Friday, June 29, 2012

Mt. Balagbag Revisited

While most of The BACKPACKERS were enjoying the astounding view atop Mt. Gulugod Baboy and the beautiful beach at Sombrero Island, two members of the group were busy guiding a group of nature lovers on top of a mountain which will always be dear to us: Mt. Balagbag

Backpackers Weng and Mon had a prior commitment of guiding a group of trekkers. And here in The BACKPACKERS, part of our commitment is to share the hidden paradise in our country so it was very much understandable that they were not able to join our adventure in Mt. Gulugod Baboy. They guided the artistic group PLUS (The Art Collective: Propelled by Learning via Unbridled Synergy) 

BP Weng

BP Mon

Balagbag On My Mind
Rodriguez, Rizal

by: Weng Topasi

"Tired feet amidst the scorching sun
The rocky paths lead me to stand
Endless sight of mountain range
Crepuscular rays before the rain

I’m a kid absorbing the waterfalls
I can hear my name when the grasses call
Feeling free under the cloudy skies
Finding refuge in the silence of the fireflies"

---Weng Topasi

Alive and Green: Mt. Balagbag

The Meeting

The BACKPACKERS Mt. Balagbag climb ~ February 2012
How can I forget Mt. Balagbag? It is where I experienced my first birthday climb. I was there four months ago, February 15 and 16 to be exact, with The BACKPACKERS. This time I was with my new group, PLUS. I was given an opportunity to be their guide together with my co BP member Mon who is very familiar with the place since it’s his fifth time there. After a brief breakfast meeting in Jollibee Tungko we left at around 8:30am. The group was divided into two; the first group took the jeepney to Licao-Licao while the second group followed us thru a convoy courtesy of the group lead by Sir Stephen. We reached Nanay Melba’s house after almost an hour. Unfortunately she was not around due to personal matters but we were welcomed warmly by Tatay Petronilo her behalf and ate Rona, Nanay Melba’s niece. The group decided to visit the falls first before starting the trek after lunch. The weather was perfect and the clouds were inviting. After resting and buying some ingredients for lunch at the barangay’s mini market, the group started the walk to the falls. Mon was left to cook for the group’s lunch (sinigang) and supper (adobo) and asked Rap instead to be our guide, a local resident (he looks like a 10 yr old kid but it turned out that he’s 14, he looks so young). The group also met Louie and Shine (BP’s climber friends) and their officemates who were also on their way to the falls, they have climbed Mt. Balagbag the day before.

Jamming inside the Aportadera residence
Thank you, Rap!
BP Mon (middle) meeting our friends, Louie and Shyne

Balagbag Falls and Ocho-ocho Falls

An inviting jump towards the falls
We started the visit to the falls around 10 am. It was just a few meters away from the Aportadera’s house. There is an entrance fee of P5, we followed the normal trail downwards and didn’t do the reverse traverse like what the BPs did last February. I was delighted to see the Balagbag falls again. I was surprised to see the catch basin clean. Last time it was dirty, stagnant and filled with moss. I could not resist dipping my feet into the cold water so were Stephen and Elaine. It was nice to see the excitement and smiles on their faces. I can’t deny that I missed this falls. After a few minutes we visited another falls. They call it ‘Ocho-ocho’ and it is bigger and deeper than Balagbag Falls. Other PLUS mutants are already there, we just followed another trail downwards, less than 10 minutes away from Balagbag falls. Some rocks were slippery because of the moss but it was manageable. There were also a lot of visitors enjoying the water. The group decided to go back to eat lunch past 12 pm waving goodbye to Louie and Shine’s group.   

Weng's favorite... PLANKING!

It’s a Trek

After eating lunch heartily outside ate Rona’s house in the same compound and preparing our things, we began the trek around 2pm, unfortunately we were welcome by the heat of the scorching sun making the trek slightly difficult. I also noticed that there were some parts of the trail that became too rocky and dry. I don’t know if it was because of erosion or the weather. You can still see the mountain ranges of nearby Central and Southern Luzon’s provinces and the cities below. I can see the group’s determination and excitement to reach the summit especially the first timers who went ahead because they needed to follow a certain schedule; some of them were not joining the overnight session. I was attacked by migraine in the middle of the trek due to the heat and lack of sleep making my pace slower, luckily Mon carried my backpack. After a lot of take fives (or 'take-tens') we reached the red iron gate. There was no one guarding the gate, the group registered in the house of the caretaker near the gate and paid P10 each. The first group left for the summit, I decided to follow them after a few minutes while Mon and the others waited for Stephen and the rest of the mutants. When I was going to the summit alone I took my time to lay on the grassy ground and watched the clouds passing. What a fulfilling feeling, I felt so small but free! The grasses have grown taller blocking some of the view below.


Most of us reached the summit before 5pm. I was surprised to see the other members reaching the summit before me. Apparently, they followed the steep but shorter trail. Guitars and ukulele were played as we pitched our tents. We also took our time to have some photo ops. The city lights began to glitter as darkness approached. The sun was covered by a sea of clouds; you can also see that it was raining in some parts of the Manila. We could feel the cool breeze against our skins. We also noticed dark clouds heading our direction, we thought it was just a passing cloud bringing light rains, unfortunately it was not the case. Fellow mutants headed inside the tent for shelter as the heavy downpour started and the wind blew our tents harder. I can see my fellow mutant's tents almost carried by the wind. Luckily they were able to manage inside by standing in the corners of it. It was so ironic on how we can’t predict the weather: after the scorching sun, heavy rains and strong winds followed us. I slept and lost track of time. When I opened my eyes it was already dark outside, I can see the stars peeping behind the clouds, the heavy downpour was over. It left us with drizzle and a muddy summit. The groups decided to break camp at around 8pm after a light supper. We packed our things and cleaned the area, I was kind of sad that we could not watch the stars that night but we had to leave for our safety. Mon, Stephen and I lead the descent; we were welcomed by the cool breeze, muddy trail and fireflies. We waited for the other mutants at Aportadera’s house. I was glad that despite of what happened everyone was safe and still manage to smile.



Weng and Mon...heading home
Everyone’s tired. It was not an easy descent because of the darkness and the slippery ground. Some mutants were unable to sleep because of the need to leave early that night to meet the schedule of the following day. Six of us were left and set our alarm around 4 am so we can leave early as well but we surrendered to sleep and none of us were able to follow the schedule. We left the house at almost 6am. As we bade our goodbyes to Tatay and Ate Rona, I can still remember the last words from Tatay Petronilo before we left : ‘balik kayo ha’ which I secretly hope we will. It was indeed a very memorable adventure for all of us; things didn’t go as planned but it was worth it. 

Backpackers Weng and Mon and the PLUS members

Thanks everyone for making this climb possible especially to Stephen Dayandayan, the PLUS lead and the rest of the cowboy mutants, hope to share more adventures with you guys! Let me also thank the Aportadera family, BP Mon, Louie and Shine for letting us borrow their lovenest (tent) named ‘pugad’ and Rap a.k.a boy pick-up =D

Here’s the list of PLUS mutants:
Stephen Dayandayan
Amben Mendez
Elaine de Guzman
Elaine Tacubanza
Arcangel de Guzman
Tim Vergara
Margie Pariñas
Elpi Pariñas
Kashogi Astapan
Allen NocheJ
Jinuo Anjielou

***Photo credits to PLUS lead by Stephen Dayandayan

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