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Lost in the Forest: Descent in Pico de Loro (Mt Palay-palay)

I love adventure. The feeling of having a new experience to that familiar or unfamiliar place, it pushes me further, gives me challenges that teaches me different lessons and create memories that I'll never forget.

But there are just some of those misadventures that I heard from other people that I have dreaded to happen to me. And the descent from the lovely monolith and summit of Pico de Loro gave me an out of the ordinary adventure I never thought I'd surpass. 

Our group during the climb, which is composed of some new found friends, travel bloggers and an old friend from college, was divided into two. When we stopped somewhere to rest, we waited for the others and decided that the first group goes back to the DENR. We, my college friend, Gino, and I, were chatting on the trail on our descent when we were left behind by some of the ones in the first group who have faster pace than us.

While talking, I have this strange feeling at the beginning that the trail was kinda unfamiliar but shrugged that idea since I was never familiar with the place itself for it was my first time there. As we continued walking and noticing some things that I have not noticed during our ascent, I was trying to remember at the back of my mind how the place looked like and, right there, I regretted not taking so many pictures because I have nothing to compare it with. I noticed the new Gmelina fruits on the ground I am seeing, the path which seemed more rocky and wider than usual, the unfamiliar mini grassland, the empty hut I never saw before, the "kaingin" site, the blue shirt hanging on a branch of a tree and the broken carriage left at the road side. I tried to ask my friend if he thinks we are on the wrong trail, and I think we were both in denial, at first, because we pushed further to the end of the trail hoping to see a familiar road.

It was when we reached the quarry site where the unpaved road disappointingly greeted us that our denials vanished. We were officially LOST, I was screaming those phrases in my head. The tiring trek we just had only to be met by this long and winding road with no sign of human presence. We tried to remember the trail where we think we were on the right path. I told him the last sign I know was the pink sign going to the DENR but it was a long way back there.

I was scared, so scared especially because when I checked my watch it was already past 5, the sun was already about to set, we already trekked for an hour or so and the thought of going back in the forested trail seems to send chills down my spine. So I told him that we should just wait at the quarry site and text the others we were lost. But the signal in the forest was scarce. Good thing, he convinced me that staying would not do any good because it seems that we didn't do anything.

I was still scared to go back but agreed for I badly wanted to go back to the last stop where we have seen our friends. I acted brave and stuffed all those mixed thoughts and emotions. Even with our aching legs, we tried to start our pace back. My mind is panicking but with adrenaline rush I was faster than usual, I ignored my legs that were already shaking from the hours of trek and the difficult ascends that tire me easily seem bearable. It was just when he asked me to stop that I stopped and waited but resumed after a few seconds.

There was this time when we pass by the semi clearing and grassland part where I heard some shouts of people but much to my disappointment, they were only birds and I am, again, reminded that we were alone.

Few more painstaking minutes passed and I was hastily going back that even after Gino remarked that he saw a snake, I simply responded to be careful and carry on. Of course, deep inside I am freaking out! I was so consumed of the idea of going back that I forgot the danger in the forest. But I did not show any panic and continued further praying that we make it in time and that the sun would wait a little longer.

Minute by minute as we traversed our way back, panic and paranoia is running through my head. The chance of not being able to go back. Stories about mountains that I heard from my friends. My family and loved ones. Praying so hard that a sign would somehow be revealed. The horrible thought of the sun setting. All of those random thoughts that isn't helping keep running in my head but Gino and I stayed focused and determined to go back.

On that more forested trail where we stumbled on a more than one path, we stopped and try to remember if we took the left or right one which both looks familiar. Gino told me that the left one, which was going downhill, looks to have a road at the end but I disagreed and told him it looks a greenery to me. I was unsure of where to go and told him to just trust his instincts and that's when he said to take the path on the right. 

We walked further, while I silently note how long this more forested trail is, and noticed another left and right path. I asked him if we should risk taking the left downhill path. But we decided to note how many similar to that we have passed and continued straightforward. All of a sudden, Gino asked me in Cebuano, "Mutuo ka ug pamahiin? (Do you believe in superstition?)" Without thinking further I said, "Yes," and pulled my shirt to wear it in reverse.

