Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘Batangas’

Breathing Adventure: The 8D 1D Challenge At Cavite, Batangas and Tagaytay

Visiting eight destinations in one day may sound tiring but it’s worth the try. This travel tour on Facebook gave us the chance to take a day tour around three places in South Luzon: Batangas, Cavite, and Tagaytay.

1. Marian Orchard

This sanctuary in Batangas was our first stop. This place is perfect for peace seekers, as well as for those who are camera-obsessed. It would be good to stay here to medidate but that would be impossible if only 40 minutes were given to roam around.

2. Taal Heritage Town and Taal Church

These two are joined together as the 2nd and 3rd destinations in our bucket list. Like this picture below, many of the old Spanish houses in the town are well preserved. I would have loved to visit each one just to see what’s inside.

The church itself is the main site to visit in this area. But we were not able to come any nearer because we only had an hour…

…to enjoy a bowl of Batangas’ hot, steamy, special lomi. Lunch time, folks!

3. Villa Jovita

Participants in this trip were given the chance to take a dip and relax in this resort in Batangas. However, most of us were not in the mood to wade into the water, although we were given two hours to enjoy the moment.

I guess we love to capture every moment in our lenses instead.

The river beside the pool.

4. Fantasy World

Visiting this place is a wish come true for me. Who wouldn’t be curious to know what’s inside this mini-theme park? When we came in, we were stunned to see…

…fairies and wizards unleashing their power…

…monks of great wisdom gathering for a revolution…

…and, my, my! Be a queen for a day!

What’s best in this place is to be in your best OOTD with your friends.

Sadly, the theme park rides were all closed because of the rain and strong winds.

5. Gingerbread House

If ever Hansel and Gretel would visit Cavite, I’m sure they would poke their noses in this place. Fortunately, there’s no wicked witch to fatten them up. Visiting here is like having an early Christmas because everything here reminded us of sweet, childhood days.

The rain was a spoiler because it had caused a power outage around the place, making it quite a bit dreary. Still, it did not stop me from looking around the bakeshop that was peppered with everything cheery like this giant gingerbread man.

A Christmas dining table and other Christmas decors.

Make your wish upon this wishing well. The wish below is not mine, by the way.

If there’s something I would wish for, I would wish for loads and loads of money to buy everything here.

Instead, I had found out it’s free to fit in this gingerbread house.

They also have a souvenir shop (especially for the ref magnet hunters like me).

6. Diner’s Bulalo House

Any trip would not be complete without dinner at Tagaytay and any dinner in Tagaytay would not be complete without bulalo. It’s like a fitting salvo to the cold, drizzle that was pouring at that hour.

7. Sky Ranch

The last destination was this huge theme park. I would have been excited if it were not for the rain. Besides, it was already quite late to get in. At least, we had the chance to see it…finally.

Visiting eight places in a day is surprisingly possible. I just felt some of the visits were too short because we were given very limited time. I believe we could have had more time to roam around some of the places if the tour group was not late because of the early morning run. Still, I appreciate our tour guides because they were very accomodating and friendly. For a P1000 budget, the experience was not bad at all, especially when you’re with people you enjoy road tripping with.

Breathing Adventure: Grazing On Mt. Talamitam’s Greener Pastures

The city was still dark when we left. In the wee hours of the morning, the serene orange glow from the streetlamps seemed rather apprehensive against the nearly empty streets. My eyes, still dank from lack of sleep, seemed to weigh heavier than my backpack. As we took a cab to the array of bus terminals at Cubao, it felt like déjà vu. The van that was supposed to carry us to Mt. Talamitam did not come.

A miscommunication nearly gave us a misadventure. But we’re used to it, and just like our last adventure at Mt  Maynoba-Mt. Cuyabo, we are ready with a bag of options that would lead us to the unknown. The internet had been a good source in leading our all-girl group to rides going to the mountain. But it became more accurate when we asked questions, costing us more cab rides just to get to the right bus terminal.

