It was a few years back when I tried my very first MAD Travel Adventure in Zambales, and I found myself really enjoying it mainly because of the social enterprise’s platform. See, MAD Travel stands for Make A Difference – and that’s exactly what they’re doing! It aims to provide tourism to impoverished and marginalized communities, all while keeping in mind sustainable environmental practices and local community interaction. They’re a tour company which doesn’t just have profit in mind, they want to actually immerse the tourists in local practices and culture while implementing activities on the tour that have direct benefits. When I stumbled upon a post stating that MAD Travels will be opening a tour nearer to Manila, I quickly convinced my friends Raina and Erica to join me. Luckily, they said yes. To be honest, I would have gone whether or not they agreed but it still felt nice to have some good company.
I reserved a tour heading to Mount Purro Nature Reserve via MAD Travel’s guest reservation form. It is a tour curated in cooperation with the local Dumagat tribe of Rizal. It wasn’t too difficult of a travel seeing as how I was just coming back from a Blogger’s Night in Lily’s Vacation Farm House at Jala Jala Rizal. Some people can opt for the day trip option on the reservation form but you have to leave really early because the tour starts at 4:30 am ( well, depends on the season, in our case, sunrise was late so we started at 5 am) and Mount Purro Nature Reserve is roughly 2hours to 2.5 hours from Manila. To be honest, I would recommend the overnight stay because Mount Purro Nature Reserve has so much to offer that it would be best to have time to relax, be one with nature and have time to explore the grounds as well.
What is Mount Purro Nature Reserve?
Newcomers and visitors will learn all about the Mount Purro Nature Reserve, its history and its purpose in a short but meaningful video – but basically to provide a summary of events, Toto Malvar who is the owner of the nature reserve land at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges, turned the previously private and personal abode into a nature camp where individuals and groups from all over can visit and learn to be one with nature and the great outdoors. In addition to allowing people to surround themselves in greenery and the environment, the nature reserve also has some wonderful goals: to provide a source of livelihoods for the nearby communities in the vicinity like the indigenous peoples of the area (the Dumagats), and also encourage individuals to care for, and save the environment.
The Mount Purro Nature Reserve thus aims to become a sustainable eco-lodge, and it seems that they’re taking all the right steps to get there! The property is so lush and green we spent practically the entirety of our first day just exploring it.
The Property of Mount Purro Nature Reserve
Once you enter the property, you’ll immediately be met with endless greenery. There are trees and shrubs littered all over the area as far as the eye can see. The refreshing scent and chirping of the birds really hit you immediately as well, relaxing the senses instantly. The land is wide enough to do a variety of physical activities such as trekking and hiking, aside from the numerous amenities and facilities they have set up inside the reserve. Because their primary advocacy is to decrease carbon footprint and save the environment, they have a very efficient and almost entirely paperless system in place – so if you want to keep a map of the whole property around with you, you can take a picture of it in the lobby where a huge map is printed.
The Grounds of Mount Purro Nature Reserve
The Nature Reserve has lots of facilities and amenities to keep guests entertained and occupied throughout their stay.
The Game Room
They also have a game room with all sorts of indoor games you can play with friends like billiards, ping pong and sungka. There was also a foosball table which Raina and I enjoyed playing a lot. Aside from the games, there’s also a lot of ample space to just lounge around and chat for a little while, basking in the refreshing ambience.
The Swimming Pool
They have a big swimming pool – the water is also just right. Brings you right back into nature with all the nipa huts around.
The Children’s Play Area
A really nice and creative play area, and even a mud kitchen! Your children will definitely have fun, and I bet even the adults will. The slides look fun and the wooden playhouses are well-built and intricate, with nets and bridges perfect for hours and hours of play.
There are also some cozy cabanas littered around the property, with throw pillows and a small sit-down table perfect for dates or even just a chill place to lounge with your friends.
