Mt. Batulao | The Second Time Around

You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves. -Lito Tejada

True enough with the message of this quote, climbing Mt. Batulao the second time around together with the first timers of this mountain gave me that first timer excitement feeling also. Its scenic views and appealing landscapes I guess would forever be in my memory. That’s why the moment some of my friends initiated an invite to hike during that Holiday (Chinese New Year), I immediately suggested Mt. Batulao. This would be the first time that I would be blogging about this mountain though. I was joined by my colleagues in MMS (Aizel, Eduard, and Marc) and our guests (Pol, Rak, Bob, and Fats). So allow me to walk you through another blissful adventure of the Kikay Mountaineer.

Mt. Batulao has been one of those popularly hiked mountains for its accessibility, rewarding views, and variety of trails. It is recommended for beginners yearning towards experiencing hiking for the first time and at its best. Or simply if you find yourself inkling to escape from the city’s noise and pollution.

We took a bus at the Coastal Mall bound to Nasugbu, Batangas. It was a 2 hour ride to the Evercrest Golf Course. We took the chance to have lunch at one of the carinderias there before we hailed a tricycle to the jump off point.

ImageWe started our trek late at 1100 already so we had to take advantage of the remaining daylight. The trail welcomed us with this clear road which I thoroughly remember the first time I went here was very muddy that we even walked through those higher platforms. The weather during our hike this time was very favorable, not too hot and not even raining as well. The road was clear and desirable for walking. A chorus of kids asked to guide us but since I can still remember the trail by heart, and I also remember clearly that Batulao’s trail is very defined, we decided not to hire guides anymore.

ImageMost of our guests were first time hikers and beginners so we decided to take the New Trail the moment we passed through the fork between the Old and the New Trail. It got markers that numbered the peaks to the summit. It got uphills affording astounding views of the famous Batulao landscapes. There were a lot of mountaineering groups who climbed on that day. The crowd even created traffic in one of the narrow trails there.

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The girls at Peak 1! 9 to go! πŸ™‚

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The Kikay Mountaineer at Peak 6

Our ascent continued along with our swift pace. We would celebrate every time we reach peaks by taking photos with its markers. They were like mini milestones and seeing each one of them unleashed one by one gave us that feeling that we’re up for the next level. Whew! Exciting! πŸ˜€

The famous scenic trail of Mt. Batulao

The famous scenic trail of Mt. Batulao

Mt. Batulao will always be one of my favorite mountains. I would never get used to climbing it over and over again. And if I would be bringing up a friend who wants to try hiking for the first time, this mountain would always be at the top of my options. The green vivid open trails would allow one to see the wholeness of Tagaytay and Nasugbu

Team Batulao!

Team Batulao!

For just 2 hours and a half of ascent, we finally reached the summit. It’s surprisingly less than our estimate of 3 hours given that we had first timers with us. Good job team! We took the chance to take photos in here. πŸ™‚

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The Kikay Mountaineer at the summit!

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Group Shot!

We stayed in the summit for roughly just 30 minutes then started with our descent. For my pursuit of variety and to feed up my curiosity as well on what the Old Trail offers, they agreed with me take it on our way down. True enough it brought us a lot of trail surprises which were no regrets. I could say that this is more challenging and longer than the New Trail though. We had to carefully go down through the boulders of rocks. There was also a part wherein we had to rappel our way down since it was very steep. Do not worry once you reach this part for I guess (based on my estimates) the rope is strong enough to handle the heaviest of a human weight. πŸ˜‰

Rappelling our way down

Eduard rappelling his way down

Same thing with the New Trail, the Old trail got lots of “Ministops” that sells buko juice, halo-halo, softdrinks, and snacks. And indeed for some reason, they taste differently in the mountains. They’ve got added flavors leaving you asking for more! πŸ˜€

Take five!

Take five!

Our descent was roughly just around 2 hours that we made it to the final jumpoff point before 1700H and to the highway by 1730H where we washed ourselves up. There were rented shower rooms in there that allow you to take a bath for Php20 per pail. Don’t forget to bring your jackets for the weather is already cold by night time.

Feasting over the Bulalo of The Grill

Feasting over the Bulalo of The Grill

We’ve planned to have our postclimb feast at Tagaytay and try one of those bulalohan restaurants in there. And since it was a Holiday on that day, almost all of the restaurants there were full and congested that we would jump in from one to another. We decided then to dine in The Grill amidst its long waiting time. The wait was all worth it anyway because their bulalo was indeed very special. Not sure if our extreme hunger contributed to that but it was the best bulaloΒ that I’ve ever tasted indeed so far. Haha!

Thank you so much Batulao team! I enjoyed and am very pleased with this hike! Till next time! πŸ™‚

Budget for Transpo:

Bus from Coastal to Nasugbu (roundtrip) – Php210

Tricycle (roundtrip) – Php60

Registration (Php20 for each trail) – Php40

Jeep to Tagaytay – Php 20

TOTAL: Php330*

*exclusive of food

Mt. Manabu | Lost but Found

There’s a saying that Not all those who wander are lost. But not in our case because we do really got lost as we descend from Mt. Manabu. Nevertheless, it was still fun and memorable.Β Getting lost like reroutes are just part of the adventures in life anyway. It reminds you of the thrill that you just got into since you wouldn’t know its next agenda. The kind of thrill that requires you to be brave and to trust.

Our Mt. Manabu climb last December 14 was a dayhike organized by one of my colleagues at work and also a member of MMS, Melody or Mhei as I call her, for her Birthday Climb. As for me, I consider it as my Christmas Climb and my last climb for the year. It is located at Sto.Tomas, Batangas and has long been popular to mountaineers for its accessibility, short trails, and nice ambiance. Very advisable and recommended for beginners. It stands at 760MASL and has a difficulty of just 2/9.

Mhei prepared all the logistics for this climb, the itinerary, things to bring, the contact persons, etc. Her being a fifth timer of this mountain, I am confident that we will survive even without a guide. Together with her highschool friend Melai, college friend Pauie, and one of our frequent guests in MMS, Sir Philip, we went ahead with our Mt. Manabu adventure.

