MOTO-SURVEY RIDE TO TIMBAC, BENGUET PROVINCE

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

Mt. Timbac, Atok, Benguet Province

Mt. Timbac is said to be the 3rd Highest mountain in Luzon, next to Mt. Pulag and Mt. Kabayan. The locals plant vegetables like broccoli, carrots and cabbage. For many generations, the Timbac locals carved the mountains into terraces for vegetable farming.

Lately, adventure seekers and nature lovers are starting to discover the beauty of Mt. Timbac. Rather than going to crowded Sagada, visitors are trickling in to this cool and quiet spot on earth.

It’s a fairly easy ride by big bike. Timbac is only about 300 km from Manila via Baguio. From Baguio it’s about a 2 hour ride.

The route takes you to the long and winding Halsema highway.

Unlike in the past, Halsema is now busy not only with the small trucks filled with vegetables on its way to the Trinidad market, but also has a lot of tourist vans and private cars going to Sagada.

Good thing Restie, Mhar and I rode our elephant BMW GS 1200s, and with Mhar spearheading like a police escort, our travel time was faster.

Riding in the mountains is always a joy. The scenery is breathtaking and the weather cooler.

Visitors of Mt. Timbac are advised to register first at the Atok Municipal hall Tourism office. There the office can inform you of the van rentals going up and also the several homestay places for accommodations.

We didn’t know that. We just went straight up.

We rode along the Halsema until we saw the sign on the right going up to Mt. Timbac.

There is a steep access road going up that takes you to the Mongoto Elementary School. The road is narrow and steep and it would be good to be alert for on coming vehicles.

When we reached the Mongoto School we stopped to inquire with the locals where we could stay. The school was holding a meeting that day and there were a number of people.

Luckily, we were approached by Joyce Camsel, a friendly lady who pointed us to the house on top of the mountain where we could stay and camp.

Joyce and her husband Salvador own the place and they host many visitors most weekends. Their nephew Wilfredo and niece Aileen are the ones who will take care of our needs.

Willy
Aileen

The narrow roads turn into tire paths and become rather tricky because of has some tight uphill turns. This may be challenging for big bike riders. But hey, what’s an adventure without challenge.

When we reached the place we parked our bikes by the road side, unpacked and brought our stuff up to the homestay. The house is newly built and it can house a lot of people. They charge 400 per person a night.

We chose to camp further up the mountain to experience the nature, marvel at the 360 degrees views and feel the 10 degree temperature or maybe even colder.

We pitched our tents on the small campsite. We bought some canned goods for food and 4×4 Ginebra Gin to keep us warm for the night and to extract some truth to our storytelling. Some things maybe forgotten the morning after but that just means we had fun.

Willy set up a bonfire for us and joined us at the campsite. The site is about 100 meters up and quite a hike for matured knees. Yup no toilets. You’ll have to hike back down to unload.

The Gin washed away our tiredness and lifted our spirits 80 proof. Willy told us about life in Mt. Timbac. Their existence is simple. The men tend to the vegetable farms the whole day while the women takes care of their children at home.

Mhar nag iisip

They are Igorots. The local dialect is Ibaloy but many speak Ilocano and tagalog. Willy has three young children, two are twins. He said that hopefully their spot will be discovered by more visitors and so they can earn more.

We sat by the campfire with old pine woods burning to keep us warm. The night was chilly but the conversations and the gin made for a great combination until it was time to sleep.

First shot

Restie woke us up before dusk for us the witness the sunrise.

That was the experience of Mt. Timbac. Standing there at the mountain top with 360 degree views of the Benguet and Cordilleras mountain ranges, with the chilly breeze of the morning, we watched, took pictures and thanked the good Lord for a wonderful morning.

But no matter how great Samsung phones capture the scenes, the site is really “for your eyes only”, which means that nothing beats being there and feeling it up close.

That same weekend, some photographers were also there because they photographed the Milkyway.

Makes for the best memories, of wanting more of nature and thanking the universe for its genius.

Friends, go to Mt. Timbac. It’s just off Baguio, escape the city life and feel the healing powers of nature. And you get to ride your motorcycle.

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BECOMING PART OF THE KALANGUYA TRIBE IN SALACSAC, PINE FOREST

December 12, 2019

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

We fell in love with Salacsac Pine Forest when we first saw it a couple of years ago. In our first visit, we ventured to the place by hiking as we weren’t sure if we could ride our big bikes all the way up there.

Salacsac Pine Forest

Salacsac Pine Forest is in Sta. Rosa, Malico, Nueva Vizacaya. To reach there, one can take the normal safe route via Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, or the newly opened Vista Verde Trail via San Nicolas, Pangasinan. Normally the trip from Manila would take about 6-7 hours and depending on road conditions, it is faster via San Nicolas.

We rode and camped there early in 2018 amidst the virgin pine forest and gentle local people. We camped up the mountain surrounded by pine trees, with spectacular views of Nueva Vizcaya and Pangasinan. The weather is Sagada-like. We just fell in love with the place. It felt like it was made for us, The Long Riders.

Restie Renia with Next generation of Long Riders

While already passable, he Vista Verde is still under construction, and most of the roads are still unpaved and muddy especially when it rains. Adventure bikes and 4X4 pick-up trucks are best suited for the travel going up to Salacsac, Malico. It takes more than one hour from San Nicolas all the way up to Salacsac, Malico.

For adventure riders like us, it’s the kind of rough roads we love to ride.

We were so enamored with Salacsac that we held a Dental and Charity Mission there last September. Our group has two generous dentists, Doc Von Evangelio and Doc Glenn Latorre who selflessly treated the locals’ dental needs. They must have performed tooth extractions to more than 100 locals.

It was then, during our night of merry making at the Malico Inn, that we forged our bond with Malico’s chief tribal leader Alfredo Segundo. He is also the uncle of our friend, Malico’s barangay kapitan Lorenzo Segundo. Over food and drinks, it was agreed that the Kalanguya Tribe Chief’s family was going to adopt the group, to be one with the tribe and to be one with their family.

