Mt. Batulao and chasing chances

Mt. Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas – It was supposed to be easy, I was told. That it was a beginner’s sandbox for greater heights…and then “change” came!

Rookies at heart and infants in experience, we were supposed to take the weekend to the sky via one of the trios of Rizal – Mt. Pamitinan. It was an attempt to somewhat answer my what-ifs…my internal battles with my demons and monsters…a validation of my limits…or rather my being limitless…

Like any other plans we were bound to get a head-on collision with a train called ‘Change‘. Yes, the unassuming Mt. Pamitinan which has recently been a nest of my impending rendezvous with my inner fears faded in the dark. A mountaineer friend wasn’t familiar with Pamitinan suggested Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas. I heard about it from other friends and their stories were inspiring. So in a heart’s beat I signed the deal not knowing how much of my life I was willing to gamble.

Change‘ that hit me head-on definitely did not kill me. I was in for more collisions! The night was beginning to roll when I received a note that “Lele“, our certified mountaineer was sick and couldn’t go with us. After all the excitement and preparations (not that much really!), I was willing to chase the chance – I was going no matter what.

At 4am Matet and I were seated on the second row of a San Agustin Bus bound for Nasugbu. We were armed with our trail food (jellyace, nuts and chocolates), water (2L), Lele’s Itinerary and a ton of courage! We were chasing this chance to summit a mountain 811+ (MASL)meters above sea level!

We arrived in Batulao (KC Hillcrest Golf Club), the portal to the Mt. Batulao jump-off. Lele’s itinerary says to stretch and walk to the real jump-off point. I was too excited last Saturday night that I did not get to sleep. I read blogs about romancing Mt. Batulao.  Most of them said to ride a trike to the jump-off. And true enough, it was a good idea to scrap the walking option! The jump-off was FAR from a walking distance (at least from a rookie’s standpoint)! It was a bumpy ride at around six (6) in the morning.

Lesson Number 1 – Ask for a Guide

We registered in the Barangay’s log book for us to be accounted for for when ‘change’ decides to chase us back.  No fees were collected so we head on up the hill until we realized that we don’t exactly know where to start and our pride got the best of us…we did not go back and played with our chances…we found a trail!  (no idea which trail we followed until probably Peak 5 or 6)

Lesson Number 2 – Do not ignore the bamboo poles

At the registration table, the kid manning the log book offered bamboo poles at P 10 a piece and we declined (it wasn’t in Lele’s itinerary LOL). While we were taking the scenic and rural dirt road leading somewhere, a couple of kids again offered poles and we politely declined (lakas ng loob eh!)

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The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao

The Chase Goes on

We followed the yellow brick road! Well, it wasn’t exactly yellow! It was brown with towering talahib on both sides! The trail was well-marked and it would almost be impossible to be lost. It was a rolling terrain…

dora

Doro, The Explorer!

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It is not a race. Easy pace…stop and enjoy the view

Climbing Batulao is like life. It’s not always a rolling hill and cool mountain breeze. Sometimes, you get to meet that cliff that will challenge your heart – will you quit or will you get past that steep climb? I grabbed on tight to the rope, scaled the loose ground and lift myself up one knot at a time…because I did not come to quit, I came to climb a mountain!

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Peak 5

top of the world

Yes, I am the king of the World! 

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There is no other way but forward! Selfi-selfie sa bundok!

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Are we there yet? Contemplating on a rock…

It felt good, looking back at the trail we’ve been through. Nobody ever said it is good to simply forget what has passed. What I’ll say is to not forget the lessons of the past and move forward…upward!

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Look what we’ve been through!

After about three (3) rope segments we finally made it! Peak 12 from the new trail but more popularly known as Camp 10 from the Old Trail! Regardless of the trail used to reach the summit, we made it! We actually did!…without a (tour)guide! It was about 10 in the morning and we were at 811 MASL (meters above sea level)!

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Oh! Camp 10 na…ang taba ko pa din! (I’m still fat!)

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Hello, Sunburn!!!

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Other mountains of Batangas behind us! (sige, squint pa!)

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Selfie pa more!

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emoterong mamumundok!

Customary selfies and the 360º view of Cavite and Batangas consumed our time at the summit. It was a fulfilling morning for us. We took too many chances to be at 811 MASL. The feeling fueled our desire to chase more chances…even if it take us higher than Batulao’s Camp 10.

