Since Masungi opened its gates to the public in December of 2015, I’ve been intrigued by the photos on my social media feeds. Visits are by reservation only, so after two foiled plans of going, I was invited by fellow Mabuhaykers with only two days notice and finally went. Lately, spontaneous has always worked out the best for me, despite my propensity for thorough research and detailed itineraries.
Located in Baras, Rizal, it was just a surprising hour and a half away from my part of the city, even on a Wednesday morning. We left at roughly 6:30 am, and arrived at San Andres, Tanay by 8:30 am — we had apparently gone past it on the highway for several kilometers at that point. With time to kill until our 12:40 pm tour, we decided to look for Kinabuan Falls, which was said to be nearby.
Entering through the same arch as I did a month ago en route to Mt. Batolusong, we asked around for Kinabuan on Mt. Ibid, but received mixed information. To cut this part of the story short, it turned out it was at least 10 km away from the highway on very rough roads, and the hike a good 14 hours to and from the falls, so we knew it was an adventure for another day. Even the alternative Mt. Maynuba and Mt. Cayabu with its “8 Wonder Falls” would’ve had us pressed for time, even if it was much closer to where we were.
Idyllic landscapes and cool, crisp air
Crispy Talong & Calamari at Cafe Katerina: delicious food, beautiful view, and golden retrievers
We killed time at Cafe Katerina, a restaurant by the highway further down, and apparently frequented by cross-country bikers. Our al fresco table had a killer view of the mountain ranges, the winding road below, Laguna de Bay in the horizon, and even the windmills of Pililla to the far right. It was cool enough for my companions to sport their jackets and leg warmers.
We were greeted by a friendly Golden Retriever, and as it led me in, I saw that they were a pack of about 6 dogs! Anyone who knows me can guess what happened after that… I played with all of them, except a black retriever, who was chained up, looking moody. The staff warned that he was known to snap at people on “off days.” Oh yeah, we were talking about the restaurant, count on me to get sidetracked by dogs. Ate Isay ordered longganisa with garlic rice and a side of crispy eggplant, Kuya Robert got some sort of beef stew, and I got the calamari and crispy talong pictured above. All the food were well seasoned and prepared, with hefty servings good for sharing, and prices ranged between ~P90-200 only. Certain value for money, and I’d definitely eat there again next time.
Photo grabbed from https://elmoresylvan.wordpress.com
I was introduced to the rest of the group when they caught up with us there for lunch, and then we convoyed to Masungi. The entrance to the place is easy to miss with its classy minimalist sign bearing its logo and the words “KM47 Baras, Rizal.” From the highway, only a small parking lot is in view; and it’s not until you take a short walk down a path past a tower with buzzing power lines that you will see the receiving area. They had tables to gather people for the welcome orientation, shelves for bags and helmets, and clay pots to refill bottles with mineral water. The paths were lined with colorful flowers and marked with sketched wooden signs.
Wild tomatoes by the path that a caretaker gave me to plant
We were assigned a tour guide who took us around the trails and gave a little information about each highlighted area. From the top of my head, she took us through 3 hanging bridges, the famous spiderweb, 3 prominent peaks nicknamed Tatay, Nanay, and Ditse, a small cave with great natural light (yes, good for pictures), and numerous hammocks of different sizes, styles, and shapes. She coordinated with the other guides to ensure well-timed stops at each location.
Labeled as Suotan, loosely translated as pathway or somewhere you can squeeze into
One of several hanging bridges
Could this be the biggest hammock in the world?
Swings inside a hut: unusual but fun
Mosaics that feature some of the endemic animals found in those mountains: this one is the mouse deer
After descending a rope section, it extends to the other side of the forest
I took this from the highest point of Tatay, my companions on the way up
Sunset of a really good day
LOVE the entire project, from its beginnings of stepping up against illegal loggers and miners, to their dedication to the conservation of the environment. Their values really reflect in the guide’s opening spiel about respecting everyone and everything in the mountains, which you can hear a snippet of in the short video below. I’d love our hiking guides to say a similar spiel in all the destinations in communities around the country. I wish all people could hear it and live it. LOVE the bathroom facilities, built into the natural rock of the mountains, with amenities like sunscreen, lotion, and mosquito repellant. LOVE the many hammocks, but being a timed visit, we couldn’t really stay and lounge in them for very long. LOVE the cleanliness and maintenance of the trails, it’s a really good way to ease new hikers into going outdoors. LOVE the included snacks at the end of the hike, so thoughtfully packed under a net; it was like opening a gift to reveal a loaf of bread, lettuce, tuna salad, bananas, and calamansi juice.
LUKEWARM about the cave scented with ylang-ylang, although it did mask the smell of guano that I despise. LUKEWARM about our guide who came late and who, in the end, seemed very irritable toward us (though she told a story about visitors that appreciate the surprise appearances of wild animals that I liked).
Overall, it’s a safe and wonderful place to re/introduce nature to city-dwellers, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a couple of free hours — because really, that’s all it takes. A short drive to Rizal and 3-4 hours of walking = breathing fresh air, appreciating birdsong and silence, and burning a few calories in the process.
2. We paid P1,500/person for a group of 7. Accepted group sizes are 7 and 14, no more and no less.
3. Check the weather to dress accordingly. I was in shorts and a tank top, and it was fine; but I can imagine it getting nippier in the rainy season or in our cooler months. Wear comfortable walking shoes or sandals, though I discourage slippers (I don’t know if they have official regulations against it). No need to worry about scratches, as the trails have been well-manicured, though for those who want extra protection from stray branches or itchy tree trunks, you may want to wear pants and gloves. They provide helmets, and because the trails weave through the many rock formations, you will really need it. They sanitize them, and in fact, we saw them out drying under the sun after a wash.
4. Must be fit enough to walk up to 4 hours, though there are many resting areas along the way; and rope sections need some sort of upper body strength and good grip.
5. Always be aware of your surroundings, look at where you are going and stepping.
6. Listen to your guides and adhere to their rules. Some photos are not worth stepping (or jumping!) into danger for.
I’d love to hear what you think, and hope to see you out there soon. That’s a lot of things done, just in One Day,