0400H Wake-up call
Alarm goes off.
0430H Wake-up call
“Anong oras na? (What time is it?)”
Jet sits up. I sit up.
I curl back into my sleeping bag. He does the same in his malong. Fred snores contentedly in the other tent.
0530H Wake-up call
We finally summoned the strength to get up and do something about breakfast. We trekked for nearly 12 hours yesterday in stormy weather on the most hideously difficult terrain we’ve ever gone through. I think that would be as good of an excuse as any for messing up today’s itinerary.
0831H Start trek
We were one and a half hours behind schedule, our worst delay to date, and we still had a long way to go. We were determined to make this our last day of trekking though. The weather was still bad and the next known water source was already in the Palaw’an community in Brooke’s Point. We didn’t want to spend another night sleeping in damp tents and collecting rainwater so we could cook rice.
In the first two days of the climb, we still had the luxury of a five-minute break for every hour of trekking. “Take five” became an alien concept on the traverse trail. We couldn’t afford to stop because: 1. there was a scarcity of stable ground to rest on particularly during the previous day’s trek, 2. we were drenched from the rain and we’d only feel the cold even more if we stopped walking.
According to Tatay Dinio, Magringgit was used as an emergency campsite in the previous traverse. There’s a reported water source nearby but we were not able to confirm it.
The most striking part of Magringgit though was its very narrow and steep ridge that made Guiting-Guiting’s “knife edge” look like a joke. Grasses were the only vegetation so I could actually see the sheer vertical drop that’s guaranteed to kill me if I ever fall off from there. My knees were shaking as I walked on a trail that was maybe six inches wide while strong winds were relentlessly battering us.
1155H Karim, lunch
Lunch was in a small patch of forested area in one of the numerous peaks we climbed. The area was called Karim, Binoy said. We’ve done so many ascents and descents on this day that I couldn’t keep count anymore how many mountains we’ve actually gone through. Our guides said we climbed more than 20 peaks in the entire traverse. That’s probably not too far off the mark.
1224H Resume trek
After Magringgit, we went through so many “knife edge” and “kiss the wall” trails that falling off a cliff or a ravine became an ever present danger throughout the trek. I had a close call in one of them.
While crossing a narrow ridge, the loose soil I was stepping on suddenly broke off. I was left hanging on a tree root as thick as a pinky finger, my feet hopelessly dangling in the air. In an eerily calm voice, Jet told me to move to the right and reach for a foothold. I tried to stave off panic while doing so and fortunately, I was able to move into a more stable position. Then it was his turn to figure out how to cross the ridge after I’ve bulldozed the entire trail into nonexistence.
There were also parts of the trail with an abundance of limatik (leeches) but our main concern then was to stay alive so fending off blood-sucking leeches was very low on our set of priorities.
1341H Kawang-Kawang Peak
Kawang-Kawang Peak was a potentially breathtaking view deck had it been a sunny day. Since we were in the middle of a storm, all we got were thick fog, rain and strong winds. That pretty much sums up the last two days of this climb.
We started seeing signs of human activity after Kawang-Kawang: kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) trails, a hut on a small patch of land. I began to think it wouldn’t be long before we reach the highway in Barangay Malis, Brooke’s Point, which marks the end of our epic (and I do mean epic!) climb. I had no clue Malis was still more than five hours away and I had more crawling, sliding and cursing to do on the trail.
The rain had stopped and the fog had cleared a little when we reached Mag-agong, a grassy open trail that reminded me a little of Batulao. According to the locals, the strong winds in this area make loud noises similar to the bass sound of an agong (native gong) which was how the place got its name. We didn’t hear the agong too well but we certainly felt the gusts which were strong enough to throw off our balance.
1630H Sari-sari store, early dinner
My pace was dwindling to that of an aging snail as the day wore on. Binoy suggested we stop to rest and eat in a sari-sari store owned by Tatay Dinio’s relative. This turned out to be a good move since, with the rate I was going, we’d be trekking well into the night. To make things worse, it rained again as we were about to resume the hike. The trail, which was now a series of steep descents, became even more slippery.
I was getting very frustrated with my pace and with the muddy trail. Extreme exhaustion and the intense pain on my legs and knees were getting the better of me. Tatay Dinio kept on saying “malapit na (we’re almost there)” but we still kept on walking and there was still no highway in sight. I was on the brink of a mental breakdown.
1918H National Highway, Barangay Malis, Brooke’s Point
After what felt like an eternity of trekking, I saw heaven in a long stretch of concrete road. We’ve reached the highway!!! If not for the speeding trucks, I would’ve rushed in the middle of that road and gave it a big hug.
We stayed in the house of Tatay Dinio’s uncle in Barangay Malis where we basked in the joy of taking a bath and brushing our teeth. We also had a belated celebration of Binoy’s birthday. He turned 30 on the first day of our trek and we felt awful that he had to spend his birthday with three crazy people on a punishing four-day climb.
The epic Mantalingajan traverse was over. The stats: 4 days, 35 cumulative hours of trekking, 12 meals, 2 busted water sources, 1 typhoon, 1 fight, 1 crying session, 4 pairs of ruined trekking shoes, countless muttered prayers and swearwords (often in the same breath), and 3 very exhausted but extremely ecstatic mountaineers who thought this was the greatest thing that ever happened in their mountaineering lives.
Photo credit: Most of the photos were taken by Jet Reyes.
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Prologue (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day One (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Two (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Three (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Holy Crap, We Did It! (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Flora and Fauna of Mt. Mantalingajan (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)