Mt. Palaopao in Sumilao: A Rocky Adventure

Not in Scotland, Ireland or New Zealand. This rocky adventure turned out to be a great blessing for me. With Palaopao as my favorite mountain, I can always say “Wala’y makalapaw sa Mt. Palaopao (Nothing beats Mt. Palaopao)!”

 

Location:  Mt. Palaopao, Sitio Palaopao,  Sumilao, Bukidnon

Access Point: Sumilao Public Market/Bus Terminal, Sayre Highway, Sumilao, Bukidnon

Mode of Transportation: Bus/Private Ride

Arrangement: You need to ask permission from the Purok Leader of Sitio Palaopao.

Entrance: Php 20.00; Guide: Php 250.00

Activity/Attractions: Hiking/Trekking

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Photo credit: PH Locator

Since I was a child, Mt. Palaopao has been my favorite mountain and it has captured my heart since the first time I saw it.  Standing at 836 ft above sea level, it is also dubbed as Palaopao Hills because of a chain of mountains in it. When traveling to CDO, I can always see this from the highway and it made me feel like it was from another place outside of our country, like those seen in the movies. I didn’t know a lot of people hike here, especially during the Holy Week, until my best friend asked me to join the climb. I said yes of course!

I saw someone who posted on facebook about Palaopao Hills with a caption “not in Scotland, Ireland or New Zealand… but in Mt. Palaopao”. True enough, this rocky mountain resembles those mountains seen in the aforementioned countries. With this fact, I couldn’t help but go and climb this mountain for the love of exercise, hiking, photography, nature and God. Why go to these countries when you haven’t been to Palaopao yet? But of course, I would love to visit these countries someday.

Bukidnon is home to 4 of the Philippines’ top 10 highest peaks– Mt. Dulang-dulang, Mt. Kitanglad, Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Maagnaw. If you are not yet prepared to climb these peaks, or do not have enough time, most hikers/bloggers would recommend you to climb Mt. Palaopao and Mt. Capistrano. I also added Mt. Musuan (Musuan Peak) to the day hike list.

From Valencia City, we took a bus going to Sumilao. We started traveling at 7 am and arrived past 8 am. Before starting our this rocky adventure, we stopped by and ate our breakfast at the food court of Sumilao Public Market.

To be able to go to the mountain, we need to hike through the wet market. In here, we were able to observe the way of life of the people.

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Wet market with Palaopao Hills on the back.
Before we even climbed there, we took pictures as we were amazed of our favorite mountain.

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With my best friend, Ai-ai, who also loves to climb mountains.
We passed by the rice fields and were able to observe the livelihood of the people living here.

At this point, we were able to have an overview of Mt. Palaopao. As one blog stated “it is deceitful yet breathtaking”. It is deceitful because you need to go down into a gorge, then go up again to a community to be able to arrive on the foot of the mountain.

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Just wow! What a beautiful view! The first 2 mountains on the left side is where we will be trekking.
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Hiking down, a lovely view awaited us. We passed the Kulaman River through a hanging bridge.

We finally arrived at this small community in the foot of the hills for about an hour.

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We had to wait for a few minutes for the Purok Leader so we can get the permit. This is necessary so that the purok leader will know that a group of people (with names listed) went up the hills and also for security purposes. We also asked a kid, Marvin, to be our guide. We started our hiking at past 10 am and passed by these places.

2015-10-02 09.25.05-1There were only three of us who hiked in this mountain plus the guide. Since this was planned just a day before, we weren’t about to prepare physically. So that I really palpitated. On day hikes, especially for open trails which was very hot for us, it’s very important to be well hydrated to avoid or minimize discomforts. Thankfully, nothing happened to me. We just hiked at our own pace and my buddies were very patient enough to wait for me. So that it’s really important to have a regular exercise program.

We had a glimpse of of the rocky mountain on the first part of our hike.

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Not in Scotland, Ireland or New Zealand.

We arrived on the top of one hill and saw this wonderful view with the thought in my mind, “If God can make the nature beautiful, then He can certainly make our lives beautiful too.”

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Going further is the cross stationed on this hill.

On our right side is the rocky part of the mountain. One can notice this when you are traveling to Cagayan De Oro city along the highway.

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On this side of Mt. Palaopao, the lime stone wall.
And of course, you wouldn’t want to miss taking a picture on this angle.

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Lime stone wall of Mt. Palaopao.
We hiked further going to the top of that rocky side. You can see the community on the foot of the mountain from this part here.

