Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kwentong Kaladkarin #28: Bleak Mt. Batulao and a Bowl of Bulalo

Da Where: Nasugbu, Batangas and Tagaytay, Cavite, Philippines
Da When: August 27, 2011
Da Who: me, Vin, Naheem, Mehdi and Jamie
Da Trivia: It's my 6th hike up Batulao but a lot of firsts - dayhike, with friends from the US, Canada and Germany, and during a tropical storm. Hello Typhoon Mina! ;D
Da Words for the Day: "Does this road never end?" - Mehdi

Note: This is a text-heavy post. Typhoon Mina made photo-taking with non-waterproof gadgets impossible. ;D Photo credits to Mehdi.

It sucks when our country goes into monsoon season, right around the the start of June lasting into early February. It's the time of the year when low pressure area, typhoons and thunderstorms are part of the local weather reports. It's also the time of the year when climbs and hikes are blown out of anyone's weekend plans.

A new project is underway at work and a few friends from work who are first-time visitors to the country wanted to see the Philippines past the smog-filled Metro Manila skylines, merchandise-stacked Greenhills and expat-littered Greenbelt. What better way than to introduce them to the beauty (and fun) of tropical hiking, right smack in the middle of the monsoon season? ;)

Our guests were up to it so we scheduled the dayhike on a Saturday, right off work. With Vin as our unofficial guide, we brought Jamie, Naheem and Mehdi to Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas. The three of them are in the country for a couple months for work and I wanted to take them to another Pinoy experience other than Boracay or Palawan. Jamie's from the US, Naheem's from Canada and Mehdi's from Germany.

It will be my 6th time to hike up Mt. Batulao and it'll be Vin's 10th time, I think. Yes, that's how much we love this mountain. :) We stopped by at McDonald's for a quick breakfast fill as Mehdi worried about the weather. He just saw an early edition newspaper with frontpage headline of Typhoon Mina making landfall in Isabela and the Cagayan areas.

Technically, there was no storm signal raised for the NCR and neighboring provinces; not until later that day, at least. Safety is always a first so any indication of the weather being too risky, we would've called off the hike. We're not suicidal just yet. Haha!

Vin and me, with our foreigner friends! :) See the fog and rain surrounding us?

We arrived at the Evercrest jumpoff a little too early so we waited out the rain and for a little bit of sunlight. We didn't bring any headlamps since we initially planned this to be a dayhike, operational word being day. ;D

Amidst the cold, early-morning rain, with friends from work - Jamie, Mehdi and Naheem.

It was almost 0600 and without any indication of the drizzle stopping anytime soon, we finally stepped out of the van, put on our ponchos and did some warm-up stretching. About 10 minutes into our hike, the heavens opened up and poured rain like crazy. We were half-trekking, half-sliding our way until we got to our first stop, the buko/soda rest stop.

Since it was raining hard, Kuya and his family graciously welcomed us inside their home. We were dripping wet so it was a good thing the outer ground floor of the their house is hard-packed soil. We enjoyed some fresh buko juice while waited for the rain to ease. I felt proud of Filipino hospitality right then and there, welcoming complete strangers into their home. :)


We said our thank-you's and stepped out to a muddy trail. I prepared myself to some ardous trekking until we hit the established hiking trails of Mt. Batulao. I think it made me tougher than I was since I'm hiking with 4 obviously physically-fit guys, they barely stopped for rests or trail food! :D The drizzle also helped, it made me less thirsty and there was no unbearable sun beating down on us. Drawback though, we couldn't see more than 20 meters ahead of us. No spectacular views of Mt. Batulao that I'm so used to. :(


After another hour of hiking, we already reached Camp 9 and registered with Mang Resty. The surrounding lands were a verdant green, wet from the rain, and we could literally see sheets of raindrops moving with the wind right in front of us. We took a break and had some food and water while deciding if we'll push through to the summit.

... go away!

By this time, the spiky peaks of Mt. Batulao is covered with rain clouds and fog and the weather did not show signs of clearing up anytime soon. The hikers we talked to who camped for the night were shivering from the cold. We decided to just descend and not summit since we won't be able to enjoy any views from the top.

I think we made record-breaking time on our way down, getting back to the parked van at the jump-off in only about an hour. The winds were still relentless, there were a couple of times I had to stop and hold down my weight, it felt like the wind was ready to lift me off my feet! We also passed by the kubo of Ma'am Janet Belarmino and husband Todd, saying our hello's before continuing down.

We cleaned up at one of the pay-per-shower restrooms and hobbled back to the van. Everybody was bushed but we decided to close the day on a brighter note. We dropped by at our favorite Tagaytay post-climb place, Merben's, for some good ol' bulalo. It was perfect for the weather, together with some fried bangus and sweet&sour lapu-lapu. Even our foreign friends enjoyed the Filipino fare they sampled.

Tummies filled and energies drained, we dozed all the way back to the city. I hope Vin and I were able to show Naheem, Mehdi and Jamie another beautiful side of the Philippines, despite the stormy weather and muddy trails.

Next time friends, be here during the summer season, will ya? :)

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