Mt Irid: A silent prayer of a broken heart

mt irid

Mt. Irid | Sitio Sadlak | Brgy. Sta. Ines, Tanay, Rizal
10.01.2016 – 10.02.2016

Where do broken hearts go?…


After Mace and “That thing called Tadhana” inspired all the broken hearts to head north to Sagada, mine went east…

I was in the middled of letting go…of releasing the anguish and sorrows of a broken heart. And right when I was trying to hold on to my greater sanity I met 12 souls who walked with me to a higher ground…to a more peaceful heart.

Team Bes

12 souls, 1 Broken: Fresh Pa!

The sleepy two-hour jeepney trip to Brgy. Sta. Ines in Tanay via Cogeo was one of those peaceful journeys I’ve been. The morning chill of the provincial air and the scent of a rural day break had me hypnotized. My aching heart was brought back to life by the colors of a breaking dawn – shades of red, pink and purple beautifully painted on a blanket of low clouds…

The show of morning colors which reminded me that there was more after the breaking ended as we dived deep under the sea of clouds. Verdant hills and a sleepy community welcomed the 13 souls (one broken). Before we reached Brgy. Sta. Ines, the trail head of Mt. Irid, the monster we called jeep crossed about seven(7) rivers. Yes, there is no other way but to cross ‘em…like getting over a breaking, you don’t go around it…you cross over no matter what.

monster jeep

The monster jeep crossing the river


Team Bes, hiking with a purpose

Like any other mountain, we registered and made ourselves accounted for. When the dues were settled and guides secured, it was time to start walking…but no one ever starts with an empty tummy. The store across the street offers rice porridge with hard-boiled egg at P 15 a bowl. It was warm and filling. Make it hot and savory with a blend of home-made garlic chips and chilli oil!


Lugaw with egg – fuel for the hike

From the barangay center the journey to Sitio Sadlak was an introduction to what was to be the hardest hike to-date. It’s like breaking my heart all over again. This time it’s not the heart but the knees and legs (LOL). The trail was peppered by river crossings [(eleven (11)] so get ready with the most suitable footwear, preferably those that can be worn wet.




Flip flops aren’t the best footwear…I swear!






Sitio Kinabuan and its Icy Waterfalls

I stopped drying my eyes off of the pain of being broken. This time I was all wet and cold from all the rivers I’ve crossed. We reached Sitio Kinabuan where we had lunch by the waterfalls.


The water was cold…and the longer you were in the water, you get used to it like how my heart has gotten used to that thing called pain. Lunch, while they had theirs on plates and wares, I was digging in on a cup of noodles with a pair of chopsticks and they were laughing at my oddity (who would have thought of packing chopsticks on a hike?)


My preferred portion of the falls

Getting over a breaking really needs focus and balance…like balancing rocks by the waterfalls. How far would you go…how high would your tower be? In the end, no matter how great your towers are, there is that someone who would dare to break them down so your heart can love again…


rock balancing

After lunch we started the final stretch to Sitio Sadlak, our camp site before assaulting the summit early the following morning.

Sunshine was so intense that river crossings became welcome refreshments. After the 11th river, comes the steep assault. It was a test, a re-acquaintance to the feeling of moving forward and healing. The pain in every stride was burning all the happy thoughts and memories. Each step was a reminder of how I got broken…why I was here breaking bones and burning lungs?!


Reaching a flat surface high above isn’t as easy. My heart was racing and my lungs, they just can’t keep up! I threw up a couple of times like how I did trying to accept the fallout…But this was me trying to move on…have I? Oh well, they say it was just altitude sickness.  Mt. Irid was, after all the highest I’ve been.

We stopped for a bit to recover and to take part on another healing. We brought seedlings of fruit-bearing trees to plant. It was one of the requirements when hiking Mt. Irid. That’s 13 new trees we can revisit say 3 or 5 years later.


This was the point when I realized how high we’ve come.



Healing…planting for the future

A few more huff and puff under the scorching heat of the sun I noticed something dark and round sticking pretty snug between the last two stubby fingers of my left foot. High above the mountain I was oblivious of its presence…IT! hahaha…with the 11 rivers we crossed it has managed to cling to my aching feet and merrily fed itself to satisfaction! Yes, when I thought I got away from them, I was proven wrong…What am I talking about? Limatiks or commonly known as blood leeches. I got one and fed it to satisfaction. I was too grossed out to take a photo! (sorry).

And just when you thought you were almost there, muscle cramp steels your thunder! I walked-paused-walked (pretty much like crawling) my way to Sitio Sadlak high above the mountain with a stunning view of the summits of Mt. Irid and Tukduang Banoi. 




