(Note: this post was originally written on September 19, 2015)
Yesterday morning, my newsfeed got flooded with a photo of a young girl with the hashtag #JusticeforKarenKayeMontebon. I got curious so I followed the thread and checked the news outlets. What I found out was heartbreaking.
Karen Kaye Montebon was a freshman college student of the University of San Carlos-Cebu. She was raped and killed in their home in Lapu-Lapu City. Her dad found her when he came home in the afternoon. She has bruises on her body and she was lying on the floor with a cord tied to her neck.
Nobody yet knows who killed her. Nobody knows who ended her life and her dreams in a brutal and senseless way. But we all know whoever did it was an animal. A cruel, cold-hearted, depraved animal because no person on their right mind could do such a thing to another human being.
I do not know her personally and before yesterday, I didn’t know she existed yet what happened to her resonated not only to me but to a lot of people. Our homes are the one place in this world where we are supposedly safe and happy and if something like this could happen in the safety of our homes, where else can we be safe?
If a stranger like me feels sadness and pain reading the reports, I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is for those people who knew her, loved her, took care of her. I can only imagine how painful it is for the friends she laughed with, cry with and shared memories with. I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is for her family who has been with her since the day she was born. I cannot imagine how traumatic this must be for her dad who found her. No parent deserves to see that.
When that animal ended her life, it ended her dreams and that of her family. When that animal strangled her, it ended what would have been a bright future. Now her family and friends are left with what I can only imagine as a big void in their lives.
Karen Kaye, I am a stranger yet I hope you are in a better place now. You did not deserve what you went through. I am sorry your life had to end so soon. I am sorry for how cruel the world is and how it ended your dreams and your hopes. I am sorry that your family had to go through this, no family deserves to go through this. I can only hope that you get the justice that you deserve. I can only pray that your family get through this painful loss. I hope you find peace in the arms of our Creator.
In between working fulltime and watching Bleach in YouTube, I manage to stalk random instagram accounts and plan my next adventure. And because I spent my whole year’s worth of vacation leave credits before the first quarter has even ended, I am now forced to do my wanderings on my rest days. Phew!
Luckily, the intagram account I stalk has all these amazing photos from all over Cebu so I get to still go on a short adventure without spending a lot. So, there I was randomly browsing when I saw photos taken from Argao. Well, I’ve never been there and the place looks awesome so I decided to go.
I planned to go alone but lucky for me, my friends decided to go with me so I didn’t have to shoulder the guide fees alone.
Here’s where we went:
Balay Sa Agta Cave and Bugasok Falls.
Here’s what I can say about the trip:
In a scale of 1-10, I would give it a 7.
Argao is a beautiful place with century-old buildings which make a the place rich in history. But since that wasn’t the focus of the trip and I did not really explore that part, I am not going to dig into that.
The trip was fun and memorable. The place is nice and makes for good photos but if you’re looking for a challenge, uhmmm, not so much.
The trail to the cave is very easy and is not really far. However, it doesn’t mean you can go there without a guide. Most of the trail is easy enough but when you reach the last part near the mouth of the cave, it can get a bit tricky. The cliff is too narrow that without the rope provided by the guide, you can fall to your death. So, no, it is not entirely a walk in the park.
The cave is enormous but not as impressive as the other caves I’ve seen. The best views are at the mouth of the cave, the demon-hole and the agta formation at the end part of the cave. I imagine the place is more stunning during rainy season when the subterranean waterfall is not dried up but I also assume it is most dangerous to go there.
I assumed that the cave is younger because of the stalagmites and stalactites are not so wellformed yet but according to one of my companions, this isn’t the case. People used to vandalized the cave and cut off the stalagmites and sell it. I saw the evidence myself when I first stepped inside. Graffiti is all over the walls and according to the guide, some people illegally harvest bird’s nest inside.
Such a pity. As is always the case, people don’t realize what they have until it is too late. The mountains of Argao is beautiful, luscious green and views are stunning. Yet, in the lowlands you still see evidence of neglect. People dump their garbage anywhere not just the locals but especially the tourists.
Anyway, Bugasok falls is another adventure. The falls is a short trek from the cave. We crossed a river and hiked through some rather steep and narrow trails before we got to the falls.
Bugasok is small but it is stunning. The water is warm and deep enough to swim but not deep enough to drown you (which is a blessing because I can’t swim.) We rappelled down the side and spent some time swimming and taking photos. I couldn’t get enough! Seriously, the water was just right that I want to soak there for the rest of the day (or the week for that matter).
Then we had to trek back to the pick-up point. It wasn’t a long trek, to be honest. The trail was easy although extra caution is still advised as some parts are too narrow and some areas have fallen logs. I love the fallen logs actually. It made feel like an explorer in a hollywood movie. Hahaha.
You want to know the truth? I wish the trail was longer. I dread going back to civilization. I believe Argao has more to offer in terms of outdoor experience. I would love to see more of the place. Perhaps I’ll go back. Who knows?
Anyway, if you are planning to visit, contact Argao tourism office for assistance. Don’t try going there without a guide no matter how experienced you are. Also, they require two guides as one will guide you to the cave and the other one will set up the equipment there. Guide fee is Php500/ guide so going as a group is the most affordable way to go. You also have to ride Habal-habal from the town proper to the jump-off point. Fare is 100/pax. On the way back, we did the river trail so the habal-habal just waited for us at the designated pick-up point. Fare from the pick-up point back to the town proper is Php50.00/pax.
Things to bring:
Headlamps for the caving
Extra clothes if you plan to swim at Bugasok Falls but doesn’t want to walk back wet.
Proper footwear (i.e. trekking sandals or slippers, trek shoes)
Headcover (if you follow our itinerary, you reach the falls around midday and nothing there will cover you from the heat. You will also need it for the river trail.)
Waterproof your things i.e. cellphone, bags, etc.
Don’t leave your trash anywhere.
Listen to the guides.
Be careful, the trail is easy but if you don’t pay attention you can get injured.
If you have anymore questions, you may leave a comment. I’ll do my best to answer.
(P.S all photos were taken using Samsung S5. I didn’t bring my Canon camera as it is an additional weight for me. No filters were added.)
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*I apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors. Proofreading via mobile is a challenge for me.*