LAKE HOLON: A Sacred Place to Commune with Mother Nature

Weekend wanders seem unstoppable over the past few months. Juggling between work and this unceasing travels is becoming strenuous and sometimes all I wanted is to stay at home and do nothing but put my feet up. I must admit, unending weekend getaways can sometimes make me wonder why wander at all times. I wanted to halt for a moment but when one weekend adventure was laid before me, I can’t simply say no. It was a kind of trip I prepared so hard – a kind of meander I would die if I missed. This is my journey to Lake Holon.

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Behold the LAKE HOLON!

Found in the municipality of T’boli, South Cotabato, the majestic Lake Holon is the crater of Mt. Melibingoy, a dormant volcano towering at about 1,750 meters above sea level. It takes pride for being recognized as the Cleanest Inland Body of Water for 2 consecutive years (2003-2004). It is the source of five large rivers in the Region including the vast Allah River. There are two trails to get to Lake Holon. The more established is the Sitio Nabol trail and the harder one is the Sitio Kule. Since our outreach program for the T’bloli Community was at Sitio Kule, our journey to Lake Holon commenced there too. As our trek started, we were informed that what we were trekking through, the Sitio Kule Trail, is a hunter’s trail – a treacherous trail apt for adventure seekers like me.

The Sitio Kule Trail

The Sitio Kule Trail

Lake Holon is about four hour hike from Sitio Kule – that’s three hours ascend to reach the view deck overlooking the majestic lake and another one hour trek going down to reach the lakeshore. I must admit that it wasn’t an easy trek. In fact, it is more challenging compared to other mountain trekking I’ve made in some parts of the country. But the tougher it got, the more challenged I became to reach our goal. Thanks to the gods of the mountains, my physical preparation for this trek really worked.

One Perfect Cloudy Day at T'Boli

One Perfect Cloudy Day at T’Boli

The weather that day was cloudy. There were drizzles in between but it was generally a perfect weather to climb and marvel at this sacred place of the T’boli people. Along the way, we were sweetly greeted by the wild flora and lush vegetations that environed that whole place. In fact, it caused a little delay as we had to make stops and photograph these wild plants and flowers we cannot see in the concrete jungle. And for someone who truly admires everything that is wild and untouched, seeing them was a great joy. The wild orchids, pitcher plants, wild berries, gigantic ferns and more that we captivated us were among those that made the trek more satisfying.

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wild flora and lush vegetations that environed that whole place

As ascended further, the trail got rougher and the slopes were getting more challenging. This time I was beginning to catch my breath. I was panting and breathing so hard and so fast while my knees was shaking uncontrollably. Sharp grasses started to scratch my calf and it went on and on. And as we moved further, I was already carrying bleeding legs. Few steps more and we reached the view deck.

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The neon orange against the GREENS. 🙂

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The Verdant Forest of T’boli

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Lush Vegetation Abound

The view deck sits at the topmost point of the hill overlooking the majestic crater of Mt. Melibingoy. The view from the top is so superb that I forget about how I braved so hard to get there. It is so gorgeous and it possesses a striking appeal that all men will adore. It has a bewitching magic that can stop your world for a moment and has the power to ease all tired veins and exhausted body in just a snap. Lake Holon as viewed from the top is so grandiose that left me dumbfounded. Softly I muttered, “Wow! Wow! Wow!”

...that, my friends, is the majestic Lake Holon! :)

…that, my friends, is the majestic Lake Holon! 🙂

I almost glued myself from where I stood savoring the full top view of Lake Holon when suddenly an excruciating pain hit my legs. Just as I thought scratches were enough, this time I was stung by a bee. It was itching painfully I had to go back trail and eased it for a moment. But itching continued. Damn that bee, it ruined my instant romance with the Lake from the above.

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Lake Holon possesses a striking appeal that all men will adore!

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I was speechless! She’s just adorable!

