Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mt. Kalisungan

The BACKPACKERS Successfully Finds
By Heinz Henry Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

Many bloggers have written and have published some stories online - stories about some climbers who "mysteriously" lost their way on their attempt to climb and reach the peak of Mt. Kalisungan in Calauan, Laguna. Those stories absolutely sounded so creepy for me, but the more I read on them, the more I felt excited to climb Mt. Kalisungan.

From left to right: Eric, BP Heinz, BP Leah, BP Liz, Getty, BP Chons, Helen, BP Nickson, and Aljo

June 27, 2015, Saturday - Five BPs namely Nickson, Leah, Chons, Liz, and yours truly; and four Guests namely Eric, Helen, Getty, and Aljo pushed through with the Group's scheduled climb for June. We decided to just have it as a day hike activity primarily because of proximity and the mountain itself. 

Mt. Kalisungan is one of the smaller mountains in the Southern Tagalog region and its most popular jump-off point is Brgy. Lamot 2 in Calauan, Laguna, which is only 2 - 2.5 hours away from Metro Manila.

We assembled at McDonald's in Robinsons Pioneer and immediately left the metro as a convoy by 8:00 AM. We actually wanted to leave as early as 5:30 AM and 7:00 AM at the latest; but unfortunately, it was the earliest time workable for everyone.

It was a smooth road trip going out of the Metro. The weather was perfect and the traffic was very cooperative as it was a Saturday. Getty and Leah clicked as soon as they entered and settled inside Eric's car; while Helen and Aljo enjoyed Liz's "tranquil" personality inside Nickson's car... lol. 

We wanted to be in Calauan by 10 -10:30 AM but because of a traffic due to a road accident plus the one-way system in Los BaƱos proper, it was already 11:30 AM when we hit it. 

Nickson and company picked Chons up from Victoria, Laguna before joining us in 7-11 of Calauan, where we had our lunch.

A fun shot inside 7-11 of Calauan.

Calauan is a small town in Laguna. It is known for its Pineapple Festival, which is celebrated every May 15th of the year. When we were there, we noticed some very creative street decorations that were still in place; the giant pineapple in front of Calauan's Catholic Church is permanent though, i think. And of course, by the side walks were fresh pineapples sold by local vendors.

When we were all done eating lunch, Nickson's company drove going to Brgy. Lamot's barangay hall, which is literally just a few minutes away from the town proper, to register and to get a guide; while Eric's company (including me) passed the barangay hall and drove straight to Field of Faith - a worship center that is 1.2 kilometers to walk or drive from the main road. It is the jump-off point to Mt. Kalisungan.

Parking was not a problem for us that day at all. Right beside Field of Faith is a house with a wide yard that can accommodate a good number of vehicles. The family in there allowed us to park by a tree so that the car would be under its shade while we're away.

A prayer, led by Leah, marked the official start of the journey. Time check - 12:45 PM.

Fruit-bearing trees along the way protected us from direct heat of the sun. We passed by a banana plantation and a citrus orchard. We saw mango trees, a "star-apple" tree and we noticed that this mountain is abundant with jack fruit trees. And of course, coconut trees and intermittent corn fields completed our trail experience.

Oh, by the way, one more thing that protected Nickson from direct heat of the sun? Here it is...

Who said a climber can't have an umbrella?

What was more challenging than the heat of the sun for us that day, was the fact that it was not windy at all. We even used our umbrellas to create wind. Me and Eric took our shirts off as we were both sweating heavily. And, we had numerous take-fives in order for us to catch our breaths!

We took our rest whenever there's a good shade.

Imagine a continuous ascend with mostly steep trail, plus the scorching heat of the sun, plus the humidity and almost no wind the whole time... that put together equals to exhaustion.

We admired our Guests. They survived all of those challenges. Take note - it was Getty, Helen, and Aljo's first mountain; and it was Eric's first no-stairs mountain climbing activity after a long time... since 1996 to be precise.

Good thing that as we went higher and higher, the view made us forget those difficulties we encountered. And the newbies admitted that it's the priceless thing one gets in a climb.

Seeing things from a higher perspective makes the difference.

And for Eric, because one of his interests is taking macro shots of wonderful creatures, he spent time capturing these interesting insects during take-fives...

For seasoned mountaineers, climbing Mt. Kalisungan can be completed in 2 - 2.5 hours, or even 1.5 - 2 hours. But for us, because we believe that it is the quality of the journey (considering the newbies) and not how fast we reach the top, it took us almost 4 hours before even reaching the vast grasslands that cover the highest part, and which lead to the summit of Mt. Kalisungan.

Thank you for being the photographer for this picture, Nickson!

And when we have reached the grasslands (?) the rain started to pour... gently. But nature was very kind to us that day - though it rained while we were on top of this mountain, the weather did not totally deny us of the opportunity to receive our prize - seeing the view from above...

Nickson appreciating the view.
The lakes of Laguna.
Popular mountains are Mt. Kalisungan's neighbors.

5:30 PM marked the start of our descent. Because it rained, everyone of us, including our guide, slid and stumbled once or twice, or even more for some, as we went down this mountain. The slippery path and the darkness when the clock hit past 6:30 PM slowed us down big time. It was already almost 8:00 PM when finally reached the flat land. 

The descent.
Enjoying the grassland.

Mystery solved. Literally before entering the property where we parked, i realized that there was no creepy element about Mt. Kalisungan at all. At least for us, there was no mystery at all. On our way up and down, we noticed that there are numerous forks and turns to and from the summit of this mountain. For that very reason, if one is not familiar with this specific mountain course, the possibility to miss the right trail which leads to the summit and back to the jump-off point is huge.

Once again, the same couple who let us park in their yard, was very nice to us. They let us use their bathroom and provided us water so we can wash and change before going home. Our kind guide was also there for us all throughout.

We left the jump-off around 9:00 PM and drove to a 7-11 in Victoria to drop Chons, who now permanently resides in Siniloan, Laguna. The rest proceeded to Isdaan, a famous floating restaurant in Calauan, to treat ourselves with sumptuous Filipino dishes!

Sisig pa more!
Fiesta food pa more!

Overall, it was a great completed activity. We all had fun, and The BPs are happy to be able to accompany Eric, Getty, Helen, and Aljo to this mountain adventure of theirs.

Photos by Eric Banzon Noora  

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