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Crossing the creek

From Cubao, only San Agustin buses could take us straight to Mt. Talamitam’s jump-off at Brgy. Bayabasan in Nasugbu, Batangas. I find the trip rather easier because there is no need to take bumpy tricycle rides after getting off the bus. After three long hours, erratic catnaps, and countless of nameless passengers sitting beside us, we found ourselves dousing in morning light at the registration area encamped beneath huge fruit trees and beside a classic sari-sari store. It’s like a scene our old barangay used to have when I was a child, the smoke from freshly burned pile of leaves (which we called siga) creating a mystical forest effect on our backyard.

But there was no burning of of leaves was being done to create that magical feeling. The quiet, clean barangay was a welcome treat for the newcomers while ants spoiled it along the way. The cheeriness of the hike was added up with that ready smile of our tour guide Kuya Dante, who was ready to laugh at our silly jokes and antics.

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The dense forestry trail

The first part of the trail was cemented and rather muddy. The rains last night had it covered with thick mud, some parts quite deep enough for the foot to sink. We have to cross a small creek after crossing a bridge. This then led us to a dense foliage of greens, which was reminiscent of the one of Mt. Talamitam’s neighbor, Pico de Loro.

It’s not all forest. In the middle of the hike was a huge plain with grazing cows, mud-bathing carabaos, and grass-eating horses. I thought I heard the theme of Sound Of Music playing when I saw this vast, green space basking in the wide, blue skies.

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Mt Talamitam just behind me

(I should have twirled around and sang, “The hills are alive…”) It’s like gaining freedom after that quite arduous hike at the rainforest trail. But that’s not yet all the strain we need to receive to reach the summit.

We bought buko juice kept in plastic cups from a young lady sitting beneath one of the lonely trees. As we drank the cold, fresh drink, we also

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Buko juice break

drank the sight of Mt. Talamitam’s twin, Mt. Batulao behind us. Moving forward, we could see Mt. Talamitam eyeing us from a near distance, waiting for us to touch her very peak.

 

Stopping again at a makeshift store of an old lady, we consumed fresh buko juice from the real fruit this time. I realized I have not yet taken any breakfast that morning. Yet, the fresh coconut juice and meat were enough for me to survive the steeper trail awaiting us.

We met the campers who stayed for an overnight who were descending from

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Mt. Talamitam’s twin, Mt. Batulao at a distance

the peak. I guess it could have been better to stay for an overnight to catch the sunrise we had hoped to catch that day. On the other hand, coming very early is good to keep us from struggling beneath the afternoon sun.

The portion we ascended was even more challenging because it was steeper and the tall grass covering the trail was cramming on our faces. The rocks were relentlessly huge and we have to use our hands to ascend over them. I could have stopped to rest of a little longer until I saw the other climbers behind us clammering to get ahead of us.

At last, I could hear laughter and giggles. Some of them even cried, “Picture! Picture!” The struggle is real. But the reward is here.

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Sitting on the mountain’s edge wasn’t so bad at all. 🙂

At last, fresh air blew on my nearly burned face as I nearly kissed the summit’s ground. The view was even more spectacular. There were a few vendors waiting to serve us with Mountain Dew and bottled water. I thought of getting a rest on the mountain but I couldn’t because of the soil beneath the little nipa shade was too damp to lie on. The ground covered with grass was seething under the scorching sun.

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The little makeshift shed on the mountain’s peak.

But the heat did not last long. So did the vendors staying at the mountain. Kuya Dante said that they would close shop at noon every Sunday when tourists go home early. True enough, we were the last ones to leave the peak. The clouds were getting dark as we left. A downpour roared halfway upon our descent.

The rain was never a spoiler of fun. We’d get a few slides and bumps along the way down, but I loved the feeling of trekking in wet weather. We could have had a side trip to the river. But now was not a good time.

