November 20, 2011

The Road Less Traveled: Ring Falls & Igtughangin Falls, Brgy. Panipiason, Madalag Aklan, Panay Island, Philippines


MY PANIPIASON STORY: Extreme is a word defined as an activity purposely to seek dangerous or even life-threatening experiences and Adventure however is an undertaking involving uncertainty and risk. If you combine it altogether as one, it is an EXTREME ADVENTURE. 
This was what I did on my Wild River exploration leading to last barangay named Panipiason of Madalag town bordering between two provinces of Aklan and Antique, where you can find the most pristine waterfalls ever explored in my adventure history so far.
It was a beautiful experience. In my own perspective as a local traveler, It was an adventure filled with enriching life experiences on what is like to live in a very far place away from a hustle and bustle city life where good transportation and roads were being deprived for the people. From the various river crossing with almost everything can be loaded on a tiny "bangka" made of wood processed into a canoe or a collection of bamboo to create a raft, to the narrow trail going up and down to the very jagged-rocky terrain almost impassable by a motorcycle but it was, down to the muddy and wobbly streams, that sometimes you cannot really imagine how the locals inhabited the place we're able to cope with this means of transportation. However, if your looking for serenity,quietness & peace, this place is perfect to visit.
Indeed, it was a very nice journey to discovering a place that is very nice, simple and plain yet full of life, hospitality and generosity, rich with untouched natural treasure. The four hours roller coaster ride on a motorcycle under the rough terrain along the riverbanks with outmost risk and uncertainty was ended up worth it; promise you will not regret it.
This place is worth visiting if your are really that into nature tripping. I hope Barangay Panipiason can preserve their natural treasure for this will for sure attract more local and international tourist around the world. It’s not about the luxurious ambiance that we nature-traveler are looking for but it is the genuine life changing experiences, various ways of life to thrive and nature wonders that are still kept and preserved on their natural beauty.
It was my second attempt though, that I made it to explore this place. Limited information really touches my curiosity to uncover the potential of this place.Gut feel and common sense drives my journey to the highest level of risk. It was just started when I saw a little frame of a very nice photograph being sold at one souvenir shop at the airport. I got the name of the town where it was located but I don’t have the details on how to reach it. The beauty of the photograph seems captivated my inner being and keeps on coming into my subconscious mind, as if, I am in loved with a woman.  I did a little research in the internet but no information even little hint leading to the place. Of the entire place-shortlisted to explore in the Visayas area, I got very curious about this place really. One Sunday morning, I visited the town and did some research of firsthand information from the locals and police stations, this was actually my first attempt to uncover the secret of this place but I decided to postpone it since the weather was not ideal and I had limited time considering the uncertainty of my planned destination. Instead, diverted it and asked some locals for the nearest waterfalls within the area as an alternative adventure for the day to make my day sulit naman.(soon to be uploaded here)
Two weeks had past when I really that decided to explore this place and this time, I am really decided to embark this adventure whatever it takes alone. Things had happened according to my plans. Thanks God! The weather condition was great. On Sunday morning of Nov. 13, 2011,where every people were very excited to watch Pacman's fight over Marquez, I did things in my own different way. I woke up early excited but had apprehension though of the plans that I had. Going to barangay Panipaison of the town of Madalag Aklan, is basically commence at Kalibo Town public terminal where, you can take a ride through a minibus going to Libacao Town for  Php 30.00 -fare one way. Estimated travel time is about 30 minutes.
Just tell the driver to drop you off at Barangay Dumaguit , where you can take your first river crossing through a little Bangka for Php10.00 .  Madalag town is just right across the river. Crossing the river is one way of going into Madalag town easiest possible as of the moment since the bridge connecting the two towns are still under its finishing stage. Once this infrastructure is done, access to both towns is just few minutes away by then.
Alternative way is via the town of Numancia to Madalag but it’s quite a long travel, estimated travel time is about 1:30 hours from Kalibo Town, fare is approximately Php60.00 one way. In Madalag town, you can hire a motorcycle going to Barangay Panipiason for Php 150.00 one way. Php 500.00 if you chartered it the whole day, back and forth. Estimated travel time is about 2:00 hours on a rugged terrain. This young mind below was earning a living through this way and its already part of their or his daily lives.
But before embarking on your adventure, please do register first at the police station for security purposes.  The best person who can take you to Barangay Panipiason is Rjie Navotas. He is such an experienced driver on that route and very familiar with the terrain and the river crossing. You can contact him for early reservation at this mobile no. 0907-7328138. Please take note that only smart & globe network has a strong signal in the area.
