Hiking for a Cause: Reaching Out to the People of Idao Community and Discovering Mt. Atog and Its Unexplored Ranges in Barbaza, Antique | rich'nritch.com

Hiking for a Cause: Reaching Out to the People of Idao Community and Discovering Mt. Atog and Its Unexplored Ranges in Barbaza, Antique

The summit of Mt. Atog offers an unrivalled view of Barbaza mountain ranges.
The summit of Mt. Atog offers an unrivalled view of Barbaza mountain ranges.

“I’ll come back,” I told Nanay Pangga as I bid farewell to her and her family. They accommodated me and Jackie in their house when we got stranded there a night before. They cooked us a very special meal for lunch and native adobo chicken and pinamalhan (fish cooked in vinegar) for dinner. “Ka-itsura mo akong bata (you look like my daughter),” Nay Pangga told me while eating. “Diin siya, Nay (where is she)?,” I asked. “Nagatrabaho siya sa Manila (she’s working in Manila),” she replied. I smiled at her and asked if she misses her daughter. I got teary-eyed when she said that seeing me somehow eased her longing. And that started a long evening chat over a glass of tuba (coconut wine) with Tatay (Nanay Pangga's husband). That night, Jayson (our guide) and the other kids went to the nearby river to catch some shrimps or patuyaw which they served for our breakfast the next morning.

Some photos of our stay in Idao community and our first hike to Mt. Atog in March 2017:

A boy looking outside from a window of his family's hut in Idao, Barbaza, Antique.
A boy looking outside from a window of his family's hut in Idao, Barbaza, Antique.
A kid holding a ripe batuan fruit (a sour fruit used as flavoring in sinigang dishes).
A kid holding a ripe batuan fruit (a sour fruit used as flavoring in sinigang dishes).
The kids peeking at their window out of curiosity.
The kids peeking at their window out of curiosity.
The look in their eyes upon seeing us shows that they are curious about our presence.
The look in their eyes upon seeing us shows that they are curious about our presence.
A woman standing at the door of their hut with numerous machetes clipped on the wall made of flattened bamboo called tad-tad.
Their mother is standing at the door of their hut with numerous machetes clipped on the wall made of flattened bamboo called tad-tad.
They warmly accommodated us when we took a quick rest at their hut.
They warmly accommodated us when we took a quick rest at their hut.
Making a stop at a spot with a beautiful scenery in the background during our ascend.
Making a stop at a spot with a beautiful scenery in the background during our ascend.
The awesome view of Baranggay Mayabay, Barbaza, Antique
The awesome view of Baranggay Mayabay, Barbaza, Antique.
Beautiful rice terraces of Baranggay Mayabay.
Beautiful rice terraces of Baranggay Mayabay.
The beautiful ridge line winding towards a peak.
The beautiful ridge line winding towards a peak.
 Gabriela Silang-inspired pose with gulok or bolo borrowed from the guide. Gabriela Silang was a Filipino revolutionary leader best known as the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence from Spain. The bolo is used by guides for clearing mountain trails.
Gabriela Silang-inspired pose with gulok or bolo borrowed from the guide. Gabriela Silang was a Filipino revolutionary leader best known as the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence from Spain. The bolo is used by guides for clearing mountain trails.
With Jason, our guide, and his friends during our stay in Idao.
With Jason, our guide, and his friends during our stay in Idao.
With Nay Pangga and her family
With Nay Pangga and her family
Tasty chicken adobo and pinamalhan (fish cooked to dry in vinegar) were served by our host family for dinner.
Tasty chicken adobo and pinamalhan (fish cooked to dry in vinegar) were served by our host family for dinner.
A glass of tubá or coconut wine. Shortly after sundown, it is an old practice for village men to gather together and drink tuba. Tuba is a natural wine made of coconut’s sap which is popular in remote communities where liquor is an expensive commodity.
A glass of tubá or coconut wine. Shortly after sundown, it is an old practice for village men to gather together and drink tuba. Tuba is a natural wine made of coconut’s sap which is popular in remote communities where liquor is an expensive commodity.

