Returning to Mt. Marami: Maraming Bato at ‘Pusong Bato’

After our Mt. Apo climb, I kind of took a break from climbing. I don’t remember if it was by choice or I was getting too poor to actually go anywhere. Probably the latter (which I may have to do again soon). In any case, a whole six weeks passed since my last climb (yes, in my ‘climbing world’, that is already forever) before I went with Take Five Hikers for their training climb in Mt. Marami. It was a tune-up climb for the upcoming IRock 2 (I Reach Out on Christmas for Kids) to be held at Mt. Kalawitan/Sagada on November 30 to December 4. I got to join them last year for the same event (a Mt. Tabayoc/Tawangan ES Outreach) which is where I got to know most of the group. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join them this year because I have other commitments, which at the present seem to be in jeopardy as well. But that’s another story for another time.

For fear of my muscles actually going into atrophy, I decided to join the climb even though I won’t be able to on the actual outreach. I also wanted to visit Mt. Marami a second time around because for all that mountain’s annoying qualities, it was actually worth going back to. I first scaled its heights on March of last year, my motivations wholly different from this time. It was a semi-therapeutic climb the first time around, my mom just passed away no more than a month before and during that time, I really couldn’t stand being cooped up in the house. I felt I needed heights for some peace of mind so that’s what I did then. Sure it sounds a little hipster-ish now but sometimes it’s the clichés that help you get through the pain, no matter how small. It was a relatively subdued climb as well (there were only 4 of us, not as rowdy) so I had time to be introspective and all that. And trust me, when I got to that mode, I really go there. So I guess I’m eternally grateful for Mt. Marami for that experience.

at the summit of Mt. Marami circa 2011...and my now lost jacket :(

at the summit of Mt. Marami circa 2011…and my now lost jacket 😦

Which was a far cry to how my recent climb was. Anyway, along with the Take Five Hikers, fellow HLGG member Allan “Big Boy” Becina joined the climb as well. Tin was supposed to come as well but some work matters popped out so she had to cancel at the last minute. So at the break of dawn on October 20, I was heading to McDonalds Baclaran to meet up with the rest of the group before heading to Naic. I was actually quite looking forward to the climb because it has been a while since I climbed with those guys. I’ve climbed with most of them before so I knew it was a fun group to begin with instead of seemingly treading the waters whenever I join another group for a climb. I think the last time was when My joined us in Mt. Arayat and Paul and Eric at Cristobal last May and yes, I’m nostalgic like that when it comes to people dear reader, deal with it.

It was actually quite a while before we left, almost after six (meet up time was 5 am) so the sun was already up when we boarded the bus. After about 2 hours or so of plying Cavite and its numerous towns (which involved an in-depth discussion of Big Boy and I’s critic review of the current season of The Walking Dead), we alighted at Naic. Last year, since there were just four of us, we took the scheduled jeepney trip from Naic to Magallanes but since there were 17 of us this time around, sir Mike and the others just went and hired a jeepney to make it more convenient.

en route to Naic*

en route to Naic*

The trip to Magallanes was probably an indication to how fun the climb was going to be. It was a good thing we weren’t taking the public trip or most of the other passengers would have been annoyed with the ruckus we were making. We were joking around, ganging up on Er-er (yes, that was our version of fun) and laughing our hearts out at every moment possible. We also stopped to buy some much needed libations although in retrospect, maybe we did not need it as much. I also noticed that during this climb (which Erwin cleverly pointed out I might add), most of us talked like this:

“Talagang ______ agad? Di ba pwedeng _____ muna?”

Seriously. I’m guilty of that too. I actually don’t know where and when that phenomenon took off but that’s language for you, I guess. Ever changing. Some for the better, others…not so much. I’m still on the fence about this recent development though.

Aside from talking like walking sarcasms, I was also introduced to the fad that was “Pusong Bato”. This will turn out to become a sub-theme of the entire climb. I guess I’ve heard that song before but I clearly didn’t give it much heed. Who knew that it was gaining popularity nowadays (I sound like I live under a rock…)? I actually asked if it was used in some station ID or show because it was clearly from a while back but apparently no one was sure where it came from. It was suddenly ubiquitous and I guess people just went along with it. Mam Lani even had a track on her phone which she graciously played for us and to which Big Boy, not so graciously, sung along to (complete with the sudden falsetto and all). It was made even funnier since Big Boy is the quintessential “broken-hearted/my-love-life is-so-damn-complicated” guy during climbs. He’s the one prone to dishing out love nuggets whenever we are on the trail (or anywhere, really). It wasn’t the first climb that he was like that nor will it ever be the last I wager. 😛

For the uninformed, here’s a link to that (god awful) song.

