SUMMIT TO SEA: Mt. Tres Marias Freedom Climb to Sambawan Island Jaunt (1/2)

I heard a lot of stories about this mountain. Stories of myths and lores transpiring from generation to generation. Stories about how mountaineers got bewitched and lost track along their expeditions. Stories about how this mountain differs from the rest. But amidst these stories, I also heard from people who have strong hearts and spirits that explored this mountain that she is beautiful. Beautiful from the rest. A beauty that cannot be paralleled. That is Mt. Tres Marias.


Am I ready for this? Though something’s been undeniably bugging on my mind, I need an escape and be radical. I need to ditch all the negative manifestations inside my head and be free. I cleared my mind and took a deep breath. “Hahays!” I sighed with relief and console. And now, I’m ready.

RECEDING. The lights illuminated from a distant port reflected and cast a pillar of light across the pitch black sea.

As soon as the vessel embarks from the port of Cebu City, my mind goes into a reverie, goes into a stream of optimistic thoughts for this forthcoming adventure. Gazing the city lights from a distance as it gets smaller and dimmer, I’m beginning to envision my adventure with my friends. Fallen dead trees across the trails, raging waterfalls that rejuvenates your soul as the water blasting in front of your face, a remarkable encounter with some wildlife that crawls beneath the forest’s floors, then a sunny beach on an island with a golden sand and panoramic view on top of a small hill. I closed my eyes and put up a smile as the sea breeze touches my skin. Now I’m brimming with excitement.

At 5:00 am, light rain welcomed us at the port of Ormoc City. Heard the sound of the seawater crashing against the cemented port. Cold winds blowing. The sky painted with bluish-violet hue amidst the rain indicating that the new day is nigh. We covered our bags to keep our things dry, buckled up, and ready to set foot on the foreign land.

Tourists and travelers flocked the terminal to get a slot on the first trip via Naval, Biliran, which at that time, ran out very fast. It was still early yet the terminal was overwhelmed with the swarm of excited as well as incited individuals. Luckily, we haggled a van to cater our huge group to Naval, Biliran. The two-hour course drove my friends into slumber.

I heard light snores but it didn’t bother me as I enjoy the view on the other side of the murkish window pane of the van. The smell of the AC triggered some memories of yesterday’s road trips with scenes outside alike. Just like high school days. From clouds gently hugging the mountain ranges saying good morning to the vast pineapple plantations to the distant islands and islets touched by the first rays of sunlight.

That morning drive also gave me a sight of simple life. Children clung to their mother’s skirt while playfully skipping on the other side of the road. Some young boys worked early in the morning to make a living. Far from the privileged city children that were hooked on their mobile gadgets in malls and cafes, they live a chaste life. The scenes were a stark reminder for me that maybe one can survive on simple things and be grateful for their modest life. What a sublime way to start my morning on a short road trip in the province.


We filled our tummies with our not-so-late breakfast at 9:00 am. Immediately after our market quest to secure our two-day survival provisions on Mt. Tres Marias, we found ourselves heading straight to jump off point. Another 30-minute van ride before we start our climb.

REGISTERED. As I wrote my name on the tourism logbook, I also wrote my name in the history as an individual that will conquer Mt. Tres Marias.

I took a huge breath before I set my very first step on the mountain. I could feel my calves and feet trembling as I carry a deadweight bag almost half my size upon traversing a gradual ascent on the mountain slope. The trail starts with an open established barangay road. My shoulders were stiff as I jiggled my bag with caution because of the weight on it then it deliberately adjusted along the trail in the nick of time.

ASCENT. As we gain altitude, the panoramic view is getting more stunning and astonishing. Islands from neighboring provinces at sight.

From the foothills of the mountain, the scenery tends to be dramatic with rolling hills covered with coconut trees, a small portion of an open countryside, and a great view of neighboring islands. It was a sight to behold especially the near to perfection alignment of coconut trees on the rolling hills. My eyes mesmerized and in awe of glory. It really was a rewarding view but it’s just a single gold coin from a treasure trove. The real treasure is just hours away.