And so from the view deck, another hour was spent hiking down to reach the bank of Lake Holon. I thought going up to reach view deck was already the hardest part of the trail, to my surprise, going down was worst. The one hour trek was the most challenging that I had to endure bruises and wounds when I slid for four times. I had to use my kung fu skills, tinikling expertise and tarzan-like ability to survive the steep and difficult trail. Yes, it was very difficult I reminded myself, “kay nganong ni-enter?”

A bleeding calf and a leg stung by a bee.

A bleeding calf and a leg stung by a bee.

One hour passed and there I was finally descending down to the bank, down to the lakeshore, down to our main destination, the mesmerizing Lake Holon. And when I finally got to the grounds, I dumped my things at one side and hurried to the lakeshore. There I stood and paused for a long moment staring at the mirror-like body of water murmuring whispers of adoration for such perfect work of nature. It was getting dark when we got there but even dusk cannot conceal the striking exquisiteness of the lake. And I said, “Lake Holon, here I am, an avid fan of yours long before I met you”. And suddenly I felt a cold wind caressing my face. Ah, the nature heard me.

After the 5 hour trek, I shouted for joy to finally reach the shore of LAKE LOHON!

After the 5 hour trek, I shouted for joy to finally reach the shore of LAKE LOHON!

As darkness devoured the tranquil surroundings, the coldness of the night began wrapping us. The lake was still as if it was in deep slumber. I waited for the moon to show up but seemed shy. I listened to sound of nature encircling us. I listened to the giggles of the mountains, the chirping of the wild crickets and the music of the forest. My ears cannot hear them but my heart can. Inside the tent lying so close to the cold earth, I thought of the comfort of my bed. But it was just a thought. I never wanted it for that night. For I was in the comfort of true home – in the comfort of Mother Nature. Lake Holon is Mother’s nature’s great creation. I was being cuddled. It was lullaby to sleep.

A Beautiful Morning Praise

A Beautiful Morning Praise

The chirping of birds woke me up in the freezing dawn. The cold morning mists kissed my cheeks waking my full senses. And when I finally got into it, it was the incredible view of Lake Holon that greeted my implausible morning. The dawning of the day slowly revealed the true and mystical beauty of the lake. My admiration for her grew deeper. As sunlight shone on her, her radiance was becoming spectacular. The greens enveloping her reflected on the water and I felt like I was in a reverie floating in those placid waters.

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Lake Placid

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…the dance of life, the music of nature!

I grabbed from camera and started photographing every inch of her beauty. I prayed inside me that I can capture her true radiance because my naked eyes can. I prayed I can give justice to her incomparable gorgeousness because she truly is. She is lake placid; she is lake of the gods.

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Mirror Lake

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Can you hear the call of the Lake? I do.

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The bounty of nature

As the sun rose up, I felt the sharp ray of light hitting my face. But as I looked at the lake and saw the dazzling reflection of azure skies reflected on the waters, I thanked the heavens for giving us such clear weather that day to compliment the beauty of Lake Holon. Stunned, I sat on a rock gazing at the waters that seemed to embody the mystery of nature. And I sat and paused there wishing I could spend more time relishing every bit of her. She’s just absolutely adorable.

my fellow worshipers of nature

my fellow worshipers of nature

And when our time was up to say goodbye to Lake Holon, I took a deep breath and say my own prayer. I thanked God for giving the rare opportunity to be who I am – a wanderer and worshipper of His creations. But I thanked Him more for bringing me to this place and let me be clothed by the wonders of Lake Holon. So thus I pray, I pray harder that this masterpiece of nature will be preserved and nurtured. I prayed that when time comes that I come back there, she is still there at her most exquisite natural beauty waiting for me – untouched and unmolested – for me to worship her again because she’s worth all praises, all admiration. Lake Holon is worth it. Now I understand why Lake Holon along with Mount Melibingoy is a sacred place of the T’boli tribe.

Now I’m a captive of her beauty but I don’t have the intentions to be freed.
I shall see her again.