One thing I enjoyed with Mt. Talamitam was that it was cleaner than its other neighbors because there were less vendors. Besides that, the trail was a complete chill except for that

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A rainy return

steep end point. It’s sad however that the mountain is not living up to its name. Trees called talamitam were not growing on he mountain anymore and I did not get to know why. These trees are growing instead on an adjacent mountain smaller than Mt. Talamitam.

 

We’d love to come back but this time with our tents and sleeping bags. Perhaps at that time we would not be chasing the sunrise anymore. It would be surely a surreal moment not because it’s a déjà vu, but because it’s living in a dream.

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Our all-girl group from the left Rozi, Lans, Tina, Nancy and yours truly with our cheery guide, Kuya Dante

Breathing Adventure: Sun and Rain Affray at Gulugod Baboy

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Jumping high on Gulugod Baboy was Lans (far left), Brian (left), the author (right) and Mommy Gemma, Brian’s mom (far right)

The smell of the sea filled the morning air as the jeepney skidded across the almost lonely road winding along the mountainside. Our eyes were fixed at the resorts that went side-by-side with their assorted names and offers. But we would not be setting our foot on either one of them for this trip. We were about to trek Gulugod Baboy which lies near the diving paradise of Mabini, Batangas.

Gulugod Baboy is one of Batangas’ “chill climbing” destinations. It is called so because it was shaped like a pig’s spine, from which its name has been derived from. Because we have heard of its scenic views, we were willing to pay for that long trip from Mandaluyong City to Batangas that costs about 157 pesos ($3.30). As it was a holiday, we were expecting less traffic. Still, it seemed that traffic has always been a part of our everyday living, even those living southbound. It took us about two hours to reach the Batangas Grand Terminal.

Since we were just groping about with the help of other itineraries found in the internet, we looked for jeepneys that lead to the city of Mabini. But it seems that everything was ready for us. The driver offered everybody going to Gulugod Baboy that he could take us straight to the jump-off point of the mountain, provided that each will pay 100 pesos ($2.10) for the trip. Originally, hikers drop by the Mabini market and take tricycle rides going to the mountain. But I find travelling by jeepney a better alternative as the trip to the jump-off site is also a lengthy one.

The jeepney took us straight to the registration site. Registration is only 35 pesos ($0.74). The tour guide fee, which was at 500 pesos ($10.50) can be divided depending of the number of people in the group. But our group of five decided not to share the tour with another group because we’d like to have a good chit-chat with Jericho, the young tour guide. Besides, we’d like to enjoy the tour ourselves and we’d surely be left out by the large group of young strangers.

The first leg of the trail was covered by a cemented road. With the trail going too steep for IMG_20160225_101558motorbikes and other two-wheeled vehicles, I wonder if this was a wise idea. It can get too slippery when the rain pours. Good thing that the drizzle that welcomed us at our arrival did not last too long. We were hoping for a good clearing ahead…and a good, rough road that will keep my shoes on the ground.

There were a few motorbikes passing through the steep trail and ending up in some far end of the road. From the main road, there’s another road branching out from it. Our guide said it leads to another town. Now, I know where these motorbikes would be going. Not unless they would be going to the nearest store just near us.

Nah, maybe it was meant to be at the next store. Or to the other one…just over there! I find this a commercialized hiking destination as there were stores lined up in nearly every meter of the trek. They offer buko juice, sodas, and even halo-halo (which was only 30 pesos or $0.63) to every weary traveller that passes by. But not now. We’ll reward IMG_20160225_102601ourselves later.

Though having a cemented road for a mountain trail looks sumptuous for the tired tourist, I’d prefer the old, dirt road where I can have a good footing. Just as we thought the commercialized trail would go on forever, we found the sign pointing at the beginning of the classic dirt road some of us were looking for. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the improvised road sign, a white board doodled with the mountain’s three peaks. It looked clear, wasn’t it?

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This sign is translated as, “The way going to the Pig’s Spine”

As we went up the trail, we could feel the heat of the sun trying to beat us down. But the refreshing winds came blowing at our tired muscles. Then, in just a few minutes, another drizzle comes again! Gladly, there were a lot of trees around us that protected us from both sun and rain.

