Sunday, July 22, 2012

Family Togetherness at Mambukal Mountain Resort

At the Entrance of Mambukal Resort

Mambukal Waterfalls could have been the perfect sidetrip after our Mt. Kanlaon Climb but since circumstances led us to exit on the same trail where we entered, the OLAYS missed the opportunity to visit the famed waterfalls in Murcia, Negros Occidental. 

Our Service
My first memories  of the place were way back during one of the summers of my Grade School Life. It was Easter Sunday to be exact. I begged my parents that we celebrate Easter Sunday there as I learned from my childhood friends that they would all be going there. Jealous and not wanting to be left alone, I did all my best to convince my parents why we all have to go and luckily they gave into my request after hours of crying. Yes, CRYING always proved to be an effective way to get what you want only when you are a child. Having set my foot on the place for the first time, I learned that the resort was on the foot of Mt. Kanlaon, experienced my first hike up to the waterfalls  and see in real life what a waterfall is and a chance to smell for the first time the unlikely odor of a sulfur. The outing was successful and as a child I would often asked for more. When I asked my mom if we could go there again, she just responded with  a smile, “Soon.”
Dad and Mom at the Cottage
I never thought that soon would take longer as expected. Almost 15 years  apart.  My family and I went back last year when I went home for a Christmas vacation.  I had been to different places with my friends and I thought that it would be fitting that I had to take my family outdoors and share the experience with them. Mambukal was our choice as it was the most feasible option that time.
The river beside our cottage
My mom woke up early that day to prepare the foods  for our family outing and my dad was busy packing other things.  These are the simple gestures  of love from my parents that I missed most especially that I am away from home because of work. When the service vehicle arrived, everyone were excited to jump in and were looking forward to a day of fun and togetherness. 

Family Portrait in Mambukal
Upon arriving at Mambukal Mountain Resort, we rented out a cottage where we could stay. Even if it is just less than an hour ride from the city, we found ourselves eating immediately. It could be the ambiance of the place that can justify our actions. The resort changed a lot from the last time I set both of my feet on it. There were new structures added like the lagoon, cottages and villas were renovated and the place was well maintained. After some minutes of eating and exchanging conversations, I invited my brother who tagged along his friend to join me in hiking up the seven waterfalls. My last visit only took me upto the first waterfalls and as much as I want to explore the other 6 falls then, I was not given permission due to risks involved. As a kid, all you can do is just obey. We asked around if there was a guide who could take us up to the seven waterfalls and we asked the right group of persons because they can accompany us to the seven waterfalls. When we asked them if how much is the fee and they responded by saying that it is upto us as to whatever amount of money we can give as it will be considered as a donation. 

The first Waterfalls
As we were on our way to the first waterfalls, I noticed that there were already established walkways on the way up. Then, you have to be careful each step you take as we might be walking on loose sand or rocks. Now, it makes the hike more easier but  one should exert same degree of care and caution as to avoid any accidents. There were also canopy walks along the way and I would probably try it next time. When we arrived at the first waterfalls and was ready to jump into the water when the guide advised us that swimming on the first waterfalls is prohibited as there might be falling rocks.  I was disappointed but followed instructions as it for our best safety. During my first visit on this place, the first waterfalls was like a basin full of people. There were even some kids who were jumping into the water. I learned that there were recorded accidents that prompted them this action. I just took some photos and proceeded to the next falls. The second and third waterfalls were just along the way and just like the first one it is also off limits for swimming. We never had the chance to visit the fourth and fifth as it was closed due to landslide. After the third waterfalls we visited the sixth falls where we spent some time to rest. Just above the sixth waterfalls, one can swim and take a dip in the waters as it is safe. Our guide informed us that the seventh waterfalls is of considerable from the sixth. We would have to pass an open road first, then to some houses of the locals and plantation before reaching the last waterfalls. I was excited to see it as I was looking forward to it. When we finally reached it, we admired its beauty and we didn't have second thoughts on jumping into the water. We stayed for almost 45 minutes on the place before we head back to the cottage. I am glad that I spent some quality time with my brother even for just this hike as we never had this chance before. 

