It’s becoming obvious these days that ‘trail running’ is definitely the new fad in the running scene. Evidence is on my running friends’ Facebook posts, and yeah successful events like the recently concluded Runnilla Eco Challenge, the Mapawa Trail Marathon in CDO and who wouldn’t want to go to the extremes at the TNF100 in Baguio? It’s natural for Runners to get out of their comfort zones and explore new environments. Some go into multi-sports like triathlon and other cross training sports. But the one area that really got my attention is the trails; into the off-beaten paths, the mountainous area, the muddy tracks, the river treks and the crazy uphills. Thanks Gody my hometown, the Bontoc town of Southern Leyte, offers plenty of trail options. However, the tough part is finding the trail that will capture the hearts of my running friends to go here and experience a trail on my backyard. I’ve searched far and wide and at short last, I found it!
It’s not a regular rock, it’s a gem so rare only a few souls know about it.
Funny though that I wasn’t trying to look for a good trail when I discovered the route. I was chasing waterfalls. I saw a picture of a beautiful waterfall on the internet a few weeks back and I was surprised that the falls is located right in my very hometown! Amputa, how come I only heard of the place? I learned there are two falls out there in Brgy. Pamigsian, a remote northern village on my hometown. I thought it needs to be promoted!
Me and my running buddy, Kuya Herbie Galdo (the only other marathon in town), decided to pursue Pamigsian last March but we fell short on time, we started late and the place is just too far when we arrive in the nearby village of Hilaan. So we came back with a better game plan: go out early. It was not a regular trail run, it was an expedition to the unknown of unprecedented dangers and untouched grandeur.
From my place at the town proper we walked more than 20 kilometers off-road on foot into the interior barangays of Bontoc, Southern. I think we practically walked the entire length of my town that day. The roads are mostly dirt roads packed with broken cement roads, stony roads, muddy roads all flavored with killer uphills and constant ascent leading to God knows where. I love to train on these road sometime. We had to make a pit stop at the Brgy. Hilaan, the second biggest barangay of the town, located up northinto the KM12 of the expedition. There we got ourselves some puto and sikwate for a quick breakfast! Yummy.
From Hilaan we push for the remaining 8 kilometers towards the Pamigsian village one of the northernmost places of the town. From a subtle dirt road, it suddenly became a road constantly going up and up. By the time we were in Kilometer 15, I really thought we are on top of a mountain already! The air got thinner and if there’s another sign we were at par level with the nearby mountain which looked so high already.
Finally we saw a village up in the mountain! Party party! It took us around four hours to reach the new village of Pamigsian.I really felt like we crossed the finish line of Cebu Marathon all over again… only it wasn’t, not even close. We only just started. Trust me, the long trek to Pamigsian is just a foreplay, it’s completely optional (heck we could just ride a motorcycle to get there). We immediately dived into the village and ask the locals if they know the waterfalls or know someone who can take us there. The people are friendly out there and very accommodating as if we are see some foreigners (or aliens). The tambays in the bilyaran volunteered to take us to the falls but they ended up giving us the finest of guides they can offer: Julius and Edward.
What happens next completely blow all my expectation away!
To get to the falls from the village we have to go through an initiation set into motion by Mother Nature. To get there, one must be tested and challenged to measure one’s worth to get her treasure. Suddenly I found one of the most beautiful trails the province has to offer. The trail was long and really hard to traverse, but the experience is an absolute Eureka to a trail runner’s inner being.
The first challenge comes in the form of a mind-blowing downhill trek. The village is on a really high place and you can see the old village on the ground that looks really small. The catch is the down hill is so steep and so muddy, one misstep could mean 200 meters of rolling in pain and broken bones.
At the foot of the hill we went through the old Pamigsian village which is surrounded by hills from the north and southern part. Right after the infamous 2005 Guinsaugon Landslide tragedy the authorities decided to relocate the entire village to that high place that we just passed through. It was like a ghost village with ruins and empty houses, abandoned and forgotten with only wild animals roaming around.
The next challenge is the exciting river trek! Man, I love passing through rivers. This is the point where I said to myself “I finally found the trails I’ve been looking for!” I was really having a good time traversing and balancing myself through the rocks and waters. All the climbs, the jumps, the crawls and the occasional wipeout. I cannot wait for my running friends to experience these trails. And I’m still a long way pa.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of the trail is the final stage of the challenges which are the ravines that leads to the area of the falls. It’s the point where we have to hang-on and crawl on for dear life on some steep cliffs near the river. It’s only around a 50 foot drop, so one miss step and a certain dose of bad luck is some serious trouble below. We had no choice but to climb and get pass through the ravines because the river rock formation below is too high and slippery to climb (I swear to God that if ever there’s another way to the falls, I’ll take even if it means another 20 kilometer hike).
I guess what makes these trail so beautiful is that not only is the journey so epic and beautiful but the destination itself is a view worth fighting for. In like 6 hours of pain, sweat, and dangerous journey we finally reached the Botong Falls. It was beautiful. Any words to describe that experience is beyond my abilities, basta nindo jud! I love the experience as if falling in love at first sight and definitely all my body pains and exhaustion vanished. The falls is surprisingly taller than the pictures but hey that’s one really gorgeous lady out there. Only then that I finished my swim in the pool at her foot did I noticed how freaking hungry we were. Look we did not have our breakfast, only ate a cup of puto three hours ago and perhaps a few lives later. So we have to save the Tag-abaka Falls on the next trip 🙂
Looking back into that epic adventure two weeks ago makes me want to hit that trail right now, but I’m not going back there without bringing a few friends to experience the hidden trails of Botong Falls has to offer. I’m just happy I found a trail I can boast of to anyone who is addicted to trail running and nature trekking. Life definitely is more fun out there on the road and on the woods where nature is beautiful at its finest, asserting its glory over the mortality of humans.