Guess what. It’s the last week of 2016!

I started this month with an immense urge to just go away from the city even for just a day, and picked the day after Christmas – a non-working holiday – to go someplace I’ve been planning to go to since August. I should’ve done this trip earlier, but for one reason or another, it would never push through, and I’m glad I finally did with a friend who’s just discovered he likes roughing it out in the outdoors as well.

The place I’m talking about is the Malangaan Cave in San Rafael town in Bulacan province. It’s relatively near our place (considering Valenzuela was once part of Bulacan), but takes a bit of work getting there, especially if you don’t have your own transportation. When you leave the highway behind, there’s a middle of nowhere vibe, and the mountains and fields make it feel like you’re miles away from Manila; the truth is, San Rafael is just about the same distance from Valenzuela as the outskirts of Muntinlupa.

There’s actually a typhoon, but brave souls that we are, I and my friend push on. The heavy clouds hover above us, intermittently spitting rains. After about two hours on the road, we reach the place.

A couple of kids are swimming in the river, while a woman washing her clothes nearby stops what she’s doing and approaches us.

She asks if we’re going to the cave. We say yes, and the woman says wait, then disappears to a house. Moments later, she comes back with a flashlight and motions for us to follow her. We do, and we walk through some rocky pathway that leads to the mouth of the cave.

The woman is Amy, a local who shows us the way through the cave and regales us with stories about the place, as well as the neighboring towns where there are more caves that beg to be explored.

Due to the rains, the floors of the cave are really muddy, so Amy leads us through the path where we’re going to be least dirty, especially since my friend and I are both idiots who didn’t bring extra clothes. Our paths alternate between slippery and really muddy, so we go barefoot, both because our soles’ skin have more traction than rubber, and because our slippers often get stuck in the mud.

After squirming our way inside the cave, we come out of a clearing with a nice view. Amy then leads us to another path through the tall grass towards the nearby mountain.

The trek up the mountain isn’t really hard, but the typhoon felled some large branches that block the main path, so Amy has to look for an alternative route going to the summit. It’s all right, except for the thorny branches we occasionally come across.

About an hour later and we’ve reached the top. Right on cue, the clouds let out a shower. But this is one time we actually welcome the rain, even if we’re going home drenched.

Really drenched.

………

A number of blogs list steps to get Malangaan, because it can really get tricky. Here’s how we got there:

  • From SM Valenzuela, we rode a jeepney going to SM Marilao (PHP 14 each).
  • From SM Marilao, we rode another jeepney going to Baliuag (PHP 40 each).
  • We planned on getting down at SM Baliuag, but it turned out that the jeep would turn right at Pulilan Regional Road, which is several kilometers south of SM.
  • We get down at Jollibee at the intersection, then ride another jeepney going to SM (PHP 16 each).
  • From SM Baliuag, we ride a tricycle to the tricycle terminal in Barangay Pulo in San Rafael (PHP 200 for the two of us).
  • From Barangay Pulo, we talked to a tricycle driver to drive us to Malangaan, where he waited for us until we got back at noon, and drove us back to Pulo (PHP 350 for the two of us).
  • From Pulo, we rode a jeepney going back to Baliuag’s town center (PHP 26 each), which is a short walk from SM Baliuag. From SM Baliuag, we rode another jeep to Pulilan, then to Meycauayan, and finally back to Valenzuela.
  • We also paid our guide PHP 200.
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