Mt. Dulang-Dulang is considered a sacred mountain by the Talaandig tribe in Lantapan. Before commencing a climb, mountaineers are required to take part in a ritual which involves slaughtering chickens and dipping coins in blood. I’m not really sure how it goes. We didn’t get to do it. First of all, we weren’t able to buy a live chicken. And even if we did, it would’ve died on the way, what with the epic bus and motorcycle rides amidst heavy rains that we had to go through just to get to the jump-off point.
On the day of the climb, we went to Datu Malunay, the tribal chief, to ask for permission to climb Dulang-Dulang. Since there were only two of us, he was okay with not performing the ritual. I guess he figured the spirits won’t mind the presence of two hapless non-mountaineers on their territory. We just had to pay the ritual fee of P500. (This has increased to P1,000 but thanks to the negotiation skills of Niño, the Binahon farm caretaker who came with us, Datu Malunay agreed to just have us pay the old rate.) We also hired the datu’s son as porter. The standard rate for porters and guides is P500 per day. The guide we originally got wasn’t able to make it so he sent two of his friends instead. They arrived from Malaybalay at 8am and about 45 minutes later, we were off.
The climb began with an open trail that takes about 20 minutes. It’s best to start early to avoid the heat since there is no canopy yet on this part. We started a bit late though so we just had to suck it up. Composed mainly of clay soil and rocks, the ground is fine if it’s sunny but it gets very slippery when it’s wet, as we found out during the descent. As you go higher, you’ll have a panoramic view of the Kalatungan mountain range. Bukidnon has six mountain ranges so it’s not hard to figure out how it got its name (bukid in Bisaya means mountain).
The narrow trail begins when you get to the canopy. The slope is not very steep for the most part so it was a lot less difficult than I imagined. I had a harder time at the open trail because it was a constant uphill walk and my body hasn’t warmed up yet. (And the sissy part of me is screaming “This is a big mistake! You’re going to die up there!”) Although the ground is damp, it’s covered with rotting leaves so it’s not that slippery. From time to time, we had to go over (or under) fallen tree trunks that blocked the trail.
We reached Alanib River at around noon and had our lunch there. The river, which is more like a stream since it’s rather small, is one of the water sources on the mountain.
After lunch, we went on with the hike that never seemed to end. The trail itself may not be that hard but hours and hours of walking will really wear you down. I had a sort of tune-up climb at Mt. Malindig in Marinduque two weeks before this but apart from that, the only physical activity I was doing was walking up the stairs at the MRT station.
I should’ve started jogging again. I should’ve joined the office-sponsored running clinic. I should’ve bought a new pair of lungs. These were my silent regrets as I trudged on. This is also the part where I’d have an existential crisis and ask myself why on earth I’m doing this. I could’ve just stayed at home and vegetated in front of the TV. But if I did, I wouldn’t have seen things like:
Yep, I climbed a mountain to stare at trees and a rodent’s backside.
The vegetation changes as you go up the mountain. Moss-covered trees on higher elevation have long, twisted branches and trunks which give the forest an ethereal feel. The really big ones looked like ents.
We reached the Plaza at around 3pm and took a much needed rest stop. The area has a clearing that serves as a campsite for big groups. Some blogs identify this as the famous Manny’s Garden while other sites like Pinoymountaineer.com say the garden is actually the smaller camping area near the summit. I’ll leave this for the more anal people to sort out. Although the entire trail is kept clean for the most part (I still found a couple of candy wrappers along the way), the campsite is sadly not as well-maintained. There were plastic wrappers and empty bottles of rum and brandy lying around.
From the Plaza, it’s still about an hour’s hike to get to the summit. The trail becomes a bit more difficult as the slope gets steeper and you’d have to maneuver through mud, boulders and fallen tree trunks. At around 4:30pm, the epic walking finally ended as we reached the second campsite. I was exhausted as hell but I wanted to see the view from the peak before it gets dark. This is what I got:
We set up camp, had dinner and tried to fight off hypothermia. The temperature can go down to as low as nine degrees at night. I know that’s nothing compared to the below freezing temperatures in other countries but I’ve lived in a tropical place all my life. I start shivering at 19 degrees. With only a flimsy tent for shelter, it was a struggle to keep ourselves warm. We ended up looking like this:
I couldn’t bear the cold and didn’t get any sleep at all. On the bright side, it didn’t rain! Our guides said it usually rains at night on most of their climbs so we were really lucky. I guess the spirits took pity on us and granted us favor despite the lack of a chicken sacrifice.