Stilts: A Different Kind of Beach Adventure
by Danny Tariman
We’ve been to many beach resorts in Luzon but this one is unique. The cottages are like ‘floating’ on the seas. Yes, it is standing on stilts, hence the name. But aside from these uniquely built huts, the seashore is teaming with life. My son who is always looking for sea creatures that he can ‘pet’ in his aquarium enjoyed scouring the sea bed.
The resort is about 2 ½ hours drive from South Metro Manila. We left home very early in the morning, and drove via Tagaytay City. We had a pit stop in this city and had our “breakfast-on-wheels” – the packed food which we eat inside our parked van.
We drove further down in the direction of Nasugbu, Batangas. Passing the towns of Nasugbu and Calatagan, we finally reached our destination.
The resort is really nice. It has a swimming pool, should you wish to swim in the safety of fresh water pool, a restaurant which offers reasonably priced Filipino dishes. And since this is Batangas, of course we ordered the famous “bulalo” for lunch.
The accommodations on stilts are uniquely good – fresh, sea breeze continuously blowing through the open windows, you don’t need air-conditioning here. It has cottages for 2 and the bigger ones can fit a family. It was truly restful experience sleeping or just laying down on its rattan hammock perched between posts.
You if you are trying to crunch your budget, you can opt to just stay under the trees lined along the beach, and borrow table and chairs from the resort. 😉 It is good too, because access to the beach is unrestricted.
The sea is really great for its bio-diversity. It has a lot of sea creatures. You need to wear you aqua-shoes to make sure you wont get injured or stung by any under-sea creature. Yes, there are a lot sea orchins – which my son likes because he can take home some! Also star fish, and perhaps plankton too which is used to feed some species of salt-water fish.
The beach itself is a long creamy-brown stretch of sand. It is almost flat, you wont be scared to dip into the sea, like some beach line which has sudden slope to the deep. You can have a lot of fun activities on the beach.
Mt Pulag is the Philippines’ second highest peak and Luzon Island’s highest with an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level. Located in the boundaries of Benguet, Mt Province, and Isabela, climbing this mountain is quite a daunting adventure.
As early as January, my family had planned to scale the heights of this tallest mountain in Luzon. This will be my and my wife’s, first long trek, after trekking Mt Pinatubo about 2 years ago. My 2 children had gone trekking to “smaller” mountains in-between.
We did some research. We are aware that the air at the top is very thin, to which some people are not comfortable. We know that the temperature at the top drops to below zero during cold months.
But the most exciting info we got is the awesome, breathtaking view of the sun rising above the clouds. At the top, you will be literally be above a sea clouds. If there is only one thing that excites me, this is it!
After weighing the pros-and-cons, we decided to take a trek organizer to simplify our trip planning and organizing. And we are taking public transport.
We boarded a Victory Liner bus in Pasay City, leaving the bus terminal at 9pm. We encountered heavy traffic along EDSA. From Pasay City all the way to the Balintawak interchange, it took us an agonizing 2-hours. Finally we arrived Baguio City at 4:30 very early in the morning. It was still dark.
From the bus terminal in Baguio, we transferred to a jeep which will take us to the drop off point in Kabayan, Benguet.
After traveling from Baguio for 2 hours We first had a pit stop at Country Road, a local restaurant where we had a hefty eat-all-you-can breakfast. I had been controlling my diet for quite some time, but this time, I thought I had to have a “cheat diet” so that I will have enough energy to trek the mountain.
After breakfast, we registered and then attended a briefing-orientation at the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) local office, as a requirement to scale the mountain. We learned that there are 3 trails to the top – an easy trail, a more difficult for the “pros”, and a much more difficult passing through forest infested by leaches (oh my!). We took the “easy trail”, which is still a 4-6 hours trek!
After the briefing, we boarded again our jeep to the starting point of the trek – the Ranger Station in Kabayan, Benguet. It was another hour ride. After the registration process, and some arrangements – getting a trek lead/guide, a porter for our extra baggage, adding-on of clothes for the colder weather – we started our trek.
Mt Pulag here we come!
We started the trek at about 10:30am starting at the Rangers’ Station. We were led by our guide “Jane”. We passed by a less-than-a-kilometer cemented road, then walked on a dirt road, and finally the single-line trek.
From the village-community, you will be greeted by a scenery of mountains with vegetables terraces planted with potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and lettuce.
