The Notoriety 

Mountains are such majestic structure, each veiled with its own secrets that shroud it in enigma and enchantment. Each mountain offer a different mystery, further piquing the curiosity of the hikers that yearn to uncover these mysteries. One such mountain veiled in mystery is Batangas’ Mt. Maculot.

Located in Cuenca, Batangas, I’ve first seen pictures taken of Mt. Maculot from a friend. The great view of Taal Lake from the Rockies totally caught my eye. Earlier this year, when I began climbing mountains Mt. Maculot automatically made it to the top of my list of to-climb-mountains.

However, it is be riddled with numerous stories of the supernatural kind. There are numerous unexplained deaths that have occurred in it, the latest of which occurred in 2013 when a seasoned hiker met his untimely demise while scaling the mountain all by himself. Aside from these “mysterious” deaths, there are a lot of stories of mysterious occurrences. This infamy has earned it the moniker the “Devil’s Mountain” from the locals.

In spite of its notoriety, numerous climbers still brave it, mostly to have their pictures be snapped at the famed Rockies. Not one to buckle up from such circumstances, my friends and I also planned to scale the mountain on one fine Saturday.

Mt Maculot

How to Get There

  • From Cubao or Pasay, ride any Lemery-bound bus. The drivers are quite familiar with the area so just ask them to drop you at the jump-off point. The trip takes about two and a half to three hours, depending on the condition of the traffic. Bus fare is around PHP 150.00 to 160.00.
  • Ride a tricycle going to the barangay outpost where you’ll be required to register. This is where you’ll also be assigned a tour guide. Tour guides are REQUIRED.
  • After registration, proceed to the starting point.

Mt. Maculot Details

Elevation: 706 MASL (Rockies)/930 MASL (Summit)
Difficulty: 3/9 (Rockies)/4/9 MASL (Summit)
Trail Class: 1-3
Days Required: 1 day
Hours to Summit: 1-2 hours (Rockies)/2-4 hours (Summit)

Source: Pinoy Mountaineer

The Rockies

We left DLTB Cubao terminal at around 6 AM and arrived in Cuenca, Batangas at about 8:45 AM. Upon alighting, rode a tricycle to the jump-off point. We first dropped by the barangay outpost to register and pay the registration fee. We were also asked which of the two treks are we willing to take. The first trek is up to the Rockies only while the second trek scales the entire course of the mountain. Our group opted for the latter, the traverse trek. We were then assigned our guide, Kuya Jose.

After registration, we did some pre-trek rituals at the jump-off point. We bought food as we to have have lunch at the campsite. At the jump-off point, you can order tapsilog or longsilog. We also made last minute trips to the bathroom, more so that my companions were females. Before climbing, we uttered a silent prayer. Alas, we are now prepared to scale Mt. Maculot!

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The adventure is about to begin!

Our assault to the Rockies, the first section of our three-part hike, began at around 9:15 AM. When the real challenge began, we were a bit overwhelmed because the first stretch comprised of mostly assault, with some stopover areas along the way, 12 to be exact. These stopovers have mini-stores which sell refreshments like soda, water, and fresh buko to the thirsty hiker. Some also sell traditional Filipino snacks like turon and banana cue.

When we reached the 3rd stopover, my companions were already gasping for breath. Apparently it’s been some time since they last climbed a mountain! Oh my. I thought that they can take the challenge because (1) they are mountaineers and (2) the mountain’s rating as a beginner’s climb. To help my companions, we slowed down our pace, taking a breather whenever we can. We had a tough start to our adventure but thankfully it wasn’t too ho as the sun was hiding behind the clouds. Nonetheless, there are tall trees and bamboo grasses, providing ample cover from the scorching heat.

After nearly two hours of treks and stops, we finally reached the campsite. From the campsite, we turned left to the Rockies. Taking pictures at the Rockies is one of the primary reasons we did this climb. I was not surprised to see a crowd has formed already at the Rockies.

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A cloud atlas on a warm summer day.
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Hail thee wonderful view!

The Rockies is adjacent to main mountain, connected by a narrow path. We had to go down a roped segment to the junction before climbing up again on rocks. When we reached the top of the Rockies, we had to wait for our turn because a group of 30 individuals is already having their pictures taken. Everybody’s itching to have their pictures taken so that they can share it on their social media pages, including us.

The most picturesque section is also the most heart-stopping one because it is located on a cliff. But who can resist that wonderful background of the Taal Lake? Not me. All that early grind became worth it when we came to this stupendous view. Aside from landscape, the cottony clouds painted a wonderful masterpiece on the blue canvas of the summer skies, filling us with delight. We took as much pictures as we can before going back to the campsite for lunch. Nothing revives a wavering spirit more than a full-packed meal. We are barely halfway through our adventure.

