Ritch 'n RitchSerendipity Seekershttp://richnritch.comen-gb2019-10-18T23:08:06+08:00Experience the Rolling Hills of Batanes and the Windmill of Ilocos Norte in Malay, Aklan located very close to Boracay Island and Bel-is Beachhttp://richnritch.com/2017/10/24/experience-rolling-hills-batanes-and-windmill-ilocos-norte-malay-aklan-located-very-close

Experience the Rolling Hills of Batanes and the Windmill of Ilocos Norte in Malay, Aklan located very close to Boracay Island and Bel-is Beach


Ever wanted to see the island of Boracay, the rolling hills of Batanes, and the windmill of Ilocos Norte all at one place? Malay, Aklan has them all and it's just few minutes away from Caticlan, the gateway to Boracay. And believe it or not, it will only cost you a Php10-tricycle ride and a body fit to hike! Locals call the place as Panaktakan. The first viewpoint called Banderahan requires a 45-minute walk from the Malay Municipal Tree Park and is located at Barangay Argao, Malay, Aklan. Going farther will take you to the breathtaking viewpoint of Panaktakan which is already part of Barangay Napaan, Malay, Aklan.

Malay is a first-class municipality in the western part of the province of Aklan composed of an island and a mainland. The island is the world-renowned Boracay Island known for its 7-km beach with powdery white sand, aptly called White Beach. The mainland is the home for the 6 out of 7 'Wonders of Malay'.

Aside from being an "island paradise" and hidden from many, the mainland Malay is a "mountain paradise". It offers spots where you can have a full view of Boracay Island and the islets surrounding it, Romblon Islands, and Sibuyan Sea accentuated by the spectacular sight of the rolling hills nearby. The scenery is stunning like of Batanes! Turn a little and you will see an array of windmills displayed on top of Pawa hills like of Ilocos Norte! It is a perfect place for hiking, picknicking, and camping. Plane spotting can also be added in your list of activities as the airport is situated right under.

We unexpectedly stumbled into this place when we went for a short run last Saturday morning, October 21, 2017. The next day, we explored its interior where we found a waterfall named Tabis-tabisan, a perfect place to cool down after hiking. Indeed, it's an ideal place for nature-tripping and adventure. At the end of the trek, you can either go to Boracay Island or Bel-is, Buruanga and enjoy the world-class beach.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your backpacks!



A Week into the Wild: What We Found in Walking Across Aklan and Antique Mountain Ranges for 7 Dayshttp://richnritch.com/2017/11/15/week-wild-what-we-found-walking-across-aklan-and-antique-mountain-ranges-7-days

A Week into the Wild: What We Found in Walking Across Aklan and Antique Mountain Ranges for 7 Days


More than the famous powdery white sand beach of Boracay Island, many parts of Aklan remain hidden and untouched. The province of Aklan, particularly the towns of Libacao and Madalag, is home to numerous unexplored mountain ranges; a potential mountaineering destination in the country. The highest mountain in Aklan, Mt. Nausang (locals call it Mt. Nausan), has just been explored by AMSI (Antique Mountaineering Society Inc.) in May. Mt. Nausang/Nausan is 1,464 MASL. It's summit is located in Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan and it’s ranges extend up to Oyang, Libacao, Aklan. Inspired by the exploration of AMSI, Richard and I attempted a hike traversing it from its ranges in Libacao, Aklan to it’s summit in Panipiason, Madalag and connect it to Mt. Madjaas in Antique. The hike was our personal endeavor, fuelled by our strong passion for exploration.

Our expedition didn’t go well as planned. We were unable to find a trail connecting Mt. Nausang/Nausan and Mt. Madjaas. Due to terrain difficulty, we had to cross from Libacao to Madalag and hike the mountain in Panipiason side.

After our descent, we continued our hike to Mt. Madjaas and descended in Osorio, Antique. After 7 days of arduous walking in the jungles and mountains of central Panay, we completed our journey. 

Our experience from the unexplored ranges of Libacao to the highest pristine mountain of Aklan (Mt. Nausang/Nausan) in Madalag and traversing the Aklan mountain ranges to reach the summit of the highest and majestic mountain of Antique (Mt. Madjaas) in seven days were, by far, the BEST DAYS OF OUR LIVES as Akeanon mountaineers. We've seen the unimaginable treasures hidden in the wilderness, the richness of the flora and fauna, and spectacular views atop the highest peaks. We've gone through death-defying, nerve-racking, don't-you-slip boulders, cliffs, knife edges, rocks, and overhangs.

We've slept in huts, a cave, and under the canopy of trees in the middle of a rainforest and overcame the freaking coldness of the night. We've trekked in the evening and in dawn. We've smiled and laughed at our slips, falls, and rolls amidst all the mud, sweat, bites, scratches, sprains, and bruises. We've struggled against leeches and insects. We've survived the heavy rains and fog.

We've immersed into the diverse cultures of our local guides and the communities we passed through. We've learned their dialects and ways and ate with them like a family as they treat us as their own.

 And the best thing that happened to us is - we've found in nature the happiness that we deserve. 

Exploring the Wilderness of Aklan: A Very Challenging Hike to Mt. Nausang, Aklan’s Untamed and Highest Mountain in Panipiason, Madalaghttp://richnritch.com/2017/11/22/exploring-wilderness-aklan-very-challenging-hike-mt-nausang-aklan%E2%80%99s-untamed-and-highest

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.

I didn’t expect to experience it on my second hike in this mountain. April 2017, a week after the successful exploration of AMSI (Antique Mountaineering Society, Incorporated), when I first hiked Mt. Nausang/Nausan). Sarah (a fellow hiker) and I were the second group and the first two Aklanons to summit the highest mountain in Aklan with an altitude of 1,464 MASL. Its summit is located in Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan and its ranges extend to Libacao, Aklan.

Some of the photos of our hike in Mt. Nausang/Mt. Nausan in April, 2017:

Looking back, I planned to explore it in 2015 but the barangay captain didn’t permit me because the trail was inaccessible after typhoon Haiyan hit the area so I ended up hiking Mt. Maga-so-eong (the ranges above the Panipiason proper) traversing to the famous Agtughangin Falls.

Some of the photos of my hike in Mt. Maga-so-éong in 2015:

 A day ago, jumping off from Oyang, Libacao, Ritchel and I tried to establish a trail going to Mt. Nausang/Nausan. Gerry, our local guide, said that it’s not possible to hike the mountain from there because of the heavy obstacles. The trail has not been used for a long time and became more difficult after the typhoon. Thick vegetation, heavily-thorned plants, and logs were all over the path making it impossible to be cleared in a day or two. Unable to proceed, we descended from the mountains of Oyang and crossed to Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan. We decided to hike the pinnacle of Aklan in Panipiason. We arrived at the jump-off point in the afternoon hungry and exhausted after our failed Libacao exploration. We arranged our guides, had our lunch, and warmed up in preparation for our ascend. It’s my third time in the place and it still didn’t fail to amaze me. The views are scenic and the people are very warm.

The funny part was when one of the folks asked us where we’re heading and we said, “to Mt. Nausang”, he claimed there’s no such mountain in the village. We rephrased our answer and said, “to the highest mountain in Aklan”. Then he said, it’s name is Mt. Nausan (the source of the river). Another folk said its Mt. Maylomay not Mt. Nausang. He explained further that ‘Nausan’ is the name of the stream flowing from the foot of Mt. Maylomay in Panipiason going to Libacao and down to Aklan River with its head meeting the peak of the Aklan’s highest mountain. It was mistakenly named ‘Mt. Nausang’ by a certain geological surveyor. His statements bewildered us so we started asking until tens of people and children were around us listening. Ritchel cracked some personal jokes and everyone laughs around. It was a fascinating scene!

It was past 5PM when we started to ascend. We decided to go for a night trek expecting to reach May-Irimnan campsite at 9PM. From there, it would be easy to reach the summit early in the morning. With limited batteries and no power banks, we turned off our smart phones. We’d been walking deep inside the jungle under the heavy downpour for long hours without monitoring the time. We were soaked and shivering by the time we arrived to the site. We swiftly set up our tarp shelter and tent. While I was preparing dinner, Ritch remembered to open her phone and checked the time. We were both shocked to know it was past midnight. Exhausted and cold, we managed to sleep after eating.

The next day, we continued our hike to the summit. Though it was my second time, the path still amazes me. Going up was steep and covered by mossy forest. In the absence of view decks, the trail served as perfect scenery. We reached the summit at 9AM.

The fog was all over the area when we started our descent. We left the campsite at 11AM and touched down Panipiason proper at 8PM. It was an overwhelming joy and fulfillment to have hiked the highest mountain of our home province and seen it’s own treasures.

Traversing Aklan and Antique: A Three-day Hike to Mt. Madjaas via Panipiason, Madalag; Uncovering Aklan and Antique’s Hidden Treasureshttp://richnritch.com/2017/11/24/traversing-aklan-and-antique-three-day-hike-mt-madjaas-panipiason-madalag-uncovering

Traversing Aklan and Antique: A Three-day Hike to Mt. Madjaas via Panipiason, Madalag; Uncovering Aklan and Antique’s Hidden Treasures


It was 8AM in Sitio Mananggad, Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan when we started preparing our loads for our hike to Mt. Madjaas in Antique on the same day. It is the highlight of our seven-day exploration so far and the toughest. We've traveled from Libacao, crossed the border to Madalag, and hiked the highest mountain in Aklan for the past two days. Spending a night with the people of Panipiason was a heartwarming experience for us. Their warmth and humility deeply touched us.

As we were preparing to set-out, one of our guides anxiously told us that he's not sure if we can cross the rivers today because of the downpour last night. The rivers are unpredictable when it rains. He asked us to think again whether to proceed or not. Persistent with our journey, we decided to continue.

My childhood was filled with outdoors and adventures. I grew up in the highlands and as a kid, the mountains served as my playground. Hiking Mt. Madjaas was a dream to me back then. Going to school, I would always look up to it and wish that I can climb it someday. It was last year when Ritch and I, on separate events hiked this majestic mountain from the Antique side (Flores trail).

Some photos of my three-day hike to Mt. Madjaas last year, January 2016, via Barangay Flores, Culasi, Antique:

Apart from the waterfall and scenic landscapes that we saw back on the ridge, the trail has so many magnificent forest trees that you can't see in the lowlands.

Real gems of untouched nature make the most of the Mt. Madjaas ranges.

Mt. Madjaas is a tough mountain to climb with incredibly majestic and preserved nature. The most beautiful sights can be found close to the summit.

She hiked this majestic mountain in May 2016. It was a group climb organized by Higher Grounds, an Iloilo-based mountaineering organization.

This time, we are hiking it together from the Aklan side (Panipiason-Osorio via Alojipan trail). We walked for three days across swaying monkey bridge over Dumalaylay River, waist-deep river crossings, huge boulders, waterfalls, narrow ridges, and cliffs accentuated by scenic landscapes along the way.

The trail was very challenging and very exhausting, mostly 80 to 85 degrees ascend, thick forest, dense moss, heavily-thorned plants and trees, and aggressive leeches. We've gone through all hardships and extremities during the hike but seeing the wonderful treasures hidden in this part of Aklan and summiting the highest point in Panay was all worth it.

Though I've been to numerous destinations, both local and international, it's fascinating to know that there are so many paradise-like places in my home province, Aklan. All it takes is a strong will and courage fuelled by passion and a sense of purpose to discover and explore them. It was an amazing journey and for us, it was the best hike of our lives.

From Summit to Sea: My First Paraw Sailing Experiencehttp://richnritch.com/2017/11/29/summit-sea-my-first-paraw-sailing-experience

From Summit to Sea: My First Paraw Sailing Experience


After our seven-day exploration in the mountains of Aklan and Antique, we went to Boracay Island via a sailboat locally known as 'paraw' for free. It was my first paraw experience and definitely, a remarkable one.

Paraw is a tradional Filipino sailboat commonly found in the Visayas. Before Boracay Island became a famous tourist destination, paraws were used for fishing and transportation. Today, it is considered as a special interest activity by tourists who would like to tour around the island and visit its surrounding islets while enjoying its serenity. A paraw has two outriggers and sails. It's hull is made of wood and the outriggers are made of bamboos and logs. The outriggers help the boat balance and prevent it from capsizing. Powered only by the wind, sailing with paraw is a peaceful and very relaxing experience.

We left the mainland at past 3:00 PM. The heat was bearable which made it a perfect time for sailing. We sat on the edge of the outriggers so we can have the full view of the island and the marine life underneath the water. We could feel the waves splashing against our feet while our legs are dangling over the waters as we sail further away from the shore. The cool breeze of the ocean blew gently against our faces while we're sailing along the crystal clear waters of Boracay and enjoying the great view of the white sand in the entire stretch of the front beach. It was a very enjoyable trip and unbelivably all for free!

