After recently traversing Mt. Makiling, I wasn’t really keen on doing another major climb so soon. But I wanted to climb as many mountains as I could before summer, so I decided to start with easy ones that are near Manila and that are manageable for a day hike. I asked around my friends from the mountaineering community for beautiful mountains with waterfalls or mountains that offer magnificent views from the summit. Their top recommendations were Pico de Loro at Maragondon, Cavite; Mt. Maculot at Cuenca, Batangas; Buntot Palos (also known as Hidden Falls) in Laguna and Balagbag Falls in Real, Quezon.
Pico de Loro was the runaway winner so I decided to climb it the next day and Mt. Maculot the day after. With a spur-of-the-moment trip like this I didn’t expect that any of my friends would be able to join us. Fortunately, Ian was free (and responded right away after seeing my late post from Facebook), and so was Cristy. We left Manila around 6 a.m. on Saturday morning and took the South Luzon Express Way (SLEX) exiting at Carmona. We stopped at Dasmarinas Robinsons Mall to pick up Ian, Jeff and Cristy and proceeded to the jump-off point along Puerto Azul Road.
I wasn’t aware that Pico de Loro is part of a protected forest reserve of Mt. Palay-Palay/Mataas na Gulod National Park, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the lush forest cover on our way to the jump-off point along Ternate Highway. It’s something I usually get to experience only when I pass by Quezon National Park (also known as Bitukang Manok) and driving around Laguna area. Just cruising along this area is rewarding already especially if you’re used to the hectic and noisy life of the city. It was almost 10 a.m. when we passed-by the jump-off point on our way to DENR outpost. The registration fee is now 20 pesos per head while the parking fee is still 50 pesos.
After registration, we walked back along the road for a few minutes to the trail head before starting an immediate 30 minute assault up to the first base camp (and I thought it was going to be an easy two-hour hike – I had even left my trekking pole back at the outpost!) The trail however, was under the verdant canopy of trees, accompanied by the mélange of different bird calls and the familiar loud sound of cicadas, and this made it bearable. We registered at the first base camp (another 20 pesos) and signed the log book. Hikers can use the toilet as well as replenish their water here.
Refreshed and energized, we were back on the trail relying on Ian’s knowledge of the mountain from two years ago. We followed him all the way to the summit of a subsidiary peak (Peak 3). As it turned out, it wasn’t the peak we were looking for! We did not pass by any campsite on the way to the summit and we were the only people there – naligaw po in short. At least we got to summit an additional peak! Finally, after tracing our way back down from Peak 3, we found our way to the camp site below the main summit (Peak 1).
After lunch at the campsite, we had another 30 minute assault before reaching the summit of Peak 1. The path near the summit was really steep and although it was dry, the trail was still slippery. I had to hang onto the cogon grass to make my way up to the summit! At last, we reached the main summit of Pico de Loro! The view from the top was indeed spectacular. It’s an awesome 360 degree panorama of indented coves and beaches, mountain ranges, and thick forest covering. I wonder how long before those beautiful coves and beaches become exclusive villages and resorts again (or perhaps they are already?). The bald spots in some area of the mountain were a bit of a disappointment considering it is a protected forest park, but the view was well worth it.
The summit of peak 1 was just a small area able to fit just a few people, and it was at its hottest when we reached it around 1 p.m. After spending some time there together with some other climbers, we descended a steep path towards the famous rock tower (Peak 2) and got ready to settle Ian’s unfinished business at Pico de Loro – to climb that rocky outcrop!
The precipitous rock formation looked very intimidating to climb, and I thought you would have to use ropes and a harness to climb it. Fortunately it’s not that difficult, and Charlie is an experienced rock climber and helped all of us to get to the summit. There is a permanently fixed rope up one short, steep section which makes the climb fairly easy. Take care, however, as a fall from here would likely see you falling a long way down the side of the tower, and very serious injuries (or worse) would be likely. Also, it is a good idea to send an experienced climber first to inspect the top of the rope for wear and tear to make sure it’s still in good enough condition for other climbers to put their whole weight on.
It was a liberating experience to be able to scale this rock. It wasn’t just the amazing view but the success of conquering my fear of heights again. I would have stayed here longer if we weren’t on day hike trip. While staying here, we spotted a hornbill and many other birds soaring above the vast forest. There were also monkeys on the rocky outcrop, but luckily for me I didn’t spot any snakes!
We began the trek back, making a detour to a waterfall and swimming hole on the way, and it was almost 5 p.m. when we finally reached the main road again. Pico de Loro is certainly a really beautiful place. It is something you want to share with everyone to create awareness that we have something so precious that is worth preserving. I usually don’t go back to the same mountain more than once, but I think I’m going to change my mind with this one! (Now if only I can bring my mother to see it- hmp na rayuma na yan!)
How to get to Pico de Loro
Pico de Loro has two jump-off points. One is along Ternate Highway on the way to Caylabne Resort and the other one is via Nasugbu, Batangas. It is accessible from Nasugbu town proper by pump boat or a long jeepney ride along a rough road to Nasugbu. For the second jump-off site, you may take a bus ride from Manila to Nasugbu (BLTB) and from there arrange transportation for Barangay Papaya.
By Bus – Take the bus bound (Saulog) for Maragondon or Ternate Cavite at the Lawton or Liwasang Bonifacio area. You may hire a jeepney at Maragondon Cavite to take you to the jump-off point.
By Private Car – Take the South Luzon Express way and exit at Carmona. Go towards the road of Puerto Azul. Drive toward the Magnetic Hill sign where the jump-off point is located. This is between the entry point of Puerto Azul and the military barracks.
Bits and Info:
- A trip to the Marine Base Beach can be added as a side-trip for this climb. It’s less than 30 minute drive from DENR outpost. The entrance fee is 30 pesos for day trippers and 60 pesos for an overnight stay. (Foreigners are not allowed in the base).
- There are two waterfalls in the mountain. One is near the campsite after the nipa hut at the first base camp – a short 3 minute-walk off the main trail and the other is near Maragondon Trail They are best visited during the rainy season.
- Traversing Pico de Loro from Ternate, Cavite to Nasugbu, Batangas is also becoming popular. A visit to the beaches of Nasugbu is a good side trip.
- The forest reserve is a good place to spot several species birds like hornbill, different species of insects, snakes and monkeys if you’re lucky during your visit.
- The 13 coves of Hamilo Coast are, Papaya Cove, Pico de Loro Cove, Santelmo Cove, Subli Cove, Baybay Cove, Etayo Cove, Balibago Cove, Arkaya Cove, Dorado Cove, Bucanita Cove, Limbones Cove, Neela Cove, and Patungan Cove.