"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the muddy trek to buruwisan and lanzones falls

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks."
-- John Muir

28th of january 2012
a walk to remember in siniloan, laguna

what was supposed to be a usual "walk in the park" to see buruwisan falls at the southwest border of the sierra madre turned out to be quite an ordeal of a trek up and down through mud complete with drizzles and a head-on adventure against armies of what-i-refer to as the limatik liberation front.

when you're just looking at the pics, the adventure may not look like we had difficulties but trust me when i say that this was far from being a mere walk in the park. this one cost me a visit to the hospital, no joke. ;-)

it was the last saturday of january and i reckoned it was a good day to be out. our group of six -- kat, tony, onad, bren, mati, and i -- started our outdoor adventure early that day. we left metro manila at around 6 o'clock in the morning and got to the jump-off three hours after in brgy. macatad of siniloan, laguna by following the commuting directions we learned from online sources.

the sights we saw during our tricycle ride from the siniloan public market to brgy. macatad 

we got off the tricycle at the intersection where we saw a "buruwisan falls" welcome banner on top of a waiting shed. one of the locals, kuya rey, approached us and offered to be our guide. since we were all first-timers in the area and we are supporters of local tourism, we agreed for him to help us find our way to the falls and back.

jump-off, this way |  the signage at the small intersection. 

from the intersection, we hiked a short distance along that road indicated by the "this way" arrow to get to a canteen. although we were eager to already start our trek to the falls, we first had to buy food for our lunch. five of us -- tony, onad, bren, mati, and i -- ordered beef pares rice meals while kat ordered a pork pares rice meal. our "take out" lunch cost each one of us 50 pesos only.

then, off we went to the falls. our trek started with a leisurely hike on a paved road, to the side of which was a strategically placed "discover siniloan" banner featuring two other falls in the area -- lanzones falls and batya-batya falls.

a "discover siniloan" banner for lanzones falls and batya-batya falls

our guide, kuya rey, taking the lead

after a short walk, we arrived at the building where we needed to register-and-pay 50 pesos each before we could proceed any further.

the registration hall for trekkers to the falls
brgy. macatad, siniloan, laguna

the location of the registration building is next to a stream which hikers need to cross in order to get closer to where the multiple falls are nestled in upland siniloan, a trekking destination known as mt. romelo. before we crossed the stream, we took a sidetrip to kuya rodel's place just to pay him a courtesy visit. kuya rodel is that guy mentioned in pinoy mountaineer's feature article on mt. romelo. his property stands very close to the registration building and is difficult to miss.

the facade of kuya rodel's property (a farm) in siniloan, laguna
this photo was taken while mati and onad were buying their supply of korniks

after we crossed the stream, we realized what we had gotten ourselves into -- not a mere walk in the park to see waterfalls but an arduous day climb through mud, mud, and mud. with the the rains from the previous days and the day's drizzles, the uphill path was very uneven, muddy, and slippery.

a walk in the park? not quite ;-)
what i saw when i looked back after thirty minutes of trekking

during a trek, i'd normally be able to take out my DSLR camera at some intervals and take some snapshots but not that time. i didn't bother. i was preoccupied with saving my energy and i was busy maintaining good footing on the muddy ground we were walking on. i only managed to take pictures using my camphone.

after an hour and a half of walking on muddy terrain, we reached a stopover-slash-house where we gladly took a rest and bought fresh buko (young coconut). we also took this chance to free our footwear of unforgiving mud.

"are we there yet?" | after 1.5 hours of "walk in the park, muddy trek edition"
if you make a stop here, you can buy fresh buko (P15 each) and softdrinks (P20 each) 

after almost two hours since we crossed the stream, we finally reached a point where we could see the hills and mounds of the sierra madre where the falls are hidden. while it was comforting to know that we were closer, we were also made aware that we were still a long way away from what we were after -- the sight of the waterfalls! we were already feeling very tired of the mud that clung to us at our every step and we were not yet even halfway. hahaha!

a photo of where we were going taken from where we were
about one-third of the way from buruwisan falls
kuya rey pointed this out --- over that hill, that's where the final path (to the falls) is!

when the mud that stuck to the soles of our footwear became all too much -- causing us to either lose balance and skid and delaying us further, most of us finally opted to walk barefoot through the muddier portions.

