Ouan’s The Farm Resort (Lucena City, Quezon)

After checking out at the Quezon Premier Hotel, Mel, Rannie, Angela, Maichel and I drove out to Ouan’s The Farm Resort, , a popular  choice of visitors to Lucena City, whether for business or pleasure, exploring or just passing through.  Here, the thrills of a complete family resort are combined with the simple, laid back life on the farm, with its butterfly haven, fish pond, goats, chickens, fruit-bearing trees, lush vegetation and fresh air.

Ouan's The Farm Resort

Ouan’s The Farm Resort

Upon arrival at the reception area, we were welcomed by resort Gen. Manager Ma. Louchiel S. Labay who prepared for us a breakfast of pancit habhab, chicken empanada, fresh buco and pandan juice.  Also on hand was travel/tourism consultant Ms. Lurhen T. Cortes, Gen. Manager of Appsline Travel Services & Consultancy, who was to tour us around Pagbilao town.

Olympic size swimming pool

Olympic size swimming pool

Pancit Habhab

Pancit habhab

After breakfast, Lurhen and some of the resort staff toured us around the grounds.  The resort has overnight accommodations (standard rooms, suites, dorms) and a number of swimming pools ranging from Olympic size, to free form and kiddie pools.  It also has a coffee shop (Grandma’s Kitchen); cozy and spacious conference rooms and function halls; a firing range; tennis court; basketball/volleyball court, camp site; sauna and football field.

Angela scales the climbing wall

Angela scales the climbing wall

Of particular interest to us was their wall climbing, rappelling and zipline facility and everybody proceeded there.  My four companions decided to try out all 3 activities while I, with my bum knees, just watched from the sidelines. Louchiel’s daughter also joined them on the single pulley zipline.  Once on the other side, they then climbed another tower and zipped back to the starting point.  Maichel and Angela also successfully climbed up and rappelled down the climbing wall.  Mel only did the latter while Rannie tried and failed on the former.

Maichel tries ziplining

Maichel tries ziplining

Back at the reception area and prior to leaving, Louchiel also introduced to us their new product – milkfish (bangus) sardines.  These fish are cooked in a pressure cooker so that the bones become so tender they can be eaten.

Ouan's signature bangus sardines

Ouan’s signature bangus sardines

Louchiel also introduced us to her father, retired PNP Chief (during the Ramos administration) Dir.-Gen. Recaredo A. Sarmiento II (PMA Class 1966), who is from Buenavista in Marinduque.  His father and namesake was Buenavista’s longest serving mayor.  A proponent of modern farming, he was once a provincial agriculture program consultant in Marinduque.  Back at the farm, he tends to his tree plantation, notably his duku and longkong lanzones trees.

L-R: Maichel, Lurhen, Gen. Sarmiento, Mel, Rannie, Angela and the author

L-R: Maichel, Lurhen, Louchiel, Gen. Sarmiento, Mel, Rannie, Angela and the author

Ouan’s The Farm Resort: Km 133 Diversion Road, Kanlurang Mayao, Lucena City 4301, Quezon. Tel: (042) 710-4552 and (042) 373-4728. Mobile numbers: (0923) 744-4181 and (0923) 749-4333. E-mail: ouansfarm@yahoo.com. Website: www.ouansthefarmresort.com.

Appsline Travel Services and Consultancy: Phase 2, Krisanta Village, Brgy. Bukal, Maharlika Village, Pagbilao, Quezon.  Tel: (042) 716-0067.  Mobile number: (0922) 633-0363 (Ms. Lurhen T. Cortes). E-mail: yvette_24@yahoo.com andappsline0305@gmail.com.



Lignon Hill (Legaspi City, Albay)

Mayon Volcano

After an early morning breakfast at Villa Isabel Hotel’s restaurant, I packed up for my trip back to Legaspi City  where I was to take the 1:20 PM Zest Air flight back to Manila.  Bernard stayed behind as he had other business to attend to in Sorsogon City.  I took a tricycle to the national highway where I boarded a Legaspi City-bound van which left by 8:30 AM.  I arrived at the Legaspi City Satellite Bus Terminal by 10 AM.  

Legaspi City Satellite Bus Terminal

Here, I was picked by Ms. Danica Pontejos, a staffer from Mr. Marti Calleja’s Bicol Adventures, and her driver.  As it was still early in the morning, I still had 2 hrs. to tour the city and Daraga town prior to being brought to the airport and Marti was kind enough to let me do so.   First in my itinerary was, fitfully, the Lignon (pronounced as lin-yon) Hill Nature Park, one of the city’s famous landmarks and the highest location in the downtown area.  The trip up the paved zigzag road of the 156-m. high hill took less than 10 mins. (the hike up takes 45 mins. to an hour).

