Hulugan Falls: Chasing and letting go

Hulugan Falls

Hulugan, my second shot at chasing waterfalls after Daranak and Batlag in Tanay, Rizal. What started as one-time shot in re-exploring the adjacent province of Rizal has become a journey to what seems to be an infinite search for falling waterways…

Team Chasing Waterfalls

Team #chasingwaterfalls at Brgy. Kapitan’s house

Team #ChasingWaterfalls 

Daranak + Batlag Falls gave birth to Team #ChasingWaterfalls – a trio of independent souls seeking adventure in nature. After the fun-filled wanderlusting we had last January, Team #ChasingWaterfalls has grown from a trio to a team of five chasing Hulugan Falls in Luisiana, Laguna.

The Epic Trek and it’s Reward

Before we even embarked on this chase, we were aware that we have an easy trek to cover. It wasn’t a secret but having to go through steep descent myself proved to be a whole lot challenging than what was expected. As a disclaimer, while I am a runner, I am most certainly not a seasoned hiker.

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Matet engaging our guide, Kuya Leonardo

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The rest of #teamChasingWaterfalls while Matet was out on an engaging discussion with Kuya

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L-R: Yangsi, Backpacking Geek, Mick, l_unleashed

The first leg of of the trek was a brief introduction to the Brgy. San Salvador neighborhood.  Hulugan Falls has just gotten in the tides of social media hype and local government was quick to respond with the construction and development of the road leading to the falls. After the short hike along the road construction came the descent on the dirt trail and rockies.

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Quick rest stop before the very steep rockies and vines

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The goofie shot

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Are we there yet? 

A few more steps on the dirt and unstable pile of rocks and we can hear the sound of water rolling.

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Our first view

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A few more rockies and we were there! One good thing about chasing waterfalls on a weekday was, we get to have a minimal number of competitors for the majestic wonder of mother earth.

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Testing the water downstream

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Her Majesty – Hulugan Falls

We were early to avoid any potential crowd.  It was a caution we took in spite of the day being a Friday. We don’t want to risk being surprised by a crowded waterfall basin (paano na lang ang photoshoot ng traveling pink gown).  We were greeted by the majestic view of Hulugan and its enchanting melody.

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the mandatory selfie

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“Hold my hand. Let’s write this world’s fairytale ending together.” – Anita Krizzan

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Me and my so-called “vanity”

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“Love is always open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.” -Leo Buscaglia

buddhaMy signature Buddha pose

Because we almost have the falls to ourselves, we had the opportunity to indulge and play with the cool and refreshing mountain water.

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There are holes and small gorges that create some sort of natural jacuzzi. We had a good time lounging under the strong yet relaxing waters from the falls. I bet this was something pretty hard to achieve on a weekend with the influx of tourists both foreign and locals alike.

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Team #ChasingWaterfalls

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Meteor Garden or the Look-up Shot?

When all you wanted was to experience the beauty of this new found falling waterways, you get to be served with additional surprises!

“Sweets for my Sweet, Sugar for my Honey”

After getting the “Hulugan high” (ang taas ng hinulugan), we started trekking up on the other side of the mountain.  This time, we’re chasing Talay Falls. The trail wasn’t as difficult.  When I say “wasn’t difficult“, I meant there were less unstable rocks and loose soil.  It was another kind of challenge – we were moving against gravity (not to mention the ever perky Mr. Sun)!

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Rest stop! err..selfie stop, Matet?

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Lakad pa more!

I couldn’t complain much about Mr. Sun’s unwavering perkiness because a mudslide was the least of the things I want to endure.  I was pretty comfortable sweating like a mountain hog as I stride along the “easy” trail. The “Are we there yet?” has become a mantra until we reach a stream. We did a couple of stream crossings. Given the intensity of the mid-day sunshine, the occasional splash of water was extremely appreciated (sorry, we didn’t have any shots crossing streams).

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AHA! moment

“It was not as grand as Hulugan” was my first thought. But it was most definitely worth trekking. Talay Falls sits unassuming under the greenery. A perfect spot to have lunch if you packed one because there are bamboo tables and benches by the riverbank. Access to the falls however was a bit tricky. You have to watch your step. The trail, while it was short entails boulder climbing. One thing to note, Kuya Leonardo (our guide) warned us that the basin has a considerable depth. And I, being a self-confessed non-swimmer took the caution pretty seriously…I’m pretty much used to loving appreciating from a distance.

