BY RICKY MONTECILLO
August 14, 2017
Restie Renia held a sign from the wall of the Malico Country Inn which reads, “Life is not a matter of milestones, but of moments”. Restie is the leader of The Long Riders motorcycle group and he has a passion for riding and nature.
He is the one who discovers our wonderful off-the-beaten path destinations all over the Philippines. So when he proposed that we survey this place called Malico in faraway Nueva Vizcaya, I knew we were in for another wondrous adventure.
It was only in 2016 that the paved roads reached Malico. Prior to this, one had to ride a 4×4 or trails bikes to reach this quaint and small town.
Three of us rode. Restie, Wern Asprec and me (Ricky Montecillo) on our big BMW R1200 GS motorcycles.
It took us about 5 hours to reach the place including stopovers. We blasted through the highways of the North Luzon Expressway, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and a bit of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway. Exiting Victoria, we rode on to Nueva Ecija to Nueva Vizcaya. We then made a left turn in Santa Fe towards the mountains to Malico town in Nueva Vizcaya.
The 260 kilometer distance is a medium range ride for The Long Riders but we passed through highways, busy towns with lots of tricycles, and then upwards thru mountains twisties where we had to overtake lots of cargo trucks.
And then the paved mountain road from connecting Nueva Vizcaya to Pangasinan otherwise known as the Villaverde trail. From Santa Fe town to Malico is only about 10 kilometers of paved winding roads. Not so wide but newly paved.
There were some debris from the usual falling rocks and mini erosions, but the roads were nice and the scenery awesome. There were also very few vehicles.
As we reached the small barangay called Malico, we immediately found the Malico Country Inn. We were greeted by Lorenzo and his wife Ellen who are the care takers of the Inn.
Malico Country Inn is a small rustic place filled with antique stuff collected by the owners. Mang Lorenzo said that it is owned by Edgardo Amistad and his brother Ernie. Edgardo used to be the high ranking bank executive.
We arrived at noon and Ellen had to prepare a quick lunch for us. We had canned tuna and tocino with hot rice. We planned to tour the place so we ate heartily for energy. When you go with Restie, always be prepared to take long treks.
After lunch we set off on our big bikes to the site where an american Sherman Tank was abandoned since the American-Japanese War. They say that during World War II the americans built a trail from Pangasinan to the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya and the tank was ambushed by Japanese soldiers. The tank remains in the same place ever since the and it now serves as relic of the historic time.
Apparently, many battles were waged between the Americans and Japanese in the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya during World War II.
Next stop was the Hingi falls. We just parked our BMs by the road side as our young guides led us to a short trail downwards to the small waterfalls. It is always wonderful to go to waterfall sites.
Hingi is small but the water is powerful. The water is very clean and very cold. I asked Wern who swam into the plunge pool first, “Malamig ba? (Is it cold?)” and he said “Sub Zero!”
You trek in the midst of nowhere to find something like this, a waterfall with clean cold water gushing down a pool and onto a small river, and you can’t help but admire nature. We swam with the boys who jumped from the top of the falls and I wondered aloud,”If this were in the city, people would charge just to enter.”
Another of God’s creation for simple folks in Malico to enjoy. The kids there told us that they frequent the place to swim and have fun. With no malls, amusement parks or movie houses, the children of Malico have more fun with what nature has given.
By the time we returned to the Inn, the clouds had started to get dark and it was about to rain. We were surprised to see that a number of children had already gathered for our gift giving tradition.
The Long Riders’ practice is to always bring toys to giveaway to the local children, our small way of sharing and making the little ones smile. It gets me every time when we see the children receive toys.
Their innocent expressions of joy is simply priceless. Those are the “moments” that fill up our lives as riders.
After the gift giving we freshened up for some good ole’ cocktails. Luckily Wern was smart enough to bring a bottle of Alhambra brandy because in Malico it is prohibited to sell liquor. We set up for drinks in the small garden with the mountain range as our view.
Malico town is so quiet, no blaring karaokes, no tricyles, jeeps, or noisy neighbors. Just the sounds and sights of nature, the view of the mountains, trees and plants and the sounds of the little stream nearby. We had good conversation that afternoon.
There was no internet, so we were forced to interact and converse with each other. A few rounds of brandy in the company of friends set in a cool and quiet town is another “moment”.
At one point, the fog started to set in and it was such a sight. The clear view of the mountain was covered with fog in an instant and then it passed and the mountains re-appeared. Can’t help but feel awed by such wonders of nature. And then the rains started to fall, adding to the beauty of the scenery.
As darkness grew, we were all inebriated and contented after a full day of motorcycle riding, hiking and swimming. By 8 p.m. our tired bodies fell asleep as we lay in the comfortable cushions laid out for us by Ellen in one of the authentic Igorot rooms.
Restie and I woke up too early at around 2:30 am. We draped ourselves with blankets and sat under one of the Igorot cottages. It must have about 9 degrees centigrade. We chatted a bit and marveled at the foggy night. I slept again after but with Wern and I snoring, Restie couldn’t go back to sleep.
We woke up by 6 am to a bright sunny day. Restie had already taken a walk with Mang Lorenzo at the poblacion nearby and they also went up to the Salacsac Pass Monument. It is a memorial for the thousands of soldiers, both Japanese and Americans, who died in battles in Malico during World War II. “Boy George is right, war is stupid”, Restie quipped.
After a hefty breakfast, Ellen told us about the Salacsac Pine Forest, where one can have a view of Pangasinan and Baguio from the peak.
We had to hike for more than hour to reach the peak and it was well worth it. Baguio or Sagada must have looked that way before commercialism and development.
The forest has thousands of old pine trees and the weather up there is so nice. Even though the hike was long, the cool weather made it pleasant. The mountain views are awesome and the fresh breeze refreshing.
We came back to the Inn in time for lunch and to get ready for our long ride back home. Ellen prepared chicken apritada with kamote leaves as side dish and this time brown mountain rice. We needed to eat well for the long ride.
Ellen told us that there is a nice seven layer waterfalls not so far from Malico Country Inn.
Now that is more than enough reason to plan our return to this quiet piece of heaven with the rest of The Long Riders soon!