“I hate the outdoors. To me the outdoors is where the car is.” While scrolling through my timeline on Twitter, I saw that quote by Will Durst, a political satirist. It reminded me of how the world is today. Nowadays, the outdoors are known for being urbanized, over-populated, and polluted. The outdoors used to be a safe haven for people, but the environment has been destroyed through the years because of modern ways of life. There are more buildings and roads than trees and plants. Urbanization has always been a problem in Metro Manila. In our fast-paced world, people spend more time in malls than the actual outdoors— the mountains, forests, valleys, and beaches. Though, the outdoors are getaways for people, they don’t cherish it like before. Even some of the beaches are over-populated and polluted. Thankfully, there are a lot of getaways near Metro Manila where people can relax and escape from the city. One of the best places where people can escape to is Mt. Daraitan. It is a natural playground visited by climbers and adventurers around the nation. Used to be a logging area, Mt. Daraitan is now known for its numerous forest trails, grasslands, rivers, spelunking and other outdoor activities that people will surely enjoy and can’t help but return to.
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH
Pack up and get ready for a bumpy (yet fun) ride! Before getting into that ride, there are some things you’ll need for the trip— extra set of clothes, towel, money, insect repellant, sunblock, snacks, and most importantly, lots and lots of water. Never leave without water because you’ll never know when you need to hydrate.
Mt. Daraitan, located in Rizal and near the border of Quezon province, is just around 2 hours away from Quezon City. You can either take a private car, or public transportation. When taking public transportation, you have to leave extra early because it takes around 2.5-3 hours due to the numerous stop overs and pick ups. If you’re into real adventure, take the public transportation. You usually have to take around 2 jeepney rides and 3 tricycle rides, but it will all be worth it. On the way to Daraitan, you can see the different villages and places in Rizal. You can stop over at Daranak River and Batlag Falls which are located in the lower part of Rizal. Day trips to Daraitan cost around 500-1000 pesos and overnight trips cost around 1000-1500 pesos. Compared to other trips here in the Philippines, Mt. Daraitan is pretty cheap. The payment is already inclusive of the environmental fee and tour guide fee. With that payment, you can already climb up, camp out, swim in Tinipak River and even have extra money left for food.
UP IN THE CLOUDS
Mt. Daraitan is known for it’s steep climb. It’s ranked intermediate (4/10 for difficulty) by most of the professional climbers here in the Philippines because the hike up is mostly an ascend of 600 meters. It roughly takes 2-3 hours going up and 3-4 hours going down the mountain. It looks hard, but the trail is very well-maintained by the locals. Plus you can get a trained tour guide at the front office! While going up, our tour guide said, “Ingat lang kayo paakyat. Pero kaya niyo naman paakyat. Andito ako eh!” The tour guides will make you feel very safe. Brace yourself for more adventures in Daraitan because other than climbing up the mountain, there are a more activities people can do. Before the climb, you can roam around the Barangay for a bit. You can meet the locals, tour around the village, or eat at the extremely cheap, yet delicious, food stalls put up by the locals. You can even bring food on the climb and eat it during your way up. At the summit, people can wait and watch the sunset and camp out to see the sunrise the next day. There’s nothing like waking up to a bright orange sky and endless beds of clouds. You can feel the cold breeze brush your skin as you look at the view from the top. You can also see a part of Sierra Madre mountains, Daraitan River and a glimpse of Laguna de Bay. If it’s your first time camping or climbing, make sure you’re ready to get wet and dirty. The Tinipak River route leads to the picturesque view of big and bright limestone boulders. It’s also a popular camping site where you can explore the natural springs, pools and caves around the area.
People have been exploring Mt. Daraitan a lot lately and I’m happy to say that the number of people visiting it is not affecting its environment and state. It’s becoming one of the most popular ecotourism sites in the Philippines. People have been visiting Mt. Daraitan for a few years now and it’s amazing to see that it’s well-maintained. You can’t find any view like that in the city.
MEET THE LOCALS
A model for ecotourism, villagers from Mt. Daraitan are known for being very hospitable. The Barangay has a very organized way of handling the visitors. They earn because of the amount of visitors who come to see Mt. Daraitan everyday. Since there has been an increase of visitors the past few years, there has also been an increase in the job opportunities. Some of the villagers work at the Daraitan river, they help the visitors cross the river by rowing on a small bamboo boat. Once you get to the other side, there are a new set of locals who welcome you and lead you to the Barangay Hall. All giggly and happy, our local tour guide said, “Lahat po kami dito magkakilala. Nagkakasundo kami dito lahat.”
Daraitan is quite small for a province. And upon seeing their unity and hospitality, it makes me want to stay there even longer. A day wasn’t enough for me to discover the hidden qualities of the locals, and most especially the place. The locals at Mt. Daraitan worked hard to get to where they are today. I saw people working in offices, barber shops, restaurants, and sari-sari stores. I even saw kids helping their parents and other elderly with work. The work that the locals have exerted surpassed every bit of my expectations, and surely everyone’s too. Mt. Daraitan and its surroundings are a living proof of their hard work.
For the past few years, the Philippines has been suffering from the effects of modernization. There are more buildings, roads, and polluted areas. Instead of focusing on the things that matter, like actually saving our country and the world, we try to hide our problems. By hiding our problems, we don’t fix anything. There won’t be an actual difference if we don’t act upon it. The modernization of Metro Manila has affected Daraitan and its people. Even the modernization has reached the kids. There were kids playing with the Playstation and using the computer in one of the houses in the town. One of the kids even called me and said, “Ate! Ate! Sali po kayo!” It’s a bit saddening that the rich cultures of the Philippines are becoming identical to the ones we try to push aside, our modern and ignorant culture.
Climbing up Mt. Daraitan made me realize that we should treasure every bit of our environment, or what’s left of it. The world is slowly developing and sometimes in ways we don’t want it to, but change is inevitable. We, as the caretakers of the country and environment, should unite and help each other to preserve what’s left of our home. Places like Mt. Daraitan should be taken care of. Though the modernization of Metro Manila has affected Mt. Daraitan and it’s people, the place stays true to its reputation as one of the new eco-tourism spots in the Philippines. People will always remember a place by how good it makes you feel to be there, and one mention of the word “Daraitan” makes me want to rewind back to the day I climbed up that mountain.
– Isabela Garcia