How To Get To Tboli:

From General Santos City, the Municipality of T’boli is just 1.5 hour away by private ride or barely 2 hours by public ride. If you are traveling from Davao City, it will take you around 3.5 hours to get to General Santos City. Buses and utility vans are available for those who will take the public transportation.

Travel Time and Transportation Fare:
Davao City to Gen.Santos City – est 3.5 hours – P270.00
Gen.Santos City to Koronadal City – est. 55 minutes – Php 97.00 by bus, P75 by van
Koronadal City to Tboli – est. 45 minutes – Php 70.00 by van

WRITER’S NOTE: I would life to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Friends of Holon and Melibingoy (FHM) and theMindanao Tourism Council (MinTC) for organizing this event and for inviting us to be part of it. Special thank you shout out goes to Louie Pacardo and Jonalier Perez.

BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE!

Moving forward, I didn’t notice we had already reached another town as my mind wandered around thinking about this whole Cordillera trip until Andrew announced, “Welcome to Banaue”! Hearing this, I instantly shivered in sheer excitement. “Banaue, oh, my Banaue. At last, I’m here!”

BANAUE RICE TERRACES (16)I remember growing up how I love articulating the words Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe. I guess every little pupil who loves their Sibika at Kultura books would agree that the picture of Banaue Rice Terraces is one the most breathtaking pictures included in the book. Even in our classroom’s Filipiniana Chart, the postcard of the Rice Terraces of Banaue always stood out. And so the thought of going there marveling at this captivating spot once hailed as the 8th Wonder of World me thrilled me.

The rustic town of Banaue along the famous Rice Terraces

The rustic town of Banaue along the famous Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces on Php 1,000.00 Banknote

Banaue Rice Terraces on Php 1,000.00 Banknote

As we entered Banaue, my eyes began searching for this famous spot. There was a certain leap of joy I felt as we trailed going up to the town proper. Mountains surrounding web design Sacramento the highway were all green. They were so refreshing to my weary eyes. I was enticed to lower down the van’s window to feel the freshest air of the mountainous province.

Among the first few Rice Terraces I saw entering Banaue

Among the first few Rice Terraces I saw entering Banaue

When we finally reached the upper portion of the highway overlooking the valleys and hills, there I began seeing hundreds of rice terraces that are majestically and perfectly carved on the hillsides. It was such a spectacular view that struck me at an instant beckoning me to worship its grandeur. I had been picturing it out on my head but seeing it personally was just different – it was magical. I wanted to ask Andrew to stop the vehicle so I could go down and marvel at it gloriously but I knew there must be a spot where we can stay and catch the perfect sight of this wonder incredibly built thousand years ago.

These were like Candies to my eyes! :)

These were like Candies to my eyes! 🙂

True enough, minutes later we found ourselves parked at the view deck where the panoramic view the Rice Terraces of Banaue is at its best. I waited no second. I hurried down from the van armed with my camera and tripod hoping to take the best photograph of this jaw-dropping scenery – Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe. As I positioned myself to start photographing this awe inspiring view in front of me, I felt a strong force that halted me from what I was doing and to simply stand there, do nothing but marvel at the most breathtaking view of the mountainous region of the Philippines. Like an obedient child, I yielded to that force and simply stood there filling my hungry eyes with the most heavenly view that was laid before my sight. It was just so magical. Without me knowing, tears ran down from my eyes. I was becoming sentimental. I know they were tears of joy, tears of fulfillment – seeing finally something I only read on books and postcards.

BANAUE RICE TERRACES (17) BANAUE RICE TERRACES (23) BANAUE RICE TERRACES (56)BANAUE RICE TERRACES (87) BANAUE RICE TERRACES (100)Contented, I began clicking my shutter button trying to develop a love triangle between me, my camera and these rice terraces. But as I put these scenes on still, I can’t help but wonder how on earth these ancestors of Ifugao built such spectacular piece of art 2000 years ago – a stunning masterpiece that Filipinos referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. It is just so amazing to realize that 5,000 feet above sea level in this part of the country lies this magnificent piece of architecture built by the great ancestors of the Filipino race. Without a doubt, this is one of the best sources of the Filipino pride. It is an amusing heritage that every Filipino, including myself, should take pride of.

