On Easter Saturday we went out of town for a day trip. It was time we had a break from here so off we went to Hidden Valley in Calauan Town, Laguna. About an hour and a half out of town, this tropical rainforest getaway is a paradise tucked away in the mountains. Because it is the Easter break we were really lucky with the traffic, so we made it out there in a much shorter time frame.
Our drive out to Hidden Valley took us through small villages whose one main road through was paved with the traditional Sari-Sari. This is the little roadside stall selling street food, fruit, vegetables, meat and household nick-knacks. We observed with interest the daily life in these towns, with Jeepneys and Tricycles being the main mode of transport for townspeople.
As we headed into the Laguna region we passed one of the mountains in the area. Mount Makiling is named after a Fairy named Maria Makiling who is said to be guardian of the mountain. The legends even suggest the mountain looks like a reclining female. There are a few stories around about Maria, one constant aspect is her immense beauty. Most of the stories are about Maria as a spurned lover who fell for a human man. He broke her heart and she went to live in the mountain, never to be seen again.
Soon the roads became narrow and crammed with small traditional Filipino homes, the odd school and church. Finally down a bumpy country road, past overgrown paddocks of banana trees and caribou, we descended into the gates of the Hidden Valley.
On arrival I am struck with how serene this place is. Gone are the sounds of everyday life. Gone are the sounds of traffic, construction and all that goes with city dwelling. Gone is the drab grey that seems to cover every surface here.
We got out of our car and walked along a neat pathway through beautifully manicured gardens overflowing with enormous trees and tropical plants. We can already hear the cicada’s chirping in unison, and in the distance a bird with a very distinct call sings out. This is the kind of sound you hear in this sort of wilderness.
We were greeted by ladies in traditional dress and offered a welcome beverage called a Gulamun. This drink is made from brown sugar, gelatine, water and tapioca beads. Served on ice this is a refreshing drink with that lovely hit of jelly beads at the end.
We walked along the narrow path to the Hidden Falls and I drank in the sounds of nature that I was just so desperate for. The rustling of the leaves, cicada’s familiar chirping filled the air getting louder the deeper we walked. The rising humidity and warmth in the air caressed my skin and together all of these elements came together in a symphony to create this rainforest paradise. As we walk we learn that this is in fact a Utopia. Not only do you have the waterfalls, you have coffee and cacao growing too! I have this thing I do, like a game. When something amazes and delights me, usually food, I say ‘imagine being the person who discovered this! How amazing that would be’. In this paradise I think we have found heaven!
Walking past the pools where visitors could casually swim and relax we were hungry for the chance to feel the warmth of that water on our skin. As we walked deeper into the forest we arrived at the 150 year old tree which was blown down during Typhoon Yolanda. This tree was enormous, and now she provides safe travel as we use bamboo balustrades to walk along her enormous trunk. The path suddenly changes, becoming a bamboo walkway. I start to meditate now that I have stepped away from the chaos outside those front gates. I want to absorb this calm, serene energy that I can feel flowing through these trees like a fine mist. With every step I am focused on the creak and cracking of the bamboo under foot. My hands tenderly touch the balustrades, the leaves, tree trunks in an effort to absorb and memorise every detail, every texture, every sensation.
We arrive at the Hidden Falls. Walking down the stony path etched into the side of the valley wall we are suddenly taken with the incredible beauty of this place. High mountainous walls rise in front of us, covered in trees, moss, and dripping with natural spring water. A lagoon runs through, over rocks, through crevices. Water running with such purpose, like there is somewhere special it needs to be. Another secret kept from us perhaps. A giant waterfall greets us and its mass, its strength, its presence keep people standing a distance just drinking in this site. People are swimming in the cool lagoon and taking selfies. The noise of the crashing water is overpowering and the children are frightened as we try to get closer to feel her energy. So we take turns to walk up, through the lagoon to experience this natural wonder on our skin. The children frolic in safety, a calm pool filled with small fish swimming along with the current.
Lunch is served in an open dining hall and we eagerly eat traditional Pinoy cuisine. Tinola, a chicken noodle soup is fast becoming a favourite for BB and me.
As we walk to the next pool SB says this is like the Land of the Giants. As we run our fingers along the enormous elephant ears that are growing here, I can’t help but believe that at any moment a dinosaur or some prehistoric creature will serendipitously appear.
There is no breeze. Just the sounds of happy voices, giggles and squeals as they echo down with the sound of water crashing over rocks. I lay on a lounge to dry and I again feel the warm air on my skin. I feel like I am wrapped in a blanket and I am soothed and lulled into a dreamlike state. The children are having the most glorious time. Their faces are brimming with joy and they splash and frolic and I watch totally overcome with love for these little people who just take my breath away with their brilliance. I have missed feeling this for a short time now. Part of the stress of finding our feet here in this new world. How we have needed this break, and how perfect Hidden Valley heard our cry and reached out for us.
What is the Hidden Valley?