I had quite the adventure last Monday, and leading up to it. I had been wanting to hike up Mt. Masalakot and Nalayag Rocks since I saw photos of its monolith, but this guy from Instagram warned me that there had been news of militia in the area in September. That’s never a risk I want to take, despite assurances that they leave civilians alone. So I looked for another option, defaulting back to my favorite province of Rizal.
Mt. Lubog was a promising choice, its altitude and difficulty perfect for a day hike, and with Panintingan Falls as a bonus side trip. The only concern I had was that 2016 was the last and latest entry I could find on it online, and the travelers had mentioned a 2-hour ride on a habal-habal to reach the jump off. I was game for it, but I didn’t know if my companions would be. So I sent the article to them, and when no one seemed put off, that became the plan on the eve of the hike.
The next day, we reached Rodriguez (bordering Rizal and Bulacan) a little before sunrise, and we found a shed of habal-habal drivers next to the market. When I told them where we wanted to go, none of them were eager to take us. They pointed to each other, laughed and shrugged, and basically were not helpful. I was trying to discuss the routes and transfer points and barangay halls mentioned in the outdated blogs I had read, and they shook their heads like I wasn’t making any sense, but were not offering alternative ways. I felt like they were baiting me into begging to be brought there, especially when the topic of payment came up.
When I asked how much it would cost for our group of 4, one of them averted my gaze and said “kayo na po bahala, kung magkano gusto niyo.” I joked and said that if they left it up to me, I’d pay them P5; and insisted that they give me their rate. There was silence and awkward hesitation, which made me feel like they were trying to gauge if they could hike up the price on me (because we came in a private vehicle?)
When one of them was obviously trying to get me to divulge what rates I had seen online, I was at the end of my patience. By this time, we had been dancing around these negotiations for almost 20 minutes and the sun was almost fully in the sky. With my exasperation growing, one of them finally responded with a price double what I had researched. I shook my head and walked back to my car.
I despise being duped, especially by my own countrymen. It’s a sensitive subject for possibly another entry, but if you’ve ever wondered why our tourism sucks compared to other southeast asian countries (when our country is the most beautiful), this is one of the causes. Some communities don’t afix values to sights and services because they want to have the chance at a higher profit at any time and by any means. It’s disgusting. At Pilipino na ako, ha? Mas lalo na sa mga bisita natin.
Determined to make the most of the day, I looked around the nearby mountains and found a comfort spot: Wawa, where I had gone on a twin hike of Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Binacayan, and a trail run on Mt. Parawagan, on separate occasions. In less than 15 minutes, we arrived, registered at the barangay hall and DENR, were issued receipts, and ready to start climbing Mt. Hapunang Banoi. Its name roughly translates into “where eagles rest,” and is the highest peak among the 3 in its trilogy.
I had a premonition that something was going to happen on this hike. Heavy dreams disturbed my sleep the previous night, and I had a nagging feeling I couldn’t shake off. At the barangay hall that morning, I was the only one given a waiver. I teased the attendant, asking if I was the only one who would need it (in other words, get injured). When the trail had shifted from soil to rock, Archie had asked me if I had gloves, and I said I’d be fine so long as nothing happens to my face. Well, true enough. All of it. It was as if my angels were hinting at my impending accident, and I ignored them. ? Listen, Kaye!
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Yesterday’s hike was humbling. I learned not to let my guard down, no matter how familiar the terrain feels. It reminded me never to take a single step for granted. Reaching the summit is far from the end of the journey. The confidence I had slowly built on my footing was shattered in seconds, and I suddenly became so unsure of what I could and couldn’t do after that. I was shaken and sore and anxious about our descent, but after about an hour or so, I regained some of my certainty. Just a tiny bit of what was lost, but I’m thankful for my resilient spirit. . I went to the hospital for a tetanus shot today, and upon seeing my cuts and bruises, a doctor commented “that’s why I hate hiking.” Despite what had happened, I almost recoiled at her statement, but managed to say, “oh, but I love it.” It constantly teaches me to be on my toes, to solve problems on the fly, and to cope with setbacks. Though I love finding new landscapes on my climbs, it’s discovering things about myself that I appreciate most about my nature trips. Today, I may be bruised, but I am not broken. . It was such a beautiful day. Thanks for the company, @mabuhaykers @martyarnaldo @gemcabats @mattpadrigan ! Wearing my all-tropical-weather @wandersolesph . . . . . #philippines #myphilippines #pilipinas #mountains #mountainsph #hike #hiking #hiker #travel #traveling #traveler #instatravel #travelgram #inspiration #nature #adventure #explore #outdoors #landscape #view
After our descent, we headed for the “secret river” on the other side of town. The boat man laughed and said it was no longer a secret because people have been spreading word about its existence. We hopped on a yellow bangka, and motored upstream, away from the dam’s spillway. It was a very short ride, passing some very shallow parts that made me fear for the boat’s propeller, but the guy knew his stream. In less than 10 minutes, we docked on a shore across the dam, and walking inland, we saw water that was clearer and cooler on the ground. This was apparently from the waterfall behind Mt. Pamitinan, just across Mt. Hapunang Banoi.
They told us that the river is deeper during the rainy season, but the best time to come is after that, when the currents have settled, and the water is gorgeous, deep blue. Noted! Who wants to come next August?
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This beautiful place is home to an even more loving community. We were only just approaching the mountain when we saw a local man having a seizure on the bridge. Those nearby immediately rushed toward him, and a few shouts was all it took for help to arrive. Along the trail, people politely nodded to each other, gave warm greetings, or even chitchatted about their families. I overheard our guide asking a man to help him gather wood for a new table; another complimented a neighbor on the quality of his vegetables for this harvest. (Far too many) said they cleaned up after irresponsible tourists to keep the environment clean — I said they wouldn’t have to if…, but they shrugged and said they do. A lady, who let us sit by her house on the water, talked with such pride about how blue and full their “secret river” is in August or September. They understand and appreciate that their lives are peaceful and comfortable because of what surrounds them. Their lives are simple, but they do not have impoverished minds. This beautiful community makes this a lovely place. . . . . . #Mabuhaykers #Philippines #MyPhilippines #pilipinas #mountains #river #marble #limestone #rock #nature #outdoors #hiking #hike #hiker #travel #traveling #traveler #instatravel #travelgram #rizal #rodriguez #wawa #MountainMonday #explore #community
After that, in true Mabuhaykers tradition, we wanted to find a non-chain restaurant to eat in. I had gotten them hyped about the unli-sisig birthday meal I had after our camping traverse of Mt. Balagbag-Mt. Maranat, but after chasing 2 Vanitea branches on Waze and getting stuck in plenty of North Quezon City traffic, we waved the white flag and ended up somewhere on Commonwealth-Regalado. The place is called Nitz Restaurant (since 1977), it looked clean, and the prices were decent. I was so hungry I got the Beef Mami and the Spicy Beef Rice Bowl for P100 each. Now, I can’t isolate the fact the I was starving and tired, but both were really good. That meal was a fitting way to end our excursion, as they were both simple but satisfying.
The best part about it was, it was only about 4:00 pm. There truly is so much we can do in one day!
Hmmm, next destination ideas, anyone?