Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mt. Daguldol

The BACKPACKERS 
Year Starter Climb 
in Mt. Daguldol
by Ivan Ignacio




Eleven BACKPACKERS and five guests kicked off the start of 2013 with the group's adventure at Mt. Daguldol in the coastal town of San Juan, Batangas. Mt. Daguldol is known as one of the mountains near Manila that offers a wide selection of scenic viewpoints from its grassland peaks. This mountain is even included in one tourism site's Top Ten Must Climb Mountains in the Philippines joining the ranks of Mt. Pulag, Pico de Loro and Apo. When the group climbed this mountain last weekend, we definitely agreed that it is truly deserving of these praises as our expectations were satisfied by the wonderful vistas on its peaks.



The scenic Mt. Daguldol
We were fetched by our private service at KFC in Buendia. Our target departure was 10AM but got delayed for half an hour when one BP forgot that we had a scheduled climb that day! Better work on that reminder notebook, BP April! :-) But all was well as we spent our time chitchatting and getting to know our guests inside the fastfood chain.

The CLIMB PARTY
 The BACKPACKERS:
April Bedana
Clue Fajardo
Ghei Agoncillo
Liz Honrade
Marion Macapagal
Heinz Alvarez Jr
Ivan Ignacio
King Aguilar
Mon Sarmiento
Nick Garcia
Resty Ritualo

GUESTS:
Sunshine Caballes
Louie Baccay
Louie de Villa
Mau Mauleon
Kenji Revolteado




WELCOME TO SAN JUAN, BATANGAS

Late lunch at Queen Grace Restaurant
Despite the late departure, we were still right on track with our itinerary, thanks to the Star Tollway of Batangas, which made the travel much faster. It was a three hour ride from Manila until we passed by the signage that welcomed us to the town of San Juan. We had our late lunch at Queen Grace Restaurant, where the bonding and the warm up continued. Seated around a gazeebo type of table, it was a nice lunch for the Group. Truly, it is always fun to dine with friends. As they say, the more the merrier! We hopped in the van gearing up for a final thirty minute ride until our target destination: Brgy. Hugom.


Brgy. Hugom is where the registration area is located. The standard registration fee is 35Php and the guide fee is 350Php. The barangay caretakers are now issuing official receipts for the said fees. Even if we had second timers in the climb party, we still needed to hire a guide because it became mandatory. We gladly hired one, Ate Geraldine, who if I may say, is one of the nicest guides I have met. Some may feel robbed of being compelled to pay for the guide fee but let us just look at it in a perspective that it is our own way of helping the community in the mountains. Aside from planting crops and buying and selling goods and refreshments, this organized guide system has greatly helped these families residing in the village along the trail of Mt. Daguldol.



TEMPTATION MOUNTAIN

Hiking in front of the tempting resorts!
BP King capturing the beach trek moments


The first phase in a typical Mt. Daguldol climb is a hike along the "aplaya" (the beach) of Hugom. In this early phase, we had to battle with the sand and the stony shores. It was even more difficult to move your feet when it gets eaten by sand. And hopping from one rock to another may not be fun when you have your full packs on. But the ability to breathe the welcoming scent of sea water and its views were very much enjoyable and inspiring. We passed by several resorts in the area which was a real temptation especially to the beach lovers. BPs King, Marion and Ghei joked around altercations in our itinerary of spending the night at the beach instead of the campsite of Mt. Daguldol. We passed by several excursionists enjoying the beach and the resort facilities. As we walked with our backpacks, the curious eyes of these beach goers can not help but stare in fascination at our chosen adventure: mountain climbing rather than hitting the beautiful beach of San Juan. After forty minutes of 'beach hiking' we finally reached the base of the mountain trail at Sitio Biga in Brgy. Hugom. There we had our first 'Take Five' as we prepared for the real deal.
A known beach lover, BP Marion did not give in to the temptation!
We were greeted by the zigzagging and ascending trail which signified the start of our ascent in the mountain. The joke of being on the beach rather than the mountain was brought up again as we embraced the zigzag course with our full packs. But as we reached the top of that obstacle, it became a very gradual hike along the foot of the mountain. We were at a relaxed pace. Every time we stopped for a 'Take Five' we would savor the moment while bonding and chatting about our passion: climbing (and other things under the sun) Sir Kenji, one of our guests, was the only mountain virgin. We would check him up whenever we would stop. During the first stop, he said he was a little surprised as the experience was surreal. But he was pumped up! And although sweating, he was full of perseverance and excitement to complete his first climb.

