Joining The Fight To Save Masungi
I noticed that my legs were already shaking as I started my traverse down the installed climbing net across one of the rock faces of the geo-reserve. We have been traversing the trail for almost four hours and climbing down the net, called “Bayawak” was our final challenge to cap off our Masungi experience.
The Road To Masungi
Our road to Masungi started with the challenge of getting a booking for our intended visit. Yes, we booked as early as January of this year for an April visit, the earliest that we can get. The park was already getting traction at that time and getting a reservation was one of the biggest hurdles that you will get. Once you get through, everything will be a breeze
Masungi Georeserve is a DENR conservation area located in the outskirts of Tanay where one can enjoy natural limestone rock formations in the midst of Rizal’s rainforest. The sanctuary is the home of different flora and fauna that are endemic to the Philippines like the nocturnal Luzon Cloud Rat. At present, the geo-reserve developed a trail that challenges its guests’ fears while enjoying the beauty of its limestone rock formations and its rainforest.
We arrived 15 minutes early for our 8.30am schedule. Going to the actual reserve can be quite a challenge so I strongly suggest that you go there via private vehicle through the Cubao – Cogeo –Tanay route. Just make sure that your vehicle can handle steep mountain road inclines going to the jump-off point. The one-hour and a half trip from Cubao can offer an amazing view of Rizal and Laguna de Bay – a preview of better views to come.
Masungi Georeserve: A Physical Test of Wits and Strength
The receiving area of Masungi is a series of open air cabanas in the midst of greens. The structures were all built that it blends very well with the environment, safeguarded by a few limestone formations in the area. This is where we were given safety orientation prior to the actual traverse in the reserve. The basic premise that we were continually reminded of was to stay along the trails, as there are sink holes in the area that has not been mapped out yet, and to listen to our guide. We were also handed out string bags where we can secure our stuff. Inside the bags is a whistle, a binocular, and a bottle of water
Before we started, we were already asked to take our bathroom break as there are no bathroom facilities along the trail which would take us three to four hours to traverse. It was nice to see that the bathroom facilities also had sunblock and insect repellent that were readily available to their guests.
The deployment of guests in batches are carefully timed to allow ample time for every group to enjoy each attraction in the reserve.
Going through the trail is relatively easy as the trails were already established and in some parts cemented. You will be treated with lots of greens and rock formations throughout the trek. At certain points, you will also be given sneak peeks of sink holes in the area. There a lot of sink holes in the area, with some still be discovered. That is the reason why the guides are very firm that you should stay along the established trail.
Twenty minutes through the trail, we made our first stop at Paroot. It is here where our guide informed us that the reserve is also the home of the Luzon Cloud Rat, a nocturnal rodent that is endemic to the Philippines. It is also where we got acquainted with the first rope course along the trail. We had to climb up the rope ladder along a rock face that was about 15 feet high.
After the easy climb to the top, we walked further up the trail of greens and rock formations. We were treated with amazing views of limestone formations. We made a brief stop alongside a huge balete tree that was rooted in a sinkhole.
We then proceeded to one of the most photographed attraction of the reserve – Sapot. It is a spider web that is suspended a couple of feet in the air atop one of the limestone ridges of Masungi. Sapot will be the first test of balance and will challenge your fear of heights. Its location, matched by it being suspended, gives you that impression that it is high above the reserve. It uses illusion to trick your eyes and mind.
We all took turns for our individual photographs with everyone doing their favorite poses before we finally had our group pictures. The great thing about being with instagrammers is that everyone is on tiptop shape thinking of the coolest angle to take a photograph.
Apart from conquering your fears, Sapot also gives you an amazing view of the reserve and its limestone formations, with Rizal and Laguna de Bai on one side.
After “Sapot”, we trekked for almost 30 minutes through mountain trails as entered deeper into the rainforest of Tanay. I noticed that the sun’s heat was not piercing through my skin. That was the benefit of having all the trees around, it was slightly cooler in the area. I got oriented with Masungi’s art of composting. I initially thought that the geometric designs that we saw along the way were artworks, only to find out that it was a natural way of composting.
There were stops along the way as the trek was longer this time. “Tagpuan” was one of the stops. It is a small area where a small cave is located where you can actually rest. It was cool inside the cave giving one a quick cool break through the trek.
The trek to the next attraction was longer than the first and it had us going through trails deep within the rainforests. There were brief stops along the way, just enough to help us catch our breath.
Then we finally made it to our first stop high above the limestone formations – Unggoy. The cave was called as such because of monkeys frequent the area. Our guide mentioned that the visitors who are lucky to meet these Masungi residents are those who traverse in the late afternoons. He is also quick to say that these monkeys have a nearby cave, that is bigger, that serves as their homes.
While taking a breather inside a bridgehouse, the warning came from our guide – the next attraction will test us physically and will challenge our fear of heights.
