Into The Woods To Reconnect | Bacalla Woods Campsite

Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. ~John Muir

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The infinity swing. (Photo by Hailey)

I can start this post with a cliche about how time goes by so swiftly but that’s probably going to ruin everyone’s interest in reading this. Hence let me just ask, how did you spend your first two weeks of the year?

For Ace and I, the first two weeks had been fairly challenging and fun. We started the year with big risks, with him quitting his job to start a business venture soon and me starting a part-time job in the morning in an offline academy (which both the offline and morning part I haven’t done for four years). So, the past few days was a whirlwind of the adjustment process.

Perhaps that’s enough excuse to spend a weekend away from everything.

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Catchy signs made from the bark of a coconut tree.

There’s this campsite that has been the talk of the town this week. Actually, Ace and I had been eyeing it since last year but never had the chance to visit it. I’m talking about Bacalla Woods Campsite. Fortunately, last weekend our plan finally came to life. Elliot’s celebrating his 8th months and we took him with us.

What made our adventure special and unique were our companions who came from four different countries. First was my offline student Hailey from Korea, joining with us were her friends, Airi from Japan and Yir from Taiwan. Later on the campsite, we were joined by Ian from Malaysia.

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The ASIAN gang! (L-R) Ian from Malaysia, Ace, Hailey from Korea, Airi from Japan, Demi, Yir from Taiwan.

Our escape started in Mandaue where we agreed to meet up. After we bought some provisions, we immediately headed to the South Bus terminal to take a bus to San Fernando, Cebu. Not too long, we found ourselves inside a mini-bus. The view from outside the bus while we passed by the South Road Properties signaled a fine day ahead contrary to the rainy day forecast the other night.

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Our view from the mini-bus while we passed by SRP. (Photo by Hailey)

The campsite is tucked in Libo, San Fernando, Cebu. As soon as we got off on the bus, we took a motorcycle to the place.

For those who are going on a private ride, looking for the campsite might be a little tricky since there aren’t any signs or directions along the way. But you can always ask the locals. Motorcycle drivers are also very familiar with the place.

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Welcome home!

Arriving at the place felt like home. As I stare at the log cabin, memories from my childhood when we used to visit my grandparent’s place in the countryside came flashing in. The campsite has no hint of lavishness nor a touch of modernity except the rice cooker. Everything is pretty basic.

I thought of it as a perfect opportunity for my foreign friends to get to know more about the Filipino culture.

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Hammocks and happiness! That’s exactly what there is!

We were welcomed by the friendly host of the campsite. We instantly felt like a family. I talked to the lady owner who kindly asks about our reservation. I like her! She did not flash a big smile on her face to make me or us comfortable. It’s just that, she didn’t need that, the place IS already comfortable. I was like casually talking to my aunt or my grandmother about something.

(Funny fact: I actually found it amusing because I am always cognizant about people welcoming guests with big smiles and colorful words to the point that they become “overly accommodating” and well “scripted” if you know what I mean. Personally, I don’t like people who keep asking if I’m okay or if I’m comfortable or anything like that. It really annoys me.)

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The rustic luxury. (Our tent is the orange one.)

So, Hailey, Airi, and Yir chose to stay in a hammock on the second floor of the cabin overlooking the mountains. While Ace, Elliot and I stayed on the tent that we brought with us. We were free to pitch the tent anywhere, and we decided to just put it near the entrance so we can easily look after our things.

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Our friend’s hammock.

Let’s go back to what made the fuss on the web recently.

Bacalla Woods Campsite is touted as the “Bali of Cebu” because of its infinity swing fronting the verdant mountains of the town. Its ropes are tied on a branch of the tree and it is suspended in the abyss.

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Swing like there’s no tomorrow. (Photo by Hailey)

Another thing that I love about the place was the fact that they are animal-friendly. Gosh, they have a lot of pets. Elliot had a great time running around and socializing with other dogs. He even chased chickens in the woods.

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The most photogenic cat in the campsite. (Photo by Hailey)

As the evening came close, the campsite already ran out of tents and hammocks for rent still more and more campers arrived. Some persistent ones agreed to find their own way to get through the night.

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Life is indeed better in the mountains and in the woods!

