“Nung dumating yung mga rescuers dito, di sila makapaniwala sa lakas ng hangin. Yng mga puno ng niyog di lang nabaluktot, naputol din sila at maraming nabunot. (When the rescuers came in, they couldn’t believe how strong the wind was. The coconut trees were not only bent, they were cut in half and many uprooted.)” Narrated our 60-year old forester guide with us, recalling the harrowing experience with the 2010 Typhoon Juan as if it happened only a few days ago in Maconacon. Almost a couple of years have passed, Maconacon is showing signs of revival despite the scars left by the typhoon. The houses and government buildings have been rebuilt and they now have electrical power (albeit only 7 hours a day). Nature however is slow to recover, the once bold wall of a mountain-face still shows significant scars and the landscape changed as we have discovered while exploring some Maconacon attractions.
It seems like an old vivid dream when local elders describe this beach 20 minutes away from town. A former enclave of the Romualdez family (related to former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos), the locals narrate how grand their beach side mansion was, but suddenly they abandoned the place and left Isabela sometime in the late 70s or early 80s. They also recall fondly how delegates from a beauty pageant (Ms Philippines?) spent time on this pebble beach to shoot. Now whats left is a pale shadow of its former glory. The mansion barely left a ruin. The she-oaks that used to line the shore have been uprooted and the tree-line sent further back. The beach slope seem to have been eaten by the sea and has gotten deeper. Yet still the natural beauty of this beach still shows on it elongated stretch leading to the mountains they call “German Nose” because of its shape.
Further on the dirt path up north, we were told there was a falls on the road near the spot I wanted to visit the next morning. It’s this pyramid-like rock jutting out of nowhere on the beach stretch of Dimanok. The waterfall was really just a stream of water by the cliff walls so we just headed to this towering landmark of a stone. It was taller than I expected and stunning even under a cloudy sky like a sentinel looking out the sea. The shoreline was pebbly like Romualdez but the waves were wilder. We were told this stretch of beach is the nesting ground for turtles.
About 25km from the town of Maconacon is Dicatayan River (Blos River to the Dumagats) where three tributaries feed to this larger river flowing straight to the Pacific Ocean. Blos River has beautiful large smooth pebbles we were told of high quality grade. This clear river is also a source of food for the Dumagats where freshwater fish and eels thrive. The river banks is ideal for picnics and swimming on its cool waters. There’s a hanging bridge there that’s already long overdue for repairs. Dumagats usually cross the upper portion of the river to reach the area behind the mountains to hunt. Nearer the ocean, is the passage for Reina Mercedes via a raft.
What I loved about visiting Blos River is the hike. It’s a fairly easy trail but replete with different species of plants and insects, a lot I have never seen before. This is what I have expected of Isabela, a rich plethora of flora and fauna. Even hidden behind the trees, I could hear different sounds of birds in every corner and as I walk the trail I kept my eyes peeled on curious little critters scurrying around. And this is just on the open trail near the shore, I can just imagine if we go deep inside the forest. Sadly, I learned from questioning the foresters that they don’t have much extensive tools to document everything here.
Maconacon may have its land marred and people haunted by Typhoon Juan (Megi) in 2010, but they are slowly getting back on their feet. The landscape has changed but as always nature has its way to heal itself. It’s also a good thing logging is already banned in these parts further preserving the density of the Sierra Madre Mountain Forest the home to the Dumagats and Agtas.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.