Unbelievable Marmol

So, where do we start? Well, okay, let’s start with why I decided to go to Marmol. You see, prior to the trip, my eyes were set on Maravilla in Tabuelan. I wanted to go to the beach! But you know those tiny moments in your life when all plans are in place yet you still look around to do something else? Yeah? Well, this was exactly like those tiny moments.

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And yeah, Marmol was so worth it!

When I reached Tabuelan after a 40-minute drive from Sogod, I stopped at a road-side store for a short break. My next destination was definitely the beach. But, as you already know, that didn’t happen. Why? I was searching online for exciting spots nearby and results pointed to a certain Barangay Marmol in Tuburan. What the heck is Marmol?

Entering the town of Tuburan.

I reached Tuburan at around two in the afternoon. I drove around town for a while to try to find the municipal hall. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. So, I parked outside the town gym where an audition for a singing contest was being held.

Park space outside the town gym. Just across the street is the beautiful town church.

I walked around for a couple of minutes to find out where the habal-habal terminal was. This wasn’t too hard because habal-habal drivers are everywhere in Tuburan! Literally. The problem was, you couldn’t tell which of these guys were ‘working’ and which of them were just resting in the shade. I didn’t want to annoy or insult anyone. Haha.

Tuburan town square with a Rizal marker.

I approached one traysikad driver and asked him about Marmol. And believe it or not he didn’t know where it was. Suddenly, I was having second thoughts about going to Marmol. Is it worth all the trouble? Plus I only had 260 pesos in my wallet. If the driver asks for 200 pesos, I’d basically be traveling home with an empty pocket. Bad idea. So, I went to the town church instead and spent a few minutes taking pictures.

I crashed a wedding. Beautiful church, ain’t it?

When I left the church, my decision was to get on my bike, head back home, and come back to Tabuelan and Marmol some other time. But when I was about to cross the street, lo and behold, a Traffic Enforcer on a bicycle stopped right in front of me. Is this a sign? So, I went ahead and I asked him if he could help me get a ride to Marmol. He told me to follow him. He took me to some drivers and he dealt with them on my behalf. After approaching around 4 drivers, one driver finally showed interest.

“How much?” he asked. He wanted to know how much I was willing to shell out. I was alone and understandably, fare would would have to be a little more expensive.

I told him my rate. He was silent for a couple of moments. Then, he turned to another driver who was, I think, trying to see if it was a good deal for his friend. But without waiting for what his friend had to say, the first driver said, “can you add 50 to that?”

I was hesitant. Remember, I only had  260 in my wallet. I couldn’t even buy another bottle of water! I didn’t have extra.  Not even 50! And, I still had to pay for gas for my own bike! Nope, too risky! I shook my head and turned to the Traffic Enforcer. “Sorry. I can’t afford it. Thank you so much for your help, though.” I wasn’t acting. Really. I really just couldn’t afford it. Haha.

I was about to leave when the driver finally said, “all right!” Although I was secretly amused that I won this little battle, I secretly asked myself one tiny question: “What am I doing exactly?”

Two minutes later, I was on the back of a huge motorcycle (which runs like crazy) trying to stay as far away from the driver as possible.

During the first ten minutes of the trip, the driver never said a single word. I didn’t say anything, either. Even when the bike started diving into the dry river bed, I stopped myself from ever saying anything.

The road to Marmol is quite funny. Why? Because it’s not even a road. That’s why!

We were actually running on the river bed! At top speed! Now, you know how river beds can have super fine sand, pebbles, and loose gravel, right? Now imagine driving a bike at top speed and slipping on one tiny shiny pebble. Then, add the words scratches, broken bones, and bruised face to the picture. Now, really imagine.

I tried to keep my distance. This was all work for him. He wouldn’t care whether or not I was scared or I’d piss my pants. This was an assignment. A deal. Just a contract. (Okay, that sounded too action flicky. Bwahahaha.)

And all of a sudden, I saw water. (Well, doy! Newsflash: You’re bound to see water. It’s a frigging river!) But what’s weird is that the bike wasn’t reducing speed. Wait, is the driver actually going to do what I think he’s going to do?

The answer, my dear friends, is a huge resounding YES! We DIVED INTO the river. At top speed. When the front tire hit the water, I actually let out a surprised (and quite loud) Ahh! I guess the driver heard it because he chuckled a little and reminded me to ‘hold on!’

Wait, was he doing it on purpose because I was trying to stay away from him? I didn’t budge. I won the first round, I’m going to win this one as well!

With my hands, I searched for the metal bars at the back of the bike. I didn’t want to touch him! Not after what he did! If I don’t hold on to something I’m going to fall off. But I’m not touching him.

But good heavens, I couldn’t find the metal bars!!!

The water was deeper in this part. Thankfully, my driver didn’t try to do something funny.

Then, before I could react, we had another awesome crossing. This time, the water was a little deeper. Now, remember, the driver didn’t try to slow down. It’s like my legs had a frantic shower or something.

We repeated the same process around 8 more times. Each time, the water got a little deeper. And my legs a little wetter.

By the time we made the 9th crossing, I was so close to my driver that he was literally sitting ON me.

