Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘Philippines’

Breathing Adventure: Unveiling the Heavens at Mt. Timbak (Part 1 of the Atok-Baguio tour)

The cold weather at Baguio was nothing compared to the freezing temperature at Atok in Benguet. Still, I was confident in my three-layered clothing as we arrive at Baguio’s Dangwa Station. The two-hour 74-peso ride to Atok was a thrill in itself. Atok is an almost untouched abode as the pine trees tower proudly along the meandering Halsema Highway, which goes higher and higher to one of the highest points in the Philippines.

The blanket of clouds, the lush green mountains, the cold, fresh air and the ocassional whiff of chicken dung were signs we were already in Atok. The region’s climate is perfect for farming and agriculture. Patches of cabagges and lettuce could be seen lined up on the side of the mountains. Wild flowers are vibrantly growing in some of the farmland. We were enjoying the view while getting a bit dizzy in this rollercoaster ride. The bus was old and a bit rugged, but the aged driver has managed to smoothly pass the freaky sharp curves and winding lanes that could go on forever.

We were instructed to register at Atok’s Municipal Hall in Sayangan before beginning any tour. My heart sank when we learned that the Northern Blossom Flower Farm was closed,* but the young tour guides have offered us two packages. We opted for the one with Mt. Timbak. It costs about Php1,500 because it includes three other tourist spots and a van that would take us to these places. The price is meant for five people, but my friend and I were willing to take it at any cost.

If taking that tour option, I suggest you should start with Mt. Timbak first. The travel time from the jump-off point to the top of the mountain could take about 15 to 20 minutes through car (or van in our case). Otherwise, it could be taken in an hour by foot (or two hours if you take loads of selfies). Ice, our tour guide, offered us to stay for a night at a transient house on the mountain before we continue with the rest of the tour on the next day. A night at a transient house costs only Php200. But if you are brave enough to brace the cold weather in a tent, one night in the mountain costs only Php100.

The potted plants at our host’s house. These are sold from about Php25 to Php100, depending on their sizes. I’m just afraid they won’t survive in Manila. 😦

Our host, Josie Camsol, told us that tourism plans at Atok has only started on February this year. She said her family is used to mountaineers dropping by their house. She admitted she does not want to charge her visitors, but representatives from the Tourism Department have instructed locals to do so. I believe these instructions are made to help Atok’s residents as tourism is a financially viable industry.

White astromeria are quite common in Atok, as well as other beautiful flowers.

Cactus thrive in Atok

Locals don’t advise you to eat these berries, but they say some are brave enough to try them and found out that they were edible…although not tasty.

The afternoon became lazier as the clouds have completely covered the scenery. We tried to pitch a tent on the balcony, but we ended up spending the night inside the house.

By the break of dawn, we trekked the summit to catch the sunrise. We were lucky because our host’s farm is located on the summit. I was amazed with the astromerias and the daisies that stood stoic in the cheery, cold wind. The cabbage heads, although not ripe for harvest, appeared sumptuous as they were covered with dew. They became more alive when the golden rays touched them. The sun was already stretching itself from sleep behind the nearby mountains.

As the third highest peak in Luzon, Mt. Timbak offers a grand view of nearby towns like Kabayan. The sea of clouds could be seen on the nearby mountains. Mt. Pulag clearly hovered the others on the other side. Hello, pet, it’s been three years since I first fell in love with you.

A station of the cross sits solemnly the other side of Mt. Timbak. One can pass there upon descending. Everything around the mountain is simply breathtaking and I cannot help but thank God for His wonderful creation.

We thanked our host and her family for accomodating us before we embarked in the second leg of our tour. It was 8 am, but the clouds were starting to descend upon the mountains again, slowly covering the lush farmland. The heavens seem to have given us a sneak peak of Mt. Timbak’s beauty only for today. But the place is enveloped into their sanctuary again because they want to preserve this treasure for generations to come.

From right: yours truly, Josie Camsol, her husband and my friend Tina.

* As of this writing, the Northern Blossom Flower Farm will re-open on Sept. 25, 2018. It is currently closed due to the replanting season as the flowers were already harvested.

