To the Ends of Quezon

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

what to do in general nakar

To explore the folds of Quezon’s largest municipality is to defy today’s definition of adventure. When instant gratification in the form of prepared itineraries and detailed guides are highly in demand, General Nakar will remind you of the thrill and joy that comes with personal discovery.

Perched on the northernmost tip of mainland Quezon, about six hours from the Metro, is the municipality of General Nakar. Named in honor of Guillermo P. Nakar – a World War II hero whose guerilla forces kept fighting even after Bataan fell – the town was once part of its neighbor Infanta until President Elpidio Quirino decreed them separate in 1949.

Despite being “partially urban”, General Nakar remains devoid of the usual modern comforts. There are no fast food chains here, only karinderya. Save for the public market and some sari-sari stores, there’s no other commercial establishments. Most houses still have thatched palm fronds as roofs and halved bamboo stems as floors. Here, habal-habal is king instead of the jeepney, what with most routes comprising of rocky inclines and river-crossings. Even mobile reception is a bit unstable.

But being Quezon’s largest municipality doesn’t come without its perks. The town is ringed by the expansive Sierra Madre mountain range, including the popular Mount Daraitan on its western borders. Its shores open up to the Polillo Strait which then flows directly into the Pacific Ocean. General Nakar, with its total land area of 161,640 ha, boasts of an untamed and dynamic landscape comprising of lush woodlands, beautiful coastal areas, wild hiking trails, and a complex waterway that spawns countless waterfalls and a temperamental river. 

Related Adventure: DIY Guide to Alabat, Quezon

What the River Gave
Just before you pass through General Nakar’s welcome arc, you’ll go across a bridge. Beneath it is a winding strip of deep green water, meandering and feeling its way between General Nakar and Infanta. This is the mighty Agos River.
things to do general nakar

In 2004, when consecutive typhoons hit northern Quezon, Agos River surged and overflowed. The flashflood took many lives – an unprecedented event that had traumatized the residents. If anything good had come out of this tragedy, it’s that it had made the locals more cautious. During the rainy season, as soon as a storm signal is raised in the area, the more than 500 residents along Agos River willingly evacuate to the nearby town proper in case the river overflows again. On most days, however, Agos River is tamed; its water inviting, glittering, and clear enough to see your toes. Especially during the summer months, the long stretch of the river serves as a favorite spot to cool down. Floating bamboo cottages where visitors can lounge or have lunch can be seen near the banks. Mobile food carts line the shores, proffering halo-halo and chichirya. An imposing cluster of mountains stand on one side, guarding over the river like honored guards. Overhead, the wide, towering bridge serves both as shade and “dive board”. Brave local kids perform flips and cannonballs off the bridge into the deeper portion of the river.
general nakar quezon tourist attractions

A Rumbling Cave
In Brgy. San Marcelino, on a beach a stone’s throw away from the Pacific Ocean, stands a row of lofty cliffs and limestone formations. In one of its many crevices is an entrance to a cave named after the loud, thunderous sound it produces when it’s hit by waves. Considered sacred by General Nakar’s Dumagat residents, getting expressed permission from the tribe is important to access Tulaog Cave, but that’s not all there is to it. When the tide is high, the cave is unreachable, impassable; its entrance claimed and overrun by powerful waves of the Pacific. When the sea recedes, one then has to skirt a rock-strewn shore, scrambling over huge boulders and getting drenched by lashing waves along the way. One can always take a boat, of course, but even then, locating the cave without a native’s help would be impossible, as the entrance would be buried under layers of sand. Once you finally dig and squeeze your way through the tiny entrance, a dark and damp chamber with a soaring ceiling and a narrow girth will welcome you. This chamber, with a small recess that holds an image of the Virgin Mary, draws Catholic pilgrims from all over Quezon, especially during Holy Week. This is as far as visitors can go inside the cave, though. The rest of Tulaog Cave remains restricted to the Dumagat – a place for them to pray to their god Mukadeppat.
tourist spots general nakar

Chasing Waterfalls
Numerous waterfalls lay hidden within General Nakar’s dense forests. One of which can easily be reached by a short walk on a rutted dirt road amidst coconut trees in Brgy. Maligaya. Nabuslo Falls, with its steady-flowing potable water, not only serves as the locals’ bathing ground but also their primary water source. Here, sunlight barely passes through the thick canopies. Pipes that feed water to Maligaya’s households mingle with vines and foliage around the falling water. Below, a catch basin the shape of a kidney overflows into an ankle-deep brook.
waterfalls in quezon

In Brgy. Sablang, meanwhile, is Depalyon Falls – a destination hardcore adventure-seekers will surely love. Getting wet is inevitable when going here, as it involves more than two hours of wading across neck-deep streams and trekking through virtually undisturbed forests. Depalyon Falls is situated within a ravine. The stone walls that flank it are smooth, dark, and shiny with moisture. The raging waters of the falls itself are relentless, showing no signs of slowing down even during the summer months. It is so powerful, Depalyon Falls is perpetually shrouded by a spray of mist, which often creates a miniature rainbow. There is no flat area immediate to the falls, however. So Depalyon Falls is definitely no place for picnics. The small pool beneath it, while safe enough for swimming, is surrounded by jagged rocks. It rushes out to a craggy tributary with strong currents churning white rapids – the same tributary you’d have to swim through to get in and out.
depalyon falls general nakar

Related Adventure: DIY Guide to Oras Falls

On a Beach Corner
General Nakar also offers beautiful secluded beaches. Its characteristic pebbly brown shores may not have the same appeal as white sand ones, but it presents a rarity that’s hard to resist: a relaxing day on the beach sans the crowd. Take Sulok (corner) Beach in Brgy. Catablingan for example; even on a weekend, only a handful of people – mostly locals – can be spotted swimming in its impossibly blue waters. What’s more is that an undulating ridge surrounds this rustic beach, so even when it’s facing the Pacific Ocean, the salty breeze is gentle and soothing. The rock enclosure also makes for a natural shade and a dramatic background – perfect for beach-bumming and unlimited pictorials.
general nakar tourist spots

It’s Worth It
While it’s easy to see the charm of day-tours and quick getaways, especially when budgets are tight and vacation leaves are limited, nothing still beats a good ol’ foray into the unknown – no expectations, only courage and spontaneity. Things may not be as easy but the joy of discovery makes everything worthwhile.  You see, places that don’t offer both seclusion and maximum fun may just be around the corner. All you have to do is look closely enough. Take heart, and put in a little more effort. Do away with itineraries and expectations once in a while and you’re bound to arrive, one way or another, in parts less known yet equally beautiful. Even when it lacks the typical amenities of a touristy town – paved roads, high-end resorts, and organized tours – General Nakar can hold its own against any of its more popular neighbors. It may not have the name-recall of Infanta, the isolated vibe of Jomalig, the festive atmosphere of Lucban, but General Nakar is General Nakar. And more often than not, simply being yourself is more than enough.

Have you been to General Nakar? How was your experience?

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