I am not one to pass up a chance to an adventure so one February evening, I found myself on a bus with 2 other friends, en route to Ilagan, Isabela. We were to test run an eco-tour package intended to preserve the Sierra Madre forest and wildlife.
Abuan River is located at the Northern Sierra Madre National Park — the widest remaining tropical rainforest in the island of Luzon owing to its rich and diverse ecosystem spanning from coral reefs to beach forests.
For decades the river has been the route of “bugadors” (timber haulers) to transport illegally cut logs from the forest to Ilagan. To give these timber haulers and their community an alternative livelihood, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) together with Coca Cola Philippines and the local government of Ilagan identified the river as the next ecotourism destination with rappelling, waterfalls trek, kayaking and even seasonal whitewater rafting as potential activities.
Skillfully navigating our boat through rocks and (sometimes) strong rapids.
Skilled in the river, the “bugadors” were our boatmen, river and trekking guides while their wives were tapped to prepare the food.
Two hours navigating through the rapids and rocks and we arrived at the start of the trail to Sulimanan Falls. Getting there was an easy 30 minutes trek that passes through rivers, hills and grasslands.
At the end of the trail lies a 3-tiered falls.
Getting to the 2nd and 3rd tier required a bit of scaling and bouldering with the help of ropes provided by AEPI, the outfitter tapped to develop the tour. Lunch was prepared on the 3rd tier beside the falls.
After lunch, the next agenda was to rappel down to the 2nd tier.
Not exactly my thing, I was not happy to learn of this but with a little prodding, gamely went along with the agenda.
I know that I am gradually overcoming my fear of heights when it took me perhaps only 20 minutes to muster enough courage to just go for the 60 ft. descent with only some distress and perspiration while at it.
Either that or I am getting better at throwing caution to the wind.
After witnessing a few of my rappelling jitters in the past, A gave me a big hug and told me he was proud of me. Heck! I am proud of me.