The first forest we passed is the “pine forest” where mountains are covered by tall pine trees. As we trekked further, the forest transitions into a “mossy forest” where tropical trees are covered with moss. At this point, the pine trees are no longer visible.
We reached Camp-1 at about 11:45. We had our lunch at this camp and also our “pee break”. Many trekkers rest and eat in this area.
After eating our packed lunch and a few minutes of rest, we continued our trek to Mt Pulag. We passed through the mountain trail, appreciating the various vegetation that gets our attention. We also had some “selfie” and “groufie” photos taken, and had some brief stops to catch our breath.
Mt Pulag, here we are!
We arrived at Camp-2 at about 2:30 in the afternoon, after hiking for about 4 hours – rest and picture taking included. I had a great feeling that finally we arrived at our camp. We will be spending the night in this camp and we have the entire remainder of the afternoon to roam around and view the surroundings.
We had 2 tents for my family – 1 tent for the girls and another tent for the boys.
Oh yes, I have to say that the natural spring water is so sweet and refreshing! We had to fetch and refill our bottles a number of times. The water comes from the mountain spring. Caution: if your tummy is not used for this type of “raw” water, don’t take this; just use your bottled water from the city. I suggest you bring at least 2 liters of bottled water for each person.
After taking some rest and light snacks, my children went to the nearby hills and explored the place. They reported that the view is very beautiful and awesome!
I and my wife took some time too to walk. But as we are a bit tired, we just went to the middle of the hill and took some photos.
We had an early dinner at 5pm. I think we had to eat early so we can clean and keep our cooking and eating utensils before it gets dark.
After the meals, I started adding on 2 more layers of clothing, and my gloves to keep me warm. The temperature is getting lower as darkness sets in. By night time before I slept, I was wearing 4 layers on top (2 shirts, a sweater, and a jacket) and 2 layers for bottoms (a trouser and a jogging pants). It was really very cold! Plus, I had gloves to cover my hands, bonnet to cover my head, and a scarf (which I borrowed from my wife) to cover my neck.
I had a ‘shallow’ sleep, although my family I sense, had a good one. At about 12:30, I was awakened by a bright light outside our tent. I thought someone was walking around. As I opened the tent window, I was surprised by the wonderful view of stars and an almost full moon in a very clear blue night sky. I wanted to wake up the boys with me but I restrained because I might disturb their sleep. The moonlight was an amazing experience, indeed! It is something I haven’t seen for many years since I moved to the city.
Mt Pulag, to the Peak
We woke up at 3:00am for our final trek to the top. We boiled water for our coffee and chocolate drink to warm our bodies before the hike. We prepared some trail food and water for the climb. Everything else, we left at our tents.
We left the camp at 4:05 in the morning. We had our LED torches and LED head lamps “on” to light the trail to the top. At this point, no more trees and forest to pass; just the dwarf bamboo grass covering the mountains.
After one-and-a-half hour hike, passing through sometime rocky trail, we finally reached the summit at 5:30am! Just in time to view the sunrise which was just a few minutes after we reached the top.
What a wonderful feat! Scaling the mountain and getting to the top at 2,922 meters above sea level!
In few minutes, the sun started to peep-in from the horizon of clouds. It was really an amazing, breathtaking view! Really an experience for my entire family!
The temperature too is very low at about 7 degrees Celsius (forecast temperature). I couldn’t take out my gloves for more than 3 minutes. [I had to remove it for my picture taking as my phone screen would not sense my finger with my gloves on.]
Back to Camp
We left the peak at about 6:30 in the morning. Still enduring the biting cold temperature with our layered clothes on.
As we trek down the mountain, we take out our ‘body warmers’, 1 piece at a time. Finally reaching the camp, I had only 3 layers of clothes on top.
We reached our camp at about 7:30 after almost 1 hour hike.
We had a cooked breakfast inside our camp. Our trek organizer cooked for us while we were at the peak of the mountain.
By 8am we started to break our camp, fixing our backpacks, and a bit of housekeeping. By 9:30 we were ready to the final trek back to Rangers Station.
I was a bit tired by this time. I can feel the fatigue of trekking for about 6 ½ hours for the past day. I told my wife that we will get a porter to carry my backpack going down the mountain. We did.
We started our descend at about 9:30am. It was a bit easy hike this time, except for the few climbs along the trail. We had a few rest stops too, arriving Camp-1 by about 10:30! Wow, it took us now just about an hour. Our guide/trek-lead noticed our faster pace. We had a 15 minute rest at Camp-1 too, to regain strength.