The Loli’s Kitchen serves meals at the nature reserve. Breakfast and dinner are buffets, with dinner costing PHP 500 per head while breakfast is PHP 400 per person. PM snack costs 150 and they have a variety of different meals – one of which I saw was lugaw. For dinner, they serve up comfort food like roast beef, fried chicken, pasta, pulvoron, cheese macaroni and much more! As for breakfast, they have typical Filipino food such as champorado, tuyo, tapa, tomatoes, pancakes, etc. They have really good food. Outside food aside from light snacks are not allowed inside the property so its best to set aside some money to pay for the food at Loli’s.
Mad Travels Tour
In accordance with the setup of MAD Travels tour, we checked into our dorm rooms located at the edge of the property. The floor consists of two large rooms divided into two, and there are several bunk beds to cater to all the guests who have also availed of the MAD Travels tour. They had five shower areas and more than ample toilets, so it wasn’t much of a hassle getting ready for the day at all. If you don’t like the dorms, there’s always an option to upgrade if you’d like, but I didn’t personally mind. It’s a good way to get to know the people you’ll be doing activities with the next day. Plus, it makes it easier to mobilize in the morning.
At 4:30 in the morning our alarms finally rang, indicating it was time for us to get up and get started. Sunrise was at 6:40 that day, so we could start our tour at around 5:00 AM.
1st Activity: Sunrise Hike to Malvar Peak
Our day began with a hike up to Malvar Peak. All in all it’ll take you a total of around 1 hour to get to the top of the Malvar Peak. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s manageable – although it might be a little difficult for first time climbers. The trek begins from inside the property and is a steady uphill climb through a designated hiking path. It consists of two rest stops – be sure to use the restroom before you start hiking as there are no comfort rooms available. We were led by Kuya Rodel.
Keep walking until you see the grotto, marking the first rest stop!
Keep in mind that you’ll be walking in the dark before sunrise starts to settle in so make sure to:
- Bring a headlamp. Others used their phones but if you prefer a hands-free trek, then a headlamp would be much more convenient.
- Insect Repellant
- Long pants or leggings to protect yourself from bites and scratches in case you topple over.
- Don’t bring any thick clothes – it might be cold in the morning but the physical activity and warming temperatures as the sun rises will heat you right up immediately.
After the first break, get ready to walk steadily uphill all over again until you reach the designated water stop. Drink up, as you need to stay hydrated – especially since this point, is the point of no return. The trek continues on and on which might be tiring for beginners as there is no option for stop and rest as it might delay the other members on the tour. Just keep moving, but stay at a manageable pace and slow down if you wish. We had Kuya Rodel and a sweeper to check on everyone in case anybody got too tired or sick, thankfully. This time we had Raf from MAD Travels as our sweeper.
As we continued on our trek, I remember hearing Kuya Rodel shouting out, “Final assault!”, indicating we were closer to the peak. We got so excited, to the point where I wanted to run. The trek wasn’t what I would call super challenging but it definitely wasn’t anything to scoff at as well.
The view from the top was incredible! The swirling mixture of orange and pink behind the clouds, as well as the Sierra Madre and valleys in the foreground down below. It was just amazing! We took some photos and a moment to stare and breath in and out to recover our energy for the walk back down.
We began our descent but do be warned as it can be slippery depending on the weather. We went during the dry season so there was a lot of loose soil but I could imagine it being muddier during seasons with heavy rains – but nonetheless, it was doable. We got down in less than hour with breakfast as motivation in the back of our minds.
However, when we reached the base of the mountain, Kuya Rodel insisted we do a short cool down session to ease our tensed up muscles, which is good practice.
2nd Activity: Movie Briefing
Before we ate breakfast, we had a movie briefing. It’s a short yet powerful movie explaining all about how the Mount Purro Nature Reserve advocacy all began. 27 or so years ago, many people in the mountain area practiced kaingin (burning down trees), as well as cutting down trees for their wood and charcoal. Reforestation occurred but people still continued to cut trees as a means of profit and livelihood. This lack of trees was said to contribute greatly to the floods that pillaged the area during the tragic typhoon Ondoy back in 2009. In fact, when the floodwaters were analyzed, it was discovered that the mixed in sediments originate from the upper Marikina watershed where Mount Purro is part of. If there were enough trees in the area and deforestation had not occurred, a good amount of flooding might have been prevented. What Toto Malvar did, inspired by his mother, was buy the 36 hectares and turn it into a private property where he could plant a multitude of trees, banning trespassing so he could turn it into a sustainable nature eco-trail.