Kenji's first climb!
The second temptation during the climb was the presence of a village in the middle of the trail. This is where the guides reside. Because Mt. Daguldol has a generally longer trail as compared to other minor mountains, you can not help dismissing the idea of just staying in the village and assaulting the next day. But the goal was for the group to exert all effort in the uphill battle on day one so that it would just be smooth going and relaxed on day two. So when our guide offered her house as a refuge for the night, we courteously declined the offer. We were after all, at a more relaxed and carefree pace.


FAREWELL, TATAY LIZARDO

Rested after the first sight of houses in the village
BPs Mon, April, Clue and Resty munching green mangoes
The first few houses of the village appeared in sight. We stopped by and some used the comfort rooms and mingled with the locals who served us fresh green mangoes. Then a little more uphill strides and we finally got to the target part of the village. The plan was to have a forty minute rest at Tatay Lizardo's house. We rested first at the grasslands while waiting to be regrouped. One can truly appreciate the bucolic environment like that of the Malabnig Village in Mt. Banoi. Life is very simple; fresh air, green trees, farm animals and friendly neighbors. You can lay down in the grass staring at the magnificent sky without worries in mind. Ironically, this is the type of relaxation that most of us seek within the strenuous activity of mountain climbing.

BP Heinz and the locals of the village
One popular local in the village is Mang Lizardo. Famous in the mountaineering community, he is loved for his sheer hospitality, energy and apparent kindness. His humble abode is located just after the church where he and his wife (used to) sell refreshments for the hikers. Mang Lizardo is very amiable, known for bonding with the hikers while mellow music is playing from his jukebox.  During our climb, there were refreshments, but the music was absent. And so was Tatay Lizardo. I was so shocked to know that he already passed away.

Farewell, Tatay Lizardo
Nanay Adeline
I was the first one to reach Tatay Lizardo's hut and I immediately saw his wife, Nanay Adeline. She was methodically arranging the utensils used to serve refreshments and the 'most-craved-for-in-the-mountains' : halo halo. I could not help but inquire about the passing of her dearly beloved husband. According to Nanay Adeline, Tatay Lizardo died a quick and peaceful death on December 14, 2012. At first, he complained of dizziness which made Nanay to accompany him to relax in the stool. She said she did not even notice anything wrong. He looked tired but not the kind of exhaustion which may expectedly lead to death. But to her grief, that was the last time she saw Tatay Lizardo closed his eyes. Nanay Adeline is somehow relieved that he did not endure a painful death. May you rest in peace, Tatay Lizardo!



A NIGHT TREK ON A MUDDY PATH

After forty minutes of resting and bonding at the benches in front of Nanay Adeline's humble hut, the group carried on. I reminded them to prepare their headlights as it will be dark soon. Yes, the second half of our pursuit for Mt. Daguldol was an anticipated night trek. This was where I appreciated our guide Ate Geraldine. She really took her time and acted as a guide because she would wait patiently for the end pack whenever we would pass by some forks. These multiple locals' trails were part of the introductory part of the assault. Then after passing by these maze-like trails (which funny enough, are just heading in the same direction), it was a dejavu of long and ascending zigzag trail until we reached a resting station in the form of an empty hut. It was already dark by the time that we got there. And although tired from trekking for almost four hours, our spirits were still incredibly high!

Our farmyard friend - the ovulating goat
Although it did not rain that afternoon, there were parts of the trail that were muddy. I remembered during my first visit in Mt. Daguldol three years ago, the mud here was almost up to the knee! This time, it was manageable and we were successful in easily evading the mud. After half an hour, we met the lead pack with Ate Geraldine who told us that the main campsite was already full. It meant that we had to camp in the Niyugan campsite which was not the original plan. But we trusted the guide in her judgment and headed to Niyugan campsite which was empty that time. Though far from the water source, settling here provided us with big camping space, privacy and peace.

