Ambaguio: A Place in the Mountains Covered with Moss

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

November 1, 2018

Ambaguio, Nueva Vizcaya, October 27-28

The locals say that Ambaguio means “covered with moss”, which describes the mountainous and forested area of the place. The temperature is cool and at times chilly, much like the neighboring areas in Benguet, Ifugao and Cordilleras.

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Ambaguio: covered with moss

Ambaguio is a 5th class municipality and it was only recently that the government has been able to pave its roads from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. Although not all roads are paved, which made our adventure ride interesting.

Ambaguio is an alternative jump-off point for hikers going to Mt. Pulag. It is longer and more forested, which many hikers like. Don-don (Nuepe Manuel Jr.) the tourism officer of the town, says that they want to develop Ambaguio into an eco-tourism destination. He accompanied us and took good care of us during our stay. Salamat Don-don!!!

Only about 240 kilometers from Manila, the travel to Ambaguio is quite friendly. Just go North thru the expressways and follow the route to Nueva Vizcaya. Waze will tell you that it takes only 8 hours to reach the place, but when you include stops for rest and food, it takes longer.

 Once you reach Bayombong, you take a left to the Bayombong-Ambaguio Road, which takes you up to the mountainous road all the way to Ambaguio.

Rodel Velasco on his raffle winner BMW 1200GS

Eight members of The Long Riders motorcycle club joined. Seven riding elephant 1200 GS BMWs and another a big Yamaha 1200 Tenere. The riders are Restie Renia, TLR’s group pasimuno, Rodel Velasco who we kidded as a “guest rider” cause it’s been a while since he joined our rides, Wernher Asprec, Doc Glenn Latorre, Yan Yan King or Mike, Bong De Leon, Glenn Peñafiel, and me Ricky Montecillo.

The Long Riders – Bong, Restie, Ricky, Wern, Mike, Doc Glenn, Rodel and Glenn P.

Enroute to Gulon River

Restie would always introduce me to the locals as, “Eto is Ricky, writer ng blog”. Kinda embarrassing.

We arrived in the poblacion in Ambaguio around 4 pm. Somehow we skipped lunch on the road, so we were tired and hungry. But the carinderia would have our dinner ready only by 6pm.

Wernher Asprec touchdown Ambaguio poblacion

We were assigned to spend the night in the poblacion Senior Citizens Center. It’s the newest structure in the Poblacion and it had clean bathrooms. So we set-up our things inside the hall and got ready to ride down the Gulon River nearby.

Don-don and his friends, Ben and Tuesday said that it’s just a short easy ride down to the bridge. We found out that yes it was short and easy, if your were riding a small trail bike or an undertone. It turned out to be a mostly downhill rough road with ruts and loose soil and rocks.

Short “easy ride” to the river

Wernh, Mike, Glenn P., Doc Glenn and Rodel

The late afternoon weather was cool and the views marvelous. It includes lots of greenery, rice fields and vegetable plots. And as we approached the bridge, we parked our big bikes and walked down to the gushing Gulon river.

Ricky at the hanging bridge by Gulon River

Mike

Bong

Big little boys by the river

It’s clean and cool. But the strong current prevented us from taking a dip. So we just washed faces by the riverside. It was so soothing and refreshing.

It was getting dark so we headed back to the poblacion. The ride back was fun as it was mostly uphill. Somehow it’s easier to ride uphill on dirt roads. Just look where you’re going and twist the throttle. The big BMWs are simply made for any kind of road.

The only carinderia in the poblacion served us hot and fresh tinolang manok with fresh vegetables and soup. The best meal of the day, as we were quite hungry. After dinner, we set up our sleeping bags and showered. 

Best meal of the day

The best part of any ride with The Long Riders is the drinking session, where nothing sensible it talked about and where you had to talk louder to be heard. The quiet and quaint Ambaguio was probably disturbed by our boisterousness and juvenile ruckus.

Mike and Tom-tom forever

Disturbing the peace

Mike, Bong, Restie and Ricky

Shot!

We were like high school boys sharing jokes and making fun. Riding is fun like this. We ride fast and furious, like fighter jet pilots. And when we get down to relax, we throw caution to the wind and let go, shot after shot after shot.

Even as the night was long, we all woke up early in the morning to catch the sun rise at the Gulon Hill. Bong woke up earliest at around 3am and Glenn P., told me that I was snoring like a big bike with an open pipe. Wern who was beside me also cruised at 6000 RPM the whole night.

It was still dark when we started our hike up to the Hill. We didn’t know where to go cause our guides Don-don, Ben and Tuesday overslept due to hangover.

Dusk hike to Gulon Hill

Cool foggy morning

Our angels must’ve guided us though cause we called out the house in the hill with lights on. “Taooo poooh” And Leo emerged from the house with a flashlight. It turns out that he owned and maintained the Gulon Hill site. How lucky can we get.

He said that at first he thought we were soldiers on foot patrol.

He guided us through the uphill trail and took only about 20 minutes. The Gulon Hill site has rock formations at the edge of the hill. From there you get to view the entire Ambaguio scenery. It was cool and foggy and the clouds were seated below us.

Gulon Hill

And as the sun rose, we were gifted with a sea of clouds and fog so magnificent it reminds me of the Mt. Pulag experience. I think we are the first big bike riders to have witnessed this. We hope that other riders will visit Ambaguio and enjoy it’s wonderful natural sites and the cool climate, and friendly folks.

Sea of clouds at sunrise

Gulon Hill Rock formations

Wern hikes

Clouds and fog at sunrise

View of Ambaguio from Gulon Hill

After the hike we had breakfast at the carinderia and had cat naps to prepare for the long ride home. During this break we also went down to the sitios and the nearby church to distribute some giveaways to the local folks.

The locals were very appreciative of the gifts, toys, coffee sachets, canned good, pre-loved clothing and footwear. The Long Riders always bring giveaways wherever we go. Our small way of sharing and spreading joy to our less privileged kababayans.