The Descent

Climbing a mountain’s summit is one thing, descending is another! We intended to  have lunch in Mahogany Market so we started the trek down around 10:15 AM. Matet negotiated with the couple we met in one of the huts along the new trail so we can join them when they return to the jump off.  They have a guide, Kuya Alex. He led us to another trail which we were thankful of.  The sun rays were biting and sucking on our fleeting energy. The lush forest trail was much appreciated. Besides, there were a lot of bamboo and branches to hold on to for support.

When we were going against gravity trying to reach the summit it felt hard and tasking. Going along with gravity would have been easy if we were simply going to roll down the slopes! Reality check: We were not rolling down the hills, unless we want to check-in in a morgue! We then realized how a bamboo pole would have been pretty darn useful! Sadly, regret is always, always in the end!

Going down the mountain wasn’t as easy! Like I said, it could have been mitigated if we listened. To sum up our descent, I managed to slip and gain some minor dermal abrasions on my right knee and some excruciating episodes of muscle cramps (talk about skipping the stretching). I should have known better…after all, it’s kind of the same principle when running!

We finally made it back to the village. I was nearly dehydrated.  The locals were kind. They let me down a glass (or make it two) of cold water. We took a shower in a property at the Hillcrest gate before heading off home.

What about lunch at the Mahogany Market? We totally scrapped it when we couldn’t get a ride! We waited, but that chance was something to let go of because we were hungry. We ended up having lunch (err…dinner) at Amber’s Golden Plate in Makati!

How to get there

  1. Take bus bound for Nasugbu, Batangas – now you have a couple of option (A) San Agustin Bus in EDSA-Taft Avenue, (B) Bus Terminal in Coastal Mall
  2. Tell the conductor that you are going to Mt. Batulao or just simply say Batulao and they’ll drop you off in front of Hillcrest Golf Club gate
  3. From Hillcrest gate you can walk to the jump-off or flag a tricycle
  4. Register in the Barangay logbook

Here’s Lele’s Itinerary that we tried to follow 🙂

Nasugbu, Batangas
Jump-off point: Evercrest Golf Course, Nasugbu
LLA: 14.0408 N 120.8011 E 811 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 3 with 60-70 degrees assault

0330 Meet up at Mcdo EDSA Cor Taft Ave. (dulo ng MRT)

0400 shove off going to Nasugbu (fare is 105 php)

0630 arrival at Evercrest (now KC Hillcrest) and stretching

0700 shove off to the mountain (25 php registration 1.)

0800 Must reach the foot hill

0830 must reach the Fork trail and proceed to old trail

0900 Camp 1 (30 registration)

0930 reach summit  and rest

1000 shove off to new trail

1030 Must reach camp 1 ( 30 php registration)

1130 back at Evercrest for wash up (20 Php)

1200 shove off to Mahogany for  Bulalo lunch

1300 shove off back to Manila (105 Php)

1500 Homebound

Total Damage – P 425

  • Bus fare from EDSA to Hillcrest and vise versa – P 210 (round trip)
  • Tricycle from Hillcrest to Jump-off – P 30 per person (P 60 – round trip)
  • Guide fee – P 400 standard
  • Buko Juice at Camp 11 (I think) – P 25
    • optional, but it was refreshing
  • Turon – (P10 a piece)
  • Shower – P 25
  •  Fee in New Trail – P 30

i am batulao

 

So, here I am… I made some choices. Some were good while some were just dumb. The thing is, these choices made  me who I am today and I have no regrets except for the chances I didn’t take. What I learned is, you just have to chase those chances while you can. Who knows, you might end up soaring higher than 811 Meters Above Sea Level!

Chase your chances to the summit! Believe me, it is not lonely up there!

 

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Weekend wanderlust: Taal, a glimpse of history

basilica of st martin de tours

I was taught that Taal is the smallest active volcano when I was learning my geography via Sibika at Kultura.  When I was studying Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika (HeKaSi), I learned that Taal is a volcano inside a volcano.  According to my teachers, the lake surrounding the existing volcano is the original crater. Now that I am working, I discovered the town called Taal in the province of Batangas.

It was a supposed to be a Saturday trip but the good o’l weather went bad.  It rained so hard that I had to rethink my plan to satisfy my wanderlust. The thinking process alone wore me out.  I woke up the morning after and marveled at the sky. Hints of golden sun rays were beginning to illuminate the horizon.  I took a bath and packed Nikkie, iPpie and Serge.