The Philippines' Wonder of the World

The Philippines’ Wonder of the World

While all of us busied ourselves with our own short love affair with Banaue, I forgot to notice the three old beautiful Ifugaos seated on the bench behind us. They were fully dressed in traditional Ifugao costume adorned with indigenous accessories. I found them so adorable we all couldn’t resist from taking our individual photographs with them.

My long lost friends.

My long lost friends.

my three instant friends. :)

my three instant friends. 🙂

The beautiful Ifagaos

The beautiful Ifugaos

I’d like to stay longer and savored more time with this childhood-dream-come-true experience but there are still other wonders of Cordillera that waited for me and my 11 equally bold friends. Thus, I left Banaue with a promise of coming back in the not-so-distant future. And I promised to see more of what it has to offer.

The Travel Teller with his 11 Equally Adventurous Friends: Sarah, Nicole, Ophelia, Mary Anne, Madeline, Jem, Kier, Eric, Jade, Glenn and Alex

I left Banaue with a promise of coming back in the not-so-distant future. And I promised to see more of what she has to offer.

HOW TO GET TO BANAUE:

Banaue is about 350 kilometers away from Manila and travel time via Eastern Highway (North Luzon Expressway) is approximately 9 hours passing through the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. There are bus lines that regularly travel to Banaue from Cubao. Please do not be confused with this route from the Baguio route. While Banaue is situated on the east side of the Central Cordillera Mountains, Baguio, Sagada, and Bontoc are on the west side.

NEXT POST: THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis

This is The Travel Teller’s Ifugao-Mountain Province-Benguet Diaries

1. DREAMING OF YOU CORDILLERA (The Beginning) 2. BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE! 3. THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis 4. MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

DREAMING OF YOU, CORDILLERA (The Beginning)

“I have so many beautiful stories to tell about my recent trip to
Ifugao, Mountain Province and Benguet but I don’t know where to start.
Sa sobrang dami at sobrang ganda ng napuntahan ko,
di ko alam paano ko umpisahan.”

This is what I wrote on my Facebook status yesterday as I started scanning the multiple photos I took during my short visit to some of the most beautiful towns in Cordillera Region. The still images are so vivid and each photo tells one beautiful story. I’m puzzled where to start – where to begin chronicling this journey that was born out of admiration for our country, the Philippines.
KIANGA, IFUGAO (68)As I went through looking at these photographs one by one, I was reminded of my childhood dream born way back in grade school. As early as grade one, our Sibika at Kultura book taught me about vital lessons that made up why the Philippines is such a beautiful country. All those places of great importance mentioned on the book deepened that immense admiration in me about our country. It nurtured that sense of nationhood as I slowly take pride of our own heritage. That admiration was turned into a dream – a dream of visiting those places one day. Years passed by, I passionately begin living that dream – going places marveling at sights I used to see only on books and postcards. After many years, finally another dream was realized – seeing the many entrancing gems of the mountainous region of Cordillera.

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Seeing Banaue Rice Terraces was my Childhood Dream.

I remember growing up how I love articulating the words Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe. I guess every little pupil who loves their Sibika at Kultura books would agree that the picture of Banaue Rice Terraces is one the most breathtaking pictures included in the book. Even in our classroom’s Filipiniana Chart, the postcard of the Rice Terraces of Banaue always stood out. And so the thought of going there marveling at this captivating spot once hailed as the 8th Wonder of World me thrilled me like a jovial kid.

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Just a few the many awe-inspiring Rice Terraces in Cordillera Region

Coming from the south, going up north to the mountainous Cordillera Region entails a lengthy travel. Davao City to Manila is roughly 2 hours flight and Manila to the Provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province via Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya is about 12 hours. For some, this can be a very tedious journey but for me and my 11 equally adventurous friends, this is where real adventure begins.

