The Storyteller’s Imaginarium – Casa San Miguel, Zambales

What lies in the heart of 15 hectare mango tree plantation in Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales is a museum of community heritage for the people, Casa San Miguel, that is.

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All in one. The place highlights the cultural heritage of the people of Zambales and houses several functions into one humble abode.

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Pasilyo!.

Art installations all over the place, all sorts of it.

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It also houses a preschool, workshop for all year round activities and a concert hall for recitals.

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Artifacts and museum pieces all over the place.

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Per aspera ad astra.

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A bed-and-breakfast and a cafe that serves impressive and cheap cuisines for the hungry travellers.

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Integrating culture and community development, modern living in a chateau style   brick and wood house.

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“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Go, Carve that Niche,

Rex

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Weekend Warriors – Mt. Hapunang Banoi (517+)

Rodriguez, Rizal
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal
LLA: 14°44′25.3′′ N, 121°11′30.4′ 517 MASL (+460m)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-3.5 hours
Specs: Minor, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 1-4 with limestone scrambling
Features: Limestone formations, scenic views of Sierra Madre and Rizal province
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

Where Eagles Come To Dine
A supposed to be chill day for a twin hike of the mountains of Montalban, Rizal turned out to be one of those climbs that we’ll definitely tick off from our bucket lists. Mt. Hapunang Banoi is one of the relatively unexplored mountains near the Montalban Gorge, and during the time of our visit we had no idea that we are in for an adventure. Hapunang Banoi when translated into the common tongue means where the Eagles(Banoi) come to perch (Hapon) and/or to dine. This shows how extensive the breeding grounds of the Eagles were ages ago.

Relatively Unexplored
An hour away from Cubao, we rode an FX going to Montalban from Farmer’s Market and alighted at the town proper. Then we hailed a tricycle going to the DENR office, upon arriving we are greeted by the people of the DENR Pamitinan Protected Landscape. After securing our permits and guide, the trek commenced. We passed by a hanging bridge and into a forest trail that will lead you to the Banoi Junction. This junction serves as a common trail for the two mountains, turn left for Hapunang Banoi, and right for Pamitinan.

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From the junction is where the rock scrambling begins, and no established trail is set since this is newly opened to the hikers. The rocks are still razor sharp compared with Pamitinan and can cut with the slightest graze. And after an hour of hiking and scrambling, we are welcomed by the 10 rock peaks of Hapunang Banoi.

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No Room for Errors
According to our guide Sir Arnel Zata, the mountain was rated 7/9 by the local office and was later rated into 4/9. But so far the trek couldn’t be anymore challenging without taking photos at devil-may-care parts of the mountain, no room for errors, just one take.

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One slip comes a hundred foot drop.

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Take nothing but memories.

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Behind the author is death and an awesome rock wall.

After the rock scrambling, the trail will be adjoined by a bamboo and rock trail with thorny flora all around.
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Yoloooo.

Jagged, On Point
After taking a 10min rest at the bamboo trail, we headed for the summit. This is where the climb took a notch higher in difficulty as rocks became more notorious, jagged and on point.

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After a quick rest.

And finally, summit!.

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The serpentine Wawa River as viewed from the summit.

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Mt. Pamitinan from Hapunang Banoi's view point.

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This was really fun and challenging, and a good alternative to Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan to lessen the foot traffic and impact on the twins.

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Rough and sharp.

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See you at the peak!.

Several more mountains are day hikeable around, some are Mt. Ayaas, Mt. Matamis na Luya, and Mt. Irid.  Since this is a twin day hike, the descent took an hour and we took our lunch at the Banoi junction before heading at the other side of the mountain, Mt. Pamitinan.

Itinerary and Expenses
Mt. Hapunang Banoi + Mt. Pamitinan Twin Day Hike
0445 – Assembly at Farmers Market Cubao
0500 – ETD, Take UV Express FX with signboard “Rodriguez”, alight at Eastwood. (50php/pax)
0615 – ETA, Eastwood, take tricycle to DENR station at Brgy. Wawa. (10php/pax)
0635 – ETA, Brgy. Wawa, eat breakfast. Pay fees and register. Secure guide. (Fee – 2php/pax, Guide – 500 per group of 5/per mountain)
0730 – Start Trek.
0830 – ETA Banoi Junction
1030 – summit
1215 – Back at Banoi Junction, eat lunch, rest
1300 – climb Mt. Pamitinan
1345 – Summit
1415 – Start Descent
1630 – Back at Brgy. Wawa, sidetrip to Wawa Dam
1700 – Tidy up
1730 – ETD to Cubao
2000 – ETA Cubao
2100 – Post Climb Dinner, Cubao Expo


Estimated Budget:

Transportation: 120php
Guides and fees: 800php/3pax – 267php/pax
Food: 200php
Total Damage:587php – 700php safe budget.

