In the concrete jungle that is Metro Manila, one can quickly feel suffocated by the city’s fast-paced lifestyle. Thankfully, a Manileño doesn’t have to look so far because a quick escape can be found in Rizal, a province adjacent to the capital city. No toll gates or long express highways, just a two hour drive to Manila’s backyard. From falls, to mountains, to resorts, Rizal has it all. But it also houses Masungi Georeserve, a geopark that aims to promote ecotourism.

A woman touching tall grass as she walks through the field

The park’s architectural design encourages a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, with environmental conservation at the forefront of its values. In line with this, Masungi Georeserve only accepts pre-booked appointments, with a limited number of guests. If you can’t form your own group, you can join their shared trail with other guests. Getting in touch with nature and new people, it’s a win-win!

Arriving at Masungi Georeserve

Photo courtesy of @shela_labs on Instagram

Masungi Georeserve is accessible via private car or via public transport. Just follow the directions on Waze or Google Maps and you’re good to go! Commuters can take two jeeps to get to the geopark. Take the first jeep at Cubao, one that’s bound for Cogeo Gate 2. Get down at Cogeo Gate 2 and take the final jeep o Sampaloc via Marcos Highway in Tanay. Even Masungi’s management recommends taking a private car because the jeeps can be hard to come by. You might find yourself waiting for a long time before you can catch a ride.

No matter what you choose, the travel time would take around 2 hours. You’ll know you’re at Masungi Georeserve when you see this sign pop up from the road. Upon arriving, park rangers will greet you and direct you to the briefing area. You’ll be walking mostly a flat path with just a few slopes and steps. Even though it’s a short walk, there’s colorful flowers and a scenic view to help distract you from the trail.

Briefing

Waiting area of Masungi Georeserve with tables, chairs, and the helmet rack

Photo courtesy of willflyforfood.net

At the briefing area, the park’s policies and guidelines will be reiterated. Each person will be given a hard hat for safety measures. Before the trail activity starts, now would be the best time to refill your water bottle or to visit the bathroom, since there won’t be any along the way. One guide will be assigned per group. Take note that the activity will take continue whether it rains or shines. Ponchos will be provided if it does rain. As for sunscreen, you’ll have to pack your own. Tip: Opt to go early in the morning to avoid the harsh rays, or opt to go in the late afternoon to catch the sunset.

Once everyone’s good to go, the park ranger will lead the way. The first part of the trail is easy, you will have to duck under some rocks and climb some steps. The only strenuous part is the first rope climb. It can seem daunting, especially if you have a fear of heights. If you’re not up for it, there’s an alternative path. After crossing the first set of obstacles, you’ll be rewarded with the view of the famous spiderweb.

Sapot

The first highlight you will encounter at Masungi Georeserve is the Sapot or spiderweb in English. The metallic web is probably the most iconic and most photographed attraction. From here, you have a good view of Laguna de Bay. Let your eyes take in the scenery, but don’t let them wander below your feet, because you might feel your knees go weak! The web is suspended over sharp limestone rocks.

Cave of Rueben

A stone table with a flower is in the middle of the cave, with light rays shining through

Photo courtesy of @angelamaria on Instagram

After the Sapot, you’ll continue to walk the stone steps and even cross rope bridges, The park ranger is very knowledgeable about the surrounding flora and fauna, he’ll be giving you some interesting trivia along the way. You can ask him questions too. As you go further down the trail, you’ll suddenly find that your hard hat becomes even more useful. The Cave of Rueben will be the first major cave you will encounter. It’s pretty dark inside so it might be difficult to take nice photos but it’s not impossible as light still shines through the cracks.

Hammocks

At the end of Rueben’s Cave, you’ll also see the light outside the tunnel, literally and figuratively. Once you finish climbing the steps outside of the cave, a small resting area will greet you at the top. There are makeshift hammocks and rope beds you can sit on to catch your breath.

Patak

An airhouse suspended over the forest with a rope bridge

Photo courtesy of @jm.elano on Instragram

The next highlight you will encounter is Patak. It roughly translates to drop in English, and rightly so because the tree house is suspended in the middle and looks like a little raindrop. Crossing the rope bridge will afford you access to the airhouse. In case you need to take a break, you can take some time to sit inside and hide from the sun. It’s a good time to recuperate because the next part of the journey will be a bit more tiring.

Tatay & Nanay Peak

You will climb stone steps to reach two viewing decks. Tatay or Father Peak is the higher of the two. Nanay or Mother Peak also offers a good view, and is relatively easier to climb. There’s a lot of open spaces at the viewing decks so you can also practice some yoga poses if you’d like.

A girl walking on the limestone viewing deck

Photo courtesy of @raegagagan on Instagram

Duyan

After all that stair climbing, you’ll finally be back on fair ground…or rather ropes. Another famous photo opportunity in the Georeserve is the huge duyan or hammock, perfect for group photos! Just be careful when standing up again, because the ropes are quite bouncy. Do your best to keep your balance! The hanging ropes are there to aid you in crossing. Check the video above to see the drone shot of the duyan!

Bayawak

The last hurdle of the trail is the large rope climb down the bayawak or lizard’s back. It’s definitely a longer climb than the first one before the Sapot but before you know it, you’ll have reached the bottom!

Sawa

As if to congratulate you for finishing the trek, a Sawa or snake head will greet you as you walk through it’s rope bridge body leading to the end of the trail. Unlike at Duyan, you don’t have to worry about losing your balance since there’s a metal walkway to make things easier. You can literally skip your way to the end!

What’s better than the relief of finishing a hike? Eating food! Light refreshments and a cold towel will be served upon completion of the trail. In total, visiting Masungi Georeserve’s Discovery Trail will take four to five hours, depending on your pace. It’s enough time for hiking, picture taking, and resting. It’s a great activity if you want to go on a chill hike near Manila. This might sound cliche, but a visit to this ecotourism destination will give you a deeper appreciation for nature.

Header image courtesy of Jay Sanchez on Flickr

Article cover courtesy of Frances Ellen on Flickr