One Minute Plan B : Daraitan Challenge

IMG_5460

Who would have thought that Rizal Province is not just merely a highly urbanized community, home of some of the Philippine’s National Artists and cradle of celebrities’ rest houses. The long Sierra Madre Mountain Range passed this province. And when you say mountain range, chains of beautiful mountains dotted the line. If you’re planning to have a quick escapade near the busy Metro Manila, try going to Daraitan just 3 hour drive from the Metro and the splendor of Nature will greet you.

IMG_5469

(Travel buddies)

Six in the morning off we went to see this paradise west of Manila. Together with my travel buddies from Santolan Station we rode Fx to Tanay Public Market. The three hour drive was not boring because we never ran out of stories to share to each other. Laughter. Gossips. Chitchats. We didn’t notice we’re already at Tanay. From Tanay, we bought things we need . Catching or getting a tricycle is quite hard because you need to have a good bargaining skills. Tricycle drivers charge expensive fares. After minutes of negotiating, we rode tricycle bound to Daraitan.

IMG_5472(Farmville in Daraitan.)

The road to Daraitan is challenging for the tourists. Rocky, muddy and concrete. But nevertheless we didn’t mind. Upon arriving at Brgy Daraitan, we crossed the river to get to the other side. We rode tricycle again going to Barangay Hall. We registered and secured a guide in Barangay Hall. The original plan of climbing Mt. Daraitan was changed since we arrived too late and the weather is not good for hiking. Few minutes of orientation and we were ready. We decided to spelunk, swim and rock hop at Tinipak River instead.

IMG_5470

The trail was muddy that day. But then again, we didn’t mind. Hehe 🙂 . After 15 minutes of walking…

IMG_5468

The bedazzling marbled jewel of Tinipak is really spectacular. Awed on how the water sculpted the rocks, on how the green hues blended perfectly on white marble, on how the noise of rushing water can calm your weary soul. Trailing the way along Tinipak River was fully jampacked adventure. Slippery intermittent muddy rocks, wall climbing, rapelling is present. Few minutes more and the paradise of Tinipak River greeted us.

IMG_5455(Scattered white rocks. Serene water)

IMG_5446

(Columns of marble. Traces of past mining activities)

IMG_5445

(Just perfect!)

IMG_5461

(Green green green.)

IMG_5464

(Mountains over here. Mountains over there.)

IMG_5474

High walls of stones, giant trees, colored of scattered big boulders of marble crowned the Tinipak’s main seat. Tired and hungry we settled on sandy area of the river and we shared canned tunas, rice, eggs and water. After eating we made our way to spelunk in Tinipak’s underground cave.

IMG_5459(Icing of the cake)

IMG_5473

The underground cavities are really dark. Illuminated by flashlights crystals glow and the chandeliers of Nature hanged above us…

IMG_5503

(Beautiful than any swarovski crystal, right?)

Inside the cave water clean water is flowing. So lamig!

IMG_5458

And the highlight of this trip? Swimming of course. 🙂

How to get there?

1. Ride FX or jeep bound to Tanay. Alight at Tanay Public Market. (Php70)

2. Ride tricycle or jeep to Daraitan. Jeep to Daraitan leave at 1 pm. (Php100 tricycle fare. Php60 jeep fare)

3. From Daraitan cross the river to get to the other side by riding a raft. (RT Php)

4. Ride tricycle to baranggay hall. (Php10)

5. Register and secure a guide. (Php50 registration. Php500 guide)

6. Start adventure 🙂

Scattered Gem of Alaminos; Hundred Islands

IMG_4814Philippines, a country consist of 7,107 islands. These islands offered different sceneries and panoramic views to those who want to explore its beauty. Being an archipelagic country, Philippines is well-known for its beaches and beautiful underwater world. If you are Filipino, you are familiar with the group of island they called “Hundred Islands”. With the promotion of national and local government, the sets of islands became famous around the globe for its beauty and unique formation.

