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    Appreciating the hidden beauty of Iket River

    September 19th, 2016

    GasgoniaIT has been a month since I got my bike customized into a street tracker so I was really itching to test it some place where I haven’t visited yet.

    Fortunately, I and fellow Yamaha rider Dennis de Joya Montano talked about this area in Bulacan, a secluded place where me and my friends could relax.

    So we mapped out a ride with other two-wheelers. We prepared our bikes and stuff and headed to Dona Remedios Trinidad, the largest municipality in Bulacan.

    Iket River is located in Sitio Dos, Camachin, which is a quiet area in Dona Remedios Trinidad. Iket is largely unknown to Manilenos and is more of a stream than a river. Its clear water flows from one of the mountains of the Sierra Madre mountain range and is likely connected to Angat river.

    Iket River, Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan
    Iket River, Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan

    To get there, our group gathered at the 7-11 convenience store near the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan at about 6:30 in the morning. Then we throttled our way from Gaya-Gaya to Sapang Palay, also in Bulacan, passed by Tigbe, the Norzagaray Rotonda until we reached the arc of Angat.

    From the arc we traced the twisties of Binagbag up to Dona Remedios Trinidad.

    Thankfully, it wasn’t raining that day so the ride was stress free. It’s just us, our motorcycles, the wind and the road.

    Then we reached a bend to the right, which led to Iket River. While we’re parking our bikes, we could already hear the sound of water flowing down the stream. A large sign saying, “Welcome to Iket River Resort,” greeted us near a pathway that leads to the water. We paid our entrance fee in a sari-sari store located nearby.

    For P60 per head, we were able to secure a cottage, pay our entrance and park our bikes in the resort.

    After securing our bikes, we descended our way to the stream, walking down a concrete pathway that led to the waters. We passed by several cottages until we found our spot — a makeshift hut nestled by the rocks.

    The river is a sight to behold. The cool and clear water that flows from the mountain is surrounded by large rock formations. The water way was enveloped by surrounding trees that lead to the forests up the hills.

    To make the place “tourist friendly,” the resort owners slightly developed the area without ruining its natural ambiance.

    They just provided a space where tourists could park their vehicles and set up several cottages and nipa huts where visitors could rest. There are also grilling areas per cottage so that tourists could cook their own food.

    Some of our friends prepared our food, while others went swimming. Later, we feasted on our baon by setting up a boodle fight then drank a bit. We weren’t worried about getting drunk. All we need is to dip ourselves into the cold river to shock ourselves awake.

    After getting tipsy, I took a nap at the cottage while my friends made some adjustments with their bikes. One of them changed a sprocket set, while the other offered free tuneups. At 3:30 p.m. we started packing up to return to Manila.

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    We were setting up our bike for a costumary group pic when I had trouble starting my YBR. Thankfully, it was only caused by a disconnected relay (although I lost my headlight and horn). I had the wiring fixed upon our return to Manila and now the bike’s working fine.

     

    Except for that wiring problem, that Iket River trip was all fun.

    The place is scenic, peaceful and relatively unknown to most Manilenos. It’s one of the secluded beauties in Bulacan and it’s certainly worth your visit.

    Here are more photos courtesy of my fellow YBR riders Jayson Porlaje, Brian Morenos and Oscar Lazo.

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    This article was also featured on motopilipinas.com (http://www.motopilipinas.com/2016/09/appreciating-hidden-beauty-iket-river/)

     

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    Angat is not just about the dam

    June 15th, 2016

    gasgonia2WHEN I think about dams, the first thing that comes into mind is this gigantic concrete structure holding huge volume of water. Dams weren’t that interesting to me.

    This thinking changed when I went to Angat Dam for a short ride. Angat Dam is a concrete water reservoir embankment that supplies 90 percent of the water we use in Metro Manila. It also irrigates close to 28,000 hectares of farmland in the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga.

    What I didn’t know is that the dam is now part of the Angat Rainforest and Ecological Park (AREP), which serves as a home to 66 species of vertebrates and 43 species of birds. It also houses at least 290 endemic species of non-woody and woody plants including bagtikan, tanguile and yakal that have already disappeared from other forests in the country.

    AREP also serves as a home to the Dumagat tribe, whose culture is being carefully preserved by AREP officials.

    The trees, the animals and the atmosphere make up a wonderful scenery for a Manila boy like me.

