“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
~ Edmund Hillary
If anyone has said to me 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago that I’ll be hiking up mountains, I’d laugh –or cry– at the sheer unlikelihood of it ever happening. The only sport/physical activity I remember enjoying when I was little was table tennis, and I wasn’t even very good at it. Attending a high school built on a culture where the top 5 students in academic also gets a place in Athletic Meets whether they like it or not, I was really just doing it for the extra points in P.E., hoping it will put me a step higher in the honor roll. By the time I went to college, I have no exercise, no sleep, no idea to any physical fitness at all.
That was before I put running as part of my lifestyle. Running has helped me gain self-confidence and introduced me to a few people who climb mountains. Literally. So I joined this club within MicroSourcing, and soon enough I’m trekking up my first summit — Mt. Balagbag.
Mount Balagbag stands more or less 777 meters above sea level (MASL) and is part of the Sierra Mountain Range lining up from Cagayan to Quezon. The mountain itself is located in Rodriguez, Rizal overlooking the cityscapes of Ortigas and Manila. I heard from one of our experienced hikers in the group that it is a good spot for beginner climbers like me. He’s right. 🙂
Now, I am not going to be technical about the hike, seeing as how noob I still am at climbing mountains (I like saying that, climbing mountains). I’d suggest you head over to Pinoy Mountaineer‘s blog for the general knowledge part. 😉
What I’m going to share are the memories. This is my first hike –my mother mountain– as another hiking buddy told me to call it, and it will forever hold a special place in my adventurous heart. First off, is the itinerary that our lead, Chis, has set along with a reminder of the general essentials to bring:
0600H – Assembly Time
0700H – ETD Petron, Eastwood
0730H – ETA Sitio Karahume
0745H – Registration
0800H – Start Trek / Bike
1030H – ETA Summit
1100H – Pictures, Rest, Lunch @ Summit
1200H – Start Descend
1330H – Explore Falls / Photo-Op
1430H – Start Descend to Jumpoff
1515H – ETA Jumpoff
1530H – ETD to Eastwood
1700H – ETA Eastwood
Things to Bring:
First Aid Kit
Water – Minimum of 1 Liter
Sun Protection – Sleeve, Cap, Lotion, etc.
Sandals or Trekking Shoes
Snacks – Nutri-Bar, JellyAce, etc.
Drybag or any waterproofing bag (in case of Rain)
I came prepared with my brother’s hiking bag that I still use at recent hikes. Shoutout to my brother, Jay, for letting me use his bag more than he gets to use it, love you! I broke a zipper on my fifth mountain, I’m sorry!
The only person I know prior to the event was my teammate, Gwyneth, but soon enough I’m friends with Haze, Rico and Yen – Team MDC!
The Mt. Balagbag trail is wide from the jump-off up to the summit. There wasn’t much of steep ascents, just a consistent but manageable slope. It was a sunny day in June 2015 when we set off and there were sparse trees on the way to take shelter from the sun, so our breaks are far in between. If it’s your first hike and you feel like your knees are killing you, it’s normal, you’ll live. Push on. You’ll be rewarded with a view of gently curved hills alongside mountains of Bulacan and Rizal provinces at the summit.
The first thing my body have learned about hiking is that it’s not entirely like running. Sure, you get to use the strength of your leg muscles, and that running as training for a hike means stronger cardio, but that’s about it. I was initially disheartened by the pace. Where in marathons, I get to complete 3 kilometers in 30 minutes max, the trek up Balagbag took me 2 hours and 30 minutes! I know it should have been self-explanatory but between noob to expert, I am pretty darn naive about these things.
Good thing is that after I have adjusted my expectations, I begin to enjoy EVERYTHING! The fresh wind on my face, the vast natural landscape covered in green, the lighthearted banter of my new acquaintances and the very idea that I am indeed going up a mountain. Who would’ve thought, right?
We lingered at the summit long enough for me to climb a tree, and then we’re onto our descent. It was fun and a lot easier and over before I knew it.
Our next destination is the Kaytitingga Falls at the foot of the mountain. Looking at the slope going down to the falls made me dread the trip back, but it was all worth it because the water is cold and refreshing. I wish I brought something to wear for a quick dip, but nonetheless, I enjoyed soaking my tired feet for a few precious minutes.
So that’s the recount of my first ever hike. I was researching online for some facts to go with it, and I found varying mentions of this mountain’s location. Some say Mt. Balagbag is in Rodriguez, Rizal while others indicate san Jose del Monte, Bulacan. Either way, it will remain special to me because I was raised in Bulacan but currently staying in Rizal with my family. See how things are meant to be? (charot!) But what’s the truth about Mount Balagbag’s real address?