Monday, May 2, 2011

Kwentong Kaladkarin #14: Batulao, Beer and Belarmino

Da Where: Mt. Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas
Da When: April 30-May 1, 2011
Da Who: me, Vin, Angel and Mark
Da Trivia: I was effin' starstruck to meet and share tequila shots and beer with one of Philippine mountaineering's women legends! :D
Da Words for the Day: Best pick-up line ever - 'Are you an athlete?' Hahaha!

Because of a crazy work and school schedule plus an international travel planned, it has been more than a month since my last climb. A couple weeks ago, Vin and I originally planned to do a comeback climb to Mt. Cristobal in Dolores, Quezon after our disastrous first climb up that mountain 2.5 years ago. We're re-scheduling that long-awaited comeback climb this May so I'll tell you more about it some other time. :)

To make the long story short, we couldn't get anybody else to join us on these dates so we decided to forego that and do an easy but rewarding hike instead. And of course, only one mountain came to mind - Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas! Angel, a friend of ours, joined us on this climb and brought along Mark, a friend from work. Funnily enough, the first and last time I climbed with Angel was that Cristobal climb so yes, it has been 2.5 years since we last saw each other. :D
This was actually my 5th climb up Mt. Batulao and though I looooove doing a hike up there, I was just expecting the usual. Boy, was I in for a delightful surprise! After a few hitches with the meet-up time and the bus breaking down halfway to Batangas and had to transfer to another one, we finally made it to Nasugbu by 1230.

We made sure to spray on some sunblock (the noontime sun was merciless) then started the trek from the cemented road in Evercrest Golf Club to the rough road at the jump-off. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the elementary school where the jump-off is. You can actually take a tricycle ride for PhP50.00/person but we were saving our dough so off walking we went. :D

The BCS bus that broke down. Ugh. Had to transfer to another bus, causing delay.

Since Vin and I are both familiar with the 'new' trail (this must be his 10th time up there or something), we opted not to get a guide anymore. The trail soil was loose and very dry, a stark contrast to our last Batulao climb in September 2010, where we had to literally slide our way up and down through foot-deep mud! We were inhaling dust half the time, since we were sharing the trails with horses used by the locals to transport local produce.

A kid leading on the family horse and pony. So cuuute! :)
Vin petting Candy, a shih tzu who also joined a group of kids climbing. :)

We made a few stops for some halo-halo and soda (the prices raising as we get higher up the mountain) to get our hydration and our breaths back. I could feel the crown of my head burning even with my cap on. Off we trudged, hoping to make it to Peak 7 by 1600.

Full-force sun beating down on us as we hiked.

Now the last time we were there, we were already surprised by additonal business activities, with a few locals constructing nipa-and-bamboo sheds as rest stops then sell soda and coconut juice to climbers. We even met the infamous Ate who was selling Mountain Dew soda at the summit! This time, I was surprised to see a couple souvenir shops sprouted along the trail, selling shirts and keychains and what-nots. I was even more surprised when I saw a nipa hut just right before going up Peak 7, where we usually set camp.

A couple souvenir shops along the trails. Wow, the locals are on to entrepreneurship! :)
We were climbing with another group mostly made up of kids, the youngest was only 7-yrs old. They called themselves the MaangaS/L Mountaineers. Adorable! :D

When we passed by the hut, we immediately saw Mang Resty, the main person who keeps the climb registry and maintains the 'new' trail. We said our hellos and when my eyes swept over his companions, I had to do a double take. I thought maybe the heat and hunger was just doing tricks to my vision but there she was, Ma'am Janet Belarmino in person!

Us with Ma'am Janet and her son, Himalaya

You can Google the rest but just to explain why I was this ecstatic to meet her, Ma'am Janet is one of the Pinay trio (the other two being Carina Dayondon and Noelle Wenceslao) who went on a Mt. Everest expedition about four years ago and were recorded as the first Filipina and Southeast Asian women to successfully summit the highest mountain in the world and also the first women in the world to complete a traverse climb of Mt. Everest, going in from Tibet's north route and exiting in Nepal's south route.

So yes, I was shamelessly starstruck that I swallowed all remnants of hiya and asked for a photo with one of the very few women I look up to.