Doc Von Evangelio

Last November 23-25, to celebrate the birthday of Tatay Alfredo Segundo, he invited us to a celebration and also to perform the Kalanguya ritual of our adoption. The Long Riders sponsored three live pigs as our token offering.

Segundo Family with Restie
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As adopted brothers and sisters of the tribe, we can now call the Salacsac Pine Forest as our Home. “Ang amin ay sa inyo na rin” declared Tatay Alfredo.

Tatay Alfredo’s Birthday

The local tribesmen cooked the pigs, roasted them “kawa-kawa” style. The entire community attended the celebrations and we were made to wear the traditional Kalanguya costume and join their tribal dance ritual.

It was then announced to the entire community, that the Segundo family of the Kalanguya tribe was adopting The Long Riders as one of their own. 

Malico Dance Group
The Long Riders Elders

There was a sense of connection. They all made us feel welcome and we were humbled by their hospitality. 

The “Malico Dance Group” also performed for us, as did the local men and women folks, while the elders played their native gongs and drums. 

Who would have thought that this would happen? We are just motorcycle riders out for fun and adventure and as fate would have it, we are now part of the tribe. Strangers before, but now brothers and sisters.

Kuya Bong De Leon said it well while we were strolling in the camp site, he said that “like the seeds of the pine trees around us, they were meant by God to grow there. Where the seeds are planted is where one grows and blossoms. It is meant to be.”

Our wandering has brought us all to Salacsac Pine Forest in Malico. Maybe we were meant to call this place home and its people our tribe.  

The Long Riders Marking its Home in Salacsac
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Cementing our Bond With the Salacsac/Malico Community

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

Sept 30,2019

Last September 27-29, The Long Riders held a Dental /Charity Mission for the Salacsac, Malico Community up in the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya.

Salacsac and Malico has lately been our camp and ride destination because of its unspoiled nature. The weather is always cool, there are no crowds and not much commercial activity save for the small roadside vendors of saluyot or Kamote.

We have grown attached to the Malico community ever since we first discovered this quaint place about 2 years ago.

Our leader, adventurist artist Restie Renia, has befriended the tribal leaders in Malico, and promised the community that we were going to hold a dental mission there.

Restie Renia and Ricky Montecillo

The Long Riders

The community is visibly poor and the people are very simple.

Restie with the village beauties

And when we trooped up there last weekend with two of our tireless and generous dentists, Von Evangelio and Glen Latorre, and the gang of riders on motorcycles and pick up trucks, the townsfolks gathered in the school grounds with the look of innocent wonder in their faces.

Doc Von Evangelio and Zach Renia

Doc. Glen Latorre

Tina, Menchie, Glenda, Llane and Carissa

We were surprised of the crowd that came. All expecting to bring home something. Getting free dental teeth extraction, free reading glasses and new pairs of rubber slippers. We also distributed basic Medicine packs for each family.

Next Gen Jason Gerona and Zach Renia

Roland Olan Tom Cruz

Chieftain Alfredo Segundo and Malico Chairman Lorenzo

It is always deeply heart warming to witness and be part of The Long Riders’ charitable events.

Here we are, fun loving macho men and glam women with some extra resources to share, giving out a part of ourselves and bonding with the wonderful people of Salacsac and Malico.

Albert Carag Jr. , Roland, Ruel and Mhar Isip

Joseph Tan

Many riders from other groups gamely supported the Mission too and it is gratifying to see that the riding community is quick to lend their time, talent and friendship to The Long Riders.

Some of our wives and children also joined the mission.

It made it more special to bond with the next generation whom we want to imbibe the lessons of what we do as motorcycle riders, as a tribe, as one big happy and intoxicated comrades.

Mhar Isip

We capped the mission the our traditional ritual of downing bottle upon bottle of alcohol. What a scene. With the cool and scenic nature as our venue, we drank the night away, laughing and hugging and telling old and new stories again and again.

This story seems to have already been told many times over, about our rides and the anecdotes and funny times. It’s funny but we never tire of living the dream and telling them over and over again, and still laughing like we’ve heard them for the first time.

Doc Glen, Sael and Roland

Tina, Menchie, Glenda, Llane and Carissa

The Long Riders Mission in Salacsac, Malico was a huge success and we made the people there feel special. I guess that is the essence of charity. It’s not so much of the toys and goodies that we giveaway.

Kalangayan Tribal Chief Alfredo Segundo

I guess it’s because we make them feel special. It’s getting to know their names, their stories and giving them hope.

In turn, we also value their acceptance to be part of their tribe. Part of their family.

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KAPARKAN FALLS IS MADE IN HEAVEN

August 26, 2019

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

How else can one describe such a wonderful creation of nature? God must’ve have had an inspired moment when he made Kaparkan Falls. Carved out by mountain spring water throughout hundreds of years and never touched by man until only recently.

I never would have thought I’d see such a hidden gem here in the country, so majestic, just like an image from a fantasy film by Pixar and Disney. Artists can take a tons of inspiration from Kaparkan.

Kaparkan Falls is God’s work of Art

Our group of motorcycle adventurers called The Long Riders are fortunate to go to unknown but beautiful places in the country. We’ve seen many hidden gems, including numerous waterfalls but Kaparkan Falls just raised the bar for us last weekend. It is by far the best I’ve seen and it will be hard to top this.

Coming from our more than 400 kilometer ride to Tayum town, 5 kilomteres from Bangued, Abra, we checked out the Blu Gas station, our meeting place for the next day’s tour to Kaparkan. We booked our tour with Abramazing tours.

Farm View Inn

Tayum is a laid back town and is said to be a 5th class municipality. We looked for a place to stay for the night and fortunately we discovered Farm View Inn. It is a very provincial local Inn owned by old timer Roger Elveña.

As we inquired about accommodations, Mang Roger chatted with us. Turns out that he used to be a Police provincial commander of Bangued, and eventually ended up being elected as Mayor of Tayum, his hometown, for three consecutive terms back in the 90s.

Rescue, Mang Roger Elveña and Bong

He is very hospitable and engaging, and he strikes me as a kind hearted person. How I wish all politicians are as humble and kind as Mang Roger.