While Ace was busy preparing our dinner, we, on the other hand, were busy talking. It’s not every day you get to be in a circle of people with different nationalities, you know. So, yeah, we had a lot of talks — from cultures to languages. The talk just got louder and funnier when Ian who’s from Malaysia joined the group.

As soon as dinner was ready, we happily shared our food together. After eating, Yir and Airi volunteered to do the dishes.

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Everybody enjoyed the rest of the night just listening to each other’s stories. It rained that night. Most campers especially those who stayed in hammocks gathered in the cabin for shelter. Hailey, Airi, Yir, and Ian had fun talking and having a drink with a group of call center agents. The night was filled with loud laughter going along the beat of the raindrops.

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(Photo by Hailey)

Almost everybody woke up early the next day hoping to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the sky was covered with thick clouds making it impossible to see the sun. Nonetheless, we were still excited because after breakfast we went trekking to Bugho falls.

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Elliot and Ace in Bugho Falls.

We trekked on paved road and muddy trail for two hours. I am so proud of Elliot for surviving the hike, although, we had to carry him sometimes. When we arrived on the river, Elliot was at first afraid, but when he saw the flow of the water making bubbles as it hit a rock, he tried catching it. Eventually, he was enjoying. Ace and I did not swim because we had so much fun watching Elliot playing on the water.

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Visitors falling in line to try the infinity swing. (Photo by Hailey)

We came back to the campsite in time for lunch. We changed clothes, packed our things and prepared to go home. We agreed to have our lunch at the town center so they can try Filipino dish.

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Ace and Demi plus Elliot. (Photo by Hailey)

Staying at the campsite was a wonderful experience for Ace, Elliot, and me. The disconnection made us reconnect with ourselves and with each other. Our foreign friends who joined us also made our stay worthwhile.

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How to get there?

  • Ride a bus from the South Bus Terminal and drop off at the Hidden Paradise Mountain Resort corner in Pitalo, San Fernando. (1-2hrs)
  • Hail a habal-habal or motorcycle to the campsite. (20-30mins) Fare: 45/person

Other information:

  • You may bring your own food or cook at the campsite. You can also order from their menu but make sure to call them for reservation.
  • There is NO SIGNAL in the area.
  • If you’re not bringing your own hammock or tents, you may reserve in advance to avoid inconvenience.
  • Php200 — Overnight entrance fee with breakfast
  • Php100 — Day use entrance fee
  • Php50   — Trekking to Bugho Falls
  • Php150 — Hammock rental
  • Php300 — Tent rental
  • Don’t forget your insect repellents.

And lastly, ENJOY a life unplugged!

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Over to you, when was the last time you have unplugged your life from modernity? We’d love to hear from you.

‘Til our next adventure!

Keep safe!

Love, Ace and Demi plus Elliot

 

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We Left Our Hearts in The Islands of Dinagat. | Dinagat Islands

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

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On our way to Dinagat Island.

That’s what we exactly did when we visited one of the underrated group of islands in the country — the Dinagat Islands. Also called the Mystical Island Province of Love, the place was incredibly alluring.

We went to the island with ALL our hearts, but we left them there.

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Duyos beach sandbar. 

I don’t know any other word to describe this group of islands other than surreal and mystical. It has the ability to capture the hearts of every visitor including ours.

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Demi during the break of dawn. 

Our sojourn started before cockcrow as we took the first ferry ride to the mainland of this young province. I was feeling drowsy but I didn’t want to miss the beautiful sunrise as it started to paint the sky. Ace and I stepped out of the passenger seats and went to the deck to get a glimpse of the first light of the day.

 

The warmth of the new day and the cool breeze of the wind was telling us that it was going to be a wonderful day. Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect in Dinagat Islands because the place is usually overlooked and does not make much fuss. In fact, I really didn’t have any idea about it in the first place.

As a wanderer, I have this thought that there is beauty everywhere if you know how to look at it.  But I did not expect that this island province has so much beauty that it made me leave my heart on it.

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The gang during our arrival. 

My heart skipped a beat as our ride neared the port of San Jose. My friends were already up and we prepared to get off the boat. It docked in a small pier and we were welcomed with this row of houses.

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Row of houses in San Jose. 

At first sight, the place does not seem to offer anything special. But one thing I’ve learned from traveling is to never underestimate a humble place like this.

We walked through the streets of San Jose to meet our guide and transferred to a smaller boat for the tour. Our guide prepared a sumptuous breakfast for us which we ate on board while on our way to our first stop.

