Batulao was a last-minute change. Originally, we were set to climb Daguldol so that we had the option of going to the beach after. But with half of the friends I invited unable to go and with more logistical concerns, I decided to change to Batulao instead. On hindsight, I thought it was a good decision. Daguldol would have us travel farther and spend more, while Batulao would have us do the opposite. So we decided to go to Batulao last Saturday at 10:00am. The reason for the late departure from Manila was that Batulao can be reached in 2 hours or less upon arrival at Evercrest.
We had lunch at one of the carinderias nearby. There were climbers who also just arrived and I was eager to go ahead of them so we can set up our tents in a nice location. At about 2:30 we started our trek from Evercrest. You have the option of taking a trike all the way to the jump off. Walking was better so that the legs would be warmed up.
So there we were, 6 of the original 11. Keren, Rayjohn, Liselle, Nathan, Kuya Joel and me. On our way to the jump off, many climbers were already on their way back. Some of them were just on dayhikes but we were going for an overnight hike for the benefit of both Liselle and Nathan. We passed by a group of five or six guys who greeted me with the usual pleasantries. Nathan mistook these courtesies as pagpapa-cute, “Naks, ang lakas talaga ng charm, naka Hi agad sayo KZ!” I don’t know what the mountaineering culture is of other countries, but in the Philippines, we have this practice of calling fellow climbers, “Mam or sir”. When I first started climbing, I thought it was unecessary. I felt it had to do with our being subservient, just like in the office when we call our western counterparts, “Ma’am or Sir”, but they’d rather we just call them, “Joe or Steve.” Needless to say, I was shocked at this practice because outside work, I hardly call anyone Sir or mam, especially if they’re just my age. But soldiers and cadets call women “ma’am” to be courteous and to show respect; perhaps that’s why climbers use that as well. After all, it sounds a lot weirder to call someone “miss”, for all the wrong, inappropriate associations. But Nate, your assumption is tempting. :P
Batulao is one of the easier treks to take if you’re a novice climber, and it is only made harder by the heat. I recall an instance up in Kanlaon when I told my friends I’d rather climb under the heat of the sun than chill on the way up. Now that I think about it, the heat is a far worse opponent in the mountain. We were resting at the bukohan (thank God for those bukos!) about 20 minutes when we noticed that Keren and Rayjohn were missing. I knew they had stopped somewhere but I wasn’t sure what was taking them so long. When they arrived at the bukohan, we found out that Keren had a mild heatstroke and had actually just cried. She had a high body temperature, rapid pulse and difficulty in breathing, and physically she was more exhausted. The heat was really unbearable; even I braved it without a cap. So as a reminder, make sure you have your cap and get hydrated! Water really is your best friend under these conditions.
While resting, I was able to talk to one climber who said that 500 people are expected to arrive. 500 freaking people! I found out that our climb coincided with the Climb for Cancer and many people have already arrived and have set up their tents in the new trail. After another 20 minutes of rest, we decided we would go by the old trail because one, between the two trails, this was more challenging; two, old climbers take this route; three, most participants of the Climb for Cancer were taking the new trail.
When we arrived at Camp 1 at 4:30, Mang Johnny welcomed us and had our group register. Thankfully, there was only one group who occupied Camp 1, and there were 9 more available camps. We decided to take Camp 3 which was better in location for our three tents. It was perfect. By the time we had pitched our tents, we were ready to cook and just enjoy the environment. After dinner, we played the CCC games that both LaSalle and UP love playing: the Bobo Game and Mangmang. Aren’t they both edifying? :D It was a special time for us. While the rest were drinking in their socials, we were having the best, non-alcoholic kind of fun that makes you look alcoholic. Nakakalasing ang katatawanan, in short.
We wanted to make sure we went ahead of the climbers who we thought were climbing the summit at predawn. Alarm was set at 3:30 so that by 4, we would start our trek to the summit. We were surprised, though. None of the climbers were up by 4. I guess because they were drinking until the wee hours of the morning, and so this was a big advantage to us. We had the summit all to ourselves. Climbing the summit was fun. It was dangerous without a headlamp, and I actually suggested to the group before the climb to get themselves headlamps. Later on, they understood why. It was better to have both your hands free than to climb up with one hand while the other one was holding your flashlight. It was so much more complicated. Also, the danger risk is doubled during night treks. The advantage, or disadvantage to that, is that you cannot see what you’re walking on. People who fear heights might become more scared if they knew they were walking along a knife-edge with fantastic views in both direction. The jagged rocks can become treacherous with the wrong footwear and one slip can become fatal.
And as we reached the summit past 5 in the morning, waiting for the sunrise, we were just thankful. Thankful because God granted us the pleasure of enjoying the summit all to ourselves. Thankful, because we can have devotions up in the summit as originally planned, without the noise of people around us. And thankful because He was the creator of all this beauty. We had a majestic panoramic view of Cavite, Batangas and the neighboring mountains.
Climbing down was tricky for Nate and Liselle. I was pretty much sprinting my way down the rocks, when we came to the rappel part. There are three things I want to share about this. One, lean backward and stretch those legs. The stress is actually on the rope, so you want to avoid putting stress on your knees and legs. Two, TRUST. Ropes aren’t always sturdy, but in this case, it was. Learn to trust the durability of the rope, and learn to trust those who tell you to trust the rope. Our fears have to do with not trusting enough, even our abilities. Three, LET GO. Let go of your fears. That should be our default setting when climbing. Let go of your inhibitions, of your fears, of your comforts. Be ready for whatever the mountains throw your way.
Things I loved about Batulao:
- A relatively cleaner bathroom than most mountains I’ve been to. They even have new ceramic bowls for everyone’s sitting pleasures.
- Various campsites for small and big number of climbers that are spread out.
- An easy trek, just two hours.
- Proximity to Manila and accessibility by just one mode of transportation, the bus.
- Less cost. You can get this whole thing for 600 overnight or less, including your transportation back and forth, and all the buko juice you’ll buy along the way!
Things I didn’t love about Batulao:
- Ants. Big, small, red, black ants that are everywhere.
- Heat. I’m sure it varies from month to month.