Mantalingajan Traverse: Holy Crap, We Did It!

Mt. Mantalingajan Traverse
Brgy. Ransang, Rizal to Brgy. Malis, Brooke’s Point, Palawan
February 18-21, 2013

The better part of me wants to stay modest and self-deprecating about this but damn, this is the proudest moment of my mountaineering life. For the first time since I started climbing, I finally earned the full confidence to call myself a mountaineer. So please indulge me while I shamelessly brag and shout from the rooftops: We traversed Mt. Mantalingajan! And we did it in four days!

On the summit of Mt. Mantalingajan with my two most reliable climbing buddies, Jet and Fred.

On the summit of Mt. Mantalingajan with my two most reliable climbing buddies, Jet and Fred.

The Manta Trav is one of the most, if not THE most, difficult climb in the country. Mt. Mantalingajan, the highest peak in Palawan, straddles five towns in the southern part of the province. Traversing it requires climbing numerous peaks on the mountain range, and trekking on barely established and very dangerous trails that were probably not designed for human use.

I’m still at a loss on how to describe the terrain, particularly the traverse route, in a way that would accurately convey how hellishly brutal they were. To give you a rough idea, here are some of my feverish rants during the climb:

Ang magsasabing may mas mahirap pa sa Manta Trav, sasapakin ko!

Leche, minor climb ang G2 (Guiting-Guiting) kumpara dito.

Konti na lang, iiyak na talaga ako… (I was really on the brink of tears while saying this.)

Wala na akong kaluluwa. I’m a walking automaton.

Hinding hinding hindi na ako uulit ng traverse, kahit bayaran pa ako.

But Mt. Mantalingajan was our ultimate dream climb and we were willing to go through hell to achieve it.

Relatively easy first day, walking on a log.

Relatively easy first day, walking on a log.

Clambering over fallen trees was also a regular feature of the first and second day of the climb.

Clambering over fallen trees was also a regular feature of the first and second day of the climb.

Rocky terrain going to Pulanggok and Tuka-Pungdan peaks on the second day.

Rocky terrain going to Pulanggok and Tuka-Pungdan peaks on the second day.

More rock-climbing on the summit assault. We thought this was tough considering we didn’t even bring our backpacks. It was child’s play compared to what we went through on the traverse trail on the third and fourth day. We had no more photos of our trek by then. We were on pure survival mode. Believe me when I say the term buwis-buhay is not an exaggeration when describing that wretched trail.

More rock-climbing on the summit assault. We thought this was tough considering we didn’t even bring our backpacks. It was child’s play compared to what we went through on the traverse trail on the third and fourth day. We had no more photos of our trek by then. We were on pure survival mode. Believe me when I say the term buwis-buhay is not an exaggeration when describing that wretched trail.

Believe it or not, Jet, Fred and I managed to accomplish an amazing feat on this climb. According to our guide and a local mountaineer in Palawan, we are the sixth group so far to do the traverse and the first to finish it in four days.

We are not the fastest, the strongest or the most experienced of mountaineers. You won’t be impressed when you see us hike. My pace is slow and steady, my sense of balance is pitiful so I often end up falling on my ass, and I instinctively scream for my mother when faced with a daunting trail. While we won’t win accolades for speed and strength, we made sure to make up for it in endurance, patience, obsessive pre-climb preparation, strict adherence to the itinerary, time discipline and teamwork.

We did not set out to make history or break records when we planned this climb. We aimed for a five-day itinerary, which a couple of groups have already done, and made contingency plans in case we had to extend up to six days. The four-day itinerary was a casual idea we toyed with during the pre-climb meeting but didn’t take seriously. It was only on the second day of the trek that we realized we could actually achieve it. Our pacing was good, our morale was up, and we were hitting the targeted campsites earlier than scheduled.