You might be wondering why it's free. For the people of the mainland Malay who wish to go to Boracay Island, hitching a ride doesn't cost a cent. It's a privilige.

Experience the Pristine Beaches of Bel-is, Buruanga, Aklan; Hidden and Boracay-like Paradise with Fine White Sand and Clear Blue Waterhttp://richnritch.com/2017/11/29/experience-pristine-beaches-bel-buruanga-aklan-hidden-and-boracay-paradise-fine-white

Experience the Pristine Beaches of Bel-is, Buruanga, Aklan; Hidden and Boracay-like Paradise with Fine White Sand and Clear Blue Water


Bel-is is a barangay in the outline area of Buruanga, the westernmost town in the province of Aklan. Bel-is is a home to numerous white beaches such as Nasog Beach, Langka Beach, Hinugtan Beach and Tuburan Baybay. It is also where Ariel’s Point is located, formerly called Batason Point, a popular cliff-diving spot that is 30-minute away from the world-renowned island of Boracay.

Photos of Hinugtan Beach, Bel-is, Buruanga, Aklan:

Glory and tranquility will welcome you as you marvel at the mesmerizing patch of land bounded by sea decorated by natural seascapes; where turquoise waters kiss white sand beach and corals painted with the colors of tropical fish. Where the hills and rocks come alive with the sound of birds and the views so spectacular, it’s breathtaking!

Hinugtan Beach used to be a hideaway but with the recent developments of local tourism and the increasing number of tourists visiting the beach, things have started to change. However, it's still a perfect place if you want peaceful and quiet, away from the crowd and nightlife.

Ariel’s Point and Tuburan Baybay:

A boat ride to the other side of the rocks on the end of the Hinugtan beach will lead you to the famous cliff diving spot, Ariel’s Point, and to an even more secluded beach known as Tuburan Baybay. 

Nasog Beach (Sitio Luyo):

In the heart of the boundary of Barangay Naasog of Malay and Barangay Bel-is of Buruanga and along the coast of Sitio Luyo, lies this unknown secluded beach. A haven of sweet escape, far from the maddening crowd. A paradise where silence joins the exceptional sounds of nature.

From Poblacion, Malay going to Sitio Luyo, Bel-is, Buruanga is an extraordinary journey of rocky, winding, steep, and mountainous road surrounded by a forest. Upon reaching the bottom, you’ll be bedazzled not only by the beach but by the entire package of the place. 

Crystal clear waters, seemingly endless white shores, scenic landscapes, diverse wildlife, surprising coves, exciting cliffs, rock formations, and warm people. Sitio Luyo is a paradise of its own and truly an exhilirating hidden place to visit.

Sitio Luyo is a paradise, fairly untouched and, still, with a lots of greenery, turquoise blue water, and a totally laid-back vibe. 

 If the pictures are beautiful, they don’t hold justice when you see them real.

Photos of one of our overnight beach campings with two of our outdoor friends, Clark and Jackie:


Discovering the Indigenous Side of Aklan: An Immersion with Aklanon Bukidnon Community in Panipiason, Madalaghttp://richnritch.com/2017/11/30/discovering-indigenous-side-aklan-immersion-aklanon-bukidnon-community-panipiason-madalag

Discovering the Indigenous Side of Aklan: An Immersion with Aklanon Bukidnon Community in Panipiason, Madalag


During our Aklan to Antique traverse through Mt. Madjaas, we were invited by Tay Herminio and Tay Roming, our guides from Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, to come back to their vibrant community to experience their fiesta called ‘Pistang Kristiyano’ in the coming weeks. Without hesitation, we said 'yes' to them.

True to our words, Richard and I traveled to Madalag on the eve of May 24. We went on our motorbike from Kalibo to the town proper. Initially, we planned to proceed to Panipiason. However, we were advised by the locals not to because the road is treacherous and the weather is bad. It's been raining cats and dogs the whole day. After securely parking our bike at the front of the town's municipal hall, we looked for a habal-habal to rent. It took us sometime to find one because drivers went home early for the bisperas. Luckily, someone volunteered to bring us there despite of the time and terrain condition. What we didn't expect was the experience of a death-defying ride that night. We had to drive over some rough, slippery, and winding terrain. The wheels slipped many times and we even fell down on a swamp only to find out that our driver has never been to Panipiason before. It was his first time!

The program just started when we arrived at the village at around 8:00 in the evening. We immediately looked for the house of Tay Herminio. We urged our habal-habal driver to spend the night with us in Panipiason instead of going back to the town proper because of the real danger on the road. He agreed with us and immediately informed his wife through a phone call that he can't be back home. Later, we bumped into Tay Roming at the plaza. People started to fill the area. After the preliminaries and speeches, the host announced that the most awaited part of the program has came. We focused our attention on the show. We got totally curious when we heard numerous folks saying, "Inagong eon!" and they started to gather closer to the stage. Clueless, we also made our way in front of the crowd. And voila! A unique dance matched with an equally unique sound was being performed. We were suprised to see the familiar faces of the people we met when we hiked Mt. Nausang (Mt. Maylomay) three weeks ago. They were the same people dancing with full of passion, energy, and enthusiasm. Tay Roming was one of them. Glancing at the crowd, we saw the delight in everyone's face. The sound of the gong overpowered the entire venue as it casted its magical spell on spectators who were in awe and struck by the outstanding performances of the local dancers. It was mesmerizing to witness a very rich culture unfolded before our eyes.

Inagong dance is a cultural dance of Aklanon Bukidnon, the indigenous people of Barangay Panipiason and Barangay Medina in Madalag, Aklan. They were able to preserve their colorful cultural traits and local traditions unaffected by the modern influences.The Inagong is usually performed on special festive occasions. It imitates the living creatures around them such as birds, butterflies, and animals like the monkey, they were able to create beautiful dance steps and elegant movements through the sound of a "GONG" and indigenous musical instruments like bamboo. 

The night ended with so much joy and fun in everyone's faces. It was an exhilarating experience for us. That night, we ate and slept at Tay Herminio's house. The next day, May 25, was the fiesta day so everyone was busy when we woke up. Tay Herminio brought us to his relative's house for us to meet Bobong and Recel. Bobong happens to live in a hut up in the Panipiason mountain and his brother, Recel, regularly visits him there to help him with his farm. We stayed a night in his hut during our traverse. They were very accommodating, genuine, and kind. Recel introduced us to his big family and even served us breakfast with coffee. The highlight of that day was when Bobong started to play his guitar and Tay Herminio sing komposo songs. Other members of the family also took turns in playing the guitar and singing their own komposo and harana pieces. I can't help but join them while Richard enjoyed himself taking videos of us. I chuckled and giggled at the sight of them serenading me. The house was filled with laughter and merry-making. We were like a complete family. For me, that was magical.

At around 10 AM, we were invited to visit the next village, Sitio Mananggad. It's where we previously stayed after our Libacao traverse. Going there requires one to walk on a swaying monkey bridge made of vines taken out by the locals from the jungle. It's one of the most brilliant bayanihan works I've ever seen and set my feet into! Upon arrival, two families approached us and asked if we would like to be godparents for their children. We wholeheartedly accepted their invitations. After the christening, we hopped to several houses to eat and meet everyone. The last two houses we visited were of Tatay Roming and Pastor Boy, the punong barangay. We were overwhelmed by the warmth and gestures of the people in the community. We almost didn't want to leave. Richard and I went home that day with so much joy in our hearts.

One thing I realized that day was that 'home' is not really about the place; it’s about the people. We can carry our home wherever we go and treat everyone even strangers as our own family. It is always a remarkable part of our journey when we positively touch people lives. In return, it makes our heart grow fonder. We are very grateful we were able to return to this community not because in here we were reported missing but because the beautiful people of Panipiason amazed us by their good nature, warm accommodation, and very rich culture and tradition which deeply touched our hearts as visitors.

Hiking the Formidable Mt. Nangtud: Our Epic Hike to the Second Highest Mountain in Panay and One of the Toughest in the Countryhttp://richnritch.com/2017/12/08/hiking-formidable-mt-nangtud-our-epic-hike-second-highest-mountain-panay-and-one-toughest

Hiking the Formidable Mt. Nangtud: Our Epic Hike to the Second Highest Mountain in Panay and One of the Toughest in the Country


“Ritch, your location please? I’m now in the bus, I’ll be in our meeting place at around 2:00 PM,” I told Ritch in Facebook messenger. We’re going for a major hike. It was an overcast Friday afternoon of May and a bit late for a normal hiking trip. For the record, it was our second duo-hike together. We’ve just agreed a night before. With quick planning and minimal time to prepare, time adjustments were expected to happen.

“I’m on my way, too,” she replied. Ritchel doesn’t just spend her days behind the desk. She works as a teacher in Malay National High School on weekdays and a certified traveler on weekends. We’ve hiked numerous mountains together including the seven-day exploration in the Aklan mountain ranges from Libacao to Madalag and traversing to Culasi, Antique via Mt. Madja-as. Being spontaneous is what made us instantly complement each other.

May of this year when we conquered Mt. Nangtud, the second highest and one of the toughest mountains in Panay, within two days and one night, a record that nobody has ever done before according to our guide. We supposed to explore a protected area in the Northwest Panay Peninsula (NWPP) for three days but since our permit wasn't settled on time, we had a change of plan and ended up hitting the trails of Mt. Nangtud in Barbaza, Antique. 

It was my second hike to this mountain. My first time was in April which took me two and a half days and two nights (2.5D2N) but I failed to reach its true summit. Upon reaching the false summit, my guide advised me not to proceed given the time and food supply. Besides, it was completely an unplanned trip. Nangtud has two summits, one preparatory summit called EBJ (named after the former Governor Evelio B. Javier who first hiked on this mountain) and the true summit which I later learned is only less than an hour from EBJ. I could have insisted to my guide if I have known it beforehand.

Some photos of my hike in Mt. Nangtud last March 2017:

Ritch and I arrived almost exactly at the same time in our agreed place. My bus was from the eastern side of Aklan and hers was from the western side. My previous experience made us decide to complete our hike for 3-4 days. However, while on our way at past 3:00 PM, she was informed by her principal thru sms that she needs to report to school on Monday, giving her only two free days. Late and only have two days left, we still pushed on. We reached Lombuyan, Nangtud's jumpoff, at past 7 PM, hoping that we can still make it for the day. We negotiated with our guide if he can lead us to the first camp site by doing a night trek but he didn’t agree. 

Short of options, we persuaded him to allow us to hike Mt. Nangtud for two days and one night. “Let’s just give it a try. I climbed it before, I think it’s doable. If we feel that we couldn’t make it, we’ll go back. We’ll pay you for the usual three-day climb,” I said to Tay Nito (one of the legendary guides and the father of Nito Jr.). He reluctantly agreed and we made a deal. A very long and fast-paced hike was ahead of us.

It was Saturday the next day, we woke up at 2:00 AM. We did our usual preparations, ate breakfast, and left Lombuyan at 3:45 AM. Hiking Mt. Nangtud requires an arduous journey across multiple rivers with strong currents and along narrow high ridges. It mainly involves ascends to mostly 80- 85 degrees steep mountain slopes. Carrying a full-pack load made it more dragging due to elevation and gravity pull. Despite the difficulty, the breathtaking scenery and the richness of its flora and fauna along the trails definitely kept us going.

We minimized our stops and photo-taking. It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived at the EBJ at 5:00 PM and reached the summit at 6:00 PM.

Our descent was filled with darkness, heavy rain, and sound of thunders. Walking in the narrow ridges in a dark night while raining hard was pretty much of a struggle. “We’re like undergoing scout rangers’ training,” our guide commented. We pitched our tents at past 9PM. There were lots of leeches in the campsite which made our sleep uneasy. We left the place at 10AM on Sunday and arrived at Lombuyan at 8PM.

We spent the night at our guide’s house. The dinner was filled with stories of our recently concluded hike. It was a remarkable one. Ritch left Lombuyan at 2AM on Monday and reached Palma, Barbaza at 3 AM, took the van at 4 AM, arrived in Caticlan at 5:40 AM, and reported to school at 7 AM while I left Barbaza at a later time to get our certificates of climb.

Until then, we can't believe we successfully did it. Another full-pack and crazy adventure for us. One for the books! 

Note: 2D1N is not an ideal itinerary for Mt. Nangtud. If not for Ritchel’s call of duty, we would go for a safe three-day IT. Our apologies.

Hiking for a Cause: Reaching Out to the People of Idao Community and Discovering Mt. Atog and Its Unexplored Ranges in Barbaza, Antiquehttp://richnritch.com/2017/12/19/hiking-cause-reaching-out-people-idao-community-and-discovering-mt-atog-and-its

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


“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:

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.

“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. 

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!

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. 

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.

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.

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.


Hiking Mt. Igduao in Valderrama Antique: A Tough Journey Full of Surprises, Sheer, and Serendipityhttp://richnritch.com/2018/03/16/hiking-mt-igduao-valderrama-antique-tough-journey-full-surprises-sheer-and-serendipity

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


“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.