Anyway, after an hour of travelling, we finally arrived at Magallanes, Cavite. We stopped by the Police Station to register before going to the Brgy. Ramirez jump-off. A development that I found when we reached the jumpoff was that they now sold souvenir items. I’m fairly sure that there was no such thing the year before. I guess kumikitang pangkabuhayan na rin sila. I found it weird though because you kind of expect that with major mountains but not with minor ones like Mt. Marami. I personally wasn’t feeling the ‘commercialization’ all that much especially given that it wasn’t a major tourist or mountaineering destination. But then again, one man’s opinion. Who am I to speak, right?

After logging in at the barangay, we started the trek proper. I actually braced myself because the first time I climbed it, Mt. Marami’s trails proved very very annoying. There were numerous trail forks that could easily confuse hikers. Adding to that, the ascent to the summit was in no way straight forward. Unlike most mountains where ascent is characterized by rising slopes, ascending to the summit of Mt. Marami would have you trekking through alternating assaults and descents. It’s barely 500 MASL but it would still take at least 3 to 4 hours to get to the peak. Not to mention coupling that with muddy terrain. That’s what Mt. Marami was like.

at the jumpoff**

at the jumpoff**

But like my return to Mt. Ugo, I found it easier this time around. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect or I was so used to mountain climbing by now so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’m not being conceited (although, it does sound a lot like I am no?), it’s just what it was.

I was part of the rear group and we were barely at the river when we got lost the first time. Well, not really lost, more of unsure whether we were on the correct path after taking a left in a fork (it turned out we were). My memory was still no good by this point although I do remember several landmarks. Aside from the river, there was the huge mango tree, the discontinued wall, the filthy water source and the gated fields. Give me a break, it was almost 2 years ago! 😀 We caught up with the rest of the group at the huge mango tree where I correctly guessed that they would take a break. It was an ideal place for that after all.

1st river crossing*

1st river crossing*

We continued on at a very moderate pace since we’ve already estimated that we would get to the campsite with plenty of time to spare. Sir Mike and Abdul have been there recently as well so they had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into as well. When we reached the chapel, we cut across it for a shorter route to the river. I didn’t remember doing that the year before but I guess it still led to the same place. We were initially apprehensive about entering the chapel since there was no one to ask permission from. We were kidding around that maybe there was a shoot to kill order on any intruder so we carefully crossed the field ala-Hunger Games style. Especially since the makeshift gate was closed to begin with. When we reached the other side, we found out that the route to the river was semi-closed as well. We decided to continue to the old path but the locals we encountered suggested we take the shortcut instead. They kindly accompanied us back and basically informed us that it was ok to open the barricade at the back of the chapel.

sirs Dan, Erwin, Mark, Mike 2 and Mike taking a break at Nuestra Señora de la Paz*

sirs Dan, Erwin, Mark, Mike 2 and Mike taking a break at Nuestra Señora de la Paz*

We arrived at the river soon after that, had our lunch and rested a bit before pushing on. I say ‘a bit’ even though I took an actual proper nap that they had to wake me up so that we could resume the trek. I was sleep-deprived, most of us were. I’m like that during climbs, the excitement and anticipation always seem to get the better of me to actually get some rest.

the lot of us unceremoniously napping on the trail*

the lot of us unceremoniously napping on the trail*

We also stopped by the waterfalls which was another first for me, in order to get water. At least it was running water so it was much better than the designated ‘water source’. It was off to the side of the house right before the gated field and I guess the previous year, we just went straight past it since it was fairly near to the campsite already. We actually took another long break here, helping ourselves to some buko that Doc Doug’s ‘porters/guide/nephews’ acquired.

water source. it wasn't much better than the stagnant well but at least it was running water*

water source. it wasn’t much better than the stagnant well but at least it was running water*

taking 'five' by the water source. me getting cozy on the hammock there**

taking ‘five’ by the water source. me getting cozy on the hammock there**

After that, the trail became characterized by bamboo trees and tall (very tall) cogon grass. The overgrowth wasn’t that tall the year before and I remembered it being barely knee-high but now, it was so high that it impeded our vision sometimes. Adding to that discomfort, we got lost once again right before the campsite so we ended up traversing wherever the hell we wanted to so long as we were heading on a general upward direction. We were successful to a certain degree because we all made it to the campsite, albeit we had to come out from different sides before getting there.

