Masungi Georeserve (Rizal), Part I

Masungi Georeserve is a conservation area nestled in the rainforests of Rizal. Masungi comes from the word “masungki”, which means “spiked”, a perfect word to describe the capacious region of greenery in the southern Sierra Madre mountain range characterized by rugged limestone karst peaks that date millions of years ago (in the Philippines, Masungi’s limestone formations are surpassed only by the Palawan limestone formations in terms of old age). The georeserve part of the name means that the people behind this environmental project have been protecting Masungi from illegal loggers, quarries, and other evildoers for over 15 years. Due to these brave and benevolent nature lovers, I, and hundreds of people, have had the rare opportunity to experience nature in its truest and loveliest form.

Last month, Juan and I were fortunate enough to join one of the shared discovery trails at Masungi Georeserve. I wrote fortunate because one of our groupmates that day waited over a year to get in but we were able to get two slots in less than two weeks. Shared discovery trail allows a maximum of 14 people per trek. With the help of a very capable park ranger, who also acts as photographer, tour guide, and cheerleader, the discovery trail allows guests to go through the conservation area and get close and personal with the karst terrain. To make the trek a little easier for the guests, the trail is lined with strategically located secured concrete blocks, without disturbing the natural flow and growth of the biotic and abiotic factors in Masungi. It includes several (was it 10 or 11?) highlights of Masungi Georeserve. The discovery trail normally lasts three to four hours, but ours lasted six hours, not because we were physically unable to do what was required of us, but due to too many selfies and groufies taken. 🙂

Our guide was Rheynan Lecis, the best man to get for discovery trails. He was informative, not just funny but witty, accommodating, and patient. He made sure that everybody was safe and was comfortable with the tasks at hand (we all decided to do the harder versions when presented with options). He was also a great photographer, with so many tricks up his sleeve. Rheynan saw to it that we had a memorable experience, not just in terms of photos but more importantly, we learned to love nature as much as he does.

This entry includes some of the focal points of Masungi Georeserve discovery trail, namely Silungan, Sapot, Patak, Ditse, and Duyan. Yungib ni Ruben, Tatay, Nanay, Bayawak, Liwasan, and Sawa will be featured in my next entry.

For the continuation of this entry, please read Masungi Georeserve (Rizal), Part II.

The view from the rough road leading to Masungi Georeserve in Rizal. It was slice of heaven – all green, fresh air all around, and silence reigned supreme.

The view from the other side of the rough road

Masungi Georeserve Park Advisory is situated along the rough road leading to Silungan. It reminds guests that we are just that, mere guests, and must act accordingly while in the premises.

Masungi Georeserve board welcomes its guests just before Silungan.

Concrete steps leading to Silungan. I like the pressed flora detail on each step.

Juan at the top of the steps

In Silungan, guests prepare for the trail by donning the correct outfits with helmets, and briefed by one of the staff members. Briefing was mainly in Filipino, the language of choice in Masungi Georeserve, but they are also kind enough to translate for the non-Filipino speakers or other guests can do the translation. Our group had four foreigners, and I did most of the translation. Like what our guide said, the one doing the translation would learn the most information. I did at the time, but I cannot remember 90% of what was discussed that day. The perils of getting old.

Silungan was also a nice place for our group to get to know each other. Our group of 14 people was made up of 6 mini-groups who started out as strangers but were good enough to support each other throughout the trail. I learned how to make the Korean finger heart (or whatever you call it) because of the girls in our group.

Our group photo in Silungan taken minutes before we embarked on shared trail.

In the Paroot area, we encountered the first rope course. It had coarse and fine sides. The fine side was for sissies like me, so I decided to straddle both sides. Hahaha. This rope course is one of the shortest and the easiest in the trail.

The concrete blocks that guide the guests throughout the discovery trail.

Arguably the most popular highlight in Masungi Georeserve is Sapot ni Ric (Ric’s Cobweb). According to Rheynan, the highlights were named after the prime movers of Masungi Georeserve. Sapot ni Ric is a metallic web-style viewing platform with wooden steps. It allows guests to “walk on air” as it is suspended above a karst. Sapot ni Ric affords those within it the views of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, and the surrounding Sierra Madre.