     AREP is roughly 60 kilometers away (that’s around three hours) from Manila. To get there, one needs to take Commonwealth Avenue before making a right turn to Quirino Avenue. This route should lead you to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan. Continue riding up to Norzagaray road, past the Rotunda, until you reach the fork. Take the left road where there is a sign that says Angat Dam (the other road leads to Ipo Dam). Just continue throttling until you reach the Bitbit Bridge over Norzagaray River and you will find the AREP entrance at the end of the bridge.

    You’ll be needing to show your driver’s license and register at the gate. The guard will give you a piece of paper which you’ll have to present to the entrance. There you’ll have to leave an ID card and pay the P25 entrance fee. There are lots of twists and turns inside the complex, which would be appealing to riders. But the roads are narrow so you guys better watch the throttle for your own safety.

    Among the interesting stops were the AREP View Deck and Ecological Center, the Angat Dam Spillway, the down trail leading to the Angat Reservoir, and the Angat Dam itself. When we get our knobby tires on, we’ll visit the AREP Tarictic Fun Trail next time.

    It wasn’t a planned trip actually, but I’m glad to have visited Angat.

    By the way, I am sharing with you some of the pictures I took:

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    A quickie ride to Bitbit River in Bulacan

    May 15th, 2016

    gasgonia2AFTER regretfully postponing my ride for a day due to bad weather, I finally hit the road and head off to my target destination this month: Bitbit River.

    Bitbit River is a watercourse quietly nestled in the Sierra Mountain range near the Angat-Ipo-La Mesa Dam system, which supplies water to Metro Manila. It’s located in Norzagaray, Bulacan; some 46 kilometers from Metro Manila. It is, however, just over 32 kilometers away from home so the trip was quite a short one for me.

    The river is a popular spot among trekkers, mountain bikers and mountaineers who want to practice their rappelling skills on the 100-foot Bitbit Bridge.

    Recently, it has also become a haven for riders looking for a quick swim after going through the sweet twisties leading to the river.

    Bitbit River, Norzagaray, Bulacan
    Bitbit River, Norzagaray, Bulacan

    Finding Bitbit River through Google Maps wasn’t easy, though. To get there, I need to locate Ipo Dam first.

    According to the map, I have to turn right to Del Monte Road after San Jose Del Monte City. After a short drizzle, I accidentally veer off course and took the road heading to Bagong Buhay Avenue in Sapang Palay. I asked for directions from the locals who advised me to head to Minuyan, then Bigte so I could reach Norzagaray.

    After that, I had an easy time locating the river. Getting there though was quite a challenge because of the road made slippery by the rains. I also had to go through several twists and turns so takbong pogi lang ako.

    Then I reached a fork in the road; one is connected to the Bitbit Bridge leading to the dam, the other is a rough road that circles under the bridge and to the river. It turns out the area covering the river ways is privately owned so I had to fork over P20 (about US $0.43) to the caretaker for entrance.

    Well, it was worth all the trouble. The spot was gifted with a scenic view complete with a great big rock at the river side.

    The water is cool, clear and so inviting, you’d surely go for a dip.

    There are also makeshift cottages for those who want to picnic under the shade. The renting cost of each each cottage is P250. I chose a spot near the Balete tree at the hillside where the wind is cool and refreshing.

    No tsinelas just my boots
    No tsinelas just my boots

    Too bad, I forgot to bring my tsinelas (flip flops). I was forced to walk around in my riding boots while sporting my swim gear. The locals were amused.

    I spent a few hours of alone time then went on snapping photos. I saw some kids climbing the big rock from where they’d jump into the river for a huge splash.

    Afterwards, I dressed up, zipped my riding jacket and headed home for lunch. This time, I used an easier route that brought me to Tungkong Mangga Road, to Barangay Muzon then home.

    All in all, it was a positive experience (every ride is). But next time, I’ll be bringing along my rider friends for a swim, maybe we’d cook fresh tilapia by the riverside.

    For sure, I’ll bring my tsinelas.

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    Journey to the historic Mount Samat

    March 22nd, 2016

    gasgonia2TO MOTORCYCLE riders who are also history buffs, the Mt. Samat National Shrine is a cool place to visit.

    Situated near the top of Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan, the shrine is located 133 kilometers away from Metro Manila. This means lots of roads to ride on for Manileño motorcyclists yet it is not too far like, let’s say the province of La Union, Baguio City in the Cordilleras or the Ilocos region.