IMG_4815Hundred Islands is located in Alaminos, Pangasinan. The islands (124 at low tide and 123 at high tide) are scattered in the Lingayen Gulf and cover an area of 18.44 square kilometers (4,557 acres). Many legends narrate the origin of the Hundred Islands. One legend says that the island originates from the over turned boats and bodies of one hundred warriors that engage in a fierce mortal sea combat against invaders. To commemorate the braveness of the warriors, their god immortalized them by turning them into islands.

IMG_4816

According to scientific study the islands are estimated to be two million years old. The islands are actually ancient corals that extend well inland, in an area previously comprising the seabed of an ancient sea. Lowering sea levels have exposed them to the surface and the peculiar “mushroom”-like shapes of some of the islands have been caused by the eroding action of the ocean waves. Of all the 124 islands only three of them have been developed for tourists: Governor Island, Quezon Island, and Children’s Island.

IMG_4795

To get there, you need to rent a boat that will bring you to the islands from Alaminos port. The rent depends on what package you choose, but always beware of fixers. From the port, you will see the islands from afar. The islands look like common mass of land and seemed to nothing special.

IMG_4792

The travel from the port to the first island you pass is approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As you approach the first islet, you will be amazed on the breath-taking views. The islands that look like long mass of land from afar, but when closely approach looks like drops of emeralds floating in sapphire blue sea. Looking down in the water you can see the bottom of the sea. The crystal clear sea-water provided a glimpse of marine biodiversity. The white sand underneath the sea looks like pulverized corals.

IMG_4794

One by one the hidden islands from afar were being uncovered. Islands that seemed to be lump mass of soil are made up of limestone. The rocky islands were been sculpted by the waves of the sea and the top of each island is magnificently adorned of greeneries. The foliage has provided shelter for animals. Different shapes of rocks that surround every islands added marvelous sights and memorable beauty. Every island has a name. Some of the islands were named after the president and notable people of the Philippines.

IMG_4797

You may request the boat driver to drop you off in islands but some islands are not suitable for hoping. Some islands are really rocky and no beach to serve as parking space for the boat. One of the islands that you may set afoot is the Governor’s Island. You can see partial view of scattered islands on the top of Governor’s Island. But before you can see the panorama, you need to climb series of rocky steps to reach the top. The spiky rocks and deep ravines are present while climbing that’s why you should be extra careful and you should at least wear sneakers. I must admit, if you are not used to climb high places you will be having a hard time to reach the top. But as soon as you reach the view deck of the island a picturesque and paradise view will be the showcase of your climbing. Islands of various sizes, atolls and rocks that have white sand beaches are surrounded by beautiful blue water. If you want to stay a little bit longer in Governor’s Island at want your skin to be tanned you may swim around the island.

Another island that you can hop-in is the Quezon Island. Quezon Island boasts white sand beach and wonderful rock formations. Inlets and cavities of rocks added beauty and pristine on the island. Since Quezon Island was one of the three islands developed for tourist, there are available facilities and resort in the island.

IMG_4791

You may also visit the Cathedral Island that really has a resemblance in a cathedral. It is a hollow cave that echoes your voice as you speak. The cave interior can be compared to a massive cathedral with rugged features. The coralline limestones hanging in the cave’s ceiling are like chandeliers that give sparkles as the light from your flashlight illuminates the cave. If you are into spelunking, Cathedral Cave is ideal for you.

Marcos Island offers another view compared to other island. Inlets and hollow cavities is a must see feature of the island. In my own opinion, it has the most powdery white sand and crystal clear water among the entire island. You should try swimming in the dark Imelda Cave of the island. But always remember to wear life vest when swimming, the water inside the cave leads you back to the shore. If you love adventure diving in Imelda cave and plunging into its deep water will also give you a great experience.

.IMG_4799

Hundred Islands is protected by the government. It is a fragile gem of the archipelagic Philippines that contains role in economy, biodiversity, solaces for those who love Mother Nature and formation of the world.

The hundred islands, being a nesting place for various fishes and sea creatures nurtures and restore their population. Migratory birds also nestle in the island. Since most of the foliage of the islands was not coveted by humans, animals have found shelter.