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Talay Falls, from a distance

Before I start climbing down the boulders, Kuya offered a surprise… He led me to the side of Talay Falls along more boulders and vines. Boulders and more boulders of huge proportion and a blue rope hanging from somewhere above a huge rock. I was not exactly prepared to climb some rocks as huge as these and I was definitely ill-prepared to climb rockies with just a rope…a blue rope. And I told myself, ‘What the heck! I’m already here and there’s no stopping me now…not my insecurities…and most definitely NOT my fear of the uncertain…’

When I reached the top of the rock, I thought that was it…that I’d be seeing milks and chocolates! Well…this was what’s at the  top.

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More boulders…more challenges

Reaching the top of the rocks, I was greeted with more boulders. This time, instead of going over them I was supposed to squeeze my huge self between towering rocks. So what exactly was all these brutally physical challenges for? These were all for the view at the top.  Whatever is feeding Talay Falls…

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Finally found this hidden gem!

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Hidden Falls

As the name implies, this falling waterways is well hidden, well kept… Only the worthy shall get a glimpse of this gem. In my mind, I wanted to trek a bit more to get closer…to feel the cold liquid springing from above…but with all the hurdles I had to endure, I was good sitting by a rock marveling  at this natural wonder…

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When it was time to head back to the group, I said hello to the same challenges, only in reverse! I managed to get some light dermal abrasions to remind me that the Hidden Falls ought to be hidden…to be revealed only to those who are worthy (and I have the audacity to call myself worthy…LOL).

Scratch if Off

As soon as we reached Brgy. Captain’s house, we ordered a binalot meal.  We were famished! We ate adobo rice with hard boiled egg prepared by Kap’s wife. After devouring our meal, we took turns in the shower and prepped to go home.

Everything was an adventure the moment we stepped out of the office that Friday morning. We did not let the day be over with just sitting in a jeep. We had to scratch off “Top Loading” in our bucket-list! Although it wasn’t really my first time, it was a thrill to top load on a jeep from San Salvador to Sta. Cruz.

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Luv-leh view at the top!

Here’s a brief overview of our adventure chasing Hulugan Falls.

 

How to get there!

Super short instructions on how to get to Hulugan Falls!

  1. Take a bus from Gil Puyat/Taft Ave. going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna and tell the bus conductor to drop you off at Pagsawitan
  2. When in Pagsawitan in Sta. Cruz, look for the jeep terminal going to Lucban in Quezon
  3. Take the jeep to Lucban and get off at Barangay San Salvador in Luisiana, Laguna (do not miss the marker! the San Salvador arch is on the right side of the highway)
  4. Register your name and/or group. This is where you get assigned a guide. Please note that a guide is mandatory
  5. Once registered, you will need to go on a trike ride to Village Chief’s house to pay the fee.  You can leave your extra stuff/bags if you want to. They also have shower rooms to freshen up after!
  6. Start trekking!

Damage Description

Chasing Hulugan will definitely not cost you an arm and a leg…except maybe it you fall and no one’s there to catch you…#hugoat!

  • Bus ride to Sta. Cruz, Laguna from DLTB Station in Gil Puyat – P 140 (P280 round trip)
  • Jeepney ride to San Salvador – P 30 (P 60 round trip)
  • Trike to Cap’s House – P 30 (P60 round trip)
  • Entrance fee – P 10 per person
  • Guide Fee – P 100 per person (no standard guide fee. give what you feel is right. We decided to chip in P 100 each for Kuya Leonardo)
  • Food – P 75 (per person) – we ordered for a binalot meal of chicken-pork adobo with egg. Super sulit meal!
  • Shower Room use – P 15 per use

Optional Damages –  some things you can forgo depending on your preference

  • Bibingka – 3 pieces for P 100 (comes with a native, handmade bag); one of the most flavorful bibingka I’ve tasted
  • Pancit Hab-hab –  P 10 per serving
  • Soft drinks (Soda) – P 75 (1.5 Liters)

 

Some of us take it to the inviting bubbles, foams and the soothing caress of gold to amber liquors to relieve ourselves from whatever pain we harbor in our hearts. On the other hand, there are some, like me who drowns in adrenaline and adventure that mother nature has to offer. Chasing waterfalls gave me that brief moment to fall into my tiny bubble (err maybe not that tiny for my size) and forget the bitterness inside.

In Hulugan, I embraced the idea that falling in love is beautiful like a waterfalls. Regardless of the the depth of its basin, you always find it catching you when you fall…maybe not to hold you for eternity, but simply at that moment when everything felt right…

I chased Hulugan…I fell for it… I stayed a bit and moved on to discover that some love are easy to be had while there are some that you have to cross streams and boulders only to realize that loving from a distance is best…

 

Ohhh enough! hahaha Until the next chase! #TeamChasingWaterfalls

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**Photo credits: Unmarked photos taken from the lenses of Yangsi and Mick

Caliraya 360: Surviving the “Hells” of Laguna

If you are going through hell, keep going
– Winston Churchill

Churchill’s words perfectly summed up how I survived Caliraya 360. Hell is one thing, getting through hell is another.