Seventh Waterfalls
As we traversed down to the cottage, we passed by an area where bats are hanging from the trees. At first they are unrecognizable but if you look closely, you can confirm that they are indeed bats by their color and the way they hang themselves from the branches of the tree. We took on a different trail going down and we hoped to pass by the sulfur pool area. After breathing some amount of sulfur into our body, we agreed to go back to the cottage for a lunch. We were then reunited with my parents and we exchanged conversations on our hiking experience. As much as they would want to join us, they decided to stay on the cottage due to constraint of age. They too had a quality time together as a couple. After lunch, we visited the butterfly garden. It was amazing to see butterflies of different colors and sizes and some would even land on your shoulders. 

Time came for us to pack up and go back home. The whole day was not enough for some family bonding but it was definitely a good kick off for more family togetherness to come.

More pictures from the waterfalls and the resort below

Me at the First Waterfalls 

My brother and his friend at the second waterfalls

The third Waterfalls

The Sixth Waterfall with Resting Area Above
Me enjoying the waters at the Seventh
My brother and his friend having fun at the Seventh Waterfalls as well

Bast on Trees...  Can you see them?

Very Hot Spring .. Pool of Sulfur

Me at the Sulfur Area

Boiling Mud

At the butterfly garden

With my Dad at the Lagoon Area

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mt. Kanlaon in Retrospect

The Stunning View of Mt. Kanlaon
A number of people have asked me as to what is the most beautiful mountain I have climbed so far and I usually find it difficult to give a paramount answer. Each mountain is distinct and it prides it's own terrain, trails, flora, fauna, weather and its commanding views. It would be challenging to just come up with one because I love every experience I had on the top. I could come up with a short list but I could not limit it to one. Among those would be my ascent to Mt. Kanlaon 4 years ago. 

I knew that Mt. Kanlaon existed as I grew up more than half of my life in Bacolod City. It serves as the backdrop of our humble city. Then, I never appreciated it as I was not yet lured into the world of mountaineering. I even got an invitation from a college schoolmate to climb it but I refused as I was not yet ready to leave the comfort I had at home. Fast forward my life here in  Manila  when climbing had started as an addiction. Every year, my group, OLAYS would always plan a year end climb and it is always something major. It is way of remembering the wonderful adventures we had for that year and toasting to the future outdoor trips we would share. For the year 2008, it was decided that we would scale Mt. Kanlaon. 

Group Pic At Guintubdan Before the Climb
I remember telling Ivy that I may not be able to join the climb for that year as I have to go home to Bacolod to spend the Yuletide season there. She said that my attendance was required and picking up from our last conversation how Cebu Pacific had promo fares every now and then, she suggested that why not take our year end climb outside Luzon that time and visit Mt. Kanlaon in our province. I excitedly agreed. After coming up with an itinerary,  arranging the logistics and budget, coordinating with PAMB and reserving our plane tickets, we were all set to Mt. Kanlaon. 

At Boslogan Falls
We arrived Bacolod City on Christmas Day. We spent the night at our place before the big adventure the following day. When our service vehicle arrived in front of our home, we were caught by surprise as we did not expect it to be so big. We were only 8 in the group but we thought that it could accommodate up to 50 passengers. We informed our guide that if we are already outside the city, we would want to be on the top-load as it has been customary for us. This would mean that it would be the guide and the driver left inside while all of us are getting some adrenaline rush on top. We arrived at Guintubdan after almost two hours. It is a requirement to register at the jump off point and give the climb permit issued by PAMB or you will be denied entry to the park. After last minute instructions, we started with our assault. 

