By Lito Cinco
Summer is here, and so are outdoor summer adventures.
Beaches will always be favorites, but there is a growing number of people who go mountains and enjoy nature. The country is blessed with a lot of these natural attractions that have become popular with hardcore mountaineers, the likes of Mt. Apo, Mt. Pulag, Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Halcon, Mt. Banahaw, Maculot, de Loro, and Batulao, among others.
This writer is one of the latter type, and in fact, a few days before my 50th birthday, celebrated for 13 years already, instead of giving myself a gift, I posed a challenge and went up anew Mt. Manabu in Bgy. Sulok in Sto.Tomas, Batangas. This is supposed to be a beginner-friendly mountain that is only ranked 2/9 in the difficulty level. Definitely, it is easy to get there from manila via SLEX, Star Toll then exiting at Lipa, the first landmark is the Malarayat Golf Course. But you need to go past that until you reach the barangay hall, which serves as registration center for all climbers with a P20 fee.
I have scaled this popular mountain before, actually Manabu is an abbreviation for Mataas Na Bundok, and is the third peak of the Malipunyo mountain range, the others being Mt. Malipunyo itself and Susong Dalaga. This time, I was accompanied by two nephews, one niece and one grandson. Yes, even kids can scale them as I have seen in the past and when I made my last climb.
A guide can be hired at P500 per group but for experienced climbers, they find no need for a guide as a trail is marked going up with eight different stations along the way, up and down to serve as markers. We left Paranaque at 6 a.m. with food to be cooked for lunch and plenty of water and snacks for the climb. And after arranging for the cook, Aling Karing, who lives just a block away from the parking area, our guide Felix Villanueva knew her, we started on the trip up at a little past 8 a.m.
I overestimated my condition and gave our group two hours to reach the peak, just 760 meters above sea level. The first half of the trail is easy but as we passed Station 4 and the trail started going up regularly, my palpitating heart had to take a break a lot of times, aided by sips of water and dried coconut bits, and it was almost two hours and a half when we reached the very peak marked by a big white cross.
At this peak, the air was cool and fresh, and the 360-degree sight was worth the effort for us climbers. Actually, this is the reward for climbers, the God’s view, as it is called, when you can look down below though for me, the most memorable mountain climb I did was 10 years ago when together with my daughter, we went up Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah. This is the region’s highest mountain and took us eight hours, but when we woke up the following day, the clouds were below us, but not for Manabu this time.
The view was fantastic as several mountains could be seen, Mt. Makiling, Maculot, even Mt. Banahaw in the distance, and the Malipunyo mountain range right across the peak. For more adventurous trekkers, reaching the peak of Manabu is just half of the journey, but not for us that Sunday morning.
A flat area at the peak serves as a camping area for those who would like to stay overnight. In fact there was a couple whom we met on the way down and they spent the night atop Manabu, pretty cold they said, and it is summer, so one can imagine how cold it is during the months of December, January and February.
After a lot of selfies and shots by our guide, we started on the way down at about 11:20 a.m., and moved much faster than when we were on the way up. We stopped over at the place known as the local Starbucks but with free alamid coffee, and it is also sold there by the packets, cheapest is P100 each pack. The fun part was the oversized stone man’s organ that meets you on the way down just before the hut where one can avail of the free coffee or just to take a rest, though if you are not a coffee drinker, on the way down, there are stalls that sell fresh buco juice and fried lumpia vegetables.
The trip down was about an hour and a half including the rest at “Starbucks”, and to make the eating part more enjoyable, we all took showers first as the staging area at the ground level has a big parking area and several shower rooms. Cost is P15 per shower, and there is a nearby house that also cooks and sells tinolang manok for P700 for groups.
In our case, we brought our own daing na galunggong, corned beef, eggs, fried lumpia which we bought there, and green mango salad with red eggs downed by cold glasses of cola, then the dessert of sweet ripe mango bought on the way there. There is a small market just a kilometer after the Star Toll exit to Liipa, and different fruits are available.
It was a tiring day, but if you are looking for something you have not done yet during summer, then make plans to climb Mt. Manabu, and on the way back, look for swimming pool resorts as we spotted a few nearby, that should complete a hot and cold summer day adventure.