IMG_4776

(Yours truly in Alaminos Port Light House)

Secret of Panguil; The Beauty of Buntot Palos Falls

(It is given. Laguna is a province blessed with unique landscapes, green mountains, cool bodies of water and rich historical treasure. We all know the mighty Pagsanjan Falls, Mount Makiling, Rizal Shrine and so many attractions that you must see. But ever heard of Buntot Palos Falls?)

IMG_3437

If you think that Pagsanjan Falls is the only must-see waterfalls in this province you are very much wrong. Buntot Palos (Eel’s Tail) is the hidden grandeur located in the town of Panguil. Finding a perfect place for weekend escapade have made me browse hidden wonders of Laguna; and Buntot Palos Falls not that famous like Pagsanjan Falls topped the list. With my curiosity and wandering feet itching to see this wonder made me plan and write-down itinerary for the whole trip. Together with my officemates, off we went to see and marvel in this hidden beauty one fine Saturday morning.

We met-up in EDSA Shaw and upon completion of the group, we rode jeep bound to Tanay, Rizal. It was still early when we depart from Shaw yet traffic was all over. Non-stop chitchats and celebrity gossips, healed our boredom of being caught in traffic. It took us at least one hour to reach Tanay. From Tanay, we need to ride another jeep bound to Siniloan. Since it was weekend, the roads in Rizal were not congested.

On the way, I just realized that Rizal boasts good landscapes, beautiful view of Laguna de Bay and bursting green hues from trees. It was already 10 a.m when we arrived at Siniloan. The driver of the jeep helpfully assisted us to ride again on the jeep that will pass Banlian Panguil. Our driver aided us to alight at Banlian Barangay Hall. You have to pay for the registration fee which is 20Php and have a guide that will take you to the falls. Since the way through that awesome falls is full of robbery stories, securing a guide (complete with walkie-talkies) is a must.

So it was 11 a.m when we started the hike. The trail is shady since trees are lined up and it was a little bit cloudy when we went there. On the way, we encountered farmers with their horses transporting their crops (bananas and coconuts) down on the plains.

IMG_3448

(View while ascending. Mountains of Sierra Madre, ricefields of Siniloan and the peaceful Laguna de Bay)

Some part of the trail are easy, some are combinations of rocks and boulder and some are muddy. We were so hungry because we didn’t take our breakfast yet. Since it was too late for breakfast and upon finding a very shady area we ate our packed lunch. Our guide being accommodating never lost stories to share about the place. (Sorry, I forgot his name). When we were nearing the falls, the booming sound greeted us. We were hyped at the moment upon realizing we were already near on our motive. A few minutes more, we already saw the river and the falling waters. But before reaching the waters you have to descend on the steep ravine which you can’t hold anything but twigs and rocks. Few minutes of rock hopping and…Tadahh!

IMG_3442

(The mighty and grand Buntot Palos. Standing in approximately 80 meters.)

Marveled in beauty and stunned in awe. This 80 plus meters falls is simply breath taking. The clear and cool waters, irresistible and shame if you don’t plunge.

IMG_3439

(Boulders filled with moss, vines and creeping shrubs carpeted the walls of rocks.)

IMG_3363

(Camera wh*ring. Yours truly in the basin ground of the falls. Glad no falling stones!)

IMG_3430

(Playing like a kid. Just excuse my facial expression.)

IMG_3391

(One more photo!)

IMG_3441

(Simply breath taking)

How to go there?

1. Ride any jeepney bound to Tanay, Rizal. (Jeeps and FXs are available in EDSA Shaw or Santolan Station LRT2.

2. Upon reaching Tanay, ride another jeepney bound to Siniloan. Ask the driver to alight you to the terminal of jeep that will pass Banlian.

3. From Banlian, register on the Barangay Hall and secure your guide.

Beyond the Aswang Complexity

(Aswang. The general term for manananggal, balbal, tiktik, wakwak and etc. the most fearsome mythological creature of Philippine culture. In lieu of upcoming Halloween, let me share information about this formidable creature.)