When I signed up for Caliraya 360, I was aware that the race will be challenging. It was, however, an understatement of the decade! The route was rather intimidating, at the very least for someone who has not raced in the mountains. So let me tell you how the Tabachingching Runner survived the “hells” of Cavinti, Laguna.

13 September 2015
12:35AM – Buzzer beater…

I crossed Ayala Avenue in the middle of the night trying to catch the shuttle to the race venue. I made it in the nick of time! A good warm up! Took us about an hour and a half to reach Lumban, Laguna where the race starts and ends.

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When we reached the covered court facing Lumban Town hall, the sky graced us with its tears. It was a light shower but it gave me a bit of worry for my non-water resistant flashlight c/o ADP (Philippines), Inc. The gun start was delayed which bought me some time to calm my nerves. I was alone in this race far from the Metro in an unfamiliar race route. It takes some getting used to…and then there was that slow send off. The inner streets of Lumban was narrow. The crowd slowly dispersed at the highway going to Pagsanjan.

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Leaving the town proper of Pagsanjan, we started the hike up Cavinti, Laguna. It wasn’t very steep at the beginning. The slope was manageable and I was able to jog up the hill. The view was breathtaking when the morning light started to crack over the mountain. The play of colors was just irresistible (wish I have some photos to share, but I was too distracted that I forgot to take some pictures).

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All hells broke loose after taking a selfie on the bridge over Bumbungan Eco-Park! (not because I took a selfie though). The hills were like devils on your knees and legs! It felt like a never-ending steep slope! But it’s a beautiful devil! The greens were endless and the air! …nothing can be more clean and refreshing! I can smell the leaves and the ground…dirt has never smelled that good!

Running up the mountains and seeing how the community thrives was grounding. Life is simple up there. They have that piece of peace minus the effort. How I wish I can wake up in the chirping of birds and cocking of the roosters in the early morning.   I longed for that laid back morning lounging under shades of majestic trees and enjoying slices of fruits…It is heaven…you see, for someone who has been living in the urban jungle for so long, these simple things are novelties! You don’t see it often.

When the road began to even out and the slopes became gentle, I met the lake I thought was Caliraya. I’ve been running and hiking and felt I’ve covered a lot of distance against the 34 kilometer stretch of the race. I stopped and admired the view. The water was quiet, as silent as the morning while the wind whispers sweet nothings, inviting the weary thoughts to lay on the greenery and dream. Then reality decided to pinch the aching legs…It’s Lumot Lake! We’re only halfway to the finish line.  So the runner has to continue on as the sun rises to warm the sleepy village…

A couple more slopes and the back’s screaming! The legs were starting to contract more often and running seemed to be a growing challenge.  How ironic that it was supposed to be a running event! It reminded me of doing more stretchings and more training! That one cannot take for granted every bit of opportunity to get those legs in good shape…I was at the brink of giving up…that every ambulance I passed by looked so inviting…that every stop was an open invitation to take the easy way out. But if there was one thing I never missed to train, ’twas my mind and my heart. I have always believed that when my legs have given up the fight, the heart pumps it’s hardest to lead me to the finish line…

Then there was that water stop…the good marshall cheered us…it’s just 10 more kilometers! 10 more! the head screamed silently to the heart! And a few more limping, skipping and walking, I saw the iconic dam…the emblem of this race – the Caliraya Dam…

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And hope breathed anew. The cool lake view and breeze blew away the nagging anxiety of not living to see the finish line so I stepped on those heels…

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I enjoy long distance running, not because I want to prove that I can…I mostly run the distance because I get that opportunity to speak to myself…to take that long silence inside and see through my inner thoughts and dig in my reverie so I can find the lost pieces when I am battling with my self-doubts and inner demons.

The road heading towards the finish line seemed so far after I turned my back against the breeze. My stomach was complaining. The energy gels no longer appease the monsters inside making me regret not taking that bag of M&Ms with me. Then there was this small sari-sari store by the road that sells slices of cakes and brownies. I asked for just a slice because I don’t want to get an upset stomach before I even see the finish line. I gave ate 20 pesos and was about to leave when she called and gave me my change. She said it’s only P 2 for a slice. Then it came to me that I am starting to read things wrong…Geez! I thought it was P 20 a slice! I smiled and thanked ate  for her honesty…that too was refreshing!

