So there’s my dear friend Lee Carlos of Malasag House in Cagayan de Oro whom I fondly call as the “king of adventure in Northern Mindanao” — he’s led a few European stars to discover Mindanao, has worked with the local government to help develop tourism potentials he uncovered, he’s the man of the Malasag house and the breath-taking beachfront in Siargao, just to name a few — and he’s invited those friends closest to his heart to join him in his birthday. It’s always like that: on his birthday, he’s up for a new adventure – hunting for some undiscovered, pristine destinations you wouldn’t see in the pages of a travel guide. Of course this is the one call every year that was hard to resist for someone as free-spirited like me, but I had to say no this time because of an important job. And then he decides to postpone the party to wait for me, and that was that.
The evening dinner had a German flavor blending into home favorites – spaghetti, humba, a different twist of Bicol Express and a lot more with the centerpiece of Filipino dining, lechong baboy, putting smiles on everyone’s faces including Max and La Rissa, our German friends. Max had on the table this wet arrangement of sausages and balls called Sauerkraut while La Rissa capped the evening with her version of Black Forest – hers had these midget fruit sliced toppings, so you can just imagine what a colorful Black Forest it is. Then as a prelude to the King’s adventure, we belted Filipino and English songs while our German friends did theirs.
Saturday morning in Malasag House, a bed and breakfast haven, Ied me to Lee’s herb garden. At the deck overlooking the entire expanse of Cagayan de Oro’s bayview, I snatched a few minutes to read a few pages of Morgan Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety and performed the five steps of the Tibetan exercises I learned from this lady guru who lives in Camiguin Island. This spot in Malasag House became my corner of tranquility. The experience of a cool dawn in an herb garden is simply spiritual.
The call for breakfast came and the adventure king was already busy giving instructions of what to bring for our weekend discovery. Rhea, a Malasag princess, with a room in the house named after her was with me in thinking more of what to wear than what to bring. The fashionista in Rhea was in total expression as Max, the boy with the golden hair, was very much like the sunrise splendor that awakened all of us in this mountain slope rendezvous. I was in high spirits as well as Lee announced that the room I shared with Max will be named Mojo, my nickname since 2001. I would know friends’ time zone with me by the nickname they will use to call me: Mong for friends from the 1980s, Moe or Josh for friends from the 1990s and now it’s Mojo.
On the road to our weekend discovery, Rhea, and La Rissa joined me at the back of this pick-up adventure. Max had set a date with a lady he discovered on Facebook and he decided to just stay home as he did not want to miss what had been keeping him excited in this Philippine trip. Lee was driving and his lifetime partner Guus joined him by taking the leg-room in the frontseat. I started singing John Denver’s Country Road while beside me La Rissa was busy taking pictures of people and signs of Philippine countryside. I took the camera from her as she was lovely with the wind-blown hair and I became the camera man for this beautiful subject.
The road to Kahulugan Falls in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental was filled with scenic curves along rockwalls and river banks. I noticed the huge population of domestic goats and it was such a delight to see one brown-spotted family on a huge rock. I had my harvest of Marigold blooms and I helped Lee in his harvest of giant lilies. As we continued our upward journey, Lee shouted to announce that we were nearing the waterfalls and we started hearing the rushing sound of this glory in the sky. We stopped to park in this corner which was like in the middle of the rainforest and I ran to be on top of a rock and had my Tarzan moment with giant vines hanging from trees. It was time to make our final ascend and we had to cross the old hanging bridge. It was scary since it’s totally rusty, the wooden steps looked like each block is already decaying and too weak to hold us but the gleeful leading of Lee made us forget the fear of a possible fall. We danced with him as the swinging of the bridge was in perfect rhythm with the sounds of running water everywhere. Just a few more huge rocks to conquer and there it was: Kahulugan Falls — the ultimate reward. So high was the wide-rocky curved glory that framed Kahulugan and the entire expanse also framed the blue sky with the drama of cloud formation. It was indeed surreal that a dreamlike corner of the earth can just be found at the edge of a plateau in the highlands of Jasaan.
Back in Malasag House, I made this shout on my Facebook wall: “Northern Mindanao’s KING of Adventure LEE CARLOS of Malasag House led us to discover Kahulugan Falls in Jasaan last weekend. Definitely in my Top 10 list of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls. I hope the LGU can do something with the awful architecture of the totally neglected concrete development. Every Filipino MUST google and understand ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE, let’s stop mediocrity please….”
And that’s how this summer has started for me.