As if I haven’t said enough in the past seven posts I’ve devoted to this climb. It has been a month since our epic (and I do mean epic!) traverse of Mantalingajan. I’ve gone on a couple of climbs since then but I still can’t stop thinking about Manta.
I still get the creeps whenever I recall the hellish trail we went through on our way to Brooke’s Point. I’m still at a loss on why two reliable water sources dried up in a middle of a storm. I still cringe while remembering the mistakes we made, wonder about the things we could’ve done differently, and beam with pride on what we managed to do right.
1. Take the morning trip to Rizal. We got lucky there was an afternoon trip going to Brgy. Ransang that Sunday. To be safe, book the first flight to Puerto Princesa or get there the day before your scheduled trip to the jump-off. That way you’d still have time to buy supplies and you won’t have to beg for a ride or run around like headless chickens just to keep up with your itinerary.
2. Use gloves during the trek. Not bringing protective gloves was a lousy mistake that caused us a lot of discomfort during and after the climb. The trails were teeming with thorny bushes and vines, and there were instances when these were the only available handholds. Our hands had so many cuts, gashes and puncture wounds that it looked like we had a vicious fight with a knife-wielding psycho.
3. Don’t do the climb in stormy weather. We expected a rainy climb. Accuweather has predicted a month before that there’d be rain on that week. (And I have this long-running curse of being hit by bad weather in most of my climbs.) We didn’t count on being battered by a typhoon halfway through the climb. I now wonder if we should’ve just aborted the traverse on the second day, when we got news of an approaching storm. We did manage to finish the climb safely despite the odds but the risks were too great to be taken lightly. I still feel that I put the team in grave danger by going ahead with the summit assault in the dark and in horrible weather.
4. A four-day traverse is doable but not ideal. It’s too exhausting and too risky. Doing it in five or six days is still better and I’m not just saying that to preserve our “record.” We didn’t get a medal for it and no one keeps track of these so-called climbing records anyway. So enjoy the mountain and aim for a safe climb. Bragging rights are awesome but at the end of the day, who cares?
5. Don’t do the traverse ever again. We did it once and we’re extremely proud of it. I have no intention whatsoever of doing it again. I still want to go back to Manta and experience the summit in sunny weather but I’ll only take the backtrail next time. (In mountaineering lingo, backtrail means descending on the same trail you used on your ascent. Traverse loosely means taking a different trail on the descent.) The traverse trail was insanely dangerous and traumatic especially in the kind of weather we had.
Pseudo Socio-Political Rant
I also want to address the issue of securing a climb permit for Mantalingajan. We almost didn’t get to do the climb because of that mess. We had no idea a permit was required but I was aware that the Mantalingajan mountain range is a declared protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law. I should’ve at least inquired in the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office about it.
I am grateful that a DENR staff allowed us to go ahead with the climb despite not having a permit. The next time we climb Manta, we’ll make sure to process the permit and pay the required fees.
I must say, however, that the DENR and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has a long way to go in effectively implementing the NIPAS law in Mantalingajan. The local guides and even the chieftain of the Palaw’an community didn’t know about the permit process and probably had no clue about the NIPAS. In order to make this work, the PAMB should involve all stakeholders and that includes indigenous groups that live in and benefit from the mountain range.
In implementing the NIPAS, upholding indigenous peoples’ rights should be a priority and not just an afterthought.
The PAMB should also impose limits on the number of climbers. This is being done in Kanlaon and Dulang-Dulang and it turns out to be an effective policy in preserving the trail and minimizing waste on the campsites. Remember the shameful incident I mentioned in Day One about a mountaineering org who held their induction climb in Mantalingajan? About 40 climbers disturbed an entire community and scared off the locals, and that climb had the approval of the local DENR office. Again, IP rights are a priority, not an afterthought.
The ultimate purpose of a climb permit is to regulate the entry of climbers and thereby protect the mountain and its inhabitants. It’s not a fund-raising scheme just so you could collect permit fees. (And if I pissed off a good number of people because of what I said, then so be it.)
