This was the day we almost had a siraan-ng-pagkakaibigan (end-of-friendship). Well, not really. I’d like to think our friendship is strong enough to survive a trivial spat like that but it still wasn’t pretty.
0400H Wake-up call
We woke up at 4am as usual, prepared breakfast and took care of all the routine stuff before breaking camp. At 7am, we were packed and ready to go except that a tent was still standing, things were still scattered on the ground, and Fred was still walking around in his shorts. I lost my temper, his ego got hurt, and we started the trek 24 minutes late and in a foul mood.
0724H Start trek
Knowing you’re right can make you annoyingly self-righteous and boy, was I as self-righteous as an overbearing Pharisee. I wanted everything to go smoothly and felt that a 24-minute delay due to inconsequential reasons was a serious lapse in such a major climb as this. In hindsight, I could’ve been more gracious about the whole thing. And I could’ve been a little less of an uptight control freak.
We had to leave our early morning drama behind though because the trail merited our full concentration. There were ant colonies to avoid, sharp thorns to be wary of, and wild boar traps to be scared about.
Balatik is the local term for a wild boar trap. Hunters place a tiny string on the ground which, when snapped by an unsuspecting pig (or a clueless trekker), would release a poison-laden spear aimed straight at the animal’s body (or the trekker’s leg).
Balatik markers are usually placed next to a hunter trail which leads to the traps. The actual traps are still a safe distance away from the trail used by climbers so you don’t have to worry about stepping on one if you stay on the path. The important thing is to listen to your guide and follow the trail he uses.
0909H Kawayanan campsite
Kawayanan, named as such because of the abundance of kawayan (bamboo) in the area, is a small campsite used by previous climbers. The disadvantage of camping here though is the lack of water source. You’d have to haul water all the way from Kabugan.
From here to Paray-Paray campsite, the terrain gets steeper and the flora and fauna get more interesting. We saw our first pitcher plant, albeit a dead one, less than an hour into our trek from Kawayanan. A fern garden, a land crab, and beautiful ground orchids were some of the other impressive things we saw along the trail.
1140H Kadiklayan view deck
We’ve been walking on forested terrain for the most part of our trek. Kadiklayan, an open part of the trail, was supposed to offer a beautiful panoramic view on a clear day. This was not a clear day and we were not going to have one for the rest of our climb.
1149H Ganub, lunch
A short walk from Kadiklayan is Ganub, a forested stopover which can also be used as a campsite. Camping here would have the same problem as in Kawayanan though: there is no water source nearby.
1245H Resume trek
From Ganub to Paray-Paray campsite, the rocky Guiting-Guiting-like trail became more pronounced and the bonsai trees, which are characteristic of terrains with little soil, became more prominent. We were told that this would be the toughest part of the ascent and it was indeed a challenging climb. The slope was steep, upper body strength and decent rock climbing/scrambling skills were needed to haul yourself up, and there was almost no break in the uphill assault (although in retrospect, it felt like a no-sweat fun climb when compared to the trail-to-hell traverse the next day).
1309H Pulanggok Peak
Pulanggok and Tuka-Pungdan Peaks were the perfectly unexpected and unexpectedly perfect view decks that reminded us why we like climbing mountains to begin with. It was still foggy and we didn’t get an ideal clearing but it was absolutely breathtaking to stand on a high rock with a 360-degree view and feel like you’re on top of the world. After a tough and exhausting ascent, it was just the break we needed.
Our initial plan was to arrive early in Paray-Paray and do the summit assault that afternoon. We didn’t want to put too much pressure on our pacing though so halfway through the trek, we decided to move the summit climb to early the next day. With a relaxed schedule for the day, we had a lot more time to enjoy the trail and linger in Tuka-Pungdan for photo ops.
The rest of the trek to Paray-Paray, while still challenging, was more leisurely. We took our time taking photos of pitcher plants, mosses, trees and other interesting stuff we saw sprouting from the ground. It felt nice to be more laidback and not worry about the schedule and pacing and cooking rice properly. Of course, we didn’t know yet that we’d be worrying about all those things and more in the next two days.
1448H Paray-Paray campsite
Paray-Paray is the designated campsite nearest to the summit. It’s relatively more spacious than the other campsites, has cellphone signal, and a supposedly reliable water source nearby. They are all true except for the last bit. When we got to the water source, it was completely dry. The guides were shocked and we were on the verge of panic. Binoy swore that this has never happened before, even in the hottest summer months, so the only explanation we could come up with was we were cursed.
Tatay Dinio said there’s a river down the ravine where they could get water but the trail was steep and tough to navigate. He and Binoy have a fast trekking pace but it took them nearly three hours to go down the river and get back to the campsite. Good thing we arrived in Paray-Paray early and there was plenty of daylight left. A night trek going there would be very dangerous. Thanks to our guides’ valiant efforts, we had sufficient water to last us until the next day.
As if a dried up water source wasn’t enough of a problem, we received news that a storm was brewing somewhere in northwestern Mindanao and might hit southern Palawan. I have the worst luck in weather conditions during climbs so while this was certainly bad news, it wasn’t much of a surprise anymore. No matter what time of the year, I almost always get rained on whenever I’m on a mountain. I’ve since resigned myself to the possibility that every trek would be a stormy one. I’d probably faint from disbelief if I experience perfect weather on a climb.
I did not faint from disbelief in the next two days. It was as bad as we expected. And the trail was a lot worse than we imagined.
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Prologue (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day One (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Three (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Four (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Flora and Fauna of Mt. Mantalingajan (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Holy Crap, We Did It! (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)