Sunday, November 18, 2012

Going Solo in Osdung

Nothing beats the fulfillment every time you get to try something new. At the onset, you would have butterflies in your stomach and a questioning mind whether you should proceed or not. But when you finally decided to move forward and find yourself in a path of no return, you just have to convince yourself to suck up all the hesitations and hope that the odds are ever in your favor. When you get the job done, you found yourself wanting for more. 

Bus Bound for Sagada in Dangwa Station
This was the exact feeling I had more than a month ago when I climbed Mt. Osdung. There were no definite plans. It was just an impulsive decision to get away. I was able to accomplish my deliverables hours before I got off from work so the last hours were spent in surfing through some websites on mountains and outdoors. Then a thought came – why not explore something new all by myself tomorrow as it would be my rest day. Ive tried to check on mountains near Manila but I realized that I practically climbed most of them in the past five years. I narrowed my search outside of Manila and found myself browsing through the mountains of the north. I was already about to decide in revisiting Mt. Timbak and visit the mummies when I noticed the article for Mt. Osdung. I read through it swiftly and learned that the jump off is along Halsema Highway which is pretty much accessible and no guides are necessary as the trails are very much established. Right there and then, I made a decision. The choice I made could have been further strengthened with the thought that I miss the mountains of the north – the cold breeze , stunning vantage points at the top and simply just the journey itself.
I went home immediately, packed my things and proceeded to the Victory Liner Terminal to catch a bus bound for Baguio. While on the trip, I read through the article that I printed out so I would know what to expect and to be certain of the directions going to there. I slept for most part of the trip so I could reserve all the energy for my adventure the following day. I woke up when I heard the driver saying that we were already in Baguio and I said to my thoughts, " This is it!!!"  

Afterhavingbreakfast in Good Taste, I waited for the first bus bound for Sagada as it will be passing through KM 313 where I will be alighting. My friends call me MASA ( Masandal Tulog) so I tried not to sleep along the way as I might find myself already in Sagada when I wake up. The first bus leaves Baguio at 630 AM and expected to pass by KM 313 after around 3 hours. This was the time that I could appreciate a non airconditioned as you can appreciate the natural aircon outside.  Along the way I was excited to see Mt. Timbak and when it was finally looming from a distance, my heart smiled. Further, I should also get some plus points for making an effort to talk with my seatmate in the bus. My friends would often described me as a snob but when a fellow adventurer advised me that people skills would be an A+, I did give it a shot.  We exchanged a healthy conversation and when she learned that I was climbing alone, she was wishing me all the luck and to take extra careful with my journey. I informed her that I would be alighting in KM 313 and she did help me look for the mark outside. Before I went down of the bus, I thanked her and exchanged wishes of safe journey ahead. 

Mt. Osdung
“Finally Here!” I said to myself when I saw word “Barangay Madaymen” in the signboard in the jumpoff area.  The path going up was indeed reminiscent of Mt. Timbak and since it was a bright and sunshiny day,  I enjoyed the views more than feeling the heat of the sun against my skin.  The road could also get dusty when some trucks and vehicles passed by and I got the look on their faces that I am a stranger to the place but still greeted me with all smiles. I love the people in the north. They are hospitable and friendly. I brought with me my tripod since I wont have anyone holding the camera when I want to take a picture of myself. I am too often conscious of my actions  but during that time, I dont care if I set up the tripod and camera even at the middle of the road just to have my photo taken of the beautiful views along the way. While I was walking , I was also talking to a friend ( Imelda) on the phone telling her that I am already walking my way up to the summit. I was asking her if there are any landmarks that I should take note of and she told me that once I see the tomb, it is an indication that it is almost summit.  There were also locals along the way whom I asked for directions. Taking cue from what Imelda said, an adrenaline rush came over me when I saw the tomb near the house but at the same time I was also hesitant that it was the summit since the ground that I stood, I could still see another  elevation ahead of me.  It does not hurt to explore since this was what the journey was all about. I followed my instincts and followed the path ahead of me. Following the road ahead of me, I was almost convinced that I am nearing the summit as I could almost see a 360 view of the area and when I finally took a right turn on the elevated area, I was able to confirm that it is indeed the summit as I was able to see famous landmass that I saw on the website and just beside the plantation, there it was, the famous tomb that Imelda was talking about.  

