It will almost be a year now since I first went to this place and I’ve been wanting to come back ever since. Although this forest is brimming with tales of the supernatural where unsuspecting visitors could wind up lost for days, I managed to come out unscathed. Maybe it was the stories but shooting alone here was nothing less than surreal. It’s not difficult to imagine fairies and ethereal beings appearing in the steps or a windblown sound calling your name coming from the far distance. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience and a true shooting challenge. I remember how the sound of the birds can be heard all over the place when you first arrive and how later on you will forget when everything became silent. Was the forest striking a pose? or was it pondering what to do with us measly outsiders. I was on the edge because of the place’s legend and it won’t take much to throw my thoughts to full blown fear, I had to carry on because I’ve never been to a place with such mystery.
It was only this month that I was able to drag myself and my wife to come back. The last I was here, the river alone consumed most of my time and prevented me from venturing out further than I originally intended. Taking photos along the river was a challenge in itself as you scamper for the best angle you can think of and then there’s the rocks that you have to step on to. There’s also a multitude of opportunities with the insects living on a world of their own. I never would have realized this if not for my wife who’d occassionally sit down to observe them.
Not only did we enjoy taking photos while we were there, we also enjoyed the time just being together and not being bothered by anything. I recall the tranquility of the place seemed to amplify our conversations as if they were echoing in a dream. Some may find it romantic, some may find it eerie but I found it nostalgic. Although I can’t exactly tell what compels me to come back again and again, it could be the scent of mystery in the air or the thrill of conquering my fears.
…or was it the sound of my name blowing in the wind?
The Makiling Botanical Gardens is approximately an hour and a half drive from Manila. The Gardens is within the grounds of the University of the Philippines Los Banos and has an entrance fee of Php 20.00. Legend has it that the Spirit of Mariang Makiling lures outsiders to the depths of the forest confusing them until they lose their direction for days. The well-known cure for outsiders experiencing this was to remove their clothes and wear them inside-out.