I must’ve tried to do a Makiling traverse climb at least six times in the past five months. It always gets screwed up for various reasons, from bad weather to me getting sick to last-minute scheduling conflict. Last Sunday, I finally reached this elusive mountain and I couldn’t be happier.
Among the mountains that are easily accessible from Manila, Mt. Makiling holds a certain prestige of its own. The legend of Maria Makiling, the beautiful diwata who dwells there, fascinated me as a child. When I got into mountaineering, I heard all sorts of horror stories about climbers getting lost and vicious hordes of limatik (leeches) attacking people’s eyeballs. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the bravest of souls so these stories naturally made me apprehensive about attempting a climb. Then again, mountain climbing always scares the crap out of me but I still do it anyway. (Please don’t ask why. I still haven’t come up with a reasonable explanation for this irrational behavior.)
I’ve probably been whining so much about wanting to do a MakTrav climb that my two friends, Jet and Fred, agreed to go with me just to shut me up. We boarded a Lucena-bound bus at the crack of dawn and got off at Sto. Tomas, Batangas. We decided to take the Sipit trail, starting off at Barangay San Felix in Sto. Tomas and going down to Los Baños, Laguna.
From the highway, we took a tricycle to the “basurahan” (garbage dump) in Sitio Jordan. This is actually a recycling facility that doubles as a Makiling jump-off where climbers have to register and request for guides if needed. There is no registration fee and no imposed guide fee so it’s up to you how much you want to give your guide. We didn’t need one though since it was Jet’s fourth time in Makiling and he has practically memorized the trail.
From the jump-off, it was a gradual uphill hike to Station 7 where the Sipit trail intersects with the San Bartolome trail. From here, there’s a clearing where you’d have a panoramic view of the plains of Laguna and Batangas, Laguna Lake and the peaks of Banahaw, Cristobal, Maculot and even a hazy outline of Batulao.
The fun starts after Station 7: the attack of the limatik army. These tiny, nimble bloodsuckers are the mountain’s most infamous creatures. They jump on you and quickly search for a sweet spot of bare skin on which they can have their fill. I’ve been to at least three mountains with limatik population but the ones in Makiling are the most aggressive by far. This is where I sustained my very first limatik bite. The critter worked through my leggings and three layers of socks, and for all that effort, it definitely deserved its meal.
Alcohol and saline solution are said to be effective in getting rid of them but whisking them off with your hands works just as well, provided they haven’t latched their suckers into your skin yet. Limatik bites are painless, they don’t transmit diseases, and the leeches come off on their own once they’re full so they really don’t present any serious danger aside from being a nuisance. (Check out Pinoy Mountaineer’s article on limatik for more extensive information.)
After about an hour of trekking under the forest canopy, we reached Haring Bato, a huge boulder that marks the start of the rocky terrain. The open trail offers more amazing views of the plains below and the thick forest cover of the mountain range. Pitcher plants and wild berries along the trail are another attraction. There are about five rope-assisted segments ranging from fairly easy to moderately challenging. They can be climbed without a rope but it helps particularly with the slippery areas.
We reached Peak 3 at a few minutes past 10am and had an early lunch. We were famished. The climb was strenuous enough to use up every bit of energy from our breakfast and Jellyace can only do so much to stave off hunger pangs.
We didn’t stay long though because the leeches were hell-bent on having us for lunch. Also, we wanted to get to Calamba as soon as possible for Tuding’s pork chops. Those scrumptious pieces of fried meat were actually our main motivation since we got to the jump-off. We’re wired like dogs that way; dangle food in front of us and we’ll scamper down the trail like our tails were on fire.
It was another hour-long hike to Peak 2 under the forest cover. The trees were beautiful, the flowers were pretty, the leeches were aplenty and what we mostly talked about was how many pork chops and extra rice we were going to order once we got to Tuding’s.
Peak 2 is a small clearing with three wooden crosses. Just like in Peak 3, there was no view because of the thick vegetation. From here, it was a steady downhill trail that ends in a long, flat, winding terrain. We reached Agila Base at 1pm where the trail widens into a road that can accommodate vehicles.
We passed by a junction that leads to a mud spring and decided to check it out. The spring turned out to be a closed off steamy pool from which a trickle of hot water flows and merges with a small river. We were unimpressed probably because we were too tired and too busy thinking about pork chops to appreciate a puddle of bubbling mud. After a few minutes of sitting around and eating what was left of our trail food, we trudged back to the main road and resumed our trek towards the ranger station at the base of the mountain.
Before heading off to Tuding’s, we dropped by The Originals and lined up to get Laguna’s quintessential specialty: buko pie. And then came the fried pork chops. As soon as the plates of food were set down, we stopped talking, ignored each other, and wolfed down every sliver of meat and grain of rice. It was the perfect meal to cap off a great climb.
Huge thanks to Fred and Jet for making this MakTrav happen. From gluttonous food trips to let’s-make-that-dream-climb-happen to cry-me-a-river drinking sessions to comic books-and-Tolkien-geekfest, these guys are the absolute awesomest. Here’s to more climbs and overcoming shitty life issues and buckets of Pale Pilsen in the “cool” bottle (hindi na ‘yong pandak na bote na pan-tatay kasi cool na rin tayo)!
Sipit Trail Itinerary:
0430 ETD Jac Liner Cubao
0615 ETA Sto. Tomas
0645 Start trek
0815 Station 7
0930 Haring Bato
1015 Peak 3, lunch
1040 Resume trek
1140 Peak 2
1300 Agila Base
1330 Side trip to mud spring
1500 Ranger station, Los Baños
Expenses (as of October 2012):
Bus (Manila-Sto. Tomas) – P110
Tricycle (Highway to Sitio Jordan) – P65 per trip
Jeep (UP Los Baños to Calamba) – P8
Bus (Calamba to Manila) – P79