walking barefoot, dealing with mud | destination: buruwisan
my trek buddies: tony as boy dungis, kat as inday dungis,
bren as boy pawis, onad as boy limatik, mati as boy putik

however, mud wasn't the only problem. we started seeing limatik (blood leeches) "shooting" off the mud -- there's a lot of them along the path!!!  there's a thriving community of them bloodsuckers and we weren't even prepared for them.

we thought we could get respite from the sight of the limatik armies by avoiding the mud and taking the greener paths but we were wrong. there's even more of them waiting in the greens for their unsuspecting warm-blooded victims and they successfully did get to us. a surprise attack by the limatik liberation front, it was. ugh!

they -- the limatik -- are nasty little creatures with outstanding acrobatic skills so do not undermine their ability to get to your skin. there was a moment when i really looked at them and they seemed to perform a wave in unison, as if giving a salute to their onlooker. flirty parasites!

walking in the rain | beautiful scenery with all the greens
this trail is best avoided as this is limatik haven -- super plenty  of bloodsuckers here!
don't be deceived by the beautiful scenery ;-)

we finally reached the campsite three hours after we left the registration hall. since we were only there for the day hike and not to stay overnight, we immediately proceeded to buruwisan falls -- an exhausting walk away (at least, for the starving) and a steep way down from the campsite. we were hungry and ready for lunch but we all agreed that we would go down to see the falls first before we could feed ourselves.

so walk further, we did. then, we exerted our muscles some more by going down a wall of rock-and-roots to finally behold buruwisan falls with our own eyes.

my mud-soaked feet, the trail down to buruwisan falls,
and the roots that one has to hold on to

this steep trail is a "shortcut"to buruwisan falls
it's a wall of rock and roots

when we finally got to the foot of the wall safely, we looked around and allowed our eyes to feast on what we went there for to see -- buruwisan falls! after taking some pictures, we took our rest and had our lunch while sitting/standing on the rocks scattered on the natural poolside of the falls.

the 180-ft high buruwisan falls | siniloan, laguna

tempted by the sight of clear, flowing water, i decided to remove my trekking pants (i wore shorts underneath, hehe) so i could properly clean off the mud. i soon started shrieking when i saw blood running down my legs -- multiple bloody limatik suck-bites!!! ewwww, yuck! i thought members of the limatik army only got as far as my exposed feet but noooooo. they got as far as close to my knees. ulk.

worse for me, clotting didn't happen right away even after the limatik left my skin -- by the time i removed my pants and saw blood, there was no limatik in sight but the bloody wounds were clearly limatik suck-bites and each one of them was still bleeding!

i later learned that those nasty limatik release anticoagulant when they attach themselves to their victims -- hence the continuous bleeding, delayed clotting.

the bleeding limatik suck-bites on my legs
only 3 are visible in this photo but there were 2 more at the back of my right leg

since we were already in the area and lanzones falls was just a short trek away, we set aside thoughts of how tired we were from our muddy trek. we walked further, crossed the river, walked past a meter long dead snake, and walked some more through water & on rocks to get to lanzones falls. 

the 70-ft high lanzones falls | siniloan laguna

we asked kuya rey how the falls got the name lanzones and he said it was because the shape of the cascade is similar to the shape of the leaf of the lanzones. (note to self: we have a lanzones tree in iligan, i should check the shape of the leaves of that tree to verify this information.) the other explanation is that (and this is according to the mt. romelo feature article in pinoy mountaineer) lanzones trees are plenty in the area. buruwisan falls, on the other hand, got its name from the type of hardwood that grew along the banks of the romelo river.

our guide, kuya rey | a very colorful caterpillar we found in front of lanzones falls
and a portion of the wall of jagged rocks facing lanzones falls

if the muddy trek to buruwisan and lanzones falls gave us a difficult time, the muddy trek going back to the jump-off proved to be even more difficult. the muddy, slippery, and uneven downward sloping path was not giving us traction and we were constantly sliding, skidding -- it was like mud-boarding minus the board. after kat and tony fell on their butts a number of times, they finally decided to stop walking on their own and took a chance at guided horseback riding. 