We later found out that she, together with her husband Todd and their son, Himalaya (who was only 4 months old when his mom went on the Everest expedition), were there for a weekend respite. They bought that piece of land awhile back and built a nipa hut a month ago so they can spend some time off up the mountains. Wow, I wish I can do the same some day. :D

After taking a few snapshots and the very accomodating couple leaving invitations to come by for a beer later, we finally made it to Peak 7 and started pitching our tents, with Vin setting our temporary kitchen so he can cook rice for our late lunch/early dinner. Vin made his delicious spicy pork adobo with quail eggs and with the verdant greens around us, it was a feast for both our tummies and our eyes. :)

Vin's special Spicy Pork Adobo with Quail Eggs. Yum!
Al fresco dining at its finest. Dinner, anyone? :)
Snapshots I was able to take of the gorgeous setting sun at Mt. Batulao.

The sun was only setting around 1800 when Mark broke out the Jose Cuervo he brought and started handing out shots. I wanted to take a nap for 10mins when Himalaya, ma'am Janet's 4-yr old kid zipped open the tent and demanded me to wake up. Haha!

I ended up giving him all my remaining JellyAce cups and played with the kid. Mind you, he's very precocious and energetic, greeting hello every climber who passed by our campsite.

Himalaya ate all my JellyAce! Haha!
Playing like a kid again, with a rainbow in the distance. Ah, childhood! :)

I know we were not setting a good example to Hamyl (Himalaya's nickname) when we started knocking back tequila shots (sans lemon wedges and salt) but later he went back to their hut and a few minutes later, we were joined by Janet and Todd.

They gamely joined in doing shots with us and that's when story-swapping started to get going. Todd even told us how he and Janet met in Singapore; when Todd was there after sailing around Southeast Asia and Janet on a stopover from the Philippine Balangay Voyage. The pick-up line he used? "Hey, are you an athlete?" That was enough to stop an Everest summitter right on her tracks! Hahahaha! :D

Well hello there, Jose! ;D
Ice-cold beer at several MASL. How's that for socials? ;P Thank you, Janet and Todd!
We brought over the drinking spree at their cozy little hut where Todd handed out ice-cold beer to everyone. Wow, who could refuse such hospitality? :) We ended up chatting and laughing some more late into the night when through the alcoholic buzz, we decided to call it a day so we can still rest before doing the assault to the summit tomorrow.

We thanked the two profusely and made our way back to our tents, with me stumbling into our tent and falling asleep almost immediately.

Note: For those who'd like to sign up for outdoorsmanship training, you can view the details for the courses offered by Janet and Todd here.

Group hug with Ma'am Janet Belarmino. Feeling Everest summitters din tuloy kami ni Angel. Haha!
With the adventurous and very hospitable couple - Janet and Todd

The next time I was conscious was 0500, when Vin's phone alarm went off and the early morning sun breaking out in the horizon. He cooked breakfast for us and we started preparing for our assault climb, thankfully without any hangovers. :D

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this? :)

At 0700, the four of us made our way to start the trek but Mark decided to stay and wait out for us the last minute so it was only me, Vin and Angel continuing on. It seems Mang Resty made out a new trail on the eastern face of the mountain so we took that one, scrambling through steep,loose earth before making it to the short knife-edge trail and the final assault to the summit.

It was still early morning but the sun was starting to beat down on us. Reaching the summit was a breath of fresh air (literally), when we were afforded with a clearing and could even see a partial Taal Volcano in the distance.  Ate was still there, selling cold Mountain Dew to successful summitters at PhP25/bottle. Sarap! :D

Ahhhh! Mountain Dew at the top!
A stitched panoramic view from the summit of Mt. Batulao

After a few photos, we decided to make our way back but this time decided to take the western trail, where we'd go through the lush, forest trail going down. It was the longer route but it was so much cooler because we were shielded from the brutal sun and no direct view of the ravine below. An hour later, we were back at camp.

We decided to break camp and just have lunch at one of the rest sheds on our descent. It was already 1400 when we got back to the jump-off point so we decided to take a tricycle back to Evercrest so we can freshen up and still have time to go to Tagaytay, where we'll have our usual steaming, delicious bowl of bulalo from MerBen's Tapsilog and Bulalo. The perfect way to cap a perfect climb!

I wonder what surprises await me the next time I find myself in Batulao's trails. Let's see. :)

Living on life's edge. ;)


  1. Batulao is my first ever climb! So lucky of you guys to meet her :)

  2. @Pinay Travel Junkie - Me too, Gay! :) There's something about that place that just draws me back.