July 28, 2016
BY RICKY MONTECILLO
It was already 2 a.m. of Sunday July 24, 2016, when we had just made our last stopover in Shell gas station in Pampanga at the NLEX. By this time we have been traveling for more than 17 hours already thru the mountains of Kalinga, highways of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Nueva Ecija.
Despite the stopover I was still very tired and sleepy. I could no longer keep up our pace and I was already dozing off. I fell back from the pack and turned right to the Petron station. I could barely take-off my helmet as I sat down outside the Mc Donald’s and slumped myself to sleep.
Before I knew it, it was already 2:30 am. The power nap did me well and I was awake and alert for the final leg of our 1,000++kms adventure ride! Arriving home an hour later, I kissed my wife who was sleeping soundly, and she shook her head saying “sobra kayo”. All I could say was “Oo nga. Sobra”. In my mind, I was saying, “Sobrang sarap!”
On July 22 to 24 or until the early morning of the 25th, The Long Riders Motorcycle Club rode to Tabuk-Pasil-Balbalan in Kalinga province. The round trip from Metro Manila and back was around 1,000++kms! More than enough mileage for your next oil change.
There were six of us. Resty Renia on a 2015 BMW GS 1200, Randy Ypon also on a BMW GS 1200, Sael Requierme on a KTM Duke 390, Glenn Peña on a Yamaha Tenere 1200, RJ Cruz riding his Suzuki DRZ 400 and myself also riding a BMW GS 1200 Triple Black.
Kalinga is the perfect adventure destination for motorcycle adventure riders.
The mountain views are spectacular at every turn. The lush vegetation, mountain ranges, rivers and even road side water falls abound. Riding through the highways, twisties on paved or rough roads is the best experience for any motorcyclist.
After traveling for more than 12 hours from Manila, we decided to stay overnight in Dupag, Tabuk City after heavy rains started to pour. Up in the mountains of Kalinga, it is normal to expect rains in the afternoon. Gladly, the DAO panciteria where we stopped over agreed to accommodate all six of us for the night. They also prepared our dinner and breakfast the following day.
With the mountains and forest as our view, we rested and relaxed for the night with cold beer and Bugnay red wine. Riders bond this way on long rides. It’s the time to get to know each other. The weather was cool and comfortable and we slept well even if we laid down on the floor with just mattings.
It was still dark at around 5 a.m. when a man named Ed who was drunk banged on our doors and woke us up. He had just come from an all nighter at a funeral wake and on his way home he saw our big bikes parked outside of the panciteria. Initially we were startled but after being talked to by the owners of DAO, Ed calmed down and he turned out to be a nice fellow. He even guided us to see the Hanging Bridge in Dupag. That’s another story. (“Nobody Ever Goes Here” in Dupag Kalinga, Philippines)
After a brief hike to the old hanging bridge and the Dupag community, we had breakfast and continued with our journey to Pasil and Balbalan. We traveled thru the mountain paved and rough zig-zag. The roads were about 60% paved and 30% rough and muddy.
We had spectacular views at every turn.
We stopped over somewhere in Pasil to give away some toys to the local children. This is something we usually do whenever we ride. Can’t buy the genuine and innocent smiles of children when they receive toys. It just melts your hearts. Makes riding more enjoyable and meaningful.
We arrive in the Balbalan Poblacion by noon. Luckily there is a Hostel in the Poblacion right beside the Balbalan Municipal Hall and the Police Station. It is run by the local Balbalan government and it is clean and spacious. We rented a big dormitory type room with 6 beds with clean sheets, pillows, towels and soap. We paid 200 pesos per head for the overnight stay. Who would have thought that there is such a comfortable place in these parts.
We had a good lunch at the local eatery and were served fresh fish, adobo, and nilagang baboy.
And then we rented a Fiera, a 70s design utility vehicle to take us to the Balbalan Underground River. Actually it’s called Subterranean but it’s so hard to spell.
Two of us, Randy and myself, opted to sit on the roof of the Fiera while the rest stayed inside. Nothing like riding on the roof of an old but spunky Fiera as it winds down the twisties, giving us the best views of the sights.
The hike down to the Underground river is thru a 1,000 steps concrete stairway. Nobody really counted but the hike was long and steep and it took us about 30 mins to reach the entrance of the cave where the river runs. But because it was raining, we couldn’t go all the way inside the cave lest we get caught in dangerous flash floods.
We had to climb back the 1,000 steps up to where our ride was and it was enough to get our hearts pumping and sweat like pigs.
Before finally going back to the Hostel, we went for a quick swim in a small water fall near the Saleng bridge in Balbalan. It was refreshing and kinda cold.
The following morning, we set for home at around 8:30 a.m. On the road we stopped many times to take pictures of the wonderful sights. We also stopped over at the Bangyan House in Tabuk where we had our lunch. Max, the owner of the place, served us papaitan, and pork chops.
The ride back was long and tiring and it took all of 17 hours before I got home to my lovely wife Tina. “Sobra kayo” she muttered. “Sobrang sarap.” I said to myself as I grinned.