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One of the tiny communities in the mountain

Just as I thought we would be far from civilization, there was booming, party music coming from a few meters ahead of us. Another house! Within the mountain was a tiny community, and some of them had stores selling water, buko juice, and even walking sticks. People here sure knew how to have a good business on tourism.

We’d find houses after a few meters, perhaps about two more. Passing by the last house to the top was a sign that we were at the last leg of the hike. The sun was beating us even more by then. But upon coming to the three peaks, there was an outpour.

We stayed beneath the tree and decided to take lunch there. The clouds looked gloomy and

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Dark clouds hover over Peak 2 and 3

threatening enough to spoil the view. Yet, things suddenly changed in a while. The moment we came upon the second peak, the weather was sunny again.

The clouds suddenly gave a nice cleaning. At once, we were jumping and posing for pictures like never before. Then, we ran towards the third and highest peak. At that point, I was tempted to stay forever.

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The sea opens up behind me at Peak 2

But as I ran towards the last stop, I was surprised to hear a bell clanging on the top. Ice-cream! Wasn’t this mountain so commercialized? But I ignored it and looked at the view below. This was the reward I wanted all along: the sight of a beautiful world while standing on top of it.

I tried to sleep for a while and so did one of my friends. I couldn’t though and just mused at the scenic view before me. I felt the privilege of looking at a wonderful world made by a wonderful Creator. Sometimes, one has to struggle through heights to appreciate the beauty of things.

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Trying to jump high on Peak 3!

Another rain cloud was approaching us. Soon enough, it was drizzling again. I wished to

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Another scenic view on Peak 3

stay longer, but we had to leave immediately. Now, I have to face another waterloo…the art of descending.

I always had the trouble of descending mountains. Until now, I still couldn’t find my footing. I’m always careful to keep myself from rolling face down. But I also had the trouble of keeping myself from sliding backwards. To keep that from happening, I had to take a slow step-

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Looking down at Peak 1 and 2 from the highest peak

by-step descent. But this time, I had to be more careful, because the dirt road has the tendency to become more slippery due to the drizzle.

The weather really is a weird thing. Here comes the drizzle, and then here comes the sun. It’s like it has been on a ruckus on who’s to rule the sky today, the weather is just confused, or it would like to play a trick on me. Nevertheless,

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Halo-halo, anyone?

it’s surprising that we were faster at our descent. The nearly two-hour ascent was slashed into thirty minutes!

Upon the end of the dirt road, we arrived at one of the little stores by the cemented road. There, we rewarded ourselves. Who would resist a nice, cold sweet halo-halo after a strenuous hike?

We would have loved to go to the beach after the hike but time was too short to enjoy the quiet sea. Besides, the 100 peso entrance fee would not be worth the short time we would be spending. I guess we’ll go back there another time. I guess I have to take scuba diving lessons when I return, don’t you think so?

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Breathing Adventure: The Hills Are Alive at Mt. Batulao

12105885_10153646083967708_6014320311900404317_nIt’s been two weeks since I have not visited the outdoors as it’s quite rare for us friends to get together. The last time I had gone to the mountains was with a lone, close buddy. Still, every journey is memorable. Though it took me some time to put it into writing, I could still vividly recall how I breathed the fresh scent of the rain-drenched earth while anxiously waiting for the mist to clear at Mt. Batulao.

My friend, Lans, and I planned to leave for Nasugbu, Batangas at 4:30am on a fair-weathered Saturday. I had to stay at her boarding house in for the night so as not to come late. But since one alarm did not ring and the other was snoozed off a number of times, we left the house late, prompting us to go straight to the bus terminal at the Coastal Mall at Parañaque. This was the only sure place where we can get a bus that would take us to our jump off site at the Evercrest Golf Course.

It took a distressing hour before the bus left the terminal and a marathon of two and a half Resident Evil movies before we got to Evecrest. The sun, already high at 10am, signaled that we were late. A number of hikers had gone before us, already enjoying a refreshing trek earlier.