    The shrine also houses an extensive collection of Second World War memorabilia for those WW II buffs to see.

    One of our good friends, a veteran of several rides up north, was generous enough to guide our way to the historic mountain.

    samat6We met one Sunday morning in Malolos City and from there we throttled our way to the nearby province of Bataan.

    We used the Manila North Road route, passing through Calumpit, Bulacan before entering Pampanga province via the town of Apalit.

    We went past Sto. Tomas before turning left to Jose Abad Santos Avenue in San Fernando City.

    The road was long and wide that we were able to hurtle up to 100 kilometers per hour on our way to the town of Guagua, also in Pampanga. It was all straight from Lubao in the Cabalen province until we rested for a few minutes to take pictures of the First Line of Defense Marker in Dinalupihan, Bataan.

    samat4We passed by Orani then Balanga before turning right to Gov. JJ Linao National Road.

    Along the way, there was an arc with the sign “Dambana ng Kagitingan,” which was the frontage route to Mt. Samat Road, a short stretch of zigzaggy path similar to Marilaque national highway.

    At the end of the road, we saw that great big cross that marks the Mt. Samat National Shrine.

    The park consists of a large Colonnade and the Memorial Cross, which was erected as a tribute to the soldiers who fought and lost their lives in the Battle of Bataan.

    samat5Around the Colonnade, there were displays of World War II cannons and various anti-aircraft guns.

    Most of the war memorabilia, including pictures, soldiers’ uniforms and various weaponry; were displayed at the museum located at the bottom of the Colonnade.

    The Memorial Cross meanwhile has an artistic sculptural slabs at the base, depicting significant battles and historical events by National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

    Too bad, we weren’t able to climb the cross, which offers a panoramic view of Bataan and Corregidor Island.

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    Throwback: My first trip to Marilaque

    February 26th, 2016

    gasgonia2NOBODY forgets their first time, especially when it is the Marilaque.

    The Marilaque (Manila-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon) Highway, also known as the Marcos Highway, is one of the most popular route for Manila-based riders because of the scenic views, its close proximity to the metropolis and its “twisties.”

    It is a 44-kilometer long mountain stretch highway that begins in the Marikina end of the Sierra Madre mountain range then going up to Antipolo City then passing through the towns of Tanay in Rizal, Santa Maria in Laguna up to Infanta, Quezon.

    Two years ago, I have decided to test its twisties together with several rider friends. It was my second out-of-town ride. The first was in Mount Sungay in Tagaytay.

    We arrived at Shell Pugon around 6:45 a.m. to meet several riders who were to join the trip.

    I was surprised by the number of motorcycles parked there. Lots of riders, lots of motorcycles… Doon pala talaga ang take off site so sea of bikes was quite overwhelming.

    We took off at 7:45 a.m. and stopped momentarily at Petron Cogeo to meet a fellow rider… from there we motored our way up to the scenic slopes of Sierra Madre. The path was somewhat straight at first, just perfect for a beginner. The road began winding as we go deeper into our journey.

    "Twisties" of Marilaque © motorcyclephilippines.com
    “Twisties” of Marilaque
    ©motorcyclephilippines.com

    As the fog got a little thicker and the breeze started to chill, we were already gliding through the curves, leaning our bikes with the turns… it was gratifying and exhilarating, I caught myself smiling while twisting the throttle. The road and the scenic backdrop were pure pleasure to the senses, you really can’t help but enjoy.

    We took a short breather just in front of the Sierra Madre Hotel. There, we waited for my compadre, Ser Brian, who slowed down after having trouble with his front wheel.

    A quick fix at a nearby vulcanizing shop allowed us to throttle some more until we reached the Gathering Place cafe in Sampaloc. It was 10 a.m. and the light rains even made the temperature colder.

    There we parked our bikes and ordered merienda… I wandered around to snap some photos and saw a row of Vespas parked near a couple of mini huts. As it turned out, the scooters were owned by Ebong Joson and his friends who were busy chatting while waiting for the drizzle to stop.

     

    Marilaque / Marcos Highway, Marikina-Infanta Road ©motorcyclephilippines.com
    Marilaque / Marcos Highway, Marikina-Infanta Road
    ©motorcyclephilippines.com

    I had a cup of kapeng barako and feasted on longganisa, fried and and rice (i ordered tocilog, but the hungry stomach had to settle for longsilog).

