“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.” ~ David McCullough Jr.

A couple of weeks ago, I made an enumeration of my 2017 travel resolutions and goals. One of the things I really wanted to do this year, or at least improve on, is trekking more mountains. In trekking not only does one bask in the glory of nature but also get to test his capabilities and endurance. To those who want to shed some body fats, trekking is also a good alternative.

It was under these notions that I went along with a fellow i-Montañosa’s plan to trek the Rizal Trilogy, a three-mountain day excursion in Rodriguez, Rizal.  I never intended to take part in a strenuous activity as such but seeing that I have nothing better to do anyway, I took the plunge.

Osmeña Peak, Cebu province’s highest point, offers an awesome vantage point. The Middle Earth-ish feeling one gets is incomparable.

This will be just my 3rd, 4th and 5th climbs. I’ve already done Mt. Manalmon and Mt. Gola in Bulacan way back in February 14, 2016. My list, however, doesn’t include Osmeña Peak in Cebu and Mt. Tapyas in Coron. The former, though the highest point in Cebu, I barely call a trek because most of the hike navigated by a habal-habal while the latter is more like a climb up a stair, a long stair.

Just like in my two 2016 treks, I barely had any warm-ups prior to the event so I have to rely on my body’s ability to cope with all kinds of physically strenuous endeavors. However, climbing three mountains is still a tall task and presents its own sets of challenges.

On the day of the event, January 22, I woke up at 1 am, beating my alarm clock though I was barely able to have a good night’s worth of sleep. By 2 AM I was already at the meeting place, Jollibee Farmers Plaza. This is also some sort of a reunion with an old schoolmate and fellow aspiring writer, Saul Killip. The last time I’ve seen him was when we were in high school.

At the meeting place, we were both taken aback by the number of participants. This is bound to be a crowded to trek. I was expecting a tranquil trek but apparently I share the same sentiments with a lot of other people. Unfortunately I am far too gone into the process to back out at the very last minute.

Mountains maybe daunting to tackle but the benefits you’ll reap at the end are priceless.

At 2:30 AM we were on our way to Sitio Wawa, Barangay San Rafael, Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal, the starting point for our trek. On the car, we met the first of our trekking buddies, Karen who is also a blogger and a seasoned trekker. She usually hikes with her own group but for the first time around she’ll be a joiner (solo trekkers joining an organized climb).

At around 3:20 AM, we were at Sitio Wawa. We started the day with the ceremonial cup of coffee to ward off the cold. We were set to start our first climb at around 4:30 AM. While waiting, we mingled with our fellow trekkers. During our mingling, we met two of our hiking buddies, Miko and Dennis who are best friends will be scaling mountains for the first time.

At around 4:30 AM, all climbers converged for the orientation. Aside from the trilogy hike group, there were other trekking arrangements. A lot joined the twin hike while a few who joined the pentalogy hike, an astounding five-mountain day hike. We were oriented on our itinerary – we are first to climb Mt. Binacayan then climb down for early lunch before proceeding to Mt. Pamitinan and finally, Mt. Hapunang Banoi.

The trilogy hikers was divided into two groups. Our group was comprised of 12 individuals, including Saul, Karen, Miko, Dennis and I. The others were Glen and Toni, and Fran, Paul and their workmates. Our tour guides were Eagle, who will lead the group and Julito, who will be the sweeper.

After praying, we are all now set for our first assault to the top!

First Chapter: Mt. Binacayan

Elevation: 424 Meters Above Sea Level (MASL)
Difficulty: 3/9
Type: Rocky, Limestone

Mt. Binacayan is to be our early morning warm-up. Fittingly so because we were being ravaged by the cold early breeze. It was when we started that we realized that we’re going to take part in an exodus to the top. Apparently, Angel Locsin trekked these mountains a couple of weeks ago and Filipinos, being Filipinos, immediately took the plunge and decided to trek a mountain trekked by a local celebrity. The influx of weekend trekkers can affect our pace.

And then there was light! The sun’s rays seeping through the darkness that have enveloped us at the start.

One might wonder where did the name Binacayan originate. According to our guide, Mt. Binacayan used to be the nesting ground of numerous wild boars, thus earning the name “Binabuyan.” To the locals, the name sounded a bit unpleasant that’s why they changed it to Binacayan.

The first part of the trek was easier as we only had to follow the road. Eventually, the road turned into an alley, then into a narrow rock path. It was on the narrow path that we got a bit pushed back by the long queue of people who flocked to the mountain. We had to wait as the ones before us cautiously scale the more treacherous parts of the trek.

It was still dark when we set off. But as we ascended to the top, the the sun started to rise over the horizon. At about 6 AM we reached the first view point. It was already crowded with the morning trekkers but still we took the time to breathe in our environment, inspired by the beauty surrounding us. Indeed, the view at the top is marvelous one can just keep staring at the view. It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to catch a glimpse of the sea of clouds. Well, better luck next time.

The view at the top is always awe-inspiring.

After gaping at the stupendous view of the sun breaking through the darkness, it was now time to muster the courage to do the more daredevil-ish stuff. Though such extreme shots are doable, one should always observe caution in scaling the rocks because one miscue is enough to make you plunge down the cliff. Although there has been no recorded casualties in these mountains as of date, I didn’t want to be the first one.

Hold your breath and take it all in.

These “buwis-buhay” shots are Instagram worthy. However, as I’ve mentioned, it takes courage to hang on the rocks with barely enough legroom. If you have acrophobia, please skip taking pictures on the cliffs. One Instagram worthy picture is not worth your life.

The tourist guides are quite capable of taking perfect shots at the perfect angles. However, you have to teach them the nitty-gritty of your devices as each one differs from the other.

When we’ve been able to take a breather at the top and taken our fair share of pictures, we began our trek down. We took the newly made trail which was made a week prior to our trek. We later learned, when we were already down, that the new trail isn’t recommended. We understand why – it was very physically demanding. It is not for the faint of heart, one misstep and you’ll find yourself slipping down the steep incline. Unfortunately one of our peers slipped and got injured in the process. Fortunately, the injuries were minor.

Group picture! One of the best things in travelling is the opportunity to get to know and gain new friends.

After the strenuous climb down, we finally reached our jump-off point. We took the time to catch our breath before taking on the further challenge of traversing two more mountains. We started assessing the physical damages on ourselves. Luckily, I survived with no scratches but I got blisters from my new sandals. Again, I forgot to bite them before using them.

Aside from taking a bit of a rest, we took the one-hour break to take our early lunch. We’re going to need all the energy we can squeeze for our next endeavor. The next trek is to start at 9:45 AM. It’s always a good idea to recuperate and recharge before another physically demanding undertaking.

Part I     Rizal Trilogy Hike: An Assault to the Top Part I
Part II   Rizal Trilogy Hike: An Assault to the Top Part II
Part III  Rizal Trilogy Hike: An Assault to the Top Part III

Check out also My 2017 Travel Resolutions.

Though the difficulty level is pegged at 3/9, Mt. Binacayan presented all sorts of challenges from steep inclines to rocky paths. For first timers, such challenges would be daunting. Without caution, one could easily end up with numerous scratches and minor injuries. It is therefore recommended that one wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Moreover, hand gloves are a must.

The best ones are usually the most difficult ones.