0400H Wake-up call
The night was chilly and nothing was more comforting than to stay cocooned in the warmth of a sleeping bag. But this was the first day of the toughest climb of our lives and oversleeping was out of the question.
The 4am wake-up call was probably a little harsh but we agreed during the pre-climb meeting that we’d be strict with the itinerary. We were facing long, arduous treks on difficult trails; slacking wasn’t something we could afford. As I mentioned before, we were neither the fastest nor the strongest of climbers. We’d have to be disciplined with our schedule or we’d end up reaching Brooke’s Point after two weeks.
0703H Start trek
This was it. We were on our way to Manta. We had good weather on the first day; no rains but with adequate cloud cover, just right for a comfortable trek. We adapted a good pace right at the start: a five-minute rest for every hour of moderate trekking. The trail was still established and the rolling terrain was fairly easy to navigate.
The major obstacles at this point of the trek were the fallen logs which we had to walk on or climb over. There were heavy rains a few weeks before our climb which caused landslides and toppled a lot of trees, our guide Binoy said. A lot of animals also died at the time. The landslides and fallen trees altered the trail and made our trek more challenging.
Magtangob was our designated stopover for lunch. It has a water source and has been used as a campsite by previous climbers. This is where you’d find “Bulldog’s house,” a nipa-and-bamboo hut with no walls. We didn’t get to find out why the owner was named Bulldog.
It was too early for lunch when we got there so we just devoured a bunch of bananas that Bulldog sold us for P20.
1055H Magamot, lunch
Magamot is a small forested area that seems to be used as a regular stopover by locals. It got its name from the abundance of visible tree roots on the ground. Gamot means roots in the local language.
1207H Resume trek
The most common description we’ve heard about the Mantalingajan trail was “masukal” (dense). We didn’t realize how masukal it was until we started getting hit in the face by thorny vines and wayward branches. We’ve lost count of how many times we had to crawl under or climb over tree trunks. Piece of advice: don’t bring your aparador (those long, taller-than-your-head backpacks) here.
There were parts where there was no trail at all and we’d just slide down the slope, the loose soil not helping our already compromised footing. It’s the kind of wild terrain you’d find yourself in if you got lost in a mountain, the trails disappeared and the forest seemed to be closing in on you. In this case, however, this was normal Manta trail and we were still on the easy part.
We were expecting to reach Baluin, the next water source after Magtangob, by 4pm so we were very surprised when we got there two hours earlier. This was when we first realized we may be able to do the traverse in four days. It was still too early in the trek though and we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
Baluin has also been used as a campsite by climbers in the past. Like all other campsites in Manta though, space is limited and can only accommodate a small group.
Kabugan (pronounced as kab’gen) is another community of the Palaw’an tribe. This was also our designated campsite for the day and we reached it two hours ahead of schedule. That 4am wake-up call totally paid off.
Kabugan was a thriving community not too long ago, Binoy told us. A lot of families once lived here. About two years ago, a group of some 40 mountaineers climbed Mt. Mantalingajan and camped in Kabugan. Since the campsite couldn’t accommodate all of them, some had to camp in the community area and others even slept inside the church.
This sudden invasion of their space was a shock to the locals who weren’t used to such a big group of outsiders. After that incident, a lot of families moved out of Kabugan and transferred to more remote areas, Binoy said.
It’s a shame that one poorly managed climb has severely disrupted an entire community. After Binoy told us that story, I felt embarrassed to be a mountaineer. He and Tatay Dinio were members of the Palaw’an tribe and a lot of the residents here were their relatives. The backpack I was carrying and the trekking shoes I was wearing were glaring symbols of an expensive hobby that, at best, is an existential indulgence and, at worst, is an insensitive intrusion to nature and communities that call the mountains their home. Ugh mountaineers, we can be a bunch of assholes sometimes (or most of the time, depending on who you ask).
Photo credit: Most of the photos were taken by Jet Reyes.
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Prologue (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)