Lignon Hill Nature Park

For years, the hill was known for its PHIVOLCS observatory at its southwestern slope and the old lighthouse at its summit.  Today, it is known for its view deck where I had a panoramic, 360-degree view of Legaspi City (and its airport runway, 11 kms. southeast of the volcano’s summit), Daraga and Albay Gulf.  Best of all, as it was early in the morning (the best time to visit), I had a spectacular view of the world famous Mayon Volcano and its breathtaking perfect cone in all its naked glory. During my first visit to the city almost 7 years ago (http://firingyourimagination.blogspot.com/2005/07/albay-mayon-volcano.html), my afternoon view of the volcano was shielded by swirling clouds. In the late afternoon, you can watch the sunset and, in the evening, the city lights of Legaspi.

Aerial View of Legaspi City

For sightseers and guests, the hill also has a landscaped promenade with restaurants and shops.  For the adventurous, there’s also a 320-m. long zip line where one can soar through the air harnessed to a cable.  Other adventure activities and extreme sports offered include hiking, mountain biking (on the gullies at the foot of Mt. Mayon), rappelling 150 ft. down, paintball, riding 4-wheel all terrain vehicles (ATVs, c/o Your Brother Travel and Tours) and, soon, airsoft.  You can also take the super steep route up the hill via the Kapit Tuko Trail or explore a 50 ft. long Japanese tunnel.

View of Airport Runway

Lignon Hill Nature Park: off Binitayan Rd. (behind Albay Park & Wildlife). Open daily, 8 AM-11 PM. Admission: PhP10 (educational tour rate) and PhP20 (foreign visitors and non-Albay residents), 5- 9 AM free of charge for regular joggers. Zipline off season rates: PhP250 (basic) and PhP350 (advanced – superman).  Rappelling rates: PhP200 (off season) and PhP250 (peak season).  
Your Brother Travel and Tours: ATV rates: PhP1,800/hour (150cc) and PhP2,500/hour (500cc or buggy). Tel: (052) 820-3629.  E-mail: yourbrothertravevandtours@yahoo.com.    

The Pugad (Pugo Adventure) Tour (Pugo, La Union)

Four-wheeled, all-terrain vehicles (ATV)

We were now in Lakbay Tour’s second day and, after an art-filled first day in Baguio City, we were now in for some adrenalin pumping adventure featuring zip lines (3 to be exact) with some all-terrain vehicle (ATV) excitement thrown in at Pugad Pugo Adventure Park in Pugo, La Union.   Pugad, “bird’s nest” in the vernacular, is actually a hybrid of the two words Pugo, the name of the town, and “adventure.” We alighted from our special Victory Liner tour bus (its body sticker-wrapped with the tour’s sponsors), at the Flying V (incidentally also a Lakbay Norte 2 tour sponsor) station along Marcos Highway in Brgy. Cares in Pugo and transferred to a smaller Pugad shuttle bus.  DOT Region 1 representatives Evangeline M. Dadat (senior tourism operations officer) and Reynaldo Gesmundo (tourism operations officer II) joined us.  After a 300 m. drive over a narrow road (unfit for our big bus), we finally arrived at the resort. Though this inland swimming resort has 2 crystal-clear outdoor swimming pools (adult and kiddie), picnic cottages, clean toilets, shower rooms, conference halls and a hanging bridge over a clean river, Pugad Resort  is more known for the extreme adventure it offers. Pugad’s famous 380-m. long and 240-ft. high Super Man Zip Line 1, one of the resort’s  three zip lines, stands out as the longest zip line in Luzon and is reportedly the second longest in the country.  Rates for the 3 zip lines is PhP900 per person or PhP1,000 if it includes wall climbing and breathtaking rappelling.This was too good to miss out.

Pugad Pugo Adventure Park

But first we had to wait in line as only five people can be accommodated at a time.  While waiting, we opted to try out out the  4-wheel, all-terrain vehicles and dune buggies at the nearby dirt track.  Unlike the zip line, this was a first for me and I drove cautiously over the winding and hilly but well-designed, 2.5-km. long course with its numerous bumps and turns, at one time falling into a ditch in spite of my caution.   My other companions confidently drove like seasoned racers. However, I soon speeded up midway round the course, only slowing down as I tackled the final 4-ft. high and steep hill back to our starting point.
Hannah Barrios finally enjoys Zip Line 3

This initial adrenalin rush now over, it was now time for some state-of-the-art zip lining. There were no more waiting lines as only three of us were left, the other two being Studio 23’s  Hannah Barrios and Joshua “Red” Nietes, both reluctant and scared first-timers. After filling up the necessary waiver forms, we were suited up with the necessary Petzl C29 Pandion harness and Petzl helmets for our safety then bundled into the back of a pickup truck, then driven up the cliff,  We then made a short hike, up a concrete stairs, to our first zip line—the Super Man Zip Line 1 (so named because we had to do it in a flying Superman pose), the highest and the longest in duration (30 seconds) of the three.

