No, I did not run a marathon using the Mt. Makiling trails although I think people actually do that…I’m talking about scaling the mountain twice, in consecutive weekends. Before this year, I’ve only climbed it once, had a somewhat traumatic experience with it and to be honest, was actually looking forward to climbing it again. I never imagined that I would actually get to do so as often as I did though. I have a feeling that if I wasn’t climbing Mt. Apo next weekend, I could probably be convinced to climb it again. 😀
I guess it all started when our training climb in Mt. Tapulao got cancelled because of the heavy rains that assaulted Luzon two weeks ago. Most of our climbmates had to deal with the floods in their respective residences so we decided to forgo the Tapulao climb. But of course, being who I am, I still wanted to climb a mountain that weekend because one: the heavy rains have already stopped and it was actually quite sunny come Saturday and two: I haven’t had any preparation for our upcoming Apo climb yet. Luckily enough, Master Rex of Team SAGUL has a scheduled Mt. Makiling climb that Sunday so I said why not? It was an opportune moment. I invited Lee Jay, who will be among those climbing Apo with me, because I remembered him voting that he’d be ok to go through with Mt. Tapulao despite the weather. So at the morning of Aug. 11, we were off to Sto. Tomas, Batangas to scale Mt. Makiling once more with me hoping that this time would be much better than my first attempt.
You see, when I climbed Makiling last year, the mountain took no time showing us why it had the reputation of mountaineers frequently getting lost on its slopes. What was supposed to be a dayhike ended up taking almost 24 hours because we got sidetracked for almost 3 hours on the way up then some of our co-climbers got lost during the descent. They eventually required getting rescued and it was about 2 am before the whole groups was complete once more. Clearly, not an ideal climb. And although I was quite excited to climb Makiling because of its challenging trail, I hoped I would never get to experience the mountain under those circumstances again. On the bright side, I did meet some friends who turned out to be frequent climbing buddies since then.
This time around, the masters of team SAGUL opted to take the Sipit Trail, originating from Brgy. San Felix in Sto. Tomas. This was recognized as the more ‘official’ trail of Mt. Makiling than the one we took last year (Palanggana trail) coming from Brgy. San Bartolome. Along with masters Rex, Luz, Rona, Bart and other mountaineers, off we went to Makiling Eco-Park (so termed “basurahan” because that’s where the town’s recycling efforts take place) to start our hike via the Sipit trail.
The trail was challenging enough and for me, much better than the Palanggana trail because you get to pass by the Sipit River and I think it was shorter all in all. We started at about 9 am and after an hour and a half, we were already at Station 7 (where the Sipit and Palanggana trails converged). We pushed on ahead amidst the hyperactive limatiks and had lunch just before the campsite areas mainly because we were hungry as hell. Jay and I were ahead of the group so by the time the rest of the group caught up to where we stayed for lunch, we were already full. Oh and they were drenched in alcohol when they caught up to us by the way. 😀
Mt. Makiling is known for limatiks, no doubt about that. And given the recent heavy string of thunderstorms, it was expected that they would be more active than usual. As most of my climbmates were Makiling first-timers, their reactions to seeing those dreaded limatiks were somewhat expected to the point of hilarity. 🙂 When we began trekking, masters Luz and Rona seemed quite eager to encounter those infamous creatures that they’ve heard so much about. I warned them that sooner or later, they’d probably encounter more than they could handle so there’s no need to get excited just yet. True enough, when they finally encountered some, endless shrills could heard all along the trail and they all but bathed themselves in alcohol just to get the limatiks off them. We weren’t even on Peak 3 and they’ve already consumed a whole bottle of alcohol! When they caught up to us during lunch time, I advised them how to rationally deal with limatik the way I know how and I guess they were considerably calmer after that.
After lunch, we pushed through with our hike and soon after, the unthinkable happened. Our party got lost…again. Apparently, there were some misleading pink trail signs in place which were utilized by some mountaineers who were trying to open a new path. I guess they just left it there just before Station 14 so it was all very possible to mistake it for the actual trail especially if you’re not versed in Makiling’s trails like we were. All in all, we lost at most 2 ½ hours hiking and backtracking through overgrown trails which resulted in a few body scratches and scrapes I might add. It was almost 3 in the afternoon before we were able to locate the trail leading up to Haring Bato.
It was getting late in the afternoon and we weren’t even atop Peak 3 yet! I admit I was already feeling frustrated by that time because I couldn’t believe that Makiling would do that to me again (personal affront to ganyan haha). Thank god for the pitcher plants because they lifted my spirits up. I actually don’t know why I didn’t pay any attention to it last year but apparently, the rocky crags leading up to Peak 3 was riddled with numerous pitcher plants of all shapes and sizes. I’ve never seen an actual pitcher plant before and seeing it in the wild really excited me. For a brief time there, I forgot that I was totally fed up being constantly lost whenever I climb Makiling.