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Finally we arrived on the top of the mountain. It took us about 2 hours from the foot of the mountain (with rests). We spent at total of 3 hours together with the waiting time and our hike from the public market. We discovered through an article that, before,  the top part of the mountain was covered with virgin forest. The side contained caves, rock shelters, lime stones overhangs containing wooden coffin and artifacts which can be traced back to metal age. Wow, this must be like Sagada before.

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The locals also told us that the place used to be submerged in water (perhaps hundreds/thousands of years ago). Thus, the term Palaopao from the Cebuano word “lapaw” which means spill or overflow. This would also explain the rock formations which are coral-like; thus, it may really be possible that this place was submerged before.

We arrived past 12 pm and ate our lunch at this rocky top. I settled myself on a tree where I enjoyed the view. My buddies settled themselves on the rocks.

We cherished the time spent here by meditating, reading, relaxing and sleeping for 1 hour plus. It was worth it!

Beware: There may be snakes around here so just be careful. We find one but we saw it first and it was a bit distant from where we were hanging out. Thankfully, we weren’t harmed and this didn’t hinder us from enjoying.

Reflections:

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    “I am the way, the truth and the life…” John 14:4
    The only way is the way to the cross. People come here during the Holy Week as their pilgrimage. Such is paralleled with our Christian walk. Life is a journey; but the only way for us not to be lost in this world is to look to the cross for this is the only way. On our way going up, we saw the cross and we were sure we are going the right way.

 

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    “The Lord is my rock…” Psalm 18:2
    I always love to read while in nature. This made me more receptive to spiritual lessons. In time for this rocky adventure is the statement I came across with, saying, “Are our feet planted on the rock of God’s immutable word?” This is a thought-provoking and sobering question. Do our daily decisions reveal that we are founded on God’s immutable word? or do our reading of His word not manifested in our lives at all?
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    “I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
    Where do weary hearts go? To the mountains. Why? Because Jesus is there. Don’t get me wrong here. But I believe that when we are in nature, we think of the Creator and it makes us more likely to contemplate about Him. Hiking means work and obstacles. So that being at the top of the mountain means success, overcoming and REST. At this time, I was able to find the solace and rest that I needed.  Indeed, I purposely came here to take away the stress as science would prove it very helpful. But most of all, I came here to commune with my Savior, the only One who can give me rest.

It was past 1 pm when we started going down.This is the view on the top of the mountain with my trekking buddies.

We went back to our trail.We need to cross again this area in order to go back.

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Friendship Goals.
Because we couldn’t get enough of the beauty of Palaopao…..

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…..we took pictures again.
We stayed for awhile in the community, rested and asked for water. We crossed again Kulaman River Bridge.

This rocky adventure turned out to be a great blessing for me. With Palaopao as my favorite mountain, I can always say “Wala’y makalapaw sa Mt. Palaopao (Nothing beats Mt. Palaopao)!”.

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The mountain in four vantage points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musuan Peak: The Most One

It was told that two lovers committed suicide in this place. As time went by, the place where they were buried rose up and became a mountain. A foreigner visited this place and was accompanied by the natives. When the foreigner arrived at the top of the peak, in utter amazement of the view, he exclaimed, “the most one”.

Location:  Musuan Peak, Central Mindanao University, Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon

Access Point: Sayre Highway, Musuan, Bukidnon (Near Philippine Carabao Center)

Mode of Transportation: Public Utility Vehicle (Bus, Jeep, Multicab)/Private Ride. *Can be hiked if you are from CMU, Musuan or Valencia City.

Arrangement: Entrance Php 20.00 with free use of Comfort Room. No need for a guide.

Activity/Attractions: Hiking/Trekking/Biking

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Musuan is located in Maramag, Bukidnon. Photo credit: PH Locator

We always tend to go to far places to discover them but I also believe that discovering our own place can be very exciting and fun. So I intentionally write about an attraction in my hometown in order to share to other people that they can come visit here. If you are living around Musuan or Dologon or even in Valencia, one’s eyes can’t get off Musuan Peak for it can be seen from these vantage points.

 This mountain is actually one of the 22 active volcanoes in our country belonging to the Pacific Ring of Fire according to PHIVOLCS. It stands at 2, 119 ft (646 m) above sea level. There were reported eruptions in 1866 and 1867; and seismic activities in 1976 and 2011. I used to hike Musuan Peak when I was still small and even promised at that time that I will not go back to this peak again. You see, “love your own” never occurred to me at that time. But I never fully appreciated this peak until I grow up and engaged myself in hiking and tripping. I think I’ve climbed this peak for 20 times more or less. Bukidnon is home to 4 of the Philippines’ top 10 highest peaks– Mt. Dulang-dulang, Mt. Kitanglad, Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Maagnaw. If you are not yet prepared to climb these peaks, or do not have enough time, most hikers/bloggers would recommend you to climb Mt. Palaopao and Mt. Capistrano. And I would like to add Mt. Kalayo (which means Fire Mountain) or Musuan Peak (Mount Musuan) in that list should you have shorter time or if you are just starting your hobby on hiking.