IMG_3823-0

(Aswang uses its long tubular straw like tongue to feed from fetuses, liver, heart and entrails of its victim.)

The sound of the tolling bell is heard signifying the 6 o clock habit. Children playing native games in the street rushed to return into their homes. They were quick to clean themselves and wash every single dirt in their innocent faces. They fear that they will be abducted by the encantos and aswang that roam the earth after dark.

The solemn hush of Angelus can be heard around. Altars in every home were brightly illuminated by candles or oil lamps. Seen in the windows, mothers and elder girls of the family stand swiftly after the prayer. Still-smoking rice and freshly cooked viands were prepared in the table. It’s dark outside. Nocturnal insects were humming, singing in chorale accompanied by the cacophoning clank of spoons, ceramic or metal plates and pots. It is a usual evening in the country side. People sleep early and turn the lights off. Although every house were blessed with fluorescent lamps or yellow bulbs, not all enjoyed the luxury of owning a tv set. The night was filled with bustling stars. The trees in far view looks like dark monster sleeping peacefully. When the evening breeze blows, the leaves gently sway. The non stop concert of insects were getting louder, this time no accompaniment of clashing sound of metals and ceramics.

Children were lulled to sleep. If they don’t want to, creepy stories of hideous creature will be told to them. This is a common scene in this town. In this sleepy town I was raised and born. Where people are gentle, friendly and warm.

Being raised in the countryside had developed my mind into the face poverty, simplicity, contentment and supernaturals. It is common to see and hear people concluding that encantos or mangkukulam (witch) inflict sickness in their unknown disease. Consulting the albularyo (herb doctor) to formulate antidotes to counter attack the power of the supernaturals. Sacrificing chickens or pigs in big trees or mounds where the ethereal beings were believed to reside. The supernaturals and beings of darkness cast fear that people are so careful not to provoke or harm them. In my childhood days, I feared the darkness because of the stories of demons and ogres living in trees. Smoking large cigars and leading travellers astray. I feared the viscera-sucking creatures with bat wings flying in the black sky looking for victims. Fairies disguising as human, abducting beautiful boys or girls and turning them as slave. Witches that conjure unbearable pain to those they’ve angered with.

There are many creatures that bought chills into my spine. Up to this day, I am still fascinated in these Philippine creatures of night. Whether they are real or not, it still interest me to talk or share what I know about them. I guess the most famous of all these Philippine creatures is the aswang. Aswang is a general term for all the monster in Philippine folklore. Aswang is dubbed to be the werewolf of the Philippine archipelago. During the day, aswang looks like ordinary people you see, but when darkness falls they turn into hideous beast. Aswang are shape-shifters, they turn into huge black dogs, cats or whatever animal they want to. They fed on blood of fetus, dead people and terminally ill. Entrails are also their favorite food. Whenever they smell death, aswang will swarm the area of the sick. If the woman is pregnant she should put extra care for her baby. The scent of ill and fetus is pleasing for the aswang. For the aswang, fetus and sick smell like ripe jackfruit and roasted young rice.

IMG_3838

(Aswang preys on pregnant, sick and babies.)

It is said that being an aswang can be pass through generation to generation. You can be aswang by 1) drinking in the glass with aswang’s saliva 2) eating aswang’s flesh mixed on the dish you’re eating 3) accepting the black chick (mutya) of the aswang allowing yourself to be like one of them and 4) your an offspring of aswang.

image

(Aswang may look like a werewolf, but it can shift into different animals)

 A common misconception about aswangs is they cannot enter the church or receive Holy Communion. They can actually, they are not afraid of rosary and crucifix. They said that aswang when in human form cannot look directly into the eye. They’re afraid to make an eye to eye contact. Your reflection is upside down in aswang’s eyes.   image

(Aswang as shape shifter. They can turn into any animals that they want; to escape or to hide from their unsuspecting victim)

Just like in Western countries were vampires can be repelled by garlic, aswang too are vulnerable in this plant bulb. Somehow garlic is fatal to them. Stingray’s tail and palm leaves used in Palm Sunday are said to repel aswang. Varieties of amulets are also use to ward-off and detect aswang.