ON THE ROAD TO GET THERE: After registering at Madalag Police Station, we immediately left the town to the destination. The road going there, on the early stage was manageable, it was rough but  passable until we arrived at barangay Mamba, the last barangay accessible by four wheels. By the way, Dieter Ocampo and his team {Kids Foundation} were there at the remote river barangay of Mamba for their second day- medical mission for the kids. They even slept at the mountain barangay along with his team on their first day, according to some locals. I salute you on this Diet, good job. This is a very good example of good deeds. I really love to do this also. Hmm…can I be a volunteer of your foundation Diet? ahaha, I want to share the same passion as you do. 
Someday, God’s willing and in God’s time, I will  build my own foundation too, to help the needy. I will love to do it very much. It is a very wonderful feeling being able to help others who are in need especially the children and the oldies. The na├»ve smiles on their faces with true and genuine intentions invigorate my whole system to serve.The road ahead was getting narrow and difficult as we drove along the rocky riverbanks. Various scenery has been seen along the way. The crystal clear flowing water from the river will really struck your attention plus the stunning mountain ranges with houses stood on the hillside, that made me realize how fortunate we are.
The scenery were awesome but I have difficulty capturing those since we were moving on the rugged terrain. I cannot count anymore the number of times we have had crossed the river. I often close my eyes in order not to witness for a split of seconds the difficulty of the path we are following into. Sometimes, I went off from the motorcycle on those very difficult terrains because I am scared that we might fell off the rift. 
For a first timer like me, riding on a motorcycle was a heart punching & breathtaking experience though I enjoyed it a lot since it was my first time have something like this despite the fact that what i have been doing was very dangerous. But for the locals, it’s a normal to them already because that is already part of their daily lives.
It was almost lunch time when we arrived at Barangay Panipiason. We went directly to see Hon. Barangay Captain Arnaldo Gregorio to have a courtesy call and get a guide to the falls who at that time preparing to watch the fight of Pacman. You can contact him through this mobile number 0920-3742969, if you wish to go there and inform them ahead of time of your intent visit.  Along with my guides, we finally off to the mountain side to see the pristine rivers and waterfalls that the place were bragging of.  
As we moved up the mountain ranges, you can see a panorama view of the little community of Panipiason, it was splendid! On our way to the falls, we have met a number kids roaming around the mountain side and decided to go along with our adventure. Yahoo! The more the merrier.
Until we reached the first falls called the "RING FALLS" it is wonderful! A very fine and marvelous waterfall, very unique of all the falls had been through, why? It’s very obvious, from the name itself, a ring was created by the constant dropped of water in it.
{It goes with the saying that I have got from my Lola when I was just a child that in courting a girl you love, be patient and wait for the right time because even how hard the heart of a woman is, it will soften as the time pass by like a huge rock made of limestone with the constant drops of water in it, will eventually soften and breaks}. It was beautiful and quiet, less visited place that made it so pristine, no garbage, bluish water and cold, very alluring for a bathe, it was really wonderful. 
Rock formation and boulders has been spotted also in various colors.  We were not able to resist the welcoming charisma of the place and took off my shirt and plunged into the deep and energizing cold water with my newly found local friends. The place is really amazing! 
After spending more than an hour at the RING FALLS, we finally headed ourselves to the most highlight of my journey, the IGTUGHANGIN FALLS. It is located up in one of the mountain ranges. The slope was a bit sharp as we did our final assault. On the ridge, you can see the river and Ring Falls from a far down the valley.
On the other side of the ridge, you can already see behind the canopy of leaves, the amazing 150 feet IGTUGHANGHIN FALLS as it cascades its water beautifully on a very high cliff filled with thick vegetation. We took some shots before finally proceeding down the hill to see the full view of magnificent waterfalls. 
It is really magnificent “IGTUGHANGIN FALLS” beautiful as it was in my imagination. It was just a dream to witness its charm but now, its real already. I am very fulfilled as I gazed longingly at it for more than an hour, all I said was WOW this place is amazing, how I wish to spend whole day some other time.
Heading back to the barangay proper, we stopped for a while at a native house on the foot of the mountain to taste their fresh buko meat and juice. 
Take note, anywhere in this place buko is free, you just have to get it down to your mouth. ahaha, we eventually took a few minutes rest at the house of Tatay as I called him {an oldman alone in his house} who was then busy making “duyan” made from rattan and sold it for Php100 pesos per pc. Aside from “duyan making” he also processed abaca fiber used in various clothing-barong materials and sold it for Php50 per kilo. Then on, we finally bid our smiles and goodbyes to Tatay very refreshed  with the fresh buko juice and paid Php50 for the four (4) pcs we ate.
We opted to do the river trekking on our way back. Huge boulders and fascinating rapids has been seen and very ideal for water rafting. I managed to cross the river several times with extra care since I have had my camera with me and other belongings.Some of my adventure buddies had fun rafting using a piece of bamboo paddling using their hand along the streams.

