Monday, October 1, 2012

Kwentong Kaladkarin #44: Battleground Batulao

Da Where: Mt. Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas
Da When: August 25-26, 2012
Da Who: me, Deej, Leo, Chris, Ed, Zee, Alvin and Pheophie the Mini-Pin

I'm slipping into my old age. Why? Because the last time I hiked was friggin' seven months ago! This must be the longest I've gone on without a climb and I'm not a happy camper.

This, I missed. And I think it missed me back. :)

Blame it on work, blame it on schedule conflicts, blame it on my other travel pursuits. I don't really know why it took this long to get me back to the mountains again. This is the first time I'm climbing with friends from work in the new account am assigned to. The weather's been finicky with the recent typhoons and LPAs but no amount of rain could dampen our spirits.

The day started out a little sad for us. I learned that my trusty pair of Merrells has finally given out. :( It's been my travel buddy for my hikes since early 2009. Without a spare pair, I ended up dropping by Sandugo in Ali Mall and get a pair of trekking sandals. During the bus trip, another mishap happened when we found out Deej lost her wallet with all her cash and ID cards inside. We couldn't pinpoint who the culprit was so lesson learned, be very careful with belongings during commutes.

Waiting for the bus at Cubao.
The bus ride took longer than expected because of the traffic lock in the new expressway in Cavite. I don't know how it was termed as 'express', don't ask me. We only started on our hike from Evercrest around 1300H and the sky was overcast with occasional drizzle. We were nearing the jump-off point waiting shed when we met Erwin, my favorite guide in Batulao and I readily asked for his services though this is like my 7th time there.

Tweetums pa din kahit maputik na. :D
Putek na putik! :D
The climb was long and arduous as we had to battle slippery muddy trails. One wrong step and you'd be up to your knees in muck. We envied Phoephie, Zee's and Alvin's mini-pinscher joining us on the climb, coz she just kept on gliding over the trails like she was ice-skating. Well, four feet (or paws) are indeed better than two in this situation. It was starting to get dark and we could hardly see 3 feet ahead of us because the fog has started to roll in. I urged everyone to go a little bit faster so we can get to Peak 7 where we'll camp for the night.

When I finally saw Ma'am Janet Belarmino's hut looming in the horizon, I heaved a sigh of relief. It didn't last for long though. We started to pitch camp when the heavens opened up, soaking everything we just brought out of our waterproofed packs. After standing in the downpour and biting wind for several minutes, we finally decided to head to Ma'am Janet's kubo and spend the night there.

The last few times I was in Batulao with Marvin and our friends, the hut was fairly new and we even swapped stories and tequila shots with Janet and her husband Todd. Now, the hut is weather-beaten and looked desolate but it was that or the pouring rain and Nature's harsh elements. Thank goodness it was left open when we found it. We cleaned up the place a bit and started bringing in our stuff. We quickly set up our cooking area so we can get started on our dinner, knowing everyone's famished and freezing.

For the very first time, I attempted to cook rice. Operative word being 'attempted'. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it in my earlier blog posts but I have never (ever!) cooked during hikes. Vin usually puts on the toque while I prettily sit back. I slice and dice and open canned goods and prepare the ingredients but I never tried my hand in actually looking anything because I know it's going to be a culinary disaster. Which is what exactly happened to the rice I was cooking. Ed came to the rescue and saved the ruined rice. Weird, it actually turned out perfectly cooked later on. Duh, we have these things called rice cooker in the lowlands. ;P

We enjoyed our humble dinner of rice, fried SPAM (that one's less than humble, thanks for the donation, Deej!), fried eggplant and tomato salad after changing into dry clothes. The winds were still unforgiving and the hut actually shook every time it caught a gale. The thin bamboo walls and flooring afforded some shelter though and we tried to make it livable using our ground mats and fly sheets.

Mga refugees. Haha!
As we huddled for warmth while knocking back shots of Emperador Light, I questioned why I'm climbing again when I could enjoy the toasty comforts of my bed. LOL! The heck,  stuff like this is what makes a climb a memorable one! :D

We woke up to a fog-enveloped Mt. Batulao the next morning. It was still freezing and my hands could barely stretch when I handed our share of the P30/pax camp registration fee. Rounds of coffee went around as we prayed for the sun to peek out from the white cloud curtains. Thankfully, it has stopped raining so we were able to enjoy our breakfast al fresco at the wooden terrace-like structure of Ma'am Janet's hut.

Chef Zee on our breakfast. :)
The girls...
And the boys...
Al fresco breakfast
Group shot! :D
At 1000H, with no signs of the fog leaving soon, we decided to do break camp, clean up the hut and get on the one-hour assault to the summit. It will be the first time I am climbing this part of the new trail after the freak accident earlier this year when a lady climber fell off the short knife-edge part and didn't survive. I was a little apprehensive as we had several Batulao first-timers with the group so our pace was slow but sure. This is a minor climb and a fairly easy hike but I have learned to never underestimate any mountain.

The winds were still relentless as we fought our balance but finally made it to the summit. It was still cloudy and we could barely see what laid below but we were given a few seconds of clearing to see the 360-degree view of Batangas and some of Cavite. Yay! :)

Nakapag-summit nga kami eh! ;D
Mt. Batulao Summit

After a few more minutes of rest and photo snaps, we made our way down passing by Mang Resty's kubo where we left our packs. There were several  more hikers dawdling around and we said our goodbyes and started on our descent.

The way down was no less easier than the way up. It was still as slippery, still as muddy and still as difficult to go against the pull of falling flat on your face in foot-deep mire. The trailside plants and fences of houses we passed by were our only handholds to get out alive and marginally clean. I don't understand how the rich and famous pay lotsa moolah to get mud slathered on their skin in high-end spas. Have they tried Mt. Batulao during the rainy season? It's such a sludge-fest, their skin would be sparkling ala-Edward Cullen afterwards. :D

It was already dusk when we finally reached Evercrest. We were exhausted and hungry so wash-up was quick then piled onto a jeep going to Tagaytay to drop by my favorite bulalo place. I think the waitress at Merben's was throwing me dirty looks after I asked her three times how long it would take for the bulalo and fried boneless bangus to be ready. Haha! The delicious fare served before us were no match to our starving stomachs paired with the chilly Tagaytay air. :D

Yum! Yum!
Galit-galit muna. :D
We must have taken one of the very last bus trips going back to Manila at 1900H and finally bid each other bye with tired smiles when we alighted at Baclaran to go our separate ways.

As I was kneading my aching muscles before hitting the sack that night, the familiar pains made my face split into a toothy grin. After a long absence, the mountains has welcomed me back with open arms. :)

Season 2! :)


For hiking plans, here's the number crunching as of August 2012:


  1. Mel, parang gusto ko tuloy mag mountain climbing after reading your posts. Can you give me a rundown of the basic equips that I should have? ^___^ Tapos hook up ako sa inyo next time, if OK lang haha.

    1. ER, go! Hmmm, best things to have would be sure-grip shoes and a good comfy backpack. Saka ka na bili ng gamit for hiking pag nagustuhan mo na (which am sure you will, ehem!). I'll tag you on an invite next time may akyat. ;)