Traveling by car two and a half hours south of Tacloban City via Baybay, one reaches the town of Hindang – a 5th class municipality of the province of Leyte.

The quaint and almost sleepy town of Hindang is better known (together with the town of Inopacan) as the jump-off point in going to the beautiful island beaches found at Quatro Islas (Cuatro Islas).

What is lesser known are the awesome caves inhabited with wild monkeys located at Mt Bontok (also spelled Buntok and Bontoc) at Brgy Buntok, Hindang.

Hindang Caves is relatively more accessible compared to other caves I have visited. There is an access road which is a mere 300 meters from the national highway to the park entrance. Before reaching the poblacion (coming from the town of Inopacan) a road sign on the left side of the highway shows you the way to the access road. This leads you up to the mountains right up to the park entrance where one begins to climb some 100-odd concrete steps up the winding stairway into the forested area where the caves are hidden by the thick foliage.

The climb up is also not as strenuous compared to others. It’s like going up, say, a 5-6-storey building. Manageable.

Upon reaching the area where the pathway branches off to lead to the several caves, one is met with “representatives” of a monkey tribe now a bit spoiled and expecting to be fed with bananas by visitors. The tribe, we were informed by the caretaker, numbers about a hundred!

There are several caves in the area but the more prominent ones are the Cathedral Cave and the Pandayan Cave. These caves served as refuge for the guerillas during WWII and survived heavy bombardment by the Japanese invaders.

Unlike other caves I’ve seen, the caves of Hindang have a more “colorful” look with greenish to orangey hues.

A must-see for those visiting Hindang, the park has picnic areas where one can relax, enjoy the scenic views and savor nature up close.

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It’s not everyday that one gets to meet and be friends on a first-name basis with a genuine VIP from another country.

A real, genuine one.

And it’s certainly a rare one when you get to travel with His Excellency and a small group of friends for 6 consecutive days (yes, sir six – count ‘em!) – enjoying a full load of fun and banter the whole stretch, having meals, drinks and cigarettes together, and enjoying  a not-so-common recreational activity under heavy rain and scorching sun on unholy hours in some of the most remote areas of the country!

How many times in a man’s lifetime can one experience something like that?

Unless, of course, you were born to royalty. Or your job entailed socializing with the high and almighty.

And so when I was invited by a cousin, Nestor Dolina to join a small group of bird watchers for a birding tour he was organizing – a small group which included a  VIP (a fact which was mentioned as an aside before the trip) – it would have been crazy to turn down such an invite.

His Excellency, Ambassador Robert Brinks, the Ambassador from Netherlands, however, had to emphasize time and again that, no, he was traveling not on official business, not as a diplomat representing his country; he was here as a private individual.

A private citizen.

Here to enjoy one recreational activity, which became apparent as the days wore one as high in the list of his personal pastimes he truly enjoys doing most – bird watching.

Private citizen Robert Brinks’ last assignment was just a stint in Baghdad (no mean feat!), where he confessed he felt more like a virtual prisoner amidst the constant bombings left and right.

And coming to the Philippines, he must have felt what being “free as a bird” truly meant!

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It was a different experience we had when we passed by Agas-Agas Bridge – the country’s tallest bridge – over the weekend on our way to Macrohon, Southern Leyte.

Since its inauguration almost a year ago (see: http://gerryruiz.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/the-agas-agas-bridge-the-countrys-newest-tourism-attraction), I could only recall very hot, sweltering days while being in the area.

Last Saturday was different. It was almost sunset when we passed by the bridge and upon disembarking from our vehicle I was  disheartened not to find any chances of a great sunset shot as low-lying clouds was quickly enveloping the whole area.

With a slight drizzle threatening to develop into a major soaking experience, we felt suddenly like being in a different place not unlike some cold, temperate countries. And the atmosphere was suddenly cool and refreshing.

Wow!

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© 2013 gerryruiz photoblog mark II Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha