The rain has passed but the mud was all around my shoes and my pants. I struggled around the slippery rocks that littered the trail. I have returned here for the second time but everything seems to have changed at Mt. Manalmon.
It’s been more than a year since my friend and I hiked Mt. Manalmon at San Miguel, Bulacan. This time, we came back with a bigger group and we went on a twin-hike from Mt. Manalmon to Mt. Gola.
Since both mountains have an estimated height of nearly 200 MASL, it should be the easiest of all easy climbs. But without proper exercise, I have quite struggled on the way.
The path, still damp from the two-day rain, was sodden and muddy. Our tour guide, Winter, began the trek on the safer side of the trail, opposite to the one we had taken on our first visit. He cautioned us a twin hike is impossible if the river remained too high to cross. Arriving before 6am, the still grey sky would not give a hint if it would rain or not.
Gladly, the assaults were not steep enough to add to my burden. Most of the trek were on an almost level path. The initial part of the trail was covered with man-made stairs. The trouble with this kind of trail is that this would become dangerously slippery during rains. I was in bigger trouble because my shoes were designed for the muddy trail, not for the rocky path. Even though the trail would lead us to the muddy path, most of it constituted of rocks – huge ones mostly.
The very summit of Mt. Manalmon itself could be reached by scrambling on a gigantic boulder sitting atop of it. Despite the struggle, there is still romance in every second chance. Thin wisps of clouds playfully hovered over the vast beauty of Biak-na-Bato National Park before they completely shy away from the rising sun. The winding Madlum River was sparkling beneath the fresh, golden sun rays. On the other side was Mt. Gola, a mountain I have wished to trek the first time I reached the peak of Mt. Manalmon.
Mt. Arayat, one of Luzon’s highest peaks, could be seen on the opposite distance. Seeing its silhouette stirs up the hope in me that soon enough, I’ll be ticking this mountain off my bucket list.
After a breakfast of eggs and boiled bananas, we headed to Mt. Gola. I did not expect bigger challenges going there.
To reach the other side of the mountain, we had to cross a portion of the Madlum
River. It is important to have tour guides on this trip because they could judge if the waters are safe enough to cross. The river was almost reaching our waists. We had to hold on to one another to keep each other from being carried away by the current.
We kept on walking on level ground until we came upon a roped segment that welcomed us halfway to Mt. Gola’s summit.
This walkway, covered with another gigantic boulder, has become more slippery because of the rain. The key here is to step on the rougher portions of the ground to ensure footing. Taking time would be a better idea because racing with other hikers would only mean trouble. But going up and down on this portion made me completely exhausted, partly because I was battling the thought of falling down.
By 9am we have reached the tip of Mt. Gola. The sun was already glaring on the bare side of the peak. Completely tired, I just stared at the blue skies and the green horizon.
We have taken the same trail upon our return to the jump-off. We ended the traverse by 12nn but there are still plenty of adventures to try.
Let me re-introduce to you the monkey bridge.
This is the same hanging bridge we had crossed a year ago. If this reminds you of a milk ad where schoolchildren are crossing a bridge made of thin wire, this is the exact spot where the commercial was shot. This time, tour guides required tourists to put on harnesses. Now, I’m proud of myself for crossing it last wear without such safety gear. There are still no fatal accidents at the monkey bridge yet but the tour guide told us they have to put safety measures to ensure zero fatality.
The key for crossing the bridge is to hold onto the wire. It gets wobbly in the middle but I kept myself entertained with raucous tourists splashing into the river while whistling a silly tune to call the wind.
Once we have ravished at the sight of fun at the river while crossing the bridge, it’s our turn to dip into the waters.
I just wanted to watch the others while I tried to remove the mud off my shoes by dipping them into the water. But a small brown butterfly kept on bothering me as it kept on landing on my cellphone which was covered with a bright red casing.
I tried to lure it to land on my friend’s phone covered in black casing. The little fellow ignored it. Instead, it kept on dancing around me and my cellphone.
And so I let it land on my finger.
I have a theory it must have been attracted to me and my phone because of the bright colors we’re donned in. Maybe, it thought I was a gigantic flower sitting on the riverbank with lots and lots of nectar. Sorry little, fella. Try a real flower.
I’m glad to return to this place again. I am thankful because the Lord answered our prayers for fair, rainless weather. I am looking forward to exploring more of my hometown next time. 🙂