The first time I climbed Tres Marias was way back 2017. It was definitely a memorable experience. An enchanting one to be precise. We were blessed with the perfect combination of the weather and the season.
But we were only able to summit the highest of the three peaks, which is mostly the itinerary of most climbers. Naliwatan Peak, the highest of the three peaks that compose Biliran’s Tres Marias, did not fail to inspire me to come back and climb it again. In fact, Tres Marias easily made it to my list of destinations I would undoubtedly make a comeback.
Since then, I waited and looked for events and opportunities to summit Tres Marias once again. Posting queries and hinting messages to different groups and social connections. Until Sir Joni, the man behind Trexplore, dropped a message on my inbox. It was such a privilege that he invited me to join the team for a quest to summit all three peaks of Tres Marias in Biliran. Having experienced joining Sir Joni on his previous adventures, I instantly know how safe, well planned, and prepared this coming adventure will be.
The invitation was already an answered wish. Who would decline such offer? So without hesitation, I blocked my schedule and applied for a vacation leave from my work.
The whole adventure team was composed of Sir Joni, his trusted local assistants and porters, as well as fellow adventure-seeking souls, Sir Gian and ate Sheila from Adrenaline Romance, James from AsaNasadSiJames, Sir Ras, and Daryl Comagon who generously shared his gear knowledge and tools.
Preparation before climbing Tres Marias
Prior to onboarding, Sir Joni gave us a brief orientation regarding the itinerary, on what’s gonna happen, the dos and don’ts, and what to expect. Preparation and security are always on the priority when Sir Joni conducts an event.
Prelude of the adventure
Early morning call and everybody was already up. Everybody was busy finalizing their backpacks and gears. Breakfast was already ready at the table to nourish and pack us with energy reserve for our climb. It was passed 7AM when we loaded our bags and gears to truck which transported us to the jump-off area.
About half an hour, we arrived at a small village named Palayan where we met our local guides from the village’s indigenous tribe. We mingled with the tribe for around an hour. They even graced us with their tribal music and dance.
In return, we donated clothing especially the kind they can use during cold weather.
Happiness was evident in their faces and smiles to see people visiting them and recognizing their tribe.
Start of the quest
A view of vast rice fields occupied our eyes as we began our steps on a muddy trail. It was still the beginning of the trek and yet I am already giving the best of my efforts to keep my feet dry and avoid from slipping.
Thankfully the sky was still coated with thick clouds which diffused the harsh rays of the sun. We passed through several irrigation canals before arriving at the foot of the mountain where we rested for a while.
Into the wild
As we continued with our trek, the trees and plants suddenly got denser until it can already be called a forest. We were now entering a wild domain where trees grow taller and traces of modern technology turn weaker. The air is always colder in the forest since oxygen level is way higher compared to the flat cities.
Well that is what we perfectly need as we were catching our breath while coursing through the slowly inclining trail.
It was evident that the trail was rarely used by groups of mountaineers that time since it is still covered in thick bushes and ferns while traces of footsteps were barely evident on the trail.
Every now and then, sturdy trunks of humongous trees welcome us like portals to another dimension. We passed several babbling brooks. Some of which are potable.
Wild insects and animals can be observed if you are just keen and quick to spot one. Some of us even got stung by bees while on the trail.
They might have treated us as a threat to their territory. We failed to spot a wild boar, but our guides told us they used to hunt some when in need.
We made several stops to recompose ourselves. Each stop gave us the chance to see and appreciate the dense and almost untouched forest. Feeding our senses with finds only the wild can offer. My eyes were filled with spectacles from the hues of vividly green leaves adorned with exotically colored flowers, and from the rare find critters and animals.
The ambiatic whispers of the insects over the clapping sound of the leaves traced me back to the roots of where humans originally belong, the wild.
A quick break
About 800 MASL, we finally arrived at our lunch area by the river which serves as the border line between the first and the second peak.
It is always a relief to arrive at a resting site especially if the trek zapped a portion of your energy tank. To be honest, the ascent was quite tiring because our bags were still loaded with our complete gears, food and water. Plus, the steepness was seriously challenging and the time pressure multiplied the factor.
After we had our fill and our legs rewarded with a short break, we then headed straight to summit the first peak of Tres Marias. We still have more or less additional 500 MASL to cover.
Tres Marias – First Peak
Heading to the summit of the first peak was a bit of a breeze since we have lesser load on our backs. We left our bags on the resting area with some of our guides. It took us more than an hour to summit the first peak. Why? Well, we cannot miss the chance to document the rare finds we encountered while heading to the summit. Trees, plants, and insects both known and unknown to the extent of our knowledge. Truly the mountain gave me the impression of a virgin forest.
While approaching the peak, I noticed the trail getting a little bit off the usual. The ground seems a bit softer, yet it does not feel like mud. It feels more like piles of intertwining branches and roots cushioned by dead leaves with a bit of soil. Then I remembered my first climb on the highest peak of Tres Marias years back. It was the same trail ground I experienced before.
It was a bit scary as both sides of the trail are drop-dead zones. Add the almost zero visibility to the formula and the factor of the cold breeze and the thick fog. I am not sure if that will be enough to give you the adrenaline rush and the chills.