We were supposed to meet up at 0600 in JAM Buendia but we made it at 0800 for some reason which I took full ownership was my fault. I sincerely and deeply apologized. Haha It’s not gonna happen again I swear. πŸ˜€

Breakfast at Chowking

Breakfast at Chowking

It was a fast land travel that we were able to reach the Lipa proper at 0900 where we waited for Melai who came all the way from Cabuyao, Laguna. We stopped at Chowking to eat breakfast and to buy our packed lunch. We then took a 20-min tricycle ride which brought us to the jump off point.

This is it!

This is it!

Upon reaching the jumpoff point, we then prepared for the trek. There’s a registration fee required and every climber is required to sign in their logbook. They also provided contact persons if ever something happens. There is a paid restroom as well so take the chance to use it before commencing with the trek. We started with a prayer and some stretching still although we’ve already planned that this climb will absolutely be just fun and no pressure.

Shady trail

Shady trail

Define MAPUTIK

Define MAPUTIK

The trail was gradual, easy, and very shady which I really really love. It’s perfect for newbies, the downside however was that it’s very maputik! I remember my pair of shoes end even almost half of my lower legs getting soaked in the mud. I almost slipped for a lot of times since I didn’t bring my trek pole with me, which added to the thrill and challenge. The trail is also rich in floras and my eyes wandered with the different plants in there. A biology student would definitely enjoy this trail, my thoughts.

The faunas of Mt. Manabu

The floras of Mt. Manabu

Station 3: "There are many trails in the mountain, but in time they all reach the top."

Station 3: “There are many trails in the mountain, but in time they all reach the top.”

There are 8 stations that you have to complete in order to reach the summit and complete the climb. Every station has a signage with a quote related to mountaineering. Station 3 quote was a premonition of our adventure. True enough, Mt. Manabu got different trails which will lead you to the summit. We were not able to follow our desired trail, which is the trail that Mhei is used to, but nevertheless, we still reached the summit.

Mt. Manabu river

Mt. Manabu river

Take five!

Take five!

Since we followed a different trail, we were not sure if we’re already nearing the summit. We were surprised when we already saw the famous white cross of Mt. Manabu which we reached at exactly 1300. The summit provided a spectacular view of the nearby mountains, we saw Mt. Batulao and Mt. Maculot from afar.

Mt. Maculot as viewed from Mt. Manabu

Mt. Maculot as viewed from Mt. Manabu

Mt. Manabu is just perfect for my Christmas climb since it got a cross which will remind you of Jesus Christ, the real reason for this season. We took the chance to take lots of photos in here.

Photobooth!

Photobooth!

The girls of Mt. Manabu

Mhei’s Highschool, College, and Office/MMS friend. πŸ˜€

After our photoshoot, we trek down to the campsite to eat our lunch and to rest as well. I took a quick nap but woke up when I felt the cold weather. It drizzled for a while and we went back to rest. This was when our conversations about love started. Read here for the whole article about the love lessonsΒ  I learned during this climb. πŸ™‚ These girls got lots of things to say about love and relationship. And we were just laughing the whole time every time something comes out related to it, be it the ambon, the trail, the teka-teka plants, about falling, and getting dirty because of the mud. Haha! We got really funny and meaty conversations which were thrown randomly.

with Mang Pirying serving his Alamid coffee for free!

with Mang Pirying serving his Alamid coffee for free!

We resumed trekking at almost 1600 already since we really took our time to rest in the campsite. We reached the famous nipa hut of Mang Pirying wherein he serves Alamid coffee for free. He was so nice that we even got into small chats with him. There were other groups of mountaineers already resting in there, most of them already climbed Mt. Manabu and have already known Mang Pirying. They were also selling fresh buko which costs Php10 per piece.

Buko for only 10 pesos each!

Buko for only 10 pesos each!

We continued with our descend, the trail gets muddier this time. Probably because there were more climbers coming in which made the trail a lot more loose. It was getting dark so we have to put our headlamps on. Unfortunately, I forgot to change the battery of my headlamp so its light was already dim. Sir Philip got one with him and a flashlight. Our night trek started in there and we didn’t mind the muddy trail anymore. We were also not sure if we’re still in the correct trail. I remember that we would always go back a few meters after realizing that it’s not the right path. True enough, we were already lost which was confirmed by a guy, already at his 40’s probably, whom we just bumped across the trail and asked us if we’re on our way up or down. Whew! We almost climbed the same mountain twice pala! Haha πŸ˜€ He’s a blessing in disguise! He was with his dog and volunteered to guide us on our way down. We reached the final jumpoff point at almost 1900 already. We washed up and went to the Lipa Bus terminals where we had our dinner.

Happy Birthday Mhei!

Happy Birthday Mhei!

Since it’s Mhei’s birthday in a few days and it was indeed her birthday climb, we surprised her with a cake and celebrated it in one of the restaurants there that serves lomi. They got huge servings which tasted really good. Happy Birthday Mhei! I pray for all the good things in every aspect of your life for you deserve them. Thank you for the birthday treat, I’ve anticipated it by the way! Haha! πŸ˜€

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

It was indeed a fun climb for the five of us and I’m happy that I was able to get to know these people. This is the climb wherein I realized the importance of being composed and staying positive despite knowing that you’re already lost. Everyone was at peace and we were even still laughing despite the circumstance. You also wouldn’t mind getting lost as long as you have good company whom you trust and you know are also in the pursuit to go back and find the right path. These are the kind of people whom you should be joining with during climbs!

Thank you Mhei, Pauie, Melai, and Sir Philip! You guys are all awesome! Till our next climb! Wiii! πŸ˜€

Mt. Pulag via Akiki | The Unrequited Love

“It’s time to move on and accept things as they were Mylene. You can’t just stay in the summit forever and wait for your sea of clouds to come. All the more you can’t force clearing when clouds are not getting in their way just to get what you want. It’s not always about the destination anyway, the journey matters the more”. Yes, I was uttering these words at the back of my mind as I was trying to convince myself that everything’s fine as I descend from the summit of Mt. Pulag after we assaulted on it. Crazy as it may seemed but it was indeed a mix feelings of frustration and wonders, disappointment and happiness, coupled at the same time. Lots of feels for I didn’t get to see the famous sunrise and sea of clouds of Mt. Pulag after expecting too much from it, yet I was able to get to know more of the people that I climbed with,which I believe is as equally valuable.

I’d like to walk you through our 3-day journey last Nov29-Dec1 with a slideshow of photos and my usual kikay feels. I’ve compressed it into one single post so expect that I’ve probably missed some of the details. Nevertheless, I was able to specify the highlights of this climb. This is by far the longest climb itinerary I’ve ever had, the toughest at a difficulty of 7/9, and the highest at a height level of 2922 MASL.

DAY1 | EASY BITSY

Mt. Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon, and the second in the Philippines. It is just 30 meters short of Mt. Apo, the highest in the country. Along with its famous sea of clouds, it is known for its freezing cold temperature. Thus, one has to prepare thick jackets or even the thermal ones to combat the temperature.

We headed our way to Baguio Thursday night at 2200 and arrived at around 0300. We were earlier than our itinerary so we took the chance to buy breakfast and packed lunch here while waiting for the chartered jeep that will bring us to the DENR office for the briefing. Here, they showed us what to expect in Mt. Pulag, the do’s and dont’s, and gave us some interesting trivias about the mountain: the different trails, the different ethnic tribes living nearby the area, and some cool stories from the previous climbers.

DSC09362Take the chance to do whatever you want to do in the DENR’s restroom because the mountain will already be your next resort. We reached the jump off point at around 1000 after that long jeepney ride from the DENR Office. We were welcomed by this quite intimidating signage that says “Difficult Route”. As some of you know, Mt. Pulag got different routes wherein you can choose from. For beginners, it is advisable to take what they call as the “Executive Trail”, the Ambangeg route.

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Never mind the signboards and take a leap of faith that you can do it. One has to pass through a steep concreted road before reaching the Visitor’s center where the registration will take place. There is a registration fee required and climbers have to sign on the logbook they provided. The guides and porters are also in this area. We took our packed lunched here as well before heading our way to the first campsite. DSC09367We started our trek with a prayer and our usual stretching routines then resumed with our 3-hour trek to Eddet River where we will camp in on our first night.

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???????????????????????????????The Day1 trail resembles that of Mt. Ugu- the perfectly paralleled tall pine trees of different types. I had my point and shoot camera with me and I was really very conservative in using it so I can save its battery for the Day3 view, the sea of clouds.

The skulls of Eddet River

The skulls of Eddet River

Eddet River's campsite

Eddet River’s campsite

We reached the Eddet River’s campsite at around 1430 and started pitching our tent, earlier than our itinerary. The campsite’s terrain was perfect that you can easily pitch your tent, is flat, and got garden grasses.

Guess what my favorite color is?

Guess what my favorite color is? Clue: it’s not pink

Water Source

Water Source

Camwhoring at the bridge

Camwhoring at the bridge

If you’re planning not to camp in Eddet River, I guess you would have to still stop here to take advantage of the views. It got a hanging bridge where you can see the raging river water below. Water is very abundant as well, perfect for drinking and cooking.

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Chef Eduard

Preparing for Dinner

Preparing for Dinner

Meet Eduard, our cook for the day. Well, actually he’s our chef for the whole climb. Days before the climb, we’ve already planned our meals for the whole 3 days and can I just say , everything’s extraordinary. Our menus include: pork sinigang, chopsuey, beef tapa, maling, corned beef, soup, etc. He cooks food really well and told me that he really does cook at home. These are the kind of groupmates that I really wanted to group into. Haha πŸ˜€

Lights out was set at 2000 since we had to be early for our Day2 trek.

DAY2 | ASSAULT, SWEEEPER, and ALTITUDE SICKNESS

We started our Day2 really earlyΒ  since we were scheduled to wake up at 0300. Nerie and I were able to sleep well in my tent. The cold temperature is tolerable so we already went out to prepare for our breakfast. We had corned beef and meat loaf prepared that morning, easy to cook foods. Then triggered our break camp to prepare for the loooong difficult anticipated trek.

It was 0500 when we started the assault. And when I say assault, it was indeed a steeeep assault. From how I described it that time, it was a “What you see is what you don’t get” experience. You keep on looking up to check if you’re nearing the top, but it seemed like it was endless. Every step was agonizingly difficult and hingal-inducing.

The steep assault

The steep assault

I was tasked to be the sweeper for Day2 so I have to be at the tail-end. Together, with Doc Tom, we swept the whole Day 2 together. It was also his birthday that time and I was indeed privileged that I got to spend time with him on this day. He has been one of my favorite buddies in the whole training period and has been such a kuya to me. Wiii! Happy birthday Doc! Read here on how I was able to appreciate sweepers the more.

with my sweeping buddy, Doc Tom

with my sweeping buddy, Doc Tom

Being the sweeper, I also got the chance to observe the guides and porters who were with us. Thoughts came in about the job that they’re doing. I was deeply amazed on how they were able to carry heavy bags I guess ranging up to 40kg, or more. And they don’t even wear any Merrel or Columbia trekking shoes, just the basic slippers were fine with them. Life for them seemed to be so simple, no daily reports, presentations, nor issue resolutions. The biggest daily challenge for them however is just to get from point A to point B with those heavy bags. I know you guys get it. πŸ˜‰

We reached the famous Marlboro Country of the Akiki trail at 1000. The view here is spectacular, you’ll never be aware that there’s this part of the world unless you pass by this trail.

At the Marlboro Country

At the Marlboro Country

Woah!

Woah!

From this point, we passed through another steep assault inside the mossy forest. The view looks like a scene in a horror movie, in a good way. Greeny and mossy, what else would you expect. Haha πŸ˜€

The mossy forest

The mossy forest

After the mossy forest comes the grassland. There was no clearing at this point and was really foggy. I got drizzles in my face and was already cold. The grassland looked like a golf course field and a teletubby land at the same time, except that it’s brown. From the blogs that I’ve read prior, I’m aware that we’re already nearing the campsite. The thought of it made me push for more but of course, I still got the chance to take selfies.Β  πŸ˜€

The grassland

The grassland

We reached the famous saddle campsite at 1530. There were other groups already in there, a lot of them actually. From what I’ve heard, there were around 500 people who climbed on that day coming from different trails. The campsite was big, enough to house large groups.

The Saddle Campsite

The Saddle Campsite

At 1630, we decided to assault the summit to see the sunset and to check if there’s clearing, taking chances to see the sea of clouds although it’s actually the sunrise wherein Mt. Pulag is famous for.