A brief legend of Musuan Peak goes like this. It was told that two lovers committed suicide in this place. As time went by, the place where they were buried rose up and became a mountain. A foreigner visited this place and was accompanied by the natives. When the foreigner arrived at the top of the peak, in utter amazement of the view, he exclaimed, “the most one”. He found everything very beautiful from the top. The natives kept repeating what he said but because they couldn’t speak it the way that he did, they pronounced it instead as “mus-wan”. Later on, this became the name of the peak, thus Musuan Peak. As what they said, this is a legend.

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The start of the trail going to Musuan Peak.

Upon entrance to the peak, you will pay your entrance fee and write the names of those who will go for hike. You can find on your left side, beside the entrance, a Zoological and Botanical Garden although this wasn’t really maintained through time. Be sure that you have your drinking water with you because there is scarcely a water source at the peak. You may also use the comfort room for your convenience before hiking.

Be sure to bring a hat if you are hiking during midday or afternoon. Musuan peak is one of those very accessible peaks especially for impulsive hikes or nature trips. It can get very crowded during lenten season or holidays. But normally, you can enjoy the peak on your own on non-peak season.

There are two ways to climb the peak. You can go by the main road (where you can also go biking). This is good for relaxed or leisure walks where there’s no time constraint. You may be able to reach the peak in 1 hour with rests.  The second way is that you can trek at the short cuts though this can cause tachycardia (fast heartbeat) on your part. This is applicable if you want an intense hike or if you want to reach the peak in 3o minutes more or less.

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The shape of Musuan Peak is likened to this Conical Shaped Rice Farmer’s Hat.  Photo credit: 123RF

The shape of the mountain is likened to a conical shaped rice farmer’s hat. Upon going up the peak, you can start to see different wonderful views, the plains, rice fields, highways and the adjacent peaks. It’s nice to have a morning walk here where you can see the sunrise and experience the freshness of the air.

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Overlooking CMU and the rice fields.
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The hardly recognizable sea of clouds from afar.

This is on the way to the peak after conquering the base part of the mountain. Sometimes, it can also get foggy here depending on what season you climbed.

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Nearing the peak, you can see pine trees along the way.

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There is also a short cut here.

When you are almost on the top, you can see clearly the surrounding mountains, view of CMU, Valencia and the Sayre highway.

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Bukidnon feels.
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Last curve going up.
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The view when it is foggy.

And finally, after how many minutes, you are able to say “Thank God” upon arrival at the peak at the same time wiping your sweat. You will be welcomed by the barking of the dogs here but they are tied.

There are cottages where you can eat, sit and relax. And view decks too.They are located on the lower and uppermost part, so you can just choose wherever you want to hang out.  You have all the time here to do whatever you like. Just be mindful of not leaving any trash behind.

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View deck and cottage on the uppermost part near the tower.

This is also found on the lower park of the peak.

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It isn’t surprising to see vandalism here on the cottages though it is highly discouraged. Perhaps, people come here to vent out their feelings which may not be socially and environmentally acceptable all the time. I strongly discourage vandalism but reading through some of what the people write in here makes me laugh sometimes.

 

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It says, “Wala’y 4ever (forever)”. The person who wrote this don’t believe in the concept of forever such as that popularized by the Philippine soap opera Forevermore.

Reflections:

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The view of Musuan Peak from College Park, Musuan, Bukidnon.

I don’t know about the others who went here, but for me, going up in this peak has always been therapeutic. The ambiance, cool breeze, surrounding views, being able to reflect, the comfort of being in your hometown– all these contribute to “the most one” concept.  Granting the Musuan legend is true, the foreigner must have these things in mind (at least) when he said “most one”. This place has really been the most one. Truly, this peak, the view, is scenic, giving you a soothing relief from all cares. So when you are up in the peak, do not go down right away. Enjoy the peak, the view and live for the moment and listen to what God wants to impress on your heart of the spiritual lessons from nature.

 

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A view of Musuan Peak from Lumbo.

There may be other places where we can say “most one” though Musuan has really gotten it’s title. But when I think of the concept of “most one”, I couldn’t help but attribute it to God- our most one (who can give us “most one” and Musuan), lover of our soul and the one with the greatest love able to sacrifice everything for us. When we talk of the place where we can say it is the most one, it is truly in the feet of Jesus where we can cast our burdens and cares. How wonderful it is to be able to reflect God’s love in my own Musuan Peak. It’s just reassuring. Sweet. And tranquilizing.

