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Happy Feet

Negros Oriental Backpacking: Chasing Waterfalls

They say that the Earth has music for those who listen. There is a reason why we call it whisper of the wind, rhythm of the waves, song of the bird, and dance of a flame. Nature is one big concert hall playing a symphony in sync with man’s beating heart. If we only stop, we could hear them.

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An adventure begins

Negros Oriental for instance is home to several waterfalls offering visitors a one-of-a-kind music. The town of Valencia alone has 10 (according to Erwin of EnrouteNegros) and probably more. Of all these waterfalls, Pulangbato Falls and Casaroro Falls are the most sought after destinations. Aside from tourists, these natural cascades have been a common sidetrip for hikers who climbed the infamous Mt. Talinis.

As for James and I, it was part of our Negros Oriental backpacking trip. After enjoying the silence of  the Twin Lakes on our first day, we were up for some water splashes this time.

Pulangbato Falls
From Valencia downtown, James and I chartered a tricycle that would take us to our three stops. We traveled along Okoy river on the way to our first destination: Pulangbato Falls.

But before reaching the falls, we passed by the iconic Mag-aso Steaming Grounds. With the geothermal vents of sulfuric smoke rising up from the mountain of rocks, no one would dare to miss this free delight.

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Sulfur vents

However, this is not for the weak stomachs. Its pungent smell is tolerable but getting too close to the boulders would definitely remind you of rotten eggs.

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Hold yer breaths!

A few meters away is a hanging  bridge that caught our attention. It’s a common walkway for locals who want to cross the river but for us — who don’t get to see a lot of hanging bridge in Cebu — it is a picturesque site.

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Hanging bridge
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Okoy river valley

The river below already has a touch of reddish rocks, reminding us that we are close to the waterfall. We continued with our ride and soon enough reached Pulangbato Falls.

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Hello, Pulangbato!

In the local dialect, “pula” means “red” and “bato” means “rock”. Pulangbato Falls is aptly named because of the rusty or reddish rocks along its stream. It creates this idyllic scene that we rarely see when going to most waterfalls. Because of its close proximity to an active volcano, the color is probably caused by sulfuric gases emanating from geothermal vents.

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Pulangbato Falls up close
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The red-shirt man amidst the red rocks

Getting close to Pulangbato falls requires one to walk through the Cambucad-Sagbang Footbridge. This LGU project was just installed in 2016 and since then, it has been one of the instagrammable part in the area.

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Cambucad-Sagbang Footbridge
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somebody’s too tired to carry the bag, guess who?

There are three waterfalls in the area but we only saw two of them. Near the entrance where makeshift huts and small stores are located is a smaller waterfall where most guest prefer to swim and chill. Locals refer to it as Pulangbato’s twin fall but compared to Pulangbato, this one looks relatively normal.

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Makeshift pool

Casaroro Falls
Contrary to common misconception, Casaroro Falls is not located in Dumaguete City. This hidden treasure is actually lodged deep within the crevices of Valencia mountains. It takes an hour trek or less (depends on your pacing) to reach the place.

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This looks like we entered the Jurassic world

The trek begins with more than 300 descending steps on metal staircase, followed by a fun walk on a shallow riverbed and rock boulders. There was supposedly a concrete footbridge leading to the site but it was destroyed by Typhoon Sendong.

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Happy feet
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River crossing
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Rock boulders
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Are we there yet?

Upon seeing Casaroro Falls, I understood why it was able to attract all kinds of tourists despite its steep trails. Grand does not suffice to describe it. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the singular cascade that plunges almost a hundred feet directly into the swimming basin of extremely cold water.

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Casaroro Falls

I’ve been to several waterfalls in Cebu, Ulan-ulan Falls of Biliran, Can-Umantad Falls of Bohol, Mahayahay Falls of Leyte, and Inararo Falls of Pampanga, but this certain falls in Negros exude a glum vibe to me. Since Casaroro Falls is tucked in the innermost part of the mountain preserve, it is surrounded by dense vegetation and tall trees. With only a faint sunlight, the place is backdropped by a dark overcast.

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Casaroro Falls up close

Going back to the main road is just as hard as getting to the falls. From our easy descend, we cringed to the thought of ascending the long, winding staircase. It’s a good thing that they have metal pipe railings for people to hold on to whenever they feel like giving up. HAHA!

Red Rock Hot Spring
A visit to the waterfalls won’t be complete without taking a dip in their many hot springs. As for us, we opted to chill at the Red Rock Hot Spring. A warm bath in this relaxing sanctuary is just what we needed to sooth our aching muscles. Here’s a photo from their FB page:

Time unfolds the wonders of this ever-weaving tapestry of life. Our day 2 in Negros Oriental reminded us there is more to nature that we need to discover, appreciate and most importantly, preserve. If we only stop, we could see them.


Truth is, I wasn’t a fan of waterfalls before. My hopeless romantic alter gets sad
whenever I stare at one and I seem to lose poetry in a hush. But ever since I met this man who has affinity for waterfalls, I started seeing them differently. From the north to the south, he showed me how happiness could come in splashes. Thanks for making fallin’ so easy. 😉

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sdr

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

Mt. Pinatubo: A 42km Golden Adventure

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Sunrise ❤

“Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?”

