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What are weekends for? Camping and getting away from the busy city life, of course!
Nestled between the magnificent lakes of San Pablo and the mountains of Nagcarlan, San Pablo and Calauan lies Mt. Mabilog. At 428 MASL, this mountain takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to climb (without long rests ).
There are three trails to Mt. Mabilog - Santa Catalina, Sto. Angel and Sulsuguin.
We took the Sulsuguin trail in Nagcarlan. The jump-off point is at the Lake Yambo shore. Guides are optional but there are several foot trails which can get confusing so I suggest hiring a guide like we did. We paid 300 pesos one-way. Since we stayed overnight, we told the guide that we'll just find our way down the next day.
Arriving at the summit, be prepared to be in awe. You will see the big giants - Mt. Bahanaw and the dormant volcano, Mt. Cristobal, Lake Yambo, Pandin, and Sampaloc and the nearby cities.
We were expecting heavy rains but somehow the universe conspired with me and gave us an amazing weather - cold but dry. And as an icing to our cake, we had the whole campsite to ourselves (aside from the 4 locals who live up there).
There is no water source, no electricity and no comfort rooms - so pack wisely. Also, don't forget your beers.
Bring insect repellants as there are a lot of mosquitoes.
Be responsible campers. Always remember the 'leave no trace' policy.
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I hate climbing mountains. Okay not the mountain but the climbing part. If I could teleport myself up there I may hate this adventure a little less. But no, I am no Nightcrawler, I’m just Marjorie, a 33-year old writer and travel enthusiast who really knows nothing about appreciating the art of mountain climbing. Nonetheless, I’ve climbed a few mountains in my life. Mt. Kalatong in Romblon, Mt. Ipo in Bulacan, let’s include those three in the Cordillera Region, and even that paved mountain to get to PAGASA Weather Station in Baler. I climbed them all, not because I wanted to but because I had to. It’s kinda like paying bills, I pay them not because I want to, but because I have to. I’m sure you get the point.
Given this, why the hell am I writing now about Mt. Mabilog? Actually, why the fudge did I climb Mt. Mabilog? I really don’t know, but I did so I might as well tell you the story.
But first, fast facts:
Mt. Mabilog as the name implies, has a round-shaped peak. Its reach extends to the two towns of Laguna, San Pablo and Nagcarlan. There are several jump offs to get to the summit, in our case, we took the Sto. Angel trail, or the trail close to Lake Pandin.
Now let’s go back to the why part. The how did this climb come about part or the why did I climb this mountain part. Well I got an invitation from an old officemate and a friend. One day she asked me if I want to join her and this group of mountaineers in their Mt. Mabilog climb. I looked back on all the mountains that I climbed and wondered if there is anything on the list that is labeled under “Climbed-for-the-sake-of-climbing” category. Hmm… let’s see.
Mt. Kalatong – Climbed because former boss thought it was a great idea to include me in a photoshoot that involved going down the hill that is morbidly close to the edge.
Mt. Ipo – Climbed because that’s where we planted our trees for the tree-planting activity.
PAGASA – Climbed because, duh! It’s the only way to get to the PAGASA Weather Station.
Batad – Climbed to see the Amphitheater Rice Terraces, Tappiya Falls, and to spend the night over at Batad Pension Guesthouse.
Buscalan, Kalinga – Climbed because it’s part of the deal if you want to be tattooed by the last mambabatok, Apo Whang-Od.
Echo Valley – Climbed to see the hanging coffins.
So I went over this list and realized I never climbed a mountain just to reach the summit. All mountains that I scaled were a way to a destination. So I decided to accept my friend's invite just to have that one mountain on my list that I can say, I truly conquered.
Joke! Actually, I went for it because my friend offered to pay for my climb as her birthday treat to me. I know, I’m too honest for comfort. But to be fair I enjoyed this adventure despite it being anything but easy
This climb was arranged by Jepoi, a Nursing graduate but now a mountaineer and an adventure organizer. I joined a group of 35 people. The rate per head is PHP800 ($16.96); food is not included but at least there is a bus rented just for our group. How neat! Also, this wasn’t just a mountain hike, there is a side trip to the Underground Cemetery and swimming in the Twin Falls. But that’s another story, let’s save that for next time.
Us, from Manila, convened at McDonalds in Buendia. Call time is 4AM, yes, that early but guess what time did we leave? 7AM, 7 freaking AM. God I hate Filipino time; it should be abolished! Imagine if I watched a movie, I would have seen it to the end. Anyway, after fiftyleven years the bus started moving. It took us 2 hours to reach San Pablo, Laguna.
We went to Lake Pandin, one of the seven lakes in San Pablo that my friends and I visited few years ago after our stay at Casa San Pablo.
This lake is beautiful and serene and still as beautiful as I remembered it. I thought it was just a side trip, turns out it is where the starting point of Mt. Mabilog is. Yes, I was climbing a good 30 minutes before I learned that we were not just looking for that perfect spot to photograph the Twin Lakes, Pandin and Yambo, but in fact, already climbing Mt. Mabilog. I have been exercising for a while now but I think not even that prepared me for the challenge of this climb. To the mountaineers Mt. Mabilog’s difficulty is only 2/9. I’ve no idea how they scaled it but to me it was like an 8 out of 10.
First of all, the path, the better part of it, is too narrow and rough. The plants on each side are so close to the trail, they were practically rubbing and clinging to our legs. I know that some mountains can be climbed wearing shorts, not on this mountain though.
Along the way, you will notice the hoofmark on the ground as well as some horse dung. Imagine, they actually take horses up in that mountain! That must have been difficult.
But what I think made this climb extra tough for me is the heat and the thin air. I was gasping, literally hearing myself wheezing like an asthmatic. Because I was quite aware of my struggle, I was astonished, seeing our guide, who is an old man, climbing like there was nothing to it. Sure he looked tired and got all sweaty from the effort but he wasn’t panting and puffing the way I did.
10 minutes before reaching the summit I was already thinking that this is how dying must feel like. My labored breathing, my wobbly legs, my clammy skin, and my dry throat made me wonder why there are people who love conquering mountains. I remember all the mountains that I climbed in my life, the long hours spent on walking, the difficulty in breathing, the exhaustion, the strain that it gives to the body, none of these I find to be enjoyable. So why the hell these mountain climbers like climbing?
After almost two hours, we reached the high point of Mt. Mabilog. Up there you have an unobstructed view of some of the seven lakes of San Pablo. Yambo and Pandin are only separated by a long and thin piece of land, no wonder they are considered as twin lakes.
I may not fully understand the reason why some people love conquering mountains, but I do understand the feeling one gets when he reaches the summit. There is always an unmistakable sense of fulfillment from achieving something that you worked hard for. It is a certain kind of high, a moment of pride that after all the cuts and scratches and the long hustle, you were able to make it.
And so on August 2, 2015, Mt. Mabilog has become the first mountain that I ever climbed, not for anything else but to reach the top.
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