April 29, 2012

Bangkong Kahoy : Retreat Redefined













Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center is one of the places that best captures the essence of the words Retreat, Experience and Surrender. It is hidden on a small valley in between the famous Mt. Banahaw and San Cristobal in Dolores, Quezon. In a sprawling 21 hectares of lush green, this haven is about 2,400 feet above sea level, almost halfway to the summit of the mysterious Mt. Banahaw.










One lazy afternoon, after all the maddening crowd of pilgrims has already left the mountain, I decided to go up unplanned with the intention of just killing time. Taking off from the lowland in Tiaong, Quezon, the trip to Sitio Bangkong Kahoy is a 16-kilometer drive on a narrow, steep and winding road. Just when I thought we have reached the place, was actually just the start of yet another 2-kilometer drive on dirt road. I was beginning to call it quits when I felt that my tires were on unimaginable struggle and the engine on miserable hard cough. But as we were pushing through upland, the scenery was beginning to change into something beautiful. I could feel the temperature dropping fast as we passed through dancing sunflowers and horses running around. Finally, I parked on a gorge with a breathtaking view of thick foliage, the front yard vista of Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center.










After a quick tour of the place, I settled in the coffee shop where I had a great chance of meeting the owner, Mr. Dion Pullan. Drinking coffee in Bangkong Kahoy is drinking it in style sitting on a long wooden bench with the unobstructed view of Batangas Mountain Range, the ricefields of San Juan, the Masalukot Mountains and Tayabas Bay. Dion Pullan is the 3rd generation kin of Agripino Lontok, the original hermit of Mt. Banahaw wayback in 1906. Growing up in Bangkong Kahoy was a difficult experience for Dion lacking all the access to roads and utilities. He persevered and pushed a career in railway management in Australia before deciding to come back home and rebuild a new life with his family up in this quiet valley. Thus came about this new hideaway in 2006.










In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say it's beautiful, they mean awesome.
The gentleness of the place is seemingly inexplicable. Anywhere you gaze your view around is awesome. Mt. Banahaw and San Cristobal's imposing breadth offers more than a feast for your eyes. The grass carpet, the different flowers in bloom and the wild raspberries make you feel that you are in a different universe.














In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say it's cold & dark, they mean ice cold & pitch black.
As the sun starts to set the temperature begins to become unforgiving. It is cold with lip cracking wind chills. Good thing they have provided each tiki hut a hot shower facility because the water is ice cold and will definitely freeze your entire body.
At night, when all the lights are out, it is pitch black. You can be scared but if you square your shoulders and dare to lay on the grass for a stargazing treat or just be entertained by the flickering firefly show, you will not regret it. Sometimes, freedom is defined in darkness.














In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say it is quiet, they mean peaceful.
There's no denying that the best way to relieve stress is to shut your harried world and stay in silence. Here, silence is deafening. You can take sometime alone in the garden, feel the gentle wind on your hair, breathe deep and experience nothingness. You may wish to bring a book or slump on a hammock until you doze off. You may walk barefooted on the soft ground, feel the earth, and pick some flowers and raspberries. These are what you call peaceful indulgence.














In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say it's comfortable, they mean pampering.
Despite it's remote distance from the city, Bangkong Kahoy has built accommodations ranging from simple Tiki Huts (with lovely mosquito nets) to Chalet type with all the comforts of a hotel. All rooms have hot & cold shower, WIFI is available in the main hall, TV sets with cable connections & airconditioning system in select rooms. Yes, signal for all telco operators are available but the most stable is Globe Telecom.
Alternative activities may also be availed with prior engagements with the frontdesk. These are ziplining, trekking and ATV ride rentals. Here, you have choices. You can stay laid back or unleash energy on extreme treats.












In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say it's good food, they mean a hearty meal.
They do not just grow vegetables here, they practice organic farming. The menu only offers fresh garden produce but they will surprise you with the serving ala-Bangkong Kahoy.











In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say honesty is the best policy, they mean integrity.
Guests here are free to get anything from the restaurant or bar even without the attendants on duty. Just list down what you got and pay it upon check out. These facilities are open 24 hours and they leave all the utensils that you may need. This is purposely done so guests do not have wake them up in the wee hours of the night or so you get what you want on time.















In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say eco-tourism, they mean life preservation.
Dion Pullan is one of the guardians of Banahaw and so are the youth of Sitio Bangkong Kahoy. Banahaw is one of the protected mountains in the Philippines but in reality, it is not what is happening. Dion and his community are serious about protecting their environment to restore the glory of this part of Sierra Madre.
This haven is one of the favorite spots of bird watchers and wildlife photographers too because of the abundance of animals in the area. You can also find here exotic species of flora just like the flowers of Jade Vine.















In Bangkong Kahoy, when they say it's mysterious, they mean spiritual.
Banahaw and San Cristobal are famous for its stories about healing powers. Infact it is regarded to be a sacred mountain among the pilgrims and the few small religious communities that live here. But whatever it is, Banahaw truly creates the mystery of spiritual energy. It is like recharging your spiritual battery. This experience is something personal and it is up to the guest to explore, imbibe and share. This probably is what sets Bangkong Kahoy apart from other eco-tourism destinations.











Retreat to a place of solitude.
Experience nature and be one with it.
Surrender to life's simple indulgences.
Recharge your soul.
Rebuild the environment.
Renew commitments.
Come to Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center.


How to Get There
From Manila
  • Take the South Luzon Expressway towards Quezon.
  • Exit at Santo Tomas Toll Gate (through the Star Tollways).
  • Drive through Alaminos and San Pablo. Get inside downtown San Pablo to the rotonda by the church.
  • Follow the signage that leads to Dolores, Quezon.
  • From Dolores rotonda, take the road uphill to Barangay Kinabuhayan.
  • At the arc in Kinabuhayan, turn left uphill on a dirt road to Sitio Bangkong Kahoy.
From Other Parts of Lower South Luzon
  • Drive to Lucena City towards Sariaya, Candelaria and Tiaong.
  • Just before reaching McDonalds in Villa Escudero in Tiaong, take right turn to Dolores. This is about 16 kilometers.
  • Upon reaching the arc in Brgy. Kinabuhayan, turn left uphill to Sitio Bangkong Kahoy.
Tips
  • Bring insect repellant. Although I did not experience mosquito bites in my stay, it is better to be prepared.
  • Bottled water for those who have sensitive tummies.
  • You may opt to bring food and beverages but these are all available there (spare yourself from the worries of overpacking).
  • Alcohol (check). Cigarettes (check). But if you have specific brands, better to bring your own provisions.
  • Bring your camera (or you'll regret it). Bring a book (if you opt to read). Picnic mat (if you plan to lay on the ground). Bring your diary (a must, or you'll regret it too).
  • Towel and toiletries.
  • Non-aircon cottages are priced at 2,000 to 3,000 but it can accommodate to up to 4pax.
  • Mountain Lodge rooms are priced at 6,500 for those who wish to experience a more luxurious accommodation.
  • There is also a function area designed with exquisite taste to accommodate high-end customers with exclusive activities.
  • Bring hiking/trekking shoes.


Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center
Sitio Bangkong Kahoy, Dolores, Quezon
Mobile: 09298198537 /09185093224