Abra, as most of us know, has always been considered as a political hotspot, because of local partisanship and the communist insurgency. However, Mang Roger says it is safer nowadays. (Just don’t watch the news)

We had the place to ourselves. All 15 of us and had more than enough space to park our big bikes.

We had a couple (of bottles) of drinks to relax and be merry. The Karaoke blared all night and it became Beatles Night. Let it be!

Beatle’s night!

We were all excited when we got up early for the 6:30 call time. We were going to ride a 6×6 military-like truck, along with 25 other visitors. The humongous truck was filled with passengers on the right, left and middle of its bed.

From Tayum it takes about an hour to the take-off point before the rough roads. As moto riders, we said that we could have just brought our adventure bikes. We didn’t know then how rough the roads are. Halfway through the ride, we realized that we couldn’t have made the it to the falls had we brought our motorcycles.

The Long Riders

In fact, the driver and crew of our truck had to install big chains on the truck’s tires for the muddy ride. While it is only a 9 kilometer travel to the falls, it would take us almost 3 hours! The truck ride surprised even our veteran 4×4 drivers in the group. All of us never experienced such a wild, bumpy ride ever.

6×6 truck fitted with chains

The ruts were so deep the truck’s tires were almost sinking entirely. The climbs were steep and the downhills trickier. It was also raining most of the time, which made the mud more slippery. Sael Requierme a 4×4 driver himself said, if not for the chains, we would have surely slid off the tracks.

Gladfully, our driver is an expert. He used to drive big trucks for logging runs. As for us, we felt like clothes being turned and twisted inside a washing machine.

We had to walk for another 30 minutes to reach the Kaparkan Falls.

The sight, the beauty of Kaprakan Falls washed away all our weariness. This is really made in heaven. No matter how we tried, pictures cannot really capture its beauty. Kaparkan Falls is really something we never even dreamed of.

Wern and Cris

Albert, Restie and Ruel

Century old Balete tree

Bong, Von and Wern

Randy

The journey is difficult. Rough and scary. But I cannot help but recommend it to others. Visit Kaparkan Falls and experience the tough journey but get to see God’s work of art.

 

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Mapita Falls Adventure

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

August 01, 2019

Mapita Falls in Aguilar, Pangasinan can be reached via its newly built roads up in the mountains of Aguilar. However, not all the portions are already done and there are some dirt and muddy parts.

When we got to the foot of the hills of Aguilar, in Labrador Pangasinan, we rode the muddy portions at the start. It was already in the afternoon and the rains had started to pour. We were riding our big and heavy adventure bikes and some of the guys were hesitant to proceed.

Owing to prudence, and in consideration of the other riders, we decided to turn back and re-sked our ride to Mapita Falls for the following day.

We were already a bit tired and famished after riding from Manila which is more than 300 kilometers away.

Weeks before, The Long Riders head Restie Renia surveyed the area and found the Olana Bed and breakfast in Labrador, which is a seaside resort. Olana Bed and Breakfast is owned by Nelda D. Mari and her British husband, who bought the resort from its former foreigner owners.

They spruced it up and made some improvements. It’s a nice and quaint place to stay when in Labrador, Pangasinan. It has four rooms and it is clean and the staff are very friendly and helpful. We met Nelda herself and she is very accommodating and hospitable.

There were 11 of us who checked-in and we had a pleasant evening of booze and banter. Laughter is really the best medicine coupled with Black Label and cheap Alfonso I. The riders are Restie Renia, Randy Ypon, Brando Rosales, Wern Asprec, Glenn Peñafiel and his sons Miguel and Pax.  Capt. Tin Nolasco and Kuya Bong De Leon, and new comer Luis Morelos. Almost forgot, me, Ricky.

Glenn and his group left early morning the following day for Manila to catch a flight and so we were down to 6 riders.

The roads to Mapita Falls were better the following day. The sun was out and it looked friendlier. Actually the roads were friendly and not technical at all. It went up to the mountains of Aguilar and gave us spectacular views of the mountains and the bird’s eye view of Pangasinan and Mangatarem.

There is a view deck at the top of the roads, which we had to hike. But Brando Rosales outdid us all and expertly rode his brand-less 500 cc. GS look alike up to the top!

Before we trekked to the Mapita Falls, we went down to a small barrio to giveaway the toys and goodies for the children, something we always do when we ride. It’s The Long Riders’ signature gesture of goodwill to bring smiles to the little ones. Sometimes we also do Dental Missions.

We parked our bikes afterwards near the jump-off point to Mapita, in a small rest house of a friend.

The trekk to Mapita was not so hard, less than an hour actually. But the locals can easily do it in 20 minutes. The hike was also pleasant as the weather was a bit cloudy.

Upon reaching Mapita Falls, we were happy to have conquered once more a hidden treasure up in an off-the-beaten-path destination. It’s always a joy to experience the adventure of riding, trekking and finally witnessing the wonders of nature.

Mapita Falls has two layers and each layer offers a small lagoon for dipping and swimming. Sadly, the lagoon have become shallow and muddy due to erosion from nearby road construction. Hopefully, the local government will do something about this and restore its former beauty. Still, it is a good place to visit.

After the Mapita falls trip, we decided to stay another night in a pension, dormitory type hostel in Alaminos, Pangasinan. It is the jump-off point to the island-hopping trips to the famed 100 islands.

The following day, we rode some 35 kilometers to Anda, Pangasinan, near the more popular Bolinao.

I’ve been there several years ago and I knew Tondol Beach in Anda is a beautiful white sand beach cove. It is like a sandbar which connects to a smaller island. There are several resorts and even on a Sunday, it was not crowded. Visitors from Manila and nearby provinces go there and the children playing on its shallow waters, frolicking in the sun and sand was just a perfect sight to relax.

On our way back to Manila that Sunday, we found this small restaurant in Sual by the road side, Sual Salakot. The food is very good and the place has good ambience, overlooking Pangasinan. You’d be surprised what you discover on such adventure rides.

We were “home safe” before 9pm in time to rest and re-charge for Mondays work. I guess we all slept with big smiles on our faces that night after a weekend of good ole’ adventure riding!