We had to contend with a lot of maddening obstacles though. There were heavy rains a few weeks before the climb so numerous parts of the trail were made even tougher by fallen trees and landslides. On the third day of our climb, Tropical Depression Crising hit southern Palawan. We had to do the summit assault and the traverse to Brooke’s Point, which were the most torturous parts of the climb, amidst continuous rains and strong winds. There was no clearing whatsoever on the summit. To top it all off, the two reliable water sources, Paray-Paray and Tabud River, inexplicably dried up despite the rains. It was like some cosmic force was on a mission to make our climb even tougher than it already is.

Early morning trek to the summit on the third day. The terrain was similar to Guiting-Guiting but about 10 times harder. There was almost no discernible trail and the rocks were very slippery because of the rain. The balancing act was also made tougher by the strong typhoon winds.

Early morning trek to the summit on the third day. The terrain was similar to Guiting-Guiting but about 10 times harder. There was almost no discernible trail and the rocks were very slippery because of the rain. The balancing act was also made tougher by the strong typhoon winds.

Waterless water source in Paray-Paray, the campsite nearest to the summit.

Waterless water source in Paray-Paray, the campsite nearest to the summit.

If it’s any consolation, the Paray-Paray water source has great views.

If it’s any consolation, the Paray-Paray water source has great views.

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Despite all the misfortunes we had to deal with, we finished the traverse safely and well ahead of our itinerary. Most importantly, the three of us remained great friends. When we started out on this, we had one overarching goal: walang siraan ng pagkakaibigan (there will be no end-of-friendship). The sheer exhaustion and stress of the climb can take a heavy toll on people and relationships. There were squabbles and conflicts along the way but we got over it and just laughed at our silliness over rounds of beer afterwards.

I have Jet and Fred to thank for bearing with me whenever I got cranky and ill-tempered while stressing over the pre-climb prep. These guys have the patience and tolerance their mothers would be proud of. They respected and trusted my decisions as team leader and were very helpful and cooperative in all aspects of the climb. I couldn’t have asked for better climbing buddies.

Fourth and final day of the climb. Jet and Fred with our guides, Binoy and Tatay Dinio, on Kawang-Kawang peak.

Fourth and final day of the climb. Jet and Fred with our guides, Binoy and Tatay Dinio, on Kawang-Kawang peak.

I’m so proud of this climb and I’m so proud of our group not just because we traversed Mantalingajan in four days. Records are fine for bragging rights and talking shit on Facebook but not for much else. I’m proud because of how we achieved this climb: we worked as a team, we had a game plan and we executed it well, and, despite all the miseries we went through, we were having the time of our lives.

And by having the time of our lives, I meant we totally camwhored to our hearts’ content.

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I’ll write a more detailed account of our Manta traverse in the coming days but for now, I’ll sit back and enjoy the surreal moment when we finally made our dream climb come true.

Photo credit: All photos are by Jet Reyes, except for the ones where he’s actually in the picture (obviously).

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90 thoughts on “Mantalingajan Traverse: Holy Crap, We Did It!

  1. worddruid

    ambilis!!!!!!!!!!!!! wahahaha euphoric pa rin ako mainly dahil nakita ko yung synchronized pic namin ni Binoy sa may puno wahahaha (walks away humming…”and when the daylight comes, I’ll have to go but tonight I’m gonna hold you so close”) 😀

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Syiempre, ganun na ako ka-excited ipagsigawan ang epic climb natin. Hahaha! That was the cutest pic out of all our camwhore photos. Napapangiti talaga ako pag tinitingnan ko. Waaah nami-miss ko na sila tuloy!

      And that song is currently playing on repeat as I type this. Actually since kahapon pa. Hehe. “Cause in the daylight, we’ll be on our own but tonight I need to hold you so close…” 😀

      Reply
      1. worddruid

        may coclimber ako sa Apo (sir Jevs) na naexcite sa mountains ng Palawan dahil sa FB status ko na gusto niyang irevise ang Sep 25-30 tourist IT niya to at least include a hike. Bilang mahirap kung Manta ang pangarapin, nagyaya ng Cleopatra. Hahaha sabi ko tingnan ko pero why not di ba? matagal tagal pa naman hehehe Yayain sina Mayo! Tara! 😀

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Pwede! Wala pa tayong 24 hours sa Manila, nagpaplano na namang bumalik ng Palawan? Sinong adik? Hahaha! Di bale na ang Coron at El Nido, climb na lang ng climb!