The next day, we woke up early for Valderrama. We stopped at a restaurant in Laua-an for breakfast and took out some food for the hike. We arrived in Valderrama at around 10:00 AM, registered in the police station and proceeded to Baranggay Binanogan to hire a guide. It didn’t took us long to find one. Shortly after preparing our gears and stuff, we began to ascend. 

While on our way up to Mt. Igduao, the weather started to change. We walked speedily as the clouds get heavier and the sky gets darker. Luckily, we were near a hut when the rain poured down but still we got drenched. We rested in the house and had our lunch. The rain was intense. After waiting for almost an hour, the rain turned to drizzle prompting us to continue our hike. Before we left, the hut owner warned us of the danger ahead as there were cases of theft in the area. Missing cows were reported by the farmers. They suspected that some law offenders were hiding in the area and stealing farmers cows. The news shocked us as there was no warning given to us when we logged in at the police station. We were on the verge of abandoning the hike when the hut owner gave us safety tips and suggested a new trail to our guide to avoid the possible encounter with these people. Despite of being worried, soaked, cold, and even got lost on trail, we were able to successfully reach the summit after a few hours. The rain totally stopped when we’re at the peak. It left scattered clouds and moving fog which added impressive effects. It gave way to a breathtaking view of mountain ranges and ridges overlooking Mt. Igcuron and the long and winding stretch of Valderrama river. There, we witnessed how beautiful the mountains are after the rain. It was a heavenly moment where everything was picturesque. For almost an hour, we just stood there enjoying the cool breeze and stunning views before us and took photos once in a while.

It was my second hike to Mt. Igduao. On my first hike, I saw a long ridge that I promised myself to explore when I come back. Fueled with enthusiasm, Ritchel and I went to that spot which is still part of the mountain. It took us less than an hour to explore the ridge because there was no established trail yet. Halfway, we were totally blown away by the surrounding views. It was unexpected. Though we we’re not able to continue due to terrain difficulty, the scenery was very worth to see. We almost didn’t want to walk away.

We left Mt. Igduao at very late afternoon. We hastily walked to avoid a night trek. We staggered on steep rocks and held on to vines during our descent. We were approaching the end of the rice field when flashes of light stopped us. We bumped into five lads. They seem to be looking for something. We were surprised when we learned that they were actually looking for us. “Nag-alala kami kung bakit di pa kayo nakababa kaya nagpasya kami na hanapin kayo,” said by one of the boys. We tittered and apologetically told them that we explored the ridge and enjoyed taking photos without being conscious about the time. It was very dark when we arrived in Barangay Binanogan. When we reached the end of the foot trail, the barangay officials and the mother of our guide approached us. They worriedly asked why we descended late and told us about the reported missing cows and the alleged offenders. Other community members gathered around us and listened to the conversation. After apologizing, Ritchel tried to lessen their worries by cracking some of her old jokes and played around with the kids. She gave them our remaining trail food. She was also approached by one of the residents and told her about the the hygiene kit which Jackie, her friend, left a year ago when they hiked Mt. Igcuron. We left the crowd and went inside the house to get the kit. The woman who Ritchel met a year ago offered us her bathroom for us to wash and change clothes. Shortly after packing up, we said goodbye to the community. I must say, their smiles were contagious.

After less than an hour, we arrived in the town proper and logged out in the police station and left Valderrama. We stopped by in a restaurant in Bugasong, Antique for dinner. Thinking of a long drive home, we moved in haste because Ritchel has work the next day. Unfortunately, we got a flat tire even before we left the town of Bugasong. Stranded and didn’t know where to get it fixed, we walked to the nearby store and asked for the nearest vulcanizing shop. We tried looking everywhere but failed to find one. The store owner offered us a seat outside their store where they were having a drinking session. Later, he talked to his son over the phone who happened to be a policeman and surprisingly, we were picked up by a police patrol and brought to the closest lodge where we stayed for a night. Lying down on the bed that night, I recalled how things happened by pure serendipity.

Ritchel left at around 4:00 in the morning to catch the earliest bus and around 7AM, she informed me via SMS that she’s already in school. I went back to bed with glorious smile and and a grateful heart. I left Bugasong later that day after my tire got fixed.

Boracay Closure from a Malaynon’s Viewpoint: How It’s Affecting the Locals and What Can Be Done to Minimize the Negative Tourism Impactshttp://richnritch.com/2018/07/01/boracay-closure-malaynon%E2%80%99s-viewpoint-how-it%E2%80%99s-affecting-locals-and-what-can-be-done

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


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.”

Several steps away from my door, sailboats or “paraw” are docked for the night and every morning, boatmen come with their big ropes to either fix them or sail them to Boracay’s shore. Aboard a sailboat are one captain and two or three crews. Normally, it takes them only 15 minutes (with strong wind) or 30 minutes (without wind) as the boat doesn’t have an engine and only depends on its sail. For locals like us, taking a ride is free and we get to be docked right at the front beach of either Station 1 or 3. Paraw sailing is a popular water activity for foreign tourists and also my personal favorite. The outgoing chairman of the MASBOI (Malay Association of Sailboat Owners Incorporated), Mannie P. Casidsid (now the barangay captain of Argao), is my cousin and many of the boatmen are my relatives so often, I get to talk to them. Their monthly individual income is, in fact, way higher than the amount teacher receives.

It is a common knowledge for Malaynons that boatmen for both paraws and pumpboats, tour guides and operators, travel agents, and commissioners who work in the island and live in the mainland are high earners. They come home with a minimum of Php500.00 and a maximum of Php2,000.00 plus tips everyday. Tourism activities in my town have lifted the standard of living of many local workers. It can be observed in their house constructions and improvements, daily groceries, food preferences, acquisition of properties like motorcycles and tricycles, and education of their children. There are some who even managed to put up businesses out of their income.

When Boracay got closed last April 26, 2018, things abruptly changed. The quality of life of many people in my area deteriorated, creating a domino effect. Suddenly, life became a struggle. The cheerfulness, motivation, and positive vibe dissipated. Smiles turned to sorrow. My front beach became lonely. The truth finally dawned on me, us. 

Apparently, Boracay’s tourism pursuit was taken to an extreme where our community and nearby localities developed an overdependence on tourism. This total reliance on tourists to provide income for the locals makes it difficult for us, Malaynons, to bear the closure for two months now. But if you ask me if Boracay should be closed or not, despite of our current situation, I would still choose to say yes. Why? Because for a very long time, a reasonable balance between the positive and the negative impacts of tourism industry in the island was not maintained. As much as there were numerous gains, the negative economic, socio-cultural, and environmental impacts overpowered the benefits we reaped from engaging in tourism. Such situation was very threatening to the future of the island and to us - its people.

Even with employment being a gain, underemployment and other employment distortion flooded the island. BSHRM graduates ended up on food serving, housekeeping, bartending, massaging, and kitchen jobs. BST graduates landed on tour guiding and escorting, ticketing, cashiering, and assisting jobs. College graduates, in general, got jobs lower than their degree because of little experience and no job openings. 

There was a huge increase in government revenues because of entrance fees and tax remittances but the cost of infrastructure such as roads, terminals, bridges, and air and sea ports got a big chunk from the budget. Maintenance of the infrastructure posed a big challenge as daily operations of different sectors like transportation and accommodation cannot be suspended due to tourism demand. Monitoring and implementation of laws and tourism policies turned out of hand due to the influx of investors, private sectors, and migrant workers. The island became a center of trade and corruption was a part of the game. Substandard and illegal structures were everywhere.

There was an increased knowledge and appreciation for other cultures among locals due to constant interaction with tourists but at the same time, traditions and values of Boracaynons/Malaynons/Akeanons slowly died and innate culture was lost. Social crimes such as gambling, drugs, excessive drinking, and theft exponentially increased. Security and safety became a concern for locals and visitors alike. 

Environmental preservation and conservation efforts and eco-tourism practices were implemented but were defeated by overcrowding, traffic congestion, pollution, insufficient solid waste management, illegal construction, damage to natural landscapes (agricultural and forestal lands turned to commercial and building spaces), intrusion into the natural habitats of wildlife, and at some point, destruction of the marine life. The locals who used to be able to access the beautiful beaches were no longer allowed to enter the premises because of the privacy policy of some exclusive coastal resorts. The construction of big hotels and resorts altered the natural landscapes, seascapes, and terrains to make way for more amenities and facilities. Some trees that were home to indigenous birds and monkeys were cut to make room for the development. Flooding was a common scenario in roads and beaches. Sewerage was a big mess.

These and many others are enough reasons for a Malaynon like me to vote in favor of the temporary closure. My endearing hope is that the closure will give way for the sustainable tourism development practice to be in place. If it will not happen, I would still consider the six-month closure as a resting-time for the island paradise and in one way or another, there’s always a positive impact in it. Besides, the national government cannot be stopped from rehabilitating the island. So instead of putting efforts to block them, why don’t we help mitigate the closure’s impacts?

Taken for example, the officials of the MASBOI and boat owners started to conduct feasibility checks in country’s top destinations like Palawan, Cebu, Sipalay, Dumaguete, Siquijor, and Bohol. Weeks ago, they have sold three units of sailboat in El Nido, Palawan and this week, they are moving 10 sailboats and 30 crews to Baclayon, Bohol after building partnerships with resort owners and other investors in the island province. As of this writing, they have already Chinese guests booked in advance. They have been taking efforts to help their family survive the next four months not only depending on the Php15,000 assistance the government is granting them. What my cousin foresee after the rehabilitation is that the number of tourists and tourism activities will be regulated based on the ‘carrying capacity’ of Boracay Island. Thus, it will likely limit the number of sailboats allowed to operate so they are taking actions now to minimize the severe impact. 

Undeniably, the tourism destination sector is greatly affected especially the host communities (particularly tumandoks), local business owners, migrant workers, and other people living off the commerce in the island. The closure brought myriad problems yet to be resolved causing many concerned people to doubt the national government’s rehabilitation plan. I agree that it is people’s right to demand for the detailed and comprehensive action plan for Boracay. The government has also to address the issues of livelihood, land tenurial claims and corporate greed. I appeal to the government to consult the residents for concerns that directly affect them. Boracay local residents should be part of the rehabilitation task force. I support my fellow Malaynons to continue these cries but at the same time, I encourage everyone to be part of the solution.

To future-proof Boracay’s beauty, we need to join hands together to meet the clear and major goals of the closure and the challenge of sustainability that will come after. As a local, I see how we, as a community, have been fighting against starvation and showing resilience in dealing with the difficult conditions. I am confident that we can survive the remaining four months and not spoil everything again.

This time, it should be ensured that the gains and benefits should outweigh the negative effects brought by tourism activities. Community-based tourism planning and adapting protective and conservative practices should again be studied to create a framework of sustainability that is applicable to the island targeting its weak points. Locals should be empowered in organizing environmental efforts and be prioritized to undergo human capacity building through skills acquisition and upgrading, livelihood training, and upgrading of educational attainment for them to battle underemployment and abuse.

As a teacher, a traveler, a volunteer, a tourism promotion services NCII instructor, and most importantly, a Malaynon, the following are my humble recommendations for our community:

  1. The youth should regard tourism not only as a livelihood of their parents or family members but an opportunity to make them as future key players of the industry. They should consider pursuing career paths in tourism and hospitality industries and other tourism-related professions that will ensure them good-paying jobs. They should equip themselves skills needed for the industry at a young age. They should aspire to be future entrepreneurs, managers, and employers in the island or mainland.
  2. The schools should increase students’ knowledge of the presence, influence, and impacts of tourism in their lives and in the community as a whole. They should raise students’ level of awareness for environmental preservation and conservation efforts and awaken their consciousness on sustainable tourism development. They should demonstrate and practice solid waste management and promote responsible tourism.
  3. The barangays and communities through the help of LGU and NGOs should adapt a sustainable livelihood program in agriculture as an alternative livelihood or source of food when tourism slows down. They must encourage members of the community to engage in backyard gardening.
  4. The LGU should consider conceptualizing a plan to boost agriculture industry in the mainland to serve as a partner industry of tourism in the island. I hope each barangay in the mainland will have its banner product that can supply a reasonable percentage of supply to island’s needs especially to the accommodation/hospitality sector that caters food to the tourists. 
  5. All sectors of Boracay’s tourism should work together not to give up our innate culture to the culture of the visitors. Instead, we should have a stronger sense of “self” and preserve our own traditions and practices. I hope we can offer tourists an experience that speaks of our own identity as Malaynon.

I believe all these are important factors to keep tourism industry alive in Malay for the benefit of the future generation.

Disclaimer: I am not an economist but I believe I have ideas to share that may be of contribution to my community as I have learned them from traveling to nearly 40 provinces in the country and observing different tourism practices and policies they have adapted. Also, as a teacher I find the need to generate local content that may be of help to the consciousness and understanding of my students in tourism promotion services NC II.   