It’s remarkable how tricycle drivers immediately recognized us as hikers, directly offering us a ride to the registration site of

The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance

The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance

Mt. Batulao. Our huge bags, sleeveless shirts, and travelling pants gave them clues where we were going. It was a bumpy ride getting there. The rocky, yet mud-ridden track reminded me that I am in another home far away from home.

It is required for every tourist to register and have a tour guide lead the way. This protocol was only instilled a few months ago. Mt. Batulao was an easy trek that tourists could opt to travel on their own. But due to safety (and business) measures, new rules have to be set.

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My friend, Lans, and our tour guide, Reijel.

A number of our friends would have joined this trek if it not for our conflicting schedules. I guess it’s fortunate that only the two of us were ushered by our guide that day. Reijel (if I got his name’s spelling right), was a thin, ruddy, young man who amazingly volunteered to carry my bulky bag. I would not have

Not only were horses were the main trade deliverers in this area, but sometimes carabaos were used in crossing this muddy track

Not only were horses were the main trade deliverers in this area, but sometimes carabaos were used in crossing this muddy track

obliged if I had not been wobbling on the muddy track.

The horses that occasionally trample that path caused it to be heavily muddied even in sunny days. These beasts would

carry trading goods from the mountain, their hooves digging deep into the soil everyday. The path was so slippery we had to walk at its edges, checking if the ground was solid enough to walk on. But don’t worry because this muddy path ends before getting at the foot of Mt. Batulao’s first peak. The road going to the green, rolling hills was a bit rockier, drier but denser.

Just seeing the twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance made my heart sing. It was12143153_10153646083957708_5354685601593218194_n getting more scenic the moment we got nearer every peak. There were eight peaks to conquer, the highest summit at the last peak. Our guide lead us to the new trail, which he said was easier than the old one. True enough, it was easy. I felt like a little girl jogging downwards after every upward struggle.

One of the steep and narrow ways going to the summit

One of the steep and narrow ways going to the summit

These bare but scenic heights are reminiscent of Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Pulag mixed together. Mt. Batulao has become quite a favorite among those who wanted an adventurous weekend getaway and first-time hikers. However, the influx of tourists had encouraged commercialism. Almost every peak had a little sari-sari store offering shade and buko juice for every weary visitor. I would have loved to buy from them, but I rather not encourage them to do business in this part of nature.

The final ascent was the mountain’s crucial point. Some of the pathways become steeper and narrower; one wrong step can bring you plunging into a steep ravine. Towards the summit, there are two roped portions. You can climb those parts without the ropes though. I had to rid of the ropes at that moment. Reijel was strong enough to lend me a hand while I tried my best to get through that steep point.

"Rain, when are you going to stop?"

“Rain, when are you going to stop?”

Though the skies were becoming gloomier, I kept quite a slow pace as we got closer to the summit to catch my breath. But soon enough, it rained. The sunny morning was quickly drowned by an angry outpour.

Hikers cramped together under a little shelter made of tattered tarpaulin at the summit. Now draped in my raincoat, I silently waited for the rain to stop. Yes, it will in fifteen minutes…thirty minutes more…nope, it’s about to stop after an hour…oh, c’mon! Just a peak of the scenery below!

I had to give up waiting, eat peanuts and fruits with my friend, and chat with some of the stranded tourists who soon decided to descend while it was still raining. We were the last to stay on the summit, which was not in vain since we soon had a glimpse of Mt. Batulao’s rustic, green heads. We decided to wait a little more to clear the mist away, though we apprehended the slippery path.

Ironically, the weather cleared when we descended from the summit. Oh well, we

The clouds covering the other hills adjacent to Mt. Batulao is also a sight to behold

The clouds covering the other hills adjacent to Mt. Batulao is also a sight to behold

had been staying there for about an hour. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to get more pictures while the mist tried to cover us from the lens.

