Hiked to: Nalayag Monolith

Sunday
July 2, 2017

After 3 weeks of taking a break from the trails because of sickness and other reasons, I was finally able to climb again and it happened unexpectedly. With the help of my running friend, Patrick, I was able to stand on top of Mt. Salakot’s Nalayag monolith!

It was Saturday when Patrick messaged me to ask if I have any climbs for Sunday. Initially, I was planning to hike Mt. Batulao solo but I asked him what his idea was. He told me that his buddy had backed out of their climb and he had an extra slot. The climb was Mt. Salakot in Lobo, Batangas.

I had heard of this mountain before. It was opened earlier this year and its defining features were the two stone pillars near the summit. Probably because Mt. Palay-palay had just closed and there must always be a monolith mountain, this opened in a timely manner. I didn’t know where Lobo was, but we were in a private van so no worries there.

I confirmed my slot with Patrick and we met up at the McDonalds in Starmall EDSA early Sunday morning. I didn’t know anyone else in the group but Patrick introduced me to his friends. After breakfast, we boarded our 2 vans and I slept most of the way to Lobo. It was a surprisingly long and bumpy journey. Travel time was almost 4 hours. Eventually we did reach Lobo and here we had another breakfast time and also registered with the municipality to go hike. Then, it was another ride to the jumpoff at Sitio Punas.

Walking through nature once again

We were dropped off right beside the beach we were going to be visiting after the hike. We trekked through local trails and some quarrying areas until we reached the actual starting point. Here, the organizer (Team Partners in Climb) briefed us on the hike and then we started the trek.

Quarrying being done in the lowlands
The actual starting point is after an initial 10 minutes walk

The trail was mostly covered jungle and it was really beautiful. Early on, we traced a river upwards and the trails reminded me of Arayat and Pico De Loro. It was amazing and there were lots of flora and fauna to be seen. River crossings were also present although none that were life-threatening.

Follow the river, river, follow the river

The hike was actually quite fast. In a moderate pace, one would be at the monolith in 3 hours. The only hard part was the final assault which was around 45mins of straight uphill. I think the bulk of the route was just going to the actual mountain itself. We even had enough time to have a long buko break where our guides climbed the trees and sold the group fresh coconuts.

Buko break c/o our guides

At the base of the monoliths, we put down our bags and we waited. Because we were a big group, we had to wait our turn to have our pictures taken. Nevertheless, we were lucky to be the only group at the mountain for the day. I climbed on some rocks to pass the time.

I was very disappointed to see so many garbage at the base of the monolith. The mountain was open for half a year and the amount of trash was already insane. Because of the mountain’s popularity, it attracted hordes of hikers and most don’t know about the LNT principle. It was sad to see and the worst part was that all the waste had attracted ants. There was no place in the area that wasn’t swarming with them. I had to hang my bag off a tree just to stop the ants from reaching it. Disgusting and disappointing.

Trash

There are two monoliths in the mountain. We climbed the smaller one first. There were chains attached to the rock up to the top, it was relatively safe as long as one had decent upper body strength. When I reached the top, the group at the other monolith took pictures of me. After enjoying the view, I climbed down and returned to the base to climb the other one. The bigger and taller monolith is climbed by wooden ladders that the locals put in place. It was a lot of upper body climbing but it wasn’t very difficult. The top of the monolith could fit around 10 people while the smaller one can accommodate only 2-3.

The taller monolith as seen from the smaller monolith
At the top of the smaller monolith

Here I spent more time looking at the view. I also saw some majestic birds flying around. This really shows the diversity in the mountain and how people have not yet fully erased the habitats of the animals. I hope humans stop pushing further into the mountains because seeing the birds flying and making noise was an experience that would be lost in the urban areas.

Me at the taller monolith, with the smaller monolith in the background

After spending some more time on top and seeing the other people climb the smaller monolith, I climbed down and waited for the rest to be finished. Initially, we planned to do a back trail but we spent way more time on the monolith and went beyond the itinerary. So we traversed because the way down will be faster BUT the trail was way steeper. We went down and slipped and slid through the forest until we reached a clearing and emerged into a local road that was used by construction vehicles. From here, I had fun running down all the way to the other jumpoff, Sitio Balibago.

The end of the trek is in the outskirts of Sitio Balibago
The store where we had lambanog and sisig from the friendly locals

We waited for the rest of the group to go down and in the meantime, I chilled with the locals who offered me their local lambanog as well as some pork sisig. The lambanog was very tasty that I ended up buying two bottles for my personal consumption. When we were complete, we called our vans over and they brought us back to the beach at Sitio Punas.

At the beach, we had a short swim before taking a bath and fixing ourselves up. Then we were back to the vans on our way back to Manila. It was a long drive back and we stopped by a roadside karinderya to have dinner (I had Batangas lomi). Aside from that, I was fast asleep all the way to the metro.

Thank you, Patrick for the invite to this hike. It was a mountain I was curious about so finally I was glad to cross it off. I would also like to thank the organizers of Team PIC (Partners in Climb) for accommodating us hikers. I was glad to see an organizer complete with medics.  Thanks for looking out for us. Also, thank you to the locals of Sitio Balibago for the alcohol and the scrumptiously cooked pork sisig. I will come back if it means tasting that sisig again. To my family and to Big G for the love, thank You always.

The organizing group of the day
Thank you, TRD_Patz, for inviting me

This was an easy hike that I would recommend for beginners. The place is a bit hard to commute to, so I suggest hiring a private van. Plus you can also have a side trip to the nearby beaches once you are done. Just don’t forget to bring your trash down so that the garbage at the base doesn’t get bigger.

Just like a waving flag

Hike clean, hike safe!

-jgzn

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