Nay Pangga, her dog also named Pangga, and Nong Ricky who works as a forest ranger accompanied us to the mountain and even brought us a very delectable lunch we shared at the summit together with the other rangers. According to them, Jackie and I were the first non-local/non-agency hikers to set foot at the summit of Mt. Atog. It was a surprising news to us! They served us hot coffee when we took a rest at one of the nipa huts, fetched us spring water, and picked us wild berries, star apple, and fresh buko juice along the trail. When I asked them what are the things they wish to have, Nong Ricky said a can of Alpine and salted peanut to make a buko shake while tatay wanted a pair of shoes for his callous feet. Hearing those requests made me speechless.

Posing for a picture with the family before we started our hike.
Posing for a picture with the family before we started our hike.
A lovely morning in the middle of a rice field; the sun is out and the cool wind blows away my hair.
A lovely morning in the middle of a rice field; the sun is out and the cool wind blows away my hair.
Savouring the aroma of coffee while taking a sip facing the rice terraces with a beautiful scenery.
Savouring the aroma of coffee while taking a sip facing the rice terraces with a beautiful scenery.
Approaching the summit of Mt. Atog, you will get to enjoy even more spectacular panoramic views.
Approaching the summit of Mt. Atog, you will get to enjoy even more spectacular panoramic views.
Beautiful but wild Dalanas River winds through the mountains as seen from a peak close the community of Idao.
Beautiful but wild Dalanas River winds through the mountains as seen from a peak close the community of Idao.
The spectacular view of Barbaza mountain ranges captured on a trail before the final ascend summit.
The spectacular view of Barbaza mountain ranges captured on a trail before the final ascend summit.
The calm atmosphere and the breathtaking view will leave you wondering how marvellous mother nature can be.
The calm atmosphere and the breathtaking view will leave you wondering how marvellous mother nature can be.
The panoramic view of intricately-shaped mountains of Barbaza
The panoramic view of intricately-shaped mountains of Barbaza
Enjoying our lunch with Nay Pangga at the bunk house past the summit of Mt. Atog.
Enjoying our lunch with Nay Pangga at the bunk house past the summit of Mt. Atog.
With Nay Pangga and the on-duty forest rangers at the bunk house.
With Nay Pangga and the on-duty forest rangers at the bunk house.
Climbing a tree to achieve that monkey-pose
Climbing a tree to achieve that monkey-pose
Aside from clinging to a tree, rock climbing is another enjoyable challenge.
Aside from clinging to a tree, rock climbing is another enjoyable challenge.
Braving the knee-deep to waist-deep river to be able to cross to the other side of the trail. We had to leave our bags to our guide for safe crossing.
Braving the knee-deep to waist-deep river to be able to cross to the other side of the trail. We had to leave our bags to our guide for safe crossing.

“Nay Pangga?,” I called from outside while knocking their door. It’s 11:30 in the evening of June 11 and it’s been three months since I left the place. I came back to bring their requests as I’ve promised. The door opened and for the second time, I was welcomed by a familiar feeling of home. The delight in their faces were priceless! I introduced Richard and Clark to them. With us was Tay Itok, one of the legendary guides of Mt. Nangtud. We left his house at Lombuyan, Barbaza at 7:30 PM and took a new trail going to Idao. It was a four-hour grueling hike in the middle of the night. We didn’t expect it to be that hard. 

With Clark (Island Trekker) at the house of Tay Nito before we set out to Baranggay Idao.
With Clark (Island Trekker) at the house of Tay Nito before we set out to Baranggay Idao.
A quick rest during our night trek to Baranggay Idao in Barbaza, Antique.
A quick rest during our night trek to Baranggay Idao in Barbaza, Antique.

Since Jackie, Rona, and Khione arrived in the community a day before, they hiked to one of the view decks facing Mt. Atog and spent the night in a farmer’s hut. The three of us and Tay Nito slept at the house of Nang Pangga. At past midnight, I was awaken by mosquito bites  so I woke Richard up and asked him to accompany me to sleep outside. We picked up our sleeping bags and laid them down at an open bench near the house. It was a lovely night under the canopy of stars and moon. The dark sky was awash in light. A superb experience.