At one of Mt. Pulag's peaks

At one of Mt. Pulag’s peaks

I’d like to take this chance to commend our Team Leader Mau Romarate who was awesomely the man behind this climb. This is actually the climb wherein we got the most number of guests. So can you just imagine how tough it was for TL Mau to get all these things organized. He would check on us whenever he gets the chance if we have concerns and he was very warm and friendly with all our guests. Add up his charming personality I guess which put him as the TL for this climb. Kudos TL Mau! πŸ˜€

with TL Mau and Sis Aizel

with TL Mau and ATL Aizel

The temperature was indeed really cold that it soothes through my 3-layer jacket already. I got 2-fleeces inside and 1-rain jacket outside. I can’t estimate the temperature drop that time but it was freezingly cold indeed. But it was steady compared to our Mt. Ugu experience that got howling winds along with the cold temperature. Okay, so how may times did I mention the word “cold”? πŸ˜€

I didn’t manage to help my groupmates with the dinner preparation already because I was having a headache. Not sure actually if it’s the altitude sickness that they call or just my usual migraine attack. But it was indeed very painful and throbbing that pushed me to threw up just to relieve the pain. But this time, I got a ready garbage bag with me provided so as not to mess up Eduard’s tent. His tent was big enough to cater 3 people, my size. Haha πŸ˜€ I shared it with him and Aizel. Yes, I was thirdwheeling with them. Ma’am Ruwen, the medic for this climb, nursed me and Aizel, who was suffering from dysmenorrhea that time. She was so nice and very caring despite the fact that I just met her for the first time on this climb.

Team Body Heat

Team Body Heat

Since the outside was already very cold, we invited people to come inside Eduard’s tent to celebrate Doc Tom’s birthday and to share body heat as well. Haha πŸ˜€

Despite that hassle of altitude of sickness, I slept that night feeling hopeful and excited, for I know that my most awaited sea of clouds are already within my reach.

DAY3| AMBANGEG TRAIL

We started the assault at 0500, still freezingly cold but tolerable. The sky was clear and got full of stars, we saw the different constellations. We passed through the same assault trail during our sunset assault. There were already a lot of people taking photos at the summit, it got no clearing. I waited for the sunrise, but didn’t see it coming. I waited for the sea of clouds, but it was not showing. Sigh! So I just took the chance to take photo ops with the people I was with that time.

My Brotherly Loves

My Brotherly Loves

Buddies!

Buddies!

Disappointed yes, probably owing to the fact that I expected for too much and didn’t anticipate this side of the story. Haha πŸ˜€ Nevertheless, Mt. Pulag will always be here anyway and I can always climb it next time with still the hope of seeing its sea of clouds. I will never get tired of climbing this mountain over and over again for the sake of that view.

Day 3 was all about the famous Ambangeg. I’ve got friends who already climbed Mt. Pulag before via this trail. True enough, it was indeed for beginners and to those whose purpose is just to see the view and have fun climbing. It was almost paved and spoiled, you’llΒ  definitely get no tapilok moments. This is the perfect definition of the “Walk in the Park” idiom.

Walk in the Park

Walk in the Park

I was with Aizel and Eduard the whole time of this trek. I guess I’ve developed this feeling of closeness with them after I shared with their tent. They were like my true blooded sister and brother already that even after the climb, I’m already comfortable sharing all my rants with them without the fear of being judged. I got into a heart-to-heart talk with Aizel and our feels towards heart matters. I’m no expert in love but I could say that I’ve got mature wisdom in this matter. If you would want to get to know someone, I definitely suggest the Ambangeg trail. It’s gonna be the best date for the two of you. *winks* Haha!

My Pulag Buddies

My Pulag Buddies

We reached the final jumpoff at around 1330. We washed up in one of the houses there and they were so nice that they even heated the water for us. Likewise, the water was still cold despite the hot water poured into it. That’s how cold it was!

Our souvenir shirts

Our souvenir shirts

We then headed our way back to the DENR office to log out. They were also selling souvenir shirts there so you might as well get one to remind you of that awesome Pulag experience. We got into a very bumpy ride before reaching Baguio City where we had our dinner.

Mt. Pulag's rainbow

Mt. Pulag’s rainbow

Oh, I forgot to mention that we saw a rainbow just after we left the campsite. I was reminded of Genesis 9:13 where it says, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” God, you never fail to surprise me despite my disappointments and frustrations. With that, I do believe that someday, I’ll get to see my see of clouds as You’ve promised it. I’m adding this in one of the many promises that I’m believing to get in God’s perfect timing. And despite of the uncertainties of things, I’ll try and try for I know it’s gonna be all worth it. I’m still counting Mt. Pulag as one of those unforgettable experience I’ve ever had! I’ll definitely see you again, most probably on a different trail! Wiiii! πŸ™‚

The Kikay Mountaineer at summit of Mt. Pulag

The Kikay Mountaineer at summit of Mt. Pulag

Mt. Ugu Traverse – Day 2 (The Redemption)

This is a continuation of my Mt. Ugu story. If you haven’t read the first part, you must check on this link first! πŸ˜€

To give you a glimpse of our Day2 trip, I made “The Redemption” as its title. Simply because it’s totally a redemption of Day1! Not that I’m saying that Day1 was a mess, but rather Day 2 was its better version in terms of weather, views, food, trail, name it!

I had a very solemn sleep right after that hilarious incident that I just woke up during the wake up call. No more signs of migraine or even a bit of hangover. It totally felt like it was just a dream! Haha

We were scheduled to wake up at 0430 but the outside was still very cold. We had to prepare for our breakfast so we braved ourselves to get out of our tent. It would also be an opportunity for us to see the sun peeking and the sea of clouds glamoring if there would be any clearing. Which I was really really hoping that there would be.

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1420344_10152002961790821_749382591_nI took the chance to take a photo with the sea of clouds at the background. The clearing was real fast that I consider this one as the best in my set of photos (thank you Ma’am Chim for this photo).

Preparing for breakfast

Preparing for breakfast

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Rose, our breakfast cook

Our breakfast was a win! Since we failed to have something sumptuous during dinner, we had to redeem ourselves for breakfast! This time we had Papa Ding and Sir Mars share the food with us so they lend us their cookset and stove as well. And that means faster cooking time for us! We had corned beef saute in cabbage, luncheon meat, sausage, and pancake-like soup! Haha πŸ˜€ We packed some for our lunch as well.

