At this time last week, we were descending from the summit of Mt. Batulao, after enjoying the view and the slightly cooler breezes from the top. It was a relaxing trip for me as one of the rare times when I didn’t need to plan or drive! Husband and wife cycling team Mel and Julius picked the destination, set the meet up point and time, and offered their SUV for 5 of us to pile into.
The first thing I do when I’m getting ready for a climb is to check if my favorite Pinoy Mountaineer has been to our chosen location. More often than not, he has, and his entries serve as one of the most reliable sources of first hand information. I take note of when he wrote the article, and then countercheck with more recent entries from other bloggers to get an idea of what to expect.
This time around, I wasn’t able to read the full guide to Batulao. I haphazardly skimmed through it, looking for descriptive keywords, and once I saw “pleasant hike,” I closed the window. Now I see that I missed some important details like “steep trails” and “wind that can set you off balance.” ? That would’ve been crucial, had more people decided to join us. ✌?
Don’t get me wrong, the hike was pleasant, and it would’ve been more so if not for the endless-summer heat we’re relentlessly being subjected to (thank you, global warming.) Other things came as a surprise though, like how some sections needed to be scaled and/or rappelled by rope, and that this was the most expensive mountain we’d ever had to register for.
Environmental or Territorial Fee?
It had several checkpoints where we had to log our names onto a book and people collected fees for passing through. Our guide knew this and computed for everything in advance, amounting to P220/person. He made the necessary payments for us as we went along. These fees were solely for walking on pieces of property that the locals claim to be stewards of, which would’ve been justified if only they actually took better care of the land.
Instead, the paths from the parking to the jump off were littered, some areas to the point of looking like dump sites. We started our hike just as kids were off to school. A handful of them were munching on snacks as they walked, then disposing of the wrappers whenever and wherever they were done with them. Question: aren’t children taught values and manners in school anymore? Bigger question: aren’t they being taught at home? The biggest question: why would they litter their own neighbourhood? Isn’t it instinctual to keep your surrounding areas clean? Even my dogs know not to $h!t where they lie.
More to Love
Other than that, it was spectacular. The trail was picturesque from each of its 12 peaks, giving different views of the surrounding plains and mountains. I had a special fondness for the Banaba trees that peppered the slopes with their purple blossoms. I’m also happy to report that the dogs of the community appear to be cared for, if their friendliness was an indication. On the other hand, most of them were also very flippant, asking to be petted one second, then barking at us the next. Maybe it’s the tourists that they’re wary of?
The Best Souvenirs
On the way back, our guide Eli offered to pick mangoes with us if we wanted to bring some home. My friend JP had an eco sack, and I emptied my waterproof satchel to accommodate the haul. What a treat to be able to harvest and eat fresh fruit. This farm girl wannabe became very dreamy at the thought of this type of life. ?
One of the things I really look forward to when going on our nature trips is bringing home local produce for very cheap, or sometimes even for free. They had more mangoes there than they knew what to do with, and they sold us a 10-kilo bag of kamote (sweet potato) for P250, which we split among 4. It’s also the start of avocado season, so they had some on hand; but they didn’t look that great yet, and were selling for prices just slightly less than Manila’s. For that, I think I’ll just plan a trip to Rizal where I can get a kilo for P45!
The abundance of our forests is both amazing and frustrating. It can probably feed thousands of mouths, which makes you question: why is our country so poor? Because honestly, with how much our country has to offer, we aren’t and shouldn’t be. (I won’t open a can of worms here, this is surely a topic for some other time, but *ahem* misplaced interests of the powers that be starting at the barangay level *ahem*). ?
If you haven’t already noticed, I love hiking. (You don’t say?!) ? It’s a great way to work up a sweat, allows me to think, question, dream, and bring home fresh crops. ? I’m not gonna give up on you. Here’s another open invite to join us on one of our excursions. Just message and we’ll work it out!
See you in the outdoors! ??