Mountains and Volcanoes

There is No Papaya in Papaya River


JP Anthony D. Cuñada
JP Anthony D. Cuñada | Mar 28, 2016
There is No Papaya in Papaya River

Until we were in the bus terminal station in Cubao, I did not know where Papaya River and Mt. Tarak were. I was too excited to climb another mountain that its location didn’t matter to me. After Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal, and Mt. Makiling in Los Baños, Laguna, Mt. Tarak was our third practice climb to Mt. Apo.

To the ridge: Me, Lloyd, Erg, Darlene, Carlo, and Marielle

At about 11 am, the bus dropped us off in Barangay Alas-asin in Mariveles, Bataan. We paid P40/each for the barangay registration fee, ate our lunch in a store by the highway, and at 12:30 in the afternoon, started scaling Mt. Tarak.

I carried a tent, an earth pad, a sleeping bag, about 2 liters of liquid, 1.5 liters of water for cooking, and my personal things. I stuffed them in my 70-liter bag. Mt. Tarak was my bag’s first mountain. She was heavy. My legs ached. I was glad the group consisting of Erg, Carlo, Lloyd, Marielle, Darlene, Lucille and I decided to camp by Papaya River.

Trek break under the shade of a small tree

It didn’t rain. Otherwise, the trail could have been muddy and slippery. We were happy to thread on the trail with very fine dust, on portions were there were no trees.

Since our first practice climb in Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal, I’ve been noticing huge trees. Who wouldn’t notice huge trees anyway? Aside from their size, they cool the surroundings not only because of the shade they provide but perhaps also because of the oxygen that they breathe out. But I noticed them more after I read an article about trees as social beings that communicate and take care of each other. When in Mt. Daraitan I had been more curious with trees, I fell in love with them in Mt. Makiling. Now in Mt. Tarak, I hugged them. I even asked one how old it was, but I didn’t hear it answer, which was a good thing I guess.

What’s so different about the trees in Mt. Tarak compared to the last two mountains we climbed were the roots. In Mt. Tarak, I saw many trees whose roots spread on the ground. Perhaps it speaks of what was beneath the earth which I suspect were boulders. On our way to the summit from Papaya River, there were roots as large as my legs that wind on the trail.

When we get closer to nature–be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree–we do our overstressed brains a favor.


After two and a half hours walk from the highway, we arrived by Papaya River (there’s no papaya there, by the way). Looking back, I wondered why did I carry an extra 1.5 liters of water when we have this river as our water source? Bad idea.

There were already two or three groups of hikers who set up camp on the highest portion beside the river. We settled below, on a flat and wider surface to accommodate our four tents. After we pitched our tents, we dipped in the cool waters of the river. After a while, our father, este, Erg called us for the dinner he prepared. Sinigang na baboy with taro and mustasa leaves (sorry, we were so hungry we forgot to take a picture), and adobong baboy. Mountaineers will tell you that all food are delicious in the mountains. But the food prepared by Erg with planning and attention to details a few days before our climb were a feast:  the adobo was cooked, and was made to settle and soak to absorb the sauce, and the pork in the sinigang were cooked and frozen to preserve them and to save on cooking-time and gas. So was crispy daing na bangus which Erged himself deboned and served us for breakfast the following morning.

Pitching our tent


Lloyd helps Carlo pitch his tent while Erg prepares our dinner


Daing na bangus soaked in sauce with spices

Over dinner, Marielle subjected me to a lot of questions that I was so embarrassed not to have answered. Questions like, “ano’ng hayop ang di pa tapos magluto?”; or “use 'dinuguan' in a sentence”, or “use 'enough' in a sentence.” Lloyd showed me that the cover of a jellyace can be easily peeled off using a fore finger and a thumb than by biting it.

The clear water of Papaya River
(Photo by Marielle)

Conversations like these kept us awake until about 8 pm. The following morning, we woke up at 4 am and climbed the summit of Mt. Tarak which was about 1.5 hours walk from Papaya River, our camp site. It was during this trek to the summit in the early hours of March 20, 2016 that I appreciated the wisdom of not pushing ahead and setting our camp on the summit of Mt. Tarak. The trek could have been more difficult with the heavy pack I was carrying. Steep terrain with sharp rocks is never friendly to people with heavy packs.

We had so much fun taking pictures even before we reached the summit. We were on a ridge. The cliff on the sides, and the mountain trail behind, make for a breathtaking background that Lucille who hated to be the subject of photographs, agreed to pose for photos. We were so happy with the beautiful view we wanted to remain there. Gladly, there was Carlo who insisted that we climb the summit. So, we did.

Happy Carlo jumps on the boulder

We returned to our camp at 9 am or 4.5 hours after we left for the summit. Erg, who was gracious enough to stay behind in the camp to watch over our things and to cook, served us coffee and his crispy daing na bangus. During breakfast, Marielle again asked me questions like: “ano’ng sinabi ng isda noong niluto na siya,” “ano’ng sinabi ng isda nang mahiwa?”, “ano’ng kotse ng mga sosyal,” “ano’ng kotse ng mga mas sosyal?” and “ano’ng kotse ang gamit ng mga suki ng mga tindera?” Darlene also had her own riddle: “May bayong, mabigat pero walang laman. Bakit?” And a question: “Ano’ng sabi ng inang donut sa anak niyang munchkin na umakyat sa Tarak Ridge?”

After breakfast, we begged to rest for awhile before we packed-up and went down. On the way, I discovered that if I joined my fingers together and lifted my pack from behind, the pain in my legs went away.

By 1 pm, we were back on the highway, had lunch, and cleaned up. By 3 pm we were in a bus back to Manila. One more mountain for our practice climb and we hope to be ready for the highest mountain, Mt. Apo, come April.

Here are the answers to some of Marielle’s questions:

  • Ano’ng hayop ang di pa tapos magluto? Naglulu tupa.
  • Use dinuguan in a sentence. Why did you turn off the switch, dinugguan.
  • Use enough in a sentence. Bakit mo enough ang light?
  • Ano’ng sinabi ng isda noong niluluto na siya? I’m daing.
  • Ano’ng sinabi ng isda nang mahiwa? I’m tuna.
  • Ano’ng kotse ng mga sosyal? Hon duh.
  • Ano’ng kotse ng mga mas sosyal? Mas duh
  • Kotseng favorite ng mga tindera. Suzuki.
  • Answer to the bayong riddle: puro taba walang laman.
  • To the donut question: Bavarian, anak.


(First published on as "There is No Papaya in Papaya River" on March 22, 2016.)

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