Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Three

This was the day hell (and tear ducts) broke loose. But first let me tell you about The Tale of The Amazing Corned Beef Guisado otherwise known as Fred’s comeback moment. We had a little campsite drama on Day Two which involved my temper, his ego and a 24-minute delay that was made a bigger deal than it should’ve been.

0330H Wake-up call
I was still coaxing myself out of sleep when I heard pots and pans clanging outside. Fred was the assigned cook for breakfast that day and he obviously took this duty seriously by sautéing garlic in the dead of night. In no time at all, the corned beef guisado was done and breakfast was ready. We didn’t have the best morning the previous day and this was his way of redeeming himself. I was amused and grateful to have someone who would make breakfast at 3am just to make things right. Who would’ve thought a pan of sautéed corned beef could restore order in the universe.

0520H Start summit assault
We wanted to do the summit assault early to get better chance of a clearing and to have a good head start for the traverse trek later that day. We succeeded in the latter but failed miserably in the former. Tropical Depression Crising was about to hit southern Palawan and the weather was dreadful. It was drizzling the whole night and the winds were getting stronger.

If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t risk going on a summit assault in the dark especially in such an awful weather condition.

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The trek started with a tough ascent on slippery boulders and bonsai trees. We passed by open trails that, we didn’t realize until later, were actually steep ravines. It was nerve-wracking to watch Fred struggling to keep his balance. He lent his headlamp to Binoy, our guide, so he was mostly scrambling in the dark. Whenever Jet fell behind, I’d get paranoid that he might’ve been devoured by a snake (he was mostly taking photos or adjusting the knot on his water bottle). I hate doing night treks and on a trail like this, trekking in the dark was maddening. I was such a nervous wreck that I came very close to calling it off and making everyone head back to the campsite.

We got a break from bouldering when we entered a dense mossy forest. It looked a little like the forests of Kalatungan but the trees here were much smaller and the ground was made up of moss-covered rocks.

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By daybreak, we emerged from the forest and into a stunning landscape of bonsai trees. It was beautiful; overcast skies and bad weather notwithstanding.

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Viewed from afar, the terrain looked flat and deceptively easy. In reality, the summit trek was all bouldering and walking on a canopy of stunted trees while carefully avoiding deep cavities in between rocks. There was no trail whatsoever so you’d have to figure out where to place your foot with each step.

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0745H Summit
After more than two hours of scrambling on rocks in the middle of a storm, we reached the summit of Mt. Mantalingajan.

And then we all cried. (The guys would probably forgive me for disclosing this, right?)

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This climb meant so much to us. We never saw ourselves as the “hardcore” types. It was not too long ago when all we ever wanted was to climb the Parrot’s Beak of Pico De Loro or bask in the view on the Rockies of Mt. Maculot (we still love doing those things, by the way). I couldn’t even keep a straight face whenever I’d try to call myself a “mountaineer.” I felt it was a title reserved for those who actually know what they’re doing when climbing a mountain. Most of the time, I was just blundering my way on the trail, surviving on sheer chutzpah and a whole lot of luck.

And then here we were, on the summit of one of the toughest mountains in the country. It was so amazing and surreal and overwhelming that I broke down and bawled my eyes out. Fred and Jet were more discreet with their tears because, you know, they were guys being guys.

This was by far our most fulfilling climb, never mind that we didn’t get to see any breathtaking views. A clearing would’ve been nice but even without it, we were beyond ecstatic just to reach the peak of Mantalingajan.

0806H Descent
We couldn’t stay long on the summit though. The gusts were getting stronger, we were drenched and shivering, and there was nothing to see. Everything was covered in thick fog.

We caught glimpses of what would’ve been a picturesque panorama as we made our way down but Manta’s gorgeous views remained largely hidden from us.

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1010H Paray-Paray campsite, lunch, break camp
Rest was not an option when we got back to Paray-Paray. We had lunch, cooked rice for dinner (cooking rice one meal in advance turned out to be an effective time-saving practice), and packed up. It was a long and difficult trek to the next campsite.

