Summer is fast approaching and before I lay on the beach and bask in the sunlight, I want to start this year with a climb in Mt. 387 which is popularly known as the “Chocolate Hills of the North”. It is ringed by rolling hills and green valleys making it one of the wonderful hiking destinations in the country. I joined the group of Tahak Mountaineer headed by Mar Monge for P750 with my favorite trek buddy, the courageous and adventurous Lhen Pelenio.
Our two-day stay in Red Parrot Inn in Kaputian Beach was indeed one of our best beach getaways ever. My family especially our kids still wanted to stay but we have to move on for another refreshing treat. Yes another nature tripping to Hagimit Falls which is located in Poblacion Peñaplata, still in the Island Garden City of Samal. We were so thankful to Barney and his family for making our Davao vacation so fulfilling.
From Kaputian, it took us almost thirty minutes reaching the parking space of Hagimit Falls. Barney paid the entrance fee. There were two trails in descending to the waterfalls. My family took the flight of concrete steps while the others took the rocky and slippery trail.
In going to Guimaras, what is commonly asked for a pasalubong is their sweet mangoes which is being exported worldwide. I’ve discovered that this island has something more to offer. Their stunning beaches, caves, yummy fresh sea-foods and verdant landscape made me say, “this is a holiday!”
Guimaras was once a sub-province of Iloilo City until it became an independent province on May 22, 1992. The primary gateway to the island province is through Parola and Ortiz Wharfs in Iloilo in a short and inexpensive boat ride.
I was so happy that my hubby was on break this Saturday from his provincial project in Iloilo. He had visited Guimaras last week with his colleagues, Jay and Bim, but he was still excited to go back there with me. I was so thankful to Flor, (my former office mate who is now based in Iloilo as a lawyer) for accompanying me yesterday on one-day Iloilo tour. Still relentlessly alive, she volunteered to go with us today in Guimaras.
By seven a.m., Flor, with her best-friend Vic and Mat-mat fetched us in front of Amigo Hotel. We headed to Ortiz Wharf and bought ticket for P14/head. So affordable! We wrote our names on a logbook then we headed to our designated boat Sentosa. As soon as all seats were occupied, the boat moved in a sweeping motion. There was no overcrowding and there was a safety provision inside the boat. I was simply amazed of the organized set-up here.
Upon arriving at Jordan Wharf (pronounced as Hordan), locals approached us and offered a tour ride. Tricycle and “multi-cab” (a small jeepney vehicle) are means of transportation in the area. We chose the latter for a rate of P1,500.
Our first stop was in Guimaras Museum in Jordan, but since it was Saturday, it was closed for visitors. After picture-taking in front of the museum, we headed to Cabaling Beach Resort located in Sitio Cabaling, still part of Jordan. A friend of Flor referred the resort to us. She was excited to go there for it was her first time too.
The road was rough and there very few houses that we passed by. It was a remote but scenic route. Flor’s stories and the bumpy ride kept us so alive.
I got so excited seeing the sparkling blue water. We hastily hopped out from the van and went into the shoreline. The sand was ivory-white and the water was so clear. We passed by a little fishing area with lots of boats docked near the shore. We bought two kilos of fresh crab from a fisherman for P250 and he graciously offered to cook his fresh catch for P20 only.
We were all awe stricken when we saw the resort. The water was clear and there was a short concrete bridge dramatically located in the middle of the little cove. It was so good to sit on the sand savoring the solitude and the tranquility that every nature lover would dream of. See the picture?
Entrance fee – P25/head. We were not asked anymore to pay for the wooden cottage (P500) on the beachfront for we will only stay for two hours. In return, we ordered grilled milk fish, rice and coke. We basked under the sun for less than one hour then we settled for lunch.
The crabs were so yummy and so the milk fish. It was a noisy lunch talking and laughing. Later, we were drawn into silence as we gazed into nature’s wonderful creation. The water was sparkling and the wind was gently blowing into our faces. Such a beautiful day!
I was allowed by Elena, the caretaker of the resort to see the room on the ground floor. One night stay costs P3,500, good for two persons. Additional person is P150. It was so comfortable to spend the night in the room for it has nice bed, sofa corner, comfort room and window overlooking the beach.
There was an infinity pool uphill. But we didn’t swim for we skip paying another entrance fee of P100/head. We just walked around and watched the beautiful sea view.
