In a place in between Daraitan and Genenal Nakar, stood an unspoiled hidden fortress that housed a sustainable eco sanctuary. It is quiet an effort to reach the place owned by my good friend and kumare, Jacquiline Go-Laruan and her partner, Ronald “Onad” Avenilla.
The decision to visit Kuta Bungliw at Daraitan was one year in the making. I had my reasons why I just dilly-dallied my visit. Priorities, #adultingislife, messed up priorities and the like hindered my visit to this hideaway, not to mention inflated plane fares, movement on work areas and jobs, blogger events and the like.
Back in May 2018, when I got the chance to visit UP Diliman for Akyat Conference 3.0 of the UP Mountaineers as a representative for Silangan Outdoor Equipment, I found the chance to finally pay my Kumare a visit. We haven’t seen each other since 2016 and in that span of time, Kuta Bungliw Eco Lodge and Campsite has been more than her hobby but a staunch advocacy that not everyone has the guts to understand and know more.
For many, building an eco-friendly campsite that shelters not just those who wanted to flee from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a sanctuary where many forms of advocacies are being practiced. As an outdoor enthusiast and lady mountaineer myself, I and my friends are actually living the eco life by following the Leave No Trace Principles and refusing single use plastics. I bring my own water bottle in every travel I have.
Mention any place associated with mountains, caves and islands to any millennial right now and there are a lot of things that will come out of their mouths. Many youngsters are into the outdoor lifestyle and are keener on exploring. This paradigm shift gave rise to Eco tourism efforts by the LGUs and other stakeholders. In the recent years, the Department of Tourism as well as the Philippine Government had pushed ways and means to maximize our high potential activities and areas. These, not limited to mountaineering, island hopping and caving but also, revolved around farm to table sustainable activities and nature reserves like Masungi Georeserve.
In Kuta Bungliw, living life is actually simple and carefree. Below are a list of rules that the area is enforcing its visitors. Since it is a protected area, here are the KUTA’s ECO RULES:
1) Guests must bring trash bags to segregate own trash. Handover the biodegradable trash to Kuta staff upon check-out. You must bring down your non-biodegradable trash back to the city. Environmental fine for your messy camp/hut is P500/head.
2) Always secure your food with covered containers. You do not want to sleep with ants or be visited by wild animals.
3) Do not pick flowers and other plants.
4) Do not play loud music or talk loud.
5) Double/single roll up sleeping mat and pillow are provided to guests in Eco huts/rooms but guest must bring own blanket and minimal cold weather clothing.
6) Bring flashlight and powerbanks. Kuta has limited solar power.
7) Conserve water. Drinking alcohol is until 10:00 PM only.
Pretty much easy to understand and follow right? Now let’s talk about the more serious stuff. The eco lodge and campsite itself is a work in progress.
How Kuta Bungliw Came About
Kuta Bungliw’s name was derived from a local tree, Bungliw, covering much of the land area of the place. It may not be and endemic tree in the area, but it comprises almost half of the local tree population. The locals of the past cut down these trees due to its commercial uses like toothpick, matchsticks, Popsicle sticks and the like. Some destructive practices in the past threatened the integrity of the forest for the longest time but with the efforts of the community to save nature and protect its ecology, a movement was unconsciously done to slowly open the eyes of the locals. These locals have their life blood in the river and in the mountains. The Dumagat tribes, one of our indigenous tribes, are prevalent in the area. They are the vanguards of the mountains, caves and the whole river system.
The owner of Kuta Bungliw, Jacquiline Go Laruan, is a member of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines Incorporated and UP Outdoor Recreation Group. She was the former president of UP ORG and has been involved into outdoor outreach activities ever since she was a student. She had seen the state of the different tribes in the far flung areas she had visited and decided to make a difference. Over the years, Jacq decided to create change and help elevate the lives of Daraitan community. She had acquired a lot that is a stone’s throw away to Daraitan Summit and had created a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. This move made Kuta Bungliw what is its today. Continuous effort to educate the locals is a lifeline advocacy of Jacq. Having Ibaloy roots made her a vital instrument in bridging the gap of understanding with the locals. As a mountaineer herself, she had upheld the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace in her place and encourages her guests to follow it as well. She made sure there is no TRASH BINS in the area to make sure everyone will carry their garbage back to the city.