    I decided to cut my trip short and join my compadre and his brother in-law to ride our way back to Manila. Ser Brian had a flat tire, but could still ride slow on mag wheels. As much as I wanted to join the rest of the gang in Famy, the lack of sleep was beginning to take toll on my eyes.

    I didn’t make it to Infanta, but I promised myself that I’ll go there next time.

    That was my first taste of Marilaque… I returned to ride up to Real, Quezon a year later. But we’ll save it for another story.

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    Scaling Mt. Romelo

    February 16th, 2016

    gasgonia2Yes, you read it right. I did say scale because me and my buddies huffed and puffed climbing our way to Mt. Romelo’s peak over the weekend.

    But we weren’t after the peak, really. We scaled the mountain to see Buruwisan Falls, which is just one of the seven falls hidden in Mt. Romelo.

    Mt. Romelo, which is quite popular among mountaineers, is included among the Sierra Mountain range near Siniloan, Laguna. To get there, we had to ride our way from in Marikina all the way to Famy-Siniloan, Laguna.

    So my buddies and I gathered at Shell Pugon station at about 5:30 in the morning and began revving our bikes half an hour later. From there we took Sumulong Highway that slithered from Antipolo to Morong. From Morong, we traced the Manila East Road that snaked from Pilillia in Rizal up to Famy in Laguna. The trip took us about two hours. Upon reaching Famy, we bought supplies like food and water. But before heading to the foot of Mt. Romelo, we had a sumptuous meal at Milagros Eatery.

    Buruwisan Falls © motopilipinas.com
    Buruwisan Falls
    © motopilipinas.com

    Several guides met us near the pathway that had the sign “Buruwisan Falls.” Locals said we needed someone familiar to the trek that we were about to do. A typical guide charges P300 for the way up to the falls and P300 back to the foot of Mt. Romelo. We haggled and agreed to pay P500 or about US$10.46 (for a round trip).

    It was quite populated at the foot of the mountain but we had no problem parking our bikes. We then paid P50 entrance fee (about US$1.08) then started our climb. What happened next was unexpected. Since we read online that the climb was suitable for beginner-mountaineers, we were expecting an easy climb. Little did we expect that as riders, we will need some serious leg power to scale Mt. Romelo.

    We were carrying large backpacks that contained food, swim wear, and water and these made the climb even more difficult. The path, which had various inclines, was partly muddy because of the recent rains. However, on the day we made the climb it was sunny so we considered ourselves lucky. Most of the time, we climbed 45 degree inclines. Sometimes it got steeper, like 60-70 degrees. We took rested frequently and noticed horses passing us by.

    Our guide said horses are available to carry the bags for P300 (ba’t ‘di mo agad sinabi, kuya!?). But since we were already near our destination, we decided to just carry the load. It took us about two and a half hours to get to the camp site near the Buruwisan Falls, which is the most accessible among the seven falls of Mt. Romelo. Buruwisan Falls is a sight to behold. The water was cool and the falls was like 50 meters high. Unfortunately, there were lots of hikers occupying the waters so our guide took us to the nearby Lanzones Falls.

    Lanzones Falls is just minutes away from Buruwisan and is quite smaller. But few people went there and by the time we reached the area, the place was all ours. It was a miniature version of Buruwisan and it poured fresh cold water from the Siniloan River. We savored our time, swam and played under the falls. We ate a bit and swam some more.

    The guide told us that if we had extra time we could visit the remaining falls: the Old Buruwisan Falls, the Sampaloc Falls, the Batya-Batya Falls, the Twin Falls, and the Sapang Labo Falls. But alas, we were tired and only had a day to spend so we settled for Lanzones. If we we’re free for the night we could have rented one of the huts at the campsite for P300 each.

    A trail in Mt. Romelo © motopilipinas.com
    A trail on Mt. Romelo
    © motopilipinas.com

    At 3 p.m. we started packing our things and began our descent, which was a lot easier than our way up. We ate for the final time at the Milagros Eatery then headed back to Manila. We had a scare along the way when a wild horse escaped his stable in Famy and ran at the middle of the road. I twisted my throttle quickly to escape the beast before it began whipping out its hind legs. Apart from that it was all hassle free on our way home.

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