Mt. Mauyog – Mt. Manunggal Traverse: A Big Bowl of Heaven with a Spoonful of Hell

Traversing Mount Mauyog to Mount Manunggal is not for the faint of heart. We made the mistake of taking the trek lightly and we got lectured like a little Miss in her floral bloomers – whatever that means.

We initially planned on going for a simple hike to and camping overnight in Mount Manunggal. But, we chanced upon a blog featuring the less-trodden, less popular Mount Mauyog as a side trip to the usual Manunggal climb. Well, as it turned out, Mauyog was too tough a mountain to play Tonto to some lone ranger.

DAY 1 – 6AM to 10AM

We met at Mc Donalds – JY Square for a quick breakfast before we hit the road. But, Filipinos as we are, we dilly-dallied and ended up actually starting the trip at 9AM (instead of the planned 6AM). We rented a jeepney (Chariot) to haul our asses to the jump-off point, Barangay Tabunan Gym.

The ride would have been uneventful if not for the badass derring-do courtesy of the jeepney conductor who poured water into the radiator under the hood of the jeepney while it was negotiating the steep road uphill. (Suck on that, Leon Guerrero!) And, as if riding shotgun was a thing of the past, the same daredevil decided to complete his stunt by riding atop the jeepney all the way to the jump-off point. That ride brought me closer to God. What with all the prayers I murmured half-expecting something or somebody would fall off the roof into the steep ravine by the road the next time the jeepney hit a sharp turn.

10AM to 11AM 

After saying a prayer, the group started the first part of the climb: jump-off to the middle of nowhere. (Sorry, I wasn’t able to get the name of the place. Everybody simply called it “the gym” – the second gym, actually). We started by wandering off into a narrow trail of dirt and bushes until we crossed a small river. Our guide, Robinson, told us that the river came from upstream and was the water source for the people of the area. He added that it was potable. We drank from it and, thankfully, with the grace of God and tough tummies, we didn’t have the need to race into some dense bushes and dispel whatever third world demons inside our stomachs. The trail was, plain and simple, difficult. The noonday sun overhead did not help one bit. The girlfriend and I were lagging behind as we were in no shape to brave the scorching climb. The last time I had done something as arduous as this was three years and ten kilograms ago. Halfway through the grueling climb, I feared that I might pull myself so hard that I’d faint. Thanks be to God and to that odd piece of cotton ball steeped with the saintly spirit of ammonia.

Finally, we reached the gym (the second gym) and helped ourselves with lunch. I couldn’t get how my friends could still have the energy to play some ball while I could barely muster power to lay myself down for a quick nap. And, I dozed off.

11:45AM to 2:30PM 

We started walking toward the foot of the Mt. Mauyog. It was a walk on a concrete road, which was a relief after the torture we just had earlier. But, the sun didn’t cut us some slack. He remained seated up there like some snobbish flaming parvenu of a sort.

We reached the foot of Mauyog. We dropped by a store to buy some bottles of water and leave our backpacks there. We brought with us only the essentials as the climb to the summit of Mauyog would involve crawling under thorny bushes, jumping off boulders and, perhaps praying for dear lives. We could see from the store the big chunk of funny-looking rock for a peak overlooking the valley hundreds of meters below. That would be the infamous peak of Mauyog. The mere sight of it drew confused emotions of awe and dread from me. It was gorgeous but my already tired feet was vehemently shaking NO. But, like the stupid Don Quixote of La Mancha to his Dulcinea del Toboso, I had to man up and show some flimsy act of bravado in front of the girlfriend.

We started the ascent and waded through thorny foliage and crawling insects. It was a wonder how I could pick up my feet along with some courage from only God knew where. Forget Bataan. This was the Death March.

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The unstable summit of Mount Mauyog sat overlooking a valley hundreds of feet below. This was a weird-looking (looked like a brain to me) mass of rock which shook at our every step. Be careful.
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The man in red is Robinson. He was our trusty guide during our two-day jaunt in the mountains.

As expected, we summited last as the girlfriend and I had to stop several times to check if we still had enough air to climb up, and to curse that nice piece of humba we ate the day before… and days before that too. Finally, we got to see that weird-looking rock that caused all these labors. It looked okay. And, it got me scared. The mountain was named Mauyog for obvious reasons. The rock shook at our every step and it didn’t look like it was strong enough to hold us all there on top. It looked like some stupid giants did some half-assed job of piling those rocks one on top of the other, and suddenly called it quits. We were able to take some photos nonetheless (for our Facebook profiles, duh), and we began our descent half-running for our lives. The trail down was in no way easier than our path up. Our legs were sore from holding our bodies up to avoid falling down from the steep side of the mountain. Slowly but surely, we took one step after another and we finally reached the foot of the mountain. We ran gaily toward the store to rest and get our belongings back … and for the much needed sugar fix after that dizzying climb.