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A picturesque spot on the other side of Isla Aga.

Our first stop was a private islet called Isla Aga. It has an abandoned resthouse which was owned by the famous Ecleo family – the most powerful clan in Dinagat Islands. If you guys are familiar with PBMA (Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association), then yes, I’m talking about Ruben Ecleo Sr.’s family.

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Ace in Isla Aga.

From the balcony of the house, smaller islets which seem to be floating in the cerulean sea surrounding this private island is a sight to behold.

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A stunning vista of the islets from the abandoned rest house in Isla Aga.

At the back of the resthouse was a hanging bridge suspended above the crystal clear water. However, the bridge was already broken.

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The broken hanging bridge.

We did not miss dipping into the water here, of course.

After few minutes, we decided to resume our tour. We stopped by another island which looked similar to that of Palawan Island. This serves as the home of some Kalaw birds or the Philippine Hornbills. They call it  Kabukungan Island.

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A rock formation that serves as home of some Kalaw birds or the Philippine Hornbills in another Dinagat Islands’ islet. (Kabukungan Islet.)

When we arrived, there was no other visitor yet. The group decided to have our lunch here. While our guide and boatmen were preparing our meal, some of us took a tour of the islet while others are enjoying the waters.

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After lunch, we went to another island called Bababu. They said there’s a lake 45 minutes away from the beach. But we did not go there because of the constraint of time.

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Ace in Bababu beach. 

While the rest of the group were busy swimming, I got the chance to talk to an elderly lady sitting in a small hut nearby. I found out that his late husband was the one who discovered the lake. She said he loved the place so much that during the dusk of his life, he wished to be buried in the island. (See photo below. He was buried beside the trail going to the lake.)

She even told me that when she dies, she has the same wish as his late husband. So their spirits could guard the island even when they’re already gone. I thought that’s oddly romantic.

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Although I still wanted to hear more stories from her, we had to get going and proceed to our next stop.

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The fine sandbar in one of the islets of Dinagat Islands. (Duyos Beach)

Our next stop was Duyos Beach.

And oh that sandbar!!! I was speechless! I couldn’t help lying down and rolling over like a kid on the white powdery sand.

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Of all the islands that visited that day, I noticed only Duyos had established cottages, stores, and even karaoke machines. There were also a lot of people.  We only stayed in the sandbar area, though.

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The girls.

Our tour concluded in Bitaog Beach. We heard it was the most frequented by visitors but at that time we had the island all for ourselves. We swam to our hearts’ content there because it was our last stop. Ace and I even forgot to take a photo because we had so much fun swimming.

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Ace and Demi in Dinagat island. (Duyos Beach sandbar)

Truly, Dinagat Islands left me in awe. When we returned to Cebu, the first thing I did when I got the hold of my computer was searched about Dinagat Islands. I was surprised to know that there was still more of it. What we saw was only one face of the mystical island.

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Ace and Demi love Surigao! 

And that’s when we realized we might have left our heart there intentionally. So we have the reason to come back.

 

 

P.S You might want to read our adventure in Bucas GrandeSohoton Cove National Park and Enchanted River.

PP.S A huge thanks to our friend Annel Hope Mayuga and to her wonderful family for adopting us during our four days stay in Surigao. Thank you for your warm welcome and for making this venture possible. ’til next time.

Scaled (700+ MASL) Mt Mago With a Toddler | The Boundary Climb

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The Boundary Climb.

One gloomy Saturday, together with our good friend Niña, we decided to do the boundary climb to Mount Mago in Carmen, Cebu. Because of the last-minute decision, I asked my sister’s husband who happens to live in Carmen, to take us to the jump-off point.

We were already in their house when he told us that no one could look after my niece, Ahkirah. Without hesitation, I said we’re going to take her with us. And off we go!

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The motorcycle ride.

We never expected an hour butt-aching ride to the jump off point. The road was slippery because of the other night’s rain and fog.

When we passed by Durano Eco Farm and the Lhuiller’s Farm, the temperature dropped lower than expected which meant we were already in a higher altitude. We saw a lot of pine trees and vegetation that only grow in cold places, too.

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After we passed by the Lhuiller’s Ranch, we had a quick stop over at an intersecting road separated by a perfect muffin-like hill. While waiting to ease the pain on our behind due to that painstaking ride, Niña and I agreed to climb the little hill with Ahkirah.