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Antong Falls

Antong Falls in Sison, Pangasinan is only about 220 kilometers from Metro Manila and is really just a short ride for us. From the Maharlika highway in Sison, we took a right turn towards Barangay Inmalog, which is the jump off point to Antong Falls.

On the first day, we were unable to proceed to the falls because we arrived already late or after noon time. By then heavy rains poured and we had to postpone our trek for the next day.

Wet ride to Asin, Benguet

Heavy downpour postpones our Trek to Antong Falls

Arriving at Riverview Water Park, Asin Benguet

We just proceeded to check-in at the Riverview Water Park in Asin, Benguet.

The ride going to Asin is quite enjoyable even as the rains fell. With our rain gears on, we rode to Asin Road, which is all paved but a bit narrow. It is winding and tricky. But the weather and the mountainous view makes for an enjoyable moto ride.

The resort is surprisingly well built and its rooms are clean. We booked a dorm type room which was enough for all 18 of us. The resort has 4 big swimming pools and several small ones with hot springs. If you go further up, the Asin road takes you to Baguio City.

What else does a group of 18 riding men do in a mountain resort? Of course we celebrated our weekend hall pass and acted like juvenile delinquents.

By 8pm, we downed several bottles and Johnny couldn’t walk anymore.

We checked out after breakfast the following day and rode back to Sison to Antong Falls. We arrived before lunch and our food prepared by the locals, were ready. Adobo, Nilagang manok with dahon ng ampalaya and steamed rice.

After lunch, we headed out for Antong Falls which to our pleasant surprise was only about half an hour away.

The falls is a regular picnic venue for many young locals. The water is refreshing. It has several levels and we enjoyed climbing up, swimming and getting natural massages from the strong gushing river.

Upon returning to the barangay hall, we gathered the children and distributed some toys and other goodies. The children’s joy is always infectious and we feel even better giving gifts to them.

And then we spent another day in a beach resort in nearby San Fabian, Dagupan.

We headed back home early in the morning of Sunday, just in time to spend Father’s day with our loved ones.

You get to learn a thing or two when go on long rides with our group. When we stopped in an intersection somewhere in Sison, as we were on our way to Dagupan, Albert Carag went down from his bike to buy something from the store.

When he came back, he was holding a plastic bag which contained an empty gatorade bottle. Then he smashed the bottle and threw it away in the trash can. “Pamarisan” he said.

It was a belief that when you experience something bad during the ride, like busting a signal light, you perform the breaking of a bottle to counter act the bad luck.

One time, Albert said, his friend did not do this after a minor incident, and he suffered a worse accident. The breaking of the bottle ritual probably disrupts the bad omen.

I also met for the first time Rajiv Murjani and Art Harrow.

Rajiv Murjani

Raj is a nice young fellow who you wouldn’t think is an airline Captain. He looks like a small young boy who went out to join a ride without his parents’ permission.

Looks can really be deceiving cause he rides a good looking BMW R9T scrambler, complete with crisp new riding gears. He also flies an Airbus regularly and modulates his voice over the PA system to sound authoritative.

Raj fit in perfectly with The Long Riders Motorcycle group. He is friendly and also a good sport.

Art Harrow on the other hand looks more like a 747 commander. He is of British descent and is tall and hefty. He is really a friendly fellow and has years of experience as a rider. The surprise of all was when we discovered we were actually school mates in grade school.

Art Harrow

We know common people but never really knew each other. We must’ve hung out with totally different crowds and I think his crowd were the good students. Funny how people can exist for several years in one campus and yet not bump into one another.

I learned from Art the importance of taking pictures of important documents such as your drivers license. He lost his wallet somewhere in SCTEX and his cell phone pictures at least contain his identification.

Lastly, I learned to make sure your battery is well charged and not old for a long ride. Good thing I have a portable jump starter.

And that my friends was our Father’s day weekend!

Master Chef and Visayan tycoon Sael

The Long Riders

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PAROLA ISLAND IS CAMARINES NORTE’s LITTLE KNOWN PARADISE

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte used to be called Mambulao, meaning land of gold.

There used to be a lot of large scale gold mining operations there but nowadays only small ones still exist.

Parola Island Paradise

We went to Jose Panganiban to see the Parola island, famous for its pinkish sand. The Municipal Tourism director Ms. Ruth Marie Forteza arranged for our activities for our adventure camp and ride last March 29-31, 2018.

Restie, Ms. Ruth Marie and Ricky

The Long Riders (TLR) has the distinction in the Philippine motorcycling industry as the group that dares to take their big adventure bikes to off the beaten destinations in the country.

Led by artist and adventurist Restie Renia, TLR is composed of a loose group of people who come from diverse backgrounds and who share a common passion for motorcycles, nature and adventure. Oh, and booze.

Bong, Randy, Rodel, Wern and Olan

From the Caltex station in South Luzon Expressway where we met up, we started our journey by 6:30 am, made a few stopovers for breakfast and hydration.

The fun part was the bitukang manok road from Pitogo all the way to Camarines Norte. It’s called that because it resembles the zig zag shape of a bituka.

The ride took about 7 hours and we arrived at the Jose Panganiban Municipal hall as the sun shone its brightest and hottest at 2pm.

The Long Riders arrive at Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte

We met with Ms. Ruth Marie who briefed us on the sites and arranged for our boat ride and island hopping the following day.

First stop, we rode our big bikes to the JSM Yellow Green Agri-Eco tourism farm. Yellow-green represents the gold mining turning into farming.

Abijit the artist and farmer

The farm director is called Abijit, his yoga name. He is an artist and is developing the farm to become a diverse and self sustaining commune. They have vegetables, cattle, carabaos, sugar cane and also a man made fish pond. They even have a water supply run by solar.

JSM Yellow Green Agri-Eco tourism farm

JSM Yellow Green Agri-Eco tourism farm

JSM Yellow Green Agri-Eco tourism farm

The owners want to promote organic farming and they are developing the property as a local tourism spot.

We spent our first night in the Turayog view deck. It is a high point of Jose Panganiban where one can see the Camarines Norte at the best vantage point. But before going there we bought food at the public market. Sael Requierme, our kusinero and master chef, did the marketing.