Manong our driver referred a fisherman who was in the vicinity to bring us to Alubihod in our island hopping for P700 only. It favored us since the route will be shortened on water trip and we saved P800 from the regular rate of P1,500. Little did we know, the boat is not the regular pump boat used in island hopping but a small fishing boat with no life jacket, hence the price. I was a bit reluctant when we boarded. But the good weather whisked off that fear.
It’s good to see various rock formations along the way. It was flickering hot but the wind was so calm and so the blue water. Later I saw smoke coming from below the boat. The boatman hurriedly turned off the engine and fixed the problem while his assistant pumped out the water.
The water was still but the boat was turning slowly to the right because of the wind. Alubihod could now be seen from the distance. I prayed silently for our safety. Later, the engine roared up. Thank God. We didn’t hop to the cave anymore thinking of another boat malfunction. We headed straight to Raymen Beach Resort.
My hubby was here last week. He didn’t enjoy much because of rocks on the sea floor. This time he discovered that there was an area where sand was so fine and free from disturbing rocks. But it was beyond the rope which serves as the safe boundary. The resort with its creamy white sand was stunning, really. We didn’t pay for the entrance fee because we didn’t swim. We did picture-taking and some lazy walk along the shoreline albeit the blistering heat of the sun.
We bought mango shake (P45) then headed to the souvenir store and bought items like key-chains (P30), magnetic fish (P100) and t-shirts (P200 to P300).
Our next stop is in Camp Alfredo along the highway in Brgy. Ravina, Sibunag. Entrance fee is P30/head. Exciting activity is the canopy tour, making the primary use of zipline, then crossing a thin hanging bridge and will go down through rappelling (P425). I was used to riding a zipline, but the height of the hanging bridge made my spine shivered. No one from us brave this fear factor activity. hahaha!
Rooms cost P3,500, good for four persons, but only two had free breakfast. There was a small pool, restaurant and bar, camping grounds, cabin rooms, stations of the cross, prayer area located uphill and air soft ground.
Our next stop is in Trappist Monastery to buy sweet mango products. We tasted Mango Bar which costs P95. It was yummy. We met the gentle monk, Brother Peter outside the prayer house.
We passed by lots of mango trees which was scattered beside the road. It was so wonderful seeing this verdant landscape though there were no fruits hanging on each trees because it was off-season. We bought fresh mango (P70 per kilo) and mango sweets in a fruit stand in Buenavista.
We were given half slice for free taste. It was so sweet. The local government prohibits bringing mango into the island as this will cross-breed their sweet mangoes.
We went back to the wharf around 4 pm through the boat Sydney.
Exhausted, but I felt so elated. As I looked back to the Island of Guimaras, I was overjoyed for I had again another wonderful adventure with nature, nice beach, friends, and with my husband.
Ask if I will go back? Surely, I will.
Good bye Guimaras!
I was told by my former office mate Art Decena, a fellow Bicolano about their wonderful adventure in Vera Falls in my hometown in Malinao, Albay. They traversed across terrains, hills, forest trails in three hours coming from main highway. They clung through vines and stepped into slippery walkway in going down the main falls. He described Vera Falls a “hidden paradise”, a sanctuary of nature’s finest gift. From then on, I’ve been dreaming in getting there, to experience that amazing trek and see how stunning the waterfalls really are.
This summer, I was thrilled much when my cousin Poy and his wife Mercy who were living in Barangay Quinastillohan (near the turn off point in going to Vera Falls) told me that the waterfalls could now be accessed through single motorbike. But the bad news, no one from my buddies wanted to go far now. Our trip to Sorsogon and other scenic spots in Albay for three days had drained their energies. Instead, our last day was spent in visiting our relatives in our neighboring barangay.
We indulged ourselves with kamustahan, eating our favorite Bicol meryenda “pinakro” (saba boiled in coconut milk with sugar) and a refreshing swim in a cold natural spring. Mama mentioned about my urge to visit Vera Falls to my aunties, Tiya Glo and Tiya Nor who were also in a summer getaway just like us. When they said they wanted to go, we immediately planned for our sojourn activity. After few minutes of discussion, Gil generously transported the three of us to Poy’s house and enjoined my cousin who wasn’t been there yet to go with us. Gil went back when we reached the turn off point in Barangay Cumon.
