Tuesday, May 1, 2012

EMPE LIGHT Adventure in Mt. Manalmon

Dear Mt. Manalmon,

Last March 4 and 5, yours truly and nine others went to conquer you personally. We sought for adventure. Alas, we indeed had a memorable adventure. Even though your quite short for a mountain (just 198 MASL), you have provided a lot of excitement for our group, which was later dubbed as EMPE LIGHT short for Explore Mountains. Preserve Environment. League of Independent, God-fearing, Hospitable Trekkers. Here's what transpired during those two days.

"Five Star Hotel"

Our meet-up place was the Five Star Terminal in Cubao because we will ride a Cabanatuan bound bus en route to San Miguel, Bulacan. The first was to arrive was Francis. He was standing near the personnel booth of the said bus station when I arrived. Afterwards, Randy came just moments when I greeted Francis. Then I left them to eat in a nearby convenience store. When I came back I saw four girls* (Mhae, Iris, Luisa and MJ) with Francis and Randy. Then I asked for Red and they pointed me outside where Red was smoking his cigarette. Thirty minutes later, Noli and Oliver had arrived.

*The girls met prior in Pioneer, Mandaluyong. They rode a taxi, One of them (just call her Daldalita) instructed the driver to drive them to Cubao. Asked where in Cubao, she promptly answered Five Star Hotel to which the driver responded that it is in Makati not in Cubao because he just came from there.

After a short while, we boarded a bus that will bring us to you. The fare was 117.00 PhP. The conductor aired Ghost Rider 2 for the enjoyment of the passengers. More than a couple of hours later, we alighted the bus in Brgy. Camias, San Miguel, Bulacan. From there we rode a tricycle which cost 240.00 per trike. It took almost an hour to get to Sitio Madlum. We were unfortunately to get unruly drivers because they charged us additional 15.00 pesos for the entrance which was their obligation to pay. Moreover, they did not drop us off in the jump off point as a result we walk down towards the river.

"Julie Vega"

In order to get to the registration area, we have to cross the Madlum River. Crossing it has many options like riding a raft, a long walk, zipline, swim or cross the monkey bridge. We all chose to ride the raft because no one will assist as yet in the bridge. At the booth we met Mang Tamang, who eventually became our guide. He told us the guide fee for overnight is 600.00 PhP. Before we proceed in our journey, we had our lunch there. Some brought packed lunch while others ordered some food there. But Redentor or Red for short stood out the most. He only ate Kamote and some chips thus he looked mentally unfit for the climb because he could not hear properly some words shouted to him.

Thirty minutes past one o' clock, we started our journey. As tradition, a prayer is done before trekking a mountain. Hence, our spiritual leader, Mary Jane or MJ led the prayer. After that inspiring message to God, Mang Tamang led us to the trail. On our way, we went through a cave where a defunct teleserye previously shoot there. Mang Tamang shared some of his experiences with the staff and cast of the said show. The cave was dark but it was just small that we reached the other side faster than I expected. Then we had to cross flowing water of the river. The stones were slippery but it was not difficult to step on it. Few steps later we reached the foot of the mountain. We rested there for awhile. Shot some pictures with the big rocks beside the river. Our guide suggested that we kill time by camping there for some time so the boys drank some brandy while the girls rested in the tent. While drinking, I opened a topic about Julie Vega, a former child star who already passed away. Kuya, as I fondly called our guide recollected stories in regards to her. That conversation promptly scared MJ.

Reaching the Summit

An hour later, we decided to climb the mountain. It was a quick hike that only took us less than an hour to ascend because it was all assault to the top. Despite your height, I was too exhausted due to the heat as well as to the assault yet after reaching the summit, it was all worth it. Like most summits that i have conquer, the summit boasts a 360 degree view ranging from Mt. Arayat to Mt. Gola. The province of Pampanga though distant is seen by the naked eye as well. Also, the Madlum River is easily seen at the top. From the summit, the camp site is just ten meters away. We pitched our tents in the site. Because it was a Sunday, there were no other mountaineers there beside us. I felt we owned the mountain because it was exclusive for only to us.

EMPE LIGHT group photo

Being the elder statesmen of the group, Noli and Oliver were reliable in preparing the food for our dinner. Noli's specialty was Adobo sa asin. It was so delicious that I almost forgot my name. Even though we had brought our owned food, we shared it to everybody. Red brought some fried siomai while Mhae and Iris had the traditional Adobo. It was like family even if we just met a few days earlier or that very exact day for some of us. We just connected to each other because we all share the same enthusiasm in this endeavor. For some moments, we forgotten our life in the metro and just inspired with what Mother Nature had presented to us.

