rich'nritch.com | Serendipity Seekers

Exploring the Wilderness of Aklan: A Very Challenging Hike to Mt. Nausang, Aklan’s Untamed and Highest Mountain in Panipiason, Madalag

Tay Freddy, ma-éa-yo pa (is it still far)?, Ritch asked Pastor Freddy, our local guide, while we were walking in the middle of the night in the mountains of Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan. “Ma-éa-pit éon lang, Ma’am, una éon sa unahan (we’re getting close, Ma’am, just few meters ahead),” Pastor Freddy replied. The rain was pouring and we started to feel cold so we stopped for a moment to get our jackets and rain coats. I pulled out my tarp and shared it with Ritchel and Tay Freddy and together, we used it as a walking shelter as we continue our hike to May Irimnan campsite. It was a struggle.

November 22, 2017

Pandan Hills: Eastern Aklan’s Hidden Paradise

An early morning view of Pandan Hills

Pandan Hills are verdant rolling hills located in Barangay Bay-ang, Batan, Aklan. It offers a beautiful 360-degree view of green sloping grounds covered with cogon grasses, nearby forests, mountain ranges, and the Tinago Lake or ‘Tinagong Dagat.’ The vast grassland serves as a food sanctuary for cows and carabaos (water buffalos) while the surrounding lake is known as one of the province's rich fishing grounds. The refreshing panoramic view of it’s rolling hills can rival the Panaktakan of Malay. If the western side of Aklan has Boracay Island as a world’s premier destination, the eastern side has Pandan Hills which is considered as a top attraction for adventure-goers, newbie hikers, and landscape photographers. Besides being hidden, it is also far from the maddening crowd and bustle of the semi-urban side of the province.

August 10, 2018

Mt. Balinsayaw, an Easy to Hike Peak Near Kalibo and Boracay with Scenic Views

Mt. Balinsayaw Peak

Balinsayaw Peak is a new hiking spot located in Barangay Mabusao, Ibajay, Aklan, near the Aklan-Antique border. It’s a rock mountain with overwhelming views and a perfect place for sunrise viewing. Getting to the peak will only take you 30 minutes of hike from Barangay Mabusao proper. The views along the way are enjoyable and the top offers a gorgeous vista of Mabusao and its nearby barangays.

August 9, 2018

Panay Trilogy: Top 3 Highest and Difficult Mountains of Panay

The three mighty mountains of Panay

The long and rugged mountain ranges of Central Panay is home to the three of the most difficult mountains to climb in the island and in the Philippines. They are also the three highest mountains in Panay Island known as the ‘Panay Trilogy.’ Their isolation and hostile terrains make them formidable and highly respected by hikers. Remoteness and vastness of ranges covered by extensive forests are two of the factors why they remain elusive and pristine. Scaling them is difficult and lengthy but the trails and the summits offer awe-inspiring sceneries, unspoilt panoramic views, and thrilling experiences.

August 3, 2018

Watch: Traversing Iloilo and Antique, climbing the elusive Mt. Baloy, and completing the Panay Trilogy

Watch: Traversing Iloilo and Antique, climbing the elusive Mt. Baloy, and completing the Panay Trilogy

We've been walking day-long on this unfamiliar terrain while carrying our full packs, heavier than what we carried in Mt. Mantalingajan as we both recall. Each time I step on the ground, the strap of my bag presses heavily on my shoulders and back. Whenever I turn my head, I can smell the gas leak coming from the container on my backpack. It was intoxicating. It's the fuel of my multi-fuel stove. The gasket of the container was badly damaged yesterday when I refilled it from the roadside gasoline vendor while on our way to Barangay Supanga, Calinog, Iloilo. I take rest every now and then to relieve the pressure on my shoulders, back, and knees.

July 18, 2018

Pushing Through: Overcoming Mt. Baloy’s Challenges and Completing the Panay Trilogy

The Kinulitan trail of Mt. Baloy is a narrow path cut through the thick wild plants called ‘lagiwriws’ or ‘ragiwriws,’ which cover the entire area. The leaves are like of pandan plant but the branches are long, entangled, and crawling like vines. It offers a tremendously thrilling experience! The Kinulitan trail was established by AMSI (Antique Mountaineering Society Inc.) with Talahib Eco Trekeers and guides from Barangay Busog, Valderrama, Antique in 2015.

