Twin Hike: Mt. Manalmon and Mt. Gola

Saturday
December 5, 2015

I did not expect to follow up climbing Luzon’s highest mountain by climbing the country’s lowest mountains. I found this really funny and reflected on how life gives us ironic moments like this. And when the mountains call, it’s hard to resist. So here’s my dayhike into the sitio Madlum mountains.

It was drizzling when we boarded the bus bound to Cabanatuan, and once we alighted at San Miguel, it was full on raining. Still, we didn’t let a little water dampen our spirits.

After a bumpy and wet trike ride that lasted almost an hour, we finally reached sitio Madlum. After registering and securing our guides, we started our day with a hike to Mt. Gola, which was said to be a harder climb than the more famous Mt. Manalmon.

Madlum bridge and Madlum signs
Madlum bridge and Madlum signs

The trail starts with a short venture into a dark cave where I immediately slipped and fell. The trail then goes through a couple of river crossings and finally into a lush and beautiful forest area. The view reminded me of Jurassic Park; I was expecting dinosaurs to burst out of the greenery.

Stations of the cross, a grotto, and a cave mark the beginning of the trail
Stations of the cross, a grotto, and a cave mark the beginning of the trail

The trail up Mt. Gola can be summarized by rocks, forests, and forest rocks. Although it also has a short trip into a field filled with cow poops. The hardest part of the climb would have to be a steep ascent up a solid rock surface, which was even more challenging because of the constant on and off rain showers we had (the weather was fickle today).

Rivers and lush, green terrain comprise most of the view along the trail
Rivers and lush, green terrain comprise most of the view along the trail
The hardest part of the Gola assault is climbing almost-vertical walls of solid rock
The hardest part of the Gola assault is climbing almost-vertical walls of solid rock

It was more rocks before we finally reached the wide plateau that is Mt. Gola’s summit. We took a lot of pictures while waiting for the rain to stop and to get a good clearing.

Mt. Gola summit with Mt. Mabio at the back, still closed to public hikers
Mt. Gola summit with Mt. Mabio at the back, still closed to public hikers

Once satisfied, we headed back down to the second river crossing, where the junction between Mt. Gola and Mt. Manalmon is. Since we were already hungry, we decided to have early lunch there. We also swam and cliff-dived right after.

The river is enchanting, but also dangerous because the river bed can drop to deep levels without warning
The river is enchanting, but also dangerous because the river bed can drop to deep levels without warning

Still wet but full from our river break, we headed up Mt. Manalmon’s summit to complete the hike. By now, the rain had stopped and the sun was already starting to shine.

The fauna along the foresty trail to Mt. Manalmon's summit
The fauna along the foresty trail to Mt. Manalmon’s summit
A few minutes from the summit, the viewdeck shows the Sierra Madre range and Mt. Arayat from a distance
A few minutes from the summit, the viewdeck shows the Sierra Madre range and Mt. Arayat from a distance

Thankfully, we were the only group at the summit so we took our sweet time with pictures and I even fell asleep while lying down on the rocky surface. The summit of Mt. Manalmon is very peaceful. There was something about it and the surroundings that made me so relaxed. I didn’t want to go down!

The standard summit shot and the world tree, akin to that of the one at Tarak ridge
The standard summit shot and the world tree, akin to that of the one at Tarak ridge

But alas, time flies and one cannot stay on the summit forever. We went back to the jumpoff and had a quick break before proceeding to the day’s next activity: caving!

The descent is once again a lush forest and river crossings

I’ve never had much liking for caves because they’re always so tight for my frame. But I still enjoyed because it required some upper body strength and I laughed thinking about all the positions I got into while maneuvering the tight spaces. Emerging from the darkness was satisfying and even just an hour confined inside the cave made me miss the sunlight.

It was hard to take pictures because of the darkness, but it was truly a unique experience
It was hard to take pictures because of the darkness, but it was truly a unique experience; You know you’re too fat when you can’t fit in the Bayukbok tunnels

Right after caving, we proceeded to the Monkey bridge, the most famous installment in sitio Madlum. Crossing the river on just two pieces of metal wire can be intimidating, and it was tiring as well. Nowadays, they require a harness for added safety, but for me, it was just a hassle. But one could not deny the adrenaline rush as you are suspended in the middle of the Madlum river.

The monkey bridge is the most-anticipated highlight of the day
The monkey bridge is the most-anticipated highlight of the day

The last activity was swimming in the river itself. It was refreshing to get wet and swim once again, all the while being on the look out for snakes as we found a dead one on the river bank.

After the swim, we fixed ourselves up and backtracked our way to Cubao as the sun set.


Itinerary and Cost Breakdown:

  • 05:15 ETD Cubao, Bus to Cabanatuan
    • P117 per head
  • 07:20 ETA Kamias, San Miguel, Bulacan. Take trike to sitio Madlum
    • P250 per trike (seats 3 people)
  • 08:30 ETA Sitio Madlum, register and secure guides
    • P300 per mountain, guide fee
    • P200 per 5 people, caving guide fee
    • P30 per headlamp rental
  • 08:50 Start Trek
  • 10:00 ETA Mt. Gola Summit, Photo ops
  • 10:30 ETD Mt. Gola Summit
  • 11:00 ETA Madlum river junction, Lunch and swim
  • 11:50 ETD Madlum river, start trek to Mt. Manalmon
  • 12:20 ETA Mt. Manalmon Viewdeck (malaking bato)
  • 12:25 ETA Mt. Manalmon Summit, Photo ops
  • 13:20 ETD Mt. Manalmon Summit
  • 13:55 ETA Jumpoff, break
  • 14:20 Start Caving
  • 15:30 Finish caving, start Monkey Bridge
  • 16:00 Swimming
  • 16:50 Fix Up
    • P10 per gallon, water for ligo
    • P15 per bar soap
  • 17:50 ETD Sitio Madlum, trike to highway
    • P250 per trike (seats 3 people)
  • 18:25 ETA Highway, Bus to Cubao
    • P117 per head
  • 21:45 ETA Cubao

Total Cost: P709
Safe Budget: P1,000


This hike was very relaxing and despite the rain shower, I was very happy with the activities. Sitio Madlum feels more like a resort than a mountain jumpoff. There are lots of things to do and it’s also relatively near Manila. I’d recommend this as a place to de-stress on a weekend. Just be sure to bring lots of mosquito repellant!

The contestants for Miss and Mister Madlum 2015
The contestants for Miss and Mister Madlum 2015
With the idol organizer and Madlum local
With the idol organizer and Madlum local

Thanks to my idol, Faye, for organizing this climb and inviting me. Thanks also to my new friends for being welcoming. To more success on your trips and climbs with you all soon! Thanks also to the Big Guy for clearing up the weather through the day.

The traveling pink polo reaches Mt. Gola and Mt. Manalmon!
The traveling pink polo reaches Mt. Gola and Mt. Manalmon!

-jgzn

 

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