How to get to Taal, Batangas

The heat of the sun against my brown skin was refreshing after a somehow rainy Saturday.  I took a jeepney ride to LRT Gil Puyat Station along Taft Avenue (Buendia).  A friend from Taal told me to take the Ceres Bus (her fave bus to her hometown) going to Lipa City (bus stop).  At Lipa City, take a jeepney ride going to Lemery, Batangas and have the driver drop you off in front of the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, commonly known as “Simbahan ng Taal“.

Sounds easy, right?  But wait! I was in a bit of a hurry.  I saw a JAM Liner heading to Lemery (with a sub-sign “Taal”) so I figured it would be easier since I won’t have to transfer to a jeepney. On the bus, I was told that the bus route won’t pass by the town proper. Yikes! We were already traversing the length of the Skyway so I have no choice.  Another unfortunate event:  I was told to take the bus passing through the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Start Toll to make the travel time to Lipa fast and easy.  My bus got off the expressway going to Torbina in Laguna passing through Sto. Tomas, Batangas.  It was a butt-numbing experience!

When we finally passed by Lipa City it was a smooth ride going up the winding highway through the towns of Cuenca, Tawilisan and some other places I could not even remember.  I enjoyed the scenery up the mountain though.  I was let off the bus when the street forked at a Flying V gas station.

The Grand Walk-a-thon

I thought of whether flagging a tricycle to the town proper or to take the jeepney ride.  The weather was not too sunny with a refreshing breeze so I decided to walk.  I can see some rooftops from afar.“It couldn’t be that far” I told myself.  After 15 minutes of walking, the sun began to wear me off as beads of sweat started to form all over my body and I was craving for more cold breeze that miraculously vanished.  My watch told me it was less than an hour before noon and I haven’t got a clue as to where I am!

I passed by an increasing number of butterfly daggers (balisong) stalls so I must be close.  And true enough, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Welcome to Taal! The Balisong and Barong Tagalog Capital of the Philippines

One of the reasons why I came to Taal was to see old houses and the Basilica.  I am a fan of the old world.  Quite contrasting – old world against my interest and love for technology. Traveling fuses my contrasting interests.

Just like Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), I followed the yellow brick road (the yellow lined road in my case ^_^).  It led me to Taal Public Market.  They were not kidding when they claimed being the  “Barong” capital!  There was a certain street lined with old houses that displays well-made barongs and gowns! Such a pity I wasn’t able to take photos because seriously, I was starving!

For a moment I stopped feeling hungry when I saw the top of an old structure not far away!  As got closer I felt happy! I found the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours.  I’ve read about it in many blogs before actually seeing it in my very own eyes.  It was magnificently OLD! and HUGE!

 

The Basilica of St. Martin of Tours

The church stands magnificently at the top of a hill making it more grand.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of a cross at the top like most of the catholic churches I know.

 

The facade is huge and slightly resembled St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

There is no doubt that it has been a standing witness to the transformation of the society around it.  The walls were tarnished but the design was timeless…classic if you will. When you enter the grand doors you’ll be transported into a different world.

I came in panting and desperately needing air and water.  But since it is a public place I restrained myself and pretended to be cool and “normal”.  The floor is made of terra cotta which gave a warm tone contrary to the usual cold tiles or marble floors.  The corners and ceiling embellishments are ornate and artistic.

The chandeliers are definitely a winner.  It’s not like the grand chandeliers with crystals and gold.  These are wrought irons that has a lot  more character.

I love the rustic look and feel of these chandeliers and the bright colors of the stained glass windows.  It is sad though that the windows weren’t well maintained especially those on the structure’s facade.

The glass window panes from Baclayon Church in Bohol still holds my heart when it comes to stained glass arts.

The Basilica, being an old house of worship still sports the traditional elevated pulpit where the celebrant of the Eucharist usually address his flock of faithfuls during his homily.

 

Being the largest catholic church in the land, each wing seems to be a smaller church or a chapel.

The right wing/chamber ‘s altar
Minor altar of the right chamber.
The left chamber

My timing was a bit disappointing.  I came when there’s a major restoration going on inside the church. You may have noticed the scaffolding from the photo above.  The biggest disappointment was the huge contraption right in the middle reaching the dome ceiling of the church.

