Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Conquering Banahaw on a Budget

I was happy to discover another set of travel barkada that's fun, street-smart and hassle-free. 

The Banahaw Team on the way to their trekking adventure!

We bonded so much in Boracay and succeeding “concert sessions,” that we just HAD to have another getaway. This time, we went easy on the budget (breakdown below).

The Banahaw overnight package of Nature Villa was another shotgun-purchase, much like how we decided for Boracay. But as usual, the excitement of the getaway erased all doubts.
Our package, bought from an online discount voucher merchant, was sulit! It was for an overnight accommodation, inclusive of breakfast and mountain appreciation tour. The more we talked about it, the more it sounded like a real adventure. 

At 4:00 am one Sunday morning, we boarded a bus going to San Pablo, where we were supposed to catch a jeepney going to Dolores. 

We slept most of the trip and at 7:00 am, hesitantly got off at a junction a few kilometers off Dolores Town, which was where the jeepneys stopped, the bus driver told us. We waited for a while, unsure if we were in the right place. After several plan-B sessions, our prayers were heard and we boarded a Dolores-bound jeep along with the day's catch, several bayongs of vegetables and smiling locals.

We mentioned sa Nature Villa po, sa Dolores mismo, and they all seemed to know where we were going. It was a relief. We were in the right jeep. And so went the uphill journey to Dolores Town.

A fellow passenger who lived in the area offered to walk us to Nature Villa's gates. We got off at a dirt road, went through a couple of stree
ts with people cooking in wooden fires. They seemed accustomed to people with backpacks passing by, so we said magandang umaga po as we exchanged nods and smiles.

We were quite early and had time for breakfast, which was a good thing. The mountain tour, which involved several hours of trekking, required steady muscles, strong disposition and, consequently, a happy tummy. 

Nature Villa's stylishly Pinoy Facade

 Our sun-shiny and camera-ready friend, Lani, 
while walking along the foothills

Together with our assigned tour guide, we explored the foothills of Banahaw the whole morning. We went through the “Kalbaryo” path, went to four “prayer” caves and offered lighted candles. Kalbaryo really lived up to its name. We had to climb our way into mostly steep, large, mossy rocks. At intervals, we stopped at clearings to catch our breath and get a feel of the mountain.

On the way to Kalbaryo

Finally, we went up to the entrance of the fifth cave, which was the famous “Husgado,” the most mystic of the caves. They say that those with impure hearts and impure intentions get hurt inside, or worse, get trapped. Our tour guide warned that we had to crawl a few kilometers all the way out because the passage is small. We hesitated.

Alas, we decided that it was not time to cross this path. I expressed my regrets because I am claustrophobic and that my thighs were killing me already, which was echoed by a couple of our friends.

We had lunch at a nearby karinderia. Food never tasted so good. We had sauteed canned tuna, some menudo-ish viand, fish and tons of rice. We finished lunch in ten minutes flat.

After the full and hearty lunch, we chilled for a bit at the inn and went on our way to the Sta. Lucia waterfalls. I did not know what to expect and was totally unprepared for about ten stories worth of mossy and mostly slippery staircase descending to a glorious stream of freshwater.

The downward journey was killer, especially in the last three flights of stairs, where each step was about only four inches wide. On top of it all, the rails were wobbly and the concrete steps were slippery from the trails of river water left by those coming up from the falls. We all made it slowly but safely.

Oh, but the moment we stepped into the water, we forgot all about the slippery steps and wobbly railings. Never mind that we had to make our way back the same flights.

View from our little cove

We were lucky that nobody else was in the semi-secluded cove somewhere upstream. We stayed there for a bit and reveled in the heavenly water, which was said to have healing qualities. We were also looking for the falls, but were told that it was way upstream. And anyway, we were too tired to do more trekking so we just stayed in our cove.

The way back was more manageable, except for the tight thigh muscles. But we survived the day and it's a giddy thought. We were all feeling fulfilled – and just a bit hungry. We took much-needed showers and went back to the same karinderia for dinner. Chicken adobo, rice and ten-peso-per-liter juice were, again, gone in ten minutes. Maybe the hungry part was underrated.

I slept so well that night. It was such a shame we left so early in the morning of Monday.

I was staring into the retreating dirt road as we left and I thought that I would like to come back someday.


Banahaw Budget

Php 160.00 Bus to San Pablo (DLTB)

Php 25.00 Jeep to Dolores
Php 575.00 Accommodations & Breakfast at Nature Villa
Php 130.00 Breakfast (Day 1)
Php 70.00 Lunch (Day 1)
Php 80.00 Dinner (Day 1)
Php 150.00 Pasalubong
Php 30.00 Jeep to San Pablo
Php 160.00 Bus to Manila
Php 50.00 Tip to Tour Guide and Hotel Staff

Total: Php 1,430.00

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Greener Pastures

My previous weekend I spent outside my apartment veranda, replanting seedlings I bought from Mang Tony, a landscape artist based in Tondo, Manila.

For several months, I have been populating my greens collection. After several trials and more errors, I realized that those that I got from Mang Tony far outlived those that were from somewhere else. His green thumb is really legendary. 

Hence everytime I visit hometown friends, I always make it a point to drop by his stall. Which also goes the other way around, if I wanted new plants, I would drop by his stall and consequently visit my friends. Each visit to Mang Tony, I snatch some impromptu greening tips such as better ways to snip leaves and best household fertilizers. I have a feeling I could be really good at greening! 

 Candy, my very photogenic peppermint

Anyway, since I was wrist-deep in dirt and so into the planting fun, I also took the weekend to organize my plant boxes which have fallen into disarray over a few weeks of neglect. It was the longest I spent with my green friends, so far. And I enjoyed it!

I loved the feeling of pride and fulfillment when I gazed at my lovely plants and my put-together and very organized plant boxes. 

 Plant boxes! Love them!

 Letty, the lettuce tree :)

The boyfriend said that if this plant-love-affair goes on, I might someday have my own farm. And that was a really good thought.