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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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Happy Feet

Hindang: What a sleepy town in Leyte has to offer

We are all familiar with its irregular crevices, multiple galleries, entrances, exits and shafts. Its fossil passages are adorned with various stalactites and stalagmites. It’s dark and it’s cold. It’s eerie with its chambers full of secrets awaiting to be unraveled — or not.

Yes, you got it right. I’m referring to the morphology of caves.

Personally, I have not gone to many caves in the country. My up-close encounter would only include Hito-og Cave in Matalom, Hinangdanan Cave in Bohol, Titip Cave in Cebu, and Bontoc Caves in Hindang. The latter, I would say, is the most interesting by far.

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Tell me what stories rest within you.

Found in the sleepy town of Hindang is the thriving Hindang Caves & Wild Monkeys nature park. Locally known as Bontoc Caves, this is just one of the many destinations people can arrange when visiting Leyte. The park is managed by the LGU and for only 20 pesos, you can enjoy an all-day worthwhile leisure.

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Greens!

Upon entering the grounds, my siblings, James and I were warned of our untamed friends. These wild monkeys are local residents of the forest and guests are cautioned to watch their belongings for the monkeys can get playful.

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There are caretakers tasked in feeding the monkeys. 

To get to the caves, one must climb a concrete stairway canopied by tall trees and shrubs. The monkeys remain as onlookers waiting for treats (feeding them is prohibited) or something to steal (hold on to those phones and glasses).

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Stairway to where?

Hindang Caves & Wild Monkeys has 6 to 8 cave system said to have served as refuge to guerillas and protected them from the Japanese bombings during the World War II. Among these are Pandayan Cave, Cathedral Cave, Lili-on Cave, Dahikon Cave, Pandong-Bato Cave, and Lusaron Cave.

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To the huge cathedral

Though dry and lifeless over geological epochs, these limestone solution caves are home to several life forms that are attracting (or deterring) tourists. The biggest and most interesting of eight is the Cathedral Cave.

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Cathedral Cave

I added deterring because not all tourists would dare to enter this particular cave. It is home to thousands of bats above and millions of cockroaches, crickets and other crawling creatures below.

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This looks like an entrance to a dragon’s lair

At the entrance, one can already hear the squeaks and squawks that bats make in their roosts. Cathedral Cave is a naturally lighted cavern lit by sunlight which filters through a hole in the ceiling. It is a picturesque spot, however, the challenge is making it through the center. Aside from enduring the noise and the rancid smell of bat droppings or guano, one must brave walking to a cave floor filled with roaches. They glisten in faint light and you can feel them crawling on the ground.

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Those faint little lights below are roaches!

James and I went deeper into the cave but had to turn our backs. I felt drops of urine on my skin while James was treated with a nice splatter of guano on his shirt. Perhaps we’ll try our luck next time.

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The closest spot we could get

We headed to Pandong-Bato Cave where locals put cemented tables and chairs for visitors to rest. It also offers a view of Hindang and Hilongos lowlands, as well as a glimpse of Canigao Island.

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My weekend buds

Pandayan Cave is the second of the largest chambers and is more accessible because it’s empty. Despite its barren stalactites and stalagmites, the cave still strikes an interest with its random formations. The rest of the interconnected cave complex are accessible only through spelunking.

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Entrance to Pandayan Cave
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An interesting column
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Limestone formations in Pandayan Cave
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Exit to another world

To cap the nature park experience, guests may also ride the zipline from the mountaintop. Himokilan, one of the islands comprising Cuatro Islas, is also under the administrative jurisdiction of Hindang. I suggest though to take a 30-minute drive to the Diving Board located in Brgy. San Vicente and for only 5 pesos complete your summit to sea escapade. 🙂

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A glimpse of Himokilan Island from Diving Board
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Waving sunset.

Since 2011, Hindang Caves & Wild Monkeys is one of the four caves assessed by DENR-8 as part of its development and protection program. Even before the Paleolithic Era, men have lived and survived with bare hands, sticks and stones. And these caves carry much more story than any book could provide. So let’s take care of them, shall we?


