Monday, August 20, 2012

Mt. Sembrano

February of 2011, The BACKPACKERS targeted that prominent mountain in the Jalajala Peninsula: Mt. Sembrano. Everything is all set when BP Lead Ivan got hospitalized for a week. The climb responsibility was handed over to BP Vice Ralph and BP Sec Liz. But come climb date, the group decided to postpone the trip. Mt. Sembrano was cancelled. Since then it has been an inside joke that planning a Mt. Sembrano climb can spell out bad luck for the group.

March of 2011, BP Lead invited the group to conquer what the group failed to conquer a month ago. But since only five members confirmed, they had a last minute change of plan to go to Madlum Park in Bulacan instead. Mt. Sembrano was cancelled again. A recon climb to Mt. Manalmon was conducted instead.

September of 2011 in The BACKPACKERS calendar was supposedly for a Mt. Sembrano climb. But the Ultimate CDO-Camiguin-Bukidnon trip satisfied the adventurous spirit of the group and the scheduled climb to Mt. Sembrano was later forgotten. Mt. Sembrano was cancelled again. Mt. Hibok Hibok was conquered instead for that month.

Several more cancellations, numerous surveys and attempts to head to Mt. Sembrano, but it never happened. The question was whether or not the group will be able to visit Mt. Sembrano? Come August of 2012, The BACKPACKERS finally gathered and conquered the mountain. That month, the target was Mt. Sembrano (and Mt. Sembrano only).







FINALLY, MT. SEMBRANO!

Pililla, Rizal
August 18-19, 2012


by: Ivan Ignacio





A CAKE FOR MON
...

Twenty three adventure seekers were divided into two groups. The first group met at McDonalds Crossing and was led by BP Vice Ralph and BP PRO Heinz. Despite the deluge from the monsoon and the storm that hit the country several days ago, the day was nice with a very promising weather. Other than BPs Heinz, Ralph and Mon, most of the first batch were guests of The BACKPACKERS. They opted to hire a van to take them from the metropolis all the way to the town of Pililla, Rizal. The long ride was an opportunity for the Backpacker Boys to mingle and get to know our companion in the upcoming adventure. Mon easily got acquainted and blended with his seatmates Sheryl, Melai and Jojo as they shared and exchanged advice and stories. They arrived at Brgy. Malaya at 1:00PM, an hour ahead of the second group.

Guest couple Lean and Carla after arriving at Brgy. Malaya
The second group was led by myself (BP Ivan) and was composed of six female BPs and 4 guests: Alexi, Ghei, Nickson and Wilson. Though the group did not have the luxury of seating comfortably inside a centralized van, we had the convenience of picking up people and stopping along the way as we rode the boxed type L300 of Wilson, which he prefers to be called Tami. We had several tasks: to carry the group equipment, fetch Jovy and Nickson, and prepare the birthday surprise for BP Mon who celebrated his birthday that month. Because of these, our group reached Brgy. Malaya at 2:00PM.

Tin, Liz and Alexi inside Tami
Shin Chan inspired birthday card
Before the two groups reunited, they made sure that birthday celebrant Mon was blindfolded, unaware of the surprises planned for him that afternoon. The cake which we searched and waited the longest, was brought to the table along with the group's lunch. We sang a birthday song and greeted Mon, and when he finally took off his blindfold, he was delighted to see not just the treats on the table, but because of the presence of Ghei who we strategically placed in the second batch. He wished me two possible birthday present: that The BACKPACKERS be complete during this climb and/or that Ghei, a regular guest of The BACKPACKERS be present. I am glad that I fulfilled half of his wishes. Mon became emotional after blowing the candles on his cake. According to him, it was a special cake because it was the first birthday cake given to him in his entire life. Searching the towns of Rizal for that cake was worth it and we were very glad to see the birthday boy happy and excited even though the climb has not commenced yet.

BP Mon blowing the candles of his birthday cake
BP Mon and his special guest - Ghei




ALL RED AND FIRED UP FOR MT. SEMBRANO!
...

Everyone was asked to wear a red shirt, which was the birthday boy's favorite color. After registering and eating lunch at the barangay hall, the 'Red Rangers' started their journey towards the Manggahan campsite of Mt. Sembrano. Spirits were high and all were enthusiastic in conquering the highest peak of the peninsula bordered by Laguna Lake. 