Early morning of the next day, a bowl of shrimp and fish, a plate of mushrom, a bunch of bananas, a dozen of buko, and freshly-picked pineapples with the sight of native pigs, chickens, and turkeys playing on the ground welcomed us all as soon as we stepped out the door. It was a memorable scene!

Lovely morning deserves a woke-up-like-this groufie.
Lovely morning deserves a woke-up-like-this groufie.
Early morning village scene at the small community of Baranggay Idao, Barbaza, Antique.
Early morning village scene at the small community of Baranggay Idao, Barbaza, Antique.
Native chickens are a common sight in rural Filipino villages. Fish and chicken are the common main sources of protein for the people living in remote communities. In Idao, there seem to be more chickens walking around than people.
Native chickens are a common sight in rural Filipino villages. Fish and chicken are the common main sources of protein for the people living in remote communities. In Idao, there seem to be more chickens walking around than people.
Chickens housed inside a bamboo-made cage.
Chickens housed inside a bamboo-made cage.
Apart from native chickens, there are also native pigs and turkeys roaming around their backyard.
Apart from native chickens, there are also native pigs and turkeys roaming around their backyard.
Freshwater shrimps caught by Jason and Nong Ricky during their last night’s ‘panueo’ in the nearby river. Village people usually head up to the riverbed at night with flash lights and spear guns to catch some fish or shrimps (patuyaw) overnight.
Freshwater shrimps caught by Jason and Nong Ricky during their last night’s ‘panueo’ in the nearby river. Village people usually head up to the riverbed at night with flash lights and spear guns to catch some fish or shrimps (patuyaw) overnight.
Freshly-caught freshwater fish (daeapingan). This kind of fish is hard to catch during daytime as they stick hard to rocks and swim very fast. They are attracted to the light so it’s an easy catch at nighttime.
Freshly-caught freshwater fish (daeapingan). This kind of fish is hard to catch during daytime as they stick hard to rocks and swim very fast. They are attracted to the light so it’s an easy catch at nighttime.
Other than shrimps and fish, they also caught a pair of sailfin lizards locally knows as ‘ibid’.
Other than shrimps and fish, they also caught a pair of sailfin lizards locally knows as ‘ibid’.
This type of lizard is endemic in the Philippines. It’s an excellent swimmer and can walk across water. It is omnivorous, feeding on fruit, leaves, flowers, insects, and small animals. It lives near rivers in the tropical forests of the Philippines.
This type of lizard is endemic in the Philippines. It’s an excellent swimmer and can walk across water. It is omnivorous, feeding on fruit, leaves, flowers, insects, and small animals. It lives near rivers in the tropical forests of the Philippines.
Nay Pangga enjoyably cleaning the shrimps and fish together with her son and Jason.
Nay Pangga enjoyably cleaning the shrimps and fish together with her son and Jason.
Freshly-cooked shrimps
Freshly-cooked shrimps
Freshly-cooked fish stew with tomato
Freshly-cooked fish stew with tomato

Not long after, the three ladies arrived. It was a reunion for the six of us. We then had coffee and breakfast courtesy of the people of Idao. Their warmth and hospitality truly amazed us. In exchange, we made them a jar of buko shake with salted peanuts and served them like they were the guests. Afterward, we had breakfast all together. After eating, we started to prepare for the outreach activity. We laid down all the items we brought on the bench and set up the materials for the games. 

Group lunch with Nay Pangga and her husband, the punong barangay, and Tay Nito.
Group lunch with Nay Pangga and her husband, the punong barangay, and Tay Nito.
Group photo with Rivian before she leaves Idao for descent
Group photo with Rivian before she leaves Idao for descent
Village people playing basketball before the outreach activity started.
Village people playing basketball before the outreach activity started.

 

Village people playing basketball before the outreach activity started.
Village people playing basketball before the outreach activity started.

 

Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines that every village in the country has a basketball court even in far-flung communities like Idao.
Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines that every village in the country has a basketball court even in far-flung communities like Idao.