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If you ever go and do it for the Gram, take your trash with you — every piece, every gram.

Negros Oriental Backpacking: Twin Lakes

A month before our Mt. Talinis climb, I went to Negros Oriental to celebrate a special day. I was supposed to feel a year older — a year wiser — but coming into this strange place awakened the childlike excitement in me.

Where to go? What to do?

I do not have a good sense of direction and James did not have a strict itinerary. In the end, we only relied our sense of wonder and wander. But guess what? It was all that we needed.

Giddy feet!

Continue reading “Negros Oriental Backpacking: Twin Lakes”

Oh la lango: A Pedaled Story in Olango Island

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”

No man could better say this than Ernest Hemingway, one of 20th century’s literary giants. At a young age, we were taught to ride a bike, to pedal away without a care in the world, to bask under the heat of the sun, and to come home with skins glistening with sweat. But as the years pass, our priorities change. We no longer have the luxury of time to relive simple childhood joys. Life, in its most pragmatic way, has pushed us to channel our energy in surviving. But are we living?

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Island Vibe ❤

Continue reading “Oh la lango: A Pedaled Story in Olango Island”

Mt. Talinis: Where expectation meets reality

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Do you prefer hiking with a specific group of people or do you like seeing new faces? At its core, mountain climbing is not just about reaching the top. Most often, what matters most are the experiences and memories we shared along the trail. And admit it, when you look at those instagrammable photos, your mind travels back to the conversations, big or small. Those candid laughter, comfortable jokes and banters, little slips, unguarded expressions, and many more.

This is why WHO you go in the mountains with counts. Friends or strangers, each has its pros and cons that can make or break the success of any climb.

If this was two years ago, I would avoid any chance of meeting new faces. But the mountains had taught me the beauty of building connections… in nature and in people. So now I don’t mind — at least not much. Continue reading “Mt. Talinis: Where expectation meets reality”

LIGID trail: Licos to Lanigid

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At the foot of Licos Peak

Not long ago, Team Buwad (James, An Jurvel, Shandy and I) headed north to visit some of its waterfalls. This time, James took us to what he called the LIGID trail, a moniker for the hike starting from Licos Peak in Danao, traversing to Mulao River in Compostela, and exiting in Lanigid Hill in Liloan. Along with us are Shiela and Bryan.

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Today’s guide

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TRES MARIAS: Finding Beauty in the Blur

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Admit it or not, fear still creeps in your spine whenever you are faced with uncertainty. It is terrifying inasmuch as it is exciting. It takes your breath away for a second or two; it makes your heart skip a beat faster. Think of the last time you proudly called yourself brave — the day you stood up against your boss, the day you told your parents you’re gay, the day you told yourself ‘enough’ or the day you welcomed love. Whatever it is, you didn’t really know will happen next. But you did it anyway.

As for me, my recent hike with friends was nothing short of uncertainty… and yes, of fear and excitement.

Prelude

After climbing Ormoc’s Alto Peak last May, we talked, with eager and hopeful hearts, about how we’d target climbing Biliran’s Tres Marias next. The thought dragged on but there was no definite plan or word from anyone to carry it out. It was not until a month before the event that we decided to make it happen. With a short time to prepare physically, mentally and financially, the our organizer Shiela looked for heads to join the fun. Of course, the casts and crews of Alto Peak were present, with the exception of some and addition of others. By November 23, fifteen fun-loving folks headed to Pier 3, all geared for another major climb.

None of us knows what awaits in Tres Marias. We’ve read blog posts, seen pictures, and heard stories but uncertainty still sits at the back of our minds. The first jolt came when we are still in Cebu. Unfortunately, for safety purposes, Cebu Port Authority no longer allows carrying of butane canisters. So, we are faced with a dilemma on whether we can find one in the province or we’ll have to go back to the age of campfires to cook our food. The second jolt came a little later. Most hikers would opt to reach Biliran via Ormoc but we decided to take the ship that sails straight to Naval. What we thought an 11-hour travel time became 13 and a half, kissing our fixed itinerary goodbye.