The way to Sapot ni Ric. At first, I wanted to crawl my way to the middle, but I remembered Juan’s hand was there to provide much needed support. Yes, just the hand.

It cannot be called a sapot (cobweb) without the gagamba (spider).

Our guide, Rheynan Lecis, in the center of Sapot ni Ric

Sapot ni Ric is pretty steady for something suspended in midair. ☺

Juan, me, Sapot ni Ric, and Laguna de Bay

My favorite photo of the day because the karst below is visible

Our group photo in Sapot ni Ric

In order to be fair, another group photo was taken from the other side

This hanging wooden bridge is located right after Sapot ni Ric. We must have taken 20 group photos in this bridge alone. ☺

Our own version of parade of muses along Masungi Georeserve trail

Our group on the way to a resting area called Kuwago (owl)

Kuwago has hanging baskets which can be used as chairs, but I forgot to take my shoes off before going inside one of them, so no photos of it will be posted here. ☺

Tagusan is another resting place. We were instructed to pose like actors in a teleserye for this panoramic shot, but nobody followed the direction.

Cactus garden

Going to Patak (Water Droplet)

Patak is in the middle of one of the hanging bridges. It is a wooden polygon-shaped cable-car like house, which can serve as a photo opportunity site rather than a resting area. I was so out of it in this photo, I just wanted to lie down and curl into fetal position. Hahaha.

Our group photo inside Patak

Our group photo outside Patak on the way to Ditse.

Dabbing as a group

Ditse is a short rope course. In Filipino, “Ditse” means second oldest sister (“ate” is the oldest sister).

In all my sweaty glory in Ditse.

Juan was cool as a cucumber in Ditse.

Our group photo after Ditse just before Duyan (Hammock)

Duyan as seen from the top

Me going down the vertical rope course in order to get to the horizontal Duyan

Juan trying to outdo me. ☺

Our shot from the top

Our group photo in Duyan. Yes, we had to walk from that point all the way to the other end, more than a hundred feet, and climb down another rope course! So much fun! So much sweat!

– Masungi Georeserve Conservation Fees for the Full Trail Visit is P1,500.00 (US $30.00)

– Individuals or small groups below seven interested to join the Shared Trail Visit must send a request and the following information to sharedtrail@masungigeoreserve.com at least 72 hours (3 days) before the desired visit date. Our team will review the request and send approval email or an alternative date if the schedule is full. Reservations are first come, first served with a maximum total of 15 persons per group.

For more information, please visit www.masungigeoreserve.com.

 

The following are lifted from the attachment we received from Masungi Georeserve:

 

Some reminders for Masungi Georeserve Guests:

A. What to Bring

• Kindly bring only copy of proof/s of payment, valid IDs, extra clothes, and valuables inside the georeserve. We can also provide you small bags to secure these items during the trail. We highly discourage bringing of large bags and unnecessary items inside that may make the trail less comfortable for you.
• Please bring your water jugs/tumblers – there are refilling stations the starting and end point of the trail. Typically, guests would consume a litre of water. This is at the Silungan (briefing area) and Liwasan (final rest stop). For the Summer Season, 1.5 to 2L was observed to be ideal for the trail.

Juan and I did not follow this particular number. We thought that since we had breakfast and we would be trekking for three to four hours only, 500-mL of water and four 20-gram bars of Snickers and some Mentos would be enough for both of us. Of course, we were so wrong!!! I was so thankful to see water at the end of the trek. #WaterIsLife