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Free!

And oh, I don’t know how to describe how we felt but we wished to just stay at the top and end our jaunt there because it was just AMAZING!

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Soaring high!

The top of the hill is denuded perhaps because of the recent dry season. The soil was red, like really red. While we were on top, we called Ace and Dan-Dan to climb and see it. We felt like we were already on the top of the world. The colors around were so rich and fulfilling to the eye. I, personally, admired how the colors green, blue, red and white complimented each other.

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We arrived at Barangay Santican which is the jump off point of the trek. The person who was assigned to list our names for registration was not around, instead, we were given two young lads to guide us to the boundary.

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We immediately started our hike after Ahkirah devoured one hanging rice. We walked through a fully established trail but it was muddy because of the rain on the previous night. Ahkirah, on the other hand, walked for few minutes and asked to be carried because it was muddy and she was having a hard time walking. We took turns in carrying her. And when she has rested her feet enough, she also asked to be put down and walk by herself. Now, I see a future adventurer in her.

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Hindi pa ako pagod, bes. Siya lang naman napagod eh.

Few meter from the jump-off point, we passed by a couple of houses and eventually, grassy slopes.  Although it was cloudy, I thought the weather was with us because it was not hot.

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We had to stop for short breaks to regain energy. Actually, the hike was not very draining because the trail was pretty established and the hills are not too high.

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The only problem we had, I guess, was the amorseco grass that clings to Niña’s and Ahkirah’s pants and shorts. Ahkira complained that it was itchy so we had to make a few stops to remove some of them so she can walk with ease.

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Buti pa ang amorseco, clingy at nag stay.

But those clingy grass did not make our trek less enjoyable. We were rewarded with a wonderful sight of the grassy slopes, green with envy.

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Look at that wonderful verdure! Made me want to stay here and paint.

After almost two hours of trekking through valleys and plains, we finally arrived at the boundary sign. Imagine being in three towns at the same time?

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I feel awesome~~~!!!

I couldn’t forget Ahkirah’s face when I told her she did it! She was very happy and ecstatic as she ran towards me in the boundary sign with her dad following her.

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Yes! You did it, baby!!!

I bet her dad was very proud because I am. Considering her age and her inexperience, surviving that two-hour journey was indeed a BIG accomplishment for a two-year old kid.

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Congratulations, Kida!!! Tita is very proud of you.

After feeding our eyes and souls with the refreshing sight around, we ate our lunch to replenish our tummies. After a while, the clouds above us became darker. As much as we wanted to stay longer, we couldn’t risk soaking in the rain with Ahkirah.

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But as we started to descend, the wind seemed to have blown the clouds away. 😀 Which was a really good thing, so we didn’t have to hurry home.

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We were given a good chance to bask in nature and take photos to remind us of the beauty of the place. Ahkirah had a great time running in the field while we were happily watching.

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You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is calling… so, get on your way!

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Ahkirah at Mt Mago.

When we arrived at the basketball court where we left our motorcycles, the rain started pouring heavily, as if heaven waited for us to find shelter. While waiting for the rain to stop, we had fun watching some kids feeding bananas to a little monkey in a sari-sari store across the basketball court.

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As soon as the pouring stopped, we headed home feeling contented and happy with our experience.

Just when we thought our jaunt had enough surprises…

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Sea of clouds!!!

As we passed by the red hill where we stopped on our way to the jump-off point, a sea of clouds showed up to complete our AWESOME experience.

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Drifting away.

We were so amazed by the sight of it. Words of amazement and gratefulness were all we uttered. We stared at it until it started drifting away before we realized to take a photo.

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Sea of clouds bidding goodbye!

Although we were unable to take a photo of clouds floating near us because we were very consumed by the sight, the picture of it is painted in our memory and that’s what matters most.

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Hooray for the wonderful experience!

Our worthwhile experience is something no words can really define — not even this thousand-word post. Mt Mago is not a mountain of struggles and not for people who wanted it extreme. But for a two-year-old kid’s first trekking experience? It is something she’d treasure forever. And if she forgot it, I will never get tired telling her how she scaled a 700+ Masl mountain for two hours when she was only a two-year old. 

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I did it! — Ahkirah

Should I come back? Definitely!