So as we enjoy Musuan Peak, may we also enjoy God– the most one.

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View of Musuan Peak from Pacangan.

Going down the peak will usually take 15-30 minutes. This means a lot of control on your part going down since it seems to be unstoppable sometimes.

And finally, there is a feeling of accomplishment when you arrive at the entrance.

For those who usually climb this peak, you may notice the new tire swing on the side.

If you are not vegan, you can visit the Philippine Carabao Center and drink fresh milk and some of its products which is just nearby Musuan Peak entrance.

Enjoy Musuan Peak! And don’t forget to come again.

 

 

 

Impasugong’s Communal Ranch: A Cowgirl’s Day Out

I feel regretful after going to this place.

Location: Capitan Bayong, Impasugong, Bukidnon

Access Point: Capitan Bayong, Sayre Highway

Mode of Transportation: Motorcycle/Private Ride (four-wheel vehicle)

Arrangement: No entrance fee but needs permission from the Municipal Hall.

Activity: Horse Riding (Php 250.00 per person for one horse with cowboy; unlimited).

Contact Person: Mr. Allen Baculbacul, Chief Cowboy (0935-740-0821)

When one is traveling from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro and sees this landmark (below) on the right side of the road, one knows that he is in the Home of the Country’s Finest Cowboys, Impasugong, Bukidnon.

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A family trip years ago. We stopped by at The Giant Statues of Dancers of Kaamulan Tribe at Impasugong.

Impasugong is dear to my heart because of a dear friend who is residing here in this place. The name Impasugong actually means “current that flows upstream” and this came from a Higaonon term. This is not surprising because the place is truly blessed with natural resources including mountains, rivers, falls, spring, forests, ravines and more. That’s why this place really captured my heart.

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Map of Impasugong, Bukidnon.

One place that I’ve been really wanting to visit though is the Communal Ranch at Capitan Bayong, Impasugong. For the record, this is the only government-owned ranch in the country which totals to 642 hectares. It is also known for being a Cinema Capital because of its motion picture-perfect scenery. A film entitled “Love Me Again” by Piolo Pascual and Angel Locsin was filmed in this place.

I have a privilege to have a veterinary doctor friend who arranged the permission for us. It was 10 am when I arrived at Capitan Bayong. Together with my friends, we started travelling heading to the Communal Ranch. You need to enter on this spot (found near RNPS Enterprises)  and turn left when you arrive at the intersection.

You still need to travel for a few minutes on a cemented road.

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As you go along, you will see a curve on the road and a few meters after, turn right upon arriving in this area.This is the first intersection after the curve.

The road going up is not that good and not cemented. There are big rocks and uneven surfaces but we survived!

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The road going up.

On the way, I noticed that I haven’t really seen much of Impasugong’s beauty. Its not even half of what I see in the highway when I travel from Bukidnon-CDO.

We were amazed of the views slowly unfolding before our eyes.

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The entrance of the Communal Ranch.

A wonderful view welcomed us. The deep ravines, majestic mountains, the verdure and brown fields combined and more were such beautiful sights to behold. I just couldn’t stop myself from saying “Wow!” for how many times.

This is where cows are kept but at this time they are grazing in the fields.

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We waited for awhile for our horse riding activity while the cowboys are preparing the horses in the stall. Before me is a mountain range which is perfect in its beauty. We went here at the time when it’s approaching summer so that the color is brown and not green.

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My view while waiting. The mountain range is my favorite part in this scenery.

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The photo above is the house where we ate our lunch. People who wants to spend the night here can rent this whole house for a night with the price of about Php 1,500.00 (as verbalized to me). You have to  bring your own mattresses and sleeping gears though as this is not fully furnished. They told me that you should bring blankets here as this place can get very cold at night should you plan to sleep over.

I mounted myself to the saddle with enthusiasm, very excited for the day’s activity. The cowboy told me that doing a proper mount and being able to balance yourself skillfully is the first step in riding a horse. One reminder though: when approaching a horse, you need to approach it from the front and not from behind because this may threaten them and they have the tendency to kick you. You don’t want this to happen, not ever!

I secured my feet to the stirrups.  Somehow, I was taught on the basics of horse riding. Kuya Jun-Jun, the cowboy, told me that for a horse to start on walking you need to make a certain sound “Tsk. tsk.” together with a kick of your one foot on its side. You need to hold the whip and just guide the horse with the direction you want him to go.  The ride went on smoothly though my horse didn’t walk that much at first. The highlight of it all, I enjoyed the views along the way.