Another advantage of the eco camp is that it utilizes solar energy. There is a solar panel that helps in the energy needs of the camp. The campers are advised to bring their own head lamps so that they will have light source at night to prevent slipping or stumbling over sharp rocks at night. The campers are also advised to conserve water since the source come from the spring in the nearby mountain. There are times when water is quiet scarce, so it is best to manage its usage. Another stringent rule in the camp is to tone down voices and avoiding excessive noise so as not disturb all living things in the Kuta. Wildlife like native birds and other creatures are found in the premises of Kuta Bungliw and might get disturbed on too much noise. The community that surrounds Kuta Bungliw are family and friends of Jacq’s partner, Ronald and they comprise the workforce for Kuta Bungliw. The involvement of the locals boosted their morale and made them aware of the effects of Kaingin and somehow, empowered the locals by giving them pride on their heritage and talents. It has also restored their self-confidence and made them capable in handling guests as well. To know more of their rates, you may visit their FB page at https://www.facebook.com/kutabungliw/ or call Jacq at 0915 595 9988.
Going To Kuta Bungliw
Going to Kuta Bungliw is an adventure in itself already. There is a quick 20-35 minute hike before reaching the sanctuary so better get your feet ready 🙂
Here are the directions in getting there:
A. If you are from the North (in or near Quezon City/Cubao/Marcos Hi-way/Pasig/etc):
1) Ride a COGEO Gate 2 jeep along Aurora Blvd (Fare P28, 45mins travel time). *First trip 5:30am, last trip 6pm
2) At the end of the ride, walk and turn right at the intersection upto Sampaloc jeep terminal, that’s after the wet market. Take the SAMPALOC bound jeep (P65, 1.5hrs). *First trip 5:30am, last trip 6pm. Jeep leaves every 30 mins.
3) At the end of the ride, walk straight pass the intersection until across Shell. In front of carinderia is the Daraitan TODA terminal, ride Daraitan bound trike (P75/passenger OR P300/trike, 30mins) OR habal habal (P120/habal/2 passengers).
4) At the end of the ride/Ilog, ride the barge to cross the river (P5-P10/head depends on the water level).
5) Ride trike to Irid/Kuta jumpoff (10 mins, P120/trike/max 5 passengers).
6) Hike to Kuta (20 mins). Just follow the road up until you reach straightly aligned palm trees on the right with “Kuta Bungliw” sign. Enter the trail, follow the noticeable rock steps, flat and ascending, until you reach Kuta Bungliw. *You are very near already if you pass by the Mango tree.
* You can hire a guide porter from ilog to Kuta for P250 (pre-arrange) or from Irid/jump-off P200. It is recommended to get one if you will arrive at night or if you have many things to carry.
B. If you are from the South (in OR near Makati/Taguig/Mandaluyong/Alabang/etc):
1) Ride a van from Starmall EDSA Crossing/Shaw to TANAY Market (1.5-2.5hrs, P70). *First trip 3am, last trip 12midnight
2) At the market (beside the van terminal), ride jeep to SAMPALOC (45mins, P28). *First trip 7am, last trip 7:30pm
3) At the end of the ride, walk and turn right towards Shell. Across it is the Daraitan TODA terminal. Ride trike (30 mins, P75/passenger OR P300/trike) OR habal habal (P100/habal/2 passengers).
4) Follow Option “A” #4-6 above.
C. If you are from Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, best way is via Pagsanjan-Siniloan-Tanay route to avoid the traffic of Manila. There’s a VAN from Lucena to Antipolo passing through this hiway. Get off at Tanay. Then follow Option “B” #2-4 above.
D. By PRIVATE VEHICLE, best route is via MARCOS/MARILAQUE HIWAY: Set waze to Sierra Madre Hotel to ensure that Waze will lead you to Marcos Hiway, then set waze again to DARAITAN COVERED COURT.
1) Take the Cogeo Marcos Hi-way (MARILAQUE) route to Sampaloc, Tanay;
2) About 5kms after the Sampaloc intersection, TURN LEFT to the sandal road with a huge yellow sign “TO MT. DARAITAN”;
3) Upon reaching the end of the road or the Daraitan/Agos River, park before the river. There are pay parkings there.
4) Follow Option “A” #4-6 above.
E. By PRIVATE vehicle via Manila East Road/ Tanay:
1) From EDSA Crossing or Ortigas Extension, drive towards Teresa-Manila East Road-Morong-Tanay;
2) Turn left to Tanay-Sampaloc road (Landmark: Jollibee on your left, gas station on right)
3) When you reach Sampaloc intersection, turn right to Marcos Hi-way;
4) About 5 kms, turn left to the sandal road with a huge yellow sign “to Mt Daraitan”; Upon reaching the end of the road or the Daraitan/Agos River, park before the river. There are pay parkings there.
5) Follow Option “A” # 4-6 above.
Snaps on my quick sojourn: