Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘nature’

Breathing Adventure: Touching the Heavenly Abode At Mt. Ulap

There’s no other place like Benguet. Sitting beside Baguio, many have fallen in love with this place because of its fresh air, scenic views, and alpine-covered slopes that resemble a bit of Europe’s fairy-tale forests. Besides that, Benguet boasts of giant mountains that defy the deities by touching the heavens. Among these is Mt. Ulap, which lives up to its name because it welcomes its visitors into the cradle of the heavenlies. 

Is it a deer? Nope. It’s a cow hiding as a deer. How’s that for an enchanted forest? 🙂

We left Cubao at 10pm to ensure we’d arrive at Benguet by 4 or 5am. First-timers are estimated to take an 8 to 10-hour trek on the mountain. 

The glorious sunrise was a wonderful opening to this long hike. Ever since my old phone has been damaged due to this poor writer’s absent-mindedness at the beach, I never imagined I would be able to catch again a momentous moment that actually happens everyday.

The hike was not as tiring as I first expected. It was one of the most refreshing hikes I had since I had my first taste of wonder at Mt. Pulag in 2015. 

The wind was cool enough to lessen the sting of the rising sun. I was surprised I did not consume a liter of water as I only brought a small canister with me. I decided not to tire myself with a backpack. I wanted to have the liberty of freeing my back from such heavy load. Besides, I enjoyed having my own stick, which I had bought at the registration area. I can be a good memorabilia after the hike.

There are three peaks at Mt. Ulap. The first peak already has amazing views itself.

Stone markers that tourists would like to build as proof they were once here.

Along the way, I took a moment to listen to the bird that was singing its praises to the Creator, who had artfully sculpted the beauty that I saw all around.

The Gungal Rock, which was the second peak, has been the most challenging one. One has to be loaded with guts to cross the sloping rocks to pose for a rocking profile pic.

Most breathtaking of them all is the last and highest peak.

Mt. Ulap would never be called as it is without the clouds that had slyly curtailed our wide-eyed, sun-kissed faces. The evergreen slopes beyond was playfully peeking behind those rising white pillars while we pranced and jumped around to get that perfect, perfect shot!

After going down a short but very steep portion of the mountain, we were finally relieved when we dropped by Mt. Ulap’s 7-Eleven. Oh, yes! More ref magnets to collect!

The descent at Mt. Ulap has been developed by installing makeshift wooden stairs. Lans, my friend who organized this trip, told me there were no manmade steps when they first trekked here in 2016. Mt. Ulap has just been officially opened in 2015 so it only took only awhile to improve the more dangerous path.

What I’ve appreciated most in this trip was the camaraderie that has been developed among the group. Most of us were unknown to one another at the start but most of us have became clingy to one another at the end of the trek. That’s why hiking is more enjoyable than beach. The challenges we face in the mountains are actually refining us to become stronger individuals and to make stronger bonds of friendship. 

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Catching Dragonflies

I don’t know if most kids still know how to catch dragonflies nowadays. I doubt if any of them still do, especially those who live in cities where trees and plants are almost non-existent. It seems they have settled their childhood on iPads and YouTube, leaving me with the impression my childhood days were better than theirs.

Childhood for me was simple and bliss, peppered with memories of Gummy Worms, colored gum, matchbox cars and Japanese anime series. I never owned a game console even though I had drooled for my cousin’s Nintendo, which was filled with Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead, I had loads of playtimes at school. Huge old, mango trees gave us shade when we played touch ball and sipa. The green, growing grass that had brushed our socks and newly, shined leather shoes became home to curious little creatures like the dragonfly.

I don’t know the origin of dragonfly catching. It appears to be buried in the subconsciousness of every active kid born with sunshine and fresh air. My mom told me they also used to catch dragonflies when they were children. Now, it was my turn to catch a few of them. 

These little creatures were quick. While one dragonfly would brush its face with its front feet, I’d slowly and quietly sneak behind it. I’d usually spot them sitting on blades of grass. Snatching it by its wings, I’d then feed it with pieces pf grass. Once it stops eating, I’d let it go. Then, I’d catch another one out of thrill.

Green dragonflies were the most common ones. It would be an honor for anyone who could catch a blue one because it was rarer and quicker. Anyone who catches a red one would be the master of drangonfly hunting. It’s like winning a jackpot and the awe of your classmates when you catch the reddest of them all.

But I’d usually beat the others by catching more dragonflies quickly. One schoolmate once asked for my handful of dragonflies in exchange of chocolate candies I was asking from her (which I obliged for the sake of chocolate). But it was a horror for me to find some kids picking off this insect’s wings one-by-one. I’d never do that to a harmless creature. So, it seemed to be a waste for some kids at school that I would always let go of the dragonflies I have collected at the end of the day. 

