The mystical Mount Makiling is the home of over a thousand diverse species of flora and fauna. Just a two-hour drive from Manila, this legendary mountain towering over Los Baños, Laguna and Sto Tomas, Batangas offers an ideal respite to commune with nature, experience the vanishing rainforest, and embark on a multitude of different adventures. It offers varied activities including simple nature tripping at the Botanical Garden and Pook ni Mariang Makiling, bird and butterfly watching, camping and trekking on its network of trails, swimming in its numerous hot springs, and mountain biking. This inactive volcano rises 1109 meters above sea level and offers a glimpse of some geological wonders like the Mud Spring – a sulfuric vent just 692m trek off the main trail, and the Flat Rocks – where you can swim in refreshing mini-sized water falls or just enjoy the lush greenery.
Mt. Makiling is also the home of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and the mountain acts as its breathing scientific laboratory. It was my first “unofficial” hiking experience when we were forced este required pala to climb Peak 2 as our final exam in Physical Education (P.E.) back in college. We took the 8.7km Mariang Makiling Trail from the UPLB College of Forestry. The only thing I could remember of that hike however was one 90 degree ascent and tall-tales of limatics – a kind of leech that looks like a tiny worm and can grow as long as a sewing needle.
Traversing Mt. Makiling from Sto Tomas Batangas however, is a different story. It is probably the most difficult climb I have done so far (not that I have so many in my list though). I had never done a traverse climb before so I didn’t think twice about joining the Open Climb of Dahong Palay Mountaineers (DPM) – more from ignorance of what the climb would really be like I guess! Except for my unhealthy fear of limatics, I was really excited to start the year trekking on the mountain that had nurtured me for the last 4 years of my university life.
We started our trek from San Bartolome Barangay Hall – the tricycle drivers didn’t take us all the way to the jump-off point and charged us excessively – 50 pesos per head instead of per trip! After we registered and paid the 5 pesos entrance fee, it was a pleasant walk through flat pastoral land overlooking the contours of Mt. Makiling with its peak shrouded by thick clouds. It started to drizzle as we neared the cogon grassland and crossing it was a bit of a struggle. The wind was too strong causing the tall cogon grass to smash up against us, even jostling me on the other side of the trail at times despite carrying a heavy backpack. We had our pictures taken at the Ridge and I’m glad we did because it was the first and the last clearing we had that offered an unobstructed and panoramic view of the nearby towns.
We rested for a while in a small clearing after crossing the ridge – just five minutes walk from the Palanggana Campsite. We then entered a rainforest heading towards Melkas Ridge clearing where we had our lunch and I had my first sighting of limatic trying to get a taste of Bong’s blood (that limatic became an official souvenir inside an empty mineral water bottle). After lunch it was a one hour nonstop assault with three sections of rope assisted climbing before reaching Peak 3. The trail to the peak was enveloped with misty fog but it gave us an occasional glimpse of the surrounding rainforest and the deep ravine which made it more interesting as we climbed the steep rope segments towards the peak.
Descending Peak 3 was the start of my delubyo. It was a 3-4 hour of grappling against thick vegetation all the way to Peak 2. The trail was so dense you have to battle your way through the thick foliage, as well as hop, bend, crawl and insert yourself through huge trunks of trees that obstruct your way and the thorny plants that get stuck to your clothes and backpack. I was comforted by the thought that the limatics were in hibernation at this time of year but not enough to linger along the trail no matter how tired I was.
The trail from Peak 2 towards our campsite was heavily eroded, slippery and muddy, probably destroyed by the series of typhoons in the previous years. On this kind of trail you can’t help but cling to the thorny bushes as you fight to keep yourself from slipping on its several steep and slippery paths – my trekking pole was a big help (I probably have the least salugsog in the hands). It was already 7pm but we were only at station 22 which made it even harder to reach Tayabak Campsite located near station 8. It was just sheer will to finish the trek and fear of limatics that kept me going. But you can’t complain when you have a 51 year old man trekking for the first time with you still in high spirits despite stumbling so many times that I lost count already.
We passed by some campers at Malaboo Campsite near station 15 before stopping near the water source. I didn’t even dare to sit on the rocks but, still two limatics made their way to my hands. (Thanks Sir Nono for the alcohol spray) It was almost 10pm when we reached our campsite, and not too long after that, we all collapsed inside our respective tents missing the socials –well almost everyone. It’s a good thing we had another socials the next day, before packing up our tents for the side trip to Mud Spring. That’s where we finally got to LOL the ordeal that we all went through while gargling Matador after breakfast (sila lang pala ). Getting to know these down to earth and cool people was probably the best part of this trip.
As of this writing, I am nursing two minor scratches in my arms, three nasty bug bites in my right leg and muscle pain. But what the heck, it was all worth it – I’ve already filled my weekends for the coming months with new mountains to conquer. But for now, I will steer away first from the word “traverse” and Mt. Halcon – not unless they come up with an anti-limatic lotion in the future.
See more photos here