I just realized how the rain can make one’s body refreshed and revived. The smell of freshly drenched grass and the cool air made me feel even more alive. I became a bit quicker on our descent and I was able to catch my companions who had been faster than me at the first leg of the trek.

But the biggest challenge was the road going back to the registration

Lans being helped by Reijel walk on the side of the muddy path

Lans being helped by Reijel walk on the side of the muddy path

site. Remember the muddy path? Lans and I looked at each other with perturbed looks when we saw newcomers approaching us with mud reaching to their knees.

Our guide helped us walk at the side of the road, trying to keep us from the knee-deep portion of muddied path as much as possible. Mud was heaping beneath our shoes and sandals as we daintily took one step at a time. One had to wait while the other was guided to a safer point. We held on sturdy banana trees lined along the road while Reijel held us on the other hand. It was a tiring walk, much more to our guide who tried to hide his smile while we said jokes along the way.

The rain might have had its spoilers, but it also had its share of beauty. I guess adventures like this one made my trip to Mt. Batulao more memorable. As long as we do our best to be careful, these little irritants would not spoil the real fun behind it.

Too bad, there are no bulaluhan restaurants around the mountain (although they offered halo-halo in such a cold weather). Right after we washed and changed our spoiled clothes (and futilely cleaned my shoes), we took the bus back to Manila. It was going to be a long ride back home, which surprisingly was longer than the two-hour trek going up Mt. Batulao.

Lans and I tarried in our love affair with the mountains, mindless of the road that took us back home. Soon enough, we were already missing the outdoors as we are being brought back to the city filled with artificial lights that pierced the night sky and the smog-filled air.

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Breathing Adventure: Curling the Trail of Mt. Maculot

IMG_20150905_163137Dwelling in the urban life for a long time can drain the senses and dull the emotion. Upon getting into a new job after a short hiatus, I was getting into the toxic mode again. I then realized I can manage my time by treating myself out of the challenges of the marketplace from time to time. I have to get back to nature. And there’s no other way but getting back to the mountains.

With a bunch of close buddies and new friends, we left before sunrise on a Saturday to the province of Batangas to trek Mt. Maculot. Maculot is a Tagalog word for “curly”, which no one could explain why it was named as such. Our ascent was a steep trail riddled with huge rocks. This gave me a jumpstart. My two-day jog ahead was not enough to strengthen my legs.

11951109_500853750081805_287650774244924684_nBefore we started this journey, our good-natured tour guide gave us fresh buko juice. As we drank straight from the fruit, we got to know each other. It’s odd to be the only media person among the group. Amazingly, our tour guide was also a rescue volunteer. He was one of those who responded in a rescue operation of a helicopter crash in this very mountain months ago. Upon hearing his story, I was amazed and confident that we can rely on him in this journey.

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Looking at the view from the Grotto

The woodland trail in Mt. Maculot reminded me of Pico de Loro: the hovering tall trees that served as a shade in our journey, those strange plants and ferns that littered the forest, the huge fallen trees that get in the way, and the huge centipedes that freaked us away…well, at least only two of us girls had goosebumps at their sight. The steep trek exerted much of my legs, however. Thus, we had to be given walking sticks to support us especially on the slippery parts. After an hour, we got to the Grotto. This was only halfway going to the summit.

At the Grotto, we could see a wide view of the city of Cuenca, Batangas. This place serves as a pilgrimage especially during Holy Week. For an easier trek for the devotees, a stone staircase filled with a thousand steps was made. But we loved to get the more foresty route. And we have to go back to this trail to get to the summit.

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One of the roped segments going to the top

The part leading to the top was steeper. There are also two roped segments leading to

The second roped segment near the summit

The second roped segment near the summit

the summit. I realized that strengthening the legs is not enough for this journey. We have to strengthen our arms, too, in order to support our bodies in these roped segments. I thought I was being a survivor when I climbed those ropes.

