Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sunset Stories

It’s almost dusk and darkness is about to cover the surroundings. Yet, before it completely shuts the daylight down, a pink, yellow-orange sky is painted in the sky.

Oh I guess, I am really a sentimental person. Because if not, I would not be able to write something like this. I would not even waste my time and make a post just to detail what the heck is sunset for me. But tell me, isn’t it that you are also one of those people who can’t help but marvel over a perfect sunset moment? Witnessing a very dramatic sunset could be overwhelming and the joy it brings is unexplainable that it just makes one’s heart leap for joy.

One of my favorite shots when I climb mountain is the sunset. Being atop the mountain while seeing for myself the conquering darkness and perfect sunset battle at twilight is one of the most favored moments of my life. When you are granted with a good view of sunset, very often that it means you are also given a  favorable weather for your climb. By the way, I put more weight and preference on sunset over sunrise. Sunset is always beautiful but I think you will also agree with me that even so, sunset is better appreciated and viewed from the seashore, from the mountains or from anywhere purely nature than when you spot it from the city. I've been to different mountains and I was able to collect sunset experiences that I would like to have some flashback. I may not have the most beautiful captured sunsets but let me share them with you anyway (it was actually a compilation as the photos below were already posted and included per mountain/climb story of this blog). Well, still, they are somehow worth remembering.

  • Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia  (November 2013)

Viewing this impressive sundown made me left for a while my buffet dinner at Laban Rata Lodge because all I wanted to do was to wonder at what I see amidst very, very cold weather outside and never miss out any amazing moment. Such a romantic scene that I called Buddy to watch it with me.

  • Mt. Guiting-Guiting, Romblon (November 2012)

 I have forgotten my tiredness brought about by trekking since 3:30AM on that day because I got to witness this simple treat from the sky --- a beautiful sunset.

  • Mt. Batulao, Batangas (January 2014)

Before nightfall sweeps off the view of the fabulous mountain range of Mt. Batulao, here's what we got -- an equally fabulous sun coming down from above!

  • Mt. Simagaysay, Ilocos Norte (February 2012)

In completing the Mt. Sicapoo traverse in Ilocos back in 2012, what could be more motivating being in the third day of the trek with an average of 8-10 hours walk per day than having a plenty of water and by being rewarded by this perfect sunset from the 360-degree view trails of Mt. Simagaysay.

  • Maranat Falls, Bulacan (June 2014)

Who could have thought that just a few minutes away from the metro lies a very serene and pleasant hiking destination where sunset also appears to be so stunning. It was overwhelming while taking a snapshot of it from the campsite.

  • Balin-balin Village, Mt. Mantalingajan, Palawan (May 2014)

The peaceful living at Balin-balin is also mixed with peaceful twilight like this brought by the sweet setting of the sun from behind.

  • An Ascent from Kabugan Campsite, Mt. Mantalingajan Traverse, Palawan (May 2014)

The whole day might be a non-stop rainy trek for us but the heavens promised a beautiful ending for our Day 1 trek to Mantalingajan -- a pinkish sunset.
  • Paray-Paray Campsite, Mt. Mantalingajan Traverse, Palawan (May 2014)

I was hoping for another pinkish sunset in our Day 2 trek in Mt. Mantalingajan. But I felt happier at what we saw. It was a glancing and hiding sun over a cloudy side of Ransang, Palawan. This was viewed from the water source (small creek) that can be found just a few minutes away from Paray-paray campsite.

  • Mt. Tagpew, Kibungan Circuit, Benguet (February 2014)

Oooops, when I say sunset photo I mean not the literal, complete view of the sundown. It could also mean a hidden sunset. I called it a "lingering sunset." It was such a fantastic reflection of the red-orange light of the sun but we could not view it because the campsite in this side of Benguet is covered by  trees. 

  • Pico De Loro, Batangas/Cavite (June 2011)

It was almost dusk but still there was a trace of sunset at these crocodile-like islets viewed from the summit of Pico de Loro.

For me, sunset is such a sweet finale.  The sun seems to bid goodbye telling me that, “hey, it might be a long, tiring day, but watch me as I spread the last strike of my light, it’s still a wonderful day anyway!” Sunset conveys a message that another page is added to my life and is brought now to memory. It seems to give a retro feeling that you may want to reflect and recall all the happenings on that particular day. Sunset makes a promise that he would hide for a while but he will definitely shine the next day. It tells that life is fantastic... that there is always something to celebrate. It portrays hope and gratefulness.

I thank God for the sunset. It is the expression of His wondrous deeds.

I'm pretty sure your captured sunset photos are far better than these. And you will always recall those moments when you got to witness it for yourself. Now, what are your sunset stories?
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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Maranat: Simply Hidden and Serene

It was only this year that I heard a lot about Maranat. I just recently saw a lot of facebook uploads about it. 'Sounds something unusual! Then I got my chance to visit it. =)

I can say Maranat is unique in different ways. It's not a typical mountain where you would expect a highest peak or a summit. Really, it is not. But of course it's still a mountain and they say it's part of Sierra Madre range (most likely Mt. Oriod). 
Maranat is also a close neighbor to Mt. Balagbag. In fact, its jump off point is in Licao-licao in Rodriguez, Rizal which is similar to Mt. Balagbag. Ting ting ting! The good news? Well, obviously it's just somewhere near Manila and it's easy to get there. What I am also amused about is that it is not a traverse-type of a climb and yet the trekking itself is passing through the boundaries of two provinces, that is, making an entry point in Rizal walking all the way to Bulacan, specifically the town of San Jose del Monte. (It is said to be almost within the area of Norzagaray town, also in Bulacan).