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The Travel Teller with his 11 Equally Adventurous Friends: Sarah, Nicole, Ophelia, Mary Anne, Madeline, Jem, Kier, Eric, Jade, Glenn and Alex

It was 3 am at dawn when we left Manila. Fortunately, despite the Low Pressure Area that was spotted northwest of Luzon, we were blessed with a fine weather that early morning. In fact, we even got a perfect glimpse of a glorious sunrise somewhere in Nueva Ecija. In my mind, I thought the gods of Cordillera are with us on this trip. It brought to mind the same situation when I first set foot on the mountainous grounds of the province two years ago when I climbed Mount Pulag, the 3rd highest peak in the country and the highest in the whole Island of Luzon. The weather that time was even worse but we all survived Mount Pulag – seemed there was a strong divine intervention. But this trip was a lot better. It promised an unforgettable journey.

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Our First Stop: KIANGAN, IFUGAO

After plying the highways of Nueva Ejica and Nueva Vizcaya for almost 8 hours, excitement fired up when finally the signage that bears WELCOME TO PROVINCE OF IFUGAO was laid before our eager eyes. I can feel the warm welcoming words of the welcome pylon as we entered the grounds of Kiangan, the first Ifugao town from Nueva Vizcaya. Having seen that, I could no longer contain my excitement. “Ifugao, yes, this is Ifugao”, words that I silently muttered.

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The Verdant Mountains of Ifugao

As we moved up further, my eyes were glued on the green mountains of the Kiangan. There, I saw few rice terraces but not the one I pictured on my mind. Those were just few of the many breathtaking rice terraces that can be seen in Ifugao. Ten minutes later, our driver/tourist guide/friend Andrew pulled over our van just beside the view deck overlooking the breathtaking view of verdant mountains of Kiangan. It was our first official stop. All of us hurried to the view deck and submitted ourselves to full admiration of the beautiful environs that enveloped us. I took a deep breath and savored the thought that I am there – in Ifugao, so close to Banaue Rice Terraces. So close to that dream.

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The First Rice Terraces that I saw during the whole trip!

From there, we moved forward. Along the way, I noticed few Ifugao traditional houses erected beside the highway. There were open huts too selling famous Ifugao woodcrafts and carvings. There were plenty of them as we passed by the highway but the one that charmed us was this Ifugao House where various woodcrafts of different designs and sizes were on display. It was a charming souvenir shop that sells interesting items – bulol (rice gods), pestle and mortar, libbit (conical-shaped drum) and many more. I got the libbit for myself surprisingly for only Php 200.00. Because the shop was a little charmer, we stayed there for a couple of minutes enjoying things that we all found amusing. But as I went through the back of shop, there I found another charming rice terraces. It was beautiful. But I know I wasn’t the one mentioned in the book. It was not in Kiangan but in Banaue.

KIANGA, IFUGAO (23)KIANGA, IFUGAO (26) KIANGA, IFUGAO (31) KIANGA, IFUGAO (32) KIANGA, IFUGAO (33) KIANGA, IFUGAO (37) KIANGA, IFUGAO (43) KIANGA, IFUGAO (52)Again, we moved back into the van and continued our journey. I was humming the song from one of my favorite classic films – The Sound of Music. “The hills are alive with the sound of music” – the lyrics, the melody seemed to blend with the most spectacular view of the best mountainous region I’ve ever been. This is Cordillera, I reminded myself again. “Savor it, Olan! This has been your dream!”

Moving forward, I didn’t notice we had already reached another town as my mind wandered around thinking about this whole Cordillera trip until Andrew announced, “Welcome to Banaue”!  Hearing this, I instantly shivered in sheer excitement.

“Banaue, oh, my Banaue. At last, I’m here…! “

Banaue Rice Terraces

WATCH OUT FOR THE NEXT POST: BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE! 