I keep on saying we’re not the toughest or the most experienced of mountaineers. We also didn’t have the best conditions during our climb. But we’re fortunate to have kind and generous people who helped us along the way and we owe the success of our climb to them.
It took a lot of sleepless nights to come up with an itinerary. We had five variations of it, in fact, and we weren’t sure which one would actually work. Huge thanks to Sir Naldy and Ma’am Crislyn, who did the Manta traverse last year, for sharing their itinerary with us. They also gave a lot of tips and advice on camp management, navigating the trail and other climb details. Sir Nix, another Manta traverse survivor, also shared his team’s itinerary as well as other important information on the climb. Thank you so much for being patient with my never ending questions and for the beautiful photos of your climbs that inspired us even more to push through with the traverse.
Sir Mayo, a local mountaineer in Puerto Princesa, bought a lot of our supplies because we didn’t have time to buy them ourselves. He and his mom, Tita Norma, welcomed us in their beautiful house and fed us delicious home-cooked meals. Their adorable dogs, Malimpyo and Borgy, were very sweet and entertaining. And the overflowing beer was awesome. We can never deserve the kindness and hospitality we experienced but we will always be grateful for it.
We were flat broke after the climb but we still got to have a scrumptious dinner at Kinabuchs, one of the famous restaurants in Puerto, thanks to William. He’s another local mountaineer who I became friends with on my Palawan trip last year. He took us on a city tour, and bought us beer and great food. Thanks so much, Will! I still owe you that Columbia cap.
It’s safe to say that all we ever did while in Puerto was to get by on free lodging, food and booze from wonderfully generous people.
Huge credit for this climb definitely goes to our two guides, Binoy and Tatay Dinio. It was their first time to do a four-day traverse in the middle of a typhoon but they stuck it out with us until the end. They trekked for nearly three hours on a steep ravine to get water when the water source in Paray-Paray dried up. Thanks to Tatay Dinio’s sharp sense, we found a water source after the Tabud River dried up as well. The trails were difficult and extremely dangerous but they led us safely through it all. We wouldn’t have made it alive if not for them.
When we got to Brooke’s Point, Tatay Dinio’s uncle (I feel terrible for forgetting his name) opened his house to us. For the first time in four days, we had a solid roof over our heads and running water to bathe in. And it felt so great to sleep with a pillow again.
Back home, we have an amazing group of friends who supported us, were worried sick while we were in the boondocks, and celebrated with us when we got back. Thank you HLGG family!
And now, it’s time to get all cheesy and corny with my two climbing buddies who struggled, endured and rejoiced on this climb with me. (I can imagine them cringing right now but tough luck guys, you’re stuck with me.) We started with a silly promise and a half-assed pipe dream of climbing one of the toughest mountains in the country. We laughed, cried, prayed, cursed and got drunk together. We fought and made up, got scared and overjoyed, almost gave up but still pushed on, and finished the climb as a team of kickass mountaineers we never thought we could be.
As I said before, I really don’t know why you say yes to my harebrained ideas that often involve a serious threat to life and limb, but I’m glad and very grateful that you do. Thank you for doing this climb with me. Thank you for making life easier or, at least in those circumstances, a little less dreadful. Thank you for tailing behind me and tolerating my slowpoke pace just to make sure I don’t fall off a cliff or into a snake den. Thank you for helping me up whenever I fall on my ass. Thank you for bearing with my crankiness, control freak attitude, and all the ridiculous stuff that drive you crazy.
This was my greatest climb to date and I’m glad I got to do it with the two of you. Here’s to making more of our dream climbs come true.
To the God who listens and answers prayers, who keeps us safe amidst all the dangers, who provides for our needs at the perfect time, who gives us strength when our knees and hearts are failing… My gratitude will always fall short, my faith will always be feeble, and my words will always be a farce. But you are God. That is all that has to be said and that is all I have to believe.
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Holy Crap, We Did It! (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- 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: Day Four (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Flora and Fauna of Mt. Mantalingajan (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)