Open Letter: 5 Reasons Why You Should Not Stop Me, a Teacher, From Travelinghttp://richnritch.com/2018/07/08/open-letter-5-reasons-why-you-should-not-stop-me-teacher-traveling

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


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.

I learned more about sociology from exposing myself to different cultures and immersing with different communities and tribes. I learned more about geography from transit routes, GPS, and map reading. I learned better English from speaking with native Americans and Brits. I learned practical Math from managing my budget and expenses. I learned more about Science from observing the wilderness. I learned more about literature from the stories of the folks and watching their plays. I learned more about music and arts from visiting schools of living traditions, museums, and cultural centers. I learned more about physical education and health from hiking and reaching out remote communities for a medical mission. I learned volunteerism, tourism, diplomacy, survival skills, environmental protection and conservation, disaster preparedness and the long list goes on.

What excite me when I go back to school and face my students are my experiences and reflections. Never had the time I ran out of real stories to substantiate the lessons that I teach. I always give them the up-to-date knowledge about places, people, and systems that aren’t published on textbooks yet. I can always testify if facts are fake and rumors are true. I share to them situations that they never thought happen and show them places they never thought exist. I set myself as a model that every child can go to his/her dream places. If only travel is not that expensive, I will encourage my students to include it in their priorities. Traveling allows a person to see the world in an exquisite perspective different from what is lectured inside the classroom.

While I invest on experiences that enrich my soul, I still have my teaching profession’s interest at heart. Spending time in new places sparks new ideas. The people I meet turn out to be new partners in my career. Often, they offer me something I never expect to gain. And in one way or another, it boosts my morale as a teacher and makes me more productive as I share them to my students and colleagues. Let me share to you four of them. Ten years ago, I met a Norwegian engineer who later on, became my business partner. Seven years ago, I met a French world traveler who came to visit for the second time last year and voluntarily served as a resource person in my tourism promotion services NCII classes and sponsored a Cebu trip for one of my students. Four years ago, I met a British expat who offered me an English tutorial job with Russians as my students. Two years ago, I met a fellow Akeanon traveler who helped me start blogging which I now use for generating up-to-date contents and interactive materials for my classes.

Through travel, I learn more about the world, the people around me, and most importantly, myself. I get wiser in my days and richer in more ways. When people ask me how do I do so many things, I often answer them, without meaning to be cruel, “how do you do so few?” Traveling made me realize that I have a vast potential. I can do extraordinary things with my confidence and courage. I don’t treat life as if it goes on forever. I don’t have all the answers but I know that it doesn’t involve constantly holding back for fear of shaking things up. I take risks in pursuing the things I love doing and not letting the dread and failure of others be my own.

My goal is to discover and explore hidden treasures and uncover the best and unique stories about the places I visit. And yes, I’ve been able to do it. I generate local contents and interactive materials in order to contribute to the development and promotion of community-based tourism coupled with advocacy on environmental protection and conservation as well as reaching out remote and indigenous communities. I also contribute to cultural preservation and enrichment through engaging to voluntary works for the indigenous people and educating them of their rights.

Hence, no matter what others say, I am proud to be a teacher-traveler who is living a less-taken path. I might be not typical but I am definitely functional. I have a purpose which only few can fathom and appreciate. I don’t let people’s judgments affect my decisions and choices. In fact, I understand them for there is a bigger world out there which they fail or yet to experience.

Traveling broadens one’s understanding of every person’s way of life. It makes one’s dreams bigger and teaches life’s lessons with depth and impact. And If pursuing a master's degree or a doctor's degree is an investment, so is traveling. 

Watch: Boracay Rehabilitation Update After 3 Months of Closure http://richnritch.com/2018/07/10/watch-boracay-rehabilitation-update-after-3-months-closure

Watch: Boracay Rehabilitation Update After 3 Months of Closure



Pushing Through: Overcoming Mt. Baloy’s Challenges and Completing the Panay Trilogyhttp://richnritch.com/2018/07/10/pushing-through-overcoming-mt-baloy%E2%80%99s-challenges-and-completing-panay-trilogy

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


“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.

Outside the station, we were approached by the two habal-habal drivers whom Richard contacted ahead. They brought us to the nearby public market where we bought all the supplies we needed for the hike. After more or less an hour of a roller-coaster ride, we were dropped at Brgy. Supanga where we met Tay Radnie who then brought us to our next stop. We headed to the community of Karatagan where we stayed for a night before our hike proper traversing Calinog, Iloilo and Valderrama, Antique and summiting Mt. Baloy, the toughest mountain in Panay. 

In Karatagan, we met Kagawad Elsie and her family who shared to us their values of simplicity, hardwork, and perseverance. That night, I listened to Nay Elsie’s story about her and her husband's sacrifices to be able to send all their five children to the university. She proudly pointed their graduation portraits posted in their wall. She introduced to me her youngest son who recently earned a criminology degree and just waiting for a call from the headquarters. She showed to me those ratan hammocks and mats she's been selling for decades as a source of income. It was heart-warming. And the talk goes on as the night deepens that her words even echoed in my sleep.

It was a beautiful morning the next day that I've wanted to extend but Tay Radnie was already waiting to bring us to the next barangay. We left at past 7AM. Along the way, we met kids playing with small chickens, hunting birds with their improvised lighter fluid-powered guns and slings, and those playing indoors. At Sitio Agtuhay in Brgy. Aglonok, we met Nong Rodel whom we expected to be our guide to Mt. Baloy via Tarzan trail (connecting Mt. Hinagdung and Mt. Baloy). Unfortunately, he wasn't available and instead, he offered to bring us to a village close to  DENR-Nursery where he knows someone who can bring us to Brgy. Busog in Valderrama, Antique. As we make several stops from houses to houses, we enjoyed greeting everyone and giving kids gummy bears and candies. It is always touching to see their smiles and hear them greet back using their own dialect with their unique accent. At one of the houses, we took our lunch and offered the elders our packs of instant coffee. Their laughter and unending stories about hunting and fiestas indulged us as we join them. There we met Jan-Jan, a resident of Busog who was just visiting Aglonok and whom Nong Rodel recommended to be our guide.

Without any idea about the trail, we took the challenge out of curiosity and thirst for adventure. Besides, we both didn't have plans of backing out despite of all the warnings. We believe, we're there to prove it is safe after all (we trusted the locals). What we were not prepared for was the tormenting walk with our self-contained backpacks good for four days. The backpain, muscle cramps, and exhaustion take turn as we keep on following the river for more than 10 hours. We had to deal with big logs, thick vegetation, and an almost unending river. Looking at Richard’s face, I could tell he’s in agony as he already stumbled many times due to his heavy pack. Around this time, I wished I have brought a trek pole. I told our guide to find a water source along the trail so we can cook and camp. But there was none. After another raging five hours, we survived the night and reached the community of Busog few minutes before midnight where we met Tay Rogelio (our next guide). It was one of the longest and arduous dayhikes we experienced in Panay. Along the trail and in between pains, we agreed to switch to lighter gears on our next hike. 

We set the next day as a chill-hike to regain our lost energy and strength. We left Busog at 12 noon and arrived at the river junction around 3PM where we set up camp as suggested by our guide. We also dipped in the ice-cold river with a view of cascading water nearby. Beside the waterfall is an intriguing cave, which according to Tay Rogelio, is mainly used by hunters and guides. A quick flashback of our cave experience in the jungle of Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan last year brought meaningful smiles to our faces. We slept early but the hush of passing locals from either Busog or San Agustin doing night fishing woke me up. I heard them setting a fire by the river. In the morning, our guide told us that shrimps and fish are abundant in the river and those people might have caught a bounty last night. That was interesting to know.

It was still early when we started our third day. The narrow, winding, and wild trail added thrill to a steep and long ascend to the peaks of Mt. Baloy. When we reached Enzo Peak, Tay Rogelio told us that we have already reached the summit. In disbelief, we checked our GPS and found out it wasn't. With our combined enthusiasm, we convinced our guide to explore the area further. Stepping on and crawling over 'lagiwriw’ or ‘ragiwriw' for around 15 minutes was the highlight of our 'search for the summit'. After an hour, our GPS led us to a mossy forest where we found a tree with a yellow nylon rope wrapped around its branch. Our guide told us that it’s the tree we were looking for. We checked our GPS again and it showed we're already around the summit area. We later found out that it was the second summit of Mt. Baloy. The first summit is just a few meters away from the second.

Going up and down that day was no easy feat. We thanked our years of experience in hiking that we were able to enjoy the trail despite of the difficulty. We clung to exposed tree roots as we scrambled over loose soil in a ninety-degree slope. We staggered over ragiwriws as we hung and swung around their branches. We both experienced sliding down, our legs hanging in hollow spaces underneath while our arms are trying to lift our body up over those thorny branches of ragiwriws again. We dealt with it separately and on our own because we frequently didn’t go together on trail and our guide was way advance to our pace. Those moments were a combination of danger and thrill. My favorite part during our descent was the timberland area because I found myself running confidently on trail. Richard never failed to warn me to slow down in steep downhills. He always got my back. We reunited with our guide when we were close to the river junction where we left our packs. It was around 7PM when we reached Brgy. Busog and decided to spend a night there though originally, we planned to do a night trek going to Poblacion of Valderrama because we have a flight the next two days for our Mindanao Madness trip. We walked for more than 12 hours that day.

Last night’s sleep brought our shapes back. After getting up from bed, Jan-Jan volunteered to cook breakfast for us as we still have plenty of food supplies left. We took the opportunity to visit the barangay captain’s house to inform that we have descended safe last night and to ask for help to contact a habal2x driver for us via a two-way radio because there’s no mobile signal in the area. There we met Sir Reymark and Sir Noe who work for ANTECO and Sir Ryan who work for NEA. We mentioned that we are also looking for a guide to bring us to Brgy. Cansilayan. They told us that after breakfast they are leaving the village and that we could follow them. It was a great timing for us. We went back to Tay Rogelio’s house for breakfast and then quickly packed our things. We gave them our remaining supplies as a sign of gratitude and to lessen our loads as well. After saying our goodbyes to our host family, we began our journey. Because the three men went ahead down the river, Tay Rogelio’s daughter guided us until we reached the road. Without any idea how far we still have to go, we slacked off a bit and took time enjoying the view of the ranges side by side. We traced the mountain that we have traversed and recounted the difficulties we have faced head on the past three days.

We were approaching the riverbank when we found Ryan, Noe, and Reymark taking a rest. We asked them how long we still need to walk and we were surprised when they said, "4-5 hours." We thought that the remaining distance is good for a couple of hours only to find out that we still need to cross multiple rivers under a scorching sun. To take away our attention from the burnt-out feeling encapsulating us, we shared personal information with our companions. The instant rapport between us led to meaningful conversations and urged us to share contact numbers. During one of our take-fives, a dozen of residents riding on horses with their loads passed by us. To me, it was like a scene in the Wild Wild West movie. Literally, it left me speechless! I never expected to observe such way of life in Valderrama. Enthralled by the sight, we called one of the horse-riders to stop. Seeing the bedazzlement in our eyes, he offered us to take a ride in his horse. And like a child, I excitedly tried it followed by Richard. That was superb! 

Fast forward, we reached Brgy. Cansilayan at 10:30 AM where our new friends parked their two motorbikes. They offered us to hitch in one of their bikes. Initially, we refused because we knew it would be hard for the driver to balance the load. We have two big packs with us. But they insisted. They told us that only during summer when people can drive as far as Brgy. Cansilayan because the water level is low. During rainy months, people travel through bamboo rafts together with their loads and transport vehicles. After few minutes of struggling over gravels and crossing multiple rivers, we met a habal-habal driver. Richard immediately transfered to the other vehicle with our two backpacks. Despite of that, we still went almost off balance crossing numerous knee-deep rivers for around 30 minutes. From the road, our attention shifted to the sound of the running horses getting close. We slowed down and totally stopped when both sides, tens of horses passed by like in a movie that horsemen encircle intruders to defend their village except they went straight ahead. We didn’t miss taking videos of course! That moment, I felt like I was a star in a cowboy movie. Hiiyah! Another few minutes, we met locals carrying loads and kids in horses. It seemed to me that the movie is never-ending and I wanted to stay longer. How I wish!

We arrived in Valderrama Police Station 30 minutes before noon where we separated from our companions. After logging out, we took a quick lunch and traveled back to Kalibo - back to reality.

Daily Maps are here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4

Truly, we have conquered Mt. Baloy and successfully completed the Panay Trilogy with full of twists and thrills. It's a version of our Aklan-Antique traverse last year and for the record, we consistently finished them with a bang. Mt. Baloy marked to my hiking life maybe because it was a dance between life and death. It was worth all the risks! 