1154H Start trek
From here on out, we have no more photos. So we could just be making it all up and you’d be none the wiser. We also wish we just made it up but unfortunately, we really did go through with this hell of a trek.

The trail, and I use this term very loosely, to Lapong started with a steep descent on rocky terrain. The forest became denser as we went further, and then we got to this mossy, all-boulders-and-no-soil underworld that was completely devoid of stable ground.

For more than an hour, we balanced precariously on moss-covered logs and boulders. In between those logs and boulders were deep chasms which could either be snake dens or entry points into Hades. Every step was a painful puzzle to solve and every move was a calculated risk. There were tree branches to hold on to in some parts while at other times, we only had flimsy (and mostly thorny) vines and shrubs for handholds. When we got really unlucky, the branch we clung to or stepped on turned out to be dead and broke off without warning, which was not good.

1310H Tabud River
Our bad luck continued when we got to Tabud River. This was supposed to be the last reliable water source on the traverse trail. We were banking on replenishing our supply here after the Paray-Paray water source was a bust. There was not a drop of water in Tabud, and it had been raining all day!

We shifted to full-on survival mode, calculating whether our water supply could last us until the next day and if we had enough ready-to-eat carbs since we may not be able to cook rice anymore. We also collected rainwater while on the trail, thankful for once for the rainy weather that day.

We passed by three or four dry riverbeds after Tabud and had a providential Moses-struck-a-rock-and-there-was-water moment in one of them.

Tatay Dinio announced that there was water in one of the riverbeds and we would’ve somersaulted for joy if we weren’t so damn tired (and if we knew how to do a somersault). We hoarded water like we were about to cross a desert, knowing there won’t be another water source until we got to the highway.

This was the most difficult leg of the climb and we were carrying our heaviest loads ever. I’m a short girl with negligible upper body strength; the most I could comfortably carry on my pack for the long haul was about eight kilograms. I was carrying around 10-11kg at the time, including 4.5 liters of water and a liter of Gatorade. The guys lugged heavier loads since the tents they packed were all wet.

Scrambling on slippery rocks was hard enough; doing it with a full pack weighing you down was torture. I was wishing then with all my heart that we hired another porter (or three, one for each of us).

1815H Lapong campsite
I still don’t know how we survived that hellish trail, and on full packs no less. At some point, I just wanted to give up and cry right there in the middle of a creepy forest. It took every last bit of motivation to keep myself going. When I thought I was all emptied out and done, there was still a long way to go and I had to take one more step, and another one, and another one.

As the last ray of daylight was fading, we reached Lapong campsite. We were cold and exhausted and the only thing I wanted was to lie on the ground and sleep for the next 48 hours.

Cold, wet and windy night in Lapong: the one and only photo of the traverse that day.

Cold, wet and windy night in Lapong: the one and only photo of the traverse that day.

Photo credit: Most of the photos were taken by Jet Reyes.

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33 thoughts on “Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Three

    1. Tintin Post author

      I think it was also because of the odds that we pushed ourselves to do it in four days. Number one: mahirap ang supply ng tubig. Number two: di matigil ang ulan and I didn’t want to spend one more night in a damp tent. Gusto ko na ng bubong. Gusto ko na ring mag-toothbrush, maligo, kahit magmumog man lang. Hahaha!

      Reply
      1. jebuzinjamonk

        As I re-reads this chapter of our adventure, It refreshes my mind of our experiences & I just realize that we really are on survival mode at this stage because of water constraints… All I think of that time was to arrive in Lapong campsite because I am exhausted, hungry & wasted that I even didn’t mind the heaviness of the pack I carried on my back…:)

        Reply
          1. Tintin Post author

            I was too exhausted to have nightmares then, comatose level na ang tulog ko that night, but I can totally understand. Pam-bangungot talaga ang trail na yun. Hehe.

            Reply
  1. Naldy

    Its still give me the creeps and goosebumps whenever I recall peeking into one of those wormholes and getting Cris’ Nalgene that fell off. Uh!