My pink Barbie gloves HAHAHA

My pink Barbie gloves from my pamangkin HAHAHA

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Our visitors, or are we the visitors rather? πŸ™‚

After breakfast was our timeless mandatory photo ops before we leave the campsite.We had 7 guests for this climb and can I just say, they were all awesome! Most of them were our frequent guests while some were first timers.

Our guests

Our guests

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Batch Trese

The MMS Members

The MMS Members

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The Kikay Mountaineer with the newly inducted Doc Tom

One of the requirements for us to be a fully pledged member of MMS is the induction climb. Well, for all mountaineering organization, I believe this has always been the final requirement along with the minor and major climbs. Doc Tom got inducted in this climb, which means he’s now a member of MMS! Yeyy! Along with two of ourΒ  other co-trainees who climbed Mt. Guiting-Guiting on the same dates, Raffy and Leigh, the three of them were the firsts in our batch to become a member.

The Kikay Mountaineer at the summit

The Kikay Mountaineer at the summit

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Batch Trese at the summit!

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A few walks from the campsite lies the summit of Mt.Ugu which has a marker that says 2,150MASL. The highest so far from the mountains that I’ve climbed. Here, you’ll also see a gravestone of the 1987 tragic plane crash wherein about 5o people died. Doc Tom told us the story behind it. Apparently, this mountain got discovered during the aftermath of a PAL aircraft crash which was bound for Baguio. It crashed in the slopes of Mt. Ugu while attempting to land in a monsoon that got zero visibility. The river which was supposedly the route signage of the pilot that time was a different river apparently. Rescuers found the wreckage five hours after the crash, 200 yards below the summit. Subsequent rescue operations apparently paved the way for trails, and soon, word spread amongst the mountaineering groups about a new hiking destination. Another interesting fact was that the campsite where we stayed was the same site where the recovered bodies were laid down. Creepy isn’t it?! Good thing they told us about it just after we left the campsite! Haha πŸ˜€

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Team Sweeper again!

Look up!

Look up!

Our Day2 descend was absolutely a REWARD! The trail was magnificent all throughout. Unfathomably surreal! I saw perfectly paralleled pine trees and different kinds of it. There were short width trails that got cliffs lying just a few inches beside you so you have to be extra careful. There were rice terraces on different hues of green. There were markers sponsored by R.O.X in every half kilometer which started at 15.0 km. The weather was good, it was absolutely fine for me that I didn’t mind getting tired.Β  Whew! I’m running out of words to describe it. A big part of my strength probably came from these things.

See those awesome pine trees?

See those awesome pine trees?

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Closed trails

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The soft core πŸ˜‰

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Selfie 1

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Selfie 2

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The guava tree! Bow!

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The whole trail indeed was an eye delight. Not to mention the hanging bridge that we were longing to see, which apparently lies yet at the 0.5km mark! It drizzled in the afternoon so we had to put our rain gears on. Our descend’s pace like the usual was faster. We barely stopped for a rest although we were already complaining of our tired legs on the last few kilometers. We passed by a water source prior reaching the hanging bridge. We were really trying to reach it before it gets dark since we might miss the view of the bridge. True enough, we were just in time!

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We reached the 0.0 km at 1800 already and it was already dark. We washed up and went ahead to our last stopover which was at Itogon, Benguet. They gave us certificates that says we’ve conquered Mt.Ugu! Wiii! πŸ˜€ We had our post climb afterwards then headed our way to Baguio for dinner.

Quezon City-20131124-00648There goes our awesomely redeeming Day2! Congratulations to our very charming Team Leader, Cha Jadie for a very well organized climb! She absolutely nailed it even before the climb starts. She would sms us just to update us of the weather which removed our doubts because of the rough weather in Manila. I appreciate that in all honesty. Doc Tom also did well as a sweeper. I swear, I admired his patience and his motivating skills really helped those who were afraid during the steep and narrow trails.

It was absolutely one of those climbs that I will cherish and reminisce for the rest of my life. Pictures and words were not enough to describe how wonderful this weekend was. I cannot be grateful enough to God for this gift of nature! To be in the middle of His creations filled me with so much wonder which kept me going. Truly indescribable and uncontainable! I know there are a lot more beautiful mountains there to celebrate with and I can’t wait to see and explore them the more! Woot!

Mt. Ugu Traverse – Day 1

Nervous and Excited. Two words to describe how I was feeling as the weeks drew nearer on the day of this climb. First, because this will be the very first time that I will be climbing a Cordillera mountain. And you guys probably have an idea how hypothermia-inducing Cordillera mountains are. Secondly, it’s a traverse! Traversing gives me that feeling of expecting a surprise from a mountain on its other side. Whatever that surprise is, it is for us to discover then! Lastly, is that this mountain has been tagged as one of those basagan ng tuhod climbs. But despite the rumors that this is going to be another difficult climb, I had fully made up my mind that I’ll be climbing this even months before the schedule. All because of what everybody who has climbed this mountain was saying… it would be all worth it!

ImageAfter that 5-hour looong butt-numbing bus ride via Victory Liner from Manila to Nueva Vizcaya, we reached one of Victory Liner’s stopover at Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya at 0300. It was actually an hour earlier than our itinerary. So we took the chance to have some hot coffee and goto while waiting for the chartered jeep that we rented to take us to the Kayapa Village.

1454685_693725017306676_1199137861_nFrom the Aritao stopover, we then arrived at the Kayapa Village at around 0530. The cold temperature already soothes through my new pink REI rainwall jacket (and yes I had to emphasize that it’sΒ  new, haha πŸ˜€ ).Β  It was that time that I realized that what I was wearing is not enough to combat the temperature once I’m in the summit.

DSC09076Luckily, we spotted an ukay-ukay in the market that sells second-hand jackets for only 50 pesos! Can you believe it? It just totally offset the cost of my REI jacket! Haha πŸ™‚ And mind you, these are not ruggedly-torned jackets, I spotted some authentic brands. I had Rose, the one in the picture, chose a good one for me. I took a pink fleece Champion jacket which looks really good. But more than the aesthetic, I was of course more concerned of its purpose.

toploadWe then headed our way to the jump-off via this chartered van. Cha, Sir Mars, and I boarded top load for the heck of experiencing it. Not that much of the adrenaline rush that I was expecting since the speed was really gradual probably due to the steep winding roads. If you’re a photographer, you will definitely enjoy this because it’ll give you the best ride shots!

