Mt. Masungki Profile

Elevation: 660 MASL
Difficulty: 4/9 with rock precautions
Trail Class: 5
Days Required: 1 day
Hours to Summit: 2.5-3 hours

New Faces

So, another weekend, another mountain to climb!

It’s been five months since I began mountain climbing. My first of these adventures was the Montalban Trilogy, where I have met and gained new friends. One of these newfound friends, Glenn, invited me to join a new set of trilogy climb, Mt. Masungki-Ikmo Rock-Nagpatong Rock. Mt. Masungki is a budding mountaineering destination, after its opening earlier this year. Glenn has already scaled these mountains and his pictures, especially at Nagpatong Rock, captivated me, hence my decision to join their organized climb in spite of my initial scruples.

May 21. The clock just ticked 12 midnight. I found myself again in a place not my own, Cubao. At this hour, the party-goers’ euphoria is just to peak while for weekend warriors’ day is just about to unfold. To my relief, I finally saw Glenn. At first, I was a bit giddy because this is my first climb sans any “close friends”. I am still trying to acclimate myself to climbing with different groups. Beyond the nerves, I am excited to meet new people and climb a new mountain.

As much as the climb is about reaching the top, it is also about the people you climb with to the top. Photo by Stela Penazo

While Glenn and I waited, the other participants began arriving. The first one who I was introduced to was Faith, a fellow Cordilleran. Having someone I share something common with helped assuage my nerves. When all participants arrived, we departed for Barangay Cuyambay, Tanay at around 1:30 AM. Tanay is emerging as a climber’s haven as mountains are being opened for climbing and hiking activities. I have already climbed two of these mountains, Mt. Cayabu and Maynoba, earlier this year.

We reached Cuyambay barangay hall at around 3 AM. It was still dark but the area is slowly coming alive. Aside from Mt. Masungki, Cuyambay is also the jump-off point for other mountains in the area, like Mt. Paliparan, Mt. Sa Pari, and Mt. Binutasan. While waiting for the registration to begin, other climbing groups began arriving.

New Mountain

We were oriented at 3:45 AM and a few of minutes later, we left for Mt. Masungki jump-off point. The jump-off point is located a few kilometers away from the barangay hall. When everyone was ready, we began our trek at about 4 AM. From the jump-off point, we walked down for about thirty minutes to a mango tree which serves as the starting point for the trek. We were still enveloped by darkness but we were undaunted. Most of us are already used to trekking in the darkness. Thankfully, the first section of the trek was relatively easy as the incline was gradual and not too steep.

Not the kind of greeting I was hoping for. It was great nonetheless.
These narrow holes are portals to worlds beyond one