The soles of my feet already felt very thick it would probably take a few foot scrub sessions to take out the dead skin and callouses from too much walking. By this time, after entering many temples and sacred grounds for almost a week, I’m already used to removing my footwear before entering temples. For Mandalay Hill, my next place to visit, I had to remove my slippers before climbing the 760-feet high hill. I really don’t mind the climb since after the two gigantic Bobyoki Nat guardian statues is a shaded stair pathway leading to the summit. What amused me was the footwear storage at the foot of the hill with a sign “Footwear not Allowed. Don’t carry shoes” clearly directed at foreigners where they’ll have to pay to store them. I saw a lot of locals carrying their shoes inside plastics so I just decided to clip my slippers to my bag and started the climb.
“I think we missed our turn somewhere” I exclaimed. We were already going downwards on an unfamiliar paved road. It was cold but it’s getting darker under the fog laden surroundings going deep in the afternoon. I checked my map on my mobile phone and that small triangular shape with the label of Lake Danum was already behind us for some meters already. We tracked back and thought how the hell we got lost. I guess the paved road confused us or how the fog had hidden the view from our eyes. I’ve been here before but it seems I’m visiting it for the first time.
Not many people really stay in Bangaan as it’s a place that’s either far or in between. The rice terraces of Batad usually overshadows that of Bangaan by coming in first geographically and If you are headed to Mayoayao, it’s a place you usually pass by on the road. But how did I came about it? Well you could say early in my traveling sojourns, I was with a bunch of crazy travelers with sadistic humor and chose to torture us then, newbie hikers, by going to a longer back trail route to Bangaan from Batad. But seriously, we were just yearning for more adventure then and took an off-the-beaten trail which promises a much rewarding experience.
“Why do you have to go back here? The trail is exhausting!”, a participant exclaimed while we were hiking from the Saddle to Batad proper learning that it would be my fifth time to come here. While I laughed it out as I carefully navigated through a rocky downhill part of the trail, I was thinking at the back of my mind that there are places really worth going back to. Places you have to work hard for and feel rewarded once you reach it. Batad is still one of those magnificent places and I never get tired looking at.
No this ain’t Colorado or some far-flung out of the country outback, it’s still in the Philippines. And if there are any place within the country that resembles these landscapes, Nagsasa Zambales is definitely one of them. Nagsasa is more than its beautiful cove, while we explored deeper along the river, I can’t help but feel elated with the scenery I’m seeing. Along with this is the disappointing reality of what a few selfish hunters would go through just to get their prized game.
It’s really a challenge to go to places not really on everyone’s radar. Atimonan isn’t really a tourist hot spot. It has a few known sights like the Pinagbanderahan, Quezon Memorial Park and its Zigzag road known as Bitukang Manok. Aside from that, it is mainly a transit town often passed by. I did some further research and found some sites of interest like the Bantakay Falls, since I always like to incorporate nature elements in my trips. Good thing I got a hold the number of Atimonan’s tourism officer, Cecile and were able to ask directions on the phone.
My head kept hitting the steel bar frames of the tricycle whenever we pass by large pieces of stone or when we encounter the humps along the road. I already had my back bent just to sit at the back seat of the motorcycle behind the driver. It was rough road all throughout just after Lio Airport in El Nido. We were heading north of Palawan from El Nido to see some inland attractions at barangay Pasadeña.