Looks more like orange to me. Taken on my 4 plus year old little handy Nikon S9100 digital camera with 18x zoom lens equivalent to 25-450mm in a 35mm format. The camera was mounted on a gorillapod.
Looks more like orange to me. Taken on my 4 plus year old little handy Nikon S9100 digital camera with 18x zoom lens equivalent to 25-450mm in a 35mm format. The camera was mounted on a gorillapod.
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
Last September 4, 2015, a friend of ours, sir Bobby who is a veteran photo journalist, coffee geek, a known barefoot runner in our city and a bonfide mountain trekker asked my girlfriend Leia to organize a trekking party for Pugaan waterfalling. So Leia made a Facebook page for an open invitation and 5 others asked to join. So there were 8 of us all in all going for the Pugaan waterfalling adventure.
Pugaan is a barangay (a barangay is formerly called barrio, is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward – wiki) that is part of Iligan city which is a rural area mostly consists of mountains or hills, some lush vegetation and mostly forested area. It is rather a large barangay than most barangays found in the city and because it is still in touch with nature far from urban contamination, Pugaan surprisingly (at least for a city dweller like me) has lots of waterfalls of all sizes that some are probably still waiting to be discovered by city folks.
Pugaan proper (where the barangay hall, market and a simple covered basketball court is located) is only less than 25 minutes drive from the city proper. The main transportation within Pugaan is the “habal-habal” or a motorcycle and some very few jeepneys that goes to the city.
This was probably the hardest trekking I had in years and I slipped and slammed on my side 3 times along the water trail while stepping on slippery rocks. Thank God I didn’t hit my head but it was pretty close though. I also realized from this adventure that I’m not really used to my being overweight and I felt cumbersome and clumsy. I decided not to bring my dslr (good thing!) and opted for my digicam and gopro.
My digicam (Nikon S9100) already died not even halfway and just after our first waterfall encounter (but is now fine and dandy with an ample amount of air drying and silica gel packets) due to moisture from my wet hands. Thank God for the Gopro as I was able to continue to shoot some photos, film and occassional “documentary I was here not vanity” selfies.
In case you wanna check out our video here’s the link…
I would also like to add some of tito Bobby’s photos here (we shared each others photos for us 8 to use and post) as he took better photoshots than what I’m able to do. After all, he’s a veteran photographer and the mountains around Iligan are his playground.
Sta. Cruz Falls
(more photos below)
It is dubbed as the Niagara Falls of Mindanao and getting there was definitely both awesome and a shocking experience. Seeing the falls was worth it, but the word “worth” can be totally subjective on this matter though.
It solely depends if your willing to climb steep hills, treading carefully on lose earth and rocks along the cliffs, crossing rivers/streams jotted with rocks and boulders (from landslides) and finding your way through giant wild thorny shrubs.
The road going to the falls was destroyed by landslides and flood when the falls overflowed like a bursting dam a couple of years ago. Basically, the only access to the falls was already claimed by mother nature when we got there.
What’s even worst, we were dressed like we were going to a park. No ropes, mountain boots, tools, sandals, food and heck, not even a single bottle of water! There were like 9 of us and three of those were folks past their 50’s. Yep, that’s my girlfriend’s parents and her aunt together with her sister , 3 helpers and us plus 3 more guides/motorcycle drivers.
So how did we end up going there unprepared? Well, one of their helper told us back in Iligan a few days before that there’s a beautiful waterfall in Kapatagan aside from the Cathedral falls that we should visit. She said that it’s just near and we were assuming it was like going to Cathedral falls which was basically effortless.
We thought there would be small “Sari-sari” stores along the way for us to buy water and snacks. It turns out the last time their helper went there was years before the road was demolished by a landslide.
20 minutes of walking through in the middle of nowhere gave me a bad feeling that this was going to be one of those misadventures we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives.
We actually made it through hell and back after a 5 hour ordeal of going through difficult terrain. Thank God!
What’s in our bags?
If you thought we’re carrying some “baon” or food in our bags, you couldn’t be more wrong. My bag contents: a net-book, shirt and a towel. Leia‘s bag contents: some make up and other ladies stuff.
No food, water, flashlight, camping tools and first aid kit whatsoever.
Our greatest concern were the 3 senior citizens in our group, but they made it too and back albeit swearing “never again!”
Word of Advice:
Next time a house-helper of yours tells you it’s just near – DOUBLE CHECK IT!
The Mysterious Falls
You can’t find Sta. Cruz falls on Google maps, not even articles about it on Google. It is only mentioned in Lanao del Norte tourism sites as part of their attraction, but there’s no photos of it. So far, only Leia was able to blog about it and I’m probably the 2nd guy to blog about Sta. Cruz falls.
If you search it on Google images, all you see are photos taken by us when we went there. Technically, it was a mysterious water falls before we finally laid our eyes on it.
