Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mt. Samat and Dunsulan Falls

Destination = BATAAN

By: Mark Nickson P. Garcia

Bataan is one of the places I have always wanted to visit, but somehow it was only this long weekend that I decided to pursue this destination. Compared to other nearby places in Manila, Bataan takes only about two  to three hours to travel from Manila, which makes it more convenient for everyone to spend a day exploring it. 

My original plan was to spend a day of my long weekend alone in exploring Bataan. It has been a long time since the last time I traveled alone so I decided that...”hey, I want to experience it again!”, but somehow, I felt that I didn’t want to be alone in this trip and I should invite someone to be with me. 

The day prior to Bonifacio day, I opened my twitter account (@NyxPGarcia) hoping for Marion (@iammarionerika) to be online. After posting her Pinatubo write up on my status, she immediately responded. Then I said that I want to go to Bataan the next day for sort of a “Destination”. Whenever I want to explore a whole particular place in the country, I call it “Destination” (e.g. Destination = Baguio). She responded positively and asked me to do the itinerary. I did some research while at work on places of interest in Bataan and it was narrowed down to Mt. Samat, Dunsulan Falls and the Pawikan Conservation Center. Surprisingly to know (at least for me) the Pawikan Festival this year is dated to be held on 30th day of November.

I sent my itinerary to Marion which starts at around 4:00AM. Apparently, her work ends at 6:00AM so I needed to adjust the itinerary to 7:00AM. Keeping in mind that we would only be in Bataan for a day, I said that she should only bring an extra shirt.

Free wifi on board!

We rode a Genesis Bus bound for Balanga, Bataan at around 7:00am (ETD) and arrived in Balanga, Bataan at around 9:30am. Upon arrival, we rode a jeepney bound for Cabog-Cabog which would bring us at the foot of Mt. Samat, our first itinerary for the day.

Prior to the climb, I did some research on how long it would take to hike Mt. Samat and based on some readings, it usually takes 1 to 1 ½ hours. At the jump-off point (around 10:10am), we opted to hike rather than spending a hundred (Php100.00) each on a tricycle-ride, basically to lessen our expenses (since it was not our only target for the day). I learned that it would be a short hike, anyway.

BP Marion & BP Nick

Starting point

Dambana ng Kagitingan

Dead blue snake

Mini Forest Park along the road to Mt. Samat

BP Nick resting

Along the way, numerous tricycle drivers discouraged and offered us a lessened fare, but since I am now an official Backpacker, riding a vehicle was not an option (unless for emergency reasons). Marion and I just talked about anything under the sun to keep us preoccupied while trekking. Suddenly, she uttered me a question and I think most climbers would really have a hard time answering it or would have the same answer like what I gave. "Bakit ka ba umaakyat?” she asked. ”Kasi maganda ang view sa taas at iba sa city” (something like that). Now that I’m writing this blog, and upon pondering on that same question, I can honestly say that:

“Besides being an outgoing person and the company of people that I am with (The Backpackers), I want to experience the beauty of a place, which cannot be defined by pictures, blog sites, or stories etc.” 

After exactly two (2) hours of hiking (around 12:10pm), we arrived at Mt. Samat. Since it was Bonifacio day, I wasn’t really expecting numerous people at Mt. Samat but I was wrong. Bonifacio day marks as a “field trip” day for these elementary students. 

Arrival at Mt. Samat
Line upon entry to the elevator up to the Mt. Samat Memorial Cross
Inside the elevator

BP Marion

BP Nick

BP Marion's last pose before leaving Mt. Samat

It took us about two (2) hours to explore the Mt. Samat (standing in line, picture taking, chillin', eating ice cream and even imitating the pictures that the Backpackers, who already went to Mt. Samat, did; until we decided to go to our next place listed in our itinerary - Dunsulan Falls.

A thirty (30) minute tricycle ride from the top of Mt. Samat is the Dunsulan Falls. We paid our tricycle driver a total of three hundred pesos (Php300.00), with a “promo” that after Dunsulan Falls, he would bring us to the road where mini buses going to Morong, Bataan pass.

Entrance fee at Dunsulan Falls

BP Nick @Dunsulan Falls

Located at the other side of Mt. Samat, Dunsulan Falls is open to the general public with a certain amount of fee to be paid depending on what you will do in the area. Jumping from the falls itself is prohibited since there has been an accident several years ago when a man died due to drowning. The incident, however, did not stop me from jumping on another area of the falls. 

On with our next itinerary, the tricycle driver dropped us in the place we agreed and waited for the minibus to arrive. We waited...and waited...and waited for forty (45) minutes until the minibus bound for Morong arrived. The minibus is like a coaster which (I guess) allows only a maximum of fifty (50) persons seated and the rest standing. Since we were only picked up along the road, obviously, we would be in standing. The minibus was crowded that I myself was standing in the entrance/exit door and Marion was way somewhere inside. We were very tired from the hike and the falls, added the fact that we were standing in a crowded bus for an hour made it even more tiring. If only humans can sleep standing, we would have been meekly asleep on that trip then.

Patiently waiting for the minibus

Inside the minibus

We were so delayed with our itinerary yet I was still hoping that upon arrival in Morong, we would still catch and experience the annual “Pawikan Festival”, especially the releasing of the Pawikans to the beach. Prior to our Bataan trip, I found out from a website that “Pawikan Festival” is celebrated every 30th day of November, but I wasn’t able to find any program schedule of activities. Therefore, we have no idea whatsoever what program(s) were left in store for us.

On the minibus, the conductor told us that the “Pawikan Festival” was held in the morning of that day and what’s left for us would be performances of live bands. Before arrival in Morong, we met and mingled with some people who also came from Quezon City. They call themselves Barangay K.U.L.I.T.A.N., which means Kabataang Ugnay sa Lipunan, Inspirasyon at Tagumpaysa Aming Nasasakupans with Sir Jojo and Mam Dolly as their heads. And, like them, we had nowhere else to go nor to stay. 

After 1 ½ hours of bus ride, we arrived in Morong, where both groups had their dinner. After some discussions, Marion and I decided to stay at Bataan and just go to Pawikan Convention Center the next day to see if there would be some activities left for us to do concerning Pawikans. Both groups decided to stay at Gold Coast Beach Resort located at Crossings, Morong.
Gold Coast Beach Resort

Marion had to make an early rest because she came straight from work to Bataan with me. After some rest I joined Barangay K.U.L.I.T.A.N with their drinking session and to get to know them more. They had been very accommodating to us when we were in the minibus, during the dinner, and they even helped us with locating a place to stay. 

Barangay K.U.L.I.T.A.N is an organization in Quezon City. The group caters to the youth by providing different programs and activities (e.g. medical missions, community services, etcetera). They enable the youth of today to be more productive in terms of serving and honing the youth to be good leaders. We talked about what both groups do and upon learning each other’s interest, Sir Jojo even recommended, if given an opportunity, to have a joint partnership whether in some of their program/activities or in a Backpackers climb.

BP Nick with Barangay K.U.L.I.T.A.N.

The day ended with us unexpectedly spending more than a day in Bataan (which I originally thought would only be for a day). And, because of that, there were things I thought I have to keep in mind in my future “Destination” trip. They are:
1.) I should buy a pouch where all my toiletries will be stored so I don’t need to pack things every time I travel; 
2.) I should bring extra shorts if your itinerary comprises of Falls or Beach; 
3.) Bring a tent to lessen expense, so you can sleep anywhere and, 
4.) Always expect the unexpected

The next day would be another adventure filled day for Marion and me as we continue with our journey to historical places in Bataan and experience animals at Zoobic Safari, Subic.

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