There were boys sitting in single motorbikes beside the road. Knowing where we will go, they offered a ride to the waterfalls for a fixed price of P70, one-way only. Poy haggled it to P50 but the boys declined in unison. We didn’t mind the monetary figure since we are after an exciting adventure. We agreed to pay for it, and so the four of us boarded in four separate motorbikes.
The ride was smooth and amazing as we passed beside a breathtaking view of a long and bluish river. I was so overwhelmed watching its color and the gentle waves flowing swiftly. Our ride was temporarily cut as we were asked to step down from the motorbike. The concrete bridge was destroyed by a rampaging flow of heavy rain recently. What was left was a stiff, narrow road to where motorbike and bicycle are the only vehicles could pass on it. We walked for few minutes until we reached the main road and there we went again for our trip.
Few more minutes and we were in a roller coaster ride where I was so thrilled of our ups and downs. It was so wonderful seeing the lush vegetation, Mt. Malinao in a distance, the majestic but elusive Mayon Volcano, the clear blue skies, the locals and vast plots of rice-fields. The cool wind that gently brushed my face was so invigorating. For a nature lover like me, this place was a heaven and I just can’t sustain my happiness as of that moment. What thrilled me the most was the last portion of the ride where I gripped the driver’s shoulder tightly as he drove the highest hill in getting to the parking area.
Our joy ride was twenty minutes only. Vera Falls was in Barangay Bulang, the third baryo from main highway. Mercy did mention about the helipad which was actually the cemented parking area. Quite amusing that this forested area had a helipad. I’ve learned from the boys that a certain priest, Father Vera introduced this place to the people, hence the name of the falls. From helipad, a virgin forest was now being invaded by the four of us.
I was so excited seeing the trail downhill. Art’s adventure in this main spot flashed into my mind as I imagined how they clung to the vines like Tarzan in getting down to the waterfalls. Indeed, it was a great adventure. There’s no hard trek now for a concrete stair with safety hand rails was built for easy access to the waterfalls.
We crossed a small wooden bridge and presto, we were at the base of the falls. All of us were in awe admiring how nature revealed its magnificent masterpiece. Vera Falls was truly stunning. The next minute, we were so busy taking pictures of what we found “paradise.”
I tapped my feet into the cold and clean water and quivered a little.hahaha! It was safe to swim because it was shallow. There were no big rocks and stones in the catch basin so it’s not surprising that there were lots of boys jumping from the peak. Few walks to the left, I saw two thin bamboos which according to the bathers, flowed the safest water to drink.
There were thirteen small waterfalls coming from lime stones covered by moss and ferns. An overwhelming feeling surrounded me seeing nature dominated the whole place. It sets the mood of everything. You can feel its nurturing spirit as it will penetrate you, through the gushing sounds of water, through the humming of birds, through the mountain air.
There were few tents pinched on big rocks and group of teens busy cooking their food using fire woods. There is no restroom here so it’s best to bring big towels in changing clothes. There is no entrance fee, no store and no electricity. Everything is of basic facility. It is advised to register with the Barangay Captain if a certain group is planning to stay overnight.
I was thankful to Art for introducing this wonder to me. His adventure seven years ago was so memorable for he had tasted the “true paradise”, for everything was basically unspoiled. Malinao was truly blessed with two wonderful waterfalls. And I was so grateful that I had been there both.
Next time or maybe next year, I will go back with the whole family. I’m sure everyone will enjoy. I am hoping that the local government will build another concrete bridge so Vera Falls could be accessed by four-wheel vehicles again.
HOT TO GET THERE? Vera Falls is located approximately 40 km from Legazpi City. If you have your car, from Legazpi City, take the route going to Tabaco City via Sabloyon Road. From Barangay Quinastillohan turn right to Barangay Cumon. You will pass Barangay Soa and will end at Barangay Bulang.
I woke up at 5:30 am, hailed the curtain and was captivated to see the sun embracing the vast rice-field. I took my cam and hastily went outside our vacation house. I stood at the edge of the main road and captured my favorite sunrise photo. Soon there was a cheerful blue sky.
I caught a glimpse of Mayon in its full splendor. I was so excited to capture a perfect shot. Haha! I felt a flare of delight watching this beautiful volcano. I was filled with wonder. Words can’t express the tranquility and stillness I felt while savoring the moment with nature. Life is really good.
After three years, we’re here again in our hometown in Albay for a five-day exciting vacation.