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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: 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: 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: Swimming With The Whales (Lost in Cebu Part 3)

The roar of the sea waves was like a bewitching song entertaining us as we dined on crunchy danggit (salted, dried fish), fried rice and fried eggs. It was our breakfast on our first day, rather night, at Oslob. We had arrived at the southern tip of Cebu after a long ride from the city, a trek from the mountain and a wandering search for our guest house while riding a tricycle. Locals seem wary of foreign visitors who curiously poke their noses into their laid-back, rural lifestyle while children were the first to jump in to guide oblivious tourists like us. Just like any other barrio (little town), eateries would close as early as 8pm expect for Paul and Madz which served a satisfactory meal paired with orange juice and hot chocolate. 

A meal of danggit with friend eggs and rice, paired with hot chocolate and orange juice.

The roaring sea waves made me more thrilled to see whale sharks or the butanding the next day. These gentle giants have made Oslob a popular tourist destination as tourists are allowed to see them up close and personal (but no touching is allowed). I love animals and the butanding itself is a fascination to me. However, the weather, gloomy as ever, was threatening to cut operations early. The caretaker of our guesthouse has told us the Coast Guard has called off the whale watching operations by 9am that day due to dangerously strong currents. Supposedly, operations end by 12nn.

We were hopeful, still. After a strong downpour during the early hours of the morning, we headed to the whale watching station before operations start at 6am. Foreign tourists outnumber local tourists in jam-packed queues which was beginning to grow longer because cashier windows were not opening yet. An operator told us the Coast Guard was still checking if it’s safe to hold operations today because the winds and the waves were strong. By that time, I was already assuring myself there’s always a next time to go back to Cebu.

Boats gathered at the whale watching site.

It was past 6am when operations were allowed to begin. Before I’d forget, whale watching costs about Php300 while swimming with the whales is at Php500. That’s for the local rate. Foreign rates are more expensive. You can go for the first option if you’re seasick (which one of us did not realize until we were at the sea). The second option will provide you not only a close encounter with the butanding but with other sights hidden in the sea. We thought we’d miss the opportunity of capturing moments with the butanding because we do not own a GoPro camera. We were able to rent one at the whale watching station at Php550.

Me, along with my friends, swimming with the whales.

I’m not a good swimmer, but I would love to take a dive into the sea. I admit I was scared of diving especially when the boatmen told us to remove our life vests so we can sink into the waters. Non-swimmers are advised to hold unto the rafter so we would not sink. But these guys are ready to save you before you float away into the sea. 

A fisherman feeding the butanding which was swimming beside his boat.

The fishermen were feeding the butanding with a breakfast of alamang (krill) when we came into the sea. I was fascinated by how its huge mouth was slurping the waters and munching its food as it moved towards us. There were about five six boats with us and some of the tourists were already taking pictures in a short distance away from the whale (because as I’ve said, touching is not allowed). I guess there were two or three butandings that were swimming among us. Thirty minutes were the only time allowed for each group so we had to jump into the waters to meet the whale!

The butanding ignoring me as I wave behind its back.

When I peeked into the sea, I was marvelled at the size of the whale which was about 5 to 6 meters long. The boatmen told us it was just a baby whale and the mother whale has not visited the area for a long time (hmmm…she might have flipped our boats by then). More fascinating were the fishes called alumahan (a type of mackarel) that were following the whale wherever it swims. The waters would have been clearer if the sun was shining by that time. But we were fortunate to see the whale that day despite the low pressure area that was threatening Cebu for a week. Besides, we were not burned by the heat of the sun. The wearing of sunblock or sunscreen is not allowed because these might become toxic to whales. 

The alumahan swimming with the butanding.

By the time we left the waters, the rains outpoured again. I believe the Lord has favored us by letting the rains stop for a while so we could see the whale. We were thinking of a plan B because this does not seem to be the right time to visit a nearby falls.

Yours truly posing at one of the restaurants by the sea.

Another breakfast of danggit.

The view of the sea at the restaurant.

I was languishing myself on a breakfast of danggit and mango juice because we only had a few hours left in Oslob. Check out time at our guest house, Chateau de Tan-awan, should be at 12nn. Even a night of staying in this place was memorable because it’s clean, quiet and peaceful. As it stood beside, the sound of the waves had lulled me to sleep.

The lounge area at the guest house.

The little souvenir shop at the guest house.

So we had to travel again to find another tourist spot. We barely had two days left in Cebu so we were not leaving without seeing much of the island. We got options though. We’re willing to risk for these options for the sake of collating beautiful memories.

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: 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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