You see, one thing I learned about habal-habal rides is that no matter how you seem to loathe the driver, it is necessary that you try to establish some sort of relationship. What I’m trying to say is that you and your driver should establish some sort of connection. You don’t necessarily have to know each other’s middle names. Just some random minor things that could win his trust and confidence.

When we reached this part, for example, I started talking to him about those dudes in the photo. I asked what they were doing. He answered that they were collecting sand for construction supply stores. Good start, ei?

After we made the final (and deepest) crossing, my shoes were so wet I could house 18 piranhas in them.

Shoe shower!

Dry land, here we come!

When we were only a few hundred meters from the Marmol Cliff, a chilling thought suddenly crossed my mind. I realized that I was actually doing something dangerous. Like ‘heart-stopping,’ ‘life-altering,’ ‘life-threatening’ dangerous! I mean, I have faith in humanity. And I basically believe that humans are fundamentally good. But what a thought it was! The driver, who was twice my size, could easily demand for more cash! He could easily take my things and hurt me. He could take me someplace remote and leave me there to rot! He could hit my face with his mighty elbow and I’d drop in the shallow water unconscious like a pile of limp bacon. (Okay, I couldn’t think of anything else. I was penniless and hungry) At that moment, a hard realization hit me. It was hard to accept but, yes, I just completely placed my fate on a stranger’s hands. The steadily escalating sense of foreboding was driving me nuts!

When I saw the cliffs, however, I was like “Oh, screw that! Who cares if he’d turn out to be a psychopath!” The rocks.are.AWESOME!

My driver parked on a flat area just below the cliff. Immediately I got off the bike and told him that I’d hurry.

The place was a beauty!

A steep formation adjacent to the famous rocks.

There’s my driver waiting for me.

The two main cliffs from another angle. Gorgeous, right?

“You can actually move closer to the rocks!” the driver suggested with a smile. There’s something sinister in his smile. Hmmmm.

Oh, god! This is just awesome! It’s like the grand Canyon! Yeah, yeah! I know! I’ve never been  there! But, you know. I think they look the same.

Now knee-deep and it’s still getting deeper.

I wanted to see what was on the other side. I asked the driver if it was okay to keep walking. He just smiled and made a quick nod. I know he’s going to leave me behind! I just know it!

Very awesome right?

Rock details.

Graffiti. Well, at least they didn’t use paint.

Notice that floating thing? Locals actually use it to get to the other side when water gets too high. Wow!

Got goosebumps when I saw this spot. Heck I still get goosebumps looking at this photo!

The rocks near the water were white and super smooth.

The water in this part was very deep. I’d say about chest-deep. Well, I’m short. So…

Finally reaching the other side of the ‘cliff.’ Far from my driver’s cunning eyes!

I didn’t stay long though. My ears were wide open for any hint of a running motorcycle engine. Haha.

I was heading back to the bike when I saw this old lady.

She was walking towards the other side. When I asked her where she was headed, she answered that she was going home. Apparently, a LOT of people live on the mountain on the other side. And they all pass through this small opening every single day!

When water gets too high, they climb up these rocks to get to the other side. Cool, right??

And he’s still there. Thank goodness! But he looks kinda pissed. That arm on the hip, though.

When I returned to the bike, the driver mentioned that there was once a cave in this spot. Thanks for the info, sir. I was quite thankful he didn’t start suggesting we go look for that cave.

One last shot before leaving the cliffs. Bye, good-looking cliffs!

Two minutes later, we were back on the (scary) road. This time, though, things were a little different. He started talking a lot.  He even talked about his past passengers and his work in general. He shared that he once took a Japanese lady and her Pinoy fiance there for a pre-nup photoshoot. Then, he asked me what kind of bike I drive. When I said it was a Honda, he also began talking about his bike.

Establish connection – check! Nyehehehe!

This time, the ride was a lot more relaxed and a lot less nerve-wracking. I must say I did one horrible mistake though. We were running at top speed when, in an attempt to keep the line of communication active, I asked him what time it was. Without any word, he took his phone from his pocket and began pressing on the keypad. Please remember that we were still running. In the middle of the river. AT.TOP.SPEED! Honestly, I ended up saying a quiet prayer for safety, long life, peace of mind, and happiness.

I already had his name and he already had my number by the time we reached town. His name is ERNIE. And he said most habal-habal drivers in town know him. I know that he’s kinda well-known because during our trip back, I noticed that he would slow down in areas where there were many people and one or two would recognize him, wave at him, and call out his name.

So, if this post has in any way moved you to visit the Marmol Cliffs, please please please look for Mr. Ernie. He’s a good guy and he won’t rob you even if you go to the cliff without a travel buddy. He won’t ask for additional fees and he’s an expert driver. He can get you to and from the cliff safe and in one piece. AND most of all, he doesn’t smell.

Please look for him and tell him that I blogged about him. So that he won’t say that I was just making this whole blogging thing up in order to try to save my life.

Overall, it was a very very very awesome trip. I mean, not awesome. It was unbelievable!

Weekends in Carmen
The Three-Dip Trip

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