At Pagatpat Junction
It was agreed that I would be part of the lead group since I could communicate with the guide better as I know how to speak the local dialect.  On the first part of our climb, me and the guide were still talking and he was within my frame of reference. As we made progress and all of us walked at our own pacing, the guide was of considerable distance and he would only stopped at certain points and waited for us to regroup. We were joking then if we really did train well for this climb or our guide was just unbelievably fast. We chose to believe on the latter.  Along the way, we were amazed by the beauty of Mt. Kanlaon - how the trails were not so wide and the forest unspoiled. This could be due to the fact that entry to Mt. Kanlaon is regulated. There are only certain number of people allowed per climb so the damage that could be done be minimized. One of the memorable points along Guintubdan trail are Boslogan Falls which was our first water source and where you could take a plunge on its cold and crystal clear waters. Further, there is also the Pagatpat Junction where the different trails meet and up ahead is the saddle camp where you could spend the night before heading on the summit the following day. Not to be missed is the presence of limatiks in the area. They made us attentive at all times and the climb more exciting.

Summit of Mt. Kanlaon with Ivy
As we moved away from Pagatpat Junction, we felt the temperature dropped and when we exited the area, we saw the fog enveloped the place and listened to the howling of the winds. Since we were nearing the saddle camp area, we hurried and thought of pitching the tents immediately as it might rain anytime. When we arrived in the campsite area, it suddenly became silent and when we turned our backs, our jaws dropped. The fog cleared and what we saw was the enchanting beauty of Margaha Valley and the stunning view of the summit. The view lasted only for 10 minutes and the fog enveloped again.  We were happy that Mt. Kanlaon gave us a warm welcome and we were looking forward to summit it the following day. 

Crater of Mt. Kanlaon
Second day of the climb was unexpected. The original itinerary was entering Kanlaon via Guintubdan trail and exiting it through Wasay Trail.  We were supposed to wake up at 4 AM the following day for summit assault but it was delayed to 5 AM then later to 6 AM because it was still raining and had no clearing. 6 AM came and the weather was getting worse that a summit assault would be impossible. We were all summoned to a meeting by our team lead, Sir Daile. We agreed that instead of exiting through Wasay trail, we would stay for another night on the saddle camp and hope for a clearing on the third day. Whether it would turn out favorable or not, we would need to go home the following day and exit on Guintubdan trail. It is a good thing that we still have sufficient supplies to help us last while we take on our chances. 

The famous Margaha Valley
Having decided to stay on the saddle camp area, we killed time by a simple routine - sleeping, exchanging conversations, tent hopping and eating. Since the rained poured heavily on that day, i felt like I was on waterbed. The water was passing through below tents but the good thing is that we have several layers of plastic inside our tent so it didn't sipped in that would make us wet. We can feel the coldness of the water though. All of us also said our individual prayers hoping that God would grant us our innermost desire that time of having a perfect weather to do the summit assault. It was already night time and it was still raining. We were loosing hope but Richard said that everyone just needs to have faith. We had more than enough sleep the whole day that we find ourselves waking up almost every hour on the second night. Everyone was too cold to go out and we were hoping that the morning would come so we can all descend and go home.  It was almost 4 AM when someone went out of the tent to respond to the call of nature. When Richard went back to the campsite area, he woke us all up and said to prepare as we are all heading to the summit. We hurriedly went out of our tents and we saw the stars in the sky and the summit from a distant. We knew that Kanlaon was inviting us to the summit assault already. We were more than ready. 

Human Spelling ... O L A Y
We started walking up at around 430 AM and we felt how cold the weather was. Aside from our jackets, bonnet and gloves, our eagerness and excitement kept us warm. The trail to the summit was rocky because this was already nearing the crater of an active volcano. After almost 45 minute walk, we were on the summit and we waited for the sunrise. Upon reaching the summit, we were humbled how we were presented with this opportunity. After spending some time with myself and nature, I rejoined the group to explore the area. I could not believe it for myself but yes, I was at the edge of the crater of Mt. Kanlaon. The view of the Margaha Valley from the top was more beautiful than it was on the saddle camp. We learned that the valley was used to be the old crater and how it is beautifully connected to the new one where we were standing then. Being the highest mountain in the Visayas region, Kanlaon offered magnificient views of the neighboring islands. We spent more almost two hours on the top but we lost track of time while we there as we were all awed by its alluring beauty. Everyone agreed that this was one on the top list of the beautiful mountains that we had been to. 