The biggest eye sore at the time.
 

From the end of the center aisle the huge contraption obscures the view of the grand altar. You have to go around or under it. The hidden altar is lavished by gold and silver arts.

Notice the masonic symbol at the top of a mini dome.

The all seeing eye looking over the faithfuls.  It made me remember Nicholas Cage and his quest for the National Treasures as well as Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon’s theory that the Illuminati has penetrated the masonic organization as evidenced by the all seeing eye symbol.

With all the religious stuff I’ve seen everywhere around the church, the highlight would have been me sharing something to an old lady asking for help.  It wasn’t much but it felt good because she accepted it wholeheartedly.  She smiled with glee and thanked me profusely as if I gave her a bag of gems.

It rained so hard I couldn’t go out and I was starving.  I did not have breakfast and it was past the lunch hour. Aside from worrying about my rumbling tummy, I felt the call of mother nature! I need to pee and I can’t seem to find the rest room.  My bladder was about to burst and my stomach really needed something to digest. Small to large beads of sweat were dripping from my forehead and all over.  My shirt felt like a wet towel and it was really uncomfortable. After the countless times I’ve circled the entire church while praying to God to show me the path to a rest room, I had a glimpse of a wooden door leading outside a garden.  There was an arrow pointing to the place I needed. God was listening after all. It was really a nice and clean rest room.  I drained my bladder and dried myself using the already wet shirt I was wearing.  I put on a jersey shirt.

After the rain stopped I took these photos:

An imposing facade

The sun came shining again after the rain. The temperature went up pretty high you don’t want to spend a second under the sun. I was hoping to try tapang Taal for lunch.  A lot of bloggers recommended trying the native dish but I was too tired to roam around town looking for it.  I ended up having spicy hotdog sandwich from 7-11 for lunch.

After lunch it was time to see the old houses.  I started at the plaza between the town hall and the church.

Hall of the Municipal Government of Taal, Batangas

This reminded me of home.  Science City of Munoz kept the Rizal monument even after the renovation and modernization of the facility.  Well, anyway, their town hall really looked small and goes along with the theme of the place.

Going around town made me see these houses.

Old stone houses (bahay na bato) are composed of a concrete or stoned ground floor and wooden planks on the second floor.

Casa Punzalan  is one of the heritage houses that was converted into a hotel managed by the government.

If you intend to stay in town for the night, you should consider calling Casa Punzalan first to ensure that you have a place to stay while you’re in town.

Ylagan-De la Rosa Ancestral House

It would have been best if these houses were open.  Unfortunately I came in on a Sunday.

Here are some other places I’ve been in Taal.

Rizal College of Taal sits right beside the Basilica.

Just before you leave the Basilica, you will see Escuela Pia.  It used to be a school during the glory days of the Spanish Empire.  It is now the Taal Cultural Center.

Taal Cultural Center, formerly Escuela Pia

Here’s the historical marker inscription translated in English from WOWBatangas.com.

 Escuela Pia is a school supervised by the church and was named after the congregation established by San Jose of Calansanz, during the 17th century. Agustinian priests constructed this convent that which later became school for underpriveledged Taal youth.

The present edifice was built through the effort of P. Aniceto Aparicio in 1885. This Escuela Pia had become the central school during the American regime.

In addition, the restoration of Escuela Pia building, which is considered to be one of the oldest eductional institutions in the country, was initiated by Taal Arts and Culture Movement Inc. This is also in cooperation with National Historical Institute.

The old neighborhood.

Caring for these living historical sites can be difficult. I guess we needed everyone to learn how to care for these treasures.

It’s sad that some of these functional artifacts did not survive the changes.
One last look before I leave town.

It was one heck of an experience taking my pair of foot to Taal, Batangas.  When my butt finally met the soft yet strong seat of a jeepney heading to Lipa City, I felt my ankles and joints hurt.  It was a long day but it was all worth it.  I was meaning to visit the Shrine of our Lady of Caysasay and the miraculous spring but I ran out of time.  I was told these places are just a tricycle ride away.  I looked at my watch and it was already past the hour of four.  Taking my cue from the time consumed to get to Taal, I wouldn’t want to be on the road in the dark.  The jeepney route passes through zigzag roads up and down the mountain.

I will definitely come back.

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