Thursday, September 15, 2011

Night Trek To Sampaloc Falls: Shack Attack

Dusk settled. And right on cue, the crickets' chirp broke the stillness of the night. I peered blearily through the tricycle's door and only saw swaying wild grass within a meter radius. I glanced at Tim who was behind the driver, looking oddly cozy despite slightly sliding off his narrow seat. We were clearly on an ascent. He flashed his toothpaste ad-worthy smile at me as if to answer "I'm alright" after reading my thoughts.

Sampaloc Falls. Summer drought.

In a few minutes, just past a sign that says "private property", we screeched to a halt. Our driver, like a cautious nocturnal creature, swept his keen eyes around the perimeter. He seemed hesitant to drop us off. I stepped out of the tricycle though I was suspicious myself. Besides the fact that we're trespassing a clearly marked private property, the whole area was pitch black. With such starless sky, I didn't think we'd be able to trudge on the right trail unless Tim's a human compass.

Kuya's humble abode.

It was one of them planned late holidays, four years ago. At that time, I have not done a night trek. So when Tim spontaneously invited me to one in Laguna over post-work booze (cause you know, you just feel uber spontaneous when inebriated), I replied "Oh my gosh I've been waiting for you this all my life!" in a blink. And less than a week later, there we were accompanied by a weak torch, feeling our way through the bush like a blind couple on a buddy system.

Me and Tim sharing a stainless cup of red wine. Photo taken by Kuya before he had a drink.

About half an hour into our sketchy trek, we caught sight of a shack in a distance. Its window was aglow with a yellow-orange hue caused by a lone, makeshift gasera (gas lamp). There was a man by the door, watching us as we approached.

Tim and I: Magandang gabi po (Good evening).

Man: Paalsa kayo? (Are you on an ascent?)

Tim and I: Opo (Yes).

Man: Naku, delikado lalo na't dadalawa lang kayo. (It's not safe, especially there are only two of you).

Our campsite.

We were about to object. But when he started sharing stories about bandits erm, "patrolling" the area, we took his advice of continuing the trek at dawn. He motioned for us to come inside. We entered and found just a couple of handmade wooden benches. There wasn't even a table. Sacks, coconut husks, and soda bottles were spread on the earth floor. The man's wife and kids emerged from the single bedroom (and by "bedroom" I mean an elevated, walled platform made from bamboo). They shyly welcomed us.

Morning view.

Kuya, a robust man with a handlebar mustache and sun-stained skin, was the caretaker of the property. We may have forgotten his name, but his kindness is etched in our minds. He offered their leftover rice to us when he learned that we were just about to have dinner, and insisted until we gave in. That rice could have been their brekkie or lunch the next day. For a family man who has close to nothing (except his amazing family of course), he is way generous to people who have more. He also made sure we got all the supplies we needed to survive the night.

Kuya thought we'd be delighted to see a horse, and brought one to the shack!

He suggested that we pitch a tent on a spot where he could watch over us. We assured him that it was not necessary and he counter-assured us that it was. So after dinner and a red wine nightcap, we set up our tent just across the house where the window was facing. Though Kuya's paranoia made me feel slightly uneasy, the thought of someone guarding us gave me a peaceful sleep.

Turquoise and tranquil.

At dawn, I woke up to the beautiful smell of instant coffee (cause you know, anything instant can be beautiful when camping). Kuya invited us for a shot of caffeine and a pat on a fellow farmer's horse. As a token of gratitude, we handed his family a small bag of chips and a few canned goods before we left to push on with our trek. It's a small price to pay for keeping us safe.

Our hike to Sampaloc Falls was quite uneventful, but I'd prefer that over a terrifying action-packed incident that involves being robbed. When we reached the falls, we were quite disappointed to see trickling water instead of a spectacular cascade. But we did love its turquoise basin, plus we had it to ourselves.