The long journey coming from Manila didn’t wear out my buddies. Everyone was rejuvenated from a comfortable sleep last night. At breakfast, we feasted on the usual Bicol’s food delight, Pansit Bato, pan de Legazpi, binutong (sweetened rice with coco milk), the amusing small size pandesal and hot native chocolate.
We will rest for the day in preparation for our tour in Albay and Sorsogon tomorrow. But in the middle of our breakfast, my sister Gie mentioned about Palale Falls. The itchy foot team did not want to stay at home and so an off-the cut hike attack to this enchanting falls was settled. This is for Gie, Noel and Pol who haven’t been there yet.
I’ve been twice to Palale Falls which is several barangays away from our house but I’m not sure if I could get the trail starting from the jump off point. Our uncle Tiyo Ion volunteered to be our tour guide together with my nephews Macky, Ambet and Ervin. Our mother and my two-year old niece Rion were left for they can’t afford to take a strenuous activity. We will only swim before mid day so we brought bread and water only for there are no stores along the trail. We were equipped with caps, beach towels and umbrellas.
As we set forward, I was surprised to see our little Shen Shen leading the hike with his big cousins. Me, my hubby, Pao, Miko and Pol were left behind. I was the last because I was so busy taking pictures with all the beautiful things that my eyes perceived. Its nature tripping anyway. We easily traversed the first river to the third river. The fourth river was wide and with playful waves.
The water was knee deep level but it was so tough walking on slippery stones with strong current. Macky helped me and Shen crossed the river successfully. My Manila-grown buddies who were not used to provincial life crossed hand in hand with a motto, “united we stand, divided we fall.” hahaha! It took several minutes for all of us to reach the safest area.
The next three rivers were fairly flat. When we reached Baryo Diaro, Tiyo Ion approached his kumpare for a buko delight (young coconut). He was so kind for giving us a refreshing drink.
According to Tiyo Ion, rainy days had passed two days ago and though it was sunny, plants and trees were filled with moist. I was so delighted walking on a forested trail with verdant vegetation, wild orchids, exotic plants, tall coconut trees and big leaves scattered on the ground.
Sound of rushing water became louder and louder as we were nearing the end of the trail. We passed by a big and tall tree with big slippery roots going up to the main entrance where everyone will pass atop the big rock leading to the falls.
It was then I found myself alone in this particular area. My buddies were all out of sight so no one will help me get into the top of the big rock. Holding my camera bag, I climbed seriously and was extra careful because it was slippery. Until I did it!
I slowly stepped down to the other side of the rock and finally there I saw again the beauty of Palale Falls. A tropical paradise teeming with lush surrounding. What amazed me here is the unusual kind of wall rock that enclosed the water basin which nature had wonderfully crafted to perfection. I have no idea how high this falls was, but certainly, it is higher than Vera, Busay, Majayjay, Kabigan, Hagimit and Daranak Falls.
My buddies laid our bags on a flat place enough to eat our snack and started heading to the cascade. I took my cam to capture the whole waterfalls which was my previous failures. I concentrated on navigating the area with lots of slippery big rocks to climb on. Wrong move might send me and my camera falling down the sides.
And through patience and luck, finally, I smashed on my dream shot of Palale Falls. See this picture?
After taking my captured memories, I slid my cam to my bag and joined my buddies getting wet and wild on water. Just like the other waterfalls, the water was freezing cold. The surging cascade was a bit strong. We sat on the rocks splashing water to each other. Later we headed to the lower pool which was hip-level deep. My hubby and Noel enjoyed the massage therapy from series of small falls spilling down their backs. The water was clear and really really cold.
After an hour, we finally forced ourselves to reatreat.hahaha!
We ate our snack and after a while, we packed up leaving no wastes around.
There is no entrance fee to Palale Falls. No huts to sleep overnight. No bathroom. No electricity. Everything is basic. This is open to everyone who wants to escape from the stifling atmosphere.
We had the place all by ourselves and so we had fun immensely. But what irritated me was seeing bottled mineral water and other plastic waste materials scattered near the entrance left by irresponsible people. The last time we were here in 2007, the surrounding was so clean though there were many bathers around. What happened now?
Nature was so kind for sharing its gift of wonder to us for free, but there are people who do not want to give kindness in return.
Our returned trek took us forty five minutes only. I was so grateful for this wonderful adventure with my family and relatives.
I’m sure I will go back here with another set of buddies for the next summer time.