i was determined to walk all the way back and refused to be tempted by the horses. i was trying to enjoy that energy-demanding muddy trek, despite the slides and the near skids, the strain on my lower limbs, and the threat of getting more suck-bites from those i-really-wanna-squish-them-dead limatik. however, so much for my 'best laid plans'. pft. things took a turn from bad to worse for me when i slipped and, in the process of saving my balance, the sole of my bare left foot accidentally hit a sharp edge of a rock jutting out from the muddy trail.

i felt an intense pain and was forced to position myself close to the ground, just to manage the unwanted sensation. i thought pain was all there was to it until onad pointed out the blood that began to mix with the mud -- oh nooooooooo! my left foot got injured at a most inopportune time!!!

i asked onad to examine the sole of my left foot for me and he couldn't tell me right away the real deal about it because he didn't want me to faint. haha. he merely confirmed that i was wounded so i asked him if it could cause my big toe to be cut off and he said no. that relieved me a bit but the sight of so much blood mixing with the mud definitely did not give me relief. (i later found out that, when onad first examined my wound, he saw a lot of blood gushing out of the wound. "bumubulwak-bulwak" was the word he used to describe it.)

with mud all around us and knowing we were still a good 1.5-hour walk away from the jump-off, we merely applied pressure to the wound to control the bleeding and cleaned it with my drinking water. i put a pad of clean wet tissues and tied a strip of plastic cellophane around the wounded portion of my left foot to keep the make-shift cushion in place. talk about third world emergency remedy, bow. i wore my strapped sandals and, then, i started walking again. by this time, my legs were already sore and shaking from having to keep my balance and avoiding skids and the sole of my left foot was throbbing with pain. it was a very, very uncomfortable walk -- that squishy feeling (as mud seeped in and bathed my wound in almost every step i took) was creating bad images in my mind.

it was close to sundown and no horses came our way anymore. i had no choice but to continue walking through mud (and horse manure, no doubt) with my injured foot.

kat and tony -- thanks to the horses -- were the first ones from our group to return to the registration building. onad and bren followed. mati and kuya rey kept me company. i walked on despite the mud and pain because i knew that my injury was dictating the pace of our group. it was already dark, around 6:00 (or was it 6:30?) in the evening when we finally got back. only then did i have the chance to clean myself and my painful wound with mud-free running water. it's a good thing they have comfort-slash-changing rooms at the back portion/riverside of the registration building.

since bren brought a decent first aid kit, we were able to clean my wound with real antiseptic (betadine) and put terramycin. with we, i mean to say that bren did the cleaning, i did the wincing, and the others looked on and shared their thoughts on how the wound should be dealt with. hehe. for good measure, we covered the wound with elastic bandage -- we were still in siniloan, laguna and quite a long way from home -- there was no way i could get rid of the fresh wound just like that and my injured sole needed a cushion because there was more walking to do.

the next day, 29th of january 2012, i  brought myself to the hospital and sought proper medical attention. i then wrote: yesterday's adventure with kat, tony, onad, bren, and mati was... too much for one day! :) my "badges" of courage include: 11 limatik marks, 1 incision on my right big toe, and 1 painful lacerated wound on my sole just under my left big toe with some neighboring abrasions and a bruise. go figure! today, i was given 3 injections: 1 short-acting anti-tetanus shot, 1 for skin test, and 1 long-term anti-tetanus. plus, i was given prescription for cloxacillin, mefenamic acid, and mupirocin and the option not to report to work for 1-2 days. go figure, again!

two weeks later, i still had walking difficulties because the lacerated wound on my sole happened to be a major pressure point -- with constant walking (since i did not stop myself from doing my usual daily activities), it took a long time to heal.

don't get me wrong. despite the trau-matik (trauma + limatik + putik) experience, we still had much fun! :D

p.s. lesson learned from this adventure? do not keep native guavas in the pocket of your trekking pants. hehe.


  1. this was one of the worst treks I've had Val. to put it bluntly, buruwisan was just plain blah. Or maybe I was just disappointed because it was not worth the ordeal we went through. but i'm glad that i did this 'walk-in-the-park' with you guys. looking back now, i had a handful of laughs in between. it was not that bad after all.

    hope the weather cooperates for wawa...

  2. trauma + limatik + putik --> never again! ,'-)

  3. hahaha sir mat sanchez huli ka balbon.. hanep mountainboy na mountainboy ang dating.

    1. Walk in the park lang yan pre... Hahaha... - Mati

    2. sige.. ill do this mountain in flip flops and shorts too..:)


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