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 trip to Botolan, Zambales.
For big bikers like us, the 230 kilometer trip isn’t much of a ride but it’s a good enough distance for us to enjoy the weekend of getting away on our trusty big bikes.
The Long Riders motorcycle club is getting to be known in the moto-circle as the group that trail blazes new destinations and off-the-beaten path locations. So when Restie Renia invited us to go to Botolan, we knew we were in for another out-of-the-box surprise.
It turns out that the mayor of Botolan, Doris Jeresano used to be the school classmate of Long Rider Wern Asprec. Mayor Dorris’ family owns the Kainomayan Camp which is fast becoming the jump-off point to visitors who go on adventure trips to Mt. Pinatubo.
Mt. Pinatubo, Mayor Doris explained, is actually part of Botolan. However, the more popular place to go for a Mt. Pinatubo adventure is via Capas, Tarlac.
To help the Aeta natives in Botolan earn a living, the local government is developing the Municipality of Botolan as a better alternative for the Mt. Pinatubo trips. “Our trips are more scenic”, Mayor Morris said.
But more than the famous Mt. Pinatubo, Botolan also boasts of its Tukal-tukal Waterfalls and also the Bibig ng Impyerno falls. Translated, it means the mouth of Hell. The Long Riders being what we are, we opted to discover the waterfalls destinations because fewer people ever go there.
It takes only more than 3 hours by motorcycle to reach Botolan from Metro Manila. But if you include the time spent for coffee, meals and story telling, it takes half a day. So it was already past 2pm when we arrived in the Kainomayan Camp.
It is a wide open area being developed into an adventure camp site. There are young pine trees and other trees for shade. There is plenty of space for pitching tents and there are several make shift shower rooms and toilets. Actually, it is still a work in progress but lots of visitors are already coming for the Pinatubo adventures.
It’s January and the weather is cool. There is also a constant breeze coming from the mountain ranges and the nearby ocean. We were assigned to sleep cowboy style in the big activity area. Some of us pitched tents while some made do with sleeping on the bamboo benches.
With not much time before it gets dark, we first went to the nearby Bancal River resort. It’s a 15 minute drive. We rode the resort’s Hummer driven by Jomar who used to be a driver for Victory Liner, before he decided to work for the Municipality. He said he is part Kulot and part unat, referring to the natural hair of being curled or straight to describe which Aeta tribe he belongs.
Many Aeta natives live in Botolan and many of them were displaced when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the 1991. It was one of the strongest volcanic eruption in human history.
Bancal River resort is a small resort. You can swim in its clean and wide river by the highway bridge and rent a floating cottage to eat and or drink. The river is near the ocean and the combination of fresh and sea water makes for the ever changing temperature and taste of the water. We rented a cottage where we consumed our first liter of Johnny Walker Black label.
It was start of our fun filled and happy adventure!
Imagine, just a stone’s throw from the highway is a clean river with huts where one can swim, enjoy the fresh air and drink with new found friends. Such is what life offers in Botolan. Simple natural wonders for the taking.
By the time we arrived back at the Kainomayan Camp site, we were already feeling buzzed but ready for more. The three other riders who followed were already there. So we were a total of 9 riders on big bikes led by our group leader Restie Renia, Peter Barrientos, Wern Asprec, Eric Fabellar, Limm Uel, Gabby, Roland Tom J Cruz , Bong De Leon and myself Ricky Montecillo.
Mayor Doris arrived and food was served, care of our gracious hosts. We were served lechon and fresh seafood!
Like hungry soldiers from a long journey, we partook of the meal and got to meet the Pinatubo Riders, one of whose member is also the husband of Mayor Doris. It was a fun-filled evening full of drinking and story telling and laughter, like little boys having fun away from home without parental supervision.
It wasn’t the right way to spend the night before the scheduled adventure trek to the mountains the following early morning. But where is the fun of getting away if we weren’t going to get wasted.
Even as we slept on the bamboo benches without cushions or pillows, the effects of alcohol numbed us into sleeping soundly amid the cool strong winds of Botolan. The breeze even had sounds coming from the surrounding pine trees, almost like howling.
Waking up before sunrise, we got ready for the Hummer ride to the mountains. We drove 4X4 on the mostly rough and rocky road for about an hour until the starting point for the hike to the falls.
The weather was cool and cloudy so it was comfortable. We hiked through hills and mountains and even though there weren’t many trees, it was comfortable.
First stop was the Bibig ng Impyerno falls, just a short walk from the drop-off. It’s a small water falls in between big stone edge formations. The gushing clean deep green water flows to a catch basin. The water is clear but very deep. They say that nobody has measured the depth yet.
By it’s name, Mouth of Hell, the falls give an eerie feel to it and it’s intimidating. During the safety briefing at the camp, I asked if we are allowed to swim in Hell and they said it’s okay.
So as we arrived there, we were excited to remove our hiking shoes and shirts to dip and swim into the cold water of “hell”! It was so cold and refreshing! We swam into the pool and dared to jump from a ledge beside the mouth of the falls!
Rafael, our senior guide, said that it was the first time for any visitor to have swam all the way to where the water fell. He said he was watching me with guarded eyes as I swam against the strong current until I was directly behind the curtain of water from the Mouth of Hell waterfalls. Another first for the Long Riders!
Our next stop was the Tukal-tukal waterfalls. The name means layer by layer, which describes the four layer waterfalls. It is a sight to see! The tallest level must be around a 100 feet from the lowest level. It is also the biggest. It drops into a pool and each falls gets smaller and all of them have catch basins.
Gaby was the first to jump from atop the fourth level falls. Not to be outdone, Peter and I also dared to jump! Jumping into waterfalls from its cliff is heart pumping. At our age, doing such foolish things gets our blood flowing, just like when we were teenagers!
According to Rafael, they drink the water from there as it is clean and pure. Here in the City, we have to buy our drinking water and we don’t even know if it is pure or clean.
The hike going back was faster and we were just in time for another delicious meal prepared by our hosts. We had fresh seafoods this time and nice hot soup.
After taking some much needed rest and naps, we started getting ready for our moto ride back to Manila. But before the ride home, we passed by the road side Aeta community where we gave away some toys and goodies. This is The Long Riders’ way of spreading joy and goodwill to the least of our brothers and sisters.
We believe in leaving a good mark to the places we visit, put smile on their faces and make others feel good.
On the way home, passed by the next town Iba, Zambales where Gaby comes from. He said that his dad prepared food (again!) for us.
What a nice side trip. Gaby’s place is right beside the fish pens by the river. It has a small nipa hut where we ate and rested some more.
We were chatting and just hanging out when Bong De Leon declared that it was actually a special day for him. He said, “Birthday ko ngayon…”
Tito Peter stood up and said that we had to celebrate! He took out his wallet and got one thousand pesos. He proposed for each one of us to give one K each and celebrate in Subic! And so we did. Our 3 hour road trip back home just got longer as we had a dinner celebration for Bong at the Texas Joe’s House of Ribs!
By the time I arrived home past midnight, I was exhausted. But really. How can one get tired of riding, drinking with buddies, enjoying the views of the mountains and jumping into the pools of waterfalls? Actually, with the Long Riders, you just can’t get enough.
Till the next ride!!!