Monday, February 20, 2012

Mt. Balagbag

by: Weng Topasi

Sitio Balagbag, Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal

Mt. Balagbag Birthday Climb
February 15-16, 2012

Contessa Cirujales
Liz Honrade
Jovy Duremdes
Marion Macapagal
Weng Topasi
Chons Zosa
Ivan Ignacio
King Aguilar
Mon Sarmiento
Percy Rivera

Reyma Caingcoy
Andy Bibat
Lik Buendia
Junar Jose

February 15 Wednesday

This is the BACKPACKERS second official climb for the year and one of the easiest so far. The purpose of the climb is to bring the celebration to the mountains in the form of a pajama party as four members of the group celebrated their birthdays recently. They are Ivan (the lead), Angel, York and Weng (unfortunately Angel and York were unable to join the climb). 

Let's take a look at the back to back BP birthday celebrations:

Angel's Birthday - February 4
celebrated on February 5

York's Birthday - February 6
Weng & Ivan's Birthday - February 7
celebrated on February 6

Weng and Mon at the jeepney terminal
The mountain is located in Rodriguez, Rizal (formerly known as Montalban, Rizal) and is famous for its proximity to Manila. From Tungko, we took a jeep to Sitio Licao-Licao approximately 20-30 minute ride then another short ride via pink tricycles to the Aportadera's house located just a few meters before the jump off point in Sitio Balagbag. We were welcomed by Tatay Petronilo, the head of the family. 

inside the Aportadera's house
The house served as our sanctuary as we prepared our things and food for the climb. This is also where we had a scrumptious meal, a late lunch, before we started the climb. When everything's set we started the trek at around 4:30pm. It was an ideal time for the said activity for the trail is wide and there are no trees to shelter the climbers from the heat of the sun. The first part of the trek was rocky and dusty but quite manageable. The neighborhood was full of humble and friendly people who never hesitated to smile back as we greeted them along the way. 

The weather made the trek easy and we were greeted by the cool breeze and cloudy skies. The sight of the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre and other neighboring provinces was simply breathtaking. We never failed to capture the beauty of this creation which forced us to take several worthy 'take-fives'.

Chons capturing that picture perfect moment
Contessa's picture perfect moment
Andy and Reyma
Jovy's picture perfect moment

going under the wires
After staring at the amazing views at the post where we registered, we continued with the hike. FYI: They do not collect registration fees if you wish to see the beautiful Mt. Balagbag. There was a point in time when the mountain received bad publicity due to several logbooks circulating and registration fees that were being imposed in the trail. Thankfully the soldiers cleared this out and we did not encounter these multiple logbooks during our climb. When we reached the area where a big rock is situated, a red iron gate was standing still; beyond it is where the Helipad summit of Mt. Balagbag situated. Unfortunately the gate was already closed. It was guarded by a soldier, but because it was already very late in the afternoon, the guard was not there anymore. We made our way under the barbed wire instead. 

Liz carrying the group's banig

The group was divided into two; the first group advanced to the summit while the second group - Mon, Andy and Lik decided to wait for the other two members Marion and Frank, the late party who left Manila at 3pm that day. The first group reached the summit at around 6:30pm. They were joined by the late party after an hour. Tents were arranged and the group was very lucky and thankful that they were able to borrow two  mats from the Aportadera's. It was nice to lay flat on the ground while gazing directly into the starry and serene sky.

Not even a moving plane can give you a picturesque still view of the city.
It's more fun and beautiful on top of the mountain!
The summit is also known as Helipad because it is flat, full of grass, with quite a few trees. A helicopter can really land on this spot. This is an excellent place for star gazing and kite flying. You can see the cities below flooded with lights. You can also take a glimpse at the other peaks of the Sierra Madre mountain range. The air became colder as the night fell, bringing intermittent light rains. But this did not stop the group from eating dinner together followed by the socials. 

Long lost cousins - BP Weng and Reyma
Reunions: It's more fun in the mountains!
Each of the members and guests introduced themselves. Our beloved guests (Andy, Lik, Junar and Reyma) willingly shared stories and jokes which made the night more relaxing and joyful. One of the most talked about event during the socials: the group heard a scream, apparently Jovy was having nightmares while the rest of the group were telling stories about their past adventures. Good thing tentmate Conts was there to unintentionally 'cheek'-slap her three times. The climb also served as a reunion with yours truly (Weng), one of the celebrants and guest Reyma my cousin whom I haven't seen for more than 10 years. After two bottles of alcohol the group decided to rest and call it a night.

February 16 Thursday

Morning of the following day, our eyes feasted on the beauty of the Sierra Madre mountain range. One could see the peak of Mt. Oriod, Bulacan’s highest mountain and a portion of Ipo Dam in the nearby town of Norzagaray, Bulacan, the hometown of BP Lead Ivan and Mon. We broke camp early and prepared to descend - but before that, it tripods and cameras were brought out as it was time for a long round of picture taking at the Helipad summit of Mt Balagbag!

Photo Ops on top of Mt. Balagbag!

Sierra Madre

Marion capturing a photo of Percy

Reyma and Lik - heart to heart

Chons bestbud - Junar

The Mayor and the Vice Mayora's pose

Marion showing the strength of an Incredible Hulk

posing Mon

The guys

The girls

The BACKPACKERS jump for joy!

The group started the descent at around 9am. While descending, light rain started to pour. The trail became muddy and slippery but it was manageable. We even saw a group of motorbike riders in the area near the Iron Gate. We got back to the Aportadera’s house and were welcomed this time by Nanay Melba, Tatay Petronilo’s behalf. The gang exchanged jokes and stories with Nanay as we prepared for another adventure..a visit to Balagbag falls.

The False falls

The falls is located on the same barangay. The group took a different path, and does a reverse traverse, from the top of the falls going down. It was another challenge for the group because of the big rocks, some were very sharp and pointed and slippery due to the moss which reminded me of Mt. Manalmon’s rock challenge. Though there’s sight of small leeches all were fine and took the challenge well. It took us almost an hour to reach the ground. There’s no clean catch basin as one expected to see in a waterfalls. The area where the water should be flowing freely was blocked by an unfinished structure. The ice cold water relaxed our minds and bodies. After a refreshing bath we decided to go back this time in a different trail of cultivated land stairway leading us to a private property and the funny thing was just a few blocks away from the same trail where we started the descent. But the challenge of doing the reverse traverse filled the adventurous hearts of The BACKPACKERS. After getting to the base of the falls, we could not stop staring at the entirety of the cascading falls - telling ourselves, 'it was very risky but this is a feat, an accomplishment'.

At Home

More fun and laughter awaited the group in Nanay Melba and Tatay Petronillo’s residence. Everyone’s already at-home because of Nanay Melba’s warm personality; she shared her insights about life and faith in God. And what was special was that she even changed her clothes so she can join us in the photo session with balloons. She joined in everyone’s laughter, cracked jokes herself and laughed like a kid. 

1,2,3... Retarded Pose!!!

Thank you so much to
Nanay Melba and Tatay Nilo 
for the kindness and hospitality!

Nanay Melba and Tatay Nilo

It was indeed one of the unforgettable birthdays one could have...pajamas in the summit, photo ops with bubbles and balloonsreverse traverse, delicious food and warm people!

...special thanks to Liz, Ivan, King and Junar for the beautiful pictures!
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