Life lessons: Of Reaching Summits, Hiking and True Love

If you are going to ask me why I love hiking, I will not be able to answer. I honestly don’t know. It is not the most comfortable activity in the world and yet here I am pining for it like a lover. It is exhausting, uncomfortable, risky, and way out of my comfort zone and yet I love it. I don’t know why, I just do.

Some people are drawn to the sea, some are drawn to other people. I am drawn to the mountain. I have always been.
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Nothing makes me happier than walking underneath a canopy of trees, smelling the sweet smell of earth and feeling the gentle breeze brushing my arms. I get giddy with happiness when I see lush green forests. I can’t stop grinning like an idiot at the prospect of seeing one. And when I get to the summit, I just sit there and contentedly look at the world around me, silently (or not) hiding my amazement and staring at everything as far as my eyes can see.
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Reaching the summit always gives me a mixture of pride and contentment. Despite my proclivity to outdoor activities, I am not the healthiest person in the world. Ascents are a challenge for me and there are moments when I want to give up and go home. Sometimes, my legs are moving out of sheer force of will and my whole body felt mechanical. The trail is not always easy, the pack is heavy and all my muscles are screaming yet I continue walking because oddly enough, despite all that, I feel happy.

When I reach the summit, when I reach the goal, I forget everything. All I can think of is how great it feels to be up there and looking at the world below me. All I can think of is how beautiful the world is and how happy I am to be there.

Hiking taught me a lot of things. I never learned to truly trust the people around me until I started hiking with my friends. I learned to be resourceful. I learned to appreciate the world around me. I learned not to give up when things go wrong and life seemed so difficult. Most of all, I learned to believe in myself. Truly believe in myself and what I can achieve if I put my heart and mind into it.
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Hiking may not be the most comfortable thing to do in the world but it is something that I love.

You know how people say, “I love you, because…” Well, this love story doesn’t have a “because”. It has no rhyme or reason. It is a love pure and untainted. It doesn’t have any ulterior motives, no hidden agenda, no expectations. It is a love affair that makes me a stronger and better person. It has its hardships but it is a love affair I cannot live without.
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Admit it, my love affair with the mountain is a better love story than what most people have.

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*I apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors. Proofreading via mobile is a challenge for me.*

Explore Cebu: Argao

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.

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Balay Sa Agta Cave, Argao, Cebu
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Bugasok Falls, Argao, Cebu

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.

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That's my friend. The guide has to take us one by one. Passing by this part is quite tricky. One small misstep is enough to make you fall. This is why you need a guide. The next part is even more dangerous. I didn't have any photos there. This is why you need a guide.

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.

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The demon-hole. This part remind me of The Lion King, when Rafiki presented Simba to the pride.
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The untouchable. Yep, you are not allowed to touch this thing. It sparkles like barbie rolled in a bag of glitters.

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.

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The graffiti that welcomes you to the cave. That's the natural color of the cave by the way.

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.

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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).

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Up ahead is our guide, Manong Richard.

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.

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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?

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The stonehorse

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
Trail food
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.)

Reminder:
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.*