I capped my trip to the Philippines with a “hike” at Masungi Georeserve. I added quotation marks because it was essentially an active and engaging tour of the reservation. We had a park ranger take us around and educate us on different aspects of the reservation. There was a good mix of natural and man-made spots at Masungi — it was like an obstacle course, for which reason I found my visit to be an unusual hike.
Since Masungi is a protected area, there are some rules that must be followed. The park ranger gives an orientation at the beginning of the visit, but here are some rules that stuck:
- Wear your helmet. The reservation protects, among other things, rocks that formed below sea level long, long ago. With these come interesting caves that are part of the trail. The point of wearing the helmet is to avoid scraping your head on the cave ceiling. I felt the ceiling scratch the surface of my helmet as I walked through some caves, so OK, I get it.
- Don’t make extremely loud noises. Your loud voice will echo throughout the reservation and may potentially scare off some animals that the park rangers have worked so hard to provide a sanctuary for. We had fun, bitter, and sawi (translation: broken-hearted) conversations during the visit — even our park ranger joined in — so talking is OK, being obnoxious not so much.
- Do not litter. Please. People should learn to respect and protect the environment. The Philippines is rich with natural beauty, yet so many take this for granted. This may be extreme, but let’s not let it ever get to the point of no return e.g. Pasig River.
Note that to visit Masungi a reservation is required. There is an entrance fee per person, and a group must be composed of 7-14 people. The visit takes 2-4 hours, depending on the number of people and the degree of fear of heights in each member of the group. Among my group of 11, only 2 of us needed to conquer our fear of heights. We finished the visit in 4 hours one part because of the size of our group and other due to the two slowpokes who needed extra encouragement.
Ta da! I made it to the sapot (translation: web). I didn’t want to look down, and kuya park ranger had to distract me from looking down. At the rocks. I did not want to fall and break my bones. (Don’t worry, I am just a very paranoid person — I always think worst case scenarios.)
Kuya Park Ranger: Ma’am, may boyfriend ka ba?
Me: Wala, kaya bawal ako ma-fall. Walang sasalo!
Park Ranger: Ma’am, do you have a boyfriend?
Me: No, so I can’t fall. There’s no one to catch me!
I’m not going into much detail about the hike because everything came as a pleasant though nerve-wracking surprise to me that day. I loved every moment of my visit. Most of all, I was very glad I forced myself to get over my fear of heights (at least for the day) because the visit was an experience like no other.
The fee to visit the reservation begins at P1,500 per person depending on the day of the visit. It’s a conservation fee that I felt was definitely worth paying, especially after having seen how well-maintained the reservation was. (The price, however, may limit visitors only to a certain class, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.)
Our group visited on a weekend and opted for the dining experience as well, so we paid an additional P600 for the meal (which, considering the amount and quality of food and service, was a fair price). Tip: This is a set menu, multi-course meal. If you opt to dine prior to the “hike,” make sure to come at least 3 hours early. The dishes are healthy not overly heavy. Fear not — the meal will not hamper your ability to make it through the obstacle course.
Finally, heads up that there is no reception (regardless of carrier) at the reservation! If you have anyone to communicate with by phone, it will only happen before and after your visit. So if anyone will be looking for you for any reason at all — and you want them to know where you are — I strongly advice sending them a message before you even get to Masungi.
Some notes for context:
- Kuya translates as older brother. In the Philippines, it is important to regard all elders with respect. If the person is on the older side, people go with manong.
- Pasig river is a dead river polluted due to industrial and consumer waste.
- Love is a strong element of Filipino culture, and references to being sawi, feeling broken-hearted, appeals to the general population of single millennials. Related references include the friend zone and Ramon Bautista’s abangers. (For an explanation, see: Tales from the Friend Zone. For an example, see: Jollibee’s Vow.)