Giveaways for the locals

Rodel with giveaway footwear

Glenn poses with the ladies

We were all set to go and Restie led the way. While riding the dirt rough roads, I wondered to myself that I didn’t realize how rough the roads were. It was kinda technical and challenging. And then, as Restie led the downhill slope, he stopped.He looked around and it was all rice fields. 

All set to go Home

Hmmm more rough roads?

Mike “Gyver”

Wrong turn to the bukid

He asked around and then realized that we had made a wrong turn way back, that’s why the roads became rough and it was leading us nowhere. Well, our ride just became longer. That’s why we are the Long Riders.

I was back home in Las Piñas by midnight. The ride was fun and exciting and we once again discovered a place where other riders could go.

There is more to motorcycle riding in the Philippines than Kaybiang tunnel in Nasugbu or the local Startbucks. When you own an adventure bike, I strongly suggest to go where no else does and you will get to appreciate not only how much fun motorcycling is, you will bond more with new friends and experience first hand the way of life in the Philippine countryside.

So gear-up and go!

Leo, owner of Gulon Hill site with Restie

Ambaguio local Catholic church and me the blogger, Ricky.

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Motorcycle Ride to Alilem, Ilocos Sur

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

October 3, 2018

Calvin Hew is from Taiwan and his work brings him here in the Philippines. I’ve ridden with him a couple of times already with The Long Riders. He rides a tall KTM and like most of us, is also afflicted with the moto-adventure fever.

We were surprised when he admitted that it was his first time to see a waterfall up close and personal. Dipping in its cool waters and frolicking with the guys like school boys on a field trip. “Really?! Your first time!?”

It was also his first time to experience giving away toys and some goodies to the local children and folks in the sitio. He looked so amazed while he handed out some candies to the kids and coffee and canned goods to the adults. “We should do this again before Christmas” Calvin suggested. We told him, “We do this all the time.” It is The Long Riders’ way of giving back.

Calvin Hew

Alilem is the first town of Ilocos Sur, just after the boundary of Sudipen, La Union. We rode from Manila last Saturday, September 29, 2018. The ride is about 250 kilometers from Manila, but since we were a big group of more than twenty motorcycle riders, travel time took longer.

The Long Riders meets up at Caltex Edsa Balintawak

Eric, Sael, Randy, Ricky, Gabby and Ritchie

The route is rather simple. Drive North thru NLEX-SCTEX and all the way to last exit of TPLEX in Pozzorubio. With big bikes with very big engines, it won’t take one long to reach Sudipen, La Union, where we were to check-in a hotel.

Ivan, Bong, Vic and Glenn

Meet up was at the usual Caltex gas station in EDSA Balintawak at 5:30 am. Some of the riders had little sleep because of excitement. Believe it or not, even veteran riders get excited before the ride day and can’t get enough sleep. Unlike waking up for work, we get up even before the alarm sets-off.

It was a big group last Saturday and it felt like a reunion of sorts. Randy Ypon and Thiery Sbaiz both haven’t ridden with us for several months and it was good to see them back in the saddle as if nothing changed.

Randy back on the saddle

Randy with his BMW scrambler riding steady and consistent as leader of the pack and Thiery riding fast and wild like a tornado on wheels.

The wild rider Thiery

We also had some first timers to the group. Doc Gabriel on his Honda Africa Twin, Jim ___ on a Duke 390. Richie Lim, the son of Long rider Tom Rolly Lim, both riding their new Royal Enfield Himalayans.

It was nice to see Rolly and Ritchie riding as father and son. It was Rictchie’s first time to ride with big bikes and his dad guided him all throughout the ride.

First timer Ritchie on a Himalayan

Dad Rolly guiding Ritchie all the way

All in all we took off with 23 big bikes such as KTMs, BMWs, Honda, Kawasakis, Himalayans! and a Ducati!

Ivan on a Ducati

Eric with a Z1000

First stop was for brunch at the Soul Cafe in Rosario, La Union. We had a hearty brunch there and stuffed ourselves for energy for the long ride.

Brunch at Soul Cafe in Rosario, La Union

Unfortunately, some of the guys had some bike trouble and were running late. Some of the other bikes had no gas gauges and ran out of fuel in the expressway, while one other bike busted a fuel line.

We had to wait for them in Soul Cafe, which took some time so we divided the group into two. The first group headed on to set-up the place. They found a very nice hotel, El-Lita in Sudipen, Ilocos Sur. It is a mid-size resort, with a big swiming pool, clean rooms and good food. Perfect for riders like us.

Gabby and Ricky at Hotel El-Lita Resort

We all got there before 4 pm and we checked in the rooms, freshened up and got ready for some good ole’ tunggaan. “Bottoms up!”

We drank and partied like frat men on an out of town session. We had lots booze and lots of storytelling which we cannot remember anymore.

The following morning, we ate early breakfast before getting ready to ride to Alilem to trek to the Anito Waterfalls. We wore helmets, shoes and gloves but with only jerseys and short pants. We rode thru barrio roads up the mountains. It took us only about 30 minutes to reach our jump off point.

Carlos on his Kawasaki

Riding in Tandem Edwin and Carissa Frondozo

Nothing like riding in the mountians, with the views of the mountain ranges, rice fields and lots of trees. The fresh air of the province is so refreshing and the wide clean river below is enchanting. We stopped over for some photo ops as we posed with our trusty big bikes with beautiful nature as backdrop. Unli selfies and group shots, 1-2-3!

Sael on his F800 BMW GS

This is me. Ricky

Jim first time ride with the Long Riders

First, we went up to this small isolated village in Bais. Barangay Anaao is a small community with not so many folks. It was a Sunday and some of the locals were hearing mass in their tiny chapel.

Elders in their small chapel

They were very happy and said next time we should stay with them

Vic, Bong and Paul poses with lola. They gave her money to bet on the lotto

Thiery with lola

We gave away toys, candies and some goodies to the locals who couldn’t believe their good fortune. Sael Requierme also gaveway some pre-loved used but not abused clothes.

