It’s only been at least a month since I went to Imugan Nueva Vizcaya to do a documentation on Forest Carbon Measurement for Trading, I found myself back in Imugan with a few friends. We stayed this time on a dorm near a river frequented by foresters and also closer to the impressive cascades and falls of Imugan can be found. On our second day in Santa Fe, we venture 10km further to Salacsac, where a pine forest can be found.
The last time, I had to take a tricycle here but now we were lucky to be able to get a jeep since there’s a lot of us for a tryke to handle. Our jump off for our hike to Salacsac is the wide ridge Barangay of Malico 10km from Imugan. Our jeep traversed a narrow road of numerous twist and turns. It elevates on the side of the mountain. The views would render you breathless, not with the views of the Caraballo Mountain range but also the thought that on a wrong turn, the jeep can easily fall off the cliffs.
It took around 30-45 minutes for us to reach Malico. From there on we had to hike to head to Sta Rosa town about 2-3km long since a jeep or a tricycle would have trouble navigating the roads there. The rain had rendered the soil soft and muddy and also a few landslides making it nearly impassable. Our jeep would wait for us there until we come back.
The weather was alternating between sunny and cloudy. The cool weather at the elevation of more than 1000 meters above sea level was soothing during our hike. From the dipterocarp forest we slowly elevated passing by calamansi farms then entering the vicinity of a pine forest. I was amazed by the quality of the pine trees. They were so perfect in form from that they look a lot like Christmas trees. I could easily decorate them up and put a star at the top.
The hike was fairly moderate passing by a few slopes here and there then wide open trails offering panoramas of Caraballo Mountains. It’s been years since I’ve hiked a place as scenic as this. Shortly we reached the place they call Sta Roasa where an abandoned school can be found. It took us about 30-45 minutes of hike to reach the place.
Sta Rosa Elementary school is no longer used since there are no longer little kids to study. The population in the area is so small that most of them are now studying on other schools for higher grades. At the back of the school is a pine forest reserve which is one of the lots the Kalahan foundation also measures for Carbon Trading.
It’s a healthy cluster of towering pine trees seldomly passed by or descended by clouds. At 1300 meters as my GPS reads, it has a chilling atmosphere. When blanketed by fog the graduating blend of the trees renders and eerie atmosphere straight out of a horror flick. But on a clear day the peaks offer views or surrounding regions like Pangasinan, Lingayen, Benguet, Itogon and Dupax. You’ll be lucky if you spot a wild deer or the resident eagle who is said to be living in the area.
We brought with us our packed lunch and decided to just have lunch under the trees. We laid our lunch sets on the ground where the dried leaves of the pine trees seemed to have permanently settled covering the soil. Dried up pine cones also randomly dotted the area. Our lunch of adobong manok (chicken) and blanched kangkong (river spinach) was simple but the ambiance of dining outdoors close to nature along with good comrades made it more special.
We enjoyed taking images on how much our cameras can capture but sadly had to pull ourselves and go back to our waiting jeep. The hike back to Malico Ridge was faster with the now familiar trail. We passed by a few locals on our way back and kids wholeheartedly laughing when I almost slipped on a few rocks just after I said “Hi”. The thick fog began to consume what moments ago were rows of rows of pine trees on ridges and through. We were grateful for the clearing we had earlier as if nature gave us a chance to take a glimpse of its natural beauty even in a snippet of time.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.