We ended up our trek at the hanging bridge. It was scary for me to cross that bridge but for the locals it was just a “chicken feet” to cross without even holding on at the railings. The path walk-panels were just made of bamboo splits, that when you pass through it, it will swing as you move your steps towards the other side. But there was one local mother who crossed the hanging bridge with her daughter on her right arms and groceries on the other side. She just walked gracefully without any fear.I was really amazed looking at it.Nevertheless, it helps the local to cross around and connect the other side of the river a bit safer than crossing down the river itself.
We finally arrived back at barangay captains house with few number of locals around including my motorcycle buddy who just waited me and spent the whole day with me in the mountain, intently waiting for our comeback since we were out for 4 hours already. They were very curious of what had happened to us up there, then finally asked some questions to us. I immediately shared our beautiful experiences with outmost enthusiasm. Other locals were intrigued on how beautiful really the place is.  I showed them some of my shots to further testify the beauty of nature they possess. Most of them shared that, they themselves has never been visited the waterfalls. I told them to take a glimpse of  it and they must have to preserved this for future generation. I felt in them the innate sense of genuine intnetions and hospitality, very nice people. Indeed a very nice community. I offered to take a souvenir shot with them and I finally gave my smiles and bid my heartfelt goodbye's to everyone and thanked them for their warmed welcome and out-most generosity being  a complete stranger to their place. Thanks Captain & his wife for the banana that was given to me for free. Thank you so much.  
I hope I can find time to re-visit your nice place and probably stay there for a couple of days to learn the “aklanon dialect”. Thank you also to my motorcycle buddy Rjie Navotas for the safe travel. And to my ever loyal guides and my travel buddies-kids that made my entire adventure worthwhile. 
At the end of the day, lying in my bed,all i can say that I don’t have any hint of regret despite how difficult the way it was. With the smiles of my companion's above, without any doubt, I will surely visit this place again someday. See you soon!    

November 10, 2011

Underground River National Park, Sabang, Puerto Princesa Palawan, Philippines

MY PALAWAN STORY: It was a group-barkada plan to discover the last frontier of the Philippine archipelago-Palawan, when one of our barkada has booked several tickets for us-to go together have fun on the second week of December 2010. Exhilaration hype up until the day has come. Guess what had happened?  This time, it was not a failure of planninig; instead, we have planned it so well, for it to just fail. This was exactly what happened. Seven of us originally planned for this escapade but only four of us has been pushed through and able to explored Palawan in our own separate ways. Oh! one more catch… I ended up exploring alone under a heavy rain and thunder storm. Why? because of this dilemma of this Airline Company to cancel pre-booked promo flight and move back early or late schedule or be re-routed to other place and further connecting flight before you can reached your destination. We were able to see each at the hotel the night before our scheduled flight back to Cebu. Ended up, very satisfied with what happened with my Palawan Extreme Adventure. It really holds true that something happened for a reason with God’s grace and power bestowed upon us. I hope this blog will somehow inspire everyone especially to those want to travel but do not have any companion, to try travelling with yourself because I believe that being passionate of anything does not need someone to make it happen.