After the killer slopes that smashed my knees comes the heat of the morning! The intensity of Mr. Sun’s enthusiasm at 9 in the morning cannot be ignored. This time, I was wishing for some trees, for some cover but I only got grass which sometimes were higher than I am. A few steps, a limp and some skipping and the road started to roll down…It’s the last stretch and the longest four (4) kilometers! The rolling downhill was suppose to be easy. Gravity was suppose to make it easy…but…with an aching calf, blasted knees and shredded legs, running the last 4 km downhill was as challenging as the uphill!

I finally found myself being guided by a police officer to cross the street on the next turn making sure I am safe. I followed the streets as they narrow into the town center and to the gates of San Sebastian Church – the oldest stone church in the entire province of Laguna. I was back to where it all began! I was asked for by BIB # – it was 669…

After six hours of running, limping, skipping walking and figuratively crawling across the hills of Cavinti, Laguna, I finally made it!


34 Kilometers

360 Degrees around Laguna

Lumban – Pagsanjan – Cavinti – Caliraya – Lumban

Over six hours of hard labor


 

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And  I thanked God for staying with me while I  fight my inner demons. I thank the friendly runners who have shown concern when muscles contracted and I halt on the track. I say thank you to the supportive residents of Laguna, especially the children who cheered me and gave me hope! Thank you Runmania for letting me experience the beauty and hell of the mountains…I survived the ‘hells’ of Laguna…I conquered Caliraya 360 and lived to tell the tale…

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Photo Credits: RunNurse Photography • Tara Trip Tayo • KrProd Photography

Caliraya 360: Will I Survive the Hills of Laguna?

Caliraya 360 2015

With the very advanced registration for this year’s Run United Philippine Marathon happening in October, I feel like I need to scale up my training to get my legs ready for another full marathon (my 3rd for 2015). July has been a month of abstinence in running (birthday month – excuse). Now that it’s August with no scheduled race/run I was hunting for one.

I stumbled upon a new race – Subaru Marathon. I wanted to get in the groove and condition my body for the full mary in October so I was set to register for the 21K category.  The registration fee is quite steep but I needed a pre-marathon race.

This week though, while reading an article about ultra running for noobs (like I am), Caliraya 360 popped in! Not a 21K…not yet a full mary! It’s a 34 kilometer run organized by Run Mania. Below are some bits and pieces about the event I fished out from Pinoy Fitness.

 

September 13, 2015
Lumban Town Plaza, Laguna
34K/20K/8K/4K/1K

Registration Fees:
1K – P300
4K – P400
8K – P450
20K – P750
34K – P900

Inclusive of Singlet, Race Bib, Certificate, Medal for 20K finishers, trophy for 34K finishers.

Registration Venues:
*In-store Registration
– Mizuno Outlets : MOA, BGC, Trinoma, Festival Mall, Paseo de Sta. Rosa
– Red Gloves Boxing Gym Branches : Los Banos, Canlubang, Calamba City and Pagsanjan, Laguna
– Dotcom Internet Cafe (In front of 7Eleven near SLSU Lucban, Quezon)
– A/X Fitness Sta. Cruz, Laguna
– Alexis Gym Sta. Cruz, Laguna
– Run Mania Headquarters (122 Burgos St., Lumban, Laguna)

The race being outside Manila will be refreshing. Getting close to nature (read: trees, fresh air and Caliraya Lake) is something new for me who’s been running along the city roads for so long. In addition, I’ve read that the route is quite interesting (read: Challenging = uphill/downhill).

Credits: Photos grabbed from PinoyFitness.com

 

It’s all about pushing myself to the limits (with a lot more attention to health and well-being). It has been my personal mantra to listen to my body when I run.  I am not exactly the best fit runner so I make it a point to really take the cue from my legs and heart as well as other signs of pain or exhaustion.

With the decision to take the out-of-town race over the Subaru Marathon around the usual route, all I need now is to look for a Mizuno store to enlist.

Update (08/09/2015)

I found myself filling out the registration form at Mizuno  – Mall of Asia this afternoon for the 34K race.

Caliraya 360 bib + singlet
Registration Details:

  • Registration fee – P 900
  • Shuttle fee (Optional) – P 400 (round trip)
    • Pickup point –  Shell Gas Station (Ayala Avenue)
    • Time – 1AM – 1:15 AM
  • Assembly time at Lumban Town Plaza – 3AM
  • Gunstart: 4AM

Good luck and see you all on September 13!

 

 

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