 “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Go, Carve that Niche,

Rex

On The Rocks – Mt. Pamitinan (462+)

Rodriguez, Rizal
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal
LLA (Pamitinan): 14°43′51.7′′N 121°11′29.2′′ E 426 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 1.5-3 hours (P)
Specs: Minor, Difficulty 3/9 / Trail class 1-4
Features: Limestone formations, scenic views of Sierra Madre and Rizal province
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

After our stopover at the Banoi Junction, since this was a Rizal twin day hike, we commenced the trek to summit Mt. Pamitinan. From the junction it was a good 20 minutes of hike from where we were.

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Why so cirrus?.

Bernardo, Who?
The mountain was coined from the word bitinan/pamitinan due to the presence of hordes of bats clinging into the ceilings of a cave at the footholds of this Sierra Madre mountain. And this place is known from the local folklore about a man named, Bernardo Carpio. He was trapped inside a gargantuan rock, and due to his sheer force, he managed to break free from being held and splitted the rock into two. A river formed in between this rocks and as of today is more popularly known as the Montalban Gorge, made of mountains, Pamitinan and Binacayan.
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Mt. Pamitinan from Hapunang Banoi's view point.

And Again, Rock Scrambling
The trail is somehow similar to that of Mt. Hapunang Banoi but the rocks along are less jagged and sharp, might be because of the foot traffic this mountain experiences during weekends. And along the hike you’ll be seeing foliage of amor secos, augmented with bamboos, and thorny bushes and also an ancient balete tree stands tall and firm. Rocks are always present and rock scrambling is the only option.

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Some almost 90 degree rock scramble.

And after several minutes, we reached the summit.

On Hands Akimbo
What makes the mountains here in Rizal stand out from other destinations near Manila, is the rewarding summit themselves that showcases limestone formations that can be really death defying if you scale it.

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The neighboring Mt. Binacayan

Appreciate the scenic view of the Sierra Madre mountain range and the serpentine Wawa River flowing to the lower parts of Rizal.

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Success kid!.

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In the shadows, I am the Kung-fu mastah.

Your hands will go akimbo as you will be in awe just seeing the view from the top. All the effort we did was really worth it.

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No better way to appreciate the surroundings than by standing on the edge.

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Yasssssssss.

What Lies In Between
After resting, we descended for almost an hour and did a sidetrip to a more visited place in the Montalban Gorge that would complete the twin hike, the Wawa Dam.

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Antidote for the stifling summer heat.

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And here we are riding in the mandatory "Walang Forever" bandwagon.

The mountains called and so we heed to their calling. Another weekend to tick off from our bucketlists.

Itinerary and Expenses
Mt. Hapunang Banoi + Mt. Pamitinan Twin Day Hike
0445 – Assembly at Farmers Market Cubao
0500 – ETD, Take UV Express FX with signboard “Rodriguez”, alight at Eastwood. (50php/pax)
0615 – ETA, Eastwood, take tricycle to DENR station at Brgy. Wawa. (10php/pax)
0635 – ETA, Brgy. Wawa, eat breakfast. Pay fees and register. Secure guide. (Fee – 2php/pax, Guide – 500 per group of 5/per mountain)
0730 – Start Trek.
0830 – ETA Banoi Junction
1030 – summit
1215 – Back at Banoi Junction, eat lunch, rest
1300 – climb Mt. Pamitinan
1345 – Summit
1415 – Start Descent
1630 – Back at Brgy. Wawa, sidetrip to Wawa Dam
1700 – Tidy up
1730 – ETD to Cubao
2030 – ETA Cubao
2100 – Post Climb Dinner, Cubao Expo

Estimated Budget:

Transportation: 120php
Guides and fees: 800php/3pax – 267php/pax
Food: 200php
Total Damage:587php – 700php safe budget.

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” – Babs Hoffman

Go, Carve that Niche,

Rex