Views along the way

I reached the summit almost an hour after I started walking from the jumpoff area and I stayed in the summit for 45 minutes. Just like anyone else in the modern world, I posted a shout out on my Facebook Account during that time on how happy I was to be standing on its summit and for a successful solo ascent and adventure. I just couldn’t imagine if I had not brought my tripod as it was very useful with my photoshoot from all angles from the summit.  After having eaten my trailfood, I found myself lying on the ground and just savored the moment. It was a perfect time for me, myself and I.  Having spent quality time at the top, it was time to go down and I find myself back in the jumpoff area in 30 minutes. I must have some considerable luck that time as 5 minutes after I arrived in the jumpoff area, a bus bound for Baguio passed by. I was initially worried that I would have problems in transportation going back but I didnt.  On the way back to Baguio, I was my old MASA self since I am confident that if I could not wake up on time, someone will but it would still be Baguio City. 

I am ecstatic that I was able to accomplish this journey. Climbing with a group of friends would still be happier as you have people to share the experience with but taking some risks on an impulsive decision I had, the fulfillment was like Nirvana. 

More pictures below


Friday, August 31, 2012


Making travel or hiking plans on a rainy season gives one uncertainty. One can enjoy the rays of the sun at the start of the week which gives a promise of a fruitful weekend but come Friday night or Saturday morning, the weather report will read as overcast with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms. The best part would be when there is a tropical storm or typhoon threatening to hit the area. All you can do then is just hope or sigh.

Jump Off Point @ Mt. Maculot
Last weekend we scaled Mt. Maculot but prior to realizing the plan to climb it there were hesitations at the start. The weather report said that there were two typhoons lurking within the Philippine Area of Responsibility – Igme(Temblin)in the north and Julian(Bolaven) in the east and they were gaining strength as the weekend approached as they were in the state called Fujiwhara Effect – the phenomenon when two storms are rotating around one common center. The term was so scientific that somehow made us calculate the risks involved should we push through with the climb. All we needed was just a quick escape from the stress of work and respond to the call of our passion which is hiking. The weather was predicted to be rainy but rain or shine, we decided to go for it.

With Anciro and Jin
Me and Anna agreed to meet at Jollibee near LRT Buendia at around 4AM last Sunday. We needed to be early because we planned to do a double dayhike that day – Maculot and then Manabu. As usual, punctuality is encouraged but is seldom a reality during meet ups. We met at around 5 AM, ate breakfast in Jollibee and boarded a Lemery bound bus at around 6 AM. Along the way, we have observed that the skies were clear that gave us hope that it would be a fine day ahead. Upon alighting at Cuenca, we were approached by two guys asking if we were also headed for Mt. Maculot. We confirmed and agreed that we share the tricycle going to the jump off point. We learned that it was their first time to hike Mt. Maculot and they were thrilled to create their own experience. After introducing ourselves to each other, all four of us ( Me, Anna, Jin and Anciro) merged as one group with the goal of scaling Mt. Maculot.

