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!