Finally, we trekked back to the village-community. This time, as sun was at its highest, we were easily tired by the noonday heat. We arrived Rangers Station at about 11:30.
Wow, a truly wonderful experience! An awesome, breathtaking view from the top!
We praise God for the good weather, for the strength He has given me and my family, and for the provisions for this expedition. This is indeed an answered prayer. Thank You LORD!
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Planning is an essential component of project management. Poor planning will yield to cost over-runs, missed deadlines, conflict of resource schedules, and others.
This is one of the reasons why I am very particular about a well-prepared project plan.
I got some tips on for good event or project planning:
Know the objective of the project or event. Ensure that everyone in the project team has a clear understanding of the purpose or objective.
He said to the people of Judah: “Let’s build these cities and fortify them with walls, towers, and barred gates. The land remains ours because we have followed the LORD our God and he has made us secure on all sides.” So they built the cities and prospered. (2Chr 14:7)
In this verse, Asa (King of Judah) is very clear about the purpose – to build fortified cities – and communicated this to his people. As the later part of the verse says, they built it and prospered.
As leader, you should be able to define very clearly the purpose or objective of the project. The same should be communicated to the project team.
Determine the tasks in as much detail as possible to attain the objective.
Know the tasks required to complete the project. Break it down
Joshua 1:11 “Go through the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your supplies, for within three days you will cross the Jordan River and begin the conquest of the land the LORD your God is ready to hand over to you.’ [Emphasis mine]
Write tasks in active verb. For example: “Prepare your supplies”.
Make it simple sentence (one active verb, one predicate). If you have 2 active verbs, split the task into 2 tasks.
If a task is taking long enough to complete, maybe a few days, evaluate if you can split it into 2 or few detailed tasks. This is a trick that really works for me as I am able to closely track and monitor the progress of the tasks.
Sequence the tasks in proper order. Determine the tasks that can be accomplished in parallel.
God said, “Let there be light!” So there was light. Then God said, “Let there be a canopy between bodies of water, separating bodies of water from bodies of water!” Then God said, “Let the water beneath the sky come together into one area, and let dry ground appear!” And that is what happened. Then God said, “Let vegetation sprout all over the earth, including seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, each kind containing its own seed!” And that is what happened: (Gen 1:3,6,9,11)
The story of creation is a beautiful story on how orderly our God is. He first created the light before anything else. He created bodies of water and land before He created the plants and the animals. Could you imagine if He first created the human?
In the same way, we need also to sequence our tasks in orderly way. There are tasks that need to be finished first ahead of others.
Allocate able men for each task.
Nehemiah 3:3-4 The sons of Hassenaah rebuilt the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakoz, worked on the section adjacent to them. Meshullam son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel worked on the section next to them. And Zadok son of Baana worked on the section adjacent to them.
For each of the tasks you had defined, assign members of your project team who will do the job. Ensure you are assigning men who have the required skills and knowledge of the job.
Estimate the duration of each task.
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Given the manpower you had allocated for each task, assess the skills of each resource you had assigned. Determine how long it will take to finish each task, give some buffer, and estimate the full duration of each job.
At this point, evaluate whether the project will be finished on target date. Add or reduce manpower assigned to the task as maybe be necessary, making sure that objective is attained.
Determine the critical tasks.Evaluate the tasks you had outlined and check which among the tasks have dependent tasks, and therefore cannot be delayed – as it will result to delay in the succeeding tasks.
“I am engaged in an important work, and I am unable to come down. Why should the work come to a halt when I leave it to come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)
Make sure adequate time and manpower are allocated, specially on critical tasks.
During project execution, keep a close monitoring on the critical tasks and ensure these are properly controlled and managed.
Review your plan with your coach or mentor.
Prov 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed..
Ask somebody – a senior person, your boss, your coach, even your peers – to review your plan. This will help you identify loopholes in the plan, and avoid pitfalls during execution.
Bataan was the last stand of the gallantry of Filipinos at the height of World War II. This is the place where the ‘Death March’ ended, where soldiers trying to defend of country from colonialism died from exhaustion after days of starvation & thirst, marching from Tarlac as captives of the Japanese. We owe to these soldiers the freedom that we enjoy today.
But in these times, Bataan is a very good place to go, especially if you want isolate yourself from the dizzying busyness of the city.
