Monday, August 13, 2012

Solo Backpacking at Talim Island

In the heart of Laguna lake, we will find a dagger shaped island, hence the name Talim Island. This is where the Backpacker Lead spent his interesting day last weekend. He was not lucky for the weather was not on his side, but he was fortunate to witness a festivity celebrated on the island that day.

Monsoon on My Third Time
Solo Backpacking at Talim Island
by Ivan Ignacio


Travelling around Rizal province
It was an unplanned excursion and I just went where my wandering feet carried me. It first took me to a trip from the Metropolis to the nearby province of Rizal where I got enticed to climb a mountain ~ either Mt. Irid for I was craving for a new mountain to conquer, or Mt. Sembrano for a nice recon climb. Since I can not decide, I just went off at Cainta, Rizal junction and told myself that I would ride the tenth jeepney that will pass by, regardless of its destination. It was a jeepney bound to Binangonan, Rizal.

"Ah, fate wants me to revisit Mt. Tagapo", I told myself.

Iglesia Ni Cristo, Binangonan, Rizal
The structure of the church always fascinates me
Travelling solo is good for the soul, but for some, climbing a mountain alone is considered as irresponsible mountaineering. As a matter of fact, the topic is getting more controversial in the mountaineering community as solo backpacking gains popularity. My stand here is to each his own. Being a person who sometimes climb mountains alone when all of the members of The BACKPACKERS or my other hiking buddies are not available, I am aware of the risks involved in the sport. So whenever I travel alone, I see to it that I have a point of contact in the metropolis. I told my destination to some friends as I was enthusiastically riding at the back of a tricycle en route to Binangonan Port.

Water lilies everywhere!
Water lilies due to recent rainstorms block the boats at the dock
We should not question the adrenaline and the accomplishment that some people feel when backpacking alone in the countryside and in the wilderness. Irresponsible mountaineering occurs when one climbs mountains by himself or herself just to show off and brag by counting these beautiful creation they have conquered. But there are genuine reasons why some people prefer to hike alone. They want to stray away from the boisterous crowd and civilization, and be quiet and peaceful for a while. They love that time when they are closer to nature. Of course there are persons who are more involved and prefer to hike with a group. Thus, we have different ways of communing with nature. And for them (us), it is their (our) rightful choice to embrace the raw beauty of nature without any companion. The challenge is quite risky, but risk will always be present in the sport that we love whether it be solo backpacking or backpacking with a group. These people who gage in solo climbs are proving something for themselves and not for someone else. They know the limits of their physical strength and are aware of the risks so I am sure that they can pretty much take care of themselves as they trudge the lovely beaten path.


Flooded roads
I have visited Talim Island (mainly for Mt. Tagapo) for three consecutive years now. But this year, the spirit of the island did not allow me to reach its highest peak. Dark, grey clouds started to form from the horizon as it was the time when the harsh monsoon started to hit the country. While I was riding the passenger boat from Binangonan Port to the island, rain showers were a mockery to me as it intermittently intimidated our boat. When we made the first stop at Brgy. Buhangin, I realized that it may have been the wrong time visiting the island. Laguna Lake was swollen and ate up the floor of the basketball court and the pathway of this barangay at the dock.

Maneuvering through the supposed seats at the dock
When we reached the supposed jump off point of a typical Mt. Tagapo hike; Brgy. Janosa, strong winds started to slap the sail of our boat. The gymnasium and the walkway in this barangay was also flooded. The boat halted for a good ten minutes as it was impossible to unload the passengers at Brgy. Janosa. The winds were violent and the rain got heavier. The kids inside our boat got scared as thunderclaps were heard every once in a while. Their eyes were trembling in fear. When the difficult weather slightly subsided, the boat went on to its next destination.

The children inside the boat were daunted because of the grouchy weather
The covered court became covered with lake water
Washing at the washed up pathway

I did not alight at Brgy. Janosa as I was persuaded by the weather to go back to mainland and just postpone my solo expedition. But for some reason, the adventurous soul in me managed to push me out of the boat on the next stop: at Brgy. Kaytome. Luckily, the walkway here was higher so there was no flood. But for the apparent reason that flood might be anywhere, I actually removed my shoes and socks, and prepared to get wet. After getting off the boat, I was surprised to see commotion in the island. Despite the bad weather, there were still a lot of people outside the streets. It was not the same rustic Talim Island that I met years ago which was quiet and serene. There were stalls, banners and a lot of people around. Then I realized that an island fiesta was being celebrated that day! Then I replaced my thought that it may have been the perfect time visiting the island that day.