Nevertheless, we reached the summit safe and complete. 1,100 MASL (est.) Conquered! We stayed there for quite some time hoping to get a bit of a clearing. Alas! It was just the wind swinging us at the top. Regardless, it was still an achievement.
Going down from the summit was a bit more challenging on my side. The hypnotic view of the heights and treacherous slopes made me wonder how was I able to climb the summit.
To be honest, it was really the hazy visibility and the cliffs that made my knees quiver. Going down still needs extra caution. The trail can be inconsistent. There are parts where you cannot see the ground due to the thick bushes. One erroneous step and it can put you into danger. There were several sections of the sloping trail where I need to hop down because my limbs lack the extra length to be able to reach the ground below. Thankfully, there were trunks and branches to cling on from time to time. One of the things to look-out for are the hundreds of spiky rattan trees on the trail. One of the gang accidentally slipped. Abruptly, his hands went out to grab a trunk or a branch. Unfortunately, it was a rattan tree’s trunk he was holding.
He suffered a swollen hand from the multiple punctures throughout the entire trip.
It took us more than an hour to finally arrive back at the lunch area where we left our bags for the summit. We then proceed with our trek towards the first campsite. Thankfully there were lesser ascent on our way to the campsite. Almost an hour and we finally arrived on a flat ground with a spacious area.
A watersource was also just few meters away, very ideal for a campsite. Everybody was in a hurry to pitch the tents as the skies started giving off hints of rain.
Dinner also came early so that we can rest earlier and have longer sleep to recharge for tomorrow’s energy busting trek.
Early morning and the clanking of the cookwares and the sound of the combusting fire from the stoves filled the campsite. It took me a few stretch from a deep slumber to warm-up my body and a quick gulp of hot coffee to fully awaken my senses. After we had our breakfast, we then prepared our gears and started packing-up for another day of extreme adventure.
The traverse towards the next junction was the easiest. The trail was mostly flat. There were fewer ascents but mostly less steep. Still, the atmosphere was under the weather. From time to time, fog engulfs the forest giving it a mysterious chill but a delight to the eye. Sun rays slicing through the sky were transitory and yet, brings momentary vivid pictures of the dense vegetation. It took us less than an hour to arrive at the junction where we unloaded ourselves for our summit towards the second peak.
Tres Marias – Second Peak
The trail heading to the second peak was pretty familiar like when we summitted the first peak, but different. It was at this stage when we started noticing more of the small critters, the animals, and the plants that are unusual to the common modern living.
Just like what we experienced on the first peak, thick fog blanketed the mountain leaving us with lesser visibility to no clearing at all. Still, nothing can stop the brave souls from cementing the achievement of summiting the three peaks of Tres Marias.
At the peak, the teasing hazy glimpse of the sun kindled our hope to finally get a clearing. Unfortunately, we were just spending minutes shivering from the cold wind at the top about 1,230 MASL (est). Nevertheless, the fact that we conquered 2 peaks by far is already an achievement. I can say that the amount of self-belief and trust gained in conquering one’s doubts, to summit a mountain, is way more rewarding than the momentary view at the top.
It took us around an hour to get back to the junction area. We loaded ourselves back with our gears and headed to our next stop where we will be taking our lunch.
It was a slopy trail heading towards the open trench-like valley, which I think is literally a huge river when it rains hard. We stopped near the stream where we took our lunch.
We rested for a while and took the time recover our energy after we had our fill. After around two hours, we decided to proceed to our second campsite which is just a few more kilometers away. It was still early and ahead of the schedule so we decided to take it just lightly.
Special thanks to Sir Joni Bonifacio
Sir Joni Bonifacio is a cave master and an extreme adventurer in Samar. He is one of the few people with the drive to explore and promote the natural attractions locally. Sir Joni Bonifacio is a man of adventure with a vision. His aim to promote the local tourism and his effort to achieve this is beyond compare. My sincere thanks to Sir Joni for handling my long awaited opportunity to summit the three peaks of Tres Marias.
If you want to experience the same,
I highly recommend you contact Sir Joni Bonifacio. Here’s how and why:
- Experienced cave master and explorer.
- Equipped with essential gears and tools.
- Has a network of local guides in contact.
- Passionate about promoting the tourism.
- Educates and orients guests on what to do and what not.
- Equips guests with information and facts.
- Very informative. All fun. No worries. Very accommodating.
- You can contact him through his website: https://trexplore.ph
NOTES and REMINDERS
- There are several notes to observe when climbing a mountain. So listen attentively when an orientation is given.
- Never litter. Be a good example of a mountaineer.
- Bring necessary amount of toiletries. You might be spending several days with no shower.
- Bring enough potable water for consumption for several days. Especially if you have a sensitive stomach and cannot adapt to natural waters in the mountain.
- Bring extra batteries for your gadgets and flashlights.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, better be prepared with OTC medications like loperamide.
- Lastly, enjoy and appreciate what the mountain can offer.
- Don’t forget your souvenir pictures.
- Surely, you’ll gain friends, self trust, and self reliance by the end of the adventure.