Looking like I was up to some mischief, I sneaked out of the house at 3 o’clock in the morning in my newly bought hiking shoes. I was meeting some friends in Baclaran for a climb that was going to be like no other.
Several days earlier, I had already backed out of the climb. I was just starting on my new job and only had Sundays off; I still couldn’t sacrifice a day’s worth of rest for a day that was going to end with sore muscles and painful bruises. The weather had also been very uncooperative, climbing in the rain is never a good idea. And I obviously lacked training (read: no exercise for 6 months) — I was not going to pretend I could climb 3 mountains in 1 day without breaking a bone or two. One thing changed my mind though; it was when a friend mentioned that the supermoon was going to be on the same night. The thought of the moon being only an arm’s reach away while I stand on top of a mountain was magical enough to convince me that I was invincible.
The itinerary covered 3 popular mountains in Nasugbu, these are Pico de Loro (Mt. Palay-Palay), Mt. Talamitam and Mt. Batulao. I had never been to Talamitam and Batulao, and had only backtrailed Pico de Loro. We had to be back on ground level before midnight– and if things go as planned, we would all be on our way to work in a few hours.
(All photos in this entry are owned by Bryan Q. Engay)
I was glad to be back in Pico de Loro, but unlike my last visit, we did not have the luxury of time. While we stopped for a good 30-minute rest, we did not have time to cook lunch and set camp; we had 2 more mountains to climb. As soon as we recovered, we went for the summit. After posing for a few photos, we resumed for the hike down. The traverse was new to me; it included a number of steep rocks. And more than I dislike going down is going down via a damp and slippery terrain. Luckily, the path was narrow and was mostly covered with grasses and fallen leaves, there was also enough rows of trees to hold onto.
We were still 45 minutes ahead of our itinerary when we completed the descent to the Ternate-Nasugbu Highway. From there, we boarded a tricycle that took us to the town proper. We bought our lunch at a Jollibee and wolfed it down like there was barely a tomorrow.
By the time we reached Mt. Talamitam’s jump off, the sun was at its peak in the sky. And much to my suprise (because I really do not have the habit of reading about the mountains I climb), while Pico de Loro’s trail is cool because of the trees, Talamitam’s is exposed to the sun’s harsh rays. And while Metro Manila suffered from an awful weather, it might as well be a summer day at the beach in Nasugbu.
The heat was exhausting! My slow pace kept getting slower. I had never felt more tired in a climb. Like almost everyone else in the group, I also suffered from leg cramps! Which meant I was really not in the best condition (the last time I had cramps was several years ago!). In short, it was not the most enjoyable trek. But after the grueling 20-minute assault to the summit, I had to remember how to breathe– the view was magnificent! I forgot all about my aching muscles and started running up and down the little slopes.
We did a backtrail of Talamitam. Being able to breathe easier, and even running on our way down, it was only then that I was able to appreciate the mountain’s landscape more. It is undoubtedly balding but it retains its grandeur all the same. The topography is vast and overwhelming. I couldn’t help but imagine how it must have looked and felt when it was still covered in trees.
Batulao’s jump off point is a small barangay located at the foot of the mountain. It was already 6pm when we started. After about 15 minutes, we reached a store that doubled as a resting place for tired mountaineers. There I ate my remaining cheese burger and bought a refreshing bottle of soda. When we left the store, I was already wrapped up in my jacket. The air had started to get a little chilly and the sun was slowly disappearing.
Mt. Batulao consists of several peaks. It would be hard to get lost as there is only a single path to follow. Compared to other mountains I have climbed, it is not as tiresome. Though the time of day (plus our exhausted spirits) made the climb more dangerous than it should be. One can see how a mountaineer can easily fall off the narrow ridges. Equipped with lamps, we cautiously found our way through this rolling mountain. (Goats are uncannily populous in this mountain!)
All throughout the climb, I had one special thought– that the supermoon that made me brave 3 mountains in 1 day would show itself to me. But to my utter disappointment, at the time it was predicted for the Moon to be closest to Earth, the Nasugbu sky was covered in thick nocturnal clouds. When we reached our final summit, the clouds started to slowly clear until only a wisp covered the bright new moon– but the distance between the two celestial bodies had already widened.
A quiet night on top of a beautiful mountain, where only the cicadas and the whisper of the wind could be heard. Faint lights flickered 800 meters below and bright ones shone thousands of lightyears above us. It was a day well-spent, and a night spent even better.