From the unique hues of unusual colors to its unexplored depths, this river is living up to its name: Enchanting. Shades of aquamarine to dark blue were reflected on its crystal clear waters as if guiding the visitors of its shallow to deepest parts. Distinctively colored and outlined fishes that inhabits the body of water also adds to the mystique.
This deep spring river can be found in Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur, between the boundaries of Barangay Talisay and Cambatong. The water coming from an unknown source flows into Philippine sea and the Pacific ocean.
We avail one cottage for 150php. While lunch had been pre-ordered from the stalls on the entrance. Foods were delivered exactly noontime at our cottage.
At exactly 12 noon, the caretaker rings a bell signalling that the ‘feeding’ of fishes is about to start. Everyone must stay out of the water during this period. Schools of fish from out of nowhere appears in the surface (competing for food) much to the delight of the onlookers.
We head next to Barangay Borboanan in Bislig City to marvel at Tinuy-an’s beauty.
Tinuy-an is a three layered falls stunning enough to be considered as Philippines’ little Niagara falls. The area is surrounded with tall trees coupled with lush vegetation that makes it a sight to behold.
The second tier is the tallest and the most viewed and photographed among the three falls. We ride a makeshift raft towards the cascades. We stayed there for a while and get, well, wet.
We had a little trek to the uppermost tier. The height is short, not even half of the one below it, but the cascades’ pressure is intense enough for a hard back massage.
Locals said that everyday around 9am to 11am, a rainbow is formed on the lower falls which gives a majestic view. We arrived in the afternoon, so unfortunately we were not able to witness the phenomenon (and probably the chance to dig our pot of gold?)
Before resting our pressure-from-falls battled body, we decided to pass by the international doll house. On the way is the Bislig City Baywalk where we spent a couple of worthy minutes for I-LOVE-BISLIG poses.
Months after the much related and talked about top “hugot” movie of the year, we gave in to the craze. The movie is all about a woman taking attempts on finding out the answer to the question “Where do broken hearts go”.
The plot anchors on the seemingly unrealistic strangers turn travel buddies: made up of a girl who doesn’t want to go home yet and be alone with her thoughts plus a guy who is just willing to come along. Of all places she chose Baguio which later on leads them to Sagada. Then came the momentous climax where she blurted out her heartaches throwing yells from the cliff where they stand. Hoping the sea of clouds stretching to the horizon in front of her would absorb the sorrow and take away her pain all together.
Suddenly lots of people want to travel all the way up to Sagada to do the same thing (or maybe at least see the spot where the scene exactly happened). Being just normal people who at one point or another experience a related heartbreaking experience, my friends and I decided to take this “hugot” trip.
So, is Sagada really the place where “broken hearts go”? If yes, why? Does it transform us? Does it take away the pain? Well, just like in the movie, going places does not actually answer those questions. But it somewhat gives a hint that what’s important is you are not staying on the same ground. That wherever it takes you as long as you’re moving on then maybe, just maybe, you will end up just fine.
Doing the tour with friends rather than a prospect partner does not rip away the Sagada essence. Because who says you always have to find a romantic solution for being heartbroken?
Sometimes, like in that movie, you just need someone who will continue the song you are so choke-up-with-tears to finish. It’s that simple, unpretentious yet ecstatic feeling of having somebody to keep the song going. And who else could have hit those notes the way you started it? That is, not hitting any notes at all. -Your closest friends I guess.
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
So here comes the journey: We are able to book a 3 days/2nights package tour (10 pax) scheduled in May. Our trip also consists of side tours to Baguio, Banawe and Benguet. (See itinerary and budget below.)
We took our first stop on the municipality of Banawe, province of Ifugao. At the entrance point (an ark with imprints “Welcome to Banaue” stood), we just load off the van and took mandatory selfie and groufie shots.
Next, we head to the famous Banaue Rice terraces. The view is so familiar as it is always depicted on postcards, charts and books since elementary. However, it is still a sight to behold and being just a few meters away from the celebrated stairway of fields is still far amazing and captivating than seeing it on prints.
We checked-in at Sagada Homestay Inn.
First activity commenced early afternoon after we settled our things and consumed our lunch. First stop is in the Burial Cave.
We take the Sumaguing-Lumiang cave connection that costs us additional 450php. The cave connection took us 5 hours as we treat every turns a photo opportunity.
Before heading back on our inn to rest we stroll around for a food-tripping experience. We tried the lemon pie house as well as the yoghurt house.
Day2 Everyone is energized for the next early morning Bomod-Ok trek.
We took the opportunity to have a ride on top of a jeepney on our way back to the jump-off.
Before heading to the Echo Valley we already passed by Sagada weaving (closed on that day) and Orange farm (off-season). So we were not able to enjoy both attractions. Next activity is a little trek to the Echo Valley, where we passed by St. Mary’s church and Santo Campo cemetery. A little side story on this; our tour guide encourages us to shout to experience why it was called the “echo valley”. So my friend belted out “Walang forever!” (Forever doesn’t exist!). We are expecting the exact words to bounce back when a simultaneous yell “Wag kang bitter” answered us from the other side of the hill. Then comes the laughter and the exchange of “hugot” remarks such as “maghihiwalay din kayo” among others.