Big Boy and I at the campsite, with the summit clear in the background*

Big Boy and I at the campsite, with the summit clear in the background*

After we set about pitching our tents, most of the group decided to assault the summit for the sunset. Allan and I actually got left out of this decision because we were talking at a nearby ridge so when we found out that all of them went to the peak, we hurriedly went after them. Only sir Abdul was left at the campsite. The peak was only 15 minutes away after all. After getting lost yet again that ended up involving backtracking through tall clumps of grass, we finally caught up to them at the peak. It was my first time summiting the peak at sunset and all I can say that it was ridiculously windy. Windy levels like Batulao and Tarak. You could easily get thrown out of balance if you’re not careful. But of course, that didn’t stop any of us from daredevil poses, jumpshots and other shenanigans. When there was not enough light left, we headed back to the camp once more where another group has already joined us.

sirs Mark, Mike and Dan on the rock formation facing the peak*

sirs Mark, Mike and Dan on the rock formation facing the peak*

Me! see PDL in the background?*

Me! see PDL in the background?*

it doesn't show it but the winds were absurd by this point. Us at the peak!*

it doesn’t show it but the winds were absurd by this point. Us at the peak!*

By this time, I’m gonna admit that I was severely hungry that I felt no shame hogging whatever trail food they passed around. I helped (I think I did…) while Paul, My and Lani went about preparing our dinner of tinola/sinigang (?) na manok. Mam Danica also kindly gave us the longganisa that she had remaining from her lunch to add to our dinner fare. I absolutely loved the garlic ones and I think I was the one who consumed most of them. Mam Danica, next time uli ha! :p We huddled around the middle of the camp for dinner and soon after that, we held the climb socials.

Like most socials involving alcohol, that night turned out to be an uber fun blur. 😀 Thank heavens we were drinking gin because I am a gin person so I’m not totally on board with the Empi Light phenomenon currently gripping the country. In any case, inebriation really brings out the fun in people and the socials clearly proved that. The ‘introductions’ part was probably the only tame part of that night. Not long after that, we were howling with laughter with Mam Lani and Sir Rick’s “Bea and John Lloyd” pairing, chanting “Erwin” whenever we don’t know what to say, singing and dancing along to “Pusong Bato” whenever we get the chance as well as serving as a panel of advisers to the perpetually love-confused Big Boy. By the end of the night, I was pretty sure it turned into a love connection convention or something. I think Big Boy came out of that more confused about his current love situation than ever.

I admit that when I’ve had a little to drink (yes, I’m being modest here…), I get a little rowdy myself. At one point, while tipsy, I said I won’t talk that much anymore to which Eric expressed blatant disbelief and what do you know, he was right? 😀 In my defense it’s hard to keep a conversation with people if you don’t actually, you know, talk.

While I’m not the quietest person during a drinking session, I still know how to distinguish friend from foe. With My, not so much 😀 She would have a case of what Dave Krumholtz refer to as “mental bulimia”. She will say whatever she thinks then apologize afterwards when she realizes that she was mean. 😀 It was really quite amusing to see. We had to constantly remind her that she’s not just saying things in her head…we can actually hear her. But then again, this was the girl who once said,

“Bakit di niyo na lang ilipat…”

You know what? I’d probably get in trouble for retelling that story in print so I’ll stop right there. 😀 Let’s just say that by the end of the socials when everyone was settling down, a scene like this happened:

Ken: “Mam My, itong mga sapatos niyo po ba ok lang na narito sa labas ng tent?”
My: “Hindi kuya, kung ipasok mo kaya sa tent mo!”
Us: “My! Concerned lang si sir Ken! Hahaha”
My: “Kuya sorry sorry!!!”

It really was a fun night and after we cleaned up, some of the guys chose to do some stargazing because that was the week when numerous meteor showers were forecasted. I could hear them oooh and aaaahing and teasing Mam Danica because she only saw a few. I got up because of that and stared at the sky for a while as well. I got lucky and saw one shooting star before turning in so I was quite happy with that. 😀

I guess it was a good thing that I was slightly inebriated because if I wasn’t, I probably couldn’t have slept at all during the night. The other group, as it turned out, was more…ehem…loose than we were that by 3 in the morning, someone was shouting and cussing without a care in the world. I do not know to whom he was talking to or arguing with and frankly I did not care. Sure we were loud in a fun kind of way, but not like that! None of us run amok, My’s behavior notwithstanding :p. In any case, thank heavens for the buzz because I wasn’t too irritated to give it much heed.

I woke up at the break of dawn, earlier than everybody else as it turned out. My body clock always seems to adjust big time when I’m in the mountains (hell would freeze if I get up that early in the metro…). I was hoping to climb the summit for the sunrise but the low cloud cover made it obvious that the sky had other plans. It didn’t seem like it was about to rain or anything but there was clearly going to be no view at the peak. At about 5:30 am, only sir Mark was awake so I asked him if he wanted to assault the summit because the rest of the group seemingly did not intend to. He agreed that we were probably better off not waiting for the others to wake up so the two of us headed for the summit.

sir Mark and me at the summit*

sir Mark and me at the summit*

It turns out that another group was camped at the summit itself. They arrived late in the evening so all the camp sites were already occupied. They told us that they just laid out their sleeping bags since it was far more tedious to set up a tent especially given how windy it was last night. They just positioned themselves against the boulders and used them as natural windbreakers. Hardcore much? Although, I must say that I’ve had the experience of doing that once before. Gulugod Baboy, 2011. Drunk mountaineer hogging my tent. Enough said.

