I never considered myself suicidal, not at any one point in my life. But in pursuit for something beautiful in nature, I came across several dangerous situations that sometimes I ask myself (usually in the middle of an outdoor struggle)
Why on earth do I go to such extreme just to commune with nature when my life in the city, is pretty comfortable as it can be?
Such pondering happened during my recent Bani Falls trekking. Bani Falls in Marilog District is beautiful. In fact, it’s so ferociously beautiful I risked myself and my buddies to one pretty wild and hellish upward trek.
I’ve been wanting to trek Bani falls since three years before when I first set foot on the beautiful forests of Marilog District in Davao City. This majestic falls reside some 140+ km north of Davao City, treacherously hidden between the mountainous regions of Marilog , Arakan Valley and Bukidnon. From what I hear around and what was boasted to us by Onin, our de facto buddy guide, Bani Falls is the best among the numerous falls that littered Marilog and Arakan valley. That Bani falls is one enchanting Falls you can easily conquer is totally false and misleading. Wait, I’m not saying it can’t be conquered, because many did actually. Taking me and my climbing skills into consideration, and have i known it was that difficult, I would have prepared myself better.
Chris, Onin, and I hacked the idea of a Bani exploration a week before the climb. Onin just came home from his Balanggay Adventure and we, TAMAC and some DaClavBuDiCoTrong buddies, we’re all out of climbs. Of course we never made so many plans and arrangements because for all we know, this climb will just fly off our schedules. But came Saturday, seven hikers conglomerated at the jump off point near BUDA road in Arakan Valley. The “valentime climb ng mga walang planong trekkers” is happening indeed.
Seven climbers, Onin, Joan, Jocelyn, Chris, Jah, Pao and me hopped cursing at the rogue habal-habal ride (on our way to the jump off) that literally dried my face of blood in fear. It was a death ride fit for an orthopod’s scalpel. I haven’t had similar rough, almost vertically inclined highways that look liked motocross ramps to me. Statistics of motorcycle accidents especially of habal habals poured in my mind.”Nyet”. I wouldn’t be surprised if i end up somewhere in one’s hospital bed! “Simbaku dodong”! But well, we did arrive at the jump off in one piece, thank nature. I swear this would be my last habal habal ride of that sort!
The walk to our campsite is pretty easy, with the team busy updating each other with stories and laughter while JM and I fiddled with the shutters of our cameras.It was one fine afternoon despite cold breeze sweeping the air. We arrived at our campsite an hour after and made courtesies with our host community and leaders. There’s this “tourist house” made of light materials in the center of the community that was intended for visitors to this falls. We were advised to stay there instead of our tents. We gladly agreed. “Better than our tents of course!” said me. Then we made a quick survey of the first catch basin we’d see during that day. This catch basin is some 45 minute trek from our camp site, passing through rolling hills of kugon grass and mud trails. This part of Bani Falls is the most accessible, and one of the good areas for a swim. The edge however is one steep vertical drop to some 1000 feet below. For me that one scary enough fact not to doodle with the slippery rock edges of Bani. Until, I swam on its cold water and my fear drizzled into one perfect admiration for nature.
It was one rowdy camp out for me and my friends that night. We were like having a fiesta of some sort. I couldn’t wish for more delicious outdoor food that time. Nothing beats the outdoor cooking prowess of Onin, Pao and of course Joan. To commemorate our friendly bond for outdoor fondness, our group exchanged gifts (our Christmas/valentine party) and stories of fun and love for outdoors. The gin helped, but that’s to induce us to sleep early for this cold night.
