As we are nearing the official start of winter, my mind is brought back to Southeast Asia, specifically to the Philippines. It was deliciously hot when we visited last winter– which inspired me to armchair travel today back to Mambukal Mountain.
Mambukal Mountain is on the island of Negros Occidental, outside of Bacolod City. We took a long drive through the Philippine countryside to arrive from Bacolod. The landscape was a rustic blend of rice paddies, skinny palm trees, tall fields of grass, and brooks of murmuring waters. The cars and buses we passed wore brown layers of dirt from driving along unpaved roads. Children sometimes roamed the streets in flip-flops, dressed in sleeveless t-shirts and worn gym shorts, or in neatly pressed Catholic school uniforms. Multiple people piled onto bicycles. It was a welcome contrast from city life, either the urban chaos we witnessed in Manila or what we live daily back in New York. The quiet foreignness of it all made it a soothing drive.
When we arrived to Mambukal, we discovered a deep dive into nature. The surroundings are filled with lush tropical vegetation and flowers. Seven waterfalls beckon, although with Lulu, we only made it to see about three (to see all seven, the climb to each was more challenging than the next.)
There is something about the mountains, no matter in what country, that makes me feel alive. Perhaps it’s the back-to-nature aspect, to be surrounded by such rawness, the earth as it is and as it should be. To observe living creatures in their natural habitat, whether welcome or unwelcome (at one point we stopped to watch hundreds of bats furiously swirl around each other in an open cave) gives us a different perspective. In this rural part of the Philippines, it was a refreshing detour from touring mostly urban areas.
And considering what I learned previously about the country, mostly about its congested capital or its spectacular tropical shores, discovering this abundant mountain, tucked away in a quiet pocket of the Philippines, made for an extremely satisfying day.
If only I could trade in these upcoming frigid days of winter, for the hot, sweaty, challenging climb to the 7th waterfall of Mambukal Mountain…