These days, I’d only see dragonflies when I go on a hike. Unlike before, I would never dare to touch one because there might only be a few of them living in this sanctuary. But seeing one would always make me excited because it would always be a part of my simple and blissful childhood that might never be experienced by the next generation.

​Breathing Adventure: City Escape to Marikina (Part 1)

For the most part, I’ve been doing my Breathing Adventure series for out-of-Manila trips, particularly those that include hiking and outdoors. This is the first time I’ll be including the cityscape in my Breathing Adventure blog because Marikina is a place worth visiting within the metro.

I had the impression there’s nothing special to see in Manila because it is jam-packed with skyscrapers, state-of-the-art malls, posh family entertainment centers, and monster traffic. I find Manila too exploited and polluted to be enjoyed. Eco-friendly spots like wildlife sanctuaries and parks are slowly deteriorating because the government seems to focus more on infrastructure and housing projects. 
Here’s one part of Manila which does not follow the footsteps of industrialization. Marikina, which sits near the border of the Rizal province, has maintained its pristine quaintness and cleanliness. It keeps on flourishing in its quiet and productive way, as it maintains ordinances that keep toxicity out of the city.

Touring Marikina is like visiting old Manila as old buildings and infrastructure line up the street. The bright blue sky could be seen in the central district because the council does not allow high rise buildings to be built. There’s strict enforcement against littering, so the only trash you would see in the city are fallen leaves.

Shoe lovers should to visit Marikina because it is the Shoe Capital of the Philippines. A little tour at their Shoe Museum would be recommended before you shop for your own pair.

For only Php50, you would find a vast collection of footwear made by Marikina’s finest shoemakers. Most of them are owned by popular personalities in the Philippines.

The shoe walk of fame outside the museum, most are named for big names in the entertainment industry.

A giant shoe that would welcome visitors sits near the entrance

About 80 percent of the collection of shoes belong to Imelda Marcos, wife of former President Ferdinand Marcos and now a congresswoman for Ilocos Norte (ok, if she’s not familiar to you, think where the word ‘imeldific’ came from). 

Being one shoe-obsessed first lady, she had 3,000 pairs of shoes during her 20-year stint in Malacañang. Marikina shoemakers have provided her with 10 pairs a week, aside from the Gucci, Chanel, Charles Jourdan and Beltrami shoes she had in her collection. About 800 pairs were in the museum. And they show that the size of her feet was at 8 ½. 

I couldn’t remember how tall Imelda was because she would be flocked and mobbed by the media when I covered the president’s SONA as an unknown reporter at a small TV station. So, maybe this portrait would give me a clue.

Small as it is, the Shoe Museum features more interesting pairs. From fancy contest clogs to remodeled ancient footwear, these showcase the craftsmanship and the world-class quality of the Filipino sapatero (shoemaker).

A glimpse of Marikina shoemaking history

Shoes made for shoe design competitions.

Another set of shoes made for various shoe design competitions

A set of recreated ancient footwear, proudly made in Marikina. One is a pair of cavalier or pirate boots and the other is a pair of Roman strap sandals.

The museum also keeps shoe-like ornaments from around the world which were kept by Marikina mayors. 

All in all, this museum highlights the skill and artistry of the Marikina shoemaker. It’s something that the city is proud of and I hope they can keep it for generations to come.

A visit to the city would not be complete without walking around and around the Riverbanks. More on my next blog! 

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.

 

Breathing Adventure: Lounging On Mt. Daraitan’s Treacherous Assault

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My heart was at my throat while I was listening at our tour guide’s orientation. For the first time, I felt a little apprehensive against a planned hike. We were told this would not be an easy one but that fact did not dawn on me until that morning. We were about to conquer an assault we have not yet conquered. I never thought my limits would be tested at Mt. Daraitan – at least a portion of it.
With the world still numb in darkness, we were already bustling with excitement as we waited for the van at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was excited on meeting new friends as well as catching up with old buddies. Because this was the first time we had rented a van, I thought we’d be cozy for the rest of the trip.

 

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Riding the raft in pitch darkness

Arriving at Tanay, Rizal two hours later, we were surprised to find a wide river separating us from the jump-off. There’s no other way to get there but to cross the six-feet deep waters through a makeshift raft that was able to carry the ten of us. We had to bring all of our things to the summit because shower was also at the other side. But nature’s whimsical charm had made its way to brush off our little disappointment. The smooth rocks beneath the river peered at us when our lights pierced through the clear, pristine waters. It’s going to be a beautiful adventure.
A short tricycle ride carried us to the registration area. The registration area, which

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The team with their headlights still on

was actually the baranggay hall, was jam-packed. Weekends do make terrible hike dates sometimes, even at such a cold Sunday like this. Though hikers were told an assault would meet them ahead, nobody dared to turn back and let us take the rest of the mountain’s space.
Existing blog posts told us Mt. Daraitan’s difficulty was at 4/9, which was a notch higher than the usual 3/9 level mountains we have visited frequently. Our tour guides, Delo and Marquez (because he said his first name was hard to memorize), told us there are two routes to the top – the hard route and the easy route. The first, which was everybody’s usual way, would take 2 to 3 hours. The other one, which might have been a leisure to most of us, would take about 5 to 6 hours. Forget that one. We have became willing advocates of the tougher road.

 

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A steep ascent ahead

As the pathways were still dark at 5 am, most of us have to rent headlamps for 30 pesos (secretly vowing I will buy one on the next payday – next month). After we huddled to pray for God’s guidance and protection, we immediately trudged off with the long line of tourists. Soft drops of the early morning drizzle were already pelting on our already cold faces.
The ascent was a bit more arduous because some of the pathways were at 80 degrees. Most of the muddy path was littered with huge limestones that either slipped us down or helped us up. Around us were sturdy trees that kept our footing sturdy, shielding us from the treacherous cliffs that lingered on one side. The daylight rendered our headlights useless after an hour. Gray clouds have not been cleared from the skies I expected to be blue that day. The wind then howled like mad above our heads.
We were refreshed as it blew horrendously above us, resonating like a typhoon about

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The sign at the summit

to make a landfall. But at that moment, we were not threatened by its howling angst, because it enlivened our weary muscles. But I could sense these kinds of blustery gusts would soon bring rain. While I welcomed the cool winds, I hoped to have a little bit of sun warm me up for the rest of the day.
The sea of clouds were gone and the fog was lifting up, but the wide, green view welcomed us at the last resting point leading to the summit. The little caves that were hidden in dense rain forests have been left behind. The pain of clutching those sharp limestones was forgotten as we stood before the picture-worthy spot that was about to be blurred by the rising fog. It was beautiful, wondering how green and vivid it would have been without the fog. Still, the view appeared to be a dreamy haze that might be stomped eternally in the minds of campers. It was just 8am in the morning and I had this inkling this sight was better than at the highest point.

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Upon arriving at the summit, it was even more crowded than we expected. True enough, the fog has already covered the view. I would have loved to stay and watch the clouds dissipate but more and more tourists were flocking in the area. If there would be anything memorable there, that would be our group action pose on one of the limestones.

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When superheroes unite on the top of Mt. Daraitan

And this strange plant that was hidden behind other plants at the edge of the summit. Can anyone know what it is? I would gladly appreciate your help.

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We proceeded to descend to the Tinipak River. Not yet halfway there, the rain started to fall. In a short moment, it became a downpour that slowed a few of us down. We held onto sturdy trees to keep us from rolling down. This was a crucial part of the trek because it still involved steep pathways and edgy rocks. I was irritated because of the seemingly endless rain that only stopped when we arrived at the foot of the mountain (to which the rest of our group clapped when we came there dripping wet).

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Gazing at the current of the Tinipak River

The rains have subsided after we took lunch in a hut beside the river. Not wasting the moment, we went to see and wade our feet into the sandy waters of the Tinipak River. From its name (“tinipak” means “chopped off piece” in Tagalog), huge rocks towered along the river’s meandering path. The murky current slices through the verdant Mt. Daraitan and another mountain, sleepily looking down at us as we frolicked on the sabulous riverbed. The roaring sound of the hasty current was memorable, as if its waters were washing away our wp-image-1656096907jpg.jpgtired souls.
The pathway back to the jump-off was lovelier. The captivating landscape garnished with lush, green grass and tiny, yellow flowers seemed to have transported us to a portion of Middle-earth. At our left side, the river’s current became stronger and louder. Some portions of the pathway were danger zones though because of the falling rocks ahead. We needed to hurry and to be alert especially that many are

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The pathway back to reality

crossing that path. Horses carrying loads of goods would rush past us. Ahead, the tricycles were waiting to ferry us back into reality.

 
Instead of crossing the river through a raft, we crossed the hanging bridge. It was sturdy but my head nearly spun as I wobbled while walking on the metal steps. Seeing the river below, the pristine waters

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Collecting guts at the hanging bridge

 

were already replaced by murkier waters caused by the wild current. At the other side where we came from, people were flocking for the next boat ride that has not arrived yet.
I turned back to the mountain which is now shrouded by rain clouds. Hiking season has almost come to a close because of the rainy season. But I guess no season would be able to dictate when we should stop. I bet the bad weather did not dampen our enthusiasm in this adventure and the mud did not spoil the fun we had in our visit to Mt. Daraitan.

 

 

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The whole adventure team posing after another adventure at Mt. Daraitan

Breathing Adventure: When the Heavens Come Down (A Twin Peak Adventure At Mt. Cuyabo-Mt. Maynoba)

I felt like entering into twilight zone as the tricycle bumped into the pitch-black road at Brgy. Cuyabo in Tanay, Rizal. This is the first time our team were able to set out very early in the morning. It was almost 5am and the three of us did not have a bit of sleep the night before. All of us booked for a tour group for Mt. Batolusong, which disappointingly, did not show up at our designated meeting place.

But we were determined to set out into the wilderness again. Packed with our heavy bags and a reliable data connection, we reviewed directions from travel blogs and soon found ourselves at Mt. Cuyabo and Mt. Maynoba.

This twin peak is an almost-new hiking destination in South Luzon. Surrounded by other popular mountains like Mt. Irid, Mt. Cuyabo and Mt. Maynoba are relatively small. However, they boost this one sighting that would only be seen when you arrive there at the right time.

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Past 5am and we were beginning to trudge along the damp trail lined with dew-covered grass. The trail became suddenly steep at the foot of Mt. Cuyabo. But that was just the beginning.

We could hear the birds singing their wild but glorious morning call among the dense forest leading to the summit. There was a faint fog that brought a slight chill over my face. This made the hike lovelier, although the initial trail was bringing pressure to my legs. Almost halfway, I was sweating too much and nearly dead-tired. It was tempting to rest for long periods, not until I turned around and saw the sea of clouds.

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This is heaven on earth! I thought I could only see such a sight on Mt. Pulag. The mountains surrounding us shyly covered themselves in the pure, white blanket of clouds from a distance. However, they were beginning to fizzle off from the morning kiss of the great, golden sun so we have to get to the summit as quick as we can.

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It was a sight to behold. The Great Artist had lovingly stroke different hues of blue and faint yellow on His favorite sky blue canvas above our heads. The sound of birds seem to cheer gleefully at His masterpiece while they flitted around His watercolor palette. But it’s a fleeting artwork, because He’s planning to create a new one soon. And because we love keeping memories, we have endlessly made selfies beside His work. This is the moment when we would love to pull out a guitar and sing a heartfelt song of praise. I hope we could do that next time.

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We rested and ate breakfast for a while at Mt. Cuyabo. There was still another mountain to conquer. Sherwin, our tour guide, told us we would try our best to see the clouds on Mt. Maynoba’s summit. But 8am and now sleep-deprived, we missed a better view of the sea of clouds over Mt. Maynoba.

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The sun was a bit crueler by this time. Her rays had finally fizzled the rest of the clouds that once covered the sleepy mountains. Yet, Mt. Cuyabo appeared greener as we viewed it from the peak of Mt. Maynoba.

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Our adventure does not end here yet. If you think the sea of clouds is the only highlight of this place, there are more to see beyond this twin peaks. There are eight waterfalls to visit before the trail ends.

But we need a shut eye first…or I’ll end up clawing the damp soil towards the falls.

Our tour guide led us a to a corner where the tall grass has been cleared away. This is where campers would set up their tents for an overnight stay. We spread our jackets and raincoats over the still damp grass to finally have the sleep that we’ve been craving for.

I opened my eyes to see gray clouds hovering over me. My friends have also awakened. I felt like napping for about a few minutes but I was surprised we had dosed off for an hour!

We had gained enough strength to continue the trek. Since it was a Saturday, the tourists were almost closely lined up at some parts of the trail. Fortunately, we don’t get to bump into each other at the steeper portions, especially at the roped segments. More fortunately, we had a good sleep before that or I might roll myself downwards until I reach the falls.

The sound of gushing water could be heard at a near distance as I slowly balanced myself at the rock-laden, downhill trail that had my head spinning for a while. When we got to the falls, we sat down and took lunch.

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It was not a huge waterfalls, but it’s still refreshing to stay before it was kept hidden among the hills and the tall trees. The waters were cool and refreshing but we were just to tired to dip into it. Instead, I waded through these waters when we began our trail back.

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Curious little creatures and insects hovered over the pristine waters of the stream the flowed from the falls. Giant blue dragonflies rested on the enormous green leaves that flourished beside the waters. One huge, dark-colored butterfly covered the sunlight that inched itself between the dense little forest of greens. This is the kind of place I would want to wake up to in the morning, but also the one that can’t be carried back to the tainted and crowded suburbs we knew as home.

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We passed by the other waterfalls that were smaller than the one we stayed. It was noon and the trek was about to end. Small rice paddies that cradled a

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little hut on its corner were already looming as we hit the last leg of the visit. Houses could be seen lined up along a cemented road at a distance. The paradise was already far away. We were already back at the registration site.

It’s an achievement that we were able to come and end the tour early, without having the troubles of being late. The disappointing meet-up turned out to be a blessing in the end. Besides, we saved much on our expenses when we had our own tour. The travel group had charged us with a bigger fee.

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It’s great when these little unexpected circumstances bring you to more awesome moments. It just takes that determination to shove off the disappoinment and breakaway into the wonderful unknown.

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

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