DSC09084 It was I guess a 20-minute top-load ride. The moment we reached the jump-off, we started with a prayer for the Lord’s guidance followed by our usual stretching routines. We were then off to the mountains and the anticipated long trek. This is it!

???????????????????????????????The first part of the trail was difficult. It was a 3-long hours of steep ascent which started with a paved road. I remember catching my breath already on the first hour! Most of us were already panting and ranting! Haha! And I know that was just a warm up! Good thing I was in the group of Team Sweeper (Doc Tom, Rose, Aizel, Eduard, Bujoi, Nerie)! We had our pacing really gradual without rushing.

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We passed by this trail that got bloomed sunflowers of different sizes.

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This mushroom caught my attention.

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Some of the porters took some of this fruit, apparently, this is edible!

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Beautiful unknown white flower

This part of the trail was apparently limatik infested. One of my companions, Eduard, got bitten by it that caused bleeding on one of his legs. It was my first time to see a limatik with my very eyes although I’ve already done my research about it way before. The moment I knew that the trail was infested, I remember uttering prayers for God to keep me away from limatiks because I’m scared of it. The same way I fear cockroaches and crawling creatures maybe. I remember myself getting paranoid of whatever sticks on my skin, I would freak out that it might be a limatik. I have a ready alcohol in one of my pockets just in case I spotted one. But nah, the moment Rose saw one crawling in my leggings, I remember screaming oh-my-gosh repeatedly catching the attention of the others. They poured alcohol onto it which disarmed it. So there, I escaped that sneaky limatik!

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Bloated limatik

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Eduard’s bleeding leg

Unlike my previous climbs, which made me really sweaty, this one’s the complete opposite! I can’t remember a time that I sweat at all on my way up because of that cool temperature. Or maybe I did but only for just a short period of time. The negative side of this though is that there was no clearing so we were not able to enjoy the view as we ascend. Doc Tom, who already climbed in here last year was describing to us what we’re supposedly seeing.

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At the Domolpo Village where we had our lunch

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Team Sweeper

???????????????????????????????Being a self-proclaimed ambassadress of walking, I honestly didn’t mind the long trail. I was silently comparing it to my Mt. Tapulao experience where the trail was a mixture of the worse: long, rocky, and very hot! Thus, I’m thankful still for the trail of Ugu that despite its long but almost flattened trail, it gave us that airconditioned-like feel the whole time.

???????????????????????????????These cows welcomed us when we reached a blind curve. And they really surprised us literally that we ran as fast as we could back. I can still remember the face of Rose as she struggles on her way back since she was leading the trail that time. We all burst into laughter after! And yes I’m still laughing while writing this part by just the thought of it. Hahaha!

???????????????????????????????Since our Day1 trail was very selfish of views because of the fog, we would stop at every moment that would give us clearing to take advantage of the sneak peak sceneries. We had a lot of this actually, thus the reason why we arrived late. Well, plus the fact that we’re the sweeper. πŸ˜€

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????A few more walks and we were already surrounded by mountains that got full of pine trees. The trail was very visible at this time that you could see the farthest visible entity. It was at also at this time where the porter guide who was with us showed us where our campsite would be, which is visible but I know from my estimate is still far.

???????????????????????????????The trail was already easy at this moment, which gave me the opportunity to take advantage of the view using my point and shoot camera.

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Merry Christmas!

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??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It was already 1700 and we knew that we’re nearing the campsite, as per the advise of the porter. The trail here was getting steeper and colder at the same time. Steep assaults came into our way. Howling winds as if we were on a horror movie scene. And having just the thought of reaching the campsite motivates me to go further despite these things. My legs were already tired, my stomach was already feeling the hunger, and I was having headache already as well. I forgot to mention that I’m tasked to be the medic for this climb. So I stopped for a while and took 1 Alaxan from the medical kit that was with me. It gave me the usual relief that it gives.

DSC09209After that 10-hours of long trekking, we finally reach the campsite. It was already 1800 that time and already getting dark. And since we’re the last group, the prior groups had already cooked their food for dinner. We started pitching my tent which I shared with two of our guests: Nerie and Bujoi. We then prepared our food for dinner, which took us really a long time preparing. I was thankful that some of my batchmates already shared their cooked food just so for us to ease the hunger that we’re feeling. Click on this link to check our whole dinner story. πŸ˜€

DSC09212The campsite which was just a few meters below the summit was indeed really really cold and wet. It was uncomfortably cold that every time the air blows on our face, it gets us soaked as well. I was wearing my UK fleece jacket inside and my rain jacket outside already. Plus the bonnet, scarf, and gloves that I brought with me, made the coldness tolerable on my end I guess.

After socials, which we had to cut since the weather wasn’t getting any better, we already went inside the tent and took some zzzzz… And here comes the horrific part! At around 2AM, I woke up from a severe headache. It was a really painful throbbing sensation that awoken me from my slumber. Not sure if it’s because of my usual migraine or because of the shots of alcohol that I took during socials to keep my body warm. I was trying to look for my headlamp but I can’t find it. I sipped some water from the bladder that my hand has reached then. Just a split-second and I felt like my stomach just turned upside down. Yes, I just threw up inside my tent with my two guests inside. Imagine how gross is that! I was teary already while apologizing to them on what just happened. I was thankful for my tentmates that they were really nice stillΒ  that they even helped me clean up my mess. Whew! That was the most shameful thing that ever happened to me so far! I swear, I guess I’ll just add up layers to combat the freezing temperature next time. Hehe πŸ™‚Β  We went back sleeping after.

And that ended our roller coaster Day 1! Read here for our Day 2 story! Wiiii! πŸ˜€

Mt. Arayat Traverse:Magalang-Arayat Trail

Mt. Arayat located in Arayat, Pampanga has long been popular to me. Aside from the fact that it’s a distinct spot along NLEX, I’ve already got myself familiarized with this mountain since I was a kid because my mother is a native of the province. My family used to do summer vacation trips in Sta. Ana, Pampanga to visit my Lolo and in Floridablanca, Pampanga where my Aunt resides.

As how Sir Tristan (our TL for this climb) described it, our Mt. Arayat Traverse climb last October 19 would be just a “Walk in the Park”. Well, most probably he was thinking of Jurassic Park that time. Because for me, it’s exactly the opposite!