The summit was not appealing enough except for the distant view of the Taal Volcano,

which was a famous destination for those who visit this area. The summit looked like a

The Taal Volcano seen from the summit of Mt. Maculot

The Taal Volcano seen from the summit of Mt. Maculot

bare area strewn with tall, dry grass. We gathered under the small, lone tree that stood there to eat our lunch. But the summit was not the highlight of the trek. We cannot end this journey without visiting the Rockies.

The grassy trail to the Rockies

The grassy trail to the Rockies

We had to take a long winding road downhill. At the end of the wooded trek, we were welcomed by a grassy trail that made me imagine I was in an African savanna. These tall reeds however cannot block the early afternoon sun. So, it was a relief to rest for a while at a store fondly called 7/11.

Whenever, we are in a journey like this, water is gold for us. As precious as it would be, its price in a store like this could become as expensive as gold, especially for us who are on a budget. So, I had to save the remaining water in my bag in order to survive the rest of the journey. But I don’t have to bring

The Rockies

The Rockies

it for this last leg.

We left our bags for a moment in the 7/11 store in order to get to the Rockies. The Rockies is a lower peak adjacent to Mt. Maculot. We have to do rock climbing to get to the top. This time, we got a more rewarding view. Here is a better view of the Taal Lake.

The Taal Lake

The Taal Lake seen from the top of the Rockies

Too bad, the Taal Volcano was being covered by rain clouds. The sight at the rest of the lake though was fabulous. In order to get a better picture, I had to dare myself at the tip of the rocky edge. Despite of having shaky legs and a throbbing heart, I better get a pose with this

Don't forget to pose at this awesome view :)

Don’t forget to pose at this awesome view 🙂

beautiful view.

The adventure’s over. But my sore legs and feet were just beginning. Florencio, our tour guide was reliable to me especially towards at the end of the journey. Although it was embarrassing, I appreciated him for willingly carrying my bag all throughout the journey. At the descent, I began to get slower and my feet more painful. Oh, well, I was the slowpoke of the team this time. 🙂

But it was a refreshing pain. The pain of getting into the outdoors! The pain that made me know I am alive! What is a life without getting in touch with nature? This job is not what my life accounts for. I have more things to enjoy in life rather than drowning myself in work all the time.

There are still more mountains to explore. See you on the next mountain, then. 🙂

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Breathing Adventure: Why Is It A Mistake Not to Wear Raincoats at Pico De Loro?

At the base of Pico de Loro

At the base of Pico de Loro

Hikers flocked at the registration area at the base of the mountain. While the other tourists had their raincoats, I was convinced that we were insane enough to trek this mountain in our summer gear. The strong rains had forced us to take the beach as our Plan B. But we later had second thoughts as the tricycle drivers assured us that many hikers had already gone up to Pico de Loro.

You read it right. We hiked Pico de Loro on a Sunday while a storm was brewing in Philippine shores. In a desperate attempt to bring all our friends on a weekend, we met on the day rains were raging in an isolated province two hours away from Manila. Still, it was a memorable hike, as all our other adventures were being unique in its odd fashion.

The rainforest along the trail

The rainforest along the trail

Pico de Loro became immensely popular these months as yuppies in my generation have dared to take hiking travels not found in Manila. Rising at 664 masl (meters above sea level), this mountain sits in the boundary of the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. The Spanish conquistadores who came to the Philippine Islands named this as such for its peak looked like a parrot’s beak from afar. For one to get there, we had to take a bus to Cavite, drop off at a remote point in the town of Ternate, and take a long tricycle ride to Pico’s base.

In every hike we took, we made sure that we had enough budget to survive. The tricycle ride, which was at 200 pesos, was more expensive than the approximately 80 peso bus ride. Registration at DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) at the base was only at 25 pesos. But since we were first timers and the weather was bad, we decided to have a tour guide with us. If there are five people in the group, the tour guide would only cost around 1000 pesos. Even though a tour guide is not mandatory, I’d really recommend that you should have one whenever you visit this mountain. Especially when trekking on a slippery road to the top.

