Bakbakan Time! (a.k.a. Get Ready to Rumble!)
Before hiking in the rainforests of Palawan, there are two things a visitor must know. First, always make sure you are clear with your katutubo guide (or indigenous people) as to where you want to go. And second, nothing is ever just “4 minutes away.”
These are valuable lessons we learned during our recent hike in Brooke’s Point, which started as an easy stroll by the hot springs of Mainit Falls and, in less than an hour, turned into the most difficult hike we’ve ever been on. As we went deeper and deeper into the jungle, we soon found ourselves in an area where there were no trails to speak of. Apparently, our guides had misunderstood instructions and thought we wanted to see Bakbakan Falls (Bakabakan means brawl), when all the while we thought they were taking us back to base camp where we started. Check out these photos and see whether the Falls were worth the difficult trek.
Here, we pose for a souvenir photo at the entrance to Mainit Falls, not knowing that we were about to go on our most challenging trek to date.
I walked into the gate, looked to my right, and was immediately awestruck by the calming beauty of this babbling brook.
Mainit means "hot," and refers to the hot springs in the area, a popular tourist destination.
Can you spot the young lady sitting by the rocks?
There she is!
Before starting our hike, Dr. Lina Regis of Ateneo de Naga took a moment to explain the fragile nature of an island ecosystem.
"Out with the old and in with the new," said our katutubo guide, Rolly, as he showed us the discarded shell of a native forest beetle.
We started our hike up this very steep, muddy incline, thinking that we trailing behind the rest of the group.
I am convinced that Nature is the best art director there is.
I got the shivers just imagining what kind of animal lives inside this hole.
Talk about leaving your baggage behind!
We got to the top of the hill and were greeted by this stunning view of dense forest cover, which reminded me of Jurassic Park, (the original one, not the sequel, which Anthony walked out of because it was so bad).
We gamely (and innocently) posed for this picture, not knowing that the rest of our group had decided not to pursue the hike because of the muddy trails caused by the rain showers that morning. Not in photo is our friend Ed.
Rolly shows us the wingspan of the largest butterfly he has seen in the area.
I tiptoed quietly, hoping not to disturb this little fella who was napping by the firewood. Of course, I woke him up!
Anthony approached his new feline friend with care and caution, having had an unfortunate experience with a cat in the past.
This cat refused to give me a smile and instead, turned her head shyly away from the camera.
The miscommunication starts here, as we thought our guides were taking us back down to where we started but instead, were being led deeper into the forest en route to the hidden Bakbakan Falls.
I complimented Anthony for managing this narrow plank with the grace of Baryshnikov, to which he exclaimed, "This certainly ain't no pas de deux."
Apparently, in these parts, when a katutubo says the hike will take "four minutes," what they really mean is forty-five.
Trust me, this moss-covered rock is a lot more slippery than you think.
It was at this moment when I shifted my rating for the hike from "easy" to moderate."
World-explorer Anthony showcases his new outfit which he says is, "perfect for hiking and guards against mosquitoes and other forest critters."
I told our guide I'd take his picture, and in a split second, found him perched on this wooden trunk, which, I must agree, made for a very good portrait.
I think I'm really beginning to enjoy this "nature thing."
First we heard it from a distance, then, after a sharp turn, were suddenly confronted by the striking Bakbakan Falls, which stands around three stories high.
We rewarded ourselves with a swim in the cool water of the falls, and took turns standing under the raging water which provided a hard, natural massage.
I took a deep breath to savor the clean mountain air, until I realized I was standing on a nest of thousands of black forest ants.
Knowing how much Anthony loved the great outdoors, I took one look at him and instantly sensed how happy we was at this moment.
Why, hello Mister Millipede!
And you're telling me we might lose all this to mining?
We followed the river as we made our way back to base camp, stopping frequently to admire the towering trees that lined our path.
Here we pose with Tita Suky, the only female in the group that made it to Bakbakan. We're proud of you, Tita!
Weary, tired and literally bruised (we all slipped and fell at least one time each), we returned to base camp to discover that the rest of the group had left us, except for my mom who waited for us and had prepared an impromptu lunch of sardines and hot rice for us with the help of some local women. Thanks, Mom!
Needless to say, spirits ran high that day, as we celebrated a renewed appreciation for the beauty of nature and a firmer commitment to continue working to preserve this beauty from the destructive effects of mining.
If you haven’t already, please visit http://www.no2mininginpalawan.com to sign the petition to stop all mining in Palawan and other key biodiversity areas.
Have a great Wednesday, everyone! And watch out for those slippery rocks!