It was was good two-and-a-half drive from Manila. We passed by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), and exited at JASA for Jose Abad Santos Avenue. It is a long stretch of wide road. Upon reaching the monument “World War II First Line of Defense” in Dinalupihan, Bataan. We turned to the left, which took us all the way to the Cross of Bataan. You will not miss the uphill road going to the Cross; you will see the arc “Bantayog ng Bayani”.
The Cross that you see from afar as a tiny, little Cross, is actually a huge one, towering to an equivalent of 14 stories building! In fact, to go up, you need to ride a lift or an elevator. The elevator shaft is housed inside the vertical part of the Cross. (Could you imagine how big it is?). The horizontal of the Cross is actually a viewing deck. Can you figure out how big the cross is? (Caution for people with height phobia like me). My knees were literally shaking in nervousness! But it’s part of our experience. From the viewing deck you can see the vastness of the surroundings.
During our visit, it was the day before National Hero’s Day, and so some portions of the museum were closed to tourists.
Moving on with our tour, we passed by the Japanese monument “Friendship Tower”. It is a 3-pillar tower in the middle of a rotunda or round-about. I need pull-over our car so we can take a good shot of the monument.
We stayed for the rest of the afternoon at Westnuk Beach, a property within the unused Bataan Nuclear Plant facility. After finding a good quite place for our outdoor overnight stay, we pitched our 2 tents, spread-out our folding picnic table and setup our beach umbrella.
This is a really nice place. We enjoyed the swim in its crystal clear waters. My family enjoyed the warm afternoon waters. My son & I went to the corners of cove to gather some dried wood we can use for the bonfire later in the evening. The beach has a creamy-white sand, with reefs just a hundred meters from the beach. But yes, we rented a boat to reach the reef. At the background is the still unused nuclear power plant.
We stayed overnight in the beach. We had bonfire at night. It was my first time experience to taste grilled marshmallows, cooked in bonfire! Crunchy on the outside, melting in the inside. Really nice (thanks to my daughter)! It was an excellent experience building the bonfire with my family, a great time for interaction and bonding.
From the beach, we visited the sea turtle sanctuary where “live” turtles are cared for, bred, and raised. This is almost an hour leisure drive from Westnuk beach. In this sanctuary, we were oriented on the different varieties of sea turtles, its natural habitat, and how it breeds. Indeed an educational tour!
Along the way, don’t forget to buy cashew butter at the roadside. It a delectable experience. This is something not found in the Metro. Of course, roasted cashew nuts are at really bargain price! Take a few packs of these.
Indeed, a happy family bonding time and educational tour in one!
An Enchanting Experience at Tinago Falls
by Danny Tariman
Our last leg of our 5-day discovery journey: the Tinago Falls in Linamon, Lanao del Norte.
Tinago Falls is like what its name suggests “a hidden falls”. It is indeed out of sight. It is a good 436-step foot-trail or stairway down from the road. It is easy going down, but I tell you, returning back to the road is THE story – climbing back the 436-step trail!
When I reached the falls I was captivated by its enchanting view: tiny sprinkles of water gushing from a wide wall of rock formation, creating a thin cloud of mist; it is like a white veil partially covering one side of a mountain! Really enchanting! I haven’t seen a falls like these before.
The basin catching the waterfalls is deep! I hear from locals that it is over 60 feet deep! The beauty of this falls is that it is almost in its natural form, except for a small concrete foot bridge that crosses a down-stream from the basin.
The trees and vegetation is lush, with wild ferns and vines hanging from trees! It is nature, in its perfect beauty!
The road leading to the falls is well paved and smooth. We were welcomed by friendly tourism officers in the nice & clean reception building. The view from the roadside is just any other provincial views.
When you start to go down to Tinago, the story unfolds.
436 steps going down. You are trekking a downhill trail full of natural vegetation. You can see water trickling forth from rocks, watering the wild ferns and plants along the way. You are covered from the sun by tropical trees. It is truly a refreshing walk downhill.
When you go further down, you can hear the gush of flowing water. The temperature drops too as you go further down. I think the mist from the falls, plus the vegetation cover, keeps the temperature at waterfalls basin really low.
Truly a wonderful ‘nature’ trip!
Going back, we passed by Iligan city again, and just before we reached the boundary of Misamis Oriental, we took our lunch at of one the bay side restaurants. There are a number of eateries along the way, but this one is really good – hefty serving size at very affordable price! They have an array of seafood selections: tuna, squid, crabs, and many more. They also have the usual menus – beef, chicken, and pork. But the best is to try the seafood.
Thank you Mel-An for driving for us through this 5-day adventure in Mindanao. May the Lord bless you!