“We advise you not to go,“ said PSI Jose Nemias P. Pamplona, OIC of the Calinog Municipal Police Station. Exactly 3:00 in the afternoon of April 16, 2018 when we arrived at the station for log in. We were entertained first by an officer who asked for our IDs and recorded our personal information in a sheet of paper. Afterward, he brought us to the room of PSI Pamplona who was still out for an official business that time. With the use of a topographic map hanging on the wall of the office, he oriented us about the geographical location of the trail we will take to reach Mt. Baloy from Calinog side. He told us of the dangers ahead which at some point, made me think of backing out. The whole area is considered as a ‘hotspot'. While deciding to proceed or not, Sir Pamplona suddenly arrived. We shook hands and introduced ourselves as friends of the 20 hikers of Higher Grounds Mountaineers-Iloilo who did the same traverse two weeks ago headed by Sir Jay Plantinos. We showed to him the photo of the map provided to us by Sir Jay and explained to him our goals for the hike. He then continued the orientation and upon hearing his negative advise, I turned my head to Richard and consulted him. Richard said he wants to proceed and convinced me to drop the negativity. After a while, we told Sir Pamplona that it is unethical for us to abandon the hike prior to meeting our host in Karatagan and we wanted to assess the situation personally when we reach the jump-off point. He then wished us good luck and even joked to send his office a copy of the trail photos after our descent. That lightened up our mood.

July 10, 2018

Open Letter: 5 Reasons Why You Should Not Stop Me, a Teacher, From Traveling

Reading a book story to one of the Aberling Tribe families in Sitio Baag, San Jose, Tarlac.

Dear you, yes you. Don't stop me (a teacher) from traveling. Why? Because wherever I go, I never forget I'm a teacher. "I will share this to my students," is a common line people I meet in my travels hear from me. The road has taught me more functional lessons than my degree, certificates, seminars, and training. Outside my usual environment, every place is a new experience, every moment is a learning opportunity, every person is a channel of new ideas, and every journey is a window to a new world. It seems to me that every time I decide to go out, I become a better person when I come home.

July 8, 2018

Boracay Closure from a Malaynon’s Viewpoint: How It’s Affecting the Locals and What Can Be Done to Minimize the Negative Tourism Impacts

The serene look of Boracay white beach accentuated by an array of coconut trees after two months of closure.

Boracay is every tourist’s dream destination popularly known as an “island paradise.” Not known to all, Boracay is not a town or a city but a small island composed of three barangays namely Manocmanoc, Balabag, and Yapak. It is a part of the municipality of Malay with 14 other barangays in the mainland, one of which is the barangay of Argao where I and my family reside. Argao is mainly coastal and my house is situated few meters away from the shoreline facing the 7-kilometer beach, aptly called White Beach. Every time I step out from the door of my hut, I get to see the entire stretch of Boracay’s front beach. At day time, the sand is strikingly white and at night time, the place is filled with party lights. Many people call it is an ‘island that never sleeps.”

July 1, 2018

Hiking Mt. Igduao in Valderrama Antique: A Tough Journey Full of Surprises, Sheer, and Serendipity

Mountains are more beautiful after the rain. Breathtaking view of Valderrama mountain ranges taken from Mt. Igduao in Valderrama, Antique.

“Hold on tight,” Ritchel said as she starts her scooter. “I’m ready, let’s go!” I said with full of excitement. Then she squeezed the gas throttle. We’re going on a road-trip and hike Mt. Igduao in Valderrama, Antique. It’s in the opposite side of Mt. Igcuron which we already hiked separately sometime ago. It’s an approximately five-hour drive from Malay, Aklan. We had several stops on some beautiful spots along the road which ate a lot of our travel time. It was already dusk when we reached Culasi, Antique so we decided to have our dinner in the next town, Tibiao. Knowing that we wouldn’t make it to Valderrama, we decided to stay for a night in Tibiao. We stayed in a college-run hostel. Nobody was around when we arrived so we requested the security guard to call the caretaker. The latter arrived few minutes later and led us to our room. The room was good and the price was very cheap but still, we longed for the comfort of the sand as a night ago, we camped on the beach in Bel-is with our friends. It was a lot of fun.

March 16, 2018

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