But that’s not all Toto Malvar wanted – he didn’t just want to plant trees, he also wanted to plant seeds into the hearts of the people, the community living in the vicinity of Mount Purro. Why? Because if the community is cared for, then they also care for the environment and the lands would not have been depleted in order for the local people to survive. And so, Toto Malvar provided other means of livelihood for the indigenous communities around the area so they need not cut down nature to feed themselves anymore.
He stated that we must change the vision of the Dumagats, because they won’t understand us if they are hungry. To take care of the forest, you have to take care of the people.
Among the many amazing things previously stated, here’s some more of that Toto Malvar and his team accomplished, and continue to accomplish:
- Construct a deep well with the help of gravity, providing water to the people
- Establish a doctor’s clinic and pharmacy in the area
- Giving the Dumagats work to help them earn a wage and survive
- Earning through tourism and visitors
- Sustainable travel
- Watershed rehabilitation
- Waste Segregation program
- Energy conservation – No television and air conditioning. You have to pay for a towal for the hostel. (PHP 50)
3rd Activity: Tree Planting
We hiked up again for around 15 minutes and started planting trees around the area using some gardening spades. One thing we learned when planting tree saplings is that it’s best to plant them under the already grown and sturdy trees, under their shades so they don’t get too exposed to the sun and end up dying.
4th Activity: Interaction with the Dumagats
Finally, it was time for our interaction with the local indigenous peoples of the area, the Dumagats. Visitors will get to know all about their daily lives as well as everyday tasks. They taught us how to cook sinigang and pandan rice via the use of just materials found in nature such as sticks, stones, and bamboo! They would place the leafy greens inside the bamboo to cook them through, which was a really interesting little trick – and they don’t even use matches to create fire, they do it manually. After they finish their cooking demonstration, everyone gets to have a try of the delicious food.
While eating, we listened to their stories about their past and history concerning Mount. Purro and the vicinity. I played with the kids and we packed fruit seeds to plant for them. Mang Nicanor even sang for us, along with guitar accompaniment! It was really fun.
4th Activity: Boodle Fight Lunch
For lunch, we had boodle fight style dining, where all of the food was laid out on a banana leaf and we ate with our hands. We were provided with so much food, so we invited the Dumagats to come and eat with us.
5th Activity – Time to Say Goodbye
After our amazing and educational experience provided by the nature reserve and MAD Travels, we finally had to pack our bags and say goodbye to the staff and all the new locals we had just met. Without a doubt, the Mount. Purro Nature Reserve is a wonderful place to visit if you love nature and the environment – imagine, the number of trees that the founder has planted could have prevented many tragic floods, and will likely do so in the near future.
How to get there:
Via public transportation:
- Take a jeep going to Cogeo from Aurora Boulevard/Marcos Highway
- From Cogeo, take another jeep going to Paenaan
- Ask the driver to drop you off at Kanto Veterans
- From Kanto Veterans, ride two tricycles to the Mount Purro Nature Reserve
Via private transportation:
- Take the Aurora Boulevard/Marcos Highway and keep going straight until you reach the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape
- Enter the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape and keep going straight
- Take a left at Kanto Veterans
- Turn left at Marcos S. Garcia Road
- Keep going straight at Barangay Calawis, following the cemented road until you reach the Mount Purro Nature Reserve
I really enjoyed my experience with MAD Travels at Mount. Purro – they are creating a homey place for people to enjoy and be brought closer to nature, plus they are helping out the local communities and tribes, interacting directly and closely with them. It’s a win-win situation. Much more, Mount. Purro is easily accessible, being just 2 hours away from Manila.