image

(Blessed palms on Palm Sunday are said to ward-off Aswang)

A small bottle of coconut oil with different roots and twigs of plant blessed by a witch doctor is said to detect an aswang. If the aswang is nearby, the coconut oil will boil and produce bubbles. This will make the aswang uneasy for it has sense danger. The actual bubbling of coconut oil was documented by Jay Taruc in his Panay de Motor expedition.

image

(Manananggal is a kind of aswang and a viscera sucker. It can detach itself from it lower body and can have a bat-like wings.)

Since Philippines is an archipelagic country and having a multitude of landscape producing varieties of culture, different description of aswang materialized. A kind of aswang well known in some Philippine Island called balbal feeds on dead people. The balbal steal corpse and replace it with banana trunk creating an illusion that the banana trunk is the corpse. In Bicol region, they classified aswang into two types. Aswang na lakay (walking aswang) at aswang na asbo (flying aswang). Visayas is said to be infested by Aswang especially in Panay Island. The story of Tiniente Gimo of Duenas Iloilo is so well-known that every inhabitant of Panay have different version of the story. In popular culture, countless movies were filmed featuring aswang. It is indeed a favorite theme for horror movies. Roxas City in Capiz is annually celebrating Aswang Festival. Since the Panay Island, having a reputation to be a haven of aswang the local government decided to use the aswang prominence to promote tourism. Such an irony isn’t? During Halloween, aswang costumes are seen everywhere.

image

 (In Grimm episode 14. Aswang was introduced as a creature who brings terror to Portland)

image

 (Aswang in the city. Roxas City in Capiz annually celebrates Aswang Festival attracting thousands of tourists)

Numerous sightings of aswang were recorded and even cause mass panic. Just like the alleged sighting of Aswang in Pozurubio, Pangasinan many people claimed to see the monster but no one can show proof. Aswang was also said the culprit of unexplainable slaughter of animals in Bulacan and Sorsogon during full moon. Entrails were removed and nowhere to be found.   image

(An alleged Aswang sighting in Pozurrobio, Pangasinan picture proved to be hoax.)

Indirectly, the aswang complexity exists in our daily lives. We use aswang to discipline our small kids. In the countryside, customary singing loudly and burning twigs or rubber overnight to drive away aswang where the wake or funeral is taking place. Different amulets are use to ward off or combat magical powers conjured by aswangs. But why does the Philippines, heavily Christianized, a strong believer of the existence of Aswang?

The Catholic Church had classified the Aswang existence as Oriental View of Philosophy. The belief on this creature could be traced back in Pre-Hispanic time and extensively used by friars to keep Filipinos away from their pagan customs. Babaylans, who enjoy veneration and priviledge in pre-hispanic era were hastly accused of being monsters from hell.

Many claimed to have seen aswang but its futile to look for proof. None had ever documented or filmed a real aswang; only by word of the mouth that has been passed down from generation to generation had been the basis of aswang existence. My officemate, a Panay native said in one of our chitchat that her uncle had married an aswang. She said that aswang don’t have control over their cravings (human blood, entrails and fetuses). It is like a sickness, a formidable disease that every aswang suffer. Aswang don’t want to do what their nature dictates them to do. Many says that the aswang is real, some says it is only a piece of Filipino imagination. But who knows what’s the truth, right?

I am BACK!!!

image

(Image courtesy of bloggingprince.blogspot.com)

After months of blogging hiatus, I’m back to share my travel adventures and dozens of Filipino Culture and tradition. Stay tuned 🙂

Happy Father’s Day!

Meet my Dad…

Image

A very good provider.

Serious yet joker.

My dad and one of my bestfriend.

Thanks for always being there when I am sad.

Cheering me up when I am down.

Providing me with comforts of living.

Thank you for being there when I am growing up.

You were there when I had my circumcision 🙂

You were there when I had my first alcohol drink 🙂

Thanks Dad!

No words to express my gratitude and love.

I love you Dad!