 This is The Travel Teller’s Ifugao-Mountain Province-Benguet Diaries

1. DREAMING OF YOU CORDILLERA (The Beginning)
2. BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE!
3. THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis
4. MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

CLIMBING THE SCENIC MUSUAN VOLCANO

Musuan, abode of Central Mindanao University, is not only renowned as the Academic Paradise of Southern Philippines but also known being the home of Musuan Volcano, one of the 22 indentified active volcanoes in the Philippines belonging to the so called Pacific Ring of Fire. This is the last stop of my travel series to the Green Province of Bukidnon.

Persuaded by my two Bukidnon-based friends Christopher Diaz and Nancy Arelas, I agreed to climb the Musuan Volcano situated at the nearby Central Mindanao University in Maramag, Province of Bukidnon. I learned from them, being alumni of the said University, that Musuan Volcano, also known as Musuan Peak and locally called as Mount Calayo, is the most favorite hiking destination among students, teachers and locals in this part of the province. This is where they frequented when doing zoological and botanical research. But for Christopher and Nancy, this is a perfect place to relax and unwind; and the easiest way to commune with mother nature. Hence, I must try it for myself.

Trekking Musuan Peak is made very convenient, fun and easy. The jump off point is situated at CMU’s Zoological and Botanical Garden located along the national highway. The open trail going to the peak is much established. In fact, 4×4 trucks can actually pass through it. But of course, hiking and trekking that will take for only an hour going to the peak of Musuan Volcano is more fun! With the scenic view of everything that surrounds it, trekking Musuan Peak is more than just the usual. An hour trek is worth a thousand joy seeing everything up there and all that envelops it.

Being situated in the middle of the vast valley, Musuan Peak is the perfect place to get the overlooking view of the various natural sceneries of the Province. The countryside is visibly seen from the top giving one a perfect view of Mount Kitanglad on one side, Pulangi River on the other, and the green valleys, plateaus and mountains that are amazing sights to behold.

Although Musuan Volcano is an active volcano, it has no signs or threat of eruption since its recorded explosion in 1867. Now a lava dome and tuff cone covered with lushes of vegetation, Mount Musuan is among the recommended destinations to see when in the Province of Bukidnon.

With my travel soulmates Christopher Diaz and Nancy Arelas

With its scenic view and convenience, trekking Musuan Peak is definitely a must thing-to-do in this part of Bukidnon. In fact, having experienced its thrill and fun, I considered our trek that day as one of the best things I did while I was at the Green Province of Bukidnon.

Me and my new friend ANGEL at CMU’s Zoological and Botanical Garden located at the foot of Musuan Volcano

VISITING THE GREEN PROVINCE OF BUKIDNON: The Travel Series

1. Experiencing Bukidnon’s Kaamulan Festival
2. Impasug-ong’s Center for Ecological Development And Recreation
3. 
Malaybalay’s Monastery of the Transfiguration
4. Climbing Musuan Volcano


THE GOLDEN VALLEY OF ARAKAN, COTABATO

“The hills are alive,
With the sound of music
With songs they have sung
For a thousand years”

It never crossed my mind that one day I will be singing this Sound of Music’s theme while trekking a mountain range of hills that are truly alive and of valleys that are vividly gold. I was singing this the whole time was trekking the majestic mountains of Arakan Valley. I never knew that this part of Mindanao has been like that – a mountain haven of blissful surprises.

Arakan is one the 2nd class municipalities of the Province of Cotabato, formerly known as North Cotabato, a landlocked province in Mindanao belonging to the SOCCSKSARGEN Region. This eastern town of Cotabato borders the land area of Davao City particularly the Marilog District which is accessible through the Davao-Bukidnon Road more popularly known as Buda. Hence, getting to Arakan Valley from Davao City is conveniently within reached.

Armed with cameras and passion for great adventure, together with my equally daring friends Caroline Espejon, Edwin Lasquite, Leo Timogan and Ariel Macatiog, we braved the challenge of trekking the jagged vast valleys and hills of Arakan for one whole day.