The classic story of the phoenix is that of resilience and hope. For centuries, this mythical bird became a symbolic reminder of people who has risen from the ashes. Those who bounced back up after their world came crashing down. Those who built themselves after falling apart.

Most of us talk about the phoenix but rarely of the flame. Just as how in life we see more of the outcome and less of the process. That is why this entry is not just about standing above the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. It is about zooming in to the beauty of the disaster we found during our 42-kilometer hike.

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You do note! XD

Mount Pinatubo straddles at the tripoint boundary of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. This active stratovolcano is known for its colossal eruption back in 1991. But what once was a site of destruction is now a place of excitement for many.

Organized by Jeffrey of Bandana Stories, I along with James, Chiarra, Carol, Lovely, Belle, Ivan, Intet, Charie, Nicole, Stefan and Maureen packed our bags and headed north of Luzon.

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Into the cracks

The most popular gateway to Mt. Pinatubo is in Capas, Tarlac. Here, it involves an hour 4×4 ride in a lahar field and a 3km trek to the crater lake. However, there is an alternative route passing through the Golden Trail in Porac, Pampanga, which offers a completely different experience. A relatively new trail compared to the Delta V Trail (via Sapang Uwak) which is known to most hikers, Golden Trail flaunts a 42km trek that would take you to sandy flats, shallow streams and rocky terrain.

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It’s a long way from home…

We left the jump off point at 1 am. During the first few hours, we hiked through a seemingly endless volcanic sand. The trail was mostly plain and open which can be arduous to those who climb during the day when the sun is up. To the untrained eyes, we’d probably look like predators with our headlamps illuminating in the dark. It was almost 3 hours on dusty lahar before we reached the first campsite. We we were supposed to have our breakfast but due to unforeseen circumstances, it took our porters (who carried all our food and cooksets) 2 hours to reach the place.

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Two hours in the waiting.

With our itinerary delayed, each of us knew that we’d have to double our next pacing to reach our target.

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These sand mountains look like toblerones from afar.
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Open terrain

After eating, we continued into the barren plains and soon reached the landslide area which caught most of us by surprise. This used to be part of the mountains surrounding the plains where 4×4 trail mods pass through. Now, they’re huge sand boulders that we needed to walk into.

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Landslide area
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Barely fitting

We skidded and slid, scooting and crawling on fours. At some point, our guides had to take our backpacks because we can’t fit into the gap. It ends with a final descent going to the river.

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Careful steps
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Down the river

By the time we reached the riverbed, most of us changed from hiking shoes to sandals. This part of the 42km trek requires multiple river crossings for hours. The water is mostly shallow but the current could be strong at times. It’s a good and refreshing shift from hours of walking on dry sand.

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Multiple river crossings
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Loving the view.

Reaching Inararo Falls, a 50-feet high single-tiered cascade, meant that we were finally close. We took a little time appreciating its beauty then moved forward with the hike.

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Inararo Falls

It was almost 11:30 when we reached Ana-an falls, also known as Mt. Pinatubo Twin Falls. We had to climb atop the waterfalls where the campsite is located. Gathering our remaining strength, we faced the ascending trail and arrived just in time for the light rain.

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Ana-an Falls

After having our lunch and pitching our tents, we continued our with hike to the crater lake which was still 2 hours away. In contrast to the barren plains we passed by earlier, the terrain going to the summit was ringed with lush mountains. It reminded us of Dalaguete’s landscapes. Who would have thought spew of lahar devastated these verdant greens?

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Dalaguete feels!
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Hi Char!
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Survivors 😀

The trek this time was easier since we were not carrying full packs. Soon enough, we got a glimpse of the crater lake which took our breaths away. It was a sweet reward after a day of long walk, sun burn, and sticky sweat.

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The crater. ❤
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The pair. Aw.
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Mt. Pinatubo and its drama 😀

The beauty of Mt. Pinatubo is not only seen on its summit. Looking back, we saw and experienced the beauty in its disaster. The long stretch of lahar field that glimmered like gem, the sand boulders that awakened our sense of thrill, the river and falls that made us appreciate every drop of water, and the green mountains that proved us that nature always finds a way to thrive.

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Ka gwapa ba
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Happy faces 😀

This 42km adventure was indeed a golden one. It came with imperfections but our treasure trove was filled with memories, laughter and new bonds.


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Memories

One personal note, YOU DO NOTE,

Ours was a two-day event. I would not suggest trekking Mt. Pinatubo via Golden Trail in a day if you have no proper training. It’s a very long hike and unexpected things may happen along the way. There was another group hiking ahead of us who opted to finish the 42km circuit trail in a day hike (die-hike). They had to be rescued because (1) they came unprepared, no proper gears; (2) they underestimated the trail, their pacing are really slow to think it’s a day hike; and (3) they miscoordinated, for some reason they only have 1 guide despite their number.

For booking and reservation, message Golden Trail Traveler’s Resort & Adventure.


sdr

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

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.

Continue reading “Hindang: What a sleepy town in Leyte has to offer”

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

Continue reading “LIGID trail: Licos to Lanigid”

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”

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