While I was lying on a bunch of rocks which I shaped into a lounger, I thought, "Will we be enjoying this if it hadn't been for Kuya?".

This is my official entry to this month's Pinoy Travel Bloggers Group Blog Carnival. The theme for September 2011 is "Unforgettable Human Encounters on the Road", hosted by Marky Ramone Go of Nomadic Experiences.


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AJ said...
September 18, 2011 at 11:30 PM

Where is this? Every province here seems to have something named Sampaloc. :))

Touching story, PTJ. Much is required from those who have more, but much is voluntarily given by those who have less. I heart this post!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 18, 2011 at 11:34 PM

Good point, AJ. Missed out mentioning the province. Haha! Thanks for that. It's in Laguna, just edited the article :)

Ding said...
September 19, 2011 at 12:11 AM

uh-oh! Kuya was right! Sampaloc was/is teeming with Reds...I'd like to be spontaneous sometimes, but family life has kept me...pathetic me! LOL!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 19, 2011 at 8:27 AM

Haha! I know how it's like Ding. This happened four years ago, I did not even have a boyfriend then so I was mega spontaneous!

killrfillr said...
September 19, 2011 at 9:06 AM

Sampaloc, eto ba ung town na malapit sa Lucban and Mauban?

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 19, 2011 at 3:01 PM

I think Sampaloc Falls is in Siniloan :)

Mhe-anne Ojeda said...
September 19, 2011 at 5:34 PM

nice and sexy...hehe

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 19, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Hahaha! Ate Mhe-Anne, I don't have any other decent shots of the falls with my old point&shoot cam. So I got an excuse for posting a bikini pic. Lol.

Ed said...
September 20, 2011 at 10:20 AM

wow, parang ansarap pumunta ng Sampaloc Falls para dalawin si kuya at mangungumusta! :D

natawa ako sa 'brekkie' hehe

Ian | Going Places said...
September 20, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Nice entry and travel story for the September blog carnival. The last shot is artistically shot though, the falls is dried up the concept is tastefully done pang-PRO!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 20, 2011 at 8:41 PM

Try Famy trek, Ed, when you got time :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 20, 2011 at 8:42 PM

Ian, thanks! Parang hindi sya falls sa picture, parang nasa garden lang ako. Haha.

dong ho said...
September 20, 2011 at 9:58 PM

it was so nice of them to bring a horse to your shack. very thoughtful.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 20, 2011 at 10:03 PM

Yeah Dong, nasense ni kuya na magugustuhan namin. How thoughtful.

September 21, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Very touching story there PTJ, and come to think of it, a sexy lady is going on a trek plus may overnight stay pa.. very brave!

Simurgh said...
September 21, 2011 at 3:25 PM

A strangers unexpected kindness!
I've experienced this several times..
More often than not, it comes from people who actually need more than I do...

It just makes you wanna reach out and help!
Nice post Gay!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 21, 2011 at 3:38 PM

That's so true, Simurgh. It made me wanna pay it forward.

Dee Quixotic said...
September 21, 2011 at 10:04 PM

We went for a day hike from Famy to Siniloan, unfortunately, hindi enough ang time namin to hike some more for Sampaloc Falls. True, marami na nagsabi na infested with thieves ang place na yan.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 21, 2011 at 10:07 PM

Oh yeah, Sampaloc Falls is, I think one of those last cascades. We accessed it from the other side. Didn't really know about the thieves, thank goodness Kuya told us.

Islandvacations said...
September 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM

I admire your trekking passion that you braved the night to reach Sampaloc Falls. The concern of the man you called "Kuya" for your safety strikes me most. There really are many persons who have less in life but more of virtues. Nice post indeed!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
September 22, 2011 at 6:59 AM

"There really are many persons who have less in life but more of virtues." - Well said Kuya Edelito!

The Average Jane said...
September 28, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Cool! I could never imagine myself "roughing it." Just so used to the great "indoors", I guess. Hehehe! =D

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