Me getting some adrenaline rush at the Rockies
It was not my first time to climb it but I keep on coming back because of its commanding views and it is one of the accessible mountains in the south when you just need a quick break away. I still can recall the first time I set my foot on this place and I was stunned with the view – how the skies reflect on the lake and how it is perfectly combined to create a perfect backdrop in a photo. I was grateful to my best pal, Ivy who brought me there that time. On my succeeding visits, I tagged along some of my officemates and fellow adventure enthusiasts and I was pleased to know that they were thankful for me bringing them there and for some, it ignited their passion for hiking and outdoors. On my last visit, I was with my reliable companion and was rewarded with new friends. Although the trail to the top was somehow steep, we endured it by exchanging conversations along the way and laughing our hearts out. Jin and Anciro are fairly new to the world of mountaineering and I can relate with them when I was also a newbie in terms of curiosity, eagerness to conquer other mountains and the excitement they feel when they are doing it. I am pretty sure that their passion will take them to more greater heights. Almost two hours of hiking, we arrived at the campsite area and proceeded to the famous Rockies of Maculot. I've heard a lot of WOWS from them that I even find myself saying it even though I've been there several times. For Anna, it was a blessing for her as her first visit to this mountain, it was raining and foggy and so the view was obscured. The weather forecast was not favorable that day but taking some risks, we were rewarded with picturesque views on a broad daylight. Photo ops should not be missed on that moment and after spending some time at the top, it was time to descend. 

Anna getting some solo moment
Anciro trying to get his balance

Jin embracing the view

Our descent was faster than our ascent as it is the case all the time. We took extra care when going down as most accidents happen upon descending the mountain. Jin and Anciro’s plans were to visit Sitio Limampao after the climb. I've heard of the place but I have never been there although it is just steps away from the jump off of Mt. Maculot. Due to curiosity and convenience, me and Anna changed our itinerary and instead of proceeding to Mt. Manabu, we joined them in their visit to Limampao. Limampao or Lumampao – I am not really sure as to how the place is called but one thing is for certain, after visiting the area, I would rather choose climbing Mt. Maculot several times rather than walking on the established stairways of Limampao. They say it was 1500 steps so make it 3000 steps for a roundtrip. Everyone walked at their own pacing but even though I was on the lead, I was catching my breath every now and then. Reaching the lake below, I was delighted to see the area. It was high tide that time and I usually admire the waters atop the rockies of Mt. Maculot but at that instant, I was admiring it right in front of me. The notable landmark in the lakesidewas the slide connecting to the water and there were children that time enjoying the splash. I wanted to take a picture of myself on their humble playground but since me and water were never friends to begin with, I was extra careful with my step so I don’t slip and slide into the water. After spending some minutes in Limampao, we agreed to go home and this means another 1500 steps going up. On the way up I was just looking forward to seeing the waiting shed as it marks the finish line of the stairs and when I finally saw it, I rushed to it, sat down and gave a big sigh but with a happy heart.

The stairs were consuming

Me at the Slide
Fujiwhara effect of Igme and Julian did not take place in Maculot. It was not even close. The metaphor of the two pairs of friends merging as one group and interacting with each other created a new friendship and a superb experience that we can look back anytime.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Family Togetherness at Mambukal Mountain Resort

At the Entrance of Mambukal Resort

Mambukal Waterfalls could have been the perfect sidetrip after our Mt. Kanlaon Climb but since circumstances led us to exit on the same trail where we entered, the OLAYS missed the opportunity to visit the famed waterfalls in Murcia, Negros Occidental. 

Our Service
My first memories  of the place were way back during one of the summers of my Grade School Life. It was Easter Sunday to be exact. I begged my parents that we celebrate Easter Sunday there as I learned from my childhood friends that they would all be going there. Jealous and not wanting to be left alone, I did all my best to convince my parents why we all have to go and luckily they gave into my request after hours of crying. Yes, CRYING always proved to be an effective way to get what you want only when you are a child. Having set my foot on the place for the first time, I learned that the resort was on the foot of Mt. Kanlaon, experienced my first hike up to the waterfalls  and see in real life what a waterfall is and a chance to smell for the first time the unlikely odor of a sulfur. The outing was successful and as a child I would often asked for more. When I asked my mom if we could go there again, she just responded with  a smile, “Soon.”
Dad and Mom at the Cottage
I never thought that soon would take longer as expected. Almost 15 years  apart.  My family and I went back last year when I went home for a Christmas vacation.  I had been to different places with my friends and I thought that it would be fitting that I had to take my family outdoors and share the experience with them. Mambukal was our choice as it was the most feasible option that time.
The river beside our cottage
My mom woke up early that day to prepare the foods  for our family outing and my dad was busy packing other things.  These are the simple gestures  of love from my parents that I missed most especially that I am away from home because of work. When the service vehicle arrived, everyone were excited to jump in and were looking forward to a day of fun and togetherness. 