          Reply
          1. worddruid

            yes, let’s comb through the sosyal sounding Palawan mountains! Thumbpeak, Beaufort, Bloomfields, Victoria, Cleopatra…Salakot! Hahaha Pati yung Million birds cave na rin! Waaaah! Sino pa ang may Palawan fever?!?

            Reply
            1. Tintin Post author

              I have a better idea: Let’s move to Palawan! Ubos lahat ‘yan! Hahaha. (Maghunos-dili tayo, guys. Puro nakanganga pa mga trekking shoes natin. Hehe.)

    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks! I always thought I was a sissy but after Manta trav, feeling ko matapang na ako. Hahaha! Saktong sakto yung sabi ni Sir Naldy: mag-eevolve ka as a mountaineer sa Manta. 😀 Na-upgrade talaga ang konsepto namin ng pag-akyat at difficulty level ng climbs after Manta.

      Thanks so much for all your help and for all the info you guys shared. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Crislyn

        No prob 🙂 Just planning the climb already took a lot of guts, give yourself a pat in the back 🙂 It feels great when you surprise yourself with what you can actually do, right? After Manta, I said I was going to stop hiking for a while, but instead I felt stronger, braver, unstoppable. Kaya yun, akyat uli! hahaha

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Exactly. I don’t know how to describe what I was (and still am) feeling after the climb but it’s amazing. Sabi rin namin we’re going to take a climb hiatus after Manta but as the comment thread above indicates, nag-aadik na naman kami. Hehe. Akyat uli!

          Reply
      1. Crislyn

        Thank you! Congrats din Sir to you and the whole team! I said I was going to be tough but I was wiping tears when we got to the summit. I should have reserved those tears for the traverse side, hahahaha, coz then it would have made better sense. 😀

        Reply
        1. worddruid

          We actually felt the same! When we got to the summit, we were already quite overwhelmed with the whole climb pero in retrospect, I could say that leading up to peak were probably the easiest parts. The trav side was insane! Never again hahaha back trail na lang siguro 😀

          Reply
      1. jebuzinjamonk

        Hahaha… uu nga.. Pero naiintindihan na ni Binoy yon mga naganap sa peak…nakaka emo lang talaga pag naalala ko ang climb natin… hirap ipaliwanag ang mga nararamdaman ko… congrats na lang sa atin…

        Reply
      2. Tintin Post author

        Ang corny natin, guys. Hahaha! (hums “so what we go out, that’s how it’s supposed to be… living young and wild and free…”) Gumawa na tayong playlist ng mga LSS sa Manta trav. 😛

        Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks Tupe! Sana maakyat mo rin ang Manta Trav. Exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime experience! At once lang talaga for me kasi di na ako uulit, baka ikamatay ko na. Hahaha. Backtrail na lang ako sa Manta next time.

      Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Basta di mo ako kasama or kasabay ng sched sa climb, walang ulan yan. Alam mo naman ako, may sumpa. Haha! *flashback ng Kalatungan at Bulusan* 😀

          Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks Des! We accept free booze and food in exchange for Manta Trav stories. Pang-laman tiyan na namin ‘to. Hahaha! Miss ko na kayo!!! Climb na ulit tayo!!!

      Reply
  2. judy

    hintayin ko ung iba mo pang kwento nitong manta traverse nyo….pati yung descent. may alam ako umakyat ng manta, pag baba nya sa bayan, hindi na nya kayang lumakad, sinakay na sya sa kalabaw (lalaki pa un ha!) hahaha!