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One is never too tired for a selfie!

The Summit

At 12:45 PM, we resumed our assault to the summit. The first part was easy but the trail became trickier once we entered the forested section. The thick foliage barely allowed the sun’s rays to break through, making some sections nearly dark. I have felt a sense of eeriness whenever I find myself alone. The only signs of life are the calls of the birds from the distance.

Scaling the upper half section to the summit is a bit more challenging than our trek to the Rockies. It is more steep and slippery, hence more physically punishing. However, at some sections there are ropes to assist the tired climber. It was all worth it when we finally reached the summit an hour after leaving the campsite.

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10th mountain for the year conquered!

The summit is a small clearing offering a 300-degree view of Batangas and its environs. Moreover we drew closer to the fluffy clouds that have delighted us when we were at the Rockies. I can barely keep my hands from taking pictures of this wonderful formations that are surrounding us. I mean just wow! I felt like I was drifting up high with the clouds.

After about thirty minutes at the summit, we began our descent to the Grotto. It was a pleasant climb down at first but it became more challenging when the angle became more steep. Where the ascent is a test of endurance, the descent is a test of equilibrium.

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Those fluffy clouds are such eye-candies.
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Blue skies, verdant hills, and fluffy clouds, summer is indeed in the air.

The Tremors

At about 3 PM, we were at the rappelling section where we had to scale the rocks using a rope. I volunteered to go first as I’ve already rappelled in my previous climbs. It hurt a bit because I wasn’t wearing any gloves. In no time, I found myself down, waiting for my other companions to come down. When my third companion reached the bottom, a strong tremor struck. I didn’t feel it but my friends felt it. Because of this unplanned eventuality, our guide, in a hurry, made our last companion come down. The Richter scale recorded this first tremor at 5.6 magnitude.

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A couple of minutes before the first tremor.

Finding ourselves in a place we shouldn’t be in during an earthquake, our guide urged us to quickly descend to safety. He is worried that the boulders would go loose and come hurtling down, decimating everything on its path. Fear and panic began to draw on our faces as more tremors became a possibility. Lo and behold, another tremor, a stronger one, struck a couple of minutes after the first. We had to stop on our track and move along with the mountain, swaying sideways for about 10 seconds. The Richter scale recorded this at 6.0 magnitude. With our knees beginning to give up, a rush of adrenaline hit all of us as the urgency to reach safer grounds is of utmost importance.

Thankfully, we reached  the Grotto at about 3:45 PM, 30 minutes after the first earthquake. But that is after another mild earthquake struck. The creases of panic began to be replaced by one of relief as we realized we escaped intact and unscathed. Whew. Thank God for listening to our prayers and also to the lords of the forest for keeping us safe from harm.

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Thankfully we escaped unscathed!

Gasping big breaths of air, we were finally revived after that harrowing experience. As news from the ground began entering, all climbers were asked to go down to the base. We have to go down a stairway that is decorated with the Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The Grotto is used during the Lenten season, thus, the Fourteen Stations of the Cross. Each step down we are being unburdened of our unsavory experience.

At about 5 PM we were finally at the jump-off point, resting and washing up before going back to Manila. What an experience. This is something that the four of us, and even our guide, won’t stop talking about for a couple of weeks, probably even years. What we experienced here is a reality that we who are living on the Pacific Ring of Fire have to deal with every day. The reality of the “Big One” became realer to us after this experience.

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Finally, game over!

Itinerary

0530H Meet up at DLTB Cubao Terminal
0600H Departure for Cuenca, Batangas
0845H Arrival at Cuenca
0915H Start trek
1115H Arrival at Campsite. Proceed to Rockies
1130H Picture taking at the Rockies
1200H Lunch
1245H Resume trek to summit
1245H ETA Summit. Take pictures.
1415H ETD for Grotto
1500H Rappelling area
1600H ETA Grotto
1615H Resume descent
1700H Wash up
1800H ETD for Manila

 Expenses

Total expenses is PHP 637.00 broken down below. Budget is good for a group of four.

PHP 155.00  – Bus fare from Cubao to Cuenca
PHP 20.00 – Tricycle fare from main highway to base
PHP 20.00 – Registration fee
PHP 200.00 – Guide fee (PHP 800.00 for traverse; PHP 400.00 for Rockies)
PHP 30.00 – Tricycle fare from Grotto to base
PHP 20.00
 – Wash up Fee
PHP 35.00 – Tricycle fare from base to highway
PHP 25.00 – Jeepney fare to SM Lipa
PHP 132.00 – Bus fare from Lipa City to Cubao

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Oh yeah, another jump shot to commemorate this nerve wracking climb!

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