Slopes of Mt. Kanlaon
Time to descend but we were still on high because of the picturesque views we had. It was too beautiful that I was able to capture hundreds of shots from my camera. We were also too high that when we started to descend, the only time we rested was at Boslogan Falls which was more than 2 hours away from the summit and  almost 45 minutes away from the exit point. Kanlaon fueled us with a renewed energy and spirit. 

I never thought that there is a treasure hidden in my hometown in Negros.  I would have never come face to face with it if I was never fascinated with mountaineering. As what Paulo Coelho said on his book the Alchemist, “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure." I am so passionate about outdoors and mountains and as a reward , I had a superb experience in Mt. Kanlaon.

Standing: Mikoy, Me, Cris, Richard, Ivy, Anton and Daile. Kneeling: Drew

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Part 3 of My Superlative Vacation: The Sidetrips

3nd Stop: Flying High In Bukidnon, Dahilayan Adventure Park, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon

One of the things I was looking forward to do during my Mindanao Vacation was to try the Longest Dual  Zipline in Dahilyan Adventure Park. I have heard some of my friends recount their experiences of it and after they have took some risks they all said the same thing - it was beyond breathtaking. Then, I swore that I would have to try it for myself one day. 

Dahilayan Adventure Park was the last stop of my sidetrips. Save the best for last, as they say. I woke up early on that  day so I could catch the first trip to Camp Phillips in Bukidnon. While trips bound for Iligan is situated in Bulua Terminal, trips bound for Bukidnon, Davao and Butuan are situated in Agora Terminal in CDO.  That morning, my first glimpse of the skies made me hesitate if I should push through with the adventure or not. I thought that it would rain and if so, getting there would be challenge as the road would be muddy and I was not sure if they would allow to do the zipline when it is raining. With the uncertainty, I still pushed through with the trip but I have decided that if it would rain, only then would I decide what to do. 

Pineapple! They're everywhere

I was one of the first passengers of the jeepney and I chose the front seat so that if I have any questions where to drop off, it would be easier for me to ask the driver. It took almost an hour to fill the jeepney but I was not bored because the excitement overpowered me. It was also a good thing to always leave early as we have avoided traffic considering that there was a road construction on the road going up to Bukidnon. It was almost 8 in the morning when I arrived in Camp Phillips and the kind driver drop me off where the Habal Habals are stationed and even secured a driver for me to bring me to Dahilayan Adventure Park. 

The road to Dahilayan with Kitanglad Range from a distant

Me at the Pineapple Plantation
I was lucky with the habal habal driver that I had. Not only did he safely brought me to the park and back to the terminal but he was also somewhat my tour guide as he was giving me information about the place, patiently answered all my queries and my instant photographer. Camp Phillips is a community in Manolo Fortich. This is where you can find the vast pineapple plantation of Del Monte and a home to some of it's employees. The houses are structured in a way that they look similar and the place is really clean.  As Camp Phillips is part of Bukidnon, the weather is cold most especially in the morning. From the terminal station, we passed through the pineapple plantation and I was awed with how vast the area is. I was even tempted to pick pineapples along the way and bring it home but I did not. Further, I was able to see the Kitanglad Range from a far that brought back some good old memories about my climb there. While on the ride, I breathe the fresh air that I could not find in the metro and embraced the beauty and serenity of the area. After an almost 30 minute ride, we arrived at the park.

