Marlboro Country

Sagada, Mountain Province

Marlboro Country
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Great Outdoors

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Steffhanie S.
5.0 Stars

2015 paved way for me to discover so much more of the natural beauty of the Philippines. With the interest from my best friend and her family members, and probably due to a growing population of people who're getting so into the outdoors, getting a sight of what can't be found in the busy, crazy metro, mountaineering came to life, in my mind, my heart, too.

A few years back, I think of it as something dangerous, a kind of activity that's only discovered for professionals, for the hardcores who aren't afraid of anything at all. It's like I've been too traumatized with the movie 127 hours when James Franco happily and bravely wanted to simply enjoy what the outdoors had to offer and in return he had to endure almost 6 hours of great fear and pain.

Oh well, good thing it had an uplifting ending that actually made me love him. Anyway, enough of James. Around early summer of this year, Abbey invited me to join them climb a mountain in Rizal. The initial idea of it scared me a bit but more than that I felt more excited and thrilled to try something new? Yes, something I haven't done before! The feeling daredevil in me, when deep inside I have loads of hesitations (just like a mom, haha!) said yes and looked forward to it.

We climbed Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal first. Goodness gracious it was so difficult! The climb was 80% pure assault, purely going up most of the time, so much of your strength and stamina must be reserved for the type of climb that may give you the impression of not wanting to do it again. But don't close your doors to early because once you've reached the summit, you may want to ask for more. It was also hard to go down because of the slippery paths.

Next in line was Mt. Sembrano in Rodriguez, Rizal. It was an extra challenging climb because there were only few shades in the vicinity where you could rest and regain your strength. The heat of the sun can really be so draining that it taught us that it's best to climb even before dawn especially the types of mountains with not much trees.

We went to Mt. Pamitinan in Montalban, Rizal for our 3rd one. This was one hell of a climb because more than anything else, more than half of the path going up was a rock climbing challenge. The sharp, creepy looking rocks can be intimidating at times as falling may only be the thing running inside your head but once you've got the hang of it and stay focused all the way, I guarantee you that this may be one of the most awesome experiences you'll always recall.

Last September, we tried out another mountain in Rodriguez, it was Mt. Susong Dalaga. It was one if the easiest climbs I did. It wasn't as challenging as the 3 because the paths and trails were simple, the heat was the only never dying challenge as always.

After these 4 mountains, we've already felt a bit more proud of ourselves as we've made it through the 4 safe and sound, with little bruises and scratches but all worth it still. We already named our group J-Hikers, that include me, Ceo, a college friend, Abbey, my best friend and her brothers, cousins, and aunt. Can't wait to have our climbing shirt soon!

So, for our ultimate Sagada experience, I didn't include in our itinerary a mountain climbing activity as I wasn't aware there was any? Sagada is in Mountain Province so definitely there were mountains there no? Haha! I can really be slow at times! So, as I shared in my other reviews, we met new friends in Sagada and having then along the way changed the course of our plans for the trip.

Lenard, the backpacker, was so insistent that we visit Marlboro Country. It was a vast land of greens and browns that got its name from the famous cigarette brand, Marlboro, with its commercial showing loads of freed horses with alluring and seductive ladies with them. Lenard can't stop telling us that he was really looking forward to check the place out as it will ne his first time, like all of us, and that there are a lot of free roaming wild animals in the area. What an adventure that is?! We'll be searching for wild boars, horses, snakes, etc. and then what? Get ourselves thrilled again? OK! YOLO, remember?

So, from the town center, we rented a van for P500 for a group of 9. We got take-away food from The House of Pinikpikan and travelled for almost 30 minutes going to the entrance point of the country. Our driver informed us that it's also beautiful to watch the sunrise and sunset from here most especially when the peak and viewing point of Mt. Kiltepan is already too crowded. We may do that by next year, when we come back to visit again.

So, we started walking to the unknown. We didn't hire a tour guide because it costs P1000 for a group of 10 or less. We've been living the adventurous life feels so it's for us to see and to believe. We didn't browse Google to well so we really don't have much of an idea on what to expect, what to do, etc., It's all about trusting our sense of trails and just being extra mindful of whatever wild animal may come out, uh ohh.

From the entry point, we were purely assaulting, walking on dusty and rocky roads that seemed to have been passed through by 4x4 rides. Aside from these types of rides, any other vehicle wouldn't be able to enter the steep and humpy area. Our surroundings were barely covered with bushes, trees and grasslands. The view was picture perfect, as always, most especially when you're at the topmost part. There were specific sights where photos looked really beautiful like the one wherein you're entering a path lined with really green, pretty pine trees. There was this part where you can sit at the side of the landscape filled with trees, accentuated with the gorgeous, blue skies. It almost felt like a photo shoot sight for us!

After almost 20 minutes of continuously going up, enjoying the sight and ranting of our feet's painful status (because we just came from the Lumiang-Sumaguing Cave activity) we all decided to get some more energy and ate lunch at a flat land, picnic looking area where there are loads of trees that serve as shades for the 2PM heat of the sun. We all chose our places and kept so quiet as we're hungry, really hungry, almost turning hangry!