2:30PM to 8:30PM

From the foot of Mauyog to Manunggal would be a hike for almost an hour under the scorching heat of the sun. Thanks, but no thanks. So, the girlfriend and I took a habal-habal on our way to Manunggal. We arrived at the chapel on top of the small plateau near the path down to the campsite in Mount Manunggal. We took the time to nap and stretch our sorry legs while waiting for the others who were on their way to the chapel on foot. (God bless their strong souls.)

A lady came to us and started a conversation. As it turned out, she was the granddaughter of Marcelino Noya, the man who found and rescued Nestor Mata. Mata was a reporter for the Philippine Herald who alone survived the plane crash in Manunggal. You see, Mount Manunggal bears a tragic past in the history of the Filipinos.

This was where then President Ramon Magsaysay, the Man of the Masses, died in a horrible crash in 1957. He died along with the other 24 passengers of that flight to Manila. Ate Rose Noya Nacua talked about how her Lolo and Papa found Mr. Mata with the help of their loyal dog, Serging Abante. They carried Mata in a hammock to the city to be treated and ran to the nearest military encampment in the city to tell them of the sad tale of Mount Pinatubo (the plane). A search and rescue was made recovering the bodies of the unlucky passengers, and the whole nation grieved over the passing of a great president.

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Rose Noya Nacua, Marcelino Noya’s granddaughter, took care of the campsite. She could cook food for campers for a small price. Water was also available at the campsite.

Two friends showed up, a couple, and we decided to wait for the others at the campsite. So, we went down the footpath leading to the campsite with Ate Rose. We passed by the marker for the crash site. And, we stopped to take some pictures while Ate Rose had to go as she had to tend to her cows nearby. The girlfriend and I headed to the campsite before the others as we badly needed to take some z’s. We were a few meters down the cemented path when we heard the mad footsteps of the stampeding cows dragging poor Ate Rose behind as she tried to restrain the cows from shredding us, poor tourists, into pieces.

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These boisterous bovines gave me the scare of my life.
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A dog, Serging Abante, found Nestor Mata – the lone survivor of the crash. These two dogs stood guard in front of the bust in the campsite.
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Amid the verdant knoll stood the bust of the Great Man of the Masses.

We broke into a frenzied run fearing for our lives. Luckily, like some third-rate movies starring some second-rate stars, the cows woke up from their madness and decided to kill us some other time at the last moment. Phew! That was close. That could have been (knock on wood) the end of me at the hands, er, horns of some cows.

We reached the campsite and pitched our tents right away. The fog was late that day but it was cold alright. The others came and made camps too. We cooked and supped before we gathered round for some ghost stories to take to sleep. The fog slowly crept in and chilled our tired bodies to the bones. At several minutes before nine, we called it a night and crawled into our respective tents and off we went to dreamland.

DAY 2 – 7AM to 8:45AM

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Let us talk about sunrise and the hope that comes with it.
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Yeah, we get it. It’s a foggy morning, wasn’t it?
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And, we lay ensconced inside our tents snug and warm.
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‘Tis a nice warm cup of heaven to warm our cold tummies in the morning.
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The campsite was with bathrooms and toilets available to campers for a small price. These kids sold basic toiletries and other commodities.

We woke up rather late but we didn’t miss the sunrise. Surprisingly, the fog was heavy that morning that sunrise seemed to take longer than usual. There was this sweet morning scent peculiar to the mountains after a cold wet night, and that completed the picture of paradise for us up in the mountains on a lazy Sunday morning. I started the pot for a  hot cup of noodles to fuel us for our descent to Guining Falls.

8:45AM to 10:45AM

We broke camp and started our trek down to Guining Falls. The descent was quite tricky as it was steep, wet and slippery. The weather was great for walking. It was not so sunny but it wasn’t raining either. We passed through farms and small forests giving us a magnificent peek of the diverse ecosystem of the mountains. Birds of paradise and other wild flowers were abound along the dirt path. Tall trees and graceful bamboos towered here and there giving the wind a quite menacing howl every time it blew. We jumped off several boulders and slipped once or twice. It was fun in its own right. After a couple of hours of seemingly endless walking, we came across a narrow river.

From there, the unmistakable rustle of the cascading water could be heard. We were at Guining Falls finally.

10:45AM to 12:00PM

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It looked, er, humongous.

We rested at the falls. A crowd was there: kids, grown-ups, some dogs. It was not one of those big falls but it was okay for a dip. A couple of kids climbed to the top of the cliff overlooking the water below and dived into the water one after the other. It gave me a scare for a moment there knowing the water was not that deep. They survived anyway.

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At 11:45, we picked our bags up and went on the last stretch of our hiking adventure. It was a fifteen-minute walk from the falls to the Tabunan Gym (the jump-off point). The trail from the falls to the gym was relatively easy. We hiked along the narrow river and crossed a bridge to the market. We reached the gym at noon.

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‘Tis our loyal companion, Rambo – at least that’s what I called him, our canine guide for two days in the mountains.

We waited for a few minutes for the jeepney (the one with the acrobatic conductor) that would take us to JY Square. And we would be home.

Here are some helpful tidbits: 

Guide: Robinson Mabini (09079283940)

Jeepney Driver (09473498381)

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