Family Portrait in Mambukal
Upon arriving at Mambukal Mountain Resort, we rented out a cottage where we could stay. Even if it is just less than an hour ride from the city, we found ourselves eating immediately. It could be the ambiance of the place that can justify our actions. The resort changed a lot from the last time I set both of my feet on it. There were new structures added like the lagoon, cottages and villas were renovated and the place was well maintained. After some minutes of eating and exchanging conversations, I invited my brother who tagged along his friend to join me in hiking up the seven waterfalls. My last visit only took me upto the first waterfalls and as much as I want to explore the other 6 falls then, I was not given permission due to risks involved. As a kid, all you can do is just obey. We asked around if there was a guide who could take us up to the seven waterfalls and we asked the right group of persons because they can accompany us to the seven waterfalls. When we asked them if how much is the fee and they responded by saying that it is upto us as to whatever amount of money we can give as it will be considered as a donation. 

The first Waterfalls
As we were on our way to the first waterfalls, I noticed that there were already established walkways on the way up. Then, you have to be careful each step you take as we might be walking on loose sand or rocks. Now, it makes the hike more easier but  one should exert same degree of care and caution as to avoid any accidents. There were also canopy walks along the way and I would probably try it next time. When we arrived at the first waterfalls and was ready to jump into the water when the guide advised us that swimming on the first waterfalls is prohibited as there might be falling rocks.  I was disappointed but followed instructions as it for our best safety. During my first visit on this place, the first waterfalls was like a basin full of people. There were even some kids who were jumping into the water. I learned that there were recorded accidents that prompted them this action. I just took some photos and proceeded to the next falls. The second and third waterfalls were just along the way and just like the first one it is also off limits for swimming. We never had the chance to visit the fourth and fifth as it was closed due to landslide. After the third waterfalls we visited the sixth falls where we spent some time to rest. Just above the sixth waterfalls, one can swim and take a dip in the waters as it is safe. Our guide informed us that the seventh waterfalls is of considerable from the sixth. We would have to pass an open road first, then to some houses of the locals and plantation before reaching the last waterfalls. I was excited to see it as I was looking forward to it. When we finally reached it, we admired its beauty and we didn't have second thoughts on jumping into the water. We stayed for almost 45 minutes on the place before we head back to the cottage. I am glad that I spent some quality time with my brother even for just this hike as we never had this chance before. 

Seventh Waterfalls
As we traversed down to the cottage, we passed by an area where bats are hanging from the trees. At first they are unrecognizable but if you look closely, you can confirm that they are indeed bats by their color and the way they hang themselves from the branches of the tree. We took on a different trail going down and we hoped to pass by the sulfur pool area. After breathing some amount of sulfur into our body, we agreed to go back to the cottage for a lunch. We were then reunited with my parents and we exchanged conversations on our hiking experience. As much as they would want to join us, they decided to stay on the cottage due to constraint of age. They too had a quality time together as a couple. After lunch, we visited the butterfly garden. It was amazing to see butterflies of different colors and sizes and some would even land on your shoulders. 

Time came for us to pack up and go back home. The whole day was not enough for some family bonding but it was definitely a good kick off for more family togetherness to come.

More pictures from the waterfalls and the resort below

Me at the First Waterfalls 

My brother and his friend at the second waterfalls

The third Waterfalls

The Sixth Waterfall with Resting Area Above
Me enjoying the waters at the Seventh
My brother and his friend having fun at the Seventh Waterfalls as well

Bast on Trees...  Can you see them?