They lent us walking sticks. I felt miserable not to have a raincoat in my baggage but I was relieved to have a walking stick with me. This helped me have a good balance and it kept me from skidding down the trail. I purchased trash bags to cover my bag and my head and shoulders. Although I tried to hike with an open umbrella, I tucked it back to my bag so as not to disrupt my balance in this rainy trail.

Our tour guide, Marvin, as he held on to the bamboo shoots and sturdy trees against the slippery trail

Our tour guide, Marvin, as he held on to the bamboo shoots and sturdy trees against the slippery trail

No matter how I tried to keep my feet dry, I was compelled to sink my feet into the cold waters as we crossed the currents

The creek near the base of the mountain

The creek near the base of the mountain

of the rocky creek at the start of the trek. We were walking deeper and deeper into the foresty path. The tall, flourishing trees were covering the skies. The rain kept on pouring and the winds were howling loudly. I came to the point wondering what we were doing in the heart of a rain forest in this rainy season.

The guide, named Marvin, helped us to keep from slipping on the steep and slippery parts of the trail. The rains had made the trail even more dangerous, as mud had already made it quite precarious. I commend him for being gracious enough to make sure that none of us would have accidents in this journey and for carrying my immensely, heavy bag. Unfortunately, he had slipped on the trek a number of times when we descended back to the base.

IMG_20150705_112318Fallen trees, steep trails, and bamboo groves. These littered in the forest, giving us an enchanted feel. Add that up with torrents of rain, we looked like going into a jungle war zone. But coming upon the bamboo groves near the first peak, it gave me the feeling of entering an elfin kingdom. A sudden change of scenery mystified us for a while. But the heavy mist held back the wonderful scenery which everybody was talking about and posting in social media.

The elfin magic was demystified by stalls and stores that were set up near the

A few stores sat on the peak offering for tourists coffee or food

A few stores sat on the peak offering for tourists coffee or food

peak. Plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable trash thrown by irresponsible tourists littered near these stores. Marvin told me that authorities are going to take action to remove them from the site. It was already mandated that these were already banned in order to avoid trash on this mountain. I just hope they would take this action soon. I just even hope that more tourists would be considerate enough to bring home their own trash.

No one dared to climb the monolith at the very peak. That was supposedly the “parrot’s beak”. Although there was still remaining trail to reach the top, we decided not to go through it, since the sightless view would just be equally disappointing.

That structure beyond the mist was where the famous monolith sits upon

That structure beyond the mist was where the famous monolith sits upon

Instead, we posed for pictures in the cold, cold rain.

The trail going down was becoming more perilous as the rains would

The slippery trail going down

The slippery trail going down

not stop. The plastic bags on my head and shoulders were slowly being ruined so I ended up being drenched all over. We had to climb down carefully, holding on to trees and our walking sticks with care. At that point, I appreciated our trek on this mountain even more. Perhaps, because I became quite faster in trekking mountains despite of this unsafe path. Maybe because I was confident to put my weight on this walking stick. Or maybe because I had trekked a few mountains already.

When we came to the creek, I knew it was almost over. I felt like I’ve conquered more than the peak or the monolith. I guess, I have conquered my fear of losing balance over a perilous trail. I have survived a dangerous trek in such a bad weather.

See you again soon, Pico de Loro :)

See you again soon, Pico de Loro 🙂

But because we have not been on the top of the monolith, I swore to myself that I will come back again the parrot’s beak. I knew it will just stay and wait for me. But, let me wait for the sun to shine again.

We had to eat something hot before taking a shower in an apartelle quite far from the mountain. We wanted clean, warm water to wash with but we ended up having cold, tap water. At almost 7 pm, we were able to take a bus back to Manila. The rains still have not stopped even as I got home.

Back at home, I wondered if I could ever dare to climb that monolith when I return. I tried to imagine the scene that I might find at the top of the peak. But at this moment, I had to enjoy that warm cup of coffee and let my feet bask in that hot tub of water after surging through that long, chilly ride home. 🙂

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