BP Angel posing at the brgy. hall
It was Nickson and BP Marion's Reunion Climb
Alexi's second consecutive month with The BACKPACKERS!
It was also Sheryl's second climb with The BACKPACKERS
It was nice to meet you again, Sir Fred! 
Our guest Melai, a friend of BP Annalyn (who wasn't able to join the climb)
Our guest Shyne who is one of the dubbed 'Shoulderbaggers'
The Boys posing in front of the Brgy Hall
Brgy Chairman giving some reminders





THE CLIMB PROPER
...

It was a light trek from the jump off point at Brgy. Malaya to Manggahan Campsite. An inclined paved road greeted us first until the trail transitioned into a more rocky and dusty path. We stopped by a resting station which sells coconut and some refreshment. The trail continued as we were slowly being immersed in the forest of Mt. Sembrano. We had to cross a stream and trudge opposite the path of water flowing downstream. We had two more stops as a group, the last of which was where trailblazer couple Melai and Jojo mingled with a local and her kids. These Take-Fives were also a nice opportunity for us to bond. When everyone was ready, the last straw of the pursuit to Manggahan Campsite continued.


BPs Liz, Tin, Heinz and Chons along with Sir Freddie, stopping for a picture
The Lead Pack - Jojo, Melai, BP Ivan and Mina
Heading towards the stream
BPs Liz and Angel are the new coconut models

Red between the Greens - Lean, Carla, BP Marion and Alexi
Couple Carla and Lean and their baby; a green mango





MANGGAHAN CAMPSITE
...


Named after the abundant mango trees that thrive in the area, the Manggahan Campsite is the perfect camping ground for a typical Mt. Sembrano hike. Although camping at the summit is also feasible, Manggahan Campsite has a nearby water source and a small waterfall which you can access anytime. As of the day we climbed Mt. Sembrano, a camping fee of 10Php is being imposed in the area. The local caretakers who maintain and guard the campsite collect the camping fee. 



Climb buddies Alexi and Sheryl
BP Chons and the busy camp life behind her
Everyone helped in setting up camp. Some opted to peek at the nearby waterfalls and eventually dipped in its cold and refreshing water. The Backpacker Girls worked hand in hand in preparing that night's dinner. Some, especially those who came straight from work preferred to rest inside their tents. The trek was especially harsh to Louie, a regular guest of BP (A.K.A a 'shoulderbagger') who had a double shift prior to the climb. But everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time and everyone waited for sundown, anticipating the night's socials.


BP buddies Ivan (fresh from a dip at the falls) and Mon the birthday celebrant
Waiting for dinner to be served
Waiting for the dinner to be served ~ part 2
Jovy and Ghei busy preparing dinner

We shared a very sumptuous dinner around our socials ground sheet. One of the many good things overnight camping offers is situations like these when you just have to sit down and relax while you are in the heart of nature, bonding with your hiking buddies and friends. Of course, there was the night's socials wherein we will get to hear the voices of all climb participants. I was delighted to see the familiar faces of our recurring guests. There's The Shoulderbaggers: Shine, Louie, Ghei and Wilson; our Mt. Gulugod Baboy guests: Sheryl, Carla and Lean; and joining The BACKPACKERS for two consecutive months: Alexi and Freddie. And of course, it was an opportunity to meet new friends: Melai, Jojo, Nickson and Mina. The introductory part of the socials was made more gleeful with the 'sugar rushed' Sir Jojo who made everyone laugh and listen with his funny antics and delivery of serious thoughts. When everyone knew everybody, we continued our birthday surprise for Mon by conducting his Birthday Shot. And the joyful socials went on and on and on and on. The socials survivors kicked the hay at 4 o clock in the morning - six hour bonding long enough to make Angel and Sheryl sing and dance to the tune of It's Raining MenA slight disturbance happened which is one of the known alarming advisory about Mt. Sembrano and I will feature it on our next blog post.


