April 3, 2013

Bangkong Kahoy Valley: A Pilgrim’s Haven

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
- Hebrews 13:16
Part of loving is sacrificing. When God sacrificed His only Son for the salvation of mankind, it was because He loved us more than anything else in the world. At least that’s what Holy Week has taught me - that sacrifice is the purest and most selfless way to love someone. 
Last Holy Week brought me to a place somewhat closer to heaven. Despite the crazy holiday-traffic rush and sweltering summer city heat, I returned to the famed pilgrim site of Kinabuhayan in Dolores, Quezon, but this time trekked all the way to this exceptionally beautiful valley surrounded by the summit view of twin mystical mountains of Quezon – Mt. Banahaw  (the holy mountain) and Mt. Cristobal (the devil’s mountain). Named after the live tree trunks and branches shaped like a bench or bangko that could still be found in these mountains, Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center truly captures the beauty of nature, recreation and spirituality.
Mt. Banahaw
BK breakfast meal of tinapa, talong, itlog and papaya
BK burger meal with kamote fries and raspberry juice
Mt. Cristobal
Spared by the hands of modernization, this 21-hectare lush greeneries at 2,900 ft. above sea level, is a private property of Dion Pullan, descendant of Agripino Lontok, believed to be the first mystic to declare Mt. Banahaw a sacred mountain way back in early 1900s. Pullan opened BK to public in 2006, with the hope of sharing to everyone the natural charm and beauty of the place, at the same time educate them the importance of preserving and protecting the environment for the future generations to enjoy. A self-appointed steward of the mountain, Pullan is an environmentalist, enthusiastically sharing his expertise and knowledge to guests about conservation and sustainability.
By word of mouth, BK is now fast becoming an eco-tourism site. It offers various activities from those simply seeking peace and serenity to those who want a more thrilling adventure like trekking, bird watching, mountain biking, horseback riding, fox flying (ziplining), ATV rides, sports game of tennis and basketball, and farm tours.
Those who want to stay overnight could pitch their own tent at BK’s camping site for only P100 per person per night or stay comfortably in BK cottage or lodge with rates starting at P2,000 per room. Rooms don’t have aircon but who needs them anyway when you can savor cool fresh mountain air. I love waking up to a sight of morning dew on the glass windows overlooking mountains enveloped in fog, as if shrouded in mystery.
The food in BK Valley is fresh and organic, mostly home-grown. I love their Banahaw brew coffee and raspberry shake, but what I’m really going to miss is their carbonated water that comes straight from the mountain spring. Fresh fruits and vegetable are also available for sale. Pullan had educated the locals about organic farming to help them earn a decent livelihood without exploiting the forest.
My BK Valley experience was truly rewarding. A Dolly Parton song sums it appropriately “Yes I see God where the mountains reach the sky.” It was as if my spiritual battery was recharged, making me appreciate more the simplicity and abundance of life. Maybe if I plant a tree in my heart, a butterfly might come.
How to get to Bangkong Kahoy:
1. From Manila, take a bus bound for Lucena and get off at 7-Eleven, San Pablo (near the public market).
2. From the public market, take a jeepney bound for Kinabuhayan and get off at the junction going to Bangkong Kahoy.
3. From the junction, you could opt to trek the almost two kilometer way to BK Valley or be picked up by their Hummer for a fee. I suggest you hike; it isn’t that much a sacrifice to walk especially with the beautiful scenery.
Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center
Sitio Bangkong Kahoy, Kinabuhayan
Dolores, Quezon
Tel. No.: 0929-8198537, 0918-5093224
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