Sael and Calvin with Tatay

Pre loved pants from Sael

Ivan, Gabby and Rolly with baby

Here was a bunch of strangers on big motorcycles, approaching the people and being friendly. It is so heartwarming to see the looks on their faces, the curious stare of the oldies and the wondrous smiles of the littles ones.

Sharing

Carlos gives away dolls for the girls

Calvin experiences the joy in giving

Thiery with local elders

Actually, it’s who we are as the Long Riders. This tradition of sharing and reaching out just to make others feel happy and special, in turn, makes us all feel really good inside. “Some things you do for the soul.” as an old friend once said.

The hike to the Baey Anito Water falls is friendly enough and takes only aout 20-30 minutes, depending on your hangover.

Tree house with Sael

Trail to Baey Anito Falls

Trail to the falls

Finally, we reach the waterfalls. We jump into the cool fresh water! to wade and swim! We hang out and wade in the basin, simply experiencing the wonders of nature.

Randy at Baey Anito Falls

Refreshing swim

Just staring at the mighty water falls, with the powerful water pouring down is always a joy to experience. The sound of the falls and the gushing water is soothing.

Traditional jump!

We do this often. Ride, hike, share and bond. I guess Calvin Hew just got bitten with the The Long Riders’ bug and I think we’ll be seeing more of him in future adventure rides. Next time, he’ll just have to check on his gas tank more often.

Calvin Hew on his tall KTM

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Lessons from a short ride to Nueva Ecija with the Long Riders

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

August 25-26 2018

Last weekend, I got back on the saddle to join the Long Riders adventure ride to Nueva Vizcaya where we were supposed to see some old churches and caves. I prepped my bike and packed for the long ride and even brought a sleeping bag and some trekking gear.

The weather was rainy as I set out to the meet up, first with Carlo Escover in Las Piñas and then proceed to the Caltex gas station in Balintawak Quezon, City. Carlo texted me and said he was running late and for me to just go ahead.

When I arrived in Caltex, Wernher Asprec, Doc Von Evangelio and Edwin Frondozo were already parked there and waiting. A few minutes after Col. Ed also arrived on his red BMW GS 1200, similar to my bike. Wern’s is the GSA model, the biggest and baddest BMW, Edwin also rode his GS 1200 while Doc Von brought an 06 KTM Baja 990 Adventure.

It was raining hard and the clouds were dark. I thought to myself that we were in for a wet ride.

After a while, Restie Renia, arrived on his trusty white GS.

As Restie started his briefing, Carlo sent me a text saying that his BM X-challenge stalled somehwere in Magallanes and apparently his battery was drained. Too bad he couldn’t join us.

The adventure ride was to go to Nueva Vizcaya via the North Luzon Expressway-Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway- Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway. Exit in TPLEX Victoria and and make a first stop to have brunch at Kuya A Kambingan in Guimba, Nueva Ecija.

Enroute to the Kambingan, we made a stopover at a gas station because Doc Von needed to check his KTM. He was shaking the bike down, as it was seldom used by the previous owner. It was its maiden ride.

The Baja KTM has 2 huge gas tanks. But unfortunately the right side tank was leaking. Doc also said that the ABS brakes seemed to be fading.

We ate at the Kambingan, to have,well, goats. Papaitan, kaldereta, rice, and pork barbeque. Kuya’s Kambingan is our usual stopover resto whenever we ride this route. Food are fresh and the staff are friendly. Nothing like provincial traditional carinderia where food is home cooked and the people are neighborly.

Doc Von inspected his bike, and being a bike mechanic and a part time dentist, he figured that he could not go on the ride with the KTM acting up like this, leaking fuel and fading brakes.

We decided that we will just cut short the long ride, look for a resort nearby and just make the most of the day drinking ourselves silly. What the heck, there will be other days for long rides. In the meantime, rather than leave one of us behind, we just went for the short ride but long happy-happy!

The gracious lady at Kuya’s Kambingan suggested the Aloha Resort in Guimba. It was just about 10 minutes away. Aloha was not bad, with a big sprawling swimming pool, clean rooms and again, friendly staff.

Even for a short ride, we learned some lessons during the quick adventure.

  1. When preparing for a long ride, make sure to start your bike and take around the block to make sure it’s ready. Restie started his bike the day before the ride and discovered that the battery was weak. So he had time to charge it. He didn’t know that his bike had a cable connector for the Battery Tender, which Doc Von pointed out to him in Nueva Ecija Aleady. As for Carlo, he just learned about the condition of his battery somehwere in Magallanes.
  2. Do not wear a full rain coat when the others don’t. Before setting out to ride, I wore my rain coat, including its pants because the clouds were dark. Nobody else did as they all said “wala na yan.” I thought they were foolish and once the rains fell, I would have the last laugh. Well, all throughout the ride to Nueva Ecija, it was cool and cloudy but hell it never rained.
  3. Always remember that papaitan is bitter.
  4. Shake down your bike before a ride, not during. Haha joke only. Breakdowns are part of rides. What’s important is no one is left behind.
  5. The new Long Riders “tradition” according to Restie is to drink bottoms up on the first glass!
  6. When you drink bottoms up while shouting “Happy birthday!!” all night, you can lose all sense of civility and can become a karaoke singer too.
  7. Never sing after Ed. He is a Tawag ng Tanghalan Champion.
  8. Beatles Songs should not include “Back in the USSR”. Not good to the ears when sang via Karaoke.
  9. Hey Jude is a good Beatle’s song! I sang it.
  10. Even bashful riders can sing after several bottoms up glasses! Macho Guapito by doc and Diana by Wern! Edwin sang songs from the 60s too! Saya-saya!

The morning after, we took a stroll around the rice fields and discovered beautiful sceneries. And as is the Long Rider’s signature habit, we gave out some toys for the children of the bukid bringing joy and smiles to them.

