December 13, 2014
This was the day I went on my first legitimate mountain climb. And for virgins, there’s no better way to pop your cherry than by climbing up Mount Palay-palay, better known as Pico de Loro. Warning, this post is gonna be image-heavy. And most of these will be images of me, so you have been warned.
I have an office-mate who is an avid mountain climber, and she’s the one who actually invited me. Because I’d rather climb a mountain than work on a Saturday, I decided to go with her and her friends. I was excited to see how I fared against a mountain. I like to think of myself as a fit person and I wanted to test my skills in hiking.
The preparation for the hike started on Friday night. We wanted to start as early as possible so we’ll be one of the first visitors of the day. Here’s the itinerary we had:
- 22:15 Left the house and went on my way to meet up with a friend before heading to Starmall EDSA
- 23:30-00:30 Rendezvous with other friends at Starmall EDSA and waited for shuttle
- 01:00-02:30 Shuttle ride to Balibago
- 02:30-04:00 Rendezvous with other climb-mates and ride to DENR Site
- 04:30 Start of hike proper
So as you may have noticed, my friends and I didn’t really get to have a good night’s rest. Some people from our group even came from a party! But it was fine. We had a couple of veterans with us and they were our guides since there weren’t any for this mountain. Pico de Loro is classified as an entry-level mountain and is good for beginners, so I guess that explains it.
The initial climb was easy. Because we started at 04:30, there wasn’t any natural light yet. We relied on our group-mates that had flashlights. I stumbled a few times but didn’t fall. It was a little scary, but also very exciting.
By first light, the climb was way easier. There were lots of trees to see. If you love trees, then you’re gonna love it here. The trail started to get a little harder as time went on; from just sloping, the terrain became really steep where you only had bamboo poles to hold on. The assault was rough and I had to admit that my thighs were already aching about two hours into the climb.
I packed 3L of water but by the time we reached the campsite, I had already finished almost half of it. The campsite was where we took lots of pictures and it was about 15 minutes away from the summit of the mountain.
After a few minutes of rest and eating, we left the campsite behind to assault the summit. The summit was probably the hardest to climb. It was cold and the trail was very steep. The trail consisted of rocks that easily crumbled and also of wet grass from the morning dew. Slowly and surely we climbed.
Upon reaching the summit, there was fog everywhere. We waited a bit for it to abate, but it was persistent. We decided to climb up the monolith to pass the time. The monolith is where Pico de Loro got its name from. It’s a rock formation beside the summit that makes up the shape of a parrot’s head.
What was amazing about the monolith was that in order to reach the top of it, you had to risk your life to get there. I am not kidding here. One wrong step and you fall down the monolith and go splat on the forest floor below. This climb is truly not for the weak of heart. There weren’t any safety ropes or harnesses. Like I said before, there weren’t any guides so all the risk was ours. But I wasn’t gonna back down from this challenge. It was one of the most adrenaline pumping moments of my life and I was gripping everything so tightly on my climb.
Once we snatched our lives from death’s presence, we reached the top of the monolith. Unfortunately, there was still fog everywhere. We couldn’t get maximum visibility even if we waited a while for a clearing. Too bad, because I heard that the view from here was amazing. Plus we didn’t get our photos taken by our friends from the summit a lot. Bummer.
After enduring a quick rain shower and the cold, we decided to go back down to the campsite for another set of pictures and eating.
After eating and resting our limbs, it was time for our descent. The descent was easier and faster than the ascent. It also started raining a bit and the ground was slippery so I mostly slid down a lot. I contemplated just rolling down the mountain. If only I was indestructible.
Before reaching the campsite, we went through another trail that we overlooked on our way up: the waterfall. It wasn’t too far away from the main trail. The view was also very nice. It had a secluded feel to it. We wanted to swim in it as well, but we didn’t have enough time. Plus we saw that where the water originated above the waterfall, there were some horses bathing in it.
After the waterfall, it was a slippery and wet descent through riverbeds back to the bottom campsite. Rain fell heavy and inconsistently on us, but it was safe to say that by the time we arrived at the camp, we were all soaked. We bought some food and souvenirs and got some rest again.
After some rest, it was still a few minutes of wet trekking until we reached the main road and went back to the DENR site where we parked our cars. We fixed up and changed clothes. We also talked to a Japanese who had been volunteering here for almost 15 years. Fun guy.
Our last sight to see before heading home was the Kaybiang Tunnel, a newly-built tunnel that made Cavite-Batangas trips easier.
After that, it was a long ride to Tagaytay where we ate at Diner’s. Holy shit they had the softest bulalo I’ve ever tasted. It was melt in your mouth goodness. They also had a free cup of coffee for all the customers, which was good because the Tagaytay winds were freezing us up. It was obvious we weren’t from Tagaytay because we were just wearing shorts and shirts and were shivering. After that it was a quick drive to the shuttle terminal and a long commute home.
Fun fact: We started the ascent at 04:30 and ended the descent at 16:30. We spent a total of 12 hours on Mt. Palay-palay.
So all in all, it was a very exciting trip. I had mixed feelings about it because I was so dead tired at the end of the day and I also had a lot of wet and muddy gear to clean, but I think everything was worth it. The experience and the views that I was able to have are irreplaceable. The trip really made me appreciate the natural geography of this country and I am willing to go on more treks in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back to Pico de Loro to conquer the monolith again and this time, there’ll be less fog!
I would like to thank Mam Tin, Sir Paul, and all the other Outdoor Addicts™ for being so welcoming and for inviting me to this trip.
That’s my first mountain conquered. Here’s to more (literal and metaphorical) mountains to climb and peaks to reach!