Thank you for reading this long story about our boundary climb to Mt Mago. We appreciate it. So, how did we survive our trek with a two-year old child? You can read our post about the tips and lessons on how to survive a trek with a toddler.

‘Til our next adventure!

Keep safe!

Love, Ace and Demi and Ahkirah.

Mangitngit Falls in Middle Earth Spring Resort | Discover Carmen

Carmen is known to be home of cold springs. If you need a quick break from the heat in the city, Carmen is your place to go. Head to Durano Eco Farm if you want to swim in the midst of a rainforest or you can simply take a dip in Uragay Spring Resort.

Not too long ago, another cold spring resort opened its home for the public. It is the Middle Earth Spring Resort.

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So, the misadventure that we had brought us here. Wait, did I say it brought us to Mangitngit Falls? Yeah, I did. And yes, we’re here!!

So what happened to Mangitngit Falls? 

Just a quick lookback in 2007, the falls met a tragic fate — a landslide that took two lives. It resulted to the closure and the prohibition of going or coming near the falls. 

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Mangitngit Falls, Carmen, Cebu

Years had passed… the public are now given a chance to see the beauty of this infamous waterfalls again.  As Mangitngit Falls opened its door to the people, so as Middle Earth Spring Resort which serves as the living room of the place.

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Middle Earth Spring Resort

Middle Earth Spring Resort is tucked in lower Natimao-an, Carmen, Cebu. This is the gateway to glimpse Mangitngit Falls.

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The resort has three swimming pools. All pools are filled with a free-flowing, non-chlorinated water from the spring where the water from Mangitngit falls was also coming from.

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The water is ice-cold. But my niece Ahkirah really had a great time despite shivering from the cold. She really had a great resistance with cold temperature.

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While waiting for Ace to finish grilling the fish for lunch, we soaked this bottle of softdrinks in the flowing water.

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And, voila!!! That’s an instant chiller! 😀

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So, while the hubby was preparing our lunch, I explored the place and looked for the waterfalls. Because admittedly, I was not after the spring resort, I was much more interested with the falls.

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I was hoping to get a close shot with it, unfortunately, fences are being put to keep the visitors off and from getting near.

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I learned that the falls have three tiers. As much as I want to get a shot of each tiers, it’s not possible not unless you’re willing to take a risk and pay a fine for punishment. 😥

 

As I continued exploring the place and looked for a nice angle to see Mangitngit Falls, hubby joined me. We went down a stairway that leads to the middle of the forest.

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But, the forest is completely tamed, as the stairs was concreted and a viewing deck was made. This is where the visitors could glimpse Mangitngit Falls.

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This is already the closest shot one could get because the rest of the area is off-limit. It was like, Mangitngit Falls is dropping proudly. (So near, yet so far, eh?)

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A proof that the place is a landslide prone area. 

Just few meters from the basin of the falls, we noticed this eroded soil. The erosion looked fresh as if it happened just few days ago.

I researched about the closure of Mangitngit Falls several years ago. Geologists had inspected the soil and found out that the rocks surrounding the waterfall are phorus — a soft kind of rock that is prone to landslide.

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As much as we wanted to go near, keeping off is for our own good and safety. Perhaps, Mangitngit Falls is made for our eyes only. We personally thought that the prohibition is also beneficial for the falls itself because in this way, the falls would remain safe from the cruel hands of the people.

Nonetheless, we were glad to see the beauty of the falls even from afar. For now, let the visitors just see it this way and settle for the same water in the spring resort. 😀

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How to get to Middle Earth Spring Resort? 

Ride a bus from the North Bus Terminal. Any buses bound to north will pass by Carmen. Ask the driver to drop you off at the town’s public market. (Fare Php40.) From there, you can hail a motorcycle that will take you to the resort. (Fare is Php35/person.)

Fees and Amenities: 

The resort has an entrance fee of Php50 (adults) and Php30 (kids). There are cottages and kiosks for Php400-500. There are tables and chairs for rent for Php200.

The resort also have a karaoke for rent, although I haven’t asked the rental fee.

There is no restaurant in the area. We suggest you bring your own provisions.

 

We hope you find this post and guide helpful.

Over to you. What do you think about the falls’ prohibition?

‘Til our next adventure!

Keep safe!

Love, Ace and Demi.