As we got closer to the woodlands, it became a narrow muddy single trail with slippery rocks and the green foliage got thicker. Verdant forest of wild trees known and unbeknownst to my knowledge dressed the mountain. Few meters after, the trail got wetter thus making a muddier trail and moss grows on every rock we stepped into. “One step at a time”, I mumbled in silence. Ensued my balance on every step. It is more of a wetland than what I expected about Mt. Tres Marias.


For the first leg of our trek, I jumped from pebble to rock to boulder. Always cautious and mindful for the terrain changes along the way. An irrigation system on my right and a dead cliff with a raging river at the bottom on my left. A single mistake on my footing inevitably put my life in peril. But the waters taking my wits away. My heart pounding with excitement whenever the trek involves rivers and waters. River trekking is my most favorite form of outdoor adventure activity. I would heartfully dip my feet in an instant like a child frolicking in the waters. This brings back my childhood memories with my cousins. We playfully plunged into the nearby river on their farm after a frisky sunny day. Regrettably, this time I geared my feet with trekking shoes. I can’t afford to feel smooshy all the way to the campsite. Maybe next time I’ll wear my trekking sandals.

From a distance, a deep-blue river was swerving through trees making its way from the forest. It was splashing as it moved through boulders and trees. I can hear the water crashing sharply on the sturdy rocks. Closer and closer. Longer and longer. The crashing sound became a soothing music. A music only the mountains can make. Then we came across numerous waterfalls. Indeed, Mt. Tres Marias was blessed with so many wonders. Waterfalls gushing over the rocks. Waters dribbling and seeping over the lush flora around.

THE FALLS. The exclusitivity of the place, the enchanting waters of the pool, and the paradise-like feeling in the place. It was a perfect hideaway from city life.

We took a plunge on Recoletos Falls. It had a beautiful serenity-pool about several feet deep. It was veneer clear. The water was as cold as ice. The feeling of satisfaction permeated into your skin and adrenaline of survival was so rewarding. This water was so addicting. We jumped. We swam. Such a blessing to be alive. I sprawled out on the rocks, swam into the waters, and floated in the middle of the pool. Then, I have this sudden feeling. The feeling of contentment and satisfaction that I was in really safe place. A place filled with my soul. A place that gives me a bizarre connection between me and nature. Was this the feeling of loving the earth, the earth loving me in return, and all that it had to offer? I remember not wanting to leave the place. This is the place where I felt present. But we only had limited time and must stick to our itinerary.


Crossing rivers. Squats under fallen logs. Tripping and falling along the trails. Those are the usual activities we’ve done under this type of terrain. As we go deeper into the heart of the forest, it became a bit more of a challenge. Trails on the slope got steeper but less muddy. Moss-grown rocks and fallen leaves that covered the trails made each of our footing more difficult. The trail was bearable but we found ourselves with vigorous breathing after a nonstop ascent.

The sound of the waters crashing can no longer be heard. But the aroma of the forest was greater right here. It was fresher and more organic. Cold air filled the atmosphere. We looked up and the trees were skyscraper tall. The canopies served as an umbrella from the rays of the sun. Among these humungous perennial plants, small lifeforms strive to live beneath. Tiny fluttering butterflies lazily drifted over some thick bushes. Neon colored dragonflies cheerfully flapping their wings just above our heads. I then chased these creatures. It made me happy. It made me feel like a child for a second.

SHUTTERBUG. One of the most photogenic insect I’ve encountered along trail. It is so tamed while capturing several attempts before I captured the perfect photo.

After several hours of energy-depleting assaults, we finally arrived at Aeta camp where we’ll gonna camp for the night. The clanking sounds created by unbuckling of our bags truly sounded like a freedom from shackles. Our shoulders were freed from tons of load and our feet can finally be stretch. Oh! What a relieving feeling it is.