I woke up early next morning to prepare for a long trek ahead. I’m pretty anxious now, not knowing what lay before us when we hit the falls trek. But the ampalaya sabaw breakfast comforted us all with its taste. We missed this recipe, right Joan? After we packed our stuff, we set out to trek the mountainous ridges of Arakan valley so we can go into the foot of the falls. First, I thought it was that easy, trekking through open fields and mountain ridges that circled the famed Bani Falls. The ridges and hills reminded me of Mt. Pulag, and Mt. Napulak’s kugon trails. Picturesque. It was as if your walking on top of the clouds. This was a camera’s heaven indeed. It was a long walk however, since we’re actually heading towards one mountain directly in front of Bani falls. When we got to that point, my mouth dropped in sheer admiration. Bani falls thousand feet drop of gushing water is majestic! This falls is a cascade type of waterfalls, with several layers of catch basins that serve like steps for the gods of this valley. The falls divides into two major falling waters somewhere near the middle. When I asked Onin if we’re gonna actually go down the lowest catch basin, he said “yes”. I almost fainted in fear. You see I’m acrophobic, and going down or such 90 degree drop is not in my courageous vicinity. Onin and our team was just smiling. Me on the other hand, I’m shivering and wanting to go back trail. But the thought of backing out and walking alone back was something totally unimaginable for me also. So off I went down too.
Surprisingly, going down that mountain and into the foot of Bani Falls was relatively easy. Or was it because I’m so much enthralled by the falls that enchanted us so much? Well, it was pure paradise down Bani Falls. Our tiring trek was all worth it. You see, nature has this natural tendency to make it a little harder for thrill seekers to gain access to its hidden paradise. Bani falls is one, and I know, I know that I have yet to savor the difficult part.
My feeling is totally indescribable when Ii dipped into Bani’s lowest catch basin. I felt like taking a shower in one huge, nay two curtain showers akin to Achilles’ birthplace in the movie Troy. This is pure bliss! We brought food there and ate our lunch on the rocky portion of the falls. I got busy with my camera thereafter. To me this was one of a lifetime experience and i’m pretty sure it would be another miracle if I came back to this place again. Shots galore.
When we were all exhausted from frolicking in the falls, we rested for a while, packed our stuff and begun our arduous climb up. Now, this was the hellish part. To get into that first catch basin we visited the day before,we where to river trek up, zigzag the falls on several occasions and trek trough the dense forest on the side of the falls. If there was a trail on this one, i’d say this was less than 30% of the climb. I was climbing mostly on my four extremities., on paths that were seemingly forgotten or forsaken. No footholds, no ropes, loose soil and rocks? No wonder two of us got lost. The falls trek part is equally treacherous. Slippery is an understatement and falling is a huge possibility. This is where i most had doubts about my climbing skills and preparedness. I won’t lie but here in this trek, I felt like a coward most of the time. I was summoning all my focus and strength not to leave me for the rest of our trek up. One wrong foot hold, or wrong jump or dead branch holding, I’d be somewhere else heavenly.
When me and Merryl finally reached the first catch basin, one Bani falls excursionists blurted these questions our in our face : “Where have you been? Did you climb up from the bottom of this falls? You’re not committing suicide, are you?” He has a point I see, granting our suicidal climb up. We just smiled but deep inside, I was shaking in fear. Me is nuts I suppose. I didn’t think of what we just had achieved that climb but took time to dip into the cold waters of Bani. This time, its much sweeter and comforting. I’ve once again, shoved my fears aside for my outdoor wanderlust. Nature is such an enticing bitch.
We waited for our companions and took some more photos on our way back to our campsite. I was more than happy to go back. Cold wet and tired, we hurriedly packed our stuff again and bade our host goodbye. Goodbye, Bani Falls. I sure do enjoy your paradise but despised your hard core trek. It’s amazing how much nature pulled this “yin yang” forces in me.
The usual dangerous habal-habal ride back to civilization appeared no danger to me at all. After that bani falls trek, I swear I felt like I could climb any other treacherous mountains. Of course that bragging, but ugh, I don’t freakin care! I moved heavens just to commune with nature in this Bani falls extreme trek. I can brag myself out no matter, if that what appeases my cowardice. Sa tikal lang bitaw! Anyway, did i say I wouldn’t climb again this unprepared? Did I not? Now I’m making again this promise.