Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Two

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.

Ant colony on the trail

Ant colony on the trail

Seriously sharp thorns

Seriously sharp thorns

The most important trail signs to look out for: balatik markers.
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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).

If you see this next to an alternate trail, DO NOT GO THERE. Unless you have a death wish but surely, there are less painful ways to die so again, DO NOT GO THERE.

If you see this next to an alternate trail, DO NOT GO THERE. Unless you have a death wish but surely, there are less painful ways to die so again, DO NOT GO THERE.

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.

20-minute rest in Kawayanan: Tatay Dinio, Fred, Jet and Binoy.

20-minute rest in Kawayanan: Tatay Dinio, Fred, Jet and Binoy.

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.

We got so excited over this wilted pitcher that we took turns having our picture taken with it. Little did we know we’d be surrounded by so many pitcher plants as our elevation increased. By the time we got to the summit, seeing pitcher plants everywhere became normal.

We got so excited over this wilted pitcher that we took turns having our picture taken with it. Little did we know we’d be surrounded by so many pitcher plants as our elevation increased. By the time we got to the summit, seeing pitcher plants everywhere became normal.

An abundance of wild ferns that reminded me of the fern garden trail in Guiting-Guiting. A lot of things in Manta reminded me of G2 actually. (Photo by Jet Reyes)

An abundance of wild ferns that reminded me of the fern garden trail in Guiting-Guiting. A lot of things in Manta reminded me of G2 actually. (Photo by Jet Reyes)

A tiny terrestrial crab, about two inches across, that was hiding under a pile of dead leaves. It was our first time to see a land crab so that was yet another cause for excitement.

A tiny terrestrial crab, about two inches across, that was hiding under a pile of dead leaves. It was our first time to see a land crab so that was yet another cause for excitement.

Yellow ground orchid which Jet called a Dancing Lady, a popular species of yellow orchid. He identifies all yellow flowers as a Dancing Lady. FYI: this is not a Dancing Lady.

Yellow ground orchid which Jet called a Dancing Lady, a popular species of yellow orchid. He identifies all yellow flowers as a Dancing Lady. FYI: this is not a Dancing Lady.

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.

This was the best we got: an ethereal view of fog-covered trees.

This was the best we got: an ethereal view of fog-covered trees.

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

Going up to Pulanggok Peak

Going up to Pulanggok Peak

Flashing a fake smile to make it look like I wasn’t having a hard time (Photo by Jet Reyes)

Flashing a fake smile to make it look like I wasn’t having a hard time (Photo by Jet Reyes)

1330H Tuka-Pungdan

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

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(Photo by Jet Reyes)

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

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.

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

(Photo by Jet Reyes)

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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.

Paray-Paray campsite (Photo by Jet Reyes)

Paray-Paray campsite (Photo by Jet Reyes)

Binoy wondering what on earth happened to the water source (Photo by Jet Reyes)

Binoy wondering what on earth happened to the water source (Photo by Jet Reyes)

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.

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9 thoughts on “Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Two

  1. worddruid

    Oh thanks for highlighting the fact that I’m the lay-est of laymen when it comes to botany. Hahaha At least I don’t say things like “itatraverse ba natin ang MakTRAV?” or hinahanap ang Mt. Arayat sa SLEX. Wahahaha

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Touché. Hahaha! Hey, at least you can recognize a pitcher plant when you see one. Miles ahead of that guy who thought he saw a pitcher plant in Mt. Ugo. (No offense, random guy we climbed with in Mt. Ugo :D)

      Reply
  2. Crislyn

    I love Pulanggok and Tuka-Pungdan! It’s where you finally see some altitude gain. I don’t have lots of photos during that part of the trek- upset stomach, I was so not in the mood to smile :(

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Aww too bad. Pulanggok and Tuka-Pungdan were memorable because it was the first and, I think, only time in the entire climb that we actually got very excited about taking and posing for photos. Sa Paray-Paray masaya rin ang picture-taking kaso natuyo ang water source so that hampered the mood. The weather was bad in the next two days. Sa summit photos namin, mukha na kaming mga basang sisiw. Hehe.

      Reply
      1. Crislyn

        I love your pics! You guys had so much fun at the trail :)

        Naldy and the others took photos at Kadiklayan, except for me. Pati si Binoy may picture dun kasi bihira daw clear yun. I was feeling so weak I had no interest in photos, hahaha. Yun pala bad, bad case of indigestion na, di natunaw breakfast ko and the entire trek that was an assault (facepalm).

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Yikes, I feel your pain! (All too well since feeling ko mamamatay na ako sa Kanlaon at Bulusan hahaha) You got a wonderful clearing on your summit assault though so that more than made up for it, I’m sure. Super inggit ako sa inyo and other previous groups na umakyat. Ang ganda ng clearing nyo sa summit. That’s why we really really want to go back there para makakita ng magandang view sa summit. But as we swore, traditional na lang. Never na kami magta-traverse. Hehe!

          Reply
  3. Pingback: Mt. Mantalingajan Traverse Day 2: A Surprise at Paray-Paray | the fine line

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