 Meals are not allowed to be brought inside. For your comfort, please eat a sufficient meal prior to the trail. The georeserve can allow trail food such as peanuts, chocolate, trail mixes, and biscuits. Complimentary light snacks will be served near the end of the trail.
• As there may be a couple more roads to get to the reserve, we strongly recommend you to bring a private vehicle.
B. What to Wear
• Do wear comfortable hiking attire and non-slip, closed shoes suitable for a hike. Slippers are not allowed inside the reserve. For added comfort, you may also bring gloves.
• There may be bouts of drizzles and rain from time to time. We recommend bringing extra clothes. Ponchos will be freely provided.
C. Policies
• Please review the reserve’s policies (i.e. no smoking, no littering and noise is prohibited, etc.) and waiver/health form with the entire group, including drivers, and aides. Policies apply to the whole georeserve, including the trail, the provided parking spaces, and the road/roadside fronting the gate.
• Please note that a penalty of PHP 3,000.00 automatically applies for the first non-compliance to littering, smoking, and picking/collection of animals, plants, and rocks policies.
• Omit personal tipping among park rangers. This ensures non-interference of visits to priority conservation work, and encourages consistency in experience among guests. These are critical from a holistic perspective. Should there be an absolutely inevitable need to tip, there is a communal bucket located in Silungan and Liwasan. This ensures equitable distribution among rangers doing guiding, maintenance, and protection work​s​.​

Please note that non-compliance may lead to the dismissal of the staff involved.

D. Others

• Guest restrooms are located in Silungan (briefing area). This is a quick 5-minute walk from the parking drop-off area.
• Expect the trail to slow down at two particular stops – Sapot and Duyan. There are time allotments for these stops to observe. Kindly listen to your park rangers and observe their instructions so as to maximise your time and visit.
• While trail visits are a rain or shine activity, cancellations due to extreme weather conditions may be made to ensure safety. Similarly, paths or stops may be diverted for critical concerns.

E. How to Get There

Via Private Transport
Route 1 via Marcos Highway (RECOMMENDED)
Cruise through Marcos Highway. You will pass through Masinag, Cogeo, Boso-Boso Resort, Foremost Farms, and Palo Alto. Slow down at Garden Cottages along Marcos Highway. The entrance to Masungi, signalled by its logo, will be on your right.
Route 2 Via Sampaloc in Tanay, from the Manila East Road
Take Sampaloc Road. You will pass by the street to Daranak Falls. Go straight until you arrived a junction. Turn left. Follow this scenic road. It’ll be a 45 minutes to an hour ride. You will pass by Sierra Madre resort on your right, and Ten Cents to Heaven. Kilometer 47 Masungi entrance, signalled by its logo, will be on your left when taking this route.
Via Public Transportation (JEEPS ARE ONLY AVAILABLE UNTIL 6:30 PM)
Route 1 Via Cogeo
Ride a van or jeepney going to Padilla/Cogeo Gate 2. Get off at Gate 2 and from there, take a jeepney bound to Sampaloc via Marcos Highway in Tanay. It’ll be the same route as Route 1 in private transportation.
Route 2 Via Tanay
Take a jeepney to Tanay town proper. Hire a tricycle to take you to Garden Cottages. Fare is P500 one way but can be haggled down to P350. Alternatively, you can hire up to the Sampaloc junction. There are jeepneys going to Antipolo/Cogeo that will pass by Kilometer 47 Masungi entrance.
**Things to account for: Jeeps and vehicles in general, are difficult to find once you get to Garden Cottages. You can spend up to an hour waiting for a jeepney. Added to this, jeeps are often filled to the roof when they pass by the area.**
**For guests coming from Metro Manila, kindly stay on Marcos Highway/ Marikina-Infanta Road up to Kilometer 47 (do not use the Manila East Road or Baras-Pinugay Road) to avoid getting lost or taking a significantly longer route.**

**While the location is on Waze, please note that it only gives the approximate location of the entrance (+/- 3 km, from observation). Kindly refer to the materials herewith for your peace of mind. Should you have companions taking a different vehicle, kindly share this with them as well.**
We strongly suggest that you familiarise yourself with the location of Kilometer 47 via Google maps and print our the location map below ahead of time. Signal is often very weak or non-existent in the area. Please take note that there are no grand entrances or signages. The entrance to the georeserve is signalled by a simple logo marker by the highway.
Masungi Georeserve Location Map: Use Marcos Highway route coming from Metro Manila. CLICK FOR GOOGLE MAPS
Masungi Georeserve Entrance Signage: At the right side of the road. For early morning guests, please note that the gates open at 5:00 am to 5:30 am.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you around soon! Safe travels to the georeserve!

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