This climb started with a silly promise from my friends, Jet and Fred: Pag umakyat ka sa susunod, sasamahan ka namin. Huwag ka lang tumuloy ngayon. (We’ll go with you on your next climb. Just don’t push through with it now.)
I was all set to climb Mt. Mantalingajan, Palawan’s highest peak, last year but my companions backed out a few days before the climb. Disappointed and heartbroken, I had this insane idea of doing it alone. Solo climb of the toughest mountain in the Philippines? Now that’s brilliant. Jet and Fred were the ones who reined in my stupidest idea yet of getting myself killed. They probably made that promise at the time just to get me to cancel the climb.
But what do you know? Eight months later, they kept their word.
And so our legendary Manta Traverse began.
1200H San Jose Terminal, Puerto Princesa
From the provincial capital of Puerto Princesa, we had to travel for about six hours to the southern town of Rizal. Most buses and vans only have morning trips, with the last regular trip usually set at 10 or 11am. Fred’s flight from Manila arrived at 11:35am so we had a slim chance of getting a ride for Rizal that day.
When we got to the terminal, there was a van bound for Rizal leaving at 2pm but its last stop will only be at the town proper. The jump-off of the climb is in Barangay Ransang, which is still 45 minutes away from town.
We begged the driver to take us to Ransang even if we have to pay extra but he refused. Good thing there was another van also leaving at 2pm bound for Sicud, another barangay in Rizal. The driver was more amiable and agreed to drop us off in Ransang.
1400H Leaving Puerto Princesa
Long cramped ride passing through the towns of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon and Sofronio Española. Stopovers in Narra and Quezon.
1930H Brgy. Ransang, Rizal
We got off at the house of Kagawad Layacan, a local official in the village. Even before I could put my backpack down, the kagawad delivered the worst news we could get.
“Hindi na kami nagpapaakyat ng walang permit (We no longer allow climbs without a permit),” she said. She was referring to the climb permit issued by the Protected Area Superintendent of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Their office is all the way back in Puerto Princesa.
I was floored. I could feel my knees turning into jelly and we hadn’t even started trekking yet.
We had no idea a permit was needed for the climb. Our local contact in Puerto as well as our guide didn’t mention anything about it. Previous groups who did the traverse also didn’t say anything about a permit. I’m usually conscientious about securing climb permits since I’ve already climbed mountains which are declared protected areas. This one completely caught me off guard.
The kagawad wouldn’t budge despite all our pleas so Binoy, our local guide, took us to the tribal chieftain who also happens to be his father-in-law. The chieftain was just as confused about the permit issue which was not a requirement in past climbs. His wife managed to contact a local DENR staff to see what could be done. I talked to the staff on the phone and pleaded our case. I expected a dressing down but he was actually pleasant and agreeable, and best of all, he gave us permission to go ahead with the climb. Huge sigh of relief.
2010H Trek to Sitio Balin-Balin
The trailhead to Mantalingajan is in Sitio Balin-Balin, about an hour’s walk from the main road of Ransang. Balin-Balin is a small community of the Palaw’an tribe and the home of our local guides, Binoy and Tatay Dinio.
2110H Sitio Balin-Balin
We set up camp in the village market, a spacious hall made of nipa and bamboo. On market day, it’s probably teeming with people and produce but on that night, we were the only ones there plus a few curious onlookers.
The night was cool, the skies were clear and the stars were beautiful. We took that as a good omen for our climb. We didn’t know yet what we were in for.
- 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)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Holy Crap, We Did It! (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)