It was 5:30 in the morning when we left downtown Davao City aboard the CDO-bound Rural Transit Bus going to Campo Uno, the jump off point going to Arakan Valley which situated along the highway of the Buda Road. It took us an hour and half to get there. Upon arrivals, we immediately hired habal-habal to take us to Barrio Matigol. It was from here that we started hiking going to Sitio Inamong to meet and greet with the community of Manobo Tribe, the indigenous people of Arakan, communing in this part of the Valley.

We were warmly welcomed by the Tribe’s Chieftain upon arriving at Sitio Inamong. The Manobo kids excitedly greeted us with their winsome smiles. We brought some pieces of bread and cookies and share these with them. The kids were so adorable and friendly. They loved being photographed. The adults on the other hand were so helpful. The chieftain assigned one of his men, Marcus, to be our guide as we trek the valleys and hills of this part of Arakan.

From Sitio Inamong, the next hours were spent trekking to some of the scenic mountain landscapes of Arakan. The whole trail was bushy. The grassland of cogon grasses were up to our waist. At first glance, the whole place reminded us right away of the grassland of Mount Pulag, the highest mountain in Luzon. That resemblance immediately ignited our excitement to enjoy the picture perfect view of the whole place.

Our point of destination that day was the Matigol Falls also known as Bani Falls. Matigol Falls is a multi tiered waterfalls with an astonishing height of about 500 meters from its first tier down to the bottom. It has five major cascading tiers and each has a basin that serves as natural pool.

Going there entails a lot of effort. The bushy and steep trails made it difficult to go uphill and down. There were trails with a cliff on a side. Most part of the trek is on the open trail though. We were just lucky that it was a cloudy day when we get there; otherwise, the castigating heat of the sun would be unbearable.

Along the trek, we met other members of the Manobo Tribe passing by the bushy trails. They were kind and courteous they greeted us their infectious smile. Some kids were happily playing around the grassland. I felt so happy seeing them enjoying the landscape of the vast valley that nurtured them and their community. They playfully posed when they were asked for a photo opp. We all adored these kids.

Going further, the trails became a bit exhausting. Luckily, we have Manong Marcus who was kind enough to tell us about the story of his tribe, his community and their ancestral domain. It didn’t bore us. At times, we would stop and rest. Unfortunately, among the five of us, I was the one who got leg sprains. It was too unbearable especially that we had to endure steep trails before getting to our final destination.

We were so tired and starving upon reaching the final hill that overlooks the whole view of five-tiered Matigol Falls. But seeing the beauty of the Falls in full glory rejuvenated our tired souls. It was just so picturesque that all of us couldn’t help but worshipped its beauty. Imagine a golden valley with a backdrop of a magnificent falls – it was just awesome.

Contended by view of the whole environs, we paced back to a shaded area to feed our starving stomach. An old Manobo lady joined us and shared her stories about her land. It was a rare experience communing with nature while talking to an old tribe’s lady. She was a very pleasant woman.

When the old woman left, we also then decided to go back to Sitio Inamong and prepare to go back to Buda before the sun set. Still suffering from a leg sprain, going back to the camp was difficult. We had to halt for awhile and regained enough strength. At the end, we reached Sitio Inamong, Barrio Matigol and back to Campo Uno safe and sound. Though tired and exhausted, all the five of us commended that our experience at Arakan Valley is a perfect start of the many exciting adventures and thrilling travels we will be making for 2012.

THE FAB FIVE TREKKERS

Aboard the bus going back to Davao, the Sound of Music was still my last song syndrome. Joyfully, in my head I was singing:

“I go to the hills
When my heart is lonely
I know I will hear
What I’ve heard before
My heart will be blessed,
With the sound of music
And I’ll sing once more.”

Farewell Arakan, we will see you soon.

PHOTO CREDITS:
Leo Timogan – Photos 1 & 3
Caroline Espejon – Photos 2 & 13