Fiesta at Brgy. Kaytome
The parade... Miss, smile!!
I interacted with the locals in a familiar gambling stall: Color Game. Here, you place your bet on any one (or more) color and wait for the dicemaster to roll three dice. If your color matches any one of the rolled dice, your bet will be doubled (or tripled depending on the number of matches). If you have no match, then the stall owner will take your bet. If Vegas has the slot machine, the Philippines has Color Game!

Is this board familiar to you?

I walked through the paved road connecting Brgy. Kaytome and Brgy. Janosa passing by some of the simple attractions offered by that day's festivity. I was alone and it was so much fun. I spoke with some locals who were kind enough to show me the direction to Brgy. Janosa. I passed by a clearing where I was able to view the entirety of the vast Laguna Lake and how it flooded some parts of the island. I walked and walked. I interacted with the locals. I got to appreciate and take part in their festivity. Regardless of the uncooperative weather, the townsfolk were still able to push through with their annual celebration joyously. They were so nice and accommodating. They are a fraction of the reason why Filipinos are known to be the most hospitable persons on earth.

Hermit crabs for sale
This persistent child lost all his coins in this stall
Simultaneous christening of twenty (plus) babies
Solo Backpacker -
BP Lead Ivan
No, I was not able to summit Mt. Tagapo because it rained hard while I was on the island. And this is the principle of backpacking that is somewhat painful to learn: know when to abort an expedition. This is one of the risks involved as weather could be very unpredictable. But I was able to make my time worthwhile by interacting with the amiable residents of the four barangays in Talim Island which celebrated their fiesta that day. I was able to witness the parade. I lit a candle in the stalls outside the church. I was able to witness christening of twenty plus babies in one day. I played those silly small time gambling games where I remembered my childhood ~ trying to distinguish the letter written in chalk, then betting for that letter, only to find out that I lost and my bet will be taken away from me by the stall operator. I wanted to buy something during my visit. At first I was enthused with the idea of purchasing hermit crabs from a very genial vendor. But I opted out of that idea and bought a carp instead (which looked like a goldfish). That was a simple welcome back present for my girlfriend who has been faithfully requesting for a goldfish as an anniversary present. And that day was our anniversary. All these are worth compensating an interrupted climb due to a perverse weather. After all, I have never seen the remote rural island so alive, joyous and active like that before.

This solo backpacking experience was a time for myself. I wanted to take a time off alone where I can have peace of mind, and visit a place where I can ponder on matters about the heart. 

Meet Mahinhin from Talim Island

The main concern in getting back to the mainland from the island is that the passenger boats are not always available. During this trip, I was stranded for three hours waiting for a passenger boat. Even though there were a lot of people in the island because four barangays were celebrating their fiesta, only a few passenger boats were operating due to the bad weather. I had to hop from Brgy. Kaytome to Brgy. Janosa to Brgy. Buhangin to catch a boat.

Stranded.. Waiting for a passenger boat..

The boatman who refused to operate due to the weather
Our saving grace!


1. Ride Binangonan bound FX or jeepney from EDSA Shaw (Crossing)
2. Alight at Pritil Port
3. Ride the passenger boat en route to Talim Island
4. Alight at any one of the boat stops. 
    If you are planning to climb Mt. Tagapo, alight at Brgy. Janosa
5. Before climbing, make sure you register at the barangay hall

**It would be less hassle to visit the island when the lake is not this swollen.
** The traffic from Pasig to Binangonan can be very heavy and tormenting during rush hour.

Happy Backpacking and remember, Leave No Trace!


                      Jeepney or FX fare from EDSA Shaw to Binangonan ~ 40 - 50 Php
                                                Passenger boat fare ~ 30Php
                                                Mt. Tagapo registration fee ~ 20Php


For The BACKPACKERS' account of the highest peak in
Talim Island: Mt. Tagapo,
click here
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