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      I also get goosebumps still whenever I remember that trail. Ugh! Creepy! Kaya sinumpa ko nang hindi na ako magta-traverse ulit unless they make a new trail na hindi parang papuntang impiyerno. Haha!

      Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks so much, Judy! Writing about it brought back the memories and emotions. I even cried a little when I wrote about our summit moment. Haha! Iyakan lang din talaga ako. 😀

      Reply
    1. jebuzinjamonk

      Sir Ken, possible, pero I think di ka papayagan ng guide kasi ayaw nila mag night trek on the traverse side because delikado puro bangin… IF you can do it in one day to ParayParay campsite then posible ung 3days but for safety reason just do it in 4days, unless si Flash ka sa bilis… hehehe 🙂 I think, posible ung 3 1/2days.

      Reply
      1. Tintin Post author

        One day from Ransang to Paray-Paray?? Ano yun, sawa na sa buhay? Gusto na lang mag-suicide sa trail? Hehehe. Wag nyo gagawin Sir. Sabi nga ni Santino, may bukas pa. 😀

        Reply
        1. Naldy

          I believe it can be done in 3 days if you have enough money to hire 3 porters for yourself. Then jog yourself all the way to Paray-paray. No pictures, no internalizing of the place….. But why would you do that if its your first time to this mountain?

          I still believe the 4th day (5th on our case) should be divided into two. Hopefully the guides will be able to find a water source on that place and a suitable campsite.

          Reply
          1. Crislyn

            Add ko lang, cutting the trek to 3 days exposes one to a higher risk of injury. The trail is difficult and the summit assault is technical. Any injury, even as simple as a sore or twisted joint, will further increase the difficulty of the climb.

            Reply
            1. worddruid

              we also have to take into account the guides. Tay Dinio for example, may not be able to keep up with a 3 or 3 1/2 Manta trav. Si Binoy pa siguro kaso parang unfair na rin naman sa kanila yun since they’ll be carrying full packs. As of the moment kasi, silang dalawa lang ang kabisado ang tagusan, wala pang iba na ganun kasaulado yung trail na pwedeng mag-guide ng trav. I mean, they’re making means para may iba ring masanay kaso kulang sa opportunities since as of our climb, pang-anim pa lang na grupo kaming nagtrav.

        1. Tintin Post author

          Well, you can definitely do a three-day or 3 1/2 days na traverse if you have the physical capacity for it. Pero hindi lang kasi physical capacity per se ang consideration sa climb. As Mam Crislyn and Jet (worddruid) have pointed out, we also have to take into account the risks involved and the safety, needs and overall well-being of the team which includes our guide and porter/s.

          A mountaineer gave me this humbling advice: Hindi ang bundok ang mag-aadjust sa schedule mo. Ikaw ang mag-aadjust ng schedule para sa bundok. 🙂

          Reply
    2. worddruid

      Kaya ang 3 1/2 days sir pero most likely ay paspasan na yun, baka di na kayo mag-enjoy hehe Besides with the time you have to spend travelling to and from the jumpoff points alone, it’ll probably make no difference if you do it in 3 1/2 or 4. Ang magiging spacing ng campsites that must be reached per day would probably be the same considering the whole water source thing. Although as Tin noted during our traverse, Kabugan remains the sole campsite na may steady water source hahaha By the way, kung matuloy kayo sir, papadala kaming gamit para kina Binoy ah (user lang? hahaha) 😀

      Reply
    3. Tintin Post author

      Pwede 3 1/2 days but it pretty much amounts to a four-day trek. Mas maaga ka lang darating ng highway on the fourth day. A three-day trek would be stretching it, malamang di na pumayag ang guide. May gumawa na kasi dati ng three-day climb na backtrail at sobrang delikado. Sabi nina Binoy hindi na nila uulitin. Mga 10 times mas delikado ang traverse. Hehe.

      Besides, you have seven days to spend on an indescribably beautiful mountain. Enjoy-enjoy din kahit pano. 🙂 Best of luck on your climb!

