Hamon ng Manalmon (Manalmon Challenge)
Caution: this is a long post
At 196+ MASL (meters above sea level), Mt. Manalmon stands proudly within the vicinity of the Biak-na-Bato National Park in San Miguel, Bulacan. One would ask – “What’s the challenge if it’s just barely 200 MASL?” The answer? Well that’s for you to find out! 😛
So we were again subject to an aborted hike (well, not that nothing happened). This time it was supposed to be a stairways challenge to Mt. Pinagbanderahan in Atimonan, Quezon. There was that unpredictable weather to contend with that eventually brought us to Mt. Manalmon. It was merely a hill at 196+ MASL if you want to go technical about it. Pinoy Mountaineer rated it as a minor climb with a difficulty level of 2/9. That’s 2 out of 9! (pretty cocky for a beginner, LOL).
The Terminal Traverse
The first trip to Cabanatuan is said to be at 5AM. I usually opt to take the Pampanga-Tarlac route when I visit my hometown in Nueva Ecija, hence, the lack of familiarity.
I met Dexie (my next-door neighbor) at around 4AM. We picked up Matet along Ayala Avenue on our way to Cubao.
The traverse was uneventful until we reached the bus terminal. We were supposed to meet Ron, the climb’s organizer in Tabang, Guiginto in Bulacan. Our dilemma at the time was whether to alight at Tabang Exit of the Expressway or should we be picking him up at the exit point? To cut the long story short after some phone calls here and there, we boarded a Cabanatuan-bound bus and picked up Ron at the Sta. Rita Exit instead. We nearly took the ordinary bus to Baliwag, Bulacan and dropping off at Tabang Exit. Would have been a longer trip!
The Second Leg – Off to the Jump-off!
We flagged not a cab but a trike to the major jump-off when we arrived in Camias, San Miguel, Bulacan. There is no other way to get there unless you have your own ride. It was a bumpy (to the highest level) 30-minute ride to Sitio Madlum passing by a couple of villages. We registered and signed the waivers when we reached jump-off.
One thing I learned recently – don’t get yourself killed. In case you do, at least let someone know so they can pick your body up (morbid thoughts)! I am not really a fan of signing logbooks and guest lists but hey! I don’t mind getting accounted for when some sh*t hits the fan one day!
A guide from the community will be assigned. It is mandatory so don’t skip it! Besides, Matet and I have learned our first rookie lesson in Mt. Batulao – get a guide! Kuya Michael was nice. He was very patient and well trained!
Some status review
- Registration – Checked
- Waiver signed – Checked
- Guide assigned – Checked
- Hike gears – Checked
Looked like we’re ready to hit the trail!
The Obstacle Course
The trek started with a short hike just above the registration center. They were mostly concrete steps carved along the contours of the mountain slope. And then this…
It’s never too late to say no…but heck will I say NO! Is say GO!
Madlum Cave (better known as Manalmon Cave) is a small cave with several chambers. We passed through this cave to reach the other side of the rocks where the river is.
Some openings are not usually called doors
A larger chamber in the Manalmon Cave
Trivia: Manalmon Cave (Madlum) was the location set for the GMA TV series “Mulawin“.
After a brief negotiation with the rocks and some openings, we had to carefully descend through sharp rocks until we reached the Madlum riverbank.
The water was not too deep to cross. The riverbed is made mostly of large rocks. Because it was a very fine day, I decided to get wet to cool off. I did not realize that some rocks roll underneath, plus they’re slippery too! The water was tamed just like the weather. There were some rocks to step on to cross the river without getting soaked. So yes, you can keep those shoes dry (but I preferred to get my sandals wet! hahaha)
The trail was an easy one after the river crossing. Manalmon has a wide trail leading to the summit with occasional assaults that did not prove to be a challenge (that’s coming from my only comparison – Mt. Batulao). There are two peaks said Kuya Michael. Both of them are huge rocks. We reached first one around 9AM.
The rocky peak of Mt. Manalmon (Peak 1)
The Story of Mt. Manalmon
These rocks made the setting for the folklore…the story behind the name.
Mt. Manalmon came from the word manlalamon, a local term referring to a being that devours. Quite literally as the folklore describes the story of a love affair…of deceit and karma. So here goes Kuya Michael’s story.
There was once a couple engaged to be married in a little town downhill. In search for food for their wedding feast, the groom decided to hunt in the wilderness and eventually made it to the summit. The village folks believed that the summit is ruled by goddesses and fairies yet the groom decided to hunt and killed a mighty deer. Incidentally, the deer was a friend of one of the goddesses of the mountain so she gave him a lesson. The ground devoured him until half of his body has been buried in the rocks.
Meanwhile, worry has taken the best of the bride so she searched the wilderness and the mountains until she found the groom half buried in the rocks. The bride wept and profusely ask for forgiveness. The goddess was kind enough to forgive in one condition, that the bride offers her seven jars of betel nut juice by sundown.
In the name of love, the bride quickly went to the village and tried to fill 7 jars of betel nut juice. They gathered all that they can with the last jar lacking a bucket full. Running out of time, the bride filled the last jar with a bucket of water and went up the mountain to make her peace offering.
One jar after another poured over and around the groom. As the jars were poured, the groom’s body slowly rose from the rocks releasing him. As the last jar was emptied, the ground shook and devoured the groom. The goddess appeared angrily. She was tricked with the last jar! As a consequence, she let the mountain devour the groom completely. The bride, having tricked the goddess, turned into a bird and will forever seek her love in the mountains…She calls on her love “wan-koo” (Juan ko/my Juan).
News came over the village and later called the mountain as manlalamon. As time goes by it was called Manalmon.
After the storytelling from Kuya Michael, it’s time for some more photo-opps!
Pensive. where will my dreams take me…I wonder
mountain scenes will forever be beautiful
basking in the greatness of God’s creation
Opps! Quota na sa emote hahaha
After having our fill of selfies and moments-at-the-summit shots, we head on to the second peak. They were right! The view from the top is pretty damn good! Love-leh selfies and summit shots once again!
Groupie at the summit (L-R: Me, Dexie, Matet and Ron)
Buwis-buhay pose; overlooking Madlum River
squint pa more!
Oh look! We crossed that river!
We decided to head down the camp site to have our lunch when campers started coming up the summit.
This was before lunch happened
Lunch: Longganisa, sisig, kinilaw na puso ng saging and shrimps from Kuya Michael
Galit-galit muna; kamayan portion
What’s best after a sumptuous mean? – Siesta under a huge tree! Siesta was out of the agenda because we were on the roll!
It would have been nice to sleep on those branches!
They called Manalmon a hill with no thrill. I would rather say it was a nice hike because you have a good company who knows how to have fun.
You don’t always have to conquer the mountain. Sometimes all you need is to conquer yourself, your inner demons…shake off the negativity and bask in the great outdoors! Don’t just sit there reading my adventures and staring at my photos. Go outdoors and experience it yourself!
Bayukbok Cave 2 exploration is coming soon!
Complete Mt. Manalmon and Bayukbok Itinerary and Damage Report