24 August 2014

Journey to the Center of the Philippines

One of the best things about Marinduque is that it offers a bit of everything ‒ from its pristine islets, the raw and unspoiled beaches, the green-fanged outcrop of mountains, roaring falls like skeins of white lawns, and even yet-to-be-discovered caves. And not to mention, it’s geographically positioned at the heart of the archipelago from where the official center marker is located, the Luzon Datum of 1911 (further details here). True enough, we had this awesome chance of setting foot at the center of the Philippines, which pretty well served as the highlight of our weekend Marinduque sojourn.

The journey itself was an ultimate test to begin with. Taking aside the climb proper, the ride to the jump-off was something that should not at all be underestimated. From from where we stayed at Bangcuangan Sta. Cruz, we drove to Mogpog town proper with a free lift courtesy of our hospitable hosts, luckily saving us from the initial hassle of commuting. However, things started to go against our side since then; the stars were not friends of ours for the next instances. Soon enough after dropping ourselves off the public market, we walked and searched for the sole jeepney-on-trip to Hinanggayon, the barangay where the mountain’s jump-off point is located. Little did we know that it was their fiesta that day causing the lone jeepney chartered to travel directly to the jump-off unfortunately unavailable.

We've got no other choice but to find for a second plan. Upon few interrogations with the locals for alternate means, we learned that another ride was actually possible, another jeepney with a route that would pass by the jump-off point. In no time, we grabbed the opportunity fingers-crossed for a positive outcome. And to further intensify the trip and enjoy it the best way possible, we opted to ride on topload instead of having cushion-filled and safe seats inside the jeepney. And we did not fail to get the crazy ride we hoped for. Usually, those built-in railings at the topload are intended for carrying extra baggages, goods, and even people for transport to remote areas to maximize the efficiency of the trip. But more to that, it also showcases the natural inventiveness and creativity of the locals, which is worthy to be recognized as a means of tourist attraction, especially for travelers who seek for spiced-up adventures.

However, the supposed short jeepney ride was extended for  a great deal of time as there were lots of stopovers throughout the trip to give way for picking up goods and commodities such as sacks of rice, lumbers, food items, among others, usually from locals who opts not to drain themselves from the tiring ride by just ordering and making arrangements with the driver to save time and energy. Unfortunately, this move is inversely proportional to our comfort and advantage as the amount of space for us over the topload area went cramped even more. A couple of more steps eventually left us with a very tiny room for ourselves to ride., not to mention it’s butt-numbing, causing us to suffer from every onslaught of bumps and humps, given that it was a rough ride during majority of the ride.

Within minutes, we were hitting the road again. Right on top. The adventure furthered as we had to alertly watch our way and shun from the tree branches that were randomly leaning along the way. But it was all worth it as we crossed those roads winding back and forth on itself seeing those full view of the authentic sceneries passing by range of far-off forests, hedges, and the faint patches of the seas and mountainsides. Top-loading is a must-do I believe; otherwise, you’d be missing half of the fun. The risk is always there, but things are more thrilling outside the comfort zone.

It was almost noontime when we reached the jump-off point and the sun was already at its cruelest state. This mere thought was as deadly as it sounds. With a little over a litre of water, a heavy backpack, and a thirsty soul, we started the trek smoothly, and then the real walk unfolds before eventually taking the death defying march to the peak. All those immeasurable grains of sweats, blurry eyes, gasping breaths, aching knees and more, happened under the scorching sun.

And just in time we found we walking that 267-step stair, that before we realized we were there, I had my feet step at that recognized center of the Ph marker. It took me minutes to regain my senses in awe of the unhindered view up there. I found myself celebrating with the grandiose beauty up there, trying to capture its essence with the aid of lenses. The whole voyage was draining but the mere thought of me standing there, exactly at the deemed center of the Philippines, was no less than a priceless tick. 

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