Thursday, August 30, 2012

Traveling Back In P.E. Time, Part 2: Mountain Trekking in Laguna

"Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Keep nothing but memories.  Kill nothing but time."--This was what our PE Prof kept reiterating to his PE class that decided to embark on a mountain trekking as a second outdoor activity for the semester.  It was a low-impact camping class, so we were to do trekking instead of climbing.  Again Professor Ronnie Dizer received help from his fellow Mountaineers who escorted us all the way.

The whole group took a bus going to Famy, Laguna. I remember we got off, not at a proper terminal, but in front of a small sari-sari store.  From there we abandoned the main road and moved deep into a coconut plantation (well, more like green pastureland sheltered by towering coconut trees).  I could say this was a normal route trekkers always took.  Our Mountaineers knew the trail by heart.
Well, remember, this happened over a decade ago, so things would certainly have changed between then and now.  So keep on reading, I cannot write this any other way but  flashback.

The Mountaineers escorted us head and tail, meaning some of them led, and some of them fell behind.  We went  past some grazing animals, past some farmhouses made of bamboo and other light materials.  After more than a hundred meters or so, we were moving into  the woods, with no dwellings in sight, although sporadically there would appear  an abandoned ramshackle shanty that looked so melancholic as it stood under some clumps of  trees.

We waded through  ankle-deep, knee-deep and waist-deep rivers.  Then we were moving uphill but we hardly noticed it.  The conversations and the laughters of the fellow trekkers kept our minds off the trail.

We realized the uphill trail only when we had to climb a steep part, holding on to the rope that  one of the Mountaineers ahead tied to a tree.  I thought it was going to be difficult given the fact that we'd come a long way from the drop-off point and our legs were already so tired .  But I managed to go up without a whine.  This was the time my prof said he was beginning to worry about me, but he was surprised that I held up so well.  I just smiled but deep inside of me I was wishing I could turn back and go home.  But that was just a thought, really. I was enjoying the trek, because everyone was chirpy.  We were all doing fine and ecstatic, especially when we got to the highest point and we had a vantage view of how far we had come.  We have reached Siniloan.

We've come from way down there, beyond the second hump.    By the time we reached this point it was already  mid-day We had to hurry so we could reach our campsite before dark.

We had to be very careful because the trail was slippery.  Throw in the fact that we had no guide ropes to hold on to this time.  The Mountaineers decided not to make our life too easy lest we not savor the experience after this trip. 

We managed the steep by clinging on to shrubs, leaves and roots of trees.  We were thick with mud all over.  Once we were all down at a clearing we were led to a curve and were overwhelmed by the sight that greeted us--the majestic Buruwisan Falls.  It was indeed jaw-dropping as we gushed with oohs and aaahs!

THE Buruwisan Falls.
 It falls powerfully into a wide catch basin and the water  magically turns emerald green

That challenging descent that we took was actually the altitude of the waterfall!  Some daredevil trekkers could have rappelled their way down. 
Or could have jumped from the top?  
I didn't know if the last option was possible or safe.

Tired bodies embraced the cool and refreshing water with great gusto, frolicked like little kids.  We stayed their for an hour, relaxing. Some opted to stay at the rim of the basin, sitting on rocks and logs; some braved the currents and swam up to the drop.  Everybody was having fun.

It was getting dark so we left the enchanting place hesitantly.  All wet but refreshed, we followed the shallow stream that led to our campsite.  There were a few houses there, and some sari-sari stores.  The Mountaineers chose our area, a rocky part of land beside the stream, quite far from the houses.  There we pitched our tents and waited till dinner time.  Our fees included a simple dinner, which they prepared for us.  After dinner we gathered for some socials--just talks, jokes, anecdotes. Everybody was relaxed and just enjoying the company.

Huddled around our single source of light, a Petromax, we were like little children listening to some bedtime stories that our 'kuyas' shared from their experiences as Mountaineers.  

They even taught us a chant that allegedly would lead us to self-realization.  Recite the chant and it will dawn on you. Once it happened, fall out of the circle and be very quiet, until everybody has fallen out and the circle is empty. 

 So we  mustered concentration, followed after Prof Dizer as the somber musical chant escaped from his mouth syllabically, and fell out of the circle one by one.  We sat in the  back quietly, avoiding each other's eyes lest the others see the emotions being held back by every individual.

Unfortunately, there was one single soul who took a very long time to achieve his self-realization that it was the chanter, Prof Dizer, who finally gave up.  

When he threw his arms up in the air  in  concession, we all broke into guffaws, literally rolling on the ground holding our tummies and tears streaming from our eyes.

The chant?  Now concentrate, try this slowly, somberly, seriously,  and achieve your own self-realization: aaah---bbbhaygaaahh---goophalaaaaa--kooooow.....

Look closely at what we were having to combat the cold of the night.  Most of us decided not to change into our dry clothes.  We were taught to travel very very light.  And the next day was going to be super-wet anyway.

Super-wet, because we had to cross streams and rivers to get to the next site: the Tatlong Palanggana Falls.  This is a set of waterfalls that looked like small basins in gradual sizes. That's the origin of the name.  The smaller waterfall at the top is called Tabu-tabo Falls, which collects into the smallest catch basin that drains out into the Palanggana Falls, the catch basin of which  is slightly larger than the first and drains out into the Batya-batya Falls which in turn drains out into a much bigger pool of green water.  Their names are derived from Tagalog terms all referring to water tubs in different sizes: "tabo, palanggana, and batya."

This is on the second level. You can cross the deep going to the highest level, the Tabu-tabo, by grabbing the guide rope and pulling yourself  up. To get down from there, you'll have to jump to the water, grabbing the guide rope and pulling yourself again back to the rocks.

That's me, being pushed to jump, because I was such a coward. I wasn't a confident swimmer. (I did get a 'kalabasa' award in Red Cross from way back in high school because I was such a slow learner)

The first level of the Tatlong Palanggana Falls.  You wouldn't know the beauty it conceals unless you were brave enough to explore.

 These days there are more organized treks, and these places, I believe, are now favorite outdoor itineraries among kindred spirits.  I hope you enjoyed the trip.  Travel back in time is FUN!

1 comment:

Yaseen Abbas said...

Amazing treks for trekking lovers. Please mention packages for trekking and adventure tours.