We continued trekking more and my paranoia was worse than ever thinking about what we just did just to find our way back and I continued to pray that I trust Him and whatever happens His will will be done.

After a few minutes of trekking more, like angels sent from heaven, we saw three women from the opposite direction and I immediately hugged Gino, for we finally saw someone on the trail. On that moment I really felt that, somehow, Someone, up there, is listening and watching over us. I immediately asked the three women if they are going back to the DENR and when they said yes, we asked to tag along together with the group they were with.

We were truly blessed because by the time we saw them, the sun has already set and our way back to the DENR was another 30 to 40 minutes trek but worse because the forest is already in pitch black. Good thing we were with them and they have flashlights. It was like we met them at the right time. Few minutes late, then we could have spend there at the forest not knowing the way back. Remembering what happened while trekking in the dark, I know that I saw the pink sign way back before because we greeted some people near that part but I do not know what made us walk straightforward instead.

Adrenaline was wearing out when we finally reached the road and I stopped myself from crying when I saw the worried faces from my friends waiting at the DENR. Actually, I still cannot believe we made it back.

When I was lost, it was the most difficult hour of my life. I was lucky that I had a good friend with me and we supported each other until we found our way back. I do not have the right words to express how grateful I was that we found our way back.

Pico de Loro, that was really one insane adventure. We were lost but, now, we are found.

PS No photos were taken during the time we were lost for I was scared as hell! All of the pictures above were taken during the ascent.

First photo by Robx and third photo by Rommel

Elal of The Shades of Grey Travel and Photography
Elal is a traveler, student of life and photography enthusiast who wants to experience and capture what is raved and not raved about. For more about her travels, subscribe here, email at, or visit her portfolio.


adventurousfeet said...

Feel na feel ko yung story mo girl. God is good talaga! :) Glad you're safe para may makulit sa office :D

Elal Lasola said...

Nakasulat ako agad dahil dun. To think na may 2 years old backlogs ako. So thankful talaga :)

joan | the backpack chronicles said...

I'm proud of you girl for being so brave despite the scary situation. Nakakapraning naman kasi talaga ang mawala sa bundok lalo at hindi ka naman mountaineer. Good thing na nakita nyo yung 3 babae. And just in time!

Elal Lasola said...

Sobrang thankful ako girl na d ako natulog sa forest! Sobrang tama ng timing na di ako makapaniwalang nakabalik kami safely. See u soon te!

Anonymous said...

on your way back to DENR, meron dun fork after nang natumbang puno. Upward left goes to DENR (there's a magnetic hill signage - baka nabura na) If you go straight, ligaw yun. btw, I blog here


Pinay Travel Junkie said...

Wow, angels came your way nga! Glad you guys are safe.

Marvin Barangay said...

We love Pico de Loro but we'd rather not stay there overnight no? Haha. Glad you're found Elal. Nice meeting ya! :)

Elal Lasola said...

@Gay: I was very thankful when we saw them :3 Thanks Ate Gay!

Elal Lasola said...

@marvin: true. or sa kahit anong forest. nice meeting you too :)

Elal Lasola said...

@anon: pink sign yung naalala ko dun. i saw the sign but i dunno what made us go further instead of turning left.

Unknown said...

hi, when descending the right path is on the left when you encounter the fork after you passed the camp 1, you took the straight path which is the way to the quarry site. im glad that you and your group found the right way.
i hope to meet you and your group on the mountains

Elal Lasola said...

yep. learned it the hard way. :)

Unknown said...

Scary. Good thing you were able to find your way back before darkness bites the remaining daylight or else #BlairWitchProject eto. Joke. Glad you were all safe Elal.

Elal Lasola said...

Adik ka. Was so scared too. But thankful when we were able to find our way back.

Unknown said...

Had the same experience yesterday!

Elal Lasola said...

OMG. Nawala din kayo?!

What Now Sway said...

We had the same experience in 2013. Di naman kami inabot ng dilim, but we were scared as fsck. Nagbaligtad din ako ng damit, sabi ko, for fun lang -- but that wasn't fun!

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