The last lesson learned from this ride is when you come home before dinner, the wife is happy.

Till the next ride buddies!!

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Our ABRA Moto-Adventure Was Life Changing! MANILA-BANGUED-BOLINEY-TUBO AND BACK

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

April 12, 2018

Abra Adventure

Our motorcycle adventure ride to Tubo, Abra is by far my most difficult and challenging motor-experience.

It was supposed to be only a 3-day affair but it extended to another day due to unavoidable circumstances and also the nature of the routes itself.

THE LONG RIDERS dared to ride to Bangued, Abra’s provincial Capitol about 400 km from Manila and on to faraway sleepy poblacion of Boliney. From Boliney, we proceeded to Tubo, Abra.

Don’t bother looking for routes via Google Map or Waze, there ain’t any.

Riding mostly BMW GS big bikes and other big bike brands like the KTM and Kawasaki, we conquered the rough roads through the mountains of Abra and ventured into the communities of Bangued, Boliney and finally, Tubo.

Big bikes riding through rough mountains roads in Abra

In the process, we met the friendliest people and community leaders who welcomed us as if we were family.

In Bangued, after riding from Manila for more than 8 hours, we arrived at our destination at river side of Calaba.

Restie Renia, TLR’s ride director and the group’s pasimuno, already surveyed the place a few weeks back and he found the river side as good place to camp.

Bangued is Abra’s provincial capital and it is fairly progressive. It has many commercial establishments and some small hotels. But since it was an adventure ride, we chose to rough it up, pitch tents and stay right beside the river.

The locals gladly and graciously served our needs during our stay. We had drinks on the floating cottage and dinner was prepared by our local friends.

Mark, Mike and Restie with our friends in Bangued

The night was cold and breezy and with the soothing sounds of the gushing river, we slept comfortably even without our comfy beds. Some in their tents and some of us with just blankets on top of the benches in the cottages.

The following day, the trip from Bangued to Boliney took us through mountain roads with a few unpaved portions. Riding through mountains with its views is always a treat, fueling our juices and getting us all hyped-up.

Riding is an addiction. As many motorcycle riders will tell you, it gives us a high triggered by dopamine or endorphins in our brains. Maybe it’s because it gives as the feeling of flying, add to that is the thrill of constantly facing risk coupled with the magnificent views of mountain ranges, valleys and rivers.

No wonder riders throw caution to the wind and keep on doing it. David Norman exclaimed during one of our stopovers, “I love riding man!”

The Long Riders

Upon reaching Boliney, a sleepy poblacion located in the inner mountains of Abra, we stopped by the house of Barangay Captain. It was a hot afternoon and we were all feeling tired from the ride.

They invited us to join the community in the house of a family whose three children graduated from grade school. For Filipinos, education is very important and graduations are special occasions.

Graduation Party in Boliney

The celebration was held in a small house and local food was prepared. They had freshly cooked pork, done in different ways. Dinuguan, Papaitan, Nilaga and also fresh Macaroni Salad.

There were many people lining up for the food as the elders and local ladies scooped food and rice on their plates.

It was a community event much like a fiesta, with locals from all ages partaking of food and drinks.

After the meal, we set off to see the Bani Hot Springs. We rode our bikes and brought some snacks. It was just nearby and we parked our bikes on the road side and went down to the river which had hot springs too.

Bani Hot springs

It is a river with flowing cold water but at its sides, there is hot, really hot water coming out from the rocks and flowing into the river. Sometimes they boil eggs in the hot springs.

We spent sometime in the river, soaking and swimming and chattering. Robert played with his new hover drone camera for some bird’s eye view videos and photos. It’s nice to have someone in the group who brings such a high tech photography gadget.

Drone shot at Bani Hot Springs

Back in Boliney, we came just in time to attend a local tribal wedding. In their culture, it is the community which weds the couple. There are gong dances held and everyone joins in.

The men, both young and old strikes their gongs and dances in cadence as the women folk dances with them in a circling motion. It is like a chicken mating dance.

Gong Dance at Wedding

They also made us riders join in and dance with them, including letting us perform the gong dance.

The people in Boliney take their culture and tradition to heart and pass on their beliefs and rituals to the next generation.

Mike at Wedding Dance

Riding with the Long Riders, these are the adventures we come across. The people in the mountains may not be as comfortable as we are, but their sense of community and family are what makes them strong and resilient.

We were deeply touched and honored by their hospitality. They treat us not as intruders or mere visitors. We were treated with so much honor and genuine hospitality.

Morning coffee in Boliney

The morning after, as we prepared to start our journey to far flung Tubo, two of our riders’ bikes had some problems. Doc Von’s bike had an oil leak of the front shock absorber while David’s Kawasaki Versys had a broken fuel injection and wouldn’t start.

After trying to repair them, they decided to leave the bikes in one of the houses and just come back for them another time. This ate up a few hours of our time for our ride to Tubo.

The ride from Boliney to Tubo was the most challenging big bike ride in my experience. There were practically no paved roads just mostly rough mountain dirt roads.

Wern in deep water

We had to ride through steep dirt roads with rocks and stones and loose soil, by the mountain sides.

It was very difficult, scary and challenging. There was no turning back and the only way was forward. The Boliney – Tubo route is not for the faint-hearted.

Uphill dirt road

For me, it made me believe that the BMW GS big bikes are truly the best motorcycles for tough adventures. It is simply built tough and its design and performance are unbeatable. All one needs is courage to brave whatever terrain comes along. Look far ahead, twist the throttle and go!

Tito Peter downhill

We came out of that route like changed men. The guys said it was suicide mountain! Gladly, we all came out of it roughed up but intact. By the time we arrived in Tubo, it was close to sundown and that meant another extra night lay-over.

Ricky (me) Back riding David

As a footnote, I had to back ride 100 Kg David half way through (because we left his bike in Boliney). While Doc Von also back rode with Restie, making it doubly challenging for us.

Restie back riding Doc Von

The Mayor Guilbert Ballanga, the Vice Mayor and Police Chief  all welcomed us and were our gracious hosts. Again there was a local wedding so we attended the dinner. The Parish priest was also very hospitable and he even offered a mass in the morning for us.

The Long Riders with Tubo Mayor Gilbert Ballanga

The following morning, we decided to go ahead and check-out the Kili Falls, but instead of riding our bikes, to save time, we rented a 4X4 Hilux pick-up truck to take us there.

Kili Falls is our trophy. So far away and secluded. At the road’s dead end, and after a 10-minute walk, there she was, Kili Falls in all splendor.

Spectacular Kili Falls, Tubo Abra

With the mountains, green rice terraces and blue skies as back drop, the mighty Kili Falls stood. It’s raging waters falling onto a big pool of clear fresh mountain water. There is also hot spring water coming out from the rocks beside the pool. It is nature at its best.

Trail to Kili Falls

From Tubo, the fastest route going home was to traverse to San Emelio onto Candon, Ilocos Sur. It would take us 14 hours of dirt roads and deep water crossings to finally reach our homes.

This ride was overwhelming. There were many lessons learned both in riding, of getting to know friends and meeting all sorts of people along the way.

Hanging Foot bridge to Kili Falls

Riding is addicting and the thrill of adventure overwhelms as it literally transports your whole being to another world, to another plane. We text each other upon reaching our respective homes, “Home safe bros, thanks!”.

Deep water crossing

No matter where we go, being home safe caps another wonderful adventure experience.

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Discovering Botolan Zambales!

This gallery contains 46 photos.

BY RICKY MONTECILLO January 30, 2018 It was a cloudy Saturday morning when we met up at the Caltex gas station around 6:30 a.m. in Balintawak, Quezon City. It was the appointed time and meeting place for our next moto-adventure … Continue reading

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It’s Now Siargao!

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

January 07, 2018

The New Year 2018 break was our chance to getaway and go to Siargao which is being talked about by many travelers as the Philippine’s rock star destination.

Actually I’ve been hearing a lot about Siargao Island since a couple of years ago, as a surfing destination in faraway Surigao del Norte in Mindanao. I didn’t really think much of it because even though I am a beach lover, I am no surfer.

Besides, here in the Philippines, Mindanao is considered by many as a dangerous place, owing to decades long of Moro-insurgency. In recent months however, I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Siargao, not only as a Surfer’s destination, but as a total nature and adventure paradise.

Nature and adventure are the best come-on for me and my travel buddies; my wife Tina and daughter Samantha. We booked flights to MNL-SIARGAO-MNL via Sky Jet from December 29 – January 1, to spend the New Year’s holiday.

The fare is not cheap though as only Sky Jet and Cebu Pacific fly there direct from Manila and PAL only goes there via Cebu. The airport is also very small and it doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate the growing number of visitors.

The flight took about 1 hour and 20 minutes and it was about noon time when we landed in Siargao. The airport is really very small but the locals say that the government is already planning to build an international airport soon. When? Hard to say.

Upon arrival, we were picked-up by Buddha’s Resort van. From the airport in Sayak, Del Carmen, it is an hour’s drive to Siargao’s main district in General Luna, where we booked our first night at the Buddha’s Resort.

While on the way to the resort our driver was quick to point out that even if Siargao is in Mindanao, the island is 100% crime-free. I noticed eventually that most of the people I spoke to there; vendors, resort staff, habal-habal riders, usually emphasize that there is peace and order in the island, to dispel the general notion of most Filipinos that all of Mindanao is war-torn or full of danger.

During the hour-long drive to General Luna or “GL”, you could already see that the island is un-spoilt. The roads are well paved and the views of green rice fields, coconut trees and lush vegetation. How I love our country! So beautiful! Siargao is really a revelation and I think we went there just in time before the boom of tourism starts to crowd the island.

Now, is the time to go to Siargao even if you know nothing about surfing. The tourist spots here are amazing, even as there are much more natural wonders in the island which have yet to be discovered.

Buddha’s Resort is located right beside the main highway. This counts for a lot because as soon as you go out, you can easily hail a habal-habal for your commute for 20 pesos per passenger.

I like Buddha’s but the one-night we spent, there was an island-wide power outage, it was dark and no air conditioning. To make matters worse, the resort’s generator set was not working.

The place, its bedrooms and villas are very nice but upon waking up for breakfast, we were disappointed with the portions of the food, (3 pieces of small bacon and fried eggs), coffee was not included in the meal. So we had to pay for our own coffee.

Good thing we only stayed for one night. We were famished as we checked-in at the resort, so we just settled in, left our bags and rode the habal-habal to BRAVO Beach Resort to eat. Bravo is a beach front resort and it is one of the good ones in Siargao.

The place was full of foreigners who were eating at the restaurant/bar and others were just hanging out having cocktails.

They had comfy day-beds and cushions where you can eat and chill, while enjoying the beach front-view and watching people. It was nice to watch people who wore swimsuits and who were mostly young and beautiful. It adds to the beauty of the island.

Food was very good. We had the Albondigas Beef, Pork Curry and Samantha had some Vegetable Omelet, because she didn’t want to get a full stomach while we were there lest it ruins her bikini outfit.

Food was great and the service is efficient and friendly. I’d recommend staying in Bravo to my friends.

After lunch, we still had time to spend at the Cloud 9 Beach. Samantha hired a surfing instructor, Paul, for Php 500/hour. Cloud 9 is where it all started, they say. Back in the 1970s, a young Australian missionary toured the island and discovered the waves and how they formed the number 9 as it came crashing into the surf.

Being an Aussie surfer himself, he started to invite his friends from Australia and this, according to the locals, is how Cloud 9 in Siargao was discovered as a surfing destination. Through many years, more and more surfers and adventurers visited the island and some of them decided to live there, marry locals and start their business.

Samantha didn’t need much lessons when she and her instructor headed on to the surf. When she was younger, she already tried surfing in San Juan, La Union. On the first wave, after she was pushed by Paul, she already stood up and surfed until the end of the wave.

Tina and I just stayed on the beach to watch and relax, while enjoying the views, the breeze and the sea.

After surfing, we went to the long wooden boardwalk, which has a 2-storey view deck. From there you can just sit and enjoy the view of the crashing waves as the sun started to set. So this is Siargao, so relaxing and beautiful.

I thought to myself, this must’ve been what Hawaii looked like 50 years ago. Reminds me of Honululu’s north shore.

By the time we got back in Buddha’s, it was already dark. There was no electricity and the generator was down. We had to wait for it to be fixed before we were able to shower.

Hungry and tired, we went out to grab some dinner. Mama’s Grill, where they say it’s good and cheap, was packed. So we settled for the Chasy Ihaw-ihaw. It was also full but we able to get a table by the road side.

It is a simple barbeque place. We had chicken barbeque, pork barbeque and a slice of yellow fin tuna. It was good food and cheap.

On our second day, we checked-out of Buddha’s and transferred to Sunset Bay villas. It is a small almost private resort at the end of the Cloud 9 beach. Right now they only rent out 2 villas but Micky, the Australian owner and Manager said they are building 3 more villas.

Sunset Bay Villas is a totally different experience. The moment you check-in, the owners themselves welcome you and makes you feel at home.

The resort has its own small beach front, which opens to some mangroves and rock formations. The place is very orderly and clean. Micky says you can use any of their 2 scooters and bicycles for free anytime. This is important because there aren’t many habal-habals in the area. But they can easily call for one if the guests ask.

They also offer free use of the surf boards and the kayak. The villa itself is very spacious. Ours’ has a master bedroom, a sala, kitchen and bath. It also has a spacious veranda outside. On the second level there is another bedroom with 2 more queen size beds! We were glad to have booked our next 2 nights there.

The following day we called up our tricycle driver, Robert, who made arrangements for our island hopping. Here are some of things we got to see and experience. ISLAND Hopping. We rented a banca for the day for only Php 1,500 pesos.

Before going to the small port, we went to the General Luna Market and bought fresh yellow fin tuna and of prawns.

First Island was the Naked Island. It’s called that not because of the almost naked women you’d see on the sand bar. I guess it’s because the islet is bare, only white sand. No trees, no plants, just a stretch of white sand surrounded by blue waters.

Hop number two is Daku Island. This is where we had our food cooked. There are some small cottages for rent and this is where we partook of our sumptuous and fresh sea food lunch.

We got to swim in the beach water too and we also bought a small bottle of Tanduay Rhum. While taking shots of Rhum and savoring the fresh ocean breeze, we enjoyed our Siargao afternoon in Daku Island.

Last, stop was Guyam Island. It’s a small island with a patch of green grass with some coconut trees. It’s like a set from Giligan’s Island TV show. Well if you don’t know about that, you’re too young.

After our tiring island-hopping we relaxed at the small swimming pool at the Sunset Villas and rested until dinner time.

For dinner we went to Harana Surf Resort. What a nice place! It’s so island-inspired. Like Bravo, the restaurant bar had some day-beds and cushions. Food is good here and service is friendly.

The following day, we booked Pastor Robert ( 0948) 929 9314‬), yes he is a pastor in their Church, to go to Sugba Lagoon and Magpupungko Rock pools. We rode Robert’s old tricycle even if the sites are far. It’s cheaper and it feels more adventurous.

From General Luna, we first went to Magpupungko, which is about one-hour and 30 minutes away.

The main feature of Magpupungko is the natural swimming pool formed by ocean rocks. It is especially beautiful at low tide, usually in the mornings, when the pools are more pronounced.

The waters are so clear and inviting. We went swimming there and after, we had some fresh buko as refreshment and snack. Next stop was the famous Sugba Lagoon. This is one of the poster destinations in Siargao. We had to hire banca for a 30 minute-ride to the lagoon.

Before going, we bought some fresh fish again to be cooked there for our lunch. Tip; buy more food to bring because in Sugba Lagoon, the food they sell is expensive.

The boat ride itself is so breathtaking. We traversed hectares of mangroves enroute. The pictures we took couldn’t really capture the wonderful scenes of the mangroves with the sea and blue skies as back drop. And then as we came near the lagoon, we entered into openings through the mangroves which served as gateway to the wonderful lagoons.

In the middle of the Sugba Lagoon is a wooden 2-level structure which serves as the restaurant and also the port where the boats are parked.

There, we bought some fresh crabs and we had our food cooked for lunch.

I asked Pastor Robert how many times he had gone there and to my surprise, he admitted that it was his very first time to go to Sugba Lagoon. Imagine that, a native of Siargao and a veteran tricycle driver who have taken many visitors to the jump-off port, yet it was only his first time.

“Hindi naman lahat ng bisita kasing bait nyo.”, he commented while we were having lunch. Apparently, it was his first time to be invited to join the boat ride to the lagoon. Normally, he will just wait for his guests at the port.

At the lagoon, Samantha and I tried out the paddle boards to go around the lagoon. She had some difficulty using it because it takes some time getting used to.

But it’s fun paddle boarding because you can go far-away and feel the tranquility of the lagoon and commune with nature without noisy crowds.

At the restaurant, there is a tall diving board. Not to be outdone by the tourists, we also braved the heights and jumped into the lagoon, as my wife Tina looked on from the balcony.

Back in General Luna, we were also able to go to Kermit Resort for dinner and some cucumber delight/mixed with gin. We had Greek Salad, Kinilaw na Tuna and Oso Buco. Check-out Kermit if you plan to go to Siargao as a place to stay.

Our return flight to Manila on January 1, 2018 was cancelled because, unknown to us, typhoon “Agaton” hit the island that same day. All flights to and from Siargao were cancelled. What a shame, another day to spend in paradise.