 

A week before it, Jackie and I planned to go back to the community. Fueled by our desire to give something for the people of Idao, we invited some of our outdoor friends and organized an outreach activity. Since it was scheduled on June 11-12, we call it an “Independence Hike for a Cause”. We brought grocery items, clothes, toys, and fruits for them. Of course, I didn’t forget to bring the condensed milk (Nong Ricky calls it Alpine) courtesy of my cousin, Nang Delyn, and salted peanuts. They’re amazing and yes, there’s nothing to pity about them.

They live in a remote community with only 10 houses, some of which are abandoned. Going to their place is a tough journey. It took us more than five (5) hours of hike and more than 10 rivers with strong unpredictable currents to cross to reach the community of Idao (composed of only 9 families) and another more than two (2) hours to conquer the summit of Mt. Atog.

One of the games we organized for the kids to enjoy.
One of the games we organized for the kids to enjoy.
Group photo with the warm and happy people of Idao after the outreach activity
Group photo with the warm and happy people of Idao after the outreach activity.

This community revealed to us how difficult but lucky in a way to live in a far-flung, isolated but rewarding patch of land bounded by mountains and rivers and decorated by rice terraces, amazing ridges, scenic landscapes and warm people. The walk up here was arduous, long, and dangerous and we thought of the residents especially the children who pass the same trail everyday for their living and for school bearing the intense heat of the sun and the freaking coldness of the rain. Such are the reasons why we held an outreach and social activities especially for the kids.

After having our lunch, we started our hike to Mt. Atog
After having our lunch, we started our hike to Mt. Atog.
We took shelter to this hut when the rain started to pour. We didn’t forget taking a groufie before we left.
We took shelter to this hut when the rain started to pour. We didn’t forget taking a groufie before we left.
The trail going to the summit of Mt. Atog just after the light rain.
The trail going to the summit of Mt. Atog just after the light rain.

The trail going to the summit of Mt. Atog just after the light rain.

The trail going to the summit of Mt. Atog just after the light rain.

The surrounding clears out once in a while. Mainly, it was foggy.
The surrounding clears out once in a while. Mainly, it was foggy.

The surrounding clears out once in a while. Mainly, it was foggy.

The surrounding clears out once in a while. Mainly, it was foggy.

The DENR bunk house past the summit of Mt. Atog serves as a shelter for forest rangers whenever they are patrolling.
The DENR bunk house past the summit of Mt. Atog serves as a shelter for forest rangers whenever they are patrolling.
Enjoying our stay at the bunk house while waiting for the fog to disappear.
Enjoying our stay at the bunk house while waiting for the fog to disappear.
Because Clark did not make it to the summit due to knee cramp, we brought his banner for a photo at the summit.
Because Clark did not make it to the summit due to knee cramp, we brought his banner for a photo at the summit.
The exceptionally beautiful summit of Mt. Atog. It’s as breathtaking as the first time we lay our eyes on it. It just became greener.
The exceptionally beautiful summit of Mt. Atog. It’s as breathtaking as the first time we lay our eyes on it. It just became greener.

The exceptionally beautiful summit of Mt. Atog. It’s as breathtaking as the first time we lay our eyes on it. It just became greener.

A picturesque view of Barbaza mountain ranges from atop Mt. Atog.
A picturesque view of Barbaza mountain ranges from atop Mt. Atog.
A closer view of the ranges highlighting the intricate ridge lines.
A closer view of the ranges highlighting the intricate ridge lines.
Not long after staying at the summit, we left Mt. Atog and descended back to Idao.
Not long after staying at the summit, we left Mt. Atog and descended back to Idao.
We got soaked during our descent but rewarded with boiled cassava for snacks and even brought some that later on, served as our trail food.
We got soaked during our descent but rewarded with boiled cassava for snacks and even brought some that later on, served as our trail food.

Immersing and reaching out to them was heartwarming. Every moment of it. We came home exhausted because we subjected our body to physical torture and our feet and lower back to muddy shoes and heavy backpacks but we're emotionally happy and fulfilled. That's good enough for us.

 

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