It took us most of the afternoon to traverse Peak 3 to Peak 2 and it was almost 5:30 by the time we arrived at the cross-marked summit of Mt. Makiling. From there, it would be another 2 hours of descent to UPLB at a normal pace. I asked permission to go on ahead because I wanted to take advantage of the waning light as much as I could. Which was exactly the way it played out last year. I was able to achieve it in roughly an hour the previous year so I decided to do it again this year. As fate would have it, one disastrous misstep would lead me to fall sideways on some slippery rocks somewhere along the trail so for the latter part of the descent, I was pretty much limping. Even though the LB trail was quite benign (a lengthy walk in the park as some say), walking all alone amidst the quickly diminishing light with your right leg throbbing didn’t make the experience enjoyable. I was hurrying as much as I could because my mind was starting to play tricks on me. I actually kept looking back at the trail and had to constantly calm myself to think that all is well and that no otherworldly elements were following me. I actually picked up a stick so I could defend myself somewhat against whatever may pop out of the darkness. Honestly, can you blame me? Maria Makiling and all that? The mountain has a reputation for that too!
It was already dark when I reached the few residential houses at the base of the mountain and soon after, sir Bart caught up with me. We waited for the rest of our group who arrived at about half past 8. They were all together by this point because some of them only had to rely on their mobile phones to light their ways. Sure it was late but at least no one got lost. After a quick rest at the carinderia, we trekked the remaining half hour to the ranger station at UPLB where we washed ourselves up. Jay and I went on ahead of the rest because we had to go back to Calamba to pick up the car that Lee Jay parked there before heading home. We actually planned to have dinner at the ever famous Tuding’s Original Porkchop but seeing as it was already 11 o’clock, the restaurant was already closed. We had to settle for Jollibee along SLEX instead. 😦
Fast forward to our Mt. Apo preclimb 5 days later. Kuya Fred was inviting some of us to climb Makiling, a hike which he had been planning since last year that always ended getting postponed, on the 19th. I decided to join once again because one: it’ll still be good training for the upcoming Apo climb; two: I wanted to get “revenge” on that mountain and prove to myself that I won’t get lost a third time and three: I really wanted to eat at Tuding’s again. 😀 Ate and Vernz were convinced to join as well because like me the previous week, they were quite apprehensive about not having trained themselves prior to our Mt. Apo climb. So, come August 19, on a rainy Sunday morning, the three of us met up at Jac Liner Cubao then headed once more to Sto. Tomas.
We actually met up with the rest of the HLGG at Sto. Tomas already since they boarded the bus from Buendia. Along with Kuya Fred, Des, Aiya and Big Boy Allan, we met up with our guide’s (Ivan) group which included ma’ams Mars and Dawn as well as sir Iggy. This time around, we took the Palanggana trail from San Bartolome, which was our route during my first Makiling climb. So we headed to the barangay hall for the registration and by 7 in the morning (earlier than my previous climbs and rightfully so as experience suggested…), we were already climbing the steep assaults of the trail.
I guess 3rd time really is a charm because trail-wise, there were no more mishaps. The now ‘fenced’ trail via Palanggana certainly helped a lot. All in all, it was pretty straight forward until Station 7 and from there, I was very confident that I could find my way this time around. Those pink trail signs were not going to confuse me anymore because I would literally hate myself to death if they still did. 😉
We had lunch at Peak 3 which we reached at about half past 11. After that, another 2 hours along the wild boar trail and we were already at Peak 2 a little before 2 in the afternoon. I guess there was no need to be in a hurry during the descent so we adopted a more relaxed pace as we headed down the UPLB path. The descent actually gave me a whole new perspective about the trail since for the first time, I got to enjoy trekking through it. I recognized some of the shadows that frightened the frak out of me the previous week and got to laughing about it as I told the story to my climbmates. When we got to the area where the carinderias were located, we stopped for our customary buko then headed straight to the ranger station to wash up. It was actually quite funny because it didn’t rain the whole time we were climbing (although it did, heavily, while we were en route to Sto. Tomas) but only poured when we were literally just meters away from the station, right around where the giant toog trees of UPLB were planted. It didn’t last long though and by the time the rest of the party has finished washing up, the rains have let up as well.
We left UPLB at about 7 PM to head for Calamba and have dinner at Tuding’s since there was still plenty of time. After an hour of putting up with the hunger, I finally got to chow down Tuding’s famous pork chop once more. I actually ordered two, that’s how much I was craving for it. I hope I didn’t alarm anyone with my appetite but I guess given how much I was incessantly talking about it, they were probably expecting it anyway. 😀
On a special note though, while “getting lost” was not the theme for my most recent Makiling climb, hyperactive limatiks were. They were more active than the week before which was a little surprising since there weren’t a lot of rains the past week compared to how it was when the infamous Habagat hit. Vernz actually ended up with a bloody hand which she didn’t notice until the blood was literally pouring down her wrist. That creepy limatik hid under her watch! She would also later find out that her toes were bloodied after removing her socks at home, not knowing that limatiks were sucking blood out of them the whole time. Ma’am Mars was the most unfortunate of us since the limatik actually went inside her eye! Like what online articles suggested, we just had her let them be until they fall out on their own and in the end they did so no damage was actually done. Thanks heavens for that. I guess if nothing else, Maria Makiling makes sure that every climb along her slopes would prove memorable for everyone who tries.
Despite all of the mishaps, Mt. Makiling is worth going back to every single time. Its rich flora more than make up for the pesky limatiks. Wild mushrooms, flowers and of course those cute pitcher plants are but some of the highlights. 😀
Well, until next time, “old” friend. After all, you’re the mountain that I’ve climbed the most to date! 😀
*Photo credit: Vernz Fabroa
- Sometimes it’s not about the climb…it’s about the chops. (druidoftheword.wordpress.com)