Very Hot Spring .. Pool of Sulfur

Me at the Sulfur Area

Boiling Mud

At the butterfly garden

With my Dad at the Lagoon Area

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mt. Kanlaon in Retrospect

The Stunning View of Mt. Kanlaon
A number of people have asked me as to what is the most beautiful mountain I have climbed so far and I usually find it difficult to give a paramount answer. Each mountain is distinct and it prides it's own terrain, trails, flora, fauna, weather and its commanding views. It would be challenging to just come up with one because I love every experience I had on the top. I could come up with a short list but I could not limit it to one. Among those would be my ascent to Mt. Kanlaon 4 years ago. 

I knew that Mt. Kanlaon existed as I grew up more than half of my life in Bacolod City. It serves as the backdrop of our humble city. Then, I never appreciated it as I was not yet lured into the world of mountaineering. I even got an invitation from a college schoolmate to climb it but I refused as I was not yet ready to leave the comfort I had at home. Fast forward my life here in  Manila  when climbing had started as an addiction. Every year, my group, OLAYS would always plan a year end climb and it is always something major. It is way of remembering the wonderful adventures we had for that year and toasting to the future outdoor trips we would share. For the year 2008, it was decided that we would scale Mt. Kanlaon. 

Group Pic At Guintubdan Before the Climb
I remember telling Ivy that I may not be able to join the climb for that year as I have to go home to Bacolod to spend the Yuletide season there. She said that my attendance was required and picking up from our last conversation how Cebu Pacific had promo fares every now and then, she suggested that why not take our year end climb outside Luzon that time and visit Mt. Kanlaon in our province. I excitedly agreed. After coming up with an itinerary,  arranging the logistics and budget, coordinating with PAMB and reserving our plane tickets, we were all set to Mt. Kanlaon. 

At Boslogan Falls
We arrived Bacolod City on Christmas Day. We spent the night at our place before the big adventure the following day. When our service vehicle arrived in front of our home, we were caught by surprise as we did not expect it to be so big. We were only 8 in the group but we thought that it could accommodate up to 50 passengers. We informed our guide that if we are already outside the city, we would want to be on the top-load as it has been customary for us. This would mean that it would be the guide and the driver left inside while all of us are getting some adrenaline rush on top. We arrived at Guintubdan after almost two hours. It is a requirement to register at the jump off point and give the climb permit issued by PAMB or you will be denied entry to the park. After last minute instructions, we started with our assault. 

At Pagatpat Junction
It was agreed that I would be part of the lead group since I could communicate with the guide better as I know how to speak the local dialect.  On the first part of our climb, me and the guide were still talking and he was within my frame of reference. As we made progress and all of us walked at our own pacing, the guide was of considerable distance and he would only stopped at certain points and waited for us to regroup. We were joking then if we really did train well for this climb or our guide was just unbelievably fast. We chose to believe on the latter.  Along the way, we were amazed by the beauty of Mt. Kanlaon - how the trails were not so wide and the forest unspoiled. This could be due to the fact that entry to Mt. Kanlaon is regulated. There are only certain number of people allowed per climb so the damage that could be done be minimized. One of the memorable points along Guintubdan trail are Boslogan Falls which was our first water source and where you could take a plunge on its cold and crystal clear waters. Further, there is also the Pagatpat Junction where the different trails meet and up ahead is the saddle camp where you could spend the night before heading on the summit the following day. Not to be missed is the presence of limatiks in the area. They made us attentive at all times and the climb more exciting.