The tour guide lectures a little history about the ancient customs and the practice behind the hanging coffins. At some point, you can actually see the skeletons inside of the wooden casket.
We stayed a little more to accept the challenge offered on the way back; the rock climb. The activity costs 400php per person worthy of unlimited climb. My companions participated. I declined. (I was not prepared because it was not part of the itinerary and I wore a loose lacy short.) Because of this, we missed the pottery stop.
Learned a lot about Sagada and neighbouring province customs from our next stop; the Ganduyan museum. Here we paid a somewhat “mandatory” donation of 25php. The owner explains later on that since the museum was not yet subsidized by the government, their family single-handedly runs the maintenance of the place. So they need some help through donations. The amount we pay anyway is very much worthy of the knowledge the dedicated curator was able to deliver. (Picture taking inside is not allowed.)
By around six o’clock, we’re already back at the inn. After dinner, we stroll around the area and some have already bought Sagada shirts and souvenirs. As we are already leaving the next morning for our side trip to Benguet and Baguio, we decided to orchestrate a little bonfire session. Three questions were to be answered by each one of us. Being with the hype that time, these three questions were all “hugot” queries. Some even got emotional and cried. And finally, by around past 11 pm, we acknowledged the fatigue our body had and reward ourselves with some rest before we leave by 5am the next day.
We are so excited heading to Kiltepan viewpoint as we drove before dawn. We are racing with sunrise. Then, as if being mocked by the valleys, we arrived there with no trace of the sun at all. What we saw were equally disappointed groups of tourists. The weather has been cloudy that it blocks anything from the sky. It breaks our already broken heart. (hugot!)
Then goes the side trips: first on the highest point of Philippines highway system (Atok, Benguet) then to the summer capital Baguio City.
And that ends the trip. Is it worth it? Sure it was. We’ve come a very long way because we measure journey by friends rather than miles 🙂
Itinerary: (3d/2n Sagada tour with side trips on Banaue/Benguet/Baguio)
DAY – 0
09:00pm – Assembly (Mc Donalds North Ave. in front of Tri Noma Mall)
09:30pm – ETD to Sagada
DAY – 1
06:00am – ETA Banaue /Breakfast (on pax own acct.)
Banaue Town Banaue Rice Terraces View Point Sagada Town
Three o’clock in the morning, my alarm rang so loud, it also woken up my room mate. Well, I had to make sure I would not be late on my first ever hike-experience.
We are heading to the Rhino and Lioness Rock formation (mountain?) in Bulacan. The trek is expected to be just an hour walk. That’s why I joined anyway, because it is perfect for beginner like me.
But fate might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed that day and decided to play s trick on us. As we head to the site, we are welcomed with the news that it’s not open anymore for hiking. Yeah, just like that. It is already private. No entry allowed.
Our heart sank. Then fortunately (or unfortunately), one of us knows another mountain near the area. So, should we give it a try?
Mt Maranat. Never heard it before (And so are you right?). When I was told it would be a 3-4 hr hike for one way trek, I almost choke up. But then again, looking at my companion’s eager faces, I somewhat absorb their enthusiasm. They would not be denied. Not today. So yeah, why not Maranat?
No training, no preparations (I don’t even have the appropriate shoes) and not even a single last minute stretching. By the time we arrive at the jump-off, we say a little prayer and went straight on to hiking.
After hours of walking, climbing and river-crossing, we reached the top. Not actually the summit but the highest point mountaineers were allowed. I contemplate for a good few minutes on the entire vastness of greens and browns below me. I do appreciate nature but I have to say that this is not the most breathtaking I have seen. Not even extraordinary. I had to question myself (being a first-time hiker), had we go through all that trouble to only see this? I stood for quite a few more minutes, and then the wind blows hard yet soothingly as if to clear my then subjective mind.
That’s when I understand what it meant by “happiness is not the destination, it’s the journey”. It is that moment that these great words moved from my mind to my heart. That in the span of 8 hours we’re on the trail, I saw people challenging their selves. Exceeding their limits. Encouraging each other. Waiting and helping those left behind. Falling and stumbling yet laughing in the process. Aside from the eye-pleasing nature around us; I saw humility, adversity and friendship.
The experience makes me understand that going up is optional but going down is mandatory. That you can’t stay up there no matter how good and comfortable it is on top. That at some point in our life, we must go down. Transcend contentedly.
It taught me that going down requires as much time as going up. That you will meet people going up the same trail, encourage them and give them advice.
Maranat hike proves that sometimes, unexpected events turn out to be the most memorable ones. That when fate moves you to a change of plan. You just have to follow the flow. Who knows, it might just lead you to something better. And being unexpected, makes it sweeter.
Most importantly, climbing Mt. Maranat taught me how to endure. That no matter how slowly I go, I can finish off something as long as I do not stop. That stamina is sometimes more important than strength.
Wrapping-up the excruciatingly long-almost-unending hike to Maranat, I must say that yes Miley, you are right! It ain’t about how fast I get there. Nor is it about what’s waiting on the other side. Indeed, It’s the CLIMB.
How to go to Mt. Maranat:
Our team has rented an exclusive van that caters our round-trip transportation from Ayala, Makati to Maranat jump-off.