And so as the rains poured after we returned to GL from the airport, we went to Cloud 9 beach to spend the afternoon at the Café Loka. English owner Hippie Melindo personally runs the place for the past 17 years.

The location of her café couldn’t be better. It’s right smack in front of the Cloud 9 beach.

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To our good fortune, God smiled at us and we got in as chance passengers on the next day’s Sky Jet flight to Manila! We were the three out of only five who got in!

What a happy new year it is!

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The Long Riders Discover the small barrio called Quirino, Ilocos Sur

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

October 25, 2017

Don’t confuse it with Quirino Province which is also in northern Luzon. The small municipality of Quirino in Ilocos Sur is a far flung barrio close to the boundary of Abra province. It is between the Mountain province and Cordillera.

Most probably you have not gone there. It is really off the beaten path. Away from the crowd and out of reach by tourists.

Actually we didn’t plan on going to Quirino. The plan was to go to Tubo, Abra but the winding roads from Candon to San Emilio somehow brought us to this sleepy town by the Abra river.

We were seven motocrazy riders belonging to the adventure seeking group The Long Riders. Restie, Randy, Ricky (me), Gaby, Eric, Limwel and Ambet. All of us riding big bikes and looking like tough guys with our gears and boots. In reality, we are just like little boys who want to getaway and get lost.

Quirino is such a discovery. It’s worth road trip to Ilocos Sur. The highways from Manila all the way to Ilocos are well paved.

We met at Km. 42 Petron gas station at the NLEX by 6:30 am. Had breakfast at Mcdo and then had a briefing by Restie. He also led a prayer for our safe travel.

In Candon, we took a turn towards San Emilio town. After riding for more than 6 hours, we were thinking of staying the night there. But it was still early so we rode on to see the Skyline.

Going there via the twisty mountain road, the weather became cooler as we went further up  The Skyline is actually a view deck where one can have a bird’s eye view of the Quirino, Tubo mountains and the Abra river.

While we were enjoying the view and taking photos and selfies, the cool fog suddenly descended upon us and covered the sights at exactly 5pm as if saying that the place had closed for business.

The sun was fast setting and we had to move on to find a place to stay for the night. A local igorot fellow who was hanging out at the view deck pointed us to the town down by the Abra river. He said we can find a place to eat and sleep there.

When we reached the town, we asked a group of young girls where we could stay and one of them suggested for us to meet the Barangay Captain who happens to be her tatay. Jennifer told us to drive uphill to the poblacion and look for Kap Padao.

The poblacion is small and as we reached the covered basketball court, we parked our bikes and Restie looked for Kap. His house was just down the road nearby and we met him together with other locals while they were gathered around a bon fire. They were cooking a newly slaughtered carabao.

Kap is a burly man in his 50s who seemed friendly but who doesn’t smile too much. Restie befriended everyone right away. A nice young fellow named Segundo told us that their place had a better waterfalls than Tubo. He said theirs had seven layers!

It was all it took for us to bite the bait and decide to spend the night right there at Kap’s place. He offered his place where we can pitch our tents while the others can use his brother’s house.

They also offered to be our guides to the Kayapa water falls and the hot springs.

Luckily, they had just slaughtered a carabao who broke a leg and they were cooking it to share with the townsfolks.

And so we gathered by the fire and sat with the men of Quirino as we partook of carabao meat and innards as side dish.We drank rounds of Ginebra San Miguel quatro quantos, the popular gin in the country, and we bonded like brothers into the night.

They said they felt honored to have us as guests and in their culture, they treat their guests as one of their own, assuring us of our safety and comfort during our stay. Such is the hospitality of the igorots in this town.

So what did we discover in this quiet simple town?

We learned that they plant rice not for commercial use but for their sustenance. They hoard their harvest and sell only the surplus, thus, assuring them that no one goes hungry.

We discovered Kayapa Waterfalls after hiking 2 hours through rice fields, forests and mountain trails. Segundo was right. Their water falls is majestic, its water pristine clear. Few visitors get to see it. It is certainly worth the trek.

There used to be hot springs in the other river. We also hiked to see it but even though the river was wonderful, the hot spring pools no longer exists.

There are still hot springs seeping through the river rockbeds but after massive eruption of the Mt. Pinatubo way back in 1990s, the pools of disappeared.

The people of Quirino wishes that someday more people will visit their hidden haven and bring some tourism activity. They hope for us to tell others of the beauty of Quirino.

We spent 2 nights in Quirino but before heading back home, we gave away some toys and other stuff to the children as our way of showing our appreciation, The Long Riders way.

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Barangay Malico is now on The Long Riders’ Map

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

September 23,2017

What happens when twenty middle aged men go on an adventure ride on big bikes? They become kids again! Such is The Long Riders’ character.

Grown men become young boys again

Our destination was in Brgy. Malico in Santa Fe Nueva Vizcaya. I know, nobody knows where this is. It was only recently when the paved roads reached this piece of heaven.
It is about 300 kilometers from Metro Manila and after 6 hours of riding you hit Santa Fe and from the junction turn left and travel for about 15 kilometers of mountain twisties.

It is a hidden gem. Think Sagada 20 years ago. Cool weather, pine trees, mountain views and gentle people.

When we arrived at about 1pm, we parked our big bikes and like high school boys we scramble for our respective spaces in the front yard of Malico Country Inn  to pitch our tents. Those without tents had cots in the main house with clean sheets and blankets. It felt like those dormitories in the university belt back in day.

We pitch tent in the front yard like high school boys

We stayed for 2 nights riding our trustee big toys for the boys, hiking to the sites, swimming by waterfalls and exploring nature like boy scouts.

There are 2 nearby falls. A small one, Hingi Falls, which is just a 5 minute walk from the road and another by one hour trek. The bigger one has seven layers and the current is strong. We also rode to where the Americans left a Sherman Tank during World War II. We also hiked uphill to the Salacsac Pass Monument where you can view Malico.

