Almost two decades ago, I saw Forest Gump and that movie really moved me despite my teenage Nirvana, Pearl Jam years. There was this one particular part in the movie where when he was narrating his letter to Jennifer, the love of his life, he said how he’d wish Jennifer could see all the wonders that he saw while running across America. I always wondered how it felt like seeing natures wonder not in a car or in some package tour groups riding in an air-conditioned pampered tour bus, but on foot with the sun smiling radiantly till your skin gets red. I always imagined that sense of freedom once your feet touches the ground and your eyes locked beyond the horizon for you to explore and satisfy your wanderlusting curious feet. What more when you explore the city or experience the nature with the love of your life; like indulging local favourite cuisines to detesting bat droppings and sharing mud stained water bottles on a mountain summit. Well, I finally or rather we certainly experienced the latter in our Hindang adventure.
So okay, we went to Hindang (just this last Tuesday Sept 22) to explore its locally renowned cave and witness the grand 3-tiered waterfalls of Hindang. I actually heard a story of people getting lost or found dead (maybe due to bat manure infections) in those labyrinth chambers within the Hindang caves during the Yamashita gold fever decades ago. I’m not exactly sure if the stories about the gold is real but getting lost in those caves can pretty much happen I thought. Let me start a short intro about Barangay Hindang…
Barangay Hindang is a large barangay that is way bigger and more mountainous than Pugaan. Going to Hindang from the city proper is not exactly a breeze and if I may suggest, bring a freaking dune buggy, no seriously a 4×4 pickup truck or an SUV with monster tires. If you’re planning to take your family sedan, you may need to check your suspensions, nuts and bolts once you get back to the city. Thank God, Mico was able to bring their old but truly reliable K2700 Panoramic Van. It was way better than taking the “habal-habal” ride that requires some amazing der·ri·ère balancing. From Tibanga to Hindang took us 1 hour, 18 minutes and 3 seconds. I know because I had my GoPro mounted on the windshield recording all the way to Hindang non-stop. If only the road was wide, smooth and cemented all throughout, It will probably take half an hour max to get there.
Here’s the footage of Tibanga to Barangay Hindang trip.
This time there were 17 of us but the 2 (Eli and Tito Bobby, they’re not in the photos below) went earlier on foot from Granex to Hindang. Most of us have not been to Hindang and we were a smorgasborg of greenhorns, newborn trekkers and curious kittens. We’re told by our veteran master trekker Tito Bobby that Hindang is nothing like Pugaan in terms of difficulty and so with that revelation in mind, I was confident I won’t fall flat on my sides this time. They didn’t bring any ropes with them too unlike the Pugaan adventure so that made it feel more reassuring.
After that long bumpy ride of narrow winding roads built for off-road crazies and horror movies, we started another 3 hour trek from Hindang proper to Mt. Pagangon (thanks for the info Tito Bobby!) where the cave is hidden beneath a canopy of floras and tall trees. Supposedly, it was not as torturous as the Pugaan waterfalling trail and as Tito Bobby said, the Hindang trek is more exhausting but not as hard. We started going “no-road” and into the narrow trails that stretches over loose dirt, protruding rocks, water streams, muddy soil and grassy terrain. Later on as we began to ascend a sudden steep slope near the peak, I recollected myself some energy, positive mental projection and inhaling lots of oxygen as much as I can muster just trying to pull a leg up.
After the arduous tongue sticking climb, we finally found a small wooden house with lots of empty dried coconut shells. I think they’re going to convert and sell this as “uling” or Charcoal if I’m not mistaken. We use uling mainly to grill food like barbeques, porkchops, fishes, chicken and so on.
Once we went further on top of Mt. Pagangon, we found a 2nd wooden hut that greeted us with lots of camote or sweet potatoes enough to replenish some spent energy. I think this is the home of our chief guide Manong Nick. The place was cool and not humid which is a good thing or we would be guzzling more water than we’re supposed to.
After our brief snack break, we headed off again for the opposite side of the mountain to finally see the hidden cave.
As we started our short descent at the opposite side where there are more trees and taller ones than on top of the peak, you could actually smell the cave like it has a bad breath. It smells like a mild sulfur compound dumped in a public toilet that reeks with urine odor.
From a distance you won’t notice the mouth of the cave but as you slowly climb down towards the cave opening, you’ll see the stalactites hanging like crooked menacing teeth from a mythical living mountain ready to clamp unsuspecting creatures. There are 3 major zones in a cave: The entrance zone where it receives light, the twilight zone where there is less light and trogloxenes like bats thrive and the dark zone where our imagination may start playing tricks in our head. Bring some handy flashlights and be careful as you enter the mouth of the cave because the moss-covered rocks are slippery. The entrance zone of the cave looks small but once you enter the twilight zone, you will feel the immensity and size of the cavern large enough to swallow a two storey building. Don’t worry too much if ever because the cave won’t bite at all.
Then we went deeper into the inner chambers where you need to crouch or crawl. It’s like an abysmal darkness enveloping your sanity only disrupted by your companions shrill and excitment. It was fun and the noise from your friends is a good sign you’re not lost from the pack. Sometimes I felt like I stepped on something gooey and I’m sure those were probably droppings from Batman’s underlings. There are chambers with large caverns that is amazing to behold, I can imagine a batmobile hidden somewhere.
Word of advice: avoid touching so much of the cave walls if possible unless you’re climbing because it could be glazed with bat manure and urine. In fact, wash your hands with alcohol once your outside the cave to avoid possible infections (especially if you have a wound or a large scratch from climbing) or food contamination. You never know what sort of bacteria thats breeding in these bat wastes. Oh, if you feel like stepping on a mud inside the cave, just keep on walking because that’s not exactly a puddle of mud, chances are that’s bat poop accumulated for decades. If you’re “lucky” you’ll catch bat droppings too on your head, shoulder or your bag. Well, either you like it or not, bat poop will be your best unwanted souvenir from the cave. Bring an umbrella if you like but you’ll look rather silly and it may spell bad luck for the superstitious.
My only comment about the Hindang cave is not about the cave itself but the people who visits and vandalize their name on the cave walls. I guess people are so hungry to be remembered particularly in an era when there was no smartphones for selfies and Facebook to validate their existence for the whole world to see. Even in the advent of social media, grafitti is still a way of etching one’s insignificant “self-recognition” desire for history to take notice, especially in an area where internet has not reached any innocent souls yet.
However, there are other smaller caves that’s probably part of huge network of caves in these mountains. We decided not to explore those other smaller caves because we didn’t have enough time. A friend of mine who visisted those other smaller caves more than a decade ago said the openings are so small they can barely fit one person. My tummy flab might get stuck in those openings so thank God we didn’t push through. Maybe some other time after I shed off 20lbs of fat lard around my waist and another 500kms of trekking experience. From level 1 to level 99.
So there you have it and to be honest, we had so much fun despite being dumped with bat s*** in every few minutes. Those bats do have some “never care” attitude but at least they’re not vampires. I wonder if bat droppings can be converted to fertilizers… wait, yes it can be used as fertilizers! I guess that’s why there where lots of fruit trees with fruits falling everwhere in Hindang. We did eat a lot of sweet fruits later on. I’ll show some photos about it in the next blog.
Next Blog: The treachorous descent of Mt. Pagangon and of course, Hindang Falls! The descent is where the fun begins!
Check out my other fellow trekker posts about our Hindang experience but spoiler ahead.
Tito Bobby’s Mindanews