As sir Mark and I talked and waited for the sun to rise, more campers from the other groups started arriving at the peak. We actually relocated to the more precarious rock formations since the main peak was getting too crowded. We saw some climbers assaulting the peak nearer the campsite instead of the rock formations and actually considered doing the same once we get back to the campsite (which was not realized). We thought that most of our coclimbers would decide to climb the summit as well but as it turned out, only sir Rick, Mike Francis, Erwin and Abdul followed suit. I guess since they already got the chance to enjoy the summit the previous day, they didn’t feel like they were missing out. Personally, I love the feeling of being at the summit so I don’t pass up any opportunity that I get. Ask Mt. Banahaw for proof 😀

early morning summiteers. with sir Erwin, Mike, Rick and some dude I don't know.*

early morning summiteers. with sir Erwin, Mike, Rick and some dude I don’t know.*

it looks much more dangerous than it actually is*

it looks much more dangerous than it actually is*

In any case, after we’ve enjoyed the peak, we came back down for breakfast which most of our groupmates were already busy preparing. We broke camp soon after that and almost like serendipity, started raining as we started our descent. By the time we got to the gated fence, my poncho was already muddied especially since I chose to slide down instead of hauling my bag first. I actually felt like a freakin spy while slickly sliding over a trip wire or something. I didn’t appreciate the mess on my clothes afterwards though.

it just had to rain as we were prepping to trek down :p*

it just had to rain as we were prepping to trek down :p*

During the descent, I went on ahead with the lead group since I selfishly wanted to wash up first. We caught up with some other climbers who were part of the other group who decided to climb down a little earlier than we did. It turned out that they got separated from their group and they were unsure if they’ve been left behind or they were ahead or even if they were on the right trail. They even asked us to guide them! It wasn’t a big deal though since by that time, the memory of Mt. Marami’s trails was already ingrained in my head. And my trusty landamarks were still there so yehey for me.

As expected, we got to the barangay first and after treating ourselves to Mountain Dew, we went on ahead and washed up. This actually gave me time to rest a bit while the rest of the party arrived and took their own respective baths. We still had the rented jeepney from the day before so catching up to transportation was not an issue. The only problem was we haven’t had any lunch. It was almost 2 when we left Magallanes with the lot of us deciding to have lunch at Naic instead. We had a hearty lunch just near the junction where we would be boarding Manila-bound buses. Don’t ask me how much I ate, you probably wouldn’t believe it was possible. Or maybe you would, I talk about Tudings to death after all. 😀 We boarded the Baclaran bus at about half past 3 I think, so it was already dark when we arrived in Manila.

Here is the official itinerary regarding Mt. Marami as posted in the Pinoy Mountaineer website that we took. This is for those commuting but if you have a huge group like ours, renting a jeep would probably the better option. In any case, reaching and leaving the jumpoff is very accessible although I think the last jeepney trips leave at about 5 in the afternoon.

ITINERARY

VIA THE NUESTRA SENORA TRAIL

Day 1
0500 ETD Manila. Take Saulog bus to Naic (P65)
0700 ETA Naic; take jeep to Magallanes (P30)
0800 ETA Magallanes. Register at police station. Take tricycle to Brgy. Ramirez
0900 ETA Brgy. Ramirez, at Kon. Punongbayan’s house. Register. (P20)
0930 Start trek
1000 ETA Ilog na Kayrayag
1100 Cross three segments of Bangkaan River; proceed to Nuestra Señora de la Paz
1200 Have lunch at Kapihan Nipa hut. There’s a nearby water source.
1300 Resume trek to Campsite 1
1400 ETA Campsite 1
1500 Reach Bamboo Forest
1600 ETA campsite at base of Mt. Marami summit.
1630 Assault the summit; explore
1800 Return to camp.
1830 Dinner / socials

Day 2
0530 Wake up / sunrise viewing
0630 Breakfast
0730 Break camp
0800 Start descent
1030 Back at Kapihan nipa hut
1230 Back at jump-off point at Brgy. Ramirez
1300 Leave for Municipal Hall, then Naic via jeep
1400 ETA Naic. Take bus back to Manila
1700 Back in Manila.

I could say Mt. Marami would forever be a memorable mountain for me. Now for two wholly different reasons. One for every end of the emotional spectrum. 😀 Thanks to Take Five Hikers for the laughs and company and good luck on the coming IRock 2! Until the next climb!

Photo credits:
*Erwin Claver
**Marlou Gozo

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One thought on “Returning to Mt. Marami: Maraming Bato at ‘Pusong Bato’

  1. Pingback: Revisiting Mt. Pulag: Day 1 – Outreach and Saddle Camp with CAC and ROTA! | the fine line

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