The first task was to climb up a 15-foot rope course against a limestone rock wall. That was relatively easy. The view from the top of the limestone formation was beautiful where your eyes can feast on the green covers of Masungi.
Then came the challenge of going down the formation on the other side through a rope course – a good 40 feet down to a waiting huge “Duyan”. Looking down was enough to scare the wits out of you and the thought that you will traverse down without a harness can make you ask yourself… “WTF am I doing here?”
So we slowly traversed down the rope course, literally holding on to our dear lives. Our guides assured us not to worry because the rope course is safe and can hold our collective weight. So after getting my guts together, I traversed down the face and embraced the fear
In no time, I was already taking my space on the huge duyan – fear of heights conquered!
The duyan is also a huge attraction of the park. It is a rope course that was shaped like a hammock, hence the name. We all had fun taking pictures but the best way to enjoy the duyan is to just sit back, enjoy the sun, feel the gentle breeze, and be one with nature. Word of caution though, make sure that you secure your loose items and gadgets before getting into the comforts of the huge hammock.
Yungib ni Ruben
The next attraction is a series of cave chambers called Yungib ni Ruben. Interestingly, Masungi recognizes the efforts of its park rangers that they name some of their attractions to those who actually discovered the particular attraction, in this case Kuya Ruben.
Visitors will be treated to amazing rock formations highlighted by natural light that penetrates the inside of the cave. The series of chambers go around the inside of the rock formation like a staircase leading up to the next attraction.
Tatay is the highest peak of Masungi.
It is a limestone formation that overs an amazing 360 degree view of the georeserve, the Sierra Madre mountains, and its surrounding rainforests. The view from the top is just amazing that one can just sit there and enjoy the view and the breeze.
It shows you how vast the tracks of land that Masungi safekeeps from illegal settlers and loggers. These hectares of land were reforested after years of government neglect. And now it faces a tough challenge of defending its conservation efforts from greedy individuals. It would be a shame if all these efforts go to waste.
From Tatay, a separate trail leads you to the second highest peak of Masungi – Nanay.
Again, the limestone formation offers an amazing view of the areas that surround it. They have also built viewing decks for visitors to appreciate the view below. For those who want a better challenge, try climbing up one of the limestone heads. Just remember that it should always be safety first.
Trust me… a hanging bridge that swings clumsily and fear of heights are good combinations for an adrenaline scare.
On our homestretch to finishing the Masungi trail, we fancied ourselves with crossing the clumsy bridge. It is so clumsy that it really swings left to right like crazy. It was enough to give some of our companions a good scare.
As if all the challenges were not physically exhausting, we still had one final challenge to face – the Bayawak.
The Bayawak is the final rope course where you traverse down a 60-foot course against a limestone rock face. At the bottom is a smaller duyan where you can just sit back, relax, and give yourself that pat on the back for a job well-done.
It was while traversing down the ropes that I saw my foot shaking, not because I was tired but because it was a long way down. So I had to keep my rhythm working for me… hand, hand, foot, foot – this was how I was pacing and placing myself down the course.
Making it down the final challenge, I laid back on the duyan enjoying the sun and the breeze. I knew that it was a well-spent 4 hours with nature.
Post Travel Notes
After four hours of huffing, grunting, photo ops, and challenging our wits, fatigue started settling in. The hours spent on the trail, under the heat of the sun, was no joke. It was physically draining and it was mentally challenging. Great thing that light snacks were served after the activity to help us recover faster from the traverse. It was quite obvious with the group that everyone was tired as everyone was already silent while munching on a sandwhich and bananas. Nevertheless, you can also see in everyone’s eyes the joy and sense of fulfilment of having explored Masungi Georeserve.
After the trek, it was then that I realized how the locals value the georeserve. They were right when they mentioned to us, before the trek even started, that we will get to understand why they are fighting hard for their stakes on Masungi.
A lot of conservation effort are already in place that has given the geo-reserve a new lease in its existence. It is a safe haven for different species of flora and fauna endemic to the Philippines. It has provided a sustainable livelihood to the real Dumagats. It is a sanctuary.
More than the rope courses and the views, Masungi Georeserve is one of the last frontiers close to Manila where we can understand that humans and nature ought to exist as one. That is why it is important for us to stand up and save Masungi!
Getting There: The first step needed is to go into the Masungi Georeserve website (masungigeoreserve.com) and secure a confirmed booking for your visit. This can be a challenge because Masungi Georeserve is starting to attract attention.
It is suggested that you take a private vehicle to get to Masungi Georeserve. You just drive up along Aurora Boulevard in Cubao straight towards the direction of Cogeo then further up along the Marikina – Infanta Highway until you reach the Garden Resort Cottages entrance where you need to register.
For those opting to commute. You can take a jeep to Cogeo from Cubao. You then take a jeep headed for Sampaloc, Tanay at the Cogeo Public Market. You can then ask the driver to drop you off at Garden Resort Cottages where you then register and walk to the receiving area of the reserve. Jeepney trips are limited so plan accordingly.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.