A New Form of Tourism
Location: Tanay, Rizal
When I stay in the Philippines, I always have one goal in mind. That goal is to explore the country as much as I can and discover new places. While Boracay may sound like a great choice, it is a choice most people make. What I want is a place away from other tourists, away from the sounds of buses and jeepneys. I wanted to escape. While the Philippines is known for its beaches, its beauty has more to offer.
Through searching online, I saw many bloggers posting breathtaking pictures of Masungi Georeserve. It has recently gained traction and popularity, especially to millennials, with its unique rock formations and trails. But what I found special was how they treated the area, the employees, and the guests. In this age, I believe tourism is beginning to lose its form, changing places, away from its pure landscape. Instead of portraying the true nature of an environment it becomes embellished with buildings, roads, and people. More prominently, markings and tracks.
One of the distinct features of Masungi is that it diverges from the conventional tourism. While it is atypical from lounging and relaxing at spas or lavish hotels it brings excitement and an adventure with its ropes courses and trails. It is able to stay true to the spirit of tourism, which is showcasing a place to those who might have not otherwise discovered it themselves.
Right at the moment you see the front entrance of the Georeserve, you begin to notice the mission of Masungi. The only sign or marking for the entrance was their logo and nothing else. The sign was so well hidden and discrete that we passed it and had to ask locals for directions. The staff said it was to prevent visitors from doing walk-ins tours as it had to be reserved 1-2 weeks ahead. They also wanted to keep the number of people to a minimum to create a serene experience for guests.
Once you arrive and check in, you receive an orientation of the tour, backpacks, and helmets, for crawling under rocks. In tour, there will be a park ranger to accompany the group in the trail. They not only seek to ensure the safety of guests but also the maintenance of the georeserve. These tours usually last 2-3 hours depending on how fast and how long the group wish to take. The trek navigates through the whole park with highlight points through bridges, mountains, caves, and rope courses. Each of these stops vary from another and provides that perfect insta worth shot.
Despite the views on mountain peaks, what fascinated me was the commitment to the equal treatment of guests and the cleanliness of the environment. From the beginning to the end of the tour, they reminded guests to not tip the guides to ensure that everyone gets the same experience. This was a rare site for me, especially in country that depends heavily on tourism and where tips are the norm. Similarly, the design of the trail was made to embrace the surroundings and adapt to the environment. The whole trail is lined with rocks and concrete block to not only ease the trek, but to minimize the markings made. Most of the structures used in Masungi are artistically designed from natural materials other than the safety wires and rails.
Silayan Dinning Room
After the trek, Masungi offers an exclusive fresh and gourmet dinning experience at Silayan. This restaurant is within the property and about 5-10 minutes away from the reserve entrance. As with the trail, they also strive and continue to be conservative and self-conscious. Most of the food served here are made to order and sourced from local producers around Masungi. With a new curated menu each season and a 360 view of the Laguna de Bay, the Susong Dalaga Mountains, and the City you can guarantee a unforgettable meal. Although this experience is an additional charge and requires reservation, the intimate setting for trail guests and its remoteness from the cityscape makes all the worth.
To those experienced thrill seekers to the novice tourists, Masungi Georeserve gives the best of both worlds. From its towering rope courses to the picturesque views on the peaks, the trail also provides the perfect harmony for locals and foreigners to experience. While visitors are not on sand nor near the ocean, they are surrounded by limestone formations, spectacular views, and closer to nature. It may not exactly be a road less traveled for regular mountaineers or hikers, it is a road that should be traveled by. More tourist destinations should follow the operation and commitment of places like Masungi when feasible. Places that not only showcase the natural beauty of the Philippines, but also display how to love and keep these wonders. All 7107 islands is filled with hidden gems like Masungi, and they only last with true care for nature, staff, and visitors eager to discover them.