Watch: Traversing Iloilo and Antique, climbing the elusive Mt. Baloy, and completing the Panay Trilogyhttp://richnritch.com/2018/07/18/watch-traversing-iloilo-and-antique-climbing-elusive-mt-baloy-and-completing-panay

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.

As we go deep into the wilderness, I remember our last year's traverse from Aklan and Antique and I must say, the scenery is almost similar. We followed our guide as we continue walking in the darkness of the night with our headlamps on. We walked for almost 15 hours from Karatagatan, Calinog, Iloilo to Busog, Valderrama, Antique, traversing the two provinces. We left Karatagan at 8:03 AM to Sitio Agtuhay with Tay Radnie. He then turned us over to Rodel who guided us to DENR Nursery and passed us to our next guide, Jan-Jan, going to Busog. We reached the house of his father, Tay Rogelio, in Busog at 12:06 AM. It was pretty much of a struggle. We were welcomed by our guide's family and prepared us dinner. We spent the night in Busog and decided to continue our hike to Mt. Baloy at 12:03 PM the next day.

This was not the original plan. We were supposed to hike Mt. Baloy via Higher Grounds Mountaineers - Iloilo's Tarzan Trail but due to the unavailability of the guides in Brgy. Aglunok, we continued our journey to Brgy. Busog and started from there.

We successfully conquered Mt. Baloy on the third day of our hike. Hitting the trails of Mt. Baloy gave us a euphoric feeling. Mt. Baloy is a remote mountain located deep inside the Central Panay Peninsula. It sits on the border between the three provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, and Antique. With a height of 1958 meters above sea level, it’s the 3rd highest and also the most difficult mountain among Panay’s Trilogy. Its dense forest and isolation make it very hard to conquer in the early 1990’s. 

It took us three and a half day of actual hike to complete our traverse from Calinog, Iloilo to Valderrama, Antique and hike Mt. Baloy. We spent a total of 5 days and 4 nights to complete our journey. Indeed, climbing Mt. Baloy and completing the Panay Trilogy at the same time is a memorable and remarkable experience.

Panay Trilogy: Top 3 Highest and Difficult Mountains of Panayhttp://richnritch.com/2018/08/03/panay-trilogy-top-3-highest-and-difficult-mountains-panay

Panay Trilogy: Top 3 Highest and Difficult 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.

Here are the Panay Trilogy mountains:

Mt. Madjaas is a legendary mountain with a height of 2,117 meters above sea level. It’s the highest peak in Panay closely rivalled by Mt. Nangtud at 2,073 meters above sea level. It’s one of the tough mountains to climb but relatively easy among the three in the Trilogy if you take the Flores Trail. It’s located in Culasi, Antique but it’s ranges on the eastern side extend to Madalag, Aklan. The word ‘madjaas’ locally means ‘tall’ and its origin can also be traced from the story of the Ten Bornean Datus and the ancient “Confederation of Madjaas.”There are mythical stories about this mountain and the most famous I’ve heard from the local folks is that the mountain was a chunk of landmass created by the gods to cover an old great sea. This majestic mountain is home to diverse flora and fauna. The enchanting mossy forest on the trail will make you feel like your in a fantasy world of the movie Lord of the Rings or Hobbit. It’s also has scenic views of the coast of Antique that spans along the Sulu sea, nearby islands, neighboring mountain ranges, rivers and waterfalls.

There are three entry points going to Mt. Madjaas. The more established but long is the Flores Trail in Barangay Flores, Culasi, Antique composed of an old trail and new trail. The steep and open is the Alojipan Trail in Barangay Alojipan, Culasi, Antique. The most challenging is the Panipiason trail in Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan. While most mountaineers opt to hike Mt. Madjaas via Flores or Alojipan trails, it can be also accessed from Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan. The Panipiason trail is much long and difficult among the three but offers breathtaking view and exceptional experience for adventure-seekers. Apart from being tedious, the trail is so dense, passing through numerous mountain peaks, trekking along rivers and climbing on waterfalls. The trail was originally used by some residents of Panipiason to visit their relatives living in Osorio, Culasi, Antique in the past when there were no roads connecting Barangay Panipiason and Madalag’s town proper yet. People have to walk a day to reach Poblacion and to be able to travel to Antique. Nowadays, due to the availability of motorcycle in Panipiason, locals travel by road and only a handful of them know the said trail.

Full story of our hike to Mt. Madjaas: http://richnritch.com/2017/11/24/traversing-aklan-and-antique-three-day-hike-mt-madjaas-panipiason-madalag-uncovering

Mt. Nangtud is located few kilometers south of Madjaas in Barbaza, Antique. The dispute between Mt. Madjaas and Mt. Nangtud about being the highest mountain in the island of Panay has never seemed fully settled, however, most of the data point to Mt. Madjaas as the highest. With the height of 2,073 metres above sea level, it’s the second highest mountain in Panay but hiking this formidable mountain offers more challenges than it’s closest rival. 

The only jump-off is Barangay Lomboyan, Barbaza, Antique. Hiking Mt. Nangtud is tough and lengthy. The trail is long and mostly or half of it is open. The journey starts from sea-level across unpredictable wild rivers with strong currents, sheer cliffs and narrow ridges. The assault to the summit mainly involves ascends to mostly 80-85 degrees of steep mountain slopes wherein carrying a full-pack load can make it more dragging due to elevation and gravity pull. Despite of its trail difficulty, many hikers aspire of conquering it because of its rewarding views and unique features.

Full story of our hike to Mt. Nangtud: http://richnritch.com/2017/12/08/hiking-formidable-mt-nangtud-our-epic-hike-second-highest-mountain-panay-and-one-toughest

Mt. Baloy is a remote mountain located deep inside the Central Panay Peninsula. It sits on the border between the three provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, and Antique. With a height of 1,958 meters above sea level, it’s the third highest and also the most difficult mountain among Panay’s Trilogy. Its dense forest and isolation make it very hard to conquer in the early 1990’s. 

There are several trails to Mt. Baloy established by various mountaineering organizations in Panay. Mt. Baloy can be accessed from the barangays of San Agustin and Busog in Valderrama, Antique and in Aglunok, Calinog, Iloilo. The huge challenge of climbing Mt. Baloy is its remoteness. The trail of this elusive mountain is longer than that of Mt. Nangtud and it’s dense like Panipiason-Madjaas trail. The long approach to Mt. Baloy is extreme and lengthy but conquering the toughest mountain in Panay trilogy is undoubtedly a remarkable experience. 

Full story of our hike to Mt. Baloy: http://richnritch.com/2018/07/10/pushing-through-overcoming-mt-baloy’s-challenges-and-completing-panay-trilogy

In 2016, the IMC linked Mt. Madjaas to Mt. Nangtud. There are several mountaineers who already completed the Madjaas-Nangtud traverse which takes 8 days or more, one of them is Asanyas. In the summer of 2017, IMC completed the links between the three mountains. Thereafter, mid of the last week of October and early November 2017, the IMC did the historic traverse to the three mighty mountains of Panay in one go, completing the Trilogy traverse in a span of 16 days.

Completing the Panay Trilogy or traversing the three are both considered as ultimate mountaineering experiences that many mountaineers dream of achieving.

Mt. Balinsayaw, an Easy to Hike Peak Near Kalibo and Boracay with Scenic Viewshttp://richnritch.com/2018/08/09/mt-balinsayaw-easy-hike-peak-near-kalibo-and-boracay-scenic-views

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


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.

From Ibajay Public Market, take a tricycle going to Barangay Mabusao. The fare is only Php17.00 per person. Upon arrival, register at the Barangay Hall and listen to a brief orientation. Though it's an easy hike, visitors are being required to get a guide for preservation purposes as per agreed by the local community. Guide fees are not fixed rather voluntary. You can think of it as a way of helping the locals.

The trail has three river crossings. The first one has a bridge while the next two require you to cross by foot. The trail is mostly an open grassland with some patches of tree lines. After the grassland a narrow ridge will lead you to an open ledge with awesome views. Beware of the slippery rocks and sudden gusts of wind on rainy and windy days. For your own safety, avoid climbing over, sit on, or stand on the rock close to the cliff when raining. The summit remains unexplored because of the absence of trail. Check out the waterfall close to the second river, I suggest that you take a side trip there upon descending for a refreshing dip after the hike.

If you're a new hiker or just looking for an adventure, Balinsayaw peak is a perfect place for you. This is a great beginner or family-friendly hike.

Pandan Hills: Eastern Aklan’s Hidden Paradisehttp://richnritch.com/2018/08/10/pandan-hills-eastern-aklan%E2%80%99s-hidden-paradise

Pandan Hills: Eastern Aklan’s Hidden Paradise


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.

Pandan Hills is normally an hour away from the town of Kalibo and few minutes from the town of Altavas. It is accessible by car and motorcycle or scooter. If you’re commuting from Kalibo, ride a bus to Iloilo or jeepney to Altavas and get dropped at Sitio Himbis, Barangay Lalab, Batan, Aklan. From there, take a habal-habal to Pandan Hills. From the road end you can reach it by foot for only 10-15 minutes  of walk or you can opt to drive up with your motorcycle, scooter, or bike following the narrow path winding around and atop the hills.

The place is not really a hiking spot rather a picnic site or a weekend getaway. Bring your tents and/or hammocks if you want to leisurely stay and capture the amazing views of sunrise and sunset. Don’t forget to bring down your trash with you.

Mataudya Clean River and Seemingly Endless Mini-Waterfalls: Why Malay Is More Than Just Boracayhttp://richnritch.com/2018/08/20/mataudya-clean-river-and-seemingly-endless-mini-waterfalls-why-malay-more-just-boracay

Mataudya Clean River and Seemingly Endless Mini-Waterfalls: Why Malay Is More Than Just Boracay


Probably one of the reasons why you love out-of-town trips is that you never really see how beautiful and rich your own place is before a tourist does. And when it happens, you regret why you didn’t see or experience it first. Suddenly, you feel like a stranger in your own backyard. Gladly, I am not. As a Malaynon who lives very close to Boracay Island, I am aware how famous the island is that almost all people who visit Aklan and/or Malay intend to go to Boracay. Well, I can’t blame them. Boracay is an ‘island paradise.’ But the town of Malay is not just all white beaches and the island is not the only tourist destination. Beyond the usual Boracay, the mainland is just as breathtaking - only much freer from the crowd of tourists. There is the lush greenery part perfect to feel attuned to nature at its purest form. If you’re into hiking, I have previously featured the Banderahan and Panaktakan viewpoints that offer a gorgeous vista of Boracay Island and its surrounding islets, Romblon Islands, and Sibuyan Sea accentuated by the spectacular sight of the rolling hills and an array of wind turbines nearby accessible via Brgy. Argao or Brgy. Napaan.

In this blog, I am featuring the sheer beauty of mother nature at mainland Malay’s clean river, diverse forest, and scenic waterfalls all in one place called Sitio Mataudya in Brgy. Nabaoy. It’s obviously an off-the-beaten path but worth wandering into. Yes, “hidden” is the right adjective for this place; you can only see this paradise after you hike for several hours on mountain trails and rivers. I recommend this destination far more than just an alternative to Boracay. Besides, the island is presently closed for rehabilitation.

It was Labor Day last year (May 01, 2017) when I, together with two friends, Jaylord and Thed, and a guide, Tay Turuto, ventured out into the boundary of Malay and Buruanga. Jaylord had already explored the area once but had not gotten enough so he decided to accompany us. We started our hike at around six in the morning. I’ve learned from the big sign beside Nabaoy Elementary School that the area is part of the Northwest Panay Peninsula. It started off through forested cliffs with a couple of river crossings (if you opt to go downstream, you may pass through Narra Resort or Dapdap Resort and follow an upriver trail). After one hour of walk in the middle of the forest, I spotted some interesting plants and insects then snapped photos of them. That set my excitement. After two hours, we checked our mobile GPS and found out that we have already reached the boundary and from a vantage point, we could see the central part of Buruanga and its surrounding mountain ranges. Further up is an open area covered with thick wild ferns. It was exactly 10:00 AM when we reached an abandoned house where we took a rest while our guide picked some buko for us. After finishing our buko juice and had some snacks, we continued our hike.

Not too long after when we reached the intersection of Nabaoy and Mataudya rivers. We took some time there talking about the water sources and stretches of the two rivers. It was good to note that Nabaoy River is mainly part of Malay while Mataudya River is in the boundary of two towns. From that point, we walked along and onto the river. It was almost endless and surrounded by virgin forest. What mesmerized me the most that I didn’t miss taking photos of each of them were the seemingly endless mini-waterfalls and century-old trees. I also enjoyed walking onto the crystal clean river and picking up edible snails locally known as ‘banag.’ That was very surprising for me. I didn’t expect to see and experience such pristine beauty in the interiors of my own town. I regret not knowing about it early. I could have spent a lot of time hiking or camping there for several nights.