THE FULL SCOPE: I had to fly out from Iloilo to catch up my flight to Palawan from Cebu but unfortunately the original flight schedule was cancelled and re-routed to manila connecting to Palawan. Since I cannot make it to that arrangement, I have no choice but to re schedule my trip to the next day, one day has missed up considering that we already have done booking for our hotel with some down payment paid already inclusive of the package tour that was set also. Disgusted but what you can do? Nothing, walang namang choice! My barkada was there already a night earlier since they took the Manila re-routed flight to Palawan. It was okay pa rin nonetheless. Upon arrival at the Puerto Princesa Airport, I rushed to the hotel hoping to catch up the van going to the town of Sabang, where Subterranean River National Park or Underground River is located but I was not able to make it. 

What was painful was not about being left out for the tour but the money I spent for a night hotel and the tour {quite expensive}. Well, learning experience, adventure must go on, I grabbed my wallet, cell phone and camera, no food, no clothes, no other things I have and went out to the city, rode a tricycle and asked the driver to get me to the Public Terminal to find any means of available transportation going to Sabang town. It was already 12:00 noon that time. Thanks God, I was able to catch up the last trip. 

HOW TO GET HERE: I was naive then and thought it was just an easy ride but it was not. It took 3 hours adventure ride going to Sabang Town under a heavy rain through a public jeepney and 2 hours by chartered private van. The jeepney has left the terminal at around 2:00pm with several local with their groceries and with few foreign travelers and local tourist too. It was raining hard that time to the point that you cannot see any view in Palawan. I was excited to take my first shot then.  As I spoke with the local, I learned that we will be crossing a rugged mountain side to get to Sabang town. It was a mind boggling then, whether is it worth to proceed or just sleep at the hotel cuddle with a soft pillows, watching travel and living channel while eating some local delicacies and just wait for tomorrow’s itinerary considering that it was already 2:00pm and it was raining hard with scattered  thunder storm. 

My mind was fixed and decided to go despite uncertainties ahead of out there as I recalled what the local have said "rugged mountain side", I was thinking a nice mountain view then, towering limestone and different rock formations. It was really a literal "adventure". It was an extreme choice since I don’t have complete information of the place that am I going into. I’m feeling anxious being a complete stranger to my destination which my mind cannot even picture out. The jeepney finally left and I was setting at the front seat holding in both hands my camera ready to shot. I was very excited knowing Palawan from several facts in the travel magazines plus stunning photos and the likes. I cannot wait to take my first shot until we were in the mountain-winding road, my eyes were widely open as the eyes of a tarsier to watchfully see some towing limestone and other mountain views that can be taken photos, but my excitement indeed  diminished, the rain poured it harder and harder for 2 hours until it was done and the skies turned into bright and blue. This is it, I said to myself, trying to convince that I have made the right choice. What was left was a fog that envelopes the towering limestone of mountain and its ranges. WOW! beautiful.

It was very cold since I got wet during the whole travel and finally took my first shot at it. It was really amazing, looking intently at those towering limestone notwithstanding the uncertainty ahead. It was past 5:00 pm when I got to Sabang Town. It was a very pleasant feeling while heading to the Tourism center where you can register for a tour to the Underground River.

The rain has gone totally but it was a bit dark already since it was past 5:00 pm. I registered and reserved for the first tour tomorrow morning. Then after, I explored a bit of Sabang town, the beach, street foods and talk to the locals for some info, bought some souvenirs and finally look for a bed for the night.

 It has several native huts available around the beachfront for P500 a night or if you wish to spoil yourself a bit, Sheridan Resort & Spa is a few steps away for a few thousand a night. Sabang Town is such a peaceful and very laid-back town, very nice. As of this travel, no commercial electricity has been operating the whole town. High-end resorts have their own generator set for power. I have opted for a villa type-native hut right at the beachfront.

Left my souvenirs at my Villa and explored on their local street foods and nightlife a bit. I had a very romantic dinner alone under a “lampara light” {which I used to have during my childhood days in Camotes Island} with vegetables and fried fish. 