The monument is a memorial to honor the thousands of Japanese and American soldiers who died there during the war.

Hingi Falls

Seven Layers Water Falls

Horse Playtime

WWII Sherman Tank

Salacsac Memorial

Untouched Nature

Of course we drank. At the Malico Country Inn, at the falls, and while trekking. Most of us woke up that first morning not remembering how the night ended. Some had more to drink but had to get up in the middle of the night to throw up. Another one couldn’t hold it and blew it all out on the other guy’s blanket.

Drinking the night away

Brandy and Freshly grilled Pork

Conversations were nonsense and there was just a lot of cheering and heckling. Barangay Malico became noisy that first night. The Long Riders were happily being young at heart once again.

Before we left for home, we gathered the children before they went to Sunday service and gave them toys.

Bringing Joy with toys

Cool, quaint and immaculate. Malico is now on our riders’ map.

Serenity with Nature

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Taipei is an Impressive Urban Escape

August 29, 2017

BY RICKY MONTECILLO

Traveling to other countries allow us to compare them to the Philippines. Not to look down on our own but to learn from the good things we see abroad.

Last 3-day weekend from August 26 to August 28, 2017, my wife Tina, daughter Samantha and I went to Taipei, Taiwan. Working for an airline company, it is easier for us to go on trips owing to our travel benefits.

Travel benefits

We had fun going around Taipei. It doesn’t take much time or days away to see a lot of Taipei. We stayed there for only 2 nights and we covered a lot of bases. It is also not expensive. Our hotel, Midtown Richardson, is right beside the Ximending district. It is nice , clean and priced reasonably. We paid only about 11,000 pesos for the 2 nights. It’s location is perfect. You are right in the middle of the city. Well, that’s why it’s called “Midtown”.

Midtown Richardson Hotel

So what are the things that struck me in Taipei? Foremost is the environment, the city is clean and orderly. The road network of highways and skyways are wide and awesome. Not once did we have to pay toll for the roads.

Taipei’s Highways

From the Taoyuan airport (formerly the Chiang Kai-shek airport), we took a taxi cab to the hotel and it took us about an hour. You may also use the bus, train or the MRT but we chose the cab because since there were 3 of us, it was cost effective.

Upon seeing the airport I was already impressed. The floors are squeaky clean and shiny and the structure is modern. As they say, airports make first impressions about its country and the Taoyuan airport makes for a very good one.

Taoyuan Airport

At the airport, better change your money, either Philippine Peso or US dollar to the TWD or the Taiwan new Dollar as there no money changers in Taipei.

We went around Taipei using the MRT. We bought those 3-day passes at the MRT station, which we used for our entire stay. It’s cheaper and convenient.

Taipei’s efficient MRT

Inside the Train

The trains and stations were interesting for me as I got to observe the culture and people as they commute. There are so many young people and few oldies in the MRT. The commuters are decently attired and even in crowds, they are very disciplined. They line up properly in the train doors, the comfort rooms, the escalators. Even when they are rushing, they don’t cut into others.

It’s simply impressive how the Taiwanese are very organised and disciplined. Samantha even noted, “Dad, they are not noisy.” In the streets and in the trains, they keep to themselves and even youngsters are not boisterous.

In just two days we were able to see the Tapei 101 Observatory building, we went to the Ximending market, the Tamsui or the Old Street by the river, and the night market in Shilin, and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and we even saw some parks and temples.

Taipei 101, the tallest building in the country

In the Shilin Night Market, there were lots of people moving about amid the hundreds of small food stalls and stores. It seemed like a fiesta or a parade but we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. There are street food vendors everywhere, selling sausages, squids, beef, fish balls, soup, noodles name it!

At the Shilin night market where there are hundreds of street food stalls

It is a street-food heaven!

Having tried many of their food, I needed to throw away some of the used sticks and cartons but I couldn’t find garbage cans. After a while, I asked a vendor where to find one and he told me that in the Shilin district there are no garbage containers.

Street food heaven! in Old Street

Everyone is expected to take home whatever trash they have. I was stupefied! The street market had so many people and lots of street food, yet it was so clean. Imagine Baclaran without trash! Amazing! How do they do it?

My impression is Taiwan has a good economy and it seems that most of the people there are gainfully employed or are earning through small businesses.

They have a strong middle class and few poor people. For such a vibrant city, I can count with my fingers with one hand the poor persons I saw in the streets.

Xiaolongbao

When you have the chance, it is worth the travel and experience. Taipei is vibrant yet subdued. The people are nice and disciplined and you feel safe wherever you go. You can come up to anyone and ask for assistance and even when they cannot speak english well, they will still try to help.

Old Street Bay Side in Tamsui

To be honest, I thought that Taipei was much worse. Maybe I was thinking it was like our own Binondo district, but no, Taipei is modern, clean and its people disciplined.

I am glad we went.

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Priceless “Moments” in Cool Mountains of Brgy. Malico, Nueva Vizcaya

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.

“Life is not a matter of milestones, but of moments”

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.

Portions of unpaved roads

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.

Ricky Montecillo at the Malico Boundary

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.

Ifugao Cottages

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.

Malico Country Inn

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.

Restie and Wern with our young guide

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.

Wern Asprec, Ricky Montecillo and Restie Renia

American Tank WW II Vintage

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 Waterfalls

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!”

“Malamig ba? (It is 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.

Boy jumps from the top

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.

Children gather to receive gifts

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.

Wern Asprec as Santa Claus

Their innocent expressions of joy is simply priceless. Those are the “moments” that fill up our lives as riders.

Restie Renia poses with the happy little ones

Their innocent expressions of joy is simply priceless

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.

Our “moment” with brandy and nature

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”.

Rustic ambience money cannot buy

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.

Our Ifugao Cottage

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.

First class Ifugao cottage

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.

Pine Forest

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!

Wern, Restie and Ricky

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