Palengke time

Turayog View Deck

Buboy who turned out to be the owner of the Turayog view deck property is also into small scale gold mining and is fixing up his place as a resort.

Camping at the Turayog view deck

Ricky, Cris, Tim, Olan and Randy

We camped right there on the clearing of the view deck where it was cool and breezy.

Randy with best view

The next morning, we set off to go to the famed Parola island. We rented a big boat which brought us to the island.

Restie landing at Parola

Parola island does not disappoint.

It is a beautiful island. It is like a small sand bar with coconut trees and mangroves. It has two beach fronts on both sides. Its sand is white but pinkish especially during sunrise and sunsets.

Sunset at Parola

West side of Parola

West side of Parola

Lush Mangrove and Coconut trees

Presently it is controlled or owned by a private person and there is only one family who lives there in a shack and some tables for day trip visitors.

Visitors are not allowed to stay overnight in Parola. So what’d we do? We stayed overnight there.

Camped at east side where the winds blew

Winds stopped at 1 am and turned to the West side

We had the island to ourselves and we camped by the east side shore where the wind was blowing.

Mike and his sexy lingerie tent

Wern, Cris and Restie at the Parola (lighthouse)

We had good ole’ riding buddies fun over alcohol and Sael’s cooking. Imagine, having an entire island to yourselves, Survivor style.

Food and drinks time

Cris and Tim

Jose Panganiban is not yet on the popular tourism map. But through the efforts of Ms. Ruth Marie, Abijit and Buboy, they hope to promote it as an upcoming adventurers’ gem and tourism spot.

Lush mangrove

Sael the master kusinero

Lush path

On the boat ride back to the port, Capt. Sonny Yutuc, a retired airline pilot said, “Ngayon ko lang na experience ito!”, with the expression of an overjoyed kid.

Capt. Sonny said, “Ngayon ko lang na experience ito!”

At his senior age, riding a motorcycle, camping in the Turayog view deck and sneaking an overnight stay in Parola island in the middle of the ocean, he seems to be enjoying life at the fullest.

I guess he’s also been bitten by the ride and camp adventure bug.

The Long Riders Enjoying Paradise!

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Majestic Mt. Kilang, Calanasan, Apayao

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

FEB 23-25, 2019

The majestic Mt. Kilang is one of Apayao’s prized attraction. It stands proud at 1,600 meter altitude and is magnificent.

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Majestic Mt. Kilang

The local environment lady guardian named Gladys told us of Mt. Kilang’s legend. Kilang is the name of the girl who was heart broken as she searched for her would-be husband named Kilong in the mountain.

Kilong earlier asked for her hand in marriage from her parents. They gave their blessings to the proposal provided that Kilong fulfills the traditional offering of three pigs to the family. For the Isnag tribe, the giving of pigs serves as a sign of sincerity and respect.

Unfortunately for Kilong he was only able to give 2 pigs. Determined to wed the love of his life, Kilang, he searched for the required one more pig up in the mountains.

When the days and months passed and Kilong did not return, Kilang decided to follow and searched for him. She never gave up even amidst the cold weather, rains, and storms.

The locals say that her tears cultivated and carved the rocks of the mountains, causing them to be polished into limestones.

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Flora and Fauna

While looking for him, Kilang also planted beautiful colored flowers everywhere, which is why the flora and fauna abound in the mountain. Because of Kilang’s love and determination to find her beloved, the mountain is now called Mt. Kilang in honor of her heroic but tragic search for her one true love.

Love is universal and timeless indeed.

Our camp and ride adventure last Feb 23-25, 2019, weekend was actually not about Mt. Kilang. We just found her quite by accident.

We reached our camp site at Kilang Pass by the roadside rest area in the newly paved Solsona-Calanasan national road at around 4pm, after about a 2 hour motorcycle ride from Solsona. It is the highest point of the road.

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Kilang Pass, our base camp

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Highest point of the Kilang Pass

There are no cell phone signals at the campsite. However, Gladys pointed us to the spot on the hill where they call and text, “Doon sir sa may upuan, may signal.”

Rodel, Resty and I went up the trail going up to the spot to use our cell phones about 50 meters going up. Later Gerry followed. There was even a picnic folding chair in the spot where the signal was strong. The trail is made out of lime stones formed as a pathway.

The trail continued upwards to the mountain. Restie being Restie ventured further up to where the trail led.

Soon while I was talking to my wife Tina on the phone, Restie and Rodel were gone. They went up further following the path. Soon Gerry arrived and we decided to follow them up the mountain.

The pathway was lined with trees, thick moss and rich vegetation. We saw them after sometime and we ventured forward until we saw a small clearing. “That’s Mt. Kilang!” Resties exclaimed. I myself didn’t know what Mt. Kilang was. All I knew was we were going to Calanasan.

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Gerry reaches Mt. Kilang

Our curiosity fueled us to go further up and find out where the trail led. We were thinking we could reach a good spot for a better view of the mountain. So after about 20 minutes, we were surprised to find out that we had actually reached, not just a better spot to view, but rather we were on Mt. Kilang itself. We reached the point a few hundred feet below its summit and it was more than we expected!

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Rodel and Ricky point to Mt. Kilang summit

We were incredulous as we sat down there on the sharp limestones, enjoying Mt. Kilang’s magnificence. It is awesome and so beautiful. Being there unexpectedly, was such a thrill. We could not help but appreciate such a wonderous creation of God.

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Rodel at Mt. Kilang

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Posterized Gerry

The plan was to ride to Calanasan in Apayao and the 3-day holiday was the opportunity to finally go there. You see, Calanasan is a prized motocycle destination because of its location way up in the mountains between Ilocos and Apayao. In the past, there were acutally only rough dirt roads and only few brave adenturers ever went there.

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Wern downhill Solsona-Calanasan national road

Recently however, the Solsona-Calanasan National Road is  now 90 percent paved, making it friendlier even for big heavy bikes like ours. And so, The Long Riders began its journey.