Toured around the place and give some of my killer smile to the locals and back to my Villa. No lights off since there was no light, ehehe.  Oh my! my cellphone was almost dead bat already can’t call anymore to my ex girlfriend. This was it, no electricity, no communication, wow! I pulled it off and called it a night at 6:00pm {too early to bed alone} Good night! I slept for ten hours from a very tiring adventure. Woke up at 4:00am, nothing to do, it was still dark inside and out. I had a lot of thoughts though since I don’t have something to do, just kept on thinking and mesmerizing of the so many things that had happened to me the previous day. I went out at 5:00am and hurriedly scrambling to the beach half naked since I don’t have extra shirt to wear on. I sat on a piece of log waiting for the sun to rise. It was low tide and the sand was glimmering as the sunrise slowly rising up, It was so beautiful. The place was enchanting while the sun rises behind a cloudy morning. Took some shots and headed myself back to my Villa to prepare for my early underground river tour.

The place were getting alive tourist were coming in. I immediately approach the tourism officer for the tour and lined up while waiting for the first boat ride. Finally, boarded with a small motorized “banca” heading to Underground River, I have had met new friends which eventually be my travel buddies for the rest of the days in Palawan. I was blessed to have them along with me in my escapade.

As we off the port of Sabang, you can find a lot of towering limestone and mountain ranges that will catched you attentione. Very fascinating rock formation and crystal clear water. As we were approaching to the Underground River, my God, the cliffs were so beautiful. Can’t help but to shot and shot and shot! Wow really amazing Palawan.

We finally boared on our secondr boat ride going inside the Underground River. Yes! This is it! as i said to my self. The boatman was trained to be a guide also inside the cave.

 Manong boatman was so funny; he told a lot of jokes while paddling inside with a battery operated flashlight to shed light inside the cave. It was so dark behind your back, so it is advisable not to see what is in your back, you might see something unusual “ika nga-huwag kang lilingon” ahaha. One thing, do not also lifts you head up with your eyes and mouth widely open, you might be ended up chewing bat shit ehehe {line was quoted from manong boatman}. As we paddled our way to the 4km long stretch of a very quiet and dark Underground River, you can find spectacular stalactites and stalagmites in various formations.

 It was really beautiful from human the eyes. The walls of the cave were so pronounced and thick lime stones. As if it was built with superb technicality and brilliant engineering.  Different images have been depicted in the caves ceiling and walls. 

The tour was culminated at the cathedral part of the cave-a very wide and high ceiling part of the cave where you can find a lot of bats inhabiting the place.

 We finally did our u turn going out from the cave. It was amazingly spectacular site and deserves to be preserved for future generation to experience it.  It may or may not be voted as one of the new seven wonders of natures, it does not matter to me at all, as long as this place can be kept for this is a truly {our} Philippine wonder our treasure to keep. Flora and fauna has remarkably visible around the area and this too as well have to be taken cared off.

On our way back to Puerto Princesa for the city tour, of course with my newly found “girl friends” we took a minibus that left Sabang town at 12:00nn. It has 2 regular trips per day, first trip is at 7:00am and last trip is at 12:00nn. Fare as of this travel, was about P150 pesos one way. Fastest option is to charter a Van for 3,500 to 5,000 back and forth already.

To finally maximize my obsession for Palawan scenery, I opted to sit at the top load of the minibus we rode in. Along with few locals and foreign travelers on top, we shared our story and fascination about nature and how beautiful the Philippine archipelago. We dropped by for a couple of minutes at the view deck where you can see a panoramic view of Palawan. From my spot, you can see numerous mountain ranges of limestone that awestruck every traveler interest.


1.) The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center has a lot of wildlife attraction to offer. Crocodiles were scary. Ostrich-the largest living bird on earth are scary too but awesome with their long bared neck and other other wildlife. Souvenir items like crocodiles stuff toys were available too and other items.

2.) The Nothing Hill is a very romantic place for lovers and has a magnificent panorama of the city view and the Honda bay and other neighboring island and islets.

3.) The best christmas decorations at the sea wall and other parts of the city proper, countless number of giant Christmas trees, very nice light and cultural events during that night was beautiful. Plus take note guys, only in Palawan that you can buy very cheap genuine peal for gifts and other unique items worth buying. I bought a holy rosary and bracelet made of real pearl for my ex girlfriend.

My Palawan escapade ignite my passion for traveling. It was indeed a very extreme all-weathered adventure that proved myself that you do not need to be with someone for you to enjoy every moment of it. Happiness comes from passion with in you and not from somebody else.