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! ūüėõ

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 Р 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

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Mampurog River: A first taste of Bicolandia

Last September, before the remaining¬†drop of sanity was whisked away by the year-end madness from work, I kissed the maiden of the Southern Tagalog… and I was captivated by sheer simplicity…

A friend was taking her soon-to-be husband (now they’re married) to meet her family. ¬†I got to hitch and invade the family’s intimate moment and funnily mistaken as the groom several times since I stepped my foot on the soils of Daet, Camarines Norte.

philtranco terminal

Welcome to Daet, Camarines Norte
(in photo) Philtranco Bus Station

We left the Philtranco Bus Station in Pasay City early in the morning and went through the long and very winding road the entire day before alighting at the last stop with the fleeting light of the day as a welcome salvo. We flagged a tricycle to deliver us to our home away from home.

When the morning light broke the darkness, I found myself basking in a misty rural view. I was in a quaint little house in the middle of a coconut jungle. After jolting sleep out of the bloodstream with some dark elixir, it was time to discover the wonders of Daet, Camarines Norte.

Discovering Daet, we started with our ride. We called for Grab Car…

grabcar daet

Grab Car simply means grab a carabao ūüėõ

Who would have though we can go Grab in the middle of this jungle? It was fun riding a carabao cart. Navigating the complex maze of coconut trees and unknown shrubs can be very confusing. But thanks to this trusted carabao cart, we managed to arrive at the coconut farm.


¬†Coconut is as fresh as ever! Picked from the tree and cut open to perfection! You can’t get anything more fresh than this one! I’ve had the most filling morning!

After getting ourselves literally high on coconut goodies, we took another carabao ride back. This time we are off to get some refreshing dip at Camarines Norte’s¬†river!


Not a very long time ago I’ve conquered the rapids (as if it was something to battle with) of Magdalena in Laguna.
(in photo) Mampurog, San Lorenzo Ruiz, Camarines Norte 

Mampurog River is situated at the nearby town of San Lorenzo. It’s just a jeepney ride (P 10) to the jump off. We walked our way into the dirt road and down a small stairway leading to¬†the river.


The river is clean. Probably one of the cleanest in the country for all I know. It is refreshingly cold minus the slimy scent. There are nipa huts with tables and benches that you can rent (we did not bother to ask how much). ¬†We only brought ourselves and our wallet, hence, there is no need for a hut. The big boulders are enough! ūüėÄ (kuripot¬†mode)

miming sa river

Downstream, the water is calm and deep enough for a non-swimmer like me to take a plunge.  The local kids were rather more daring doing mini cliff diving on the other side of the river.


Upstream, where bigger boulders are obstructing the waterway, creates white water rapids and sitting in a secure slot makes a perfect outdoor jacuzzi. If you are not as careful…or rather playful you may have to hold on to something before you get carried away! Yes, I mean it literally. ūüėõ

joseph and the gush

But if you manage to rule over the rapids, you will get that peace and serenity.


Ahh…Zen mode…Ohmmm…

rock balancing

My first take at rock balancing

I came to learn about rock balancing on my first waterfall experience in Rizal, the home of Rock Balancing Philippines. Rock balancing is a good exercise of both the body and the mind. It takes a big deal of concentration, focus and balance accompanied with proper breathing and good reflexes (just imagine how painful it is when these river stones hit your feet)!

When it was time to dry, we just have to pick up our stuff and head straight out on the road.


Scratch from the bucket list: Toploading

There is no better way of drying our river-soaked selves than riding home top loading style! We insisted on this endeavor only for the sake of scratching it off from the bucket list! The jeepney was barely full and yet we were up on the roof enjoying a 360-degree view of the rural scenery!

¬†In this State of 7, 107 islands, water is the universal tourism flavor. While the country can boast on many shores of paradise quality, its inland water bodies are not far behind. I have no doubt that sometime in the near future, as Daet, the center of Camarines Norte will become a gateway to Bicol’s seemingly limitless flavor. With that, I am thankful that I get to taste it before the world have a glimpse of it! I just hope that this gem in the forefront of Bicolandia doesn’t get exploited. One day I want to return and still experience nature at its best!

More Water, More Fun! Explore the Philippines!

Mampurog River…Daet…Bicol! I shall return! (probably this May 2016) ^-^

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