Mantalingajan Traverse: Day One

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.

Our home for the night in Balin-Balin.

Our home for the night in Balin-Balin.

I was surprised to see that the marketplace we stayed in was actually surrounded by houses. We arrived in pitch darkness the previous night. There was also a toilet and a poso (manual water pump) nearby but water supply is limited (the pump runs out of water after a while) and the water is not potable. We brought our own water for cooking and drinking.

I was surprised to see that the marketplace we stayed in was actually surrounded by houses. We arrived in pitch darkness the previous night. There was also a toilet and a poso (manual water pump) nearby but water supply is limited (the pump runs out of water after a while) and the water is not potable. We brought our own water for cooking and drinking.

A view of the distant mountain range in the early morning.

A view of the distant mountain range in the early morning.

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.

Kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) is still widely practiced here. The Mantalingajan mountain range was declared a protected area in 2009. Under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law, practices such as slash-and-burn farming are prohibited. Locals, however, mostly depend on subsistence farming and kaingin has been their traditional way of converting forests into farmlands. There’s not much alternative livelihood so prohibiting kaingin is like telling them to stop eating.

Kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) is still widely practiced here. The Mantalingajan mountain range was declared a protected area in 2009. Under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law, practices such as slash-and-burn farming are prohibited. Locals, however, mostly depend on subsistence farming and kaingin has been their traditional way of converting forests into farmlands. There’s not much alternative livelihood so prohibiting kaingin is like telling them to stop eating.

0802H, our first rest stop under a big tree.

0802H, our first rest stop under a big tree.

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.

Landslide

Landslide

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0924H Magtangob
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.

P20 for this entire bunch. We were probably just tired and hungry but they were the sweetest, most delicious bananas we’ve ever eaten. Bulldog gave us two more bunches of bananas. In exchange, we gave him a kilogram of our rice.

P20 for this entire bunch. We were probably just tired and hungry but they were the sweetest, most delicious bananas we’ve ever eaten. Bulldog gave us two more bunches of bananas. In exchange, we gave him a kilogram of our rice.

Energized by all that potassium, we were ready to take on terrain that looked like this:
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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.

Rest stop in Magamot. Binoy and I seemed to be snubbing each other in this photo. Galit-galit muna, gutom na kasi.

Rest stop in Magamot. Binoy and I seemed to be snubbing each other in this photo. Galit-galit muna, gutom na kasi.

Lunch: fried galunggong and salted egg with tomatoes.

Lunch: fried galunggong and salted egg with tomatoes.

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.

1351H Baluin
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.

Baluin water source

Baluin water source

Kaingin trail after Baluin

Kaingin trail after Baluin

1606H Kabugan
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.

Campsite in Kabugan

Campsite in Kabugan

The Kabugan community as seen from the campsite

The Kabugan community as seen from the campsite

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.

Prologue

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32 thoughts on “Mantalingajan Traverse: Day One

  1. jebuzinjamonk

    Haisst..nostalgic! Oh Mantalingajan! nakabaon ka na sa alaala at isipan at hinding-hindi na makakalimutan. Parang tila umaakit ka ngayon para kita’y babalikan… Gayunpaman, gusto kong umakyat ng ibang kabundukan, para saglit man, ika’y mawaglit sa aking damdamin at kalooban..

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Hala, may sinapian na ni Balagtas dito. Anong kumagat sayo sa Manta? (Or more like kumagat sa ating tatlo since we all can’t get over it yet. Haha!)

      Reply
    1. jebuzinjamonk

      muntik ko na sana e quote dito yung pinalandakan nila kaso I hesitate eh, di ko na lang pinost… Alam na yon… Anyways, congrats to all 🙂 I am excited to read the next level, bago umalis for day 2 in the morning… hahaha.. I am thinking of how would the author would describe it… hahaha 🙂

      Reply
        1. jebuzinjamonk

          Hahaha… No, I don’t see it as pagtataray, For me it was merely an assertion of what was agreed before…but alam mo na, minsan ma-pride ang mga lalaki at ayaw mapagsabihan or being reminded… hahahaha 🙂 But anyways, a negative act may only be negated or reverse by doing a positive one. I think that’s the realization of the incident… hahaha 🙂 Cheers 🙂 🙂

          Reply
    2. Tintin Post author

      It’s sad and shameful and infuriating. I thought about leaving it out since it might draw some adverse reaction (lalo na sa mga tatamaan) but eh, screw it. Mag-react na ang mag-react.

      Reply
  2. judy

    (everyday, i check for new posts and continuation of your manta account- thanks for sharing them, tin).
    kayo rin sagot sa foods ng guides nyo?