There were lots of bouldering along the way and the climbing up to circumvent small waterfalls. Approaching 12 noon when we reached the heart of the river. It’s a patch of land surrounded by water ideal for camping. We decided to take our lunch there so as to enjoy the tranquility and diversity of the place. Jay took charge of our packed lunch and the moment he took it out from his bag I was surprised because they were packed in wilted banana leaves. I excitedly opened one and I saw a handful of steamed rice with adobo chicken flakes on top. He told me it’s called ‘pastil’ which he copied from Maguindanaoan dish. It was my first time eating it and it was delicious. I finished two and in fact, a day later I craved for it. Thank you, Jay!

It was just so timely that we’re already done with our lunch when we saw a snake skin on top of a wide rock. Continuing further, we spotted some more old big trees and waterfalls. More or less, we’ve walked onto 30 waterfalls. That’s quite fascinating! We walked on top and crawled under dead logs following the river until we reached the foot of another mountain. We scrambled over loose soil and clung on vines during our ascend.

On top of the mountain, we stepped on several marble stones and bumped into wild plants. They were interesting. Few minutes after 5PM when we successfully came out from the jungle and had a view of the entire Boracay Island. We also had a glimpse of the sunset before our descent. There was a huge rock along the way which I climbed up for a photo shoot. Exactly 6PM when we stopped as Tay Turuto opened some buko for us on trail. That quenched our thirsts. Around 8PM when we finally finished the hike and reached our guide’s house. We divided the snails before I headed home. I walked to my house that night very happy and fulfilled especially after giving the snails to my mother.

 This amazing picturesque Mataudya is the perfect trip to get off the beaten path and see 30 or more mini-waterfalls in without crowds.  

Watch: Boracay is Slowly Recovering After 4 Months of Closure and Rehabilitationhttp://richnritch.com/2018/08/22/watch-boracay-slowly-recovering-after-4-months-closure-and-rehabilitation

Watch: Boracay is Slowly Recovering After 4 Months of Closure and Rehabilitation



Captivating Langoyon River: A Hideaway Paradise with Fascinating Natural Swimming Pools in Tagororoc, Nabas, Aklanhttp://richnritch.com/2018/08/22/captivating-langoyon-river-hideaway-paradise-fascinating-natural-swimming-pools-tagororoc

Captivating Langoyon River: A Hideaway Paradise with Fascinating Natural Swimming Pools in Tagororoc, Nabas, Aklan


True to its town’s slogan that says, “Pangibabaw Nabas!” (which means Standout Nabas!), the town is really going up in placing itself on the international tourism map being Boracay’s neighbor. Nabas is popularly known for its spine-tingling cold springs. There’s Hurom-Hurom, Basang, Manyuko, and the latest Bungan-Bungan. But talking about rivers and waterfalls matched with adventures, I recommend Langoyon River and Tagaroroc Falls. These two spots are best for daytime jaunts and both found in Brgy. Tagaroroc, Nabas, Aklan. The barangay crossing is located 15-min tricycle ride away from Godofredo P. Ramos Aiport also known as Caticlan Airport which services Boracay Island, and along national highway to the Kalibo International Airport in Aklan’s capital. Major Philippine airlines fly to both airports many times a day.

From the crossing, you may hire a habal-habal to the barangay hall or you may bring your car or hire a van from your point of origin to the barangay’s interior. It will take you more or less 15 minutes. However, safety must be considered because the narrow and rough road winds along the cliff which can also be muddy and slippery if raining or just rained. If the road confuses you, don’t hesitate to ask any local along the way. The people are very warm and accommodating. If you want to drop at the barangay hall to seek information, you can find it in front of Tagaroroc Elementary School. Beside the school is a sign informing you that the area beyond is part of the Northwest Panay Peninsula (NWPP). In less than a minute, you will reach the start of river trekking. The last time I checked, there was a newly-constructed steel bridge which is of big help for the community whenever the water level rises. From that point, you walk pass two houses and go downstream for the second river crossing. There are two paths you may choose to follow. One is walking along or onto the river and the other is going up cutting through houses and down crossing the river several times for 30-45 minutes (depending on your pace).  

Tucked in an area teeming with lush vegetation and towering limestone cliffs, the water that cascades over the rocks down to different levels flowing through between boulders to an open area makes natural pools of varied depths. The pool at the entrance is slightly deep which is ideal for the adults to swim into. Beside it is a patch of land which can be an area for picnic. Going a little upstream, you will find a shallow part which is around three feet deep. It's perfect for children to swim around and adults to slack off with their feet submerged or their butt and back dipped into the water. Looking around you can see interesting coves partially covered with lush. A further trek upstream will require you to walk on logs used as a bridge along the river and over boulders. Don't forget to turn your head around to see the entire package of the enchanting spot. If you want to see a nearby riverpool, continue walking for 10 minutes passing through a forest and another river crossing. Then you will see a powerful stream of water bounded by boulders with a swim basin perfect for shower and body massage. Don't miss it before heading back!

If you still have time for another short adventure, don't leave yet. From the barangay plaza, go on a different direction from Langoyon River heading to Tagaroroc Falls. It will take you more or less 30 minutes of walking on forest trail. Upon reaching the river, you have to pass through or climb over boulders again to get to the cove-like entrance of the spot. There's only a minimal light passing through it enough for you to enjoy the waterfall that flows in the middle of a huge rock and drops to a swim basin. It's uniquely picturesque!

Aside from these, the community people are hospitable. During my first visit, folks served me tinolang manok for a late lunch, hot coffee, and freshly-picked pineapples to bring home all for free! Kudos to Clark who happened to have relatives living in the area. I've learned that locals have pineapple plantation in the mountain and many of them have poultry in their own backyards. On my second visit, we bought bananas from the locals in an affordable price. On my third visit, they have been very helpful in giving directions. And on my fourth, one of the households offered their front yard for our car parking. Beautiful people, indeed!

Nabas is like a simple gift wrapped in bariw leaves (the town celebrates Bariw Festival every mid of May) that when you open it, it pops out and surprise you with so much beauty and bounty.

Watch: Boracay Closure Documentaryhttp://richnritch.com/2018/06/15/watch-boracay-closure-documentary

Watch: Boracay Closure Documentary


“Naghihingalong Paraiso” (A Dying Paradise) is a 30 minute documentary about the current state of Boracay Island and the government-led effort to save and restore the world-renowned tourist destination site to its former glory.


What It's Like Exploring and Scaling Mt. Balabag in Idio, Sebaste, Antique Traverse to Yawan, Ibajay, Aklanhttp://richnritch.com/2018/09/06/what-its-exploring-and-scaling-mt-balabag-idio-sebaste-antique-traverse-yawan-ibajay

What It's Like Exploring and Scaling Mt. Balabag in Idio, Sebaste, Antique Traverse to Yawan, Ibajay, Aklan


Blessed with plethora of stunning natural landscapes and seascapes, it’s not surprising that the province of Antique located in the Island of Panay is one of the new eco-adventure destinations in the country. With its pristine mountains, largely untouched forests and unique biodiversity, it is also becoming a favorite destination of hikers as well as local and international researchers. In fact, the three highest and toughest mountains in the island popularly tagged as the ‘Panay Trilogy’ comprised of Mt. Madjaas, Mt. Nangtud and Mt. Baloy are generally located in Antique. While hiking activities are concentrated in the trilogy mountains, there are still many ranges in the northwest part of the province that are left unexplored by mountaineers and one of them is located in Barangay Idio, town of Sebaste.

Every time I’m traveling to and from Antique, I’m always seeing this majestic mountain that lies just north of Mt. Madjaas. I haven’t seen any documentation or photos featuring it and whenever I look up to its rocky exposed peak, the desire of exploring it grows stronger. Like its peak that is always covered by clouds, it seems covered by mystery. I was first fascinated by this mountain when I hiked Mt. Ma-eon-dong in Bagong Baryo, Makato, Aklan via Osman Trail in March 2017. I got to view it from the Aklan side and the idea of climbing it started. 

In August 2018, I made a few trips to Sebaste, Antique to see this mountain up close and to gather more data. I found out the name of the mountain differs from its name in the open street map and it has long been a center of study for local and foreign biologists and researchers. Locals from Idio, Sebaste, Antique called the mountain Mt. Balabag and the locals from Ibajay, Aklan called it Mt. Sakpaw. It’s located in Idio, Sebaste, Antique and its ranges on the eastern side extend to Yawan, Ibajay, Aklan. From there, we started an idea of traversing it from Sebaste to Ibajay and crossing two provinces. 

It was followed by a two-day and one night exploratory climb in August 16, 2018 with the help of my legendary guide, Tay Lucrito. We were unable to get a view from the top and reach its true summit because of the strong winds and the entire peak was blanketed by clouds. Despite missing the view and the true summit, it was an amazing hike. The trail was enjoyable and it was my first overnight hammock camping experience in the forest. We also passed by a beautiful three-layer waterfall known as Nabaraw Falls near the junction of Calacala river and Nabaraw river where I dipped in for around two hours. The hike was more like a preparation for the second phase of our exploration which is the Antique to Aklan traverse.

In August 26, 2018, I returned to Idio, Sebaste, Antique with Ritch. We arrived at the house of Tay Lucrito at noon after registering at the Municipal Police Station. Tay Lucrito welcomed us in his house for a lunch before we set-out to hike Mt. Balabag. “We will not take the Calacala river trail because we are short of time. We will go via the ridge instead,” Tay Lucrito said. “Ritch won’t see the beautiful Nabaraw falls but we can always come back for it,” I replied. The Calacala river trail is shorter than the ridge with lots of shades to cover you from the sun but its very rocky, slippery and dense. On the other hand, most of the ridge trail is open and exposed to the scorching heat of the sun. It was 1:40 PM when we started our hike. We left the main road and walked along the Calacala river bank and into rice paddies. We made our way through lush cogon grasses and hiked over hills with green meadows and grazing cows. The sun was up and there were only few trees to get a shade from. Sweats were all over my face and my heart was pounding as I reach the top of the hill but there was still a long way to go. We took a short rest and enjoyed the picturesque scenery before continuing our trek along the ridge of Mt. Balabag.

While walking and picking guavas along the trail, Tay Lucrito unstoppably tell stories about his experiences in the mountains. For more than a decade in the past, he was the main guide of the local and foreign researchers who came to study the biodiversity of the Sebaste mountain ranges. He said that he worked with them for 9 years and even stayed in the mountains for weeks and months. In fact, he and Rene “Panoy” Ibon were the ones who discovered the Rafflesia in Sebaste, Antique. In between our talks, we ate our collected guavas as our trail food. We noticed there were plenty of them in the area.

Soon the trail left the clearing and entered the forest. My shoulders began to ache from the full pack I was carrying as the ground under my feet began to rise. It was time for a take 5. We dropped our packs down on the leafy ground and found nearby exposed tree roots and logs to sit on for a quick rest. We heard nothing but the sound of the forest and I sat in peace and reflected on how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place.

We continued our hike further up the steep mountain slope, slashing our way through dense forest. Just when I thought that the climbing would never end, we finally reached a point where the trail began to head downhill. I knew that we’re now heading into the saddle between the peaks of Mt. Balabag and Mt. Usigan and we were close to the campsite. We reached the camp site on the foot of Mt. Balabag before it got too dark. Already cooled down and hungry, we decided not to continue our plan to camp at view deck. We quickly set-up our tarp and ground sheet to prepare for dinner. While waiting, we pitched our tent while our guide hanged his hammock. Shortly after, we feasted over our dinner and prepared to hit the hay. We agreed to wake up at 3 AM and start hiking at 4 AM the next day. 

The next morning, I woke up to Ritchel’s alarm. It was past 3AM and I can see the moonlight piercing through the woods providing a natural light for us. I enjoyed every sip of my coffee as I sat down and began preparing a hot soup for our breakfast. The hot coffee creeped into my nerves and when the caffeine kicked-in, it re-activated my senses. Shortly after our light breakfast, we began our assault to the summit of Mt. Balabag. It was exactly 4:20 AM. We carefully walked through thick jungle and sharp limestones with our headlamps on as the thick rainforest canopy block the light from the full moon. Soon after reaching the open landslide area, the trail climbs steeply straight up the rocky slope of the mountain. We were slowly making our way up, scrambling over loose rocks and gravels. As I looked back, I saw the moon on the horizon with its soft glowing light reflecting on the sea and the plains below. Whenever we step into the rock, our feet submerge in the loose gravel and we slide back. The rocks made our ascend difficult but we managed to reach the view deck after an hour and a half.

Upon reaching the peak, we were greeted by a breathtaking scenery. On the west side, we saw the stunning view of Balabag mountain ranges that run from the foot of the mountain to the coast of Sebaste. The beginning of the ridge is covered with dense forest then halfway it becomes open until it reaches the coast. We saw the view of the majestic Mt. Madjaas on the south with its summit slowly rising from the covering clouds. On the east, we sighted rivers, the mountain ranges of Ibajay, Malinao, Makato and the great plains of Numancia and Kalibo, Aklan. It was quite a show. We were the only people there and the views were beyond stunning.