However, in the midst of the uncertainty, dawn breaks with a gorgeous sunrise. With it came a promise of a beautiful day ahead. And so we forgot our little mishaps.

Sunrise ❤

Continue reading “TRES MARIAS: Finding Beauty in the Blur”

Sugod sa Sogod

Lately, memes about Titos and Titas of Facebook have been making rounds in social media. In essence, this is a millennial term used to describe “old schools” who have embraced the domestic lifestyle and content themselves with nostalgia and throwback posts. It’s funny though that most of those who claim to be “titos and titas” nowadays are millennials (born between 1980 and 2000). A generation known for its vibrancy and zeal, what happened to us?

The easiest explanation is aging in the digital age. We tend to be drained by too much loud and crowd. In the height of social media, we crave for genuine connection — with a person, with nature, with ourselves. And until we find these, we’d rather stay in the comforts of our homes.

But just because we age doesn’t mean we have to settle into the doldrums of ordinary. As what Anne of Windy Poplars once said, “There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves.”

Starting off with this…

Away from the colors and grandeur of Sinulog, my friends and I (Team Buwad as we fondly call ourselves) went out of town for a weekend escape. Travelling 60 km northward from Cebu City is the municipality of Sogod. It is said that the town gained its name from the Cebuano term “sinugdanan” which means “beginning.” For its geographical and historical reasons, Sogod is where the stretch of white sand and the conversion to Christianity going north began.

As for us, it’s the beginning of a new adventure.

Bagatayam Falls
Getting to Bagatayam Falls is very easy. Just a few hundred meters from Sogod poblacion, we passed by the Bagatayam Bridge in Brgy. Bagatayam. Here’s a sneak-peak of the waterfalls from the bridge.

Continue reading “Sugod sa Sogod”

Alto Peak: A Jungle Parkour Adventure

It is a lot easier to attribute the cityscape when you think of parkour. The rails, the stairs, the ramps and the elevated structures easily became hotbeds for the nascent enthusiast. But how would you feel about parkour in the forest floor?

I’ll tell you what— joie de vivre.

But before we head onto the climax, let’s start with the [not so] easy walk.

I have been hanging out with random hikers in Cebu and I could say that this group of people– put together to face the heights of Ormoc– makes a colourful weekend. Spearheaded by Shiela and Kevin, I along with Jovy, Idol, Ate Sherlyn and Paul were present from Team Bang. Meanwhile, Phil of Laag Bisaya led the pack with Chiara, Rell, Loche and Hardi. The nomads, on the other hand, were nothing short of dull with Shikienah, James, An Jurvel, and Shandy on the troupe.

Upon arriving at Ormoc City port, all 16 hikers from Cebu were geared with excitement for the major weekend escapade. After a quick breakfast and last-minute shopping for our trail and camping essentials, we set out on an hour-long drive to Brgy. Cabintan where we met our guides, Kuya Oheng, Kuya Danny, and Efren. Also joining the fun were two harkor hikers from Leyte, Dave and Ryan.

Continue reading “Alto Peak: A Jungle Parkour Adventure”

(Mis)Adventures: Scaling the Mountains of Naga

February has always been special for me— not because of Valentine’s Day but because it’s my birth month. Rumors say that most of the weird ones are born on February and, though I may not completely agree, I have to say they got some of it right. In fact, one of them was weird enough to make the list below. 😉

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As a part of my #GrantMyWishThisFeb, I asked my all-time katkat buddy, Shiela, for a Naga adventure as a gift. Naga City is blessed with gorgeous hills and mountains, and it’s a shame that I haven’t set foot on its trail yet. Gladly, she was kind enough to give in to my request. Haha.

After my Bohol escapade we had our Naga adventure all planned out. Shiela and I managed to convince our officemate, Spencer, to come. I originally asked to chase only four peaks, Pangilatan Peak, Magdook Peak, Mt. Naupa, and Kabalas, but Shiela wanted to add Mt. Kabuwan to the list. So off we go.

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Thanks to these two for granting my wish. 😉

Continue reading “(Mis)Adventures: Scaling the Mountains of Naga”

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