I tried it first, as Hannah and Red  were reluctant.  Soon I was harnessed parallel to the ground and on my way. It was everything it was hyped up to be, with picturesque views of a smooth flowing, boulder-strewn river, small rice terraces and lush, forested mountains. It was sometime before Red then Hannah took the plunge but, after having done so, liked it so much that they were both first at the succeeding 2 zip lines. The 280-m. long, 160-ft. high and less picturesque Zip Line 2, the fastest among the three (10 seconds with its 100-m. descent), and the 250-m. long, 60-ft. high and relaxing, 20 second long Zip Line 3, the basic and beginner’s zip line, were both done in the sitting position.  The last passes over the swimming pool and the river before ending at the campsite. It was starting to rain when I finished the last of the zip lines, making rappelling and wall climbing out of the question as the wall had become quite slippery. Besides, it was now time for lunch at the resort’s restaurant prepared by resort owners Eugene Martin, a retired police director, and his wife Pricilla, a Pugo councilor.  Heck out my Business Mirror article “Pugo’s 3 in 1 Adventure Tour.” 
Pugad Pugo Adventure Park: Sitio Kagaling, Brgy. Palina.  Mobile number (0927) 667-2619.  Tel: (072) 603-1592.  E-mail: pugoadventure@yahoo.com.

Rappelling at Wawa Gorge (Rodriguez, Rizal)

Wawa Gorge

I again joined as a guest in a demonstration tour hosted by Lakbay Kalikasan for teacher representatives from 9 different schools, this time to Montalban (now renamed Rodriguez after its late local son and Senate president Sen. Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, Sr.), a town steep in mystery and folk legends, and one of the nearest, it being just 28.60 kms. from Manila.  Assembly and pick-up point was our usual EDSA Shrine.  Our 2-van convoy made a brief stopover at U.P. Diliman (my college alma mater) before proceeding to our final destination, the town’s Wawa Dam and its beautiful gorge.

The two mountains of Bernardo Carpio

Montalban is mostly mountainous, its central and eastern sections being traversed by mountain ranges extending north to south.  It also has a series of steep, sloping ridges. The province’s highest peak, the 1,468-m. high Mt. Caladang, is located along the Rodriguez/Quezon province boundary.  The town’s mountains and caves figured prominently during the early days of the Katipunan (a hideout and a site for secret meetings) and the Philippine Revolution (site of a June, 14, 1897 rout of Spanish forces under Col. Dujiols).     

Montalban is full of legends and folklore.  Near Wawa Gorge, the folk hero and demigod Bernardo Carpio was said to hold two mountains apart, with his mighty hands, to prevent them from colliding.   His enemy, the enchanted king of the mountains of San Mateo, was defeated by Bernardo in a wrestling match.  The king had his revenge when he enticed Bernardo to enter Pamitinan Cave.

He blocked the entrance, with two gigantic boulders of rocks, and trapped him inside forever, thus shackling him to a prolonged bondage. When an earthquake occurs every 100 years, it is said to be Bernardo breaking one of his chains.  It is said that when all his chains have been broken, he would then liberate all his countrymen from their own slavery.

Wawa Dam

Wawa Dam (also called the Montalban Dam), located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains, in Brgy. Wawa, supplies water to the Novaliches area in Quezon City.  Overlooked by Mt. Irid, its spectacular, forested Wawa Gorge lies between two marble and limestone mountains (of Bernardo Carpio fame) and, through it, passes the Wawa River (or Marikina River) as it flows into Laguna de Bay.  On our way to the dam, our group espied one of 4 caves believed to be Japanese strongholds during World War II.  A historical marker was said to have been placed at the entrance of one of the caves in memory of the Japanese soldiers who died in the three-month long battle in 1945.  Treasure hunters are also said to be attracted by rumors of gold buried in the caves.

Wawa Gorge is also the place to be for the relatively new, adrenaline-pumping and extreme sport of rock climbing.  The gorge’s 400-meter high cliffs provide different levels of difficulty for rock climbers.  There are ten rock climbing sites with approximately 50 established routes, graded 5.0 to 5.12, all stable, free from vegetation and generally safe from rock falls.   Its Redemption Area, perpendicular to a metal footbridge, features “Fun in the Sun” (unrated), “Redemption” (5.10, bolted), “Sacrament” (5.8, bolted), “Sanctuary” (5.6) and “Under the Bridge” (has three short, unrated climbs).  The strictly traditional “Sanctuary” is the most popular.

Trying my hand at rappelling

We, however, weren’t there for the rock climbing and there was to be no rock-climbing spectacle either on this hot summer day. Lakbay Team Leader Ryan Viado, however, had a special treat in mind for us: the equally adrenaline-pumping sport of rappelling at the gorge’s metal footbridge.  Rappelling, is nothing new to me, having tried (and enjoying) it during a past Lakbay tour of Biak-na-Bato National Park in Bulacan. Assisted by Alan Galang and Alexes Erquiza, Ryan soon had our rappelling equipment installed at the bridge.  Initially, there were no volunteers willing to try this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime experience.  To set a precedent and embolden the others, I took the first crack at it, doing a near-flawless performance. Just like in Biak-na-Bato, rappelling was the piece de resistance for this fruitful and memorable day.

Lakbay Kalikasan: G/F Balai Lakbay, 2 Alondras St., Mira-Nila Homes, Tandang Sora Ave., Quezon City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 932-7818 to 19.  Mobile number: (0917) 500-4796. Website: www.lakbaykalikasan.com.