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Well, I can understand. Sobrang hirap talaga ng trail sa Manta. I remember when we got to the highway, I was so infuriated that we had to walk some more to get to the house we’d be staying in for the night. Kung may kalabaw lang rin nun, sumakay na rin ako. Haha. I’d applaud anyone who even dares to take on a Manta climb, sumakay pa man ng kalabaw. 🙂

      Reply
  3. jebuzinjamonk

    @Mam Judy, me ganun po bang nangyari. 🙂 Sa amin naman po, wala naman sinakay sa kalabaw kaso ung dinaanan namin pababa ng Malis, Brookespoint ay parang daanan ng kalabaw sa sobrang dulas… hahaha!

    Reply
          1. Tintin Post author

            Exactly! Di kagaya nung adobo sa San Jose terminal. Dapat sinabihan natin si Ate ng fail-proof way of cooking lansa-free adobo. Haha!

            Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Wow best of luck on your climb sir! Traverse din ba? Sulit yun! I hope you have better weather than we did. 🙂 Tsaka sana di na tuyo mga watersource. Otherwise, baka magdala kayo ng isang Orocan ng tubig mula Kabugan. Hahaha.

      Reply
      1. dengcacdac

        wow! 4days traverse! grabe bilis nyo mam, considering the weather, a question, any other water source? besides the two water source area? i am planning to set a climb on that mountain also, after hearing the story of my friend and after reading your article…

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Mga local guides po ang nakakaalam ng mga iba pang water sources. Sila na rin ang kumuha ng tubig when the Paray-Paray water source dried up kasi yung isang water source ay mahirap din ang trail. It took them almost three hours to get back to the campsite at pacing na nila yun. Kaya crucial din to reach Paray-Paray early ’cause it’d be dangerous even for the guides to trek at night going to the water source.

          Nung third day, nagsalok na kami ng tubig-ulan (as in itsurang survival mode na talaga). May “divine providence” moment din nung nagkaroon ng konting tubig unexpectedly sa isang patay na ilog (malamang dahil na rin sa ulan).

          We were meticulous with our meal plan. Kinonsider namin ang availability of water sources sa pag-set ng mga ulam. And we cooked rice two meals in advance habang may tubig pa, tapos sealed na agad para di mapanis. We also brought lightweight, ready-to-eat food for emergency. Malupitang water discipline na rin sa trail. Good thing malamig sa gubat dahil bumabagyo kaya di kami masyadong malakas sa tubig.

          I couldn’t stress this enough and I’m sure you already know this but stringent logistical, physical, mental, (pati na emotional) preparation is really needed for a Manta climb, particularly the traverse. 🙂

          Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Mag-ipon ka ng potassium at sodium sa katawan sir. Kain ng maraming saging before the climb. O kaya baon ka ng energy drink e.g. Propel, Gatorade. Or mas murang option ay hydrite, yep yung pang-diarrhea, may potassium at sodium yun. P8 lang per pack sa generics pharmacy. Lahat yun baon namin sa Manta. Di kami nagka-cramps, kahit yung isang kasama namin na suki ng cramps. Hehe.

      Reply
      1. jebuzinjamonk

        Sir, samahan mo na rin pag inom ng maraming cobra para di na tatalab ung cramps at kagat ng King Cobra dun sa traverse trail kung sakali may makasalubong ka…. hahahaha 🙂 joke lang po.. hehe

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Lakas ng trip mo! Pero sige, pwede ka nang mag-joke ng ganyan now that the climb is over and Jet is safe in their snake-free house. Hehehe.

          Reply
        2. Tintin Post author

          Dude, I need my tent back, pati na ang trapal at ang cute na yellow-green knife. Hehe. Can we meet sometime this weekend? May phone ka na?

          Reply
          1. jebuzinjamonk

            OK na madam, inayos ko na po tent mo sa isang lagayan niya pati poles at pegs…Hmmm.. mukhang may akyat eto ah, pwede bang sumama, nangangati na paa ko… hehehe..message me na lang here…

            Reply
            1. Tintin Post author

              Thanks thanks! Gusto mong dumayo sa malayong bayan ng SM Fairview on Sunday? Let’s meet there with Jet. 😀 I’m also gonna get my other stuff from him. Ang saya ng walang baggage allowance, nagkalat ang gamit. Haha!