Summit of Mt. Kanlaon with Ivy
As we moved away from Pagatpat Junction, we felt the temperature dropped and when we exited the area, we saw the fog enveloped the place and listened to the howling of the winds. Since we were nearing the saddle camp area, we hurried and thought of pitching the tents immediately as it might rain anytime. When we arrived in the campsite area, it suddenly became silent and when we turned our backs, our jaws dropped. The fog cleared and what we saw was the enchanting beauty of Margaha Valley and the stunning view of the summit. The view lasted only for 10 minutes and the fog enveloped again.  We were happy that Mt. Kanlaon gave us a warm welcome and we were looking forward to summit it the following day. 

Crater of Mt. Kanlaon
Second day of the climb was unexpected. The original itinerary was entering Kanlaon via Guintubdan trail and exiting it through Wasay Trail.  We were supposed to wake up at 4 AM the following day for summit assault but it was delayed to 5 AM then later to 6 AM because it was still raining and had no clearing. 6 AM came and the weather was getting worse that a summit assault would be impossible. We were all summoned to a meeting by our team lead, Sir Daile. We agreed that instead of exiting through Wasay trail, we would stay for another night on the saddle camp and hope for a clearing on the third day. Whether it would turn out favorable or not, we would need to go home the following day and exit on Guintubdan trail. It is a good thing that we still have sufficient supplies to help us last while we take on our chances. 

The famous Margaha Valley
Having decided to stay on the saddle camp area, we killed time by a simple routine - sleeping, exchanging conversations, tent hopping and eating. Since the rained poured heavily on that day, i felt like I was on waterbed. The water was passing through below tents but the good thing is that we have several layers of plastic inside our tent so it didn't sipped in that would make us wet. We can feel the coldness of the water though. All of us also said our individual prayers hoping that God would grant us our innermost desire that time of having a perfect weather to do the summit assault. It was already night time and it was still raining. We were loosing hope but Richard said that everyone just needs to have faith. We had more than enough sleep the whole day that we find ourselves waking up almost every hour on the second night. Everyone was too cold to go out and we were hoping that the morning would come so we can all descend and go home.  It was almost 4 AM when someone went out of the tent to respond to the call of nature. When Richard went back to the campsite area, he woke us all up and said to prepare as we are all heading to the summit. We hurriedly went out of our tents and we saw the stars in the sky and the summit from a distant. We knew that Kanlaon was inviting us to the summit assault already. We were more than ready. 

Human Spelling ... O L A Y
We started walking up at around 430 AM and we felt how cold the weather was. Aside from our jackets, bonnet and gloves, our eagerness and excitement kept us warm. The trail to the summit was rocky because this was already nearing the crater of an active volcano. After almost 45 minute walk, we were on the summit and we waited for the sunrise. Upon reaching the summit, we were humbled how we were presented with this opportunity. After spending some time with myself and nature, I rejoined the group to explore the area. I could not believe it for myself but yes, I was at the edge of the crater of Mt. Kanlaon. The view of the Margaha Valley from the top was more beautiful than it was on the saddle camp. We learned that the valley was used to be the old crater and how it is beautifully connected to the new one where we were standing then. Being the highest mountain in the Visayas region, Kanlaon offered magnificient views of the neighboring islands. We spent more almost two hours on the top but we lost track of time while we there as we were all awed by its alluring beauty. Everyone agreed that this was one on the top list of the beautiful mountains that we had been to. 

Slopes of Mt. Kanlaon
Time to descend but we were still on high because of the picturesque views we had. It was too beautiful that I was able to capture hundreds of shots from my camera. We were also too high that when we started to descend, the only time we rested was at Boslogan Falls which was more than 2 hours away from the summit and  almost 45 minutes away from the exit point. Kanlaon fueled us with a renewed energy and spirit. 

I never thought that there is a treasure hidden in my hometown in Negros.  I would have never come face to face with it if I was never fascinated with mountaineering. As what Paulo Coelho said on his book the Alchemist, “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure." I am so passionate about outdoors and mountains and as a reward , I had a superb experience in Mt. Kanlaon.

Standing: Mikoy, Me, Cris, Richard, Ivy, Anton and Daile. Kneeling: Drew