    Reply
    1. Rawhide

      Hi. I hope you dont mind. Yes guides’ meals, you provide. That’s manda, not only in Manta. hehe. I check for new posts too, also everyday!!

      Reply
  3. Rawhide

    I am fervently hoping and praying that one day you will write comprehensively about that Habagat pack. With lots of pics.I know you are credible enough. Must be proud carrying that brand name considering your roots. I am Tagalog, but, you know, nakiki belong. Hehe. seriously I want to get one, the Sigbin 50. What model is yours? Not that much of stores selling that in Manila. i think only i megamall and rox.

    This is one hell of a site. Please please please keep it up!!!

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks Rawhide! It pains me greatly to ruin your excitement but… yung raincover ko lang ang Habagat. Sorry… 😦 I use a Gregory Jade 40 women’s pack. It has a good fit on my back and has excellent weight support, which helps greatly pag mabigat na ang load. I used Sandugo and Conquer before. They are good brands kaso masyadong malapad ang likod ng backpack, lalo na ang Conquer. They’re better fitted for guys. I’m a short girl so their packs are too bulky for me. Haven’t tried a Habagat pack yet.

      If it’s any consolation, the Habagat raincover is excellent, makapal and really helps to keep the water out. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Rawhide

    Really? wow! i have been scouring the net as well for local dealers of Gregory pack! (..sige na nga para ma break lang yung pagka awkward. hehe)

    May I ask where you get yours? Im looking for a z55, but my affinity for local packs, and the introspection that mountaineering is not an expensive hobby (who am i fooling?) prevent me from looking into expensive brands. but seriously, as much as i want to distance myself from trends- the hardcores and the ‘seasoned’ (parang ulam lang) ones of this interest seem to always go for Gregory, my research always takes me back to that brand. Engineering, materials, value for money and most of all aesthetics appear to be all top-notch in the Gregory Line.

    Pasenxa na sinamantala ko ng makipag kaibigan. Habang nagrereply pa yung author. Last na to. Hehe. Next nalang siguro pag magtatanong ako ng logistics ng G2 🙂 Antagal ng Manta Trav Day 3.. Keep it up!!

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Hehe awkward talaga? 😛 I also wanted to use local brands as much as possible. That’s why I stuck with my Sandugo pack for the last three years and, despite its flaws, it has served me well. I then bought a Conquer pack, which I sold after only two uses because of the reasons I previously mentioned. The Gregory pack is a relatively recent purchase. I ordered it online since I couldn’t find the brand in any of the local outdoor shops.

      No problem, ask away and I’ll give as much info as I can. Super makulit din ako sa mga ibang mountaineers when I need info and fortunately, most of them are very accommodating. So I also try to pay it forward kahit pano. Hehe. Malapit na i-post ang Day 3! 😀

      Reply
  5. judy

    the reason why i asked if guide foods are also taken cared of by you was bec. in the picture, kokonti lang ung lunch- for 4 hungry men and a lady with a hefty appetite perhaps (?) o baka hindi lang na post lahat ng foods? 🙂 at mas lalu naman sigurong hindi kayo naka diet nun? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Sumakto naman samin ang food, although we later found out na bitin pala si Fred. Kaya nung sya na nagsasaing, dumami bigla ang kanin. Hahaha!

      Reply
      1. jebuzinjamonk

        Hahahahaha!….Akala ko kasi part ng stragegy yon na tipirin ang pagkain(rice), kaya ayun sumunod na lang din ako kahit bitin talaga! Kaya nung first day, pinag initan ko na lang ung trail food ko at ung bigay na saging ni Bulldog kaya panay pahinga namin ni Tatay Dinio dahil kumakain kami… hahahaha. Akala ko talaga tipiran mode iyon… hahaha~!

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Haha sorry!! Di ko rin naisip na mas malaki ang uh, calorie requirement mo. Hehe. Well, at least ang natipid nating bigas ay napakinabangan nina Binoy at Tatay Dinio after the climb. Isipin mo na lang na sacrifice mo yun para sa kanila. Hahaha!

          Reply
            1. Tintin Post author

              Aww kawawa ka naman.. Sige pag-usapan natin yan sa post-climb. Things to improve on: Fred’s rice allotment. Para alam na sa susunod na climb lalo na pagbalik natin ng Manta. 😀

    1. Tintin Post author

      Nakakalungkot at nakakainis ang nangyaring yun. Ang isang hobby lamang para sa atin ay nakabulabog at nakasira ng isang komunidad. Nakakahiya talaga.

      Reply

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