              Meron kaso sabit lang din ako eh, can’t invite. 😦 Gusto ko nga sana mag-aya eh para may tagabitbit ng tent. Hehehe.

              BUT, Dante and his friends are planning to do a Maktrav next week ata. And they’re not familiar with the Sipit trail. Which means… it’s your time to shine! Diba certified Maktrav guide ka na sa kakabalik mo dun? Hehe! Forwarded you an email from a friend of Dante asking about the Sipit trail. Sinagot na rin ni Jet pero if gusto mo silang samahan, email mo na lang…

        3. worddruid

          pero in all seriousness nakakaliyo yung Cobra di ba? nag-cobra ka ba nun Fred? And yes, I’m ignoring the fact na nagjojoke ka tungkol sa ahas hahaha pasalamat talaga sa Diyos at nakisama sila (or rather hindi sila nakisama sa atin hehe)

          Reply
          1. jebuzinjamonk

            Yup Jet… naka apat na Cobra ako nun! one before my flight to Palawan, another at Charing terminal, another one at Narra stopover at lastly sa Rizal ung after dinner natin dun… Wala kasi me maayos na tulog for 3days before sa climb kaya ganun ako kabagal sa 1st two days at ganun ako kalakas humilik nung first 2nights… hehehe

            Reply
            1. jebuzinjamonk

              Si Tatay Dinio kasi nag kwento sa’kin nun, kaya daw ayaw niya mag night trek papuntang Lapung campsite kasi minsan, nakasalubong daw niya si King Cobra dun kaya sabi niya delikado din…. 🙂

            2. Tintin Post author

              Suicide ang mag-night trek ng Paray-Paray to Lapong. Trail to hell ang daanang yun. I still get goosebumps every time naaalala ko. Creepy!

  4. judy

    sige, ibigay mo na lahat ng tips mo tin, kasama na ang mga babala! hahaha! para ung mga aakyat siguraduhin nilang may sapat silang gamit at TIBAY NG LOOB at LAKAS ng KATAWAN…kundi nakakahiya sila sayo! hahaha! (dyowk lang mga kabayan!)

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      I can only share the lessons I learned (the hard way) while on the trail. Compared to mountaineers who have been doing this for years, newbie pa rin ako. Hehe.

      Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Ay okay, nung nagtext kasi sya sabi nya next week pa raw. Kayo na lang mag-usap. Hehe. Pag diyan sa teritoryo mo, ililibre mo kami ng pamasahe. Haha! Dun na lang, for a change. Ikaw naman lumuwas sa probinsiya ng QC. 😀

      Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Demanding lang??? Maraming question marks talaga??? 😛 Yeah, I’ll send you a DM or I’ll ask Jet to send you a message on FB (my Twitter account has gone bonkers for some reason). Okay??? Magluto ka na nga ng corned beef mamayang madaling araw! Hahaha.

          Reply
            1. Tintin Post author

              Uh, not really. Mangunguha lang talaga ako ng gamit. Haha! Pero kung magdadala ka ng nilasing na manok (at panlasing na rin sa tao), then we might as well crash someone’s house. 😀

  5. judy

    tip lang para di mapanis ang kanin- bago isalang, lagyan ng konting suka (half teaspoon) ..di naman malalasahan ang suka pag naluto na. guaranteed yan na di mapapanis maghapon kahit the next day pa 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks Judy! Will try that next time. Fortunately, wala namang napanis na kanin sa mga sinaing namin. May konting hilaw (patuka-sa-manok style of cooking) lang minsan. Hehe.

      Reply
  6. cris

    congrats sirs and mam…planning to do it next year..hope you can give me a sample itinenary of your climb and kung saan ang much better na exit point! =)

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks Cris! I’m posting a day-to-day account of the climb at naka-indicate na rin ang mga oras (actual itinerary na kumbaga). You can draw your IT from there. 🙂

      Reply

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