The Socials Circle
Guests Alexi and Mina introduced themselves first and got a 'refund worthy' reaction from the BP Lead
Shine, Wilson, Nickson and Marion
The crowd dwindled down to this small group who completed the six hour socials
Socials is a nice venue for an exchange of thoughts, stories and jokes. I always look forward to this as it is an opportunity to learn something from someone. We tell tales of our adventures, dreams, and sometimes touching even our personal lives. Sessions like these are some of the reasons why we can conquer the same mountain but can not replicate the same experience. And as what Sir Jojo quoted during the night, Mountaineering is also about the people that you climb with. And here in The BACKPACKERS, we focus on PEOPLE as much as we focus on our adventures.






ZERO VISIBILITY BUT 100x THE FUN AT THE SUMMIT



The second phase of a typical overnight hiking at Mt. Sembrano is the assault from Manggahan Campsite to the summit. We started the trek after securing just the right breakfast that morning. We lined up and headed for the summit! At the introductory portion of the trail, girls Angel and Carla who were not feeling well opted out of the challenge. Their beaus Ivan and Lean escorted them back to the campsite. The group turned left at the early fork which was the more challenging route, while Ivan and Lean went for the right 'right' route.

Snail Loving
Carla, Sheryl and Ralph - immersed at Sembrano forest
Working hand in hand to manage the steep assault
BP Vice Ralph assaulting to summit
A pose after the steepest portion
Grassland reached!
BP Liz reaching the grassland!
The two ~ Lean and Ivan caught up with the group at the foggy grassland at the hilly peaks of Mt. Sembrano. After a photo ops at the clearing, they altogether journeyed the last stretch to reach the highest point of Jalajala Peninsula: Mt. Sembrano's summit! I was very surprised that everyone was positive and enthusiastic in reaching the summit. As a matter of fact, nobody capitalized on the fact that we did not have a view below because of the fog. Everyone climbed and completed the assault happily! Sometimes it is not about the view on top, but the experience and the camaraderie of the individuals who are climbing with you. The people are as special as the experience. And because we had so much fun blending together, we did not care whether or not there was view on top. And we even had lots of bonding and laughing time when we reached Mt. Sembrano. And of course, photo opportunities!




Ghei's Supermodel pose
Chons' Supermodel pose
BP Jovy's Tyra Banks pose
BP Tin's jump for joy at Mt. Sembrano summit
The BACKPACKERS jump for success
The Shoulderbaggers Louie, Wilson, Ghei and Shine
Sheryl and Wilson beating the cold with Wil's tarp
Guest couple Jojo and Melai
Second time guests Alexi and Freddie
Guest Nickson's Jump For Joy
Sir Mina @ the summit
Girls getting ready for their hairography session
BP Heinz, Marion and Ralph ~ Synchronized jump shot
The BOYS
The GIRLS
Wearing their Purple Hirit Sa Tag Init BACKPACKER shirt: Jovy, Ivan and Liz
Backpackers Tin and Heinz
BP Marion swaying with the grasses at the windy summit
BP Boys Ralph, Ivan and Heinz, sitting comfortably at the 'summit sofa'


Our guests during our Mt. Sembrano Adventure:
front row: L-R, Jojo, Mina, Freddie, Shyne, Wilson
back row: Melai, Nickson, Lean, Sheryl, Louie, Alexi and Ghei
not here: Carla who stayed at camp
The BACKPACKERS:
Front row: Chons, Mon, Heinz
Back row: Ivan, Marion, Liz, Tin, Jovy and Ralph
not here: Angel who stayed at camp











































MANGGAHAN FALLS



After descending from the summit of Mt. Sembrano, we dipped at the relaxing Manggahan Falls which was a five minute hike from the campsite. The water from the falls was very cold but it was another nice venue where we bonded and relaxed at the same time.

Sir Jojo @ Manggahan Falls
Sheryl, Chons, Marion and Freddie at the falls
Posing by the waterfalls
Manggahan Falls


It was another fun and exciting backpacking adventure for The BACKPACKERS and friends!

Postponing Mt. Sembrano several times in the past was because fate wanted us to reserve this climb on this special date. We had a memorable time in the mountain. Otherwise, we would not have met these wonderful people and new found friends and would not have experienced an exciting and happy adventure like this one.


NEXT BLOG POST: Security Advisory at Mt. Sembrano

Photo credits to Alexi, Liz, Lean, Mina and Chons
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