I proved to be an early bird again as when I arrived there, the booth was still closed and I still had to wait until it opened. There were already fellow thrill seekers in the booth also waiting for the booth to open. In the interim, I sat in one area and observed how beautiful the park is. Too bad though that I was not able to take pictures of each spot on the park but I swore that I would return here someday or maybe in the soonest possible time. When the booth opened, I lined up, paid the corresponding fee, signed a waiver and was advised to wait for the vehicle that would take us where the zip line would start. I was still excited but then this time, there were some traces of fear as I am putting my life at risk. Upon arriving at the starting point, we were strapped on to the proper safety outfit and briefed on the do's and dont's while doing the zipline. We were asked on who wants to go first. No one answered but I ended up the first one to be opening the show.  

Photo Ops Before While Waiting for the Booth to open

This is it! Ready for the longest zipline

I moved forward near the edge of the platform. They checked on my gears and outfit, had me faced down so I would look like I would be flying while doing it and gave last minute instructions. The person in charge instructed that he would count from 5 down to 1 and then it would be a go. The last word I heard was when he said 5 and after that all the words they uttered were blocked off from my ears as I felt mixed emotions - fear, thrill and excitement. I closed my eyes and when I opened it, they sent me out already - I was already flying. I extended my arms as instructed and I felt like a bird at that point of my life. I was way above the trees and it was a different high that I was feeling that time.  The height made me feel superior, the speed made me feel like I am breaking free and the wind against me gave me a taste of what heaven is. While I was nearing the finish line, I smiled as they were taking pictures of me and being the first one to go, I had a large audience applauding for me. When they finally strapped me off of my outfit, I felt like trying it again. At that time I could testify why my friends dubbed the experience as breathtaking.


I wanted more. I even wanted to try their new adventure which is drop zone but I said to myself that I would like to reserve it for next time and I would surely tag some of my friends to share the experience. 

I am glad I took some risks. Initially I was uncertain of going because of the weather but the weather turned out to be perfectly alright. I swallowed my fear of heights and I was rewarded with an unparalleled experience. What is it they say about investments? The higher the risks, the higher the returns. If this experience was a financial investment, I would be filthy rich.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Part 2 of My Superlative Vacation: The Sidetrips

2nd Stop: Imposing Beauty of Maria Cristina Falls and the Secret of Tinago Falls, Iligan City

Returning to my hotel room after my trip to the Sacred Heart Shrine, I was thinking where to go to the following day.  I managed to catch some zzz's first before planning on my next destination. I was considering on going back to Camiguin as it would be easier for me as I am already familiar with the place plus the fact that I really fell in love with the island when I set my feet there last October 2010 as my first Solo Trip. But then, I was also hoping to explore new places and adventure so I went to a nearby internet cafe to check on information on tourist attractions near CDO. After reading some blogs and checking on logistics and budget, I have decided to visit Maria Cristina Falls and hopefully to Tinago Falls should there be a spare time. 

I woke up at around 4:30 AM the following day. After packing the things that I need, I grabbed few loaves of bread to fill an empty stomach and headed towards Bulua Terminal, the West Bound Terminal in CDO where buses bound for Iligan are stationed. I was lucky not to wait when I got at the terminal as there was Rural Bus that is about to leave in 5 minutes. I jumped in and made myself comfortable as we headed towards Iligan City. From the itinerary I read on the Internet, I should be expecting a two hour ride but since we left early in the morning and avoided the traffic, it was only a one and half hour ride from CDO. 
Entrance Gate of NPC
I have the copy of my itinerary and the needed information with me so that I would not get lost. Still, I find more confidence in asking the locals to make sure that I am headed on the right direction. Upon alighting in Iligan Terminal, I asked for some people on how to go to Maria Cristina Falls. I was instructed to ride a jeep outside of the terminal and alight in the public market where I could find jeepneys with a signage Buru-un and then tell the driver to drop me off at the entrance going to Maria Cristina Falls. Their instructions are exactly the same as what I have on my itinerary so I followed it and I successfully arrived at NPC, the gateway to Maria Cristina Falls. 

