M U D D Y
T R E K
This rainy December, I dared to escape to a pastoral terrain that allowed mist to gently embrace my bronzed beach-friendly skin. A muted sky seemed appealing as a change of scenery from the usual blue horizon that I've been accustomed to waking up to in the mornings of my recent travels. I was yearning to be unplugged from the burden of social media and the heavy traffic poisoning the streets of Metro Manila. It's time to leave where I live. Again. This time, though, not to be refreshed but to get dirty, wet, and unspoiled.
Tour Guide Willy and The Community
Willy, my tour guide, used to be a non-local until he got smitten by a lady in Rizal and eventually settled in Tanay. It was in the mid-'90s when he first ventured into the secluded Tinipak or Agos River that flows through Daraitan and the neighboring Quezon Province municipality of General Nakar. Convinced that he stumbled upon a gem of a hideaway for tourists to see, he worked steadily with the residents to strengthen the presence of tourism via tour guiding. The locals who used to operate chainsaws are now the ones serving the community by leading tourists of many kind from mountain climbers to curious city dwellers. The girlie bars that proliferated due to illegal logging and the former presence of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels were now decent homes of loving mothers who have learned to cope with the exciting times.
|Hot bowl of Lomi at the barangay proper|
With Momarco Resort in Tanay as base for a 3-day immersion of the town, I woke up in Rizal in the wee hours of one weekend to meet Willie. The van ride from Crossing, Mandaluyong's Starmall cost me P70 the day before. Earlier in the same day, I was able to visit an old parola (lighthouse) and the scenic hilltop spiritual sanctuary called Regina Rica. Aboard a rented tricycle, I pushed through with the anticipation of a rugged road and muddy trek that followed the bumpy one-hour ride. Along the way, there were a lot of buho (small bamboo) displayed on the roadside. I would later see some traces of those as rustic baskets and backpack bins that locals use to transport goods in the mountainside of the Sierra Madre. Also along the way, I spotted a lot of locals riding on horses transporting calamansi.
|Old Daraitan Church|
The actual trek started at the barangay proper after a necessary P20-registration at the barangay hall for environmental fee and a side trip to the sitio's old church called St. Jude Parish which still has its original pre-Spanish foundation that locals contend to have been built by Italian missionaries a century prior to the advent of Catholicism through Spanish colonization. A slippery passage next to a cemetery signaled a turn to a river crossing where I would eventually board a platform held by a couple of boats. The crossing lasted only for less than 5 minutes but it set me back P5.00, the same cost of hot taho (tofu snack) that I consumed as snack when I reached the other side of Daraitan.
One more short tricycle ride ensued before I was able to really enjoy the scenery. A sharp turn to the mountainside revealed the snake-like Tinipak or Agos River. I particularly enjoyed moments crossing shallow streams that flowed from the Tinipak Spring. I could spend hours just lingering in the junction of the spring and the river where quaintness was topnotch with fern grass and various other flower plants jutting out from the ground. It was like lingering in an indoor courtyard, except that the garden was not mad-made and it's in the middle of the mountains of General Nakar. As bonus reward for the muddy trek, I took a gander one too many times at the expanse of the mist-filled peaks of mountains dotting the riverside. Behind verdant terrain, discrete openings could be seen. One cave, according to my guide, was a popular destination among mountain climbers.
At first glance, the boulders at the riverside seemed out-of-this-world. At closer inspection, most of the weird shapes were actually man-made extractions from decade-old stone quarrying. It was just in 2006 when Typhoon Reming ravaged thousands of residents of General Nakar where the river opens up in neighboring Quezon Province and I could tell why the river would be rendered helpless to protect the residents that live around it. Quarrying has long stopped when the area became seriously seductive for nature lovers to discover.
Taking Proper Caution
The 45-minute trek turned into more than an hour due to the slippery trail. There were a lot of spots where big rocks served as obstacles. I treated them as stepping stones that tricked my body into climbing levels that I normally would not tackle. There were areas in the trek that were dangerous if I did not take caution. A wrong slip could land me meters below a shallow cliff but probably defenseless against creepy crawlers. I almost slipped at a turn with a soft ground and a highly vegetated pathway where a gust of wind took me by surprise. Good thing I maintained my balance after struggling to stand straight. I almost thought that some creature with a monstrous mouth tried to huff my way some serious breathing.
Limestone Rock Formation
Upon reaching the limestone rock formation at the end of the trail, I instantly fell in love with the destination. The month of December allowed me to see how strong the river current raged against the rocks. The sight was not at all peaceful. The drizzle could have dampened my mood but I motivated myself to be oblivious instead. I lingered for a good hour at the site where Willie pointed towards a graffiti on an imposing boulder. According to him, it was marked by a local spiritual healer that frequents the place. Nearby, there were caves that were accessible. I decided to end the trek there and eat my packed sandwich.
|The river crossing|
The Way Back
I returned with my guide the same way I reached the river's famous rock formation. I took note of the open cottage near the natural spring where I can spend the night for a revisit in the summertime. I was told that it could be rented for as low as P400, along with a makeshift bathroom for privacy. There were tricycles conveniently waiting at the same routes back to the barangay proper and my resort base.
The whole trek was exhausting but I wanted it. My body deserved a jolt of such kind which served me a restful sleep back at my booked casita at the luxurious Momarco Resort. The next day I was to explore the town proper. The experience was worth being unplugged in Tanay for 3 days.
Daraitan Tour Guide
Contact Person: Willy Manlapaz
Note: One tour guide (P500) is required per 10 visitors.
Driver: Kuya Teng
Note: Meet up at your booked Tanay-based resort or at the town market
More Photos Below:
|A cave opening that's known as "patahian" is visible from a distance|
|Spotting a bayuko during the hike|