your food by hand. Don’t worry, they will give you clean hand gloves. 

Pusô with, not pork chop, but with pig’s face.

Lechon with pusô.

Larsian is a recommended eatery in the city, especially for all grilled food lovers. They have a variety of meats, chorizos and seafood such as squid and blue marlin which they will grill and serve at your table. Each of them range from Php20 to Php150. And of course they come with pusô

Larsian

Grilled chicken, pork, and fish with pusô only at Larsian

As I’ve mentioned, Cebu is good for their otap so we did not miss dropping by Shamrock which was located along the Rotonda near Larsian. It also has a variety of other goodies like my childhood favorites, ronquillos and torones de mani

Other street food treats to be found in Cebu. This lady is selling baked rice cakes cooked in an oven.

Rice cakes

Corn on a cob sold on the street.

I guess buying pasalubong and souvenirs was the greatest irony on the initial part of our trip. But that does not signal the end of our Cebu trip because we still have more to visit for the next three days.

Breathing Adventure: Going Back to Mt. Manalmon and Mt. Gola

The rain has passed but the mud was all around my shoes and my pants. I struggled around the slippery rocks that littered the trail. I have returned here for the second time but everything seems to have changed at Mt. Manalmon.

 

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The almost level but muddy path at Mt. Manalmon

It’s been more than a year since my friend and I hiked Mt. Manalmon at San Miguel, Bulacan. This time, we came back with a bigger group and we went on a twin-hike from Mt. Manalmon to Mt. Gola.

 

Since both mountains have an estimated height of nearly 200 MASL, it should be the easiest of all easy climbs. But without proper exercise, I have quite struggled on the way.

The path, still damp from the two-day rain, was sodden and muddy. Our tour guide, Winter, began the trek on the safer side of the trail, opposite to the one we had taken on our first visit. He cautioned us a twin hike is impossible if the river remained too high to cross. Arriving before 6am, the still grey sky would not give a hint if it would rain or not.

Gladly, the assaults were not steep enough to add to my burden. Most of the trek were on an almost level path. The initial part of the trail was covered with man-made stairs. The trouble with this kind of trail is that this would become dangerously slippery during rains. I was in bigger trouble because my shoes were designed for the muddy trail, not for the rocky path. Even though the trail would lead us to the muddy path, most of it constituted of rocks – huge ones mostly.

The very summit of Mt. Manalmon itself could be reached by scrambling on a gigantic boulder sitting atop of it. Despite the struggle, there is still romance in every second chance. Thin wisps of clouds playfully hovered over the vast beauty of Biak-na-Bato National Park before they completely shy away from the rising sun. The winding Madlum River was sparkling beneath the fresh, golden sun rays. On the other side was Mt. Gola, a mountain I have wished to trek the first time I reached the peak of Mt. Manalmon.

 

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The view on top of Mt. Manalmon. Mt. Gola is the one covered by clouds.

 

Mt. Arayat, one of Luzon’s highest peaks, could be seen on the opposite distance. Seeing its silhouette stirs up the hope in me that soon enough, I’ll be ticking this mountain off my bucket list.

 

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The silhouette of Mt. Arayat saying hello from afar.

 

After a breakfast of eggs and boiled bananas, we headed to Mt. Gola. I did not expect bigger challenges going there.

To reach the other side of the mountain, we had to cross a portion of the Madlum

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Crossing the river.

River. It is important to have tour guides on this trip because they could judge if the waters are safe enough to cross. The river was almost reaching our waists. We had to hold on to one another to keep each other from being carried away by the current.

 

We kept on walking on level ground until we came upon a roped segment that welcomed us halfway to Mt. Gola’s summit.

 

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Struggling at the roped segment.

This walkway, covered with another gigantic boulder, has become more slippery because of the rain. The key here is to step on the rougher portions of the ground to ensure footing. Taking time would be a better idea because racing with other hikers would only mean trouble. But going up and down on this portion made me completely exhausted, partly because I was battling the thought of falling down.

 

By 9am we have reached the tip of Mt. Gola. The sun was already glaring on the bare side of the peak. Completely tired, I just stared at the blue skies and the green horizon.

We have taken the same trail upon our return to the jump-off. We ended the traverse by 12nn but there are still plenty of adventures to try.

 

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The view on top of Mt. Gola.

 

Let me re-introduce to you the monkey bridge.

 

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Crossing the monkey bridge.

This is the same hanging bridge we had crossed a year ago. If this reminds you of a milk ad where schoolchildren are crossing a bridge made of thin wire, this is the exact spot where the commercial was shot. This time, tour guides required tourists to put on harnesses. Now, I’m proud of myself for crossing it last wear without such safety gear. There are still no fatal accidents at the monkey bridge yet but the tour guide told us they have to put safety measures to ensure zero fatality.

 

The key for crossing the bridge is to hold onto the wire. It gets wobbly in the middle but I kept myself entertained with raucous tourists splashing into the river while whistling a silly tune to call the wind.

Once we have ravished at the sight of fun at the river while crossing the bridge, wp-1480254088080.jpgit’s our turn to dip into the waters.

Maybe not.

I just wanted to watch the others while I tried to remove the mud off my shoes by dipping them into the water. But a small brown butterfly kept on bothering me as it kept on landing on my cellphone which was covered with a bright red casing.

wp-1480254107478.jpgI tried to lure it to land on my friend’s phone covered in black casing. The little fellow ignored it. Instead, it kept on dancing around me and my cellphone.

And so I let it land on my finger.

I have a theory it must have been attracted to me and my phone because of the bright colors we’re donned in. Maybe, it thought I was a gigantic flower sitting on the riverbank with lots and lots of nectar. Sorry little, fella. Try a real flower.

I’m glad to return to this place again. I am thankful because the Lord answered our prayers for fair, rainless weather. I am looking forward to exploring more of my hometown next time. 🙂

 

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The whole team posing on top of Mt. Gola.

 

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