This is why the remote town of General Nakar charms hikers in search of adventure.
On the northernmost tip of mainland Quezon, and a six-hour drive from the Metro, the municipality of General Nakar lies largely untouched by development. There are no fast-food chains here, only rustic roadside eateries. Save for the public market and a handful of sari-sari stores, there is no other commercial establishment in town. In most houses here, roofs are still made of thatched palm fronds and floors of halved bamboo stalks. Here, the habal-habal or passenger motorbike is king of the “road”, which mostly comprises rocky inclines and river crossings. Even mobile reception is patchy at best.
But that’s exactly what charms adventurous hikers to its borders. Named after General Guillermo P. Nakar, a World War II hero whose guerrilla forces kept fighting even after Bataan fell, the town was once part of neighboring Infanta until president Elpidio Quirino decreed them separate in 1949.
General Nakar is ringed by the expansive Sierra Madre mountain range, which includes Mount Daraitan, a popular destination for day hikes, on its western borders. Its shores open up to the Polillo Strait, which then flows directly into the Pacific Ocean. Most of its 161,640ha is untamed landscape made up of lush woodlands, beautiful coastal areas, wild hiking trails, a complex waterway that spawns countless waterfalls and a temperamental river. If you’re keen to unleash your inner Vasco de Gama, here are a few of the terrain’s highlights to mark on your way.
In Barangay San Marcelino, on the fringes of the Pacific Ocean, stands a row of lofty cliffs and limestone formations. In one of its many crevices is an entrance to a cave named after the loud, thunderous sound it produces when it’s hit by waves. Considered sacred by General Nakar’s Dumagat residents, securing permission from the tribe is important to access Tulaog Cave — but that’s not all there is to it. When the tide is high, the cave is inaccessible, its entrance claimed then over-run by the powerful waves of the Pacific. When the sea recedes, one then has to skirt a rock-strewn shore, scrambling over huge boulders and getting drenched by lashing waves along the way.
You can always take a boat, of course, but even then, locating the cave without a local’s help is near-impossible, as the entrance is buried under layers of sand. Once you finally dig and squeeze your way through the tiny entrance, you’ll find yourself in a dark, narrow and damp chamber with a soaring ceiling. This chamber, with a small recess that holds an image of the Virgin Mary, draws Catholic pilgrims from all over Quezon, especially during Holy Week. This is as far as visitors can go inside the cave, however; the rest of Tulaog Cave remains restricted to the Dumagat, a place for them to pray to their god Makedeppat.
Nabuslo Falls and Depalyon Falls
Numerous waterfalls lie hidden in General Nakar’s dense forests. One that can easily be reached by a short walk on a rutted dirt road amid coconut trees in Barangay Maligaya is Nabuslo Falls. Its steady-flowing potable water not only serves as the locals’ bathing pool, but also their primary water source. Here, sunlight barely passes through the thick canopies. Pipes that feed water to Maligaya’s households mingle with vines and foliage around the falling water. Below, a kidney-shaped catch basin overflows into an ankle-deep brook.
In Barangay Sablang you’ll find Depalyon Falls. Reaching this cascade inevitably involves getting wet, as the journey involves more than two hours of wading across neck-deep streams and trekking through virtually undisturbed forests. Depalyon Falls is situated within a ravine. The stone walls that flank it are smooth, dark and shiny with moisture. The raging waters of the falls itself are relentless, showing no signs of slowing down even during the summer months. It is so powerful, Depalyon Falls is perpetually shrouded by a spray of mist, which often creates a miniature rainbow.
There is no flat area immediate to the falls, however, so Depalyon Falls is definitely no place for picnics. The small pool beneath it, while safe enough for swimming, is surrounded by jagged rocks. It rushes out to a craggy tributary whose strong currents churn white rapids — the same tributary you’d have to swim through to get in and out.
General Nakar’s secluded, brown-sand and pebble beaches may not have the same appeal as white-sand stretches, but it presents a rarity that’s hard to resist: a relaxing day on the beach sans the crowd. Take Sulok Beach in Barangay Catablingan, for example; even on a weekend, only a handful of people — mostly locals — can be spotted swimming in its impossibly blue waters. An undulating ridge juts out to sea like a partial enclosure, so that even while the beach faces the Pacific Ocean, the salty breeze is gentle and soothing. It is the perfect remote spot for pitching a tent and lying out on the sand, watching daylight fade as the stars come out at night.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Smile magazine.