If You Dare
If you dare going there for sheer adventure, it’s not really a challenge if your an experienced mountain climber/hiker. However, if you want to go like how we went through it, try dressing up like your going to a mall on a date without a bottle of water and food, not even a biscuit.
Just don’t bring your parents, aunts or any oldies with you or they might think you want them dead.
How to get there:
Santa Cruz falls is just 10-15 minutes away or 2km from Kapatagan’s bus terminal by “habal-habal” ride for P100 back and forth. Actually, you’ll be stopping at the river where you’ll see an impassable bridge or what remains of it and that will be your starting point onward.
From the starting point to the falls can be over an hour or two which used to be a 10 minute ride before mother nature decided to apply some total makeover. But without the oldies, you’ll probably get there like an hour maybe or even less which depends on your cardio.
The trek starts easy, but slowly becomes harder and harder until your near to the falls. Oh, and go there with a guide, at least two if your planning to go without equipment like us because they will be your human ladder literally. Just pay them extra for helping you stay alive.
We actually went to Santa Cruz falls in the last week of May 2012, but it’s just now that I’m able to blog about it. More backlogs to come! *wipes sweat*
Here’s Leia’s side of the story: http://reiyakhu.tumblr.com/post/23986273297/the-niagara-falls-of-mindanao-santa-cruz-falls
I’ve been to a few waterfalls that can be counted in just one hand and I know it’s not enough for me to generalize that waterfalls are all hard to reach areas. Still, most waterfalls I’ve heard are not exactly a walk in the neighborhood kind of leisure stroll. Except for Cathedral falls, so far.
Anyway, as we went to the small rural town of Kapatagan (Plains) for this near enigmatic waterfalls, my primary concern was how to get there, because it is one of many waterfalls that are rarely blogged, especially in this part of the country – Lanao del Norte. In short: No effing idea!
So here we were in Kapatagan, just ate dust and smog from our two hour trip of frequent bus stops beneath the microwave summer heat. Yeah, we took a non-air-conditioned bus because we were in a race against the all-of-a-sudden appearing rain. The bus though was like a mobile toaster on steroids. Bus rides? It’s more fun here in the Philippines. Anyway, finally at Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte Bus Terminal.
The first thing that we noticed in Kapatagan was their bus terminal. It was small but way better than our very own Iligan‘s bus terminal in seven-folds. They have free wifi, a super small, but nice cozy coffee shop named Betty Beans, a Mang Inasal food joint (and others), a parlor (I think), and the travelers lounge area is clean and air-conditioned – even their bathrooms are squeaky clean which is a rare trait for public bathrooms.
So here we were cooling ourselves off from the discomfort of the sun baked buses and blazing weather with Betty Bean’s Roasted Mocha Almond Frappe and Strawberry Smoothie paired with (not pictured) super cheap but not bad burgers at P25 a piece. If your taking a private ride and your heading to Pagadian City and beyond in that direction, this place is a great pit stop for your basic traveling needs and a refreshing break from long driving too.
Finally, we were on our way to Cathedral falls and the words from the locals about the waterfall kept swirling in my head. I thought of loose hanging bridges, deep ravines and native warriors, but the phrase “it’s just a 10 minute (habal-habal) motorcycle ride kind of distance” doesn’t seem to fit in my action-packed imagination. Oh well, I was eager to dispel such disbelief with my own eyes as soon as possible or I might act out Indiana Jones along the way. The falls is located at Barangay (District) Cathedral Falls…
– Where you from stranger?
– Cathedral Falls. (Clint Eastwood stare)
Barangay Cathedral Falls
HALLELUJAHHH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLEEELUUUUJAAAAHHH! (a tune in my head)
Lo and behold! The glorious Cathedral waterfalls basking in our star struck gaze like witnessing Michael Jackson. Maybe not Jacko level, but it was enough to capture our “wooaah” expressions and itchy fingers for some snapshot sacrilege. The wide rock wall at both sides of the brink does look like a pipe organ usually found in Cathedrals.
What is so amazing with this waterfall from the other bunch was that it is so accessible. It’s just like around the neighborhood in some backyard where you go buy a soda or something and the falls is just right there in front of you minding business. As you can see below, kids are just playing besides the falls basin.
Locals with some nice tidy looking small houses who lives literally in front of the falls were probably looking at us with silent amazement. They were amazed of our amazement. To them, the falls could be like any other big mango tree in your neighborhood. For us, it was like little Mt. Everest or more like… a glimpse of heaven on earth (enter church choir – “You raise me up” background music with operatic singer vibrato and slow motion scene).
Check out Leia’s blog post about Cathedral Falls.
Here are some additional photos that I got from my friend Ace from our Tinago Falls trip. The shots were mostly us in a bamboo raft heading towards the base and some guy climbing the waterfall (rock wall) and dives. It was fun and awesome getting a shower from a waterfall up close and personal, but I have no plans of diving though. ^_^
p.s.s. Kudos to Ace Reston for the great shots. Thanks dude!