The city was still dark when we left. In the wee hours of the morning, the serene orange glow from the streetlamps seemed rather apprehensive against the nearly empty streets. My eyes, still dank from lack of sleep, seemed to weigh heavier than my backpack. As we took a cab to the array of bus terminals at Cubao, it felt like déjà vu. The van that was supposed to carry us to Mt. Talamitam did not come.
A miscommunication nearly gave us a misadventure. But we’re used to it, and just like our last adventure at Mt Maynoba-Mt. Cuyabo, we are ready with a bag of options that would lead us to the unknown. The internet had been a good source in leading our all-girl group to rides going to the mountain. But it became more accurate when we asked questions, costing us more cab rides just to get to the right bus terminal.
From Cubao, only San Agustin buses could take us straight to Mt. Talamitam’s jump-off at Brgy. Bayabasan in Nasugbu, Batangas. I find the trip rather easier because there is no need to take bumpy tricycle rides after getting off the bus. After three long hours, erratic catnaps, and countless of nameless passengers sitting beside us, we found ourselves dousing in morning light at the registration area encamped beneath huge fruit trees and beside a classic sari-sari store. It’s like a scene our old barangay used to have when I was a child, the smoke from freshly burned pile of leaves (which we called siga) creating a mystical forest effect on our backyard.
But there was no burning of of leaves was being done to create that magical feeling. The quiet, clean barangay was a welcome treat for the newcomers while ants spoiled it along the way. The cheeriness of the hike was added up with that ready smile of our tour guide Kuya Dante, who was ready to laugh at our silly jokes and antics.
The first part of the trail was cemented and rather muddy. The rains last night had it covered with thick mud, some parts quite deep enough for the foot to sink. We have to cross a small creek after crossing a bridge. This then led us to a dense foliage of greens, which was reminiscent of the one of Mt. Talamitam’s neighbor, Pico de Loro.
It’s not all forest. In the middle of the hike was a huge plain with grazing cows, mud-bathing carabaos, and grass-eating horses. I thought I heard the theme of Sound Of Music playing when I saw this vast, green space basking in the wide, blue skies.
(I should have twirled around and sang, “The hills are alive…”) It’s like gaining freedom after that quite arduous hike at the rainforest trail. But that’s not yet all the strain we need to receive to reach the summit.
We bought buko juice kept in plastic cups from a young lady sitting beneath one of the lonely trees. As we drank the cold, fresh drink, we also
drank the sight of Mt. Talamitam’s twin, Mt. Batulao behind us. Moving forward, we could see Mt. Talamitam eyeing us from a near distance, waiting for us to touch her very peak.
Stopping again at a makeshift store of an old lady, we consumed fresh buko juice from the real fruit this time. I realized I have not yet taken any breakfast that morning. Yet, the fresh coconut juice and meat were enough for me to survive the steeper trail awaiting us.
We met the campers who stayed for an overnight who were descending from
the peak. I guess it could have been better to stay for an overnight to catch the sunrise we had hoped to catch that day. On the other hand, coming very early is good to keep us from struggling beneath the afternoon sun.
The portion we ascended was even more challenging because it was steeper and the tall grass covering the trail was cramming on our faces. The rocks were relentlessly huge and we have to use our hands to ascend over them. I could have stopped to rest of a little longer until I saw the other climbers behind us clammering to get ahead of us.
At last, I could hear laughter and giggles. Some of them even cried, “Picture! Picture!” The struggle is real. But the reward is here.
At last, fresh air blew on my nearly burned face as I nearly kissed the summit’s ground. The view was even more spectacular. There were a few vendors waiting to serve us with Mountain Dew and bottled water. I thought of getting a rest on the mountain but I couldn’t because of the soil beneath the little nipa shade was too damp to lie on. The ground covered with grass was seething under the scorching sun.
But the heat did not last long. So did the vendors staying at the mountain. Kuya Dante said that they would close shop at noon every Sunday when tourists go home early. True enough, we were the last ones to leave the peak. The clouds were getting dark as we left. A downpour roared halfway upon our descent.
The rain was never a spoiler of fun. We’d get a few slides and bumps along the way down, but I loved the feeling of trekking in wet weather. We could have had a side trip to the river. But now was not a good time.
One thing I enjoyed with Mt. Talamitam was that it was cleaner than its other neighbors because there were less vendors. Besides that, the trail was a complete chill except for that
steep end point. It’s sad however that the mountain is not living up to its name. Trees called talamitam were not growing on he mountain anymore and I did not get to know why. These trees are growing instead on an adjacent mountain smaller than Mt. Talamitam.
We’d love to come back but this time with our tents and sleeping bags. Perhaps at that time we would not be chasing the sunrise anymore. It would be surely a surreal moment not because it’s a déjà vu, but because it’s living in a dream.