After enjoying the beautiful scenery we went on to explore the true summit. With his bolo on his hip, Tay Lucrito walks ahead, leading us to the summit. There was no sign of trail at all. All we can see are dense ragiwriws same of that in Mt. Baloy, spiky plants, and sharp limestones. We crawled through entangled ragiwriws, clung onto trees and leaped from one ragiwriw to another avoiding sharp limestone rocks that are rising on the ground. The approach to the summit was slow as Tay Lucrito clears the trail using his bolo. After an hour of bushwhacking and with the GPS on my hand, we finally reached the highest point. Tay Lucrito also confirmed that it was really the summit since he had been on this place one time in the past. He also told us that we’re the first two mountaineers to reach that far. The feeling of summitting this mountain was indescribable. It was a mixture of pride, joy, relief and exhaustion. After savoring that moment, we started to descend. It was exactly 11:26 in the morning when we got back to the campsite.

Shortly after eating, we packed our gears and headed south going to the direction of Usigan creek. There was no path, we only trusted the memory of our guide who used the trail 8 years ago. He told us that Typhoon Yolanda and Typhoon Frank were responsible in erasing the trail. As we see it, dead logs and bushes are all over the area and our guide only looks at the huge rocks as markers. Our guide also revealed that all the limestones we’ve stepped on and passed by were all from Mt. Balabag that rolled down during and after the earthquake 39 years ago. Tay Lucrito was originally from Yawan, Ibajay, Aklan but later, settled and lived in Idio, Sebaste, Antique. He is the only person who knows the area and the surrounding mountain ranges very well. Pushing through dense forest and sharp limestones, we continued our walk east towards Barangay Yawan, Ibajay. We were still walking on the same mountain but on Aklan side. We enjoyed the views and the stories that Tay Lucrito shared to us along the way. We also discovered a lot of new things about our province. One of them was the rafflesia that grows in the Aklan side of Mt. Balabag. Tay Lucrito showed us the vines and the buds where the rafflesia flower will sprout and bloom in March or April. It was already dark when we reached the Nalanaw River. We continued walking downstream and arrived in his relative’s house in Sitio Bugasongan at around 7PM. It was timely that his nephew was there and about to go out for night fishing. Exhausted by our trek with our feet soaked, we heated water and had coffee. We then bathed in the river, had our ready-to-eat dinner, and slept. We agreed to leave at 4:30 AM the next day.

It was past 5AM when we all got up. We didn’t waste time and headed towards Yawan proper hoping to reach Barangay Aparicio in Ibajay before the sun becomes our problem. Our walk started from Badiang and crossed Nalanaw river few times. As we trek along the riverbank, we were astonished by the unexpected views. The river is so clean and crystal clear. There are plenty of natural pools bounded by boulders on one side and mountains with misty green forest on both sides. They are very inviting and comparable to enchanted river. Not too long after, we reached the intersection of Nalanaw and Ibajay rivers where the first joined the latter and flows downstream to the villages of Ibajay and eventually into Sibuyan sea. As we walk further downstream we bumped into villagers from Yawan proper going to their farms in the mountains. Tay Lucrito greeted them one by one and often stopped for a chat. He knows everybody in the place. We found out that almost all the villagers are his and his wife’s relatives. Before we reached Yawan proper, we were surprised to see a ‘sea of white rocks’ spread on the riverbank. They were those kind of rocks people put in their garden for landscaping. But not only that, we were totally blown away when we reached a spot featuring huge white rocks that looked like fragments of a tremendously huge rock that broke into pieces and spread only in one area decorated by a flowing clean water of the river. I can compare it to Liktinon White Rocks in Maria Cristina, Madalag, Aklan. People call the spot as Pagti. It was mesmerizing.

Further downstream, we saw numerous limestone rock formations in the river called ‘Igang.’ It’s intriguing to see them there while they are commonly found in the sea. It was another revelation to us. We reached Barangay Mina-a new proper at 9:00 in the morning, took a quick rest, and continued our way to Barangay Aparicio. In the last river, I and Tay Lucrito took a quick dip to get refreshed. From there, we walked for more or less twenty minutes before reaching the motorbike’s terminal where we once took a ride when we visited Nawidwid Falls in Mina-a a month ago. We left Aparicio at 10:30 AM.

As I lay on my bed and reflect on the memories of my recent hike that night, I feel fulfilled and blessed with the new exploration that I and Ritchel braved and enjoyed over the weekend. We just created another chapter of serendipity in our book of travel and discovery. It was something to be really thankful and be proud of. It was beyond compare.

Watch: 1st Aklan Hammock Festival 2018http://richnritch.com/2018/02/26/watch-1st-aklan-hammock-festival-2018

Watch: 1st Aklan Hammock Festival 2018



Bulwang Falls: Undiscovered Massive Waterfall Located in Idio, Sebaste, Antiquehttp://richnritch.com/2018/09/23/bulwang-falls-undiscovered-massive-waterfall-located-idio-sebaste-antique

Bulwang Falls: Undiscovered Massive Waterfall Located in Idio, Sebaste, Antique


With its stunning green rolling hills, rocky mountains, diverse forests, impressive waterfalls, scenic coastline, and zestful people, the village of Idio in Sebaste, Antique doesn’t seem to run out of hidden wonders. Last Sunday morning was a perfect day for chasing waterfalls. Typhoon Ompong has just left and the sun was out, smiling. We took a scooter ride to Barangay Idio, Sebaste, Antique to visit the amazing Bulwang Falls located in one of its jungle’s interior. During our hike to Mt. Balabag last month, our guide Tay Lucrito told us that he knows a massive waterfall in Idio that hasn’t been explored yet. The hidden waterfall is located out of way from the trail so we planned to explore on our return.

Tay Lucrito was waiting for us on the roadside when we arrived. We followed him to his home and after gathering his stuff, we started hiking with his grandson, Eric. We walked over hills with grand vistas of the highways, farms, coastlines and the northwestern view of Mt. Balabag. After we descended from the hills, we walked across rice paddies into the banks of Idio River. We followed the river upstream until we reached the junction of Igkataw and Bulwang rivers where the two rivers converge and become the Idio river that we’ve been following a while ago. 

We followed the Bulwang river and walked along and across the river several times under the thick rainforest canopy. The water was waist-deep high and the current was strong due to several days of rain brought by the recent typhoon. As we continued our trek further upstream, the vegetation along the banks became dense and the rocks were very slippery. Our guide used rope to help us climb on slippery boulders and cross the rapids of Bulwang river when we were nearing the waterfall.

After nearly two hours of trekking and river crossing, we were rewarded by the series of overwhelming waterfalls highlighted by its massive source, the Bulwang Falls. The huge volume of water caused by the recent rains rushes down over the cliff, creating a refreshing mist as it falls to its pool below.  With all the mist around, we struggled in taking a good photo. After some snapshots, we secured our stuff and dipped into the pool. The freezing water and the stinging spray gave an instant relief to our tired body.

As it was getting late, we decided to leave the area. We hiked up on steep cliff opposite to the waterfall and descended close to Igkataw and Bulwang river junction to avoid the slippery boulders and the rapids. Our guide said that backtracking the Bulwang river downstream is dangerous. It was already dark when we stepped on the paved road back to the village proper. We were soaked as we were walking towards the main highway. Tay Lucrito amazed us as he eagerly greeted everyone we bumped into the street. Upon reaching his house, we quickly changed our clothes and drove our way to Ibajay for dinner hosted by Ritchel’s aunt. We arrived in Kalibo past 10 in the evening. ’Twas one quick adventure for us!

Watch: Boracay Reopens after 6 Months of Closure and Rehabilitationhttp://richnritch.com/2018/10/25/watch-boracay-reopens-after-6-months-closure-and-rehabilitation

Watch: Boracay Reopens after 6 Months of Closure and Rehabilitation



First Aklan Hammock Festival 2018 by Aklan Trekkershttp://richnritch.com/2019/01/09/first-aklan-hammock-festival-2018-aklan-trekkers

First Aklan Hammock Festival 2018 by Aklan Trekkers


On February 17th until 18th, 2018, a group of Aklanon hikers composed of I (Ritchel), Richard, Marco, Jackie, Clark and friends organized quite possibly the Aklan’s Largest Hammock Camping with a bit of festivity and a great cause.

This wasn't for any music festival, or for any company event. It was simply for the pleasure of enjoying the great outdoors, taking in the Jawili sun on a beautiful Tangalan day. A mixture of bright colors filled DENR Regional Training Center, Aklan Integrated Project locally known as Nursery as participants donned yellow event shirts and as hammocks of various styles and brands, mainly Dahon, Tingguian, and Naturehike, were set up between several pine trees. The venue was accentuated by the serene beach, beautiful orange sunrise and sunset, and blue daytime sky. Also, delicacies and local products were present at the event along with multiple slacklines.

The event started with preliminaries such as introduction of organizers, sponsors, and participants, followed by initial raffle draws and games. After lunch, everyone was encouraged to have nature time and photo opportunity. The afternoon was highlighted by getting-to-know games which noticeably increased camaraderie among participants.

 A huge bonfire was set up after dinner at the beach. Organizers gathered everyone around for the raffle draws and to witness the unique musical performance by the Dagsa Tribe sponsored by Boracay Eden Villa. Their music enthralled the audience and made everyone dance to their ethnic beat. It was a scene to be held on. The night didn’t end without the ‘hot seat’ interviews and talks over some booze. 

In addition to hanging out in the beach, a tree-planting activity was held at the deforested area of Brgy. Jawili the next day. Before that, the DENR-CENR Officer gave an orientation on how to properly plant the seedlings and grow them. Around 85 people woke up early, picked up two seedlings each from the nursery, carried them uphill and planted them with love and care. 

A hammock tower was also set up for photo-taking out from the efforts of the experienced hangers. After the break camp, participants were called for the final raffle draws which were truly enjoyed by the winners and sponsors followed by words of gratitude from us (organizers). Outside the venue, a truck provided by the Municipality of Tangalan was waiting to bring the participants at the Jawili Falls for a short side-trip and finally at the Tangalan Public Market where buses and vans pass by. It was a sweet goodbye. 

With the success of this event, Aklan Trekkers hopes to continue the event on a yearly basis, encouraging outdoor enthusiasts from different regions and local communities to get outside and enjoy a day or two at the park or beach while lounging between trees.

Every participant paid Php400.00 for registration and event shirts were sold for Php250 each. The proceeds went to the purchases for the event. Though we (organizers) went home shelling out some personal money, it brought a priceless feeling of success to us.  

Kudos to our partners: Summit Trekkers, Rich ’n Ritch - Serendipity Seekers, Panay Mountaineer, and Island Trekker

Thanks go out to our sponsors: Dahon Outdoor Apparel, Tinnguian Tribe Outdoor PH, Boracay Eden Villa, Roy’s Rendezvous Bungalows, and Team Nomad

 Big thanks to Christian Paul Bustamante for producing this video and to Clark for the drone footage! 

Now, we are inviting you to join us as we organize the 2nd Aklan Hammock Festival 2019 on February 16-17, 2019 to be held in Jamboo Beach Resort, Sitio Luyo, Brgy. Bel-is, Buruanga, Aklan. Check out our event page for complete details and registration procedures. This time, we are doing it for the benefit of Maytaraw kids in Maytaraw Primary School, Brgy. Dalagsaan, Libacao, Aklan. The group has successfully conducted an upland outreach mission to the said community last December 14-16 and will be bringing a second wave of help in April 2019.

Watch: Pagbueoligan para sa Maytaraw - An Upland Outreach Mission by Aklan Trekkers in partnership with JCI Aklan Kalantiaohttp://richnritch.com/2019/01/17/watch-pagbueoligan-para-sa-maytaraw-upland-outreach-mission-aklan-trekkers-partnership

Watch: Pagbueoligan para sa Maytaraw - An Upland Outreach Mission by Aklan Trekkers in partnership with JCI Aklan Kalantiao


Maytaraw Primary School is located in the mountainous sitio of Maytaraw in Barangay Dalagsaan which is the farthest Barangay in the municipality of Libacao, province of Aklan. To get there, it requires riding a habal-habal, crossing the wild Aklan River 24 times and walking for more or less 10 hours.

Libacao welcomed us by a heavy rain on the first day of our mission. But that didn't stop us. After two hours of habal-habal ride from Brgy. Poblacion to Brgy. Agbatuan, we walked and crossed Aklan River multiple times for more than six hours before we reached Dalagsaan Integrated School in Brgy. Dalagsaan where we camped overnight and renewed our strength for the second day.

