Talim is the nearest island to Metro Manila. This rocky isle in the middle of Laguna Lake is not normally visited by mountain bikers. But it is a popular site for weekend hikers seeking a great 360 degree view of Laguna Lake and the surrounding towns. Hikers come for the peak known as Mt. Tagapo, which is oftentimes also referred to as (I’m not making this up) Bundok ng Susong Dalaga. This roughly translates in English to “Mountain of Unmarried Female Snail.” Just kiddin. You already know what it means.
Four years ago, I and a group of local riders from Binangonan decided to load our bikes onto a boat and see just what Talim island had to offer. While most of us had already been to Talim, none of us had been there on mountain bikes, so it was something of an adventure for us.
I grew up in Binangonan, Rizal. And as a kid, I had always been fascinated with Talim. To my young impressionable mind, this mysterious mountain-island sa gitna ng dagat was also the home of the mythical Mercedita—a spirit-sorceress who might have been the Binangonan-Angono version of Maria Makiling. Talim was where Mercedita supposedly brought the souls of young boys who drowned in the lake. According to the stories, this engkanto lived in a cave in Talim where she kept the souls of the lost boys because she herself lost her own child.
I am not sure if those tales are still told to the younger generation or what shape the stories have taken nowadays. But those were the legends that old folks told kids back then—as far as I could recall. Kids retold the stories to each other, and embellished the tale in the retelling. So Talim Island was always imbued with a kind of magic for me.
The takeoff point for the island is in the Binangonan fishport, which is more popularly known as Pritil. Boats headed for Talim dock here and wait to fill up with passengers before leaving. I’m not sure what the fare is anymore, but it didn’t cost more than 30 pesos back then to get to Brgy. Navotas, which is the nearest barangay on Talim.
The boat trip itself is pretty interesting. You get to see the rocky hills of Binangonan from a distance, and get up close to some of the fish pens that are blamed for choking the lake.
Laguna Lake is also quite pretty, when your view isn’t obscured by fish pens. You just wish it was clean enough to swim in.
After around thirty or so minutes, we landed in Barangay Navotas, which is the northernmost village on the island. As we proceeded to pedal our bikes, we passed by lots of locals who seemed to be wondering just what the heck we were doing on the island on bikes.
The road from Navotas is paved, but it is far from easy. There are steep sections which will have you grunting and panting. The views are worth it however.
Since I haven’t been there in five years, I am not really sure if the roads there have deteriorated or if improvements have been made. But during our trip there, the pavement quickly gave way to dirt, which narrowed down into a rocky singletrack, which dissolved into “yan ba ang daan?”
This meant that we had to walk our bikes over terrain more suitable for mountain goats, horses, carabaos and other hardy farm animals. If you plan to explore Talim island on a bike, prepare for lots of hike-a-biking.
Along the route, you can occasionally catch glimpses of the fabled Mt. Tagapo.
We originally wanted to loop the island. But after four hours of biking and hiking, we felt drained. We decided to call it a day after reaching Brgy. Pinagdilawan.
We vowed to come back and finish the loop someday. But it’s been four years since, and we still haven’t gone back on Talim.
My plans have changed though. Instead of looping Talim, I want to take my bike to the peak of Tagapo, and then ride it down the slope of that maiden’s breast. Hopefully, this year.
If you want to know what it’s like to do a full loop of Talim Island, here’s a thread in pinoymtbiker.org about a couple of dudes who successfully circumnavigated it.