Bayukbok Cave 2: Manalmon Challenge (Part 2)

After that short hike up Mt. Manalmon with our buwis-buhay (death-defying) poses for posterity’s sake, it was time for yet another adventure. From the summit we go down south in the bowels of the mountain that devours (manlalamon) – Bayukbok Cave.

We took on Bayukbok Cave 2 because Cave 1 is closed to the public due to safety per DENR. The idea of spelunking was a thrill in the beginning.  It was a first for me…actually, for the three of us (Dexie, Matet and I). I have no comparison for the experience other than the photos and some stories from the more adventurous friends.

So in the sweltering heat of the almost gone summer, we crossed the hanging bridge and trekked a bit along the sharp limestones to the cave’s opening. Quite frankly, I was kind of expecting a huge cavernous hole on the mountain side gaping. It was a surprise to learn that to get inside Bayukbok Cave, we need to slither our way in. So the expectation has been set. The entrance was so small and tricky that you have to watch your head to avoid hitting sharp rock formations!

After our grand entrance by slitherin’ our way in, we found ourselves in a rather bigger chamber. Finally! at least I can now stand without having to worry about breaking my head or any of those rock formations!

Talking about formations, we found a very provoking one and we made some fun out of it! I have read some other caves have it too but this is my first!

Disclaimer: The succeeding photos are rated SPG (adult supervision is highly encouraged)!

 

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Ron and his face! 

 

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Me and my modest self 😛

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Matet, let’s move on…LOL

The walk through the large chamber was short-lived when we had to exhibit our natural talent for fitting into small spaces (considering my size). There was a passage we thought we could never fit in. Thanks to kuya Michael for having faith! HAHAHA!

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a walk in the park for Ron…

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Let’s get dirty, ladies! 

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Did I mention that this part was coming from below? 

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Ahh, that smile of victory!! 

Oh! I cannot believe I was able to fit in on that hole! I truly must train on such flexibility stunt! And when you think you have had the most challenging ordeal, you are served with another one…a notch higher than the last. So before we lose our wits, if we wouldn’t make it, here are some shots.

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Spelunking pa more!

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Thank you for the lights! I successfully got registered in the photo!

The next stunt was rather difficult. We didn’t have any photos because the space was just too small to maneuver with the gadgets. It would have been nice having a head/helmet mount (maybe next time).  It involved some muddy/slippery ascent. We were only aided with a rope and it was a bit dark even with our headlamps on! It actually gave me the creeps!

After the death-defying ascent, we were bound to descend. My only concern is that there was not much to hold on nor to step on to. Then I learned to use GPS! Yes! GPS as in Gapang Para Safe!  I used my as* and my hands and Kuya Michael’s leg! And then we saw the light!

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We came from the space above Ron’s head. We negotiated our way to where Dexie’s sitting

We ended the journey through the darkness and was greeted with fresh air and bright chamber! It’s not exactly the end yet. We had to scramble some more limestone rocks  before we could reach the surface! And we did albeit being muddy and dirty as hell!

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Almost there! 

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Yes, vegetation! some greens!

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We made it out alive! 

After that spelunking, I was thirsty to do more! I was thinking of Sagada and the Sumaguing Cave. I wonder if that’s something I can conquer one day! Well I guess that’s for me to find out!

The day was slowly closing as the sun hid behind thick cumulus clouds and before we even had the chance to cross the so-called Monkey Bridge, the rain began to pour. When I say pour, it wasn’t just a shower, it was raining cats and dogs! We ended by washing up and packing for home.

Since we came out of Bayukbok Cave 2 alive, here’s our Manalmon Challenge Itinerary and Notes.

5AM –  Baliwag Transit Terminal – Cubao

  • Take the trip bound for Cabanatuan
  • Alight at Brgy. Camias (Kamias), San Miguel, Bulacan
  • Travel time is about 2-3 hours depending on the traffic

7:30 AM – Take the trike to Sitio Madlum

  • There are no other transportation to the Jump-off
  • It’s a 30-minute ride, bumpy ride after the concrete roads end

8 AM – Register/get yourself accounted for

  • Everyone has to sign a waiver, including the guide
  • A guide will be assigned
  •  IMPORTANT: make sure you have a clearance/permit from town office before heading to the registration. This is typically arranged a few days before the intended date of hike. They strictly carry out the No Clearance/No Hike policy. Consider yourself warned to avoid disappointments!
  •  Short briefing from the assigned guide

9 AM – Start the trek

  • Pretty easy trek; the trail has a mild assault to the summit much like a walk in the park.
  • The only challenge is the intense heat of the sun

10:30 – ETA Summit (Mt.Manalmon)

11 AM – You can have lunch at the campsite or start descending and have it at the community area

  • We had ours at the campsite

12:30 PM – Rest

1:30 PM –  start walking to the entrance of Bayukbok Cave 2

2 PM –  Enter the Cave

3 PM – Monkey – Bridge back to the Registration Area

  • We missed this part because of the rain

3:10 PM – Wash up and pack

4:40 PM – Head to Brgy. Camias (Kamias)

5 PM – Bus bound for Cubao

 

The Damage Report

P 117 – Bus fare from Cubao to Camias, San Miguel (P 234 RT)

P 240 – Trike from Camias to Jump-off (Sitio Madlum) (P 480 RT)

P 20 – Madlum Cave Registration

P 10 – Mt.Manalmon Registration fee

P 55 – Lunch; you can pack or cook your own food

P 500 – Guide Fee(s)

  • P 300 – Mt. Manalmon – Standard fee
  • P 200 – Bayukbok Cave 2

Additional Damages

P 10 per gallon – water for shower

P 15 – Soda (Mountain Dew)

P 30 – Additional drinking water

P 30 – Head lamp if you do not have your own

The damage did not so much cost us an arm and a leg. It wasn’t expensive to go outdoors like I used to think. Besides,  even if it does cost so much, the experience is priceless!

At the end of every adventure you will find yourself wanting more. Trust me, there is nothing more addicting than the mountains. They give you that high, both literally and figuratively! Face your fears and live your dreams – go out of your comfort zone!

 

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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!

 

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                        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…

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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.

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Some openings are not usually called doors

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Pensive. where will my dreams take me…I wonder

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mountain scenes will forever be beautiful

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basking in the greatness of God’s creation

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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!

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

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Buwis-buhay pose; overlooking Madlum River

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squint pa more! 

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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.

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This was before lunch happened

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Lunch: Longganisa, sisig, kinilaw na puso ng saging and shrimps from Kuya Michael

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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!

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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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