Then the socials followed. Oliver aka Bogart provided the alcohol. The main attraction was Jose Cuervo, a very dear friend of mine. During this time, we shared stories and even laughed at them. There was one incident that I felt something that started to scare MJ again. She was so scare that she lied to Luisa's shoulder for comfort. It turned out that there was a dog sniffing for some food we left in the area. When we ran out of alcohol, we were "bitin" and it was only half an hour past nine. The girls went inside their tent while some of the boys went to their respective tents. Francis and I asked our guide if we can go to the summit. One of the unwritten code was no hiker should go to the summit at night because of the darkness and the influence of alcohol as well. However, we were not even tipsy and the moon provided some light so Mang Tamang granted our request and he joined us. From there, I had a magnificent view of the sky. I could see the stars and its constellations in the universe. Minutes later, we decided to descend to the campsite but after reaching there, Iris asked if we can return to the summit. We return there, this time, Randy joined us as well. We stayed there for almost two hours when Iris felt that we are freezing up there.

Bright New Day

When I went to sleep, I heard someone snoring. It sounded like a large ferry in the ocean. I thought it was Red who was sleeping already inside my tent. Fortunately, he wasn't the one making that noise. (I will not reveal the "bapor", just wait for the comments). I woke up at six in the morning. There was still no sun so I had plenty of time to prepare. Then minutes later, I decided to ascend to the summit in order to witness the sunrise. The rest of the group followed just in time to view the glorious rise of the sun. I envy most of my friends becuse they were lucky to have a magnifient view in their very first climb. (I had mine in my fourth attempt) It was like a photo shoot. Variation of poses were made while the sun rises in front of our eyes.

Then we decided to head back to the registration site where we will prepare our breakfast. Again it was not a difficult descend. I even run while carrying my things. We used a quite relatively easy trail compared to the one we used the other day. It turned out our guide want us to experience a tough ascend to the mountain. As we walk towards the destination, Mhae bought some caimitos for everyone.(Mj forcibly got my share). Our breakfast was as delightful as our dinner because the menu was still the same but Oliver added Ma-ling or luncheon meat. Although, were not in the mountain anymore there are plenty of things to do in this bright new day.

Monkey Bridge

 Buwis Buhay moment

Our next activity was spelunking in Bayukbok cave. To get there we must cross again the river. This time with Mang Tamang, we used the Monkey Bridge. It was a cable line tied in a tree in one end and to another one in the other side. It hangs 10 to 15 meters above the river. All of us were excited to cross it. However, Red backed out and MJ, who has fear of heights joined him. They used the raft instead. Francis was the first one to cross. Iris followed him. Then Mhae. Issa who was quite small bravely followed her. After awhile Oliver was up next to the challenge. Noli followed afterwards as well as Randy. I was the last one to cross it. While doing it, I was still smiling in front of the cameras. Red was the one who shot the photos while we were crossing the bridge. After some time, I finally landed and we went to our next destination.

Bayukbok Cave

Mang Tamang led us inside to Bayukbok cave. It was fun even though there was a lot of obstacles just ro reach the other side of the cave. First we went down though rappelling. Then we entered some thin hole of the cave. Afterwards, we had to use a ladder to climb its upper portion. it was dark there so we have some flashlights. Oliver was almost have an accident but it wasn't his time left but a reverse z mark in his back was left as a reminder of that incident. Then we entered another small hole, initially I thought Red who is a big guy, will have trouble but he passed there as if he was thin. There were also instances that MJ had troubles but one of our guides who went along with us helping her every time. As if she was a damsel in distress wai

ting for her prince to rescue her. Finally after an hour of intense walk inside the cave we reached the other end but we have to make a careful descend because of the thick rock formation there.

Thumbs Up! Cave explorer and not a miner.


We returned to the registration camp for our lunch. This time I swum the river to reach the said area. It was not too deep so had no toruble crossing it. After picking up my things, I went back to the river in order to relax and remove my exhaustion from exploring a cave. All my stress was relieved in this memorable two days. I had so much fun with my new friends. From Red who invited all of us. To Oliver and Noli who provided the alcohols as well as the cooking services for the group. To MJ who led the prayer in everytime I asked her to lead us in communicating to God. To Luisa who there when MJ was so scared, To Randy and Francis who were shooting marvelous photos every time they see magnificent scenes. To Mhae who invited her friend Iris in this adventure. And to Iris who joined this trip even though we all never met before. I give my sincere gratitude to all of you. This is what this so called vice of mine gives to me. Having a great time in the outdoors with true people is a treasure I will always keep in my heart.

Sincerly Yours,


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