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Master Chef Sael

We were Restie, Paul (until Rosario La Union), Bong de Leon on his new Ford Raptor and riding with him were Roland and Glenn P. The other riders were the couples Edwin and Judge Cariss, Limuel and Cathy. Then kumpadres Wern and Rodel and also mutual idols Sael and Doc. Glen. Gerry and Capt. Tin rode with their fast and nimble Husqvarna Stradas and me (Ricky) on my BMW GS12.

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Capt. Tin at the Calanasan boundary

On our first night, we went to the home of Kuya Lito and his gracious wife Marlyn in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. They are good friends of Limuel and they go way back from the streets of Mandaluyong where they forged their friendship. They have been expecting us for lunch but our ride was delayed due to a tire change, and we reached their place by dinner time.

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Kuya Lito and Ate Marlyn. Gracious hosts in Badoc, Ilocos Norte

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Edwin parks bike at Kuya Lito

Limuel described the dirt farm road going to the house as a 5 kilometer challenge. And it was going to be tricky since it was already night time. From the highway, we turned to the start of the dirt rode, nervous and alert. As it turned out, Kuya Lito’s house was actually only about 100 meters away from the road and Limuel was only making fun of us. Their houses are in the middle of tobacco plants and other vegetales.

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Home in the middle of Tobacco plants

They were such nice and hospitable folks and they welcomed us like family. Any friend of Limuel is also their friend. We parked our big bikes there and prepared our stuff to camp at the nearby Cabangtala Beach. Limuel said it was just 200 meters away. But then again it was actually about 10 kilometers away! That’s the last time we will ask him for directions.

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Sael and Rodel at Cabangtala beach

We set-up camp by the beach, the fresh wind was breezing and the sounds of the waves soothing. Our first night at the beach we ate, drank and passed out.

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Sael, Glen, Cathy, Roland and Glenn P. , eat, drink and be merry

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Restie is happy asleep

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Sael and Glen double decker

The next day, before we even reached Kilang Pass, we went to Karingking River Resort in Solsona where we swam to cool ourselves. Karingking is a river dam turned into a swim resort and many locals go there to picnic. It is very nice and clean and it was a welcome stopover before proceeding to Kilang Pass.

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Karingking River Resort

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Karingking River Resort

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Glenn P. at Karingking River Resort

From the Karingking River Resort, we started our ride up into the Solsona-Calanasan National road. It is new and had lots of twisties.

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Glen blasts down the dirt road

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Dirt road riders

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Head up, close eyes and twist throttle

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Limuel, mountains of Calanasan

But there are some debris like rocks and dirt which made it tricky. It is only about 30 kilometers going up to the camp site and we had to negotiate some loose gravel roads before finally reaching Kilang Pass.

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Kilang Pass, base camp

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Mt. Kilang Pass

We set-up camp and pitched our tents. The night was cold and chilly, maybe about 10 degrees centigrade. Sael, our master chef, cooked broiled pork soup for us and some fresh local vegetables.

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Master chef Sael

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Dinner prepared by Master Chef Sael. “Masarap talaga pag gutom.”

The camp site is the highest point of the road and it was the best spot with the best views. At night the stars shone very bright and when the moon appeared. It was brilliant.

We gathered around the campsite for dinner and lots of booze. We drank and had loads of laughter and we were boisterous, like newly released prisoners.

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Party hard like newly released prisoners

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Capt. Tin and Bong toasts for the road

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“Sa ilalim ng puting ilaw. Sa dilaw na Buan”

Seeing grown men clowning around and outdoing one another in dancing, singing, shouting and horseplaying like teenageers, one would never know that this group of zany riders are made of stern stuff. Having fun with The Long Riders, one can never guess that Restie is an architect, Glenn P. and Roland are businessmen, and Bong is a contractor.

Who would have known that the loving couple Cariss is a Judge and Edwin a Kapitan ng barko? That Limuel is connected with the country’s transportation agency?

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Bong, Capt. Tin, Roland, Kuya Lito and Glen

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Roland, Ricky, Edwin, Capt. Tin, Gerry,Bong and Wern

 

For all their senseless banter, you wouldn’t guess that Sael runs a metal fabrication shop or that Glen is a very good dentist. Who would also think the Wern sells nails and his kumpadre Rodel trades wood, nails, cement? Or that Gerry is a lawyer and that Tin flies a triple 7 airliner.

As for me? I get to tell our story and I am very honored to belong to a group of professionals and self-made men and women who are successful in their own fields but would be the last ones to proclaim their titles and feats.

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BLAZING MOUNTAIN OF THE GODS

In the olden times, the Isnag tribe would bring gifts, like food and produce, to the gods of Mt. Kilang as offering for their dearly departed. That’s why the welcome sign of Mt. Kilang Pass says “Blazing Mountain of the Gods”.

Mt. Kilang in Calansan, Apayao is a treasure destination and the journey of blasting through the roads of La Union, Ilocos and Apayao on our big bikes, of meeting simple local folks on the way made the camp and ride another one for the books.

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Ricky reaching majestic Mt. Kilang

 

 

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Ride and Camp at the Pine Forest in Malico

February 11, 2018

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

Restie Renia, The Long Riders’ leader, told me that originally Pine Forest used to be called “Halakhak” (laughing out loud) because of a certain kind of bird which made such loud distinct sounds in the beautiful pine-filled mountains. As time passed, the name evolved and it became “Salacsac”.

When the lowlanders discovered the area, they re-named the place again to Santa Rosa. But to the locals up in the Malico pine forest, they still know it as Salacsac.

The Vista Verde Trail has recently opened with most of the roads already paved. We took the road from San Nicolas, Pangasinan going up to Malico. The Vista Verde trail connects San Nicolas, Pangasinan to Santa Fe, Nueva Vizacaya.

Malico is thus divided between Pangasinan and Nueva Vizacaya. Actually, for big motorcycles, the travel is not too hard. But the destination and its wonders is simply wonderful.

We were many riders, all 17 of us on different big motorcycles such BMW GS, Moto Guzzi, Kawasaki and even a Harley Davidson!

We assembled at the Caltex gas station in Edsa Balintawak on Saturday morning and rode via the NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX and exited at Carmen. We had brunch in a carinderia in San Nicolas, Pangasinan, had some locals market for our food supplies before we headed up to the Vista Verde Trail.

