This is the most unforgettable hike I did to date. I feel wistful as I look at the photos now. A part of me wishes I could write everything I felt (diary style), but I reckon some things are better treasured privately. I was foolish then to push some boundaries. Anyone who has done anything slightly risky will understand how exciting it can be. I think I was in that phase that I guess every hiker goes through at least once: going deep into nature to try to make sense of a personal situation. 😛
Mt. Romelo is a minor hike, by the way, but climbing a mountain for me is as much a mental exercise as it is physical. Its infamous muddy trail should not be underestimated. However, it is safe enough that you can let your mind wander a bit whenever the trail is a grassland. As your body strains for balance, it is imperative to keep your wits about you. The quiet forest, the fresh air, and the 2-3 hour trek to the summit will give you enough time to reflect on whatever it is you have to think about. That’s what I did.
Anyhoo, we used a similar itinerary as the one posted at Pinoy Mountaineer except we met up at Robinson’s (Big-R) Cainta where there’s a jeepney terminal bound for Siniloan, Laguna. We also made a short detour to Pililia, Rizal’s impressive windmills.
You can rent a porter to help carry your extra bags (but not your emotional baggage, lol!) for only 300php. You can even ride the horse up the mountain, but where’s the fun in that? 😛
The trail is a series of grasslands, muddy forest (in October), and minor assault to the summit. There are several stops along the way where you can buy ice candy, fresh coconut, and Mountain Due.
The campsite is a few minute’s trek from the lone store that sells ice candy and has a great view. It has a cluster of small cabins that can accommodate 8-10 people.
This campsite is situated atop one of the seven waterfalls the mountain is known for — Buruwisan. It’s a magnificent view and very accessible for beginners like me.
A few meters from Buruwisan is Lanzonez Falls, just follow the river upstream. Our lead decided to just pass by Buruwisan and go straight to Lanzonez while there’s still daylight.
I expected the water to be cold, and it was, refreshingly so. There was none of the uncomfortable chills that cuts to the bones and make you worry about your health. In fact, the fresh water gave me a sense of healing after hours of navigating the mountain trails. I could have stayed there for hours, but of course there’s so much more to explore in the little time we had that weekend.
We went back to Buruwisan before darkness sets in and pretty much explored every nook and cranny.
We were relatively a big group so we ate in batches and pre-assigned “kitchen duties”. My buddies and I woke up early the next day to prepare breakfast for the whole group.
Food, however grand or simple, tastes so much better when served outdoors. In camp setting, a quickly tossed omelette and some sausages look like a feast. I savored a plateful, cognizant of the birds chirping and the sound of the rushing river nearby. It was the rainy season that gave the mountain its pleasant earthy scent that wraps up this wonderful moment.
Next on our itinerary is a trek to Batya-Batya Falls. It took 30-45 minutes (if my memory serves me right) to get to the falls. It was a fun trek with mostly hoping from one river rock to another. Down by the end of the trail you have the option to climb over a 20-foot rock protruding from the face of the mountain or swim the river below it to get across. I can’t swim, and my legs were too tired to go rock climbing. What a few of us did was scale the side of the rock by the water and let the current take us to the other side, with the help of our other swimmer friends.
At first glance I don’t get why it was called Batya-Batya Falls, but our boys being daredevils, they climbed up and found that up that heavy rush of water was another mini waterfall that goes to a smaller basin and then funnels down to the main basin. I was very much content to watch them risk a limb climbing that dangerous-looking water cliff, but they kept talking me into climbing it, too. So I did.
I was lucky to have found a group of people who are as curious and enthusiastic as I am but with none of my usual sheltered hesitations. It’s refreshing to just trust their experience and let them talk me into, say, going inside the waterfall instead of just watching it from afar as I used to be content to do. When I decided I’d be more active and adventurous, I was suddenly blessed to have been given these wonderful people who have become quite dear to me so fast. In just a short time, I discovered that I’m not as afraid of heights as I thought I was, and that I love rivers, waterfalls, and the sea even though I cannot swim.