AETA CAMPSITE. It is called such because locals believed that Aeta people once lived in this forest.

After pitching our tents, we replenished our water and cleaned ourselves on the nearby stream. Even if the water was ice cold, we enjoyed it so much that our voices cackled and echoed prevailing the tranquility of the forest. Then, we made dinner. Various aroma of the food spread like wildfire throughout the campsite. It made us hungrier and hungrier every time the flavor of the air changes. We had a heartfelt dinner together. We shared food. We shared laughter. We shared life. Despite the rapid decrease of temperature, we shared a little bit of ourselves to the group. Oh, how I wish life can be this simple.

Before we hit the sack, we turned off all our lights. Gathered in circle few meters away from our campsite. The pitch dark night silenced our sights. Crickets nearby screeching distinctly yet pleasing to the ears like a harmonious orchestra at night. The stars at the night sky peeked through the silhouettes of the trees above. The fireflies danced out from their chambers. Then suddenly, the ground slowly glowed brightly before our eyes. We’re all amazed. It’s like a forest night in the Avatar Movie. Our voices chuckled with excitement. It felt like we’re floating in the night sky itself. We’re like a speck of galaxy floating into space. We feasted our eyes in glory. Mt. Tres Marias really is a worth remembering mountain. Full of surprises. Full of mysteries. We ended the night being caught by the charm of the forest.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow, I never thought you wrote so well James. Reading your blog seemed that you’ve been writing for so long and you truly have caught me deeply. The way you convey your experience during this trip is so detailed like as if your readers are traveling with you.
    Who snores the loudest? I hope it’s not me. Hahahaha.
    I hope you’ll continue to write and continue sharing your travel experiences with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you master lai. It took me an immense time to put my emotions into words.

      Don’t worry. You did your best in the snoring competition. 😁


  2. Great first post James! So good to read and it took me to this place with how you conveyed your experience. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ciji. I did my best and all efforts paid off in making my first post. And it is my goal to feel the readers my emotions as if they’re traveling with me.

      Hoping we’ll cross our paths again soon for some adventures.


  3. laagsparkles says:

    Wow! Because of this inspiring experience of yours, it makes me want to visit Mt. Tres Marias. Great post!😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Katkat na bess. Mt. Tres Marias is really worth a hike. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I never thought you have the soul of a wordsmith. A playwright by right and a writer at heart. The choice of words and how you managed to chanel every bit of it is the passage straight through the senses of your readers, bringing them in the place where you want them to be – in your adventure. Simply put, you show not just tell. 😊
    A good start as your first blog post, yet eloquently written like you were doing it for such a long time already. Keep it up! And continue to share your travel experiences.
    Cheers to more travel adventures! πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ™Œ

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you iji. Well, nosebleed! πŸ˜‚ I did my best for my first post and I’ll gonna improve more soon. It’s good to be back on writing by the way.


  5. Rome Nicolas says:

    Great first post, James! First jud ni? Pro na kaayo mo-narrate. Keep weaving words!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HAHAHAH. Thank you Rome. It’s nice to hear that. Yeah. This is my first blog post. To more posts ahead. 😁


  6. I like how you selectively used great adjectives and adverbs here. Reading this post feels like dragging and transporting me back to the time when we were still on the middle of our jaunt to Tres Marias’ campsite. Great job for your first post brother!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you junji. I will never forget the buwad food brawl. HAHAHAHA.


  7. Good read! I will read this blog again once I’m ready to my trek adventure… Thanks for this beautiful story James!.. Asa na sa si James? I found you na! hahahaaaa πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Witty drin. HAHAHAH. Good to hear you’re planning for trek adventure. I’m more excited than you already are. Looking forward to read your story soon drin.


  8. Carl says:

    Exquisite showcase of adventure, freedom and happiness. Charot. Do parkour next time on one of these places please ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the love and support Carl. HAHAHA. Well, for that suggestion, I’m gonna try it soon to one of my adventures. 😁


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