The trail is mostly paved already with only a few tricky patches of dirt roads. According to the media, the completion of the trail was delayed due to threats from the New People’s Army. But from the looks of it, it will soon be completed.

While there is Malico Inn where we stayed comfortably before, this time we decided to rough it up, pitch tents up in the Pine Forest where the weather is cold and the winds chilly! The roads from the Malico to Sta. Rosa is tricky. Most of the way consisted of those cemented pathways which traversed through the mountain. 

The tricky or technical parts of the ride was going up to the camp site at the Pine Forest. We had to traverse through rough roads, and mostly tire paths through the hilly climb. It’s hard because we rode big heavy bikes. Luckily everyone successfully made it up, without incident.

Our contact up in Salacsac is the village chieftain Alfred. There are few people up there and only a small community. They belong to the Kalungayan tribe.

We pitched our tents at the peak of the hill where the winds were howling and the views spectacular. From the campsite, it has a view of Pangasinan on one side and the mountains filled with pine trees on the other side. Baguio and Sagada must have looked the same back in the old days.

It is good to go to Malico now while development and progress brought about by the new Vista Verde Trail is only beginning. Pretty soon, I fear that commercialism may soon alter the natural beauty of Malico.

Before dinner, we hung out at Chief Alfred’s small village and immersed with the simple natives. There were also some visiting relatives, and they were gathering to resolve a marital problem of one of the couples in the community. You see, in their culture, it is the entire community who weds the couples and when there are marital disputes, the whole community intervenes to resolve the problems.

Sael Requierme and Doc Glenn Latorre cooked our food local style, burning pine wood and using sticks to barbecue the bangus which we brought. Sael cooked nilagang pork and it was the most delicious dinner we had because we were so hungry!

We witnessed how the locals prepared their specialty, the pinikpikan. It is a local delicacy consisting of freshly slaughtered chicken, and the secret lies in how they dress the chicken and marinate them with salt before being boiled to a brew.

While waiting for the food, we gave away some goodies for the locals. Toys for the littles ones, some food stuff and some pre-loved jackets and sweaters. It is our token for them and our goodwill gesture to be welcomed by their community.

It is always humbling and gratifying to immerse ourselves in mountain communities, feeling the genuine warmth of the people and experiencing, even for a short moment, how they live. Simplicity is beauty and although they are visibly poor, they are very decent, humble and righteous.

We all had dinner at the campsite, with tents already pitched and the food prepared at the center. We didn’t have tables or chairs and so we ate dinner on the ground, sitting like natives.

And then the bottles were opened. Much to our shame, or lack of it, we started to gulp shots of scotch and brandy like there was no tomorrow. Funny how we drank all night without really conversing about anything. Just a big bunch of moto-riders letting loose and laughing and heckling until the last drop of alcohol.

The forest spirits must have wondered where all the noise was coming from. I guess the spirits allowed us to have fun and disturb the tranquility this time.

This is really part of the fun of adventure riding. Camping and just letting go in the raw, without any inhibition to bond like long lost brothers.

We crashed into our tents and sleeping bags while the chilly Malico winds blew, howling like there was a typhoon. The howling of the winds were made louder by the pine cones of the trees. They were so strong, it masked the usual snoring of the guys who are tired from all the riding, drinking and laughing.

It’s been three days now since we arrived back home and I am still nursing my cough and colds. Small price to pay for a fun-filled ride and camp adventure with The Long Riders!

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Trip to Kalanggaman Island and Tacloban Leyte 5 years after Typhoon Yolanda

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

February 5, 2019

My wife and travel partner Tina has been egging me to go see Kalanggaman Island in Leyte for quite some time. I was skeptical, thinking how great can a sand bar be in the middle of the ocean.   The Philippines has a lot of that in Palawan, Siquijor, Boracay and Romblon. How can Kalanggaman be any better? Despite my doubts, of course she prevailed.

We had a chance this Chinese New Year weekend February 2-4.

We booked the early morning PAL Express flight to Tacloban but it was delayed by 3 1/2 hours. So we arrived around noon time already. It was drizzling when we got there.

Edcel, the driver, picked us up and brought us to the UV Express terminal.

Going to the terminal, Edcel, told us how he almost perished during the Yolanda typhoon in 2013. He described to us how the area we were passing was submerged by sea water caused by the storm surge. Yolanda was the strongest typhoon in recorded world history and it claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Edcel said he let his wife and kids evacuated to safer grounds and that he and his father- in -law stayed behind to watch over their house and livestock. He’s seen his share of typhoons, of strong winds and rains but he never imagined a storm surge and flooding that would literally turn Tacloban into a sea of death.

As the floods rose that morning in November 2013, he and his father-in-law climbed up to the roof of their house amidst the howling winds and rain. Then all of a sudden he heard a big bang and then they were thrown out into the raging flood waters! Debris and people were swept, and even if he knew how to swim, he felt helpless. He was swept to about a kilometer from their home until he was able to hang on the roof of a house.

He hung on to dear life and was very tired. He surrenderred his fate to God as he watched many others being swept by the flood waters, shouting for help. He could not help because he was already at the brink of collapse, too. His father-in-law never made it alive.

He described to us the hundreds of dead bodies scattered all over Tacloban after the floods subsided.

Edcel brought us to the Bus and Van terminal. The van trip to Palompon is about 3 hours and cost only 150 pesos per person. But we also paid 150 for our bags, which occupied the seat beside us. When we reached the Tourist Center in Palompon, Leyte, we had a quick meal and Raymond, tour coordinator from Hinablayan tours, greeted us and booked us for the 1-hour boat ride to Kalanggaman Island.

The boat ride wasn’t so bad and it was refreshing to be in the sea with the fresh air and the ocean breeze. And as the boat neared the Island, it was simply marvelous! The Island is just small and the white sand bar streched like a natural bridge to the ocean, creating a beach area where people can walk and swim. No wonder, people are raving about this wonder of nature in Leyte.

We were briefed before the boat sailed that in the island there is no electricity, no fresh water, and we were not allowed to use soap or shampoo, as environmental rules. We were also going to sleep in a small tent like a tipi.

