The first time I climbed Pico De Loro was three years ago, back when I was still a clueless newbie at climbing mountains. This is not to say I’m a kickass mountaineer now but my 23-year-old self was a walking disaster even on the easiest of trails.
Pico De Loro in Ternate, Cavite is one of the most popular mountains for beginner climbs. It’s only three hours away from Manila, the trail is fairly easy and the view at the peak is pretty amazing. There is also the challenge/bragging rights of climbing the parrot’s beak, the towering rock formation right next to the summit which happens to be the perfect site for dramatic photo ops.
My 2009 climb was a struggle. It was an overnight climb and most of us had no experience in mountaineering. It took us more than an hour to get to the base camp from the jump-off point in Magnetic Hill and nearly three hours to reach the summit. It was dark by the time we made it back to camp and we didn’t even have our backpacks with us. That was also the first time I got drunk on a climb and ended up destroying a tent pole. I really did mean it when I said I was a walking disaster.
Last Sunday, I climbed Pico De Loro again. This time, I stayed sober and didn’t destroy any tents, thank God. This day hike was one of my training climbs for Mantalingajan and a meet-up with Mac and Jepoi, the two guys who wanted to join the Manta climb.
Jepoi was already camping at the summit since his group was on an overnight climb so it was just Allan, Mac and me. We left the jump-off at 8:30am and arrived at the summit campsite after only two hours. I couldn’t believe I managed to go that fast considering it took me four hours to reach the peak the last time I was here. Of course, my legs were shaking and I was breathing like my lungs were on fire but still, two hours! I would’ve patted myself on the back but I was too exhausted to raise my arm.
We hung out for a while at the summit campsite with Jepoi to sort out details of the Manta climb before going up to the peak, which was about five minutes away.
I was not able to go up the parrot’s beak on my first Pico climb. The organizers said it was too risky since the rope that was attached there was of doubtful strength. On my second climb, we didn’t have any rope at all. Allan and I were hesitant to go up the beak because well, we’d rather stay alive. Mac insisted that we check it out anyway and see how far we can go.
From the base of the rock, there was a narrow, steep path with jagged edges that served as footholds and handholds. It was a test of rock climbing skills, of which I had none. It wouldn’t have been so hard if we had a rope but we were doing it buwis-buhay style so it meant scrambling like crazy and using every bit of upper body strength, of which I also had none. I started to lose my footing halfway through and Mac had to haul me up. Allan realized he loved his life too much to take the risk and wisely decided to stay at the base.
After the tough vertical path which was about three meters long, the rest of the climb was easy, much like walking up a flight of uneven stairs. I didn’t bring my camera so we didn’t get to have our dramatic photo ops but we still enjoyed the view and the satisfaction of finally reaching the parrot’s beak.
We descended via the Nasugbu trail with plans of catching the sunset in Mt. Maculot. The trail was a little harder than the Ternate backtrail, with steep and slippery portions that required careful maneuvering, but it was still fairly manageable. We reached the base after about two hours and met a local named Tyson. I’m not sure if he was named after the boxer it definitely sounds fierce. He brought us to his house, fed us fresh buko and got us a jeep. I also got to play with his baby and his dogs.
We found out that it would take three hours of travel to get to the Maculot jump-off so we ditched the sunset idea and just went for a side trip to Calayo Beach. The beach was not as pretty or as pristine as Siquijor but it felt good to walk on sand again and wade in the salty waters. Again, no pictures because I was off running towards the sea the minute we got there.
After a satisfying dip, we packed up and made plans to make another side trip to Tagaytay for bulalo. On our way to Nasugbu town proper, our rickety jeep ran out of gas and we were stuck on a highway as darkness set in. The driver’s wife hitched a ride back to the barangay retail stores to buy diesel while the three of us walked along the road hunting for food. We found a store along the highway and feasted on balut, isaw, chicken feet and RC Cola.
We made it to town after the long delay and caught the last bus trip going to Manila. It was a long, cramped ride as the driver was determined to fill every inch of breathing space with passengers. We got off at Tagaytay and finally had our long-awaited bulalo with fried tawilis and the best Mountain Dew I’ve ever tasted.
It was another long walk along the highway in the dark after dinner. There were no more Manila-bound buses from Nasugbu so we had to ride a jeep to Dasmariñas and catch a bus there. Much of the commute was a haze for me. I was already slipping in and out of consciousness because I didn’t get any sleep in the last 48 hours. I got home at 3am, dead tired and about to fall into a coma.
We managed to cram my three favorite activities in one day: mountain climbing, beach bumming and food tripping (and the inevitable commuting mishaps). It was exhausting but worth it. Hands down, this is my best daytrip to date. Much thanks to Mac and Allan, two of the coolest guys I got to hang out with. Here’s to more climbs and crazy side trips!