Ticket Booth at NPC
I arrived at the gate at 8 AM and I was an hour earlier before it opens at 9 AM. That doesn't look like I'm excited right? With an hour to spare, I called in Sheng and informed her that I successfully arrived in Maria Cristina Falls and how i wished she was there with me to share the experience. I did also take some photos at the gate, had some conversations with the guard to learn more about the place and observed the strong current of water on the river beside it which gave me a hint on what a mighty force this Maria Cristina Falls is. When the booth opened, I paid the corresponding fees and rode the service vehicle inside. 

When service vehicle's engine started, I can feel my heart leap as I am already about to see the falls but when I noticed that it was heading on a different direction, I asked the driver if we are heading to the falls. He replied that I will have to visit the Botanical and Zoological Garden first. The excitement was delayed but was anticipating on what to see on the said park. 
Entrance to the Park

The featherless ostrich greeted me as I entered the park. I asked the guard why it was on its condition and he said that its because of the weather and they pricked on its fellow ostriches inside the cage. 

There were also crocodiles, monkey, duck - like creatures as I dont know the exact name and the snakes, my favorite of all animals ( and I mean the opposite).


After spending 30 minutes inside the park, I informed the guard to call the driver who advised me to do so when I am done roaming around the park and when I am ready to go to the falls. When he arrived to fetch me, the excitement that I had at the entrance gate went back and as we moved closer, I can feel the falls calling my name. 

Arriving at the gate, I was instructed that there is a viewing deck inside the plant where I can see it closely. I followed it instantly and after some few minutes, there it was right in front of me - the majestic Maria Cristina Waterfalls. I couldn't believe it at first. What was just an answer to my quizzes and exams during my SIBIKA in my Elementary Years was already a reality that I was seeing with my naked eyes. I was the only person in the viewing deck so I just stood there in silence and just breathe in the awesomeness it brought upon me. When other visitors started to flock the area, I started to go down and my mission was to find someone to take a picture of me. Luckily, there was an NPC employee who was having his yosi break when I went down and when I requested if he could take a picture of me, he agreed without hesitation. 

Me at Maria Cristina Falls
The strong current of water from the falls
Majestic beauty

Last look before heading the exit  

I spent almost an hour in the area and every minute of it was magical. I headed for the gate where the driver awaited me and he drove me back to the entrance gate. It was hard to say goodbye to Maria Cristina Falls but I am hoping to be back someday but this time with friends and loved ones. 

As I headed towards the highway, I was contemplating whether I would push through going to Tinago Falls or not. Time was not a constraint but what made me undecided was the fact that it rained every afternoon in the area for the past days. The adventurous part of me still reigned so I decided to give it a go. When I arrived at the highway a habal habal driver offered to take me to Tinago Falls at a reasonable amount. It was indeed a sign that I have to visit Tinago Falls. 

Me at Tinago Falls
The ride was approximately 20 minutes. When I arrived at the jumpoff point, some kids offered to be my guide and I agreed. I noticed that there used to be a resort in the area but it was closed down already. I hope that they can restore the resort but still preserving the natural beauty of the area. I was warned that going to the falls would be a series of steps going down which would also mean the same series of steps going up when heading home. If you are not used to hiking, you would surely catch your breath from time to time but the reward that awaits below is promising - the hidden beauty of Tinago Falls. 

The water was so green. I asked a local in the area as to how deep it was and said that it could not be measured because when a group of divers explored the depth of the waters, they were not able to reach the bottom of it. I dont know how to swim but if I did, i would never hesitate to also dive just like what the local children are doing. There are life jackets for rent so for those who are afraid of the water like me but would like to take a plunge, you can still be assured of your safety. There is also a bamboo made raft that can take you to the falls itself but since I am alone and I have no one to leave my belongings, I said to myself that there would be next time.

Iligan City is living up to its name as the city of Majestic Waterfalls. As I headed back home in CDO, I can't help but smile of the perfect adventure I had in Iligan that day. 

Next: Flying High in Bukidnon