Prior saying yes to this climb, I’ve done my research on how the difficulty of this trail would go. Considering the fact that I just got into a flu days before the schedule. I wouldn’t want to be the team’s liability so I filed a 2-day sick leave for my complete recovery. Thank you boss! πŸ˜€

The team was composed of 28 mountaineers: a mix of MMS members and frequent guests. The exciting part here was that all of us are first timers of this mountain except for Sir Tristan. We hired 2 vans which departed at 0430 from Manila. ImageThe team arrived at around 0700 at Brgy. Ayala wherein we were welcomed by the Barangay Captain. We also had our packed breakfast here and prepared for the long trek. We started with a prayer for the Lord’s guidance and our usual stretching routines. The jump off from this point would still take us into a 30-minute walk so we’ve decided to take another ride to save time and energy as well.

ImageWe had our registration in this Information Center Hall set up by DENR. There were even discussions on whether we should proceed with the traverse since the other part of the trail got loose rocks and there were reported landslides due to the typhoon Santi which occurred a week prior. One of the locals even told us that there was one who died after he got into the landslide incident. The locals and the DENR officials were talking in Kapampangan discussing whether they would allow us or not. It was also then that I realized that I can still understand the dialect. Anyhow, as per the discretion of our Team Lead and our hired guide, we then proceeded with extra precaution knowing the story behind.

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A few walks after starting, we encountered the Station of the Cross figures along the way. Apparently, like Mt. Banahaw, the mountain has been a haven during Holy Week pilgrimage of the Catholics.

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A few more walks and we then saw what the locals were telling us: the aftermaths of the typhoon Santi. There were indeed big loose scattered rocks, several uprooted trees, and big branches thrown along the trail. Along with the steep ascend, these things added up to the challenge.

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The whole ascend was purely assault. I can’t even remember a moment where we encountered a flat surface other than the time when we reached the fenced military camp where we ate our lunch. It was already around 1300 at that time. We stayed there for an hour and then began our trek to the first summit.

1379955_10202302141703360_38049623_n copyA few walks from the military campsite lies the first peak of the Magalang Trail, the North Peak. It got a wide campsite wherein you can see the South Peak, which still lies far behind where we were. Enough for you to estimate how long the next trails would go. Which according to Sir Tristan, was another 4 more hours.

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The MMS Arayat Traverse Team

True enough, the rest of the trail was a major challenge. It was a mixture of a complete adventure that you can imagine: grasping big roots, trekking into big boulders, going underneath big logs, passing through thorny plants, and even vertical ascends and descends! 1380316_671611212856889_657562462_n

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1395897_671608622857148_879553752_nIt was a very technical trail that I could say that you need someone experienced to go along with you if you’re a newbie. Since we went as a big group, it was an advantage for us since we’ve got a lot of pro-MMS-mountaineers who went along with us. I remember the 80-degree boulder challenge wherein you have to go through a very narrow steep boulder, without a rope! There were two 90-degrees descend wherein I struggled going down. Descends have always been a challenge for me since I have this “fear of falling”. We were lucky enough to have Sir Ega and Jerry Escosio who were guiding us along the way. Ascends are also difficult since you have to put your trust in the roots scattered along the way. If there is rock climbing, I believe this one’s root climbing. Because you will literally climbed in through the roots.

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After reaching the famous White Rock, we took the chance to do photo ops. In some blogs, they would call it the Haring Bato.

1378799_10200913928594541_1321453461_nThis view deck I believe was the highlight of this trip. You will seeΒ Mt. Pinatubo from afar, the Clark Airport, the Pampanga River, and the wholeness of the Angeles City.

We then continued with the descend which even led us to a still, rooty rocky terrain. At this time, my mind just wanted to reach the flat surface of the ground. The trail then became gradual but got bushy that you have to use your trek pole to clear the path. The trail wasn’t getting clearer at this time, I remember not even seeing the trail anymore that you have to make your own path just so you can follow the person that goes before you. It was already 1800 and getting dark, and we had to put our headlamps on. This is a must guys even though the trip is just a dayhike! Also, you have to bring at least 3.5-4L of water. My 2L water and 2x500ml Gatorade were surprisingly not enough that I had to ask some for some refills from one of our guests.

Night trek is another thing, especially for someone who has night blindness like me. It’s harder for me to see things when it’s dark. At this time, I experienced having a pair of feet got a life of its own. They were already literally walking their way without my brain thinking about the moves anymore. I remember stumbling twice after hitting a loose rock. I also remember getting a lot of mosquito bites that I worried of getting dengue. But I didn’t care anymore, my mind was all set for reaching the final point. My heart skipped into happiness when we reached a concrete ground. But noooo, it was another loooong walk along that road. It was already 1930 when we finally reached the long-been-awaited destination. Whew!

We had a quick shower with the natural falls there that got a really cold flowing water. We then head our way to one of the NLEX stopovers to have our dinner.

The route as recorded by the app GPS Essentials

The route as recorded by the app GPS Essentials

Overall, it was an exhilarating, breath taking, heart-stopping, thrilling adventure! Yes the words are purely exaggeration because the trip really was! It would be a good training climb for those who are looking for a real deal thrill. It was another successful major climb for me and for the rest of the team!

Thank you Lord for I know You enabled and guided all of us along the way. πŸ˜€

Photo Credits: Bernard Llaguno, Carlo Tuazon, Tristan Santos, Philip Geromo

Mt. Manalmon| Spelunking at its finest

Our Mt. Manalmon trip last September 28-29 was a jampacked! This is one of those open climbs that we’ve got a huge number of guests. Probably because they’ve already heard stories of what this mountain showcases. Just a brief background, Mt. Manalmon is at 196+ MASL, it’s a low lying mountain in the area of San Miguel, Bulacan and is usually referred to as a hill by some mountaineers. It got nearby sites like the Bayukbok Caves (wherein you need to cross a river to get in) and the Madlum Caves. We coupled our itinerary with a sidetrip of these two to maximize our Biak na Bato experience.