The Highlight 


So what is special about Maranat? Instead of looking forward to a fulfillment by reaching a summit, one would equally be satisfied by its ultimate final destination -- its beautiful falls hidden in the middle of the mountain along with serene campsite overseen by a local named Tatay Nestor who also owns a nipa hut there.

The Trail

One may not anticipate any highest peak yet an alternate ascending and descending trails are still part of the trek. Around 10-15mins after the start up from Licao-licao, there's a point where instead of straight direction (which is heading to Balagbag), getting to Maranat would mean taking the left turn. Oh I missed taking a snapshot of it, but i am 100% sure it's easy to find  and is obvious because otherwise, heading straight would mean ending up with an open trail to Mt. Balagbag trail.

The first part of the trek (more than 1 hour I guess) is fairly easy passing through various residential areas. However, during that weekend that we did the trek, the terrain made it a little more challenging for us because it was muddy and we could not trust on both rocks and muds as they are really slippery to step at. (It's June and the past days/week had been a sort of rainy).

A very relaxing nipa hut along the trail can be found after a couple of minutes. Afterwards, we encountered a steady trail with a mix of ascending and descending ones. The trails then become open and more of grassland.

But that's situated in another mountain. This means that we have to take a deep, steep, rocky downward trail to get to the river and after crossing such river, we need to ascend the next mountain.

Walking after less than an hour, we could already view the campsite and the falls beside it which both seem to encourage us more to continue with the trek. From that point, I couldn't wait to finally get there!

The trail going down is muddy and cautions must be observed as it is dangerous, steep and slippery.

Assisted by our guy companions, it wasn't too difficult to get to the other side of the river even if the water level is almost waist high of my height. Of course, it could be risky or not passable when there's an inclement weather where water level can drastically rise.
This area is a sort of zipline wire to get to the other side. Got no idea when it can be operated or used
As expected, the backtrail is a bit longer as this descent trail that we took was the same trail that we had to ascend on our way back. It's the total opposite of the normal climb. Going to Maranat is more of downward trail while going back home is like you just get to start climbing a mountain.

Actual number of hours during our ascent (with a lot of rest): 3.5 hours

Actual number of hours on our descent: 2.8 hours

Blissful Camping

After enduring a 10-15 minute ascent from the river, we reached the campsite. A nipa hut was the very first thing that we saw. 

Below were two of the cute and playful pets of Tatay Nestor which seem to be so homey and are used to a life in the mountain.

 Tatay Nestor gave us a warm welcome and was very accomodating to us. He even told us some trivia and stories of his past travel and adventures.   

This one reminds me of my childhood as I remember it so plentiful during summer. It's called "talutot" in our town. Oh forgive me that I forgot from which tree it came from.

We chose the camping area which is just 5 minutes away from the falls. The camping ground is not that flat making you to slightly slant when lying down but nevertheless still suitable for setting a tent. Water source is absolutely not a problem as aside from the fact that the campsite is close to the falls, Tatay Nestor has water hose/system.  We were even able to take a good bath as we can freely use their comfort room and bathroom. I have learned that many of the mountaineers there are avid campers of Maranat and are resident climbers as one of them claimed. This climber has mentioned that staying there more than the normal overnight climb is not new to her. I have heard from Tatay Nestor himself that there are a few climbers there who have stayed for more or less than one month. But it's really not that surprising. I cannot question them. Staying there is satisfying and soothing and if you are looking for serenity and simplicity -- fresh air, abundant water, refreshing nature, quiet place --- well, it appears like you can no longer ask for more. Tatay Nestor even told us that when heat strikes during lunch time, he simply goes to the falls, listens to the water flows and feels the refreshing water then he's fine and cooled down afterwards.

I have only one comment. There are plenty of mosquitoes and I find them so annoying. Until this write up or two weeks after the climb, several marks of their bites are still visible in my skin and are very itchy (Well, I don't know if that goes by the blood type because eversince I am mosquitoes' favorite).
By the way, heavy rains disturbed us during the night. Indeed, it's rainy season already.

The second day was maximizing the stay and enjoyment at the falls. We were able to reach the farthest one. Water is so abundant and free flowing. I honestly wanted to stay for one more night if only I had no work the following day.

I asked Tatay Nestor how Maranat started to become known to many climbers. He said it began when Sagip Kagubatan was formed and when a good and nature-concerned person named Oliver Solomon expressed the willingness to help him plant more trees and save the mountains. Tatay Nestor willingly told us about his life and how he got to Maranat. One thing he is advocate of is to save the nature. For him, reforestation is actually not the absolute solution nor the annual budget that government appropriates on it, it is being "hands on" and proper monitoring that can totally solve the problem.

Coaling is the primary source of livelihood in Maranat but it has also caused the mountain to lack more trees and has triggered erosions. This, according to Tatay Nestor if not replaced with new trees can cause worse flood or clean water shortage to Metro Manila and nearby areas. That's his only concern. He wants the future not to suffer and he is totally thankful to Sagip Kagubatan for the initiatives it has done already.

This bald area of the mountain has actually a portion with soil erosion. 

Such weekend may have an abnormal weather (a quick alternate of sunny and rainy), but it let us experience a great time of adventure and a good feel of nature. In the future, I am looking forward to be back to this paradise-like Maranat -- simple, hidden and serene. (I'll have my mosquito bites healed at least hehe).  

How to Get There?

1. Take a bus in EDSA going to Tungko.
2. Alight in Tungko and go to the market which has a terminal of jeepneys going to Licao-licao.
3. Drop off in Licao-Licao
4. Take a tricycle going to Barangay hall for registration.

*Getting a chartered jeepney is also advisable for convenience

Safe Budget (for an overnight Climb for a minimum of 10 pax): Php 500
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