      Reply
      1. ken | fullpacked.com

        Thanks sa mga advice.
        Pack light lang lagi ako. (28 liters na backpack).
        Mas magaan mas mabilis.
        Based sa kwento mo, water ang problema.
        Tanong lang, nagtake pa kayo ng gamot para sa malaria?

        Tin thanks! =)

        Reply
        1. jebuzinjamonk

          Ako wala pong ni-take na kahit ano pang kontra sa Malaria…Dala ko lang po is ung mahigit isang dosena pack kong hydrite pangontra sa pulikat… hehehe.. I think overkill yung malaria scare dun. Pero, take note: prevention is better than cure…so better be safety first sir. Partida pa nga, shirtless pa ko paakyat mula Ganub up to ParayParay campsite… 🙂

          Reply
          1. worddruid

            hapo na kasi sa pawis wahahaha peace! about sa malaria sir ken, kinonsider din namin kaso mas mahirap kasing igauge yung magiging reactions ng katawan namin sa gamot which was sure to have side effects. So naligo lang kami ng Off at citronella ekeks. 😀

            Reply
        2. Tintin Post author

          May real cases talaga ng malaria sa community so it’s something that you have to seriously consider. Pero may mga side effects din kasi ang prophylaxis, depende sa reaction ng katawan mo. Magpa-checkup at magtanong na lang po kayo sa doktor nyo for a safer and more informed decision.

          Reply
        3. Naldy

          I took prophylaxis during our trek. Side effects are on a case to case basis but for me I had palpitations. Mosquitos are VERY abundant in this mountain specially on campsite that are covered from wind breeze. There was even a time that our guide started campfire just to repel this insects. I believe the locals had natural defences against them since they don’t mind being bitten.
          From what I know Malaria parasite takes 3 months to incubate and there are cases which takes a year. I climbed Mantalingajan last April so far no symptoms have arise. Another place were there is lots of mosquitos is in Brookspoint (where we stayed overnight after we arrived) since the place is surrounded by rice paddies were mosquitos can easily hatched.

          Reply
  2. worddruid

    Considering that I was the one among us three who has an irrational fear of serpents, the thought barely crossed my mind. Even during the apparently death-defying night trek to the summit (wagas lang akong tumigil at mag-ayos ng water bottle nun hahaha). I guess I was too focused making sure that I was stepping on “stable” yet ridiculously slippery rocks and clasping “sturdy” roots. I didn’t let myself get too psyched out which was hard since asa tapat kita so witness ako sa lahat ng mga prayers, curses at “oh god what should I do?!?” moments mo. Hahaha

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Ibang level na ang kapraningan ko nun eh kaya I was imagining the worst. Halos atakihin na ako sa puso pag nakikita kong nawawalan ng balanse si Fred na nasa harap ko lang. Naubos ko na ang panawagan sa Diyos at sa nanay ko sa assault na yun. Hahaha! We shall not do that again! Ever!

      Reply
      1. jebuzinjamonk

        hahahaha… That time, I do not think of those things during the assault…Ewan ko kung bakit, pero di ko na naisip yong panganib that time. All I think was that, I should focus on the trail and praying that I could make it to the summit… That’s why I really got emotional when we reach the summit. Ganun din yung inisip ko on the traverse, na makarating lang sa Lapong campsite. Iniisip ko lang marating at ma achieve ang bawat araw na goal natin… hehehe 🙂

        Reply
  3. Mark

    Congrats Maam Tin, matutulog na sana ako, bigla akong na adrenaline rush dito sa Manta posts nyo.. hehe. Sana balang araw, maakyat ko din to. All the best sa mga susunod nyo pang adventures!

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Salamat sa pagbabasa sir! Napuyat ka pa tuloy. Hehe. Sana nga po maakyat nyo rin ‘to. Sulit na experience talaga para sa isang mountaineer. All the best to you as well!

      Reply
  4. Grayson

    Sir. When you reached Mantlingajan Summit did you see a roughly 6-7 foot deep hole? I think it’s an illegal mine shaft. Did you see any other similar holes on the trail?

    Reply

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