The trip started with a major delay in transportation. The bus that we rented which we expected to arrive at 0430 to pick us up at Shaw Blvd apparently arrived at 0700 due to an engine defect. But we were sooo lucky to have guests who were really patient and stayed positive that time. Though I know that some were really disappointed with what happened, which is understandable and we were really sorry about. Imagine the hassle of waking up early in the morning only for you to wait for another 2 hours and a half, which you could’ve spent in sleeping more instead. But likewise, the climb could’ve been aborted if not for the positivity of the people there, be it members or guests. πŸ™‚

Inabutan na ng araw, smile pa din :)

Inabutan na ng araw, smile pa din πŸ™‚

This is also the climb that I got myself familiarized with all the roles and responsibilities of the officers in a climb: be it TL, STL, ATL, Scribe, Medic, or Sweeper. Together with Aizel, our Team Lead for this climb, I was tasked to be her assistant in organizing all the requirements for this climb. Aizel, being a second timer of this mountain (this was also her first climbed mountain btw), took charge of the itinerary. So I was really confident that she’ll do good as a Team Leader for this Open Climb. True enough, she has proven that she’s not just another beautiful face, but someone who also has the character and leadership skills. Meanwhile, being a graphic design hobbyist, I took charge of the publicity efforts for this climb as well as the IDs and certificates.

I dragged along Lucky and Marvie, my friendly housemates, to be my guests. I got stoked when they said yes because I’ve been really wanting them to feel the thrill and excitement that I feel towards mountain climbing. So to all my friends there whom I keep on inviting, your yes would really mean sooo much to me. Haha πŸ™‚

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Group picture bago magstart

We arrived at the initial jump off point at around 1100 and started with prayer and our usual stretching routines. The weather was good despite the rains days before the scheduled climb. The trail was gradual which barely took an hour and a half to reach the peak. We went on to alternating uphills and downhills.

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Lucky, Marvie, and I

Lucky, Marvie, and I

With Batch Trese

With Batch Trese

The author at the summit of Mt. Manalmon overlooking Mt. Gola and the Madlum River

The author at the summit of Mt. Manalmon overlooking Mt. Gola and the Madlum River

After theΒ  summit photo ops, we ate our packed lunch then started with our descent to the river to prepare for our spelunking. Here comes the exciting part!

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I’m actually not a fan of spelunking but the Madlum Caves gave us that ultimate adrenaline rush feeling. The inside was really muddy and slippery so you really have to wear a good pair of trekking shoes or sandals. A headlamp is a must since the inside was really dark. Wear gloves to improve your grip on the rocks that you will be grasping the whole time. It will test your flexibility since you have to squeeze in your body through the small cracks. You have to crawl in just for you to fit in those lowly elevated stalacmites. You have to rappel down and use those rope skills else you’ll be left atop. You have to maneuver both your legs and arms to pass each phase. And lastly you have to pull out those big grin still despite the sticky messy mud all over your body.

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The whole spelunking took 3 hours and we went out the cave really dirty. It was almost 1700 that time that we opted to not proceed with the second set of caves anymore since our itinerary is already delayed due to the morning bus incident. Also, the river that time was raging and the balsa which was supposedly our mode of transfer across the river would not be enough for the strong water current. We then took our chance to cross the famous monkey bridge just to experience it.

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Marvie enjoying the Monkey Bridge

Afterwards we headed our way to the Pavillion of the Biak na Bato National Park where we will be staying overnight. The place is covered and the floor is tiled so you should bring a tent that is free standing because you won’t be able to pitch it in if it’s not.

1382390_10200813551485176_1628038140_nThis is the climb wherein I first used my newly bought cookset and stove. Finally, I’ve completed the basic equipment of what a mountaineer should at least have to be self-contained. But being a people person that I am, I honestly don’t prefer going solo, be it in meals or in tents. I haven’t thought of going on a solo climb yet either. I believe that mountain climbing is at least a 2-person sport.

We had pork adobo for dinner which I precooked the night before the climb. We then just reheat it and cooked the rice instead. We also prepared the rice for our breakfast cooked as well already so we can have a sinangag in the morning. Best partnered with our spam and corned beef meal. Yum!

Socials

Socials

After dinner, then we had our most awaited socials! We were kinda doubting that time if the guests would still be keen to it since most of them were really already dead tired from spelunking. Surprisingly, they were all very participative still in all the games that we prepared: Longest line, Pass the message with a twist, and of course our favorite Seven-up!

River - crossing

River – crossing

We set the wake up time at 0530 to prepare for breakfast and the second part of our caving. This time, they said that it’s not going to be as difficult as the previous. We crossed a river that is above the knee deep, there’s also a rope provided across to help you through the flowing water.

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943351_10202219641360302_878751673_nOur Day 2 caving is more of a tourist mode type since we don’t have to do the exhibitions that we did during Day 1. It was actually educational since the guides were telling us historical backgrounds of the cave. On how Emilio Aguinaldo took refuge on the caves of Biak na Bato just to hide from the Spaniards and how they can detect if an enemy entered the perimeter of the caves just by hearing the sounds of what their feet makes. We even had this follow-the-chant activity wherein we all burst into laughter after the guide delivered the punchline. I won’t expound it more for you have to experience the fun for real!

At the Biak na Bato natural pool

At the Biak na Bato natural pool

We left the cave just in time for some swimming in the natural pool inside the BNB Natural Park. We had our pre-ordered lunch served by the ate(s) there wherein we paid P120 per head for a full dish meal: rice, fish, tinolang manok, gulay, and buko pandan. Sulit na sulit! We had our post climb afterwards then distributed the certificates to our valued guests.

Distribution of Certificates

Distribution of Certificates

In behalf of Batch Trese, we would like to thank all the members and guests who supported this activity! Yeyy! And congrats to sis Aizel Docog for a very well organized climb! Thank you to my batchmates for supporting this: Mau as our Medic and the entertainer of my guests with his jokes and punchlines, Marc Santos as our Sweeper, Ric our Scribe, to Bryan who volunteered to print the IDs and certificates of the guests (very much appreciated), to Cha and Eduard who relentlessly assisted this open climb as well, to Rose who also guided my guests all throughout the climb, to the couple Carlo and Lea who never get tired and never missed any of the MMS climb yet, to our Senior Team Lead Papa Ding Prudencio for guiding us, to Sir Al for sparing us your energy in spearheading the socials which made it really really fun, and to our batchmates who were not able to join but still supported us in spirit (we know)! I hope you guys would continue to join the future open climbs of MMS!Β  Wiiii! πŸ˜€

Thank you for joining!

The Mt. Manalmon Team

Photo credits: Jan David Morta, Eduard Velasquez, Carlo Tuazon, Tristan Santos