The rain continued to pour on the second day of our mission. It was a struggle but we were more determined to reach Maytaraw Primary School thinking that the pupils and parents are patiently waiting for us. The river became more wild and the water level was becoming critical. We slowed down but we didn't give up. After five hours of grueling hike and river-crossings, we reached Sitio Maytaraw. Then we realized, we survived the 24 wild river-crossings; the hardest trek of our lives and the most fulfilling.

After our two-day journey to reach Sitio Maytaraw, we thought that we had experienced the most extreme. But our traverse to Calinog, Iloilo was just another version. We didn't expect to hike over such treacherous terrain. After more than six hours, we reached Brgy. Supanga, Calinog where the motorcycles were waiting for us to bring us to the town proper. And when we thought that we can relax, we found ourselves amid perilous rides over the muddy and rocky road going down. We entrusted our lives to God through our drivers. We arrived at Calinog Terminal at around 7PM. 

It's a mission greatly accomplished for 18 amazing and brave volunteers and one Maytaraw teacher. Glory to God!

Over The Mountains and Into The Rapids: Our Altruistic Journey to Maytarawhttp://richnritch.com/2019/01/25/over-mountains-and-rapids-our-altruistic-journey-maytaraw

Over The Mountains and Into The Rapids: Our Altruistic Journey to Maytaraw


I want to share with you a wonderful story I was blessed to experience just a month ago. I seldom do this, friends, but sometimes you just feel the need to share some things wonderful and different that might change and inspire lives.

Last December 14-16, 2018, I joined a group of people for an upland outreach mission in Sitio Maytaraw, Brgy. Dalagsaan, Libacao, Aklan that turned out to be one of the best things that happened in my life. I’ve been to other outreach activities before but this one is different. This time, we get to risk our lives doing it. Upon hearing of this mission, I knew right then that I want to go. I saw the documentary in Jessica Soho and I was inspired to be part of it. I’m not in good shape but the pregnant teacher in the docu video made it, so surely I can do better than that? Goes to show how naive I can get. But before that, I’ve got other matters to attend to, work to do, and dysmenorrhea to expect. To cut it short, I managed the work with the help of my beloved Accounting Team... and the dysme came early. A miracle. To make it better, a good friend and classmate came with me. Apart from Pres Cha, I don’t know anyone else... a little anxious, something an introvert would only know. Though we will be missing a quiz in our law school, we still decided to proceed.

The journey itself taught me a lot of things. Libacao is such a wildly beautiful place. It's not just all about the scenic views and the majestic waterfalls every now and then, this also includes the challenging terrains, the stones, the mud and everything in between. I love all of it. Yes, my physically inadequate body was put to the ultimate test and it was a miracle that I made it. It was not an exaggeration in the docu where you saw the pregnant teacher being carried when she’s too tired to walk. In fact, I wished then that I could carry myself too. Lol. But with the help of these wonderful people with me, nothing became impossible. Someone carried my bag, motivated me throughout the walk, fed me and all. We managed to cross the raging rivers, the ‘assault’ climb they said that I'd rather call the murder climb, some cliff hangers, as well as the slippery downhills with a smile on my face. I still love that it became part of the journey. Why? During one of those arduous walks in solitude with the nature being chased by butterflies and flies alike, away from the stress of the urban life, I realised how contented and relaxed I was. I didn’t even miss my cellphone or the internet. Right now, I can no longer remember the pain, just the beauty of it...and its an all-in-one package. You just can’t love the falls and hate the stones that came with it. It wouldn’t be love. One thing that I learned from this journey is that loving encompasses all the aspects of that subject... beauty, flaws and all. Because loving do not include buts and ifs, you just love and let it be.

Another perspective that changed was my gloomy inclination to the rain. Before, for some unknown reasons, I feel nostalgically sad whenever it rains and the only remedy is to stuff myself with food and binge watch movies and series. After my immersion with this drowning wet journey, rain became the least of my concern. In fact, I didn’t hate that it rained. I learned to appreciate its gentle pat on my body that seemed to ease my muscles; the realization that I lasted longer because I couldn’t have it made if it was scorching hot; the occasional puddle of water that I enjoyed washing my tired feet and of course the ironic comfort it brought to me... that as of today, whenever it rains, I get a feel of the greens, the fluttering of the butterflies’ wings and the calming pitter patter that seemed like music to my ears. It also became a spiritual journey to me. I knew in my heart I really want to go. But my obligations and duties bound me like a chain on my feet. Just like anything else, I entrusted this to God, continued doing my duties and prayed for the best. Just like that, like a miracle, everything cleared and I was there like I’m meant to be. This empowered me all throughout the journey, that I am here for a reason and that I just have to be strong for those waiting for us.

Finally, we reached the place. No words could ever express the warm feeling that embraced my heart on their kind, welcoming and grateful faces when we arrived. So we dressed quickly and proceeded with our activities. I was contemplating a short lie down but I found myself dancing with the kids later. Yes, me, dancing after crawling a few hours before because I just can’t lift my legs anymore. Just when you thought you don’t have energy left to burn. I even told the kids my messed up version of the Little Prince. I realized then that I’m not a storyteller but you just can’t stop in the middle of the story... no, not in this sea of happy and eager faces. So, kids, thank you for bearing with me. There’s just something in their faces that makes you want to do more... to put a bigger smile on their face and never let it fade away. Like a balm to my pain, everything just fades away and all that is left is that moment with them and I am there. I felt despair when I saw their only three classrooms in great need of repair... and the raging river right below the school. I never felt so old when, during the handing of gift bags I told every kid I could talk to, to have a Merry Christmas, obey their parents, give their best at school and someday... help make a difference in this deprived life. That was even their first time to taste an apple and longganiza. They werent even baptized nor their parents married. The place is so remote they just couldnt be reached. The group brought a lot but I just can’t help but wish I could have brought more. This is coming from me who couldn’t even carry her own bag.

To be honest, I don’t feel like I had described enough what we had to go through in order to accomplish the mission. Just take my word that we could have died a number of times. There’s a lot of things beyond our control but we have the best and experienced company, a greater mission, prayers, a greater faith and a bigger God. That’s what made us safe.

To our very own JCI Aklan Kalantiao Team headed by Pres. Cha with Bryan, Jho, Gerel, I’m proud of you. We are definitely not hikers but we made it!!! Pres Cha, you're amazing. You never gave up and survived it all. You always make me laugh. Lots of love! Bryan and Jho, nice meeting you both. Thanks for being there! I’m glad to have met you! It’s as if we’ve known each other for awhile already! See you both soonest! Gerel, I’m really glad and grateful you came. Thanks for being there all the time, for keeping me alive, for making it better and preventing the worst. Please no more 1-2,1-2. May we always have the strength to do the unexpected for the sake of our passion. You know, rivers to cross, mountains to climb and muddy rice fields to slide on.

To the Aklan Trekkers and company, I am in awe of all of you. Please continue being a blessing to other people. I hope I can join you in your future meaningful travels ahead (in better body shape and gear this time). Jackie, your pair of shoes was a lifesaver. Meeting you all is an inspiration and I’m honored to be part of this team for this noble purpose. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, laughter, and experience with us. Madam Ritchel (Ritch), I really admire you for leading the team... for your bravery, courage and big heart full of compassion. You also have a great team. I can't mention everybody. You made me feel like there’s hope for me in hiking. Hahaha.

To the cool guys of the team, I will miss the hugot hikes and the humurous talks we had. Pretty ladies, although I’m half asleep, I heard a thing or two. The tough girls with soft hearts, we have a club. I’m sorry I missed the chance to bond with you... but we could still see each other right?! Stay tough, beautiful and strong girls.

Personally, I don’t have a strong body. In fact, I lagged most of the time and one of the reasons of our delay. I don’t have enough strength to cross the raging river (I have to be dragged and carried in order to cross one, and I thought I’m a swimmer) nor the stamina for the uphill climbs that thoroughly drained me. But to compensate for the lack of physical strength, I have a stubborn will and a fearless heart that seems to be ironically enjoying the beauty of the rain, the butterflies, the stones and even the mud, dung and all. I gave my best even if it means I have to crawl, slide and limp all the way just to do it. I believe I’m doing this for a wonderful reason and I’m willing to give my all to accomplish it... and with your prayers and God’s grace, we certainly did it. Because when I feel like I’ve got nothing left to give... the words would always come to me, and right then I know that everything will be alright.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9

P.S. The quiz was postponed.

To God be the highest glory!

Hiking Mt. Igmatongtong: A Short Hike to an Amazing Viewhttp://richnritch.com/2019/05/09/hiking-mt-igmatongtong-short-hike-amazing-view

Hiking Mt. Igmatongtong: A Short Hike to an Amazing View


Apart from being known as the sugar capital of Antique, the town of Laua-an also boasts a lot of spots with beautiful sceneries. One of the interesting spots is Mt. Igmatongtong located in Barangay Capnayan, Laua-an, Antique. With an elevation of 800 MASL, it's an easy to hike mountain with a magnificent view at the summit. Its peak offers an amazing 360 views of nearby mountains, rice terraces, plains, rivers, and the seas.

Our Hike to Mt. Igmatongtong

After four hours of trip from Caticlan, Malay, Aklan, the bus dropped us at Crossing Lugta, just before the bridge that divides the municipalities of Laua-an and Bugasong. It's the entry point to Barangay Capnayan via habal-habal (motorcycle). The road to Capnayan is steep, narrow, and unpaved making it accessible only for motorcycles. Starved by the long bus trip, we rushed to the nearby roadside eatery. Afterward, we look for a habal-habal to get us to Capnayan. The ride was fun though bumpy and slightly scary. At the road end, we started our trek to Mt. Igmatongtong. Ritchel served as our guide while I and Jackie followed her way. Ritchel shared that during her first hike to Mt. Igmatongtong, the view of the mountain was covered by fog.

The sky was clear and the sun was hot. As we continue our hike, we passed through the last village where we took a short rest and had a quick chit-chat with the locals. Everyone commented that we should have came early to avoid the unforgiving heat of the sun. They offered us a guide but Ritchel said she's been here before and she knows the trail very well. A girl from the village then followed us as we walk along the scenic rice terraces. She said that she wanted to go with us which we agreed. She smiled and led the way up to Mt. Igmatongtong. We reached the last steep ascend then walked to the narrow ridge that connects to the iconic rock formation on the peak of Mt. Igmatongtong. Voila, we had the entire peak for ourselves and the view was breathtaking! The stunning panoramic landscape and cool wind helped us to temporarily forget the scorching heat of the sun. 

The name "Igmatongtong" came from the word "tongtong" which means "to put" referring to the distinct rock formation on its peak. According to a legend, a man named Anglo used his superpower to place a human head (resembles to the like rock formation at the peak) to guard his wife Ligaya.

After an hour of enjoying the view at the the peak, we commenced our descent. Ritchel went ahead because she has an English tutorial to hold online so she has to rush to Poblacion, Laua-an to acquire a good internet connection. Jackie and I followed the girl as our guide. On our way down, we visited the impressive Capnayan waterfalls where we really had a great time. Afterward, we headed to the barrio proper of Capnayan to logout. When we reached the start of the road, we rented a habal-habal back to Crossing Lugta and rode a tricycle to Poblacion, Laua-an to re-unite with Ritchel. Ritchel was already waiting for us when we arrived. We then waited for a bus back to Caticlan and for Jackie back to Altavas.

 Mt. Igmatongtong is definitely fascinating. The short distance hike, scenic trails, and the views atop make it in our top list for recommended minor hikes in the province of Antique.

Looking for an easy-to-hike hill with breathtaking views near Boracay and Bel-is? Visit Pagti in Rizal, Nabas, Aklanhttp://richnritch.com/2019/05/09/looking-easy-hike-hill-breathtaking-views-near-boracay-and-bel-visit-pagti-rizal-nabas

Looking for an easy-to-hike hill with breathtaking views near Boracay and Bel-is? Visit Pagti in Rizal, Nabas, Aklan


Nabas is usually known for cold springs, caves, pristine rivers and wind mills. Apart from that it has also scenic hills that are unknown to others. One of the hills is called Pagti and it's located in Sitio Molada, Barangay Rizal, Nabas, Aklan and it's close to Boracay. 

Pagti is an open hill with windswept grassland on its peak. It has an amazing views of surrounding green rolling hills (similar to Panaktakan), the wind mills of Pawa, and the islands of Boracay and Romblon. It's a perfect camping and hiking spot especially for beginners. Pagti is only 20-minute hike away from the barangay proper of Rizal. The scenic trail passes through a local community, a creek, and sloping open hills. It can also be reached from the proper of Sitio Molada via a narrow and unpaved road that goes to Panaktakan. After the short trek you may also continue your hike to Panaktakan for a further hike down to Tabis-tabisan waterfalls to refresh.

Boracay is the best side trip after the hike because of its proximity but if you prefer serenity, Nasog Beach in Bel-is, Buruanga is the perfect getaway.

Though it's only a short hike away, the scenery in Pagti will surely take your breath away.