The Simple Life in the Crater Lake of Mt. Malindang
The icy wind easily pierced through the four layers of clothing I had on. After hours of a perilous motorbike ride, a couple of it spent trudging through the dark under heavy downpour and a night spent in a good Samaritan's home, I heaved a sigh of relief, as we finally arrived at my destination in one piece.
Home for me for the next couple of days is a small wooden home perched in the midst of a clearing a few steps away from the crater lake. I was welcomed by the loud orchestra of cicadas singing as if the whole area is transformed into an open theater.
Did you know that a single cicada can make a sound 100 decibels loud? Imagine a thousand of them chirping in unison, the sound it makes reminded me of a jumbo jet about to take off.
At the urging of a local friend, I decided to take on this trip not expecting any thing out of the ordinary. What could be uneventful than a trek up an inactive volcano, right?
I will be spending most of my time near Lake Duminagat, the crater lake of Mt. Malindang. Mt. Malindang is pre-historic complex volcano characterized my multiple ranges and hot springs and a hot & cold crater lake. I
It is home to a considerable number of unique flora and fauna and was officially declared a national park in 1971 by the Philippine government. The biodiversity is simply amazing.
Mt. Malindang is home to local ethnic tribe called Subanen. They protect the area and from the looks of it they have done their job well in preserving the area for generations to come.
I learned that the Mr. Malindang National Park has been the subject of many research expeditions even from foreign delegations to study the unique species endemic to the area.
Where electricity, cell phones, and internet are non-existent
The area near the clearing is a place where electricity, cellphone and internet signals are virtually non-existent. At first, it felt like going back to the dark ages. It seems unimaginable for me to be without any connection to the web even for a few hours. I was thinking how will I survive not being able to check my emails, do my job, and more importantly, call my love ones.
Considering that I am in a remote area, I did not have any expectations when it comes to facilities and amenities. There is no shower, much more an auto electric heater. Besides, I learned that our host has to manually fetch water from the deeper part of the lake for the household need so to lessen the burden, I decide to simply take a dip in the lake as soon as the sun rises. All is fine by me because I already planned to bathe in the icy crater lake waters to complete the experience.
Honestly, just having a roof over my head to protect me from the freezing rain, and walls to shield me from the cold and fog, is already something I am very thankful for.
Entertainment as I know it is virtually non-existent in the volcano crater lake reserve. Without electricity television is unheard of and the battery-operated radio reigns supreme. This humble device now became my only connection to the outside world.
At night, when the joint-numbing temperatures drop, our only means of entertainment was huddling around the radio. With a couple of radio stations working, we while ourselves with a radio 'drama', a drama novela series of sorts.
As expected, all the techno gadgets will find much use here. On a light note, my mobile phone proves to be handy as a flashlight to help me find my way at night and second as a camera to take shots of the magical nooks and crannies of the lake, until it ran out of battery juice.
Finally, when the sun sets, the concept of 'going out' is no longer a good idea unless you want to risk getting hypothermia.
It was still summer time when I left my city so the colder temperatures up in these mountain took a lot of getting used to.
I realized during the first night that sleep will my other form of activity. I am not much of a cold temperature creature so burrowing under the sheets is my idea of keeping myself warm under these high altitude conditions.
Indeed, it was a chance to finally get a much-needed respite from the late nights I often do as a city-dweller.
Weight problems begone
No one here seems to be overweight. My appetite was heightened for some weird reasons while up there but I find it strange that the local tribe seem to keep their weight in check.
No need for exercise
Obviously, gyms and the idea of working out is a strange phenomenon for the people here. When people walk at least 2-3 miles to get to the nearest market, who needs a treadmill?
Transportation via a horse or bike ride is considered a luxury. I realized that walking is the more preferred mode of transportation for the locals here.
Plant food is abundant at this time of the year. The villagers obtain produce from their small farms and this includes cabbage, sayote (water gourd) and strawberries. I notice that most farmers do organic farming here.
The three hours trip down from the slopes of Mt. Malindang is no less spine-chilling. I managed to hitch a ride on the weekly delivery truck. An unending stretch of narrow, winding dirt roads, with cliffs and deep ravines in every turn. It was struggle to keep myself from looking over those cliffs. I just wished to stay alive in one piece.
Trudging down the dangerous curves and slopes with a ten-wheeler truck full of produce and people is not an easy feat. The journey was made more difficult with the heavy downpour brought by the monsoon. The rains turned the unpaved roads into muddy pits.
One wrong move and we could hurtle down the cliffs hundreds of feet into what seemed like an abyss. The treacherous trip was made even more challenging with some parts of the road covered by mini landslides. Despite all these, I am looking forward to re-experience the simple life high up in Mt. Malindang. You should too.