After digesting all the Pinikpikan, Lechon Kawali, Fried Chicken, etc. and after a bit of some chit-chat, we kept walking towards nowhere. It seems like what we're seeing were all the same. The challenging roads, the quiet trees, the peaceful skies, not knowing where we're really going quite made me tired. There were moments that I taught that it may be the same even if we keep going up, that maybe it's just a never ending path with really nothing to see in the end. There weren't any sight of wild animals too, so I was sort of losing hope already as my legs were already sad and tired.

Lenard and TJ were the ones in front, along with Dane. They seem to be not getting tired, as if 1 step of mine is equivalent to 3 steps of them. They were really fast and kept going on and on. There were moments when they'll be almost a kilometer in advance to us.

Abbey and I were at the middle of the line. We were both slow trekkers and we do take our time and make sure to keep our pacing. We taught of just letting them go on and on and we'll just wait for them to come back but when we both saw that Ivy, Alphi, Kuya Lester and his wife (other new found friends) were keeping on track, we decided to go on! Abbey and I taught that they already gave up but in all fairness to them they also kept going too. So I guess we're really all in this together.

After almost 45 minutes of trekking, we saw what looked like a mountain's peak. We were all sort of surprised because we all expected that we'll just see some plain land but no, the almost peak like area gave us a bird's eye view of the rich natural beauty of the province, the vast land filled with the greeneries giving life to the mountains and the blessed blue sky, with the light from the sun that makes every single thing glow even nicer, lovelier, happier. The 45 minutes was worth it after all but then the boys kept going, and so after we took our photos, we pushed ourself even more, more, more.

When I heard TJ (the Chinese guy) shout "Lapit na!" my heart trusted his voice and I ran for it. Indeed, we were so close to the skies as we finally reached the summit, yes, the summit as we all realized after an hour of walking that this is one of Sagada's mountains, Mt. Marlboro! Yay for my 5th mountain outside the metro area. I didn't expect to have climbed a mountain in Sagada so when we were finally at the summit, I can't keep talking about Mt. Marlboro, not Marlboro Country! Weeee!

The view from the summit was really magnificent. All you could see were mountains, mountains and even more mountains! These mountains looked so peaceful, so calm, so into its quiet composure. The trees lined up looked really green, blossoming and happy. The skies looked naturally magnificent in its brightest colors. The summit, may it be unknown, nowhere and painfully hard to reach, it was worth it all the while.

And wait, there's more, as there are two summits in Mt. Marlboro! From the 1st summit you can go all the way down and up again to the next peak wherein you could also see the enchanting beauty of the whole place! It also makes a good photo area as you can take a photo of your friends from the other summit while they take a photo of you on the other summit. Awesome photos await indeed!

At past 3PM in the afternoon, the heat of the sun was bearable because the province's weather is really cool and there were a few shaded areas where you could stay to rest, chit-chat and eat some snacks while enjoying the scenic view right in front of you. You could also opt to go here early, like before dawn to be able to witness the sunrise. I am sure few people will choose this option compared to Mt. Kiltepan watching. If only we had enough time, we would have loved to watch the sunset from here but we're running late for another adventure.

As we savor the last minutes of staying at the summit, I took a deep breath and realized how worth it it is to pay for experience, to challenge yourself every single day because in the end, you wouldn't regret a thing. Thank you Lord for this beauty!

Bye bye for now Mt. Marlboro. We'll definitely be back, probably by next year? So, on our way down, we saw a group of guys who were on their way to the summit, too. If you really want to visit a spot in Sagada where there are a few tourists, this might be the one for you. Aside from our group, theirs was the only one we met along the way. Marlboro Country is really away from all the center's hustle and bustle.

As there were no signs or marks where you'll turn left or right as you go up and down from the summit, just make sure to follow the trail that leads you mostly to the top. There was this part wherein there were 2 trails, we decided to choose the left trail as this was the one leading up. Aside from this one, there were no other confusing trails along the way.

When we were almost there, Abbey pointed to me what seems to be a wild bird. It was a bit far from us so I can't really see too well but what made us excited about it was when we whistled, it whistled back! Yes! 2nd time around, it happened! 3rd time again, wee! That was really entertaining but sadly it didn't came too close to us. Dane also saw this unique looking plant, it was like an inch tall with mini orange colored dots that sort of made it look like a baby orange tree. Haha! Well, more of an orange type of bacteria clustered together. More than these, no wild boars, horses, snakes, etc. where in sight so bye bye to Lenard's wild animals sighting dreams.

We also saw few bonfire sites wherein tents have been stationed. I could imagine staying overnight at the identified campsites, grilling hot dogs and smores while drinking beer and sharing horror stories with the group, that's something to look back for on the next visit. I just think that if you plan to do that, make sure to tag along a guide or at most inform the tourist center that you'll be camping in for the night for security purposes.

Finally, we reached the parking site of our van! We made it altogether again! I was so proud of our group because despite our tiredness, our Lola and Lolo problems, our poker faces when we taught that we wouldn't see a wonderful sight, we still kept going through and believed that if there's still a way, keep your will! Being with people who never give up and who always find a reason to make every little journey lighter and happier make the ride even worth it.

Cheers to another mountain conquered outside the metro. Marlboro Country/Mt. Marlboro, with its relaxing feel, calming view, and picturesque sight is another destination to visit once you're in Mountain Province. Definitely an experience to keep in mind always!

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