Dante was our guide and butler. He took very good care of us during our overnight stay. He brought and cooked our food, he brought the container of fresh water for bathing, 5 gallons of mineral water our snorkling gear and even life jackets. We were going to rough it up and camp, but we had Dante to take care of all our needs!

As we docked on the shore, Tina and I were so delighted and excited.

The Palompon local government regulates the influx of visitors to the Island. It can accommodate only 525 persons at any one time. So there were many visiors, tourists and local campers but he small Island was not crowded.

Most of Kalanggaman island is operated by the Palompon Municipality. However, the west end of the island is occupied and operated by Jeters Resort, which is private. From the public area, we walked to Jeters on a sand walkway lined by huge mangroves and lighted by solar powered lamps.

Jeters has several tipis and ours was no. 7. We had neighbors who were mostly young people.

After setting up camp, we walked to the east side to the main sand bar. There was a cool, almost chilly, February breeze and we took a stroll holding hands and drinking beers. Tina was right in convincing me to go to Kalanggaman Isand. Everyone should experince this heavenly spot on earth.

Dante prepared an awesome sugba dinner for us. Shrimps, Liempo, Tanigue, Chicken,  all barbecued and also rice and fruits! It was so sumptuous and perfect beach food. We couldn’t eat them all and shared the food with Dante and the boat crew.

After dinner, Tina and I had drinks, of course. Tanduday Rum with coke.

The whole night, the wind was continuosly blowing and we could hear the rustles of the coconut leaves and the sound of the waves.

The following day, we took an early morning stroll and had great breakfast made of adobong pusit, sugbang liempo plus fresh watermelon and sweet pineapples. After that we braved the giant clams farm to snorkel even if the water was a bit cold.

Lucky for us too, there was Sunday mass. Apparently every Sunday, a priest from Palompon goes there to celebrate mass for the visitors.

And as all good things come to pass, we had to ride the boat back to Palompon by noon to take the UV express van back to Tacloban. For those who want to go to Kalanggaman, I suggest a 2 night stay.

We arrived in Tacloban City before dark and we were tired from the trip. We couldn’t wait too to get a hot shower (with soap and shampoo!). The XYZ Hotel is located in the heart of the downtown. The hotel is new and although small, it is very nice. The rooms are new and the staff are friendly and efficient.

After a nap, we met up with Tito Butch Madayag, the uncle of Tina who is visiting from the US and who met with his friend in faraway Catbalogan, Samar. We had dinner at the Ocho Seafood and Grill. It’s the best restaurant in Tacloban, where they serve fresh seafood. You get to choose the fresh fishes, clams and squid at the counter and they will cook them for you.

We had tinolang isda, their version of our sinigang. The soup has some lemon grass, ginger and vegetables. It tasted so fresh and clean. We also had some clams, and sugba fish. Surprisingly, even with the generous servings, the price tag was like half of what we are used to pay in Manila.

The following day, we were lucky to be toured around Tacloban City by Tina’s colleague from work, Froilan. He hails from Cebu but already migrated to Leyte due to his work assignment.

He was at home in Tacloban City with his wife when Yolanda hit. He never imagined that flood waters would reach up to 12 feet and enter their home. He said it was around 7 in the morning when they started to feel the brunt of Yolanda, like a howling monster invading the City. Even at that early hour, the clouds covered the skies and the heavy rains made it dark with zero visibility.

As the hours passed, the typhoon dumped huge amounts of water and the the winds were so powerful that the glass of their windows were shattered into bits and pieces. The floods suddenly started to rise fast, entering their home bringing water and mud. They decided to evacuate fast as Froilan feared they might drown. His wife was terrified as she doesn’t know how to swim.

By sheer instinct, he decided to climb the concrete fence to reach the water tank tower. When they started to climb the fence, he pushed his wife up but she fell to the other side! Luckily, the floods had already started to rise and this saved her from the fall.

They went up to hold on to the water tank tower, which was 15 feet high while the flood waters raged from underneath just a few feet below. It was the scariest time for them. They held on as the storm blasted for four long hours. The winds were around 300 kph bringing with it tons of rain water. The storm surges pratically carried the surrounding sea waters and dumped them onto the entire Tacloban City. Froilan said it felt like the end of the world. “Natawag ko na lahat ng Santo, pati na si Jimmy Santos and Vilma Santos!” he joked.

Froilan drove us around Tacloban to see the famous San Juanico bridge which connects Tacloban to Samar.

We also went to the Macarthur Memorial Park where we saw the historic statue of Gen. Douglas Macarthur flanked by some other officials inculding our very own Carlos P. Romulo. The memorial marks the landing of thousands of American troops during the World War II, to liberate the Philippines from the Imperial Japanese army, fulling his  “I shall return” promise 3 years earlier.

Froilan aslo brought us to the Sto. Niño Shrine which is really the Imelda Marcos Mansion. Oh my God you cannot believe the opulence and extraganz of the mansion. It felt like touring an emperor’s palace! Narra wood flooring, Expensive antiques from all over the world, Malang paintings, Hand made narra Chandeliers, Spanish era Sto. Niño in boots! It has 13 guest rooms downstairs themed by the Philippine regions like Ilocos, Bicol, Palawan..

Bongbong Marcos’ room has Gucci leather walls! The gracious lady guide also explained that it was like the Malacañang Palace of the south. There was also a huge narra carving of Malakas and Maganda! This structure in all its splendor and excess was built in the 70s and 80s while our country wallowed in poverty and turmoil.

It is now owned by the Philippine government after it was confiscated after the 1986 Philippine Revolution.

We then took the evening PAL Express flight back home. We had an awesome adventure in Leyte.We finally ticked off Kalanggaman island from Tina’s bucket list and we were able to experience the sights and hear the stories of Tacloban, 5 years after typhoon Yolanda.

I hope and pray that Tacloban never experiences another deadly typhoon ever. I cannot help but admire the resilience of the people of Tacloban, of not losing hope and rising up from the ruins.

We enjoyed this trip so much because of the beautiful beaches of Kalannggaman and the simple humble people of the Leyte province.

Leyte province offers much more I’m sure and time permitting we “shall return” too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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