5:25 AM. Our car was parked in front of the Masungi Georeserve gate waiting for them to open. The wind howled and sent chills down to our bones making us seek warmth inside the car. I have long been interested on visiting the Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal but booking a tour was a challenge as slots are often filled. DIY or walk-ins are also not allowed as booking should be done in groups of 6–10. Fortunately, our friend Lea, whom I met in Batanes Asus event called for joiners to complete a group of her friends with her father. We chose the earliest schedule to somehow catch a good light on the trail.
Having a car going to the Masungi Georeserve, courtesy of Lea and her father, was quite convenient. Commuting here is non-existent in the wee hours of the morning. By exactly 5:30am, finally a sign of life from the other side of the fence. The guard showed up to open the gate. Since we were the first group of visitors that day, we had the pleasure of riding a golf cart to the Silungan, driven by the field manager. We met our park ranger guide, James, who gave us the mandatory briefing.
The language spoken is the vernacular as their standard. James, a Baras, Rizal native speaks confidently and enthusiastic to share what he knows of the geo-park. Masungi Georeserve, also knows as the Masungi Karst Conservation Area is a 1,623.84 hectare area filled with limestone karst similar to those found in Palawan. The name also came from the words masungit or sungki-sungki which describes the rugged and rocky landscape. Since 1993, from a what looks like a barren land, the conservation efforts transformed the place into a lush landscape which became home to some eagles, cloud rats and 8 species of venomous snakes to mention a few.
I can’t stress enough how the helmets are essential when doing the 3–4 hours nature trek at the Masungi Georeserve. There were a lot of ducking, going through tight crevices and also vertigo inducing hanging bridges and hammocks. The people have secured the pathways well and the guides know when to stop and give some relevant trivia about the place to appreciate it more. Our group did not rush through and make sure to enjoy the trail. I even commend Lea’s father, the eldest in the group who leads us during what seemed to be daunting a task.
Masungi Key Sites
Currently there are already some key sites in the georeserve. To make things exciting and an incentive to go back, they are working on new trails. Throughout the hike around the rock garden, what really went through my mind was how they were able to establish the trail, install all those bridges and even those giant hammocks. I can imagine the work that has gone through. Then we met Kukhan, the guy they call Tarzan as he was one of those responsible for climbing the sharp limestone rocks and even played a major in installing the hammocks and bridges. Nothing but respect from this Mindanao-born Kukhan along with his comrades. The major sites are
- Sapot – the giant spiderweb with views of the Sierra mountain range and Laguna de bay
- Ditse, Patak at Duyan – in english, “ditch, drop and cradle” describes this string of attraction coming from a natural cactus garden up to a hanging bridge where a drop-shaped air house is situated. Then there’s the unnerving ditch where the giant hammock is found
- Yungib ni Ruben – a cool cave with live stalactites and stalagmites beautifully lit with lamps along the pathways.
- Tatay and Nanay – namely Father and Mother are the two scenic limestone peaks at the geo-park. Tatay being the tallest and Nanay with picture-perfect connecting bridges.
- Bayawak – or a lizard is the newest obstacle course towards the end of the trail.
For me who enjoys spending time in nature through hikes an climbing peaks, Masungi Georerve is an enjoyable day escape just an hour away from the metro. The Php 1,800 on weekends or Php 1,500 on weekdays may seem steep for a half-day tour. But personally, going through the geo-park, seeing how nature rebounds when properly taken care of, how well-maintained the park is and how keen the organization is on protecting the the natural resources, it was money and time well-spent. I’m excited to go back when the new sections of the park is open.
In the meantime if you are planning to go there here are my tips:
- Book on a weekday if possible. Bigger chance of open slots and there are lesser people
- Bring just enough trail snacks and water in case you get hungry. The nearest restaurants are at least 15 minutes ride away. Snacks will also be served at the end trail at the Liwasan.
- Wear footwear with good traction. Sandals or flip-flops are not recommended
- Wear cool and comfortable clothes that’s easy to move around with. Bring extra clothes for change.
- There are no restrooms during the trail so make sure to pee or do your other business at the Silungan (briefing area) before starting the hike
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.