Niyugan Campsite
BPs Resty and Mon took charge of the kitchen while me and (soon-to-be-BP) Mau hiked to get water from the water source in the other campsite. Everyone dozed off as we started to feel the rush of cold wind in our skins. We ate our dinner and headed to bond over socials right after that. Here, we had the usual introduction. And in the spirit of having a first time climber in the form of Sir Kenji, the members of the socials circle recalled and shared our experiences during our first climb. It is also noteworthy to post that this was Mau's birthday month. So what else could greet him but The BACKPACKERS' Birthday Shot!

The Socials Circle





A BEAUTIFUL MT. DAGULDOL

In one of Mt. Daguldol's grassland peaks
The next morning, we prepared to assault the peaks and the summit of Mt. Daguldol. We first explored the grassland peak which was nearest Niyugan campsite. It was an exciting sight to see a green hill meeting the sky at a horizon. We ran at the slopes of the hill to get to its top. With the lone tree accompanying us on top, we were able to witness amazing view on its north and west sides. We were also able to see the towering Mt. Lobo and the distant Mt. Banoi in Lobo, Batangas. We played like kindergartens in a sloping playground while enjoying the vista that the grassland offered.


After some fifteen minutes of seemingly endless jumpshots, group shots and profile picture shots, we headed for the summit. We passed by the target campsite which also had nice view but since it was jampacked with hikers, we just headed for the grassland that offered the grandest and most scenic view in Mt. Daguldol. Treading by a muddy narrow trail, we were greeted by some hikers who were on their way down already. After a good ten minute walk, a vast crater like grassland appeared before our eyes! What caught our attention was the numerous huge crows flying and hopping from one tree to another. Our presence made them wary, hovering in the air to make sure we were aware that it was their territory.

Mon and Kenji doing a 'Dawn Zulueta' in the crater like grassland
We were not satisfied until we get to the highest peak, so up we went. And finally, the summit of Mt. Daguldol! It was breathtaking, picturesque, beautiful! It was definitely more than what I expected.







We were supposed to be descending down the mountain by 10AM but because of the awesomeness of the summit of Mt. Daguldol, we were actually just going back to camp by that time. We immediately broke camp, cleaned the campsite and proceeded with the descent.


Break Camp





A BEACH-IFUL SIDETRIP

Beach time!
The descent was very laxed and easy. We just had to retrace the zigzag and gradual trails until we reached the village. We were divided into several small groups as we took this easy descent. BPs Heinz, Resty and Nick, together with our guest Kenji even enjoyed a trail run in this course. The lead pack, led by our guests Louie B., Mau and Shyne, who were all second timers in the mountain, together with couple BP Ghei and Louie V. easily reached the village. BPs Clue, Marion and myself would stop everytime Clue would take pictures by the trail.

BPs Ivan and Marion
The BP Trail Runners ~ Resty, Heinz and Nick


















We stopped by Nanay Adeline's house to cook and eat lunch. After forty five minutes, we bade goodbye to Nanay Adeline and her grandson and continued the descent for the much awaited sidetrip - hitting the beach!

Ready to hit the beach!
What is going to San Juan, Batangas (famous for the beaches of Laiya and several luxurious hotels and resorts) without dipping on its pristine beach? When we landed our restless feet at Sitio Biga, BP Mon surveyed the beach front for a resting place for the group. We contracted a house with two fan rooms (and comfort rooms) for the whole group to settle while we waited for our service to arrive. This was the opportunity for us to hit the beach! And it was really fun for those who swam on its cool water. Some enjoyed their time in dozing off inside the rooms of the rented cottage.


SIDETRIP SHOTS:

The Genew Forces
BPs April, Marion and Liz
King's Angels
Into the open sea
Beach Resort
The Survivors
After the beach bumming

Mt. Daguldol was really appreciated and may have just landed in some of the BACKPACKERS' favorite mountains list. All of us were really satisfied with that weekend adventure. As our guest Sir Kenji mentioned, it was The-Best-Weekend-Ever!




The-Best-Year Starter Climb-Ever!

PHOTO CREDITS: BPs King, Clue and Liz
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