Reaching that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! That’s how I felt when my butt finally found it’s place on a rock under a mighty tree (not sure what tree) beside a makeshift water fountain (yes, spring water fountain).

Nakakapagod magmahal! (Loving is just too tiresome!) pero mas nakakapagod mag move on (but it’s more exhausting to move on from a breaking). I slept pretty soundly on the bamboo bench after washing up. When I woke, it was time to put up the tents! We raised five tents for thirteen guys before the afternoon rain spoiled the outdoor evening plans. The sky was empathizing with me…for reals? It rained like there’s really no tomorrow…



Faith, our greatest ally really works miracles. Our camp site has a bunk house for guides and porters who moves food from one village to another across mountains. The couple who owns the bunk house was gracious enough to have us as guests for the night while the rain continuously pounded the mountain top.

As we took refuge under the bunk house, we shared the floor (literally) and had a merry little dinner  of adobo and canned tuna.


Dinner is served!

The rain had fun making love with the mountain that we decided to leave everything to the almighty God and for Him to bless our guides to make the best judgment…Then we all tucked our selves under anything we find warm in all corners of the bunk house.

At around past 1 in the morning I found myself shaking under the blanket. Apparently, the rain somehow has gotten tired of dancing with the mountains and had given way for our ascent to the summit. I felt the hands of God there who has granted my heart to heal in his grand creation.

We packed our bags with the essentials, particularly drinking water. I had a liter…I could’ve brought more. My dry bag had, apart from a liter of water had jellies chocolates and bread. We prayed to the Almighty to guide our expedition because the trail could be wet and slippery…


Hiking in the dark…Head lamp is a must!


I was wearing trail shoes because my experience on the first day with flip flops wasn’t as good as I hoped it could be. So we threaded the wet and muddy trail (if it was even a trail).  It felt like we were walking on a waterway as every step makes a sloshing sound with the combination of water and mud!

It was dark. It was slippery. It was everything you would fear when you’re outdoors. I held on all things I can get a hold of because if I don’t, I would end up either with a broken neck or better yet  dead with a crushed skull.

My journey to the summit of Mt. Irid was like my heart’s path to recovery – painfully beautiful. It demanded a lot of self-preserving moves that taught me to trust God and his plans and to trust the people around me because they were with me in this journey and that nobody would be left behind…



Close to the summit



Pitcher Plant!

The trail was steep, wet, muddy and slippery. I faced ravines in the dark trusting that the roots and branches next to me were God’s hands that will save me if I fall. It wasn’t easy but it was not impossible either. I held on to something more powerful…I held on to the hope that one day I will meet the one brave enough to break my walls and mend my brokenness.


The neighboring mountains of Mt. Irid



The summit view is totally worth the EFFORT!


The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love – Hubert Humphrey



I made it to the summit. I may have fallen behind a number of times, slipped on the muddy trail one too many but I survived Mt. Irid – my first major hike. Every step, each fall I made and each time my heart skipped a beat stepping and crawling on sharp rocky edges and holes were my prayers. They’ve been my bubbles of hope…my inspiration for moving forward.



Nagmahal, Nasaktan, Na-survive ang Mt. Irid!
(Fell in love, have been broken – Survived Mt. Irid)

Mt. Irid
Sitio Sadlak, Sta. Ines
Tanay, Rizal
1,469+ MASL
Difficulty Level – 6/9 (Major Climb)

2 Days of adventure (October 1-2, 2016)
4 Hours from the trail head to Sitio Sadlak
5 Hours ascent from the camp site to the summit
4 hours to descend from the summit (back to Sitio Sadlak)
22 river crossings (11×2 = 22)

Arrived in Cubao at around 10PM in the evening…

Tired yet happy…satisfied and peaceful.

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Photo Credits:

Unmarked photos borrowed from:
PM Valera Garcia | Louie Diola |Otep Rey-Hipolito | Julios Terante | Keith Calansingin | Ryan Eric Figueroa

Manalmon Challenge (Part 1)

Manalmon Challenge

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!


manalmon registration

                        Sign here (logbook) and here (waiver)…be safe and get accounted for!


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…

manalmon cave

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

manalmon caves

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.

madlum river

Madlum River

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!

summit groupie

Groupie at the summit (L-R: Me, Dexie, Matet and Ron)


Buwis-buhay pose; overlooking Madlum River

summit groupie 3

squint pa more! 

summit groupie 2

my summit

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

lunch 1

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!

tree of life 2

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

sign 3

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!)


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…


Doro, The Explorer!

batulao 5

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!

peak 5

Peak 5

top of the world

Yes, I am the king of the World! 


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


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!


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)!


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


Hello, Sunburn!!!


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


Selfie pa more!


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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