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River in between the mountains flowing in a fashionable manner. What a beauty!

After beholding this view, we went up to a hill in order to see a clearer and more beautiful view.

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I went up to this hill riding in a horse.

At this time, I had a closer look with these beautiful mountains arrayed in brownish-greenish colors with trees in between. There were burnt parts as it is approaching summer and we were told it could get burned with the heat of this season.

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The cones of the mountains in different sizes and shapes appeal a lot to my senses. It’s just naturally beautiful! They told me that its more beautiful if we went here when everything is verdant in color. But I told them I still appreciate the brownish color and I don’t know why.

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One of my favorite spots. The mountains with river in between.*

I couldn’t let the trip pass by without posing for a picture with my horse.

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A horse with a name– Runner Chief.*

After seeing these views, we went back on our way going to the house for the lunch break.

While riding, I asked a few questions to Kuya Jun-jun, the cowboy. He told me that he also joins contests in rodeos. Also, he mentioned that he was injured a lot for times from horse back riding.

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The house from afar.

From about 11 am, we stopped at 12:20 PM for lunch break. There were also two springs inside the ranch which made the view more wonderful.

Since the time that we can spend with horse riding is unlimited, we resumed the horse riding activity by 1:30 PM. We went out of the gate on the outside part to explore more of the surrounding mountains and ravines. I also tried riding on my own at times.

We climbed on a hill in order to see more of the view. This time, the elevation is higher. Unfortunately, Runner Chief, my horse, lost it balance and couldn’t go up. Kuya Jun-jun was about to give up but thankfully, my horse made it.

We didn’t know that more beautiful views await us.

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View of the ranch from the top.

I am truly blessed to see these views. It was such a privilege to discover another beautiful spot in my own Bukidnon home.

We need to go down through this steep hill and I have to admit I was a bit nervous but I just prayed hard so that no accident will happen.

Thankfully, we made it going down.

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Reflections:

Upon going back to the ranch, I realized a few things from this trip. The horse riding activity emphasized to me spiritual lessons that was made clearer through this experience. This made me understand my life more.

  • IMG_4743In life, we are like horses under the care of the Great Cowboy. Runner Chief, my horse, was a bit hesitant to walk at first when I first rode in it. He was hard-headed that the cowboy had to pull him in order for him to walk. There were so many times that I was like that horse, hard-headed, insistent, lazy, disobedient, resistant to the cowboy’s leading and just wanting things to be done my way. How patient must God be for all our inadequacies.

When led to a certain direction, the horse may be hesitant at first, questioning the guidance of the cowboy and that’s just so ME sometimes. I tend to question God’s leading through His word thinking that my ways are better than His. I’m glad that God is patient and persistent with meIMG_4797.JPG

  • As what I’ve told you that I was taught the basics on riding a horse. The cowboy told me that if the horse didn’t really obey you at your first “side-kick” you can beat it with the “whip” on its side for it to move, walk faster or run. Of course, I’m a bit shy to whip the horse at times because it might be painful for them. Although I would say that my whip is just like a touch.

Sometimes, life is just like that. We can receive a lot of whippings from the Cowboy.  He wanted us to move forward and do the work entrusted to us. This reminded me of a certain verse.

“For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth.” Proverbs 3:12

Just like the horse, I know my Father loves me when I receive all these beating and chastening.

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  • The highlight of this trip is of course the beautiful mountains. As mentioned, the cones and the shapes just appeal to my senses. Despite its imperfections, it is beautifully formed and it has stand the test of time, storm, and all those environmental factors. Also, you can appreciate it more when the sun is brightly shining over it. Our lives are simply just like the mountains. The asymmetrical cones symbolizes the imperfections, failures, successes and all our varied experiences– which make up our being human. There is still beauty in asymmetry. Someday our lives will be beautiful like these mountain ranges, not because we are perfect now but because we are made of successes and failures striving to be perfect each day; and most importantly when we allow Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, to shine in our lives, we will be like these beautiful mountains–a beautiful scenery to behold.

And before I forget. Why do I feel regretful after going to this place? I feel regretful that I didn’t visit this place before. I should have enjoyed the beauty of the scenery and the reflections from this trip earlier in my life. It was truly a cowgirl’s day out worth to be remembered.

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An amateur equestrian/frustrated cowgirl.*

*Photo Credit: Mr. Steph Haim (photos with asterisk).

Special thanks to Dr. Abram Pepito for arranging this trip for us.