I was in third year high school when I first climbed a mountain. It was located in the town of Jalajala, Rizal. Our section had an outreach/exposure activity among the fisher folk of that town and as an extra assignment, our math teacher tasked us to measure the height of a nearby mountain using a length of rope and a meter stick. I don’t remember the locals ever mentioning the name of that mountain, and frankly I didn’t really care. I had no idea that almost 2 decades later, I would take mountain climbing as a hobby.
Anyway, I got curious about this enough to make a blog post inquiring as to the name of that mountain. Popular opinion was that it was Mt. Sembrano, based on the location. So when some HLGG friends planned a day hike to Mt. Sembrano, I eagerly signed up to see for myself if it is indeed the mountain that I first climbed ever.
SOMEBODY WAS TOO DRUNK TO WAKE UP EARLY
Tin, Vernz and I were supposed to meet somewhere in Shaw Boulevard to catch a jeep going to Taytay, Rizal. There, we will meet Myrish and Des, and together we will proceed to the barangay hall in Pililia to register for the climb. I arrived early at the meeting place and was actually in constant communication with Tin who just came from a drinking session the night before. When at around 4 am, she said that she would just try to get a bit of sleep before preparing for the climb, I somehow knew we would be delayed (given that the assembly time is 6 am.)
So Vernz arrived and we chatted and had breakfast while waiting for Tin. When the appointed time came and Tin was still not around, we then suspected that she was still sleeping. True enough, she fell asleep for far longer than she should have, and so we had no choice but to wait for her. She arrived an hour later. For the meantime, Vernz and I spent the wait time chatting with Myrish and Des on Facebook (and these two found some old photographs of mine to poke fun at.)
When Tin finally arrived, we took a jeep and sat back for the long drive going to Tanay. For a place that is near Manila, the trip going to Tanay is so frustratingly long. All the while, we were in constant communication with Des and Myrish. Eventually, we got off at the place we agreed upon and the two showed up a couple of minutes later.
THE MEGABAR ADVENTURE
(“Megabar” pertains to a particularly embarrassing scene in this trip that I’d rather not get into lest this narrative gets more delayed. Needless to say, the girls found it funny enough to refer to this day hike with that name.)
Anyway, we reached the barangay hall during the heat of mid-morning. We didn’t realize that we’ve arrived already until the jeepney driver coaxed us to get off. It seemed like we were the first ones to register for that day. So after signing our names in the logbook, we promptly set off for the trail.
We didn’t hire a guide for this climb because Tin and Vernz were in this same mountain just a couple of weeks back and they swore that they are still familiar with the trail. It turns out that they’re not as familiar as they thought they were. While trudging along the trail we eventually came to a point where the surroundings didn’t look familiar to them. We backtracked and set off for another path before being told by some locals that we again missed the trail. After backtracking for the second time and finding the right trail, there were no more detours.
Our first major stop was to be a place called Manggahan. Getting to Manggahan was a bit tricky because while there was a trail leading to it, there was also a trail going straight to the summit bypassing Manggahan entirely. Good thing we encountered 2 helpful souls who pointed us to the right direction. One is a local with a horse laden with goods. The other is a dog who joined us during the climb until we reached Manggahan.
Quite honestly, we found the dog to be a lot more helpful than the man. The latter gave somewhat confusing instruction which was further compounded by his unique southern Tagalog accent. But anyway, he did help and before long, we found ourselves at the entrance of Manggahan at around lunch time.
It was already June but it still felt like summer. The shade and the large open space of Manggahan was a welcome treat for some hungry and parched mountaineers such as us. We had lunch here and we also purchased fresh coconuts to drink and eat from the two caretakers who were there at that time. They were actually kids and they would have been okay in my book had they not been maltreating their dogs when they seemed to think throwing rocks at them (including the dog that helped us) was fun.
Before continuing on the trail after lunch, we made a side trip to the small waterfalls located near Manggahan. It was just 5 minutes away. Pretty tempting to dive into the falls especially when we felt how cool it was on our fingers. But the summit was still far away, so we contented ourselves in just taking photos before going back on the trail.
As the day stretched to early afternoon, the sunny weather gently transitioned into cloudy until it got gloomy enough that we thought it would rain. We quickly waterproofed our stuff. In fact, it did drizzle a bit when we were near the grasslands at the summit but thankfully, it did not develop into an actual rain.
Mt. Sembrano is an irregularly-shaped mountain and so even though we already reached the grasslands at the summit, it was still quite a long hike towards the highest peak. The good thing was that it stopped raining while we were there and the skies cleared up, minus the blazing sun.
We spent a lot of time taking photos at the second to the highest peak before we realized that the afternoon is wearing thin and so we continued on to the highest peak.
So we finally reached the summit mid-afternoon. We knew that we shouldn’t stay long since we didn’t want nightfall to catch us while on the trail. I didn’t bring any flashlight nor headlamp, and in our group, only two did bring any source of light. So we ate and rested a bit and agreed that we should be leaving the summit at a certain time.
Except for a bit of trash and some traces of leftover food, it was a nice summit, with an almost 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. In particular, it provides a sweeping view of the Laguna de Bay and Talim Island. Had this been an overnight climb, it would also have been a nice place to view the sunset.
I intended to take a longer video of the summit but as I was doing so, the battery of my BlackBerry suddenly emptied so the following video abruptly stopped just when I was pointing it to the surrounding view.
After a short nap, the sun was already lower in the horizon and so the lighting was perfect to take lots of pictures. I was actually getting a bit worried because I personally didn’t want a repeat of what happened to me in Mt. Iraya wherein my guide and I had to make the last stretch of the descent in darkness without any source of light because I underestimated the mountain.
It’s however a source of comfort to see my 4 companions not to seem worried at all. Des, in particular, just couldn’t contain her excess energy and began to do some cartwheels for the camera. Here are some .gif files I did from the high-speed shots taken by Myrish:
At one point, Vernz even joined in the fun:
It was just about late afternoon when we began our descent. Had we not been in a bit of a rush to get down the mountain, we would have taken our time in appreciating the surroundings.
There’s a certain kind of beauty that just disarms you and stops you in your tracks when you see vast swathes of tall grasses bend in the breeze under the soft golden hue of a day that’s about to end.
To make a long story short, nightfall did catch us while we were still on the trail. We had to strategize on our positioning in the trail to maximize the light provided by the 2 flashlights. Despite precautions, Myrish slipped and sprained her foot. Although she was in extreme pain, we’re still thankful that it happened towards the end of the trail and not somewhere in the middle.
Progress was slow after that and only picked up a bit when I realized that she could use her tripod as a cane of sorts. (I should have realized this earlier on at the onset of the accident. Anyway, we were able to hail a jeepney going to Tanay and ended the day in, where else, Chowking.
A nice and successful climb, all things considered.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
This entry is part of the Midyear Mountain Madness series
1. Preview: Midyear Mountain Madness
2. Midyear Mountain Madness: Mt. Cristobal – 04/29/2012
3. Midyear Mountain Madness: Mt. Arayat – 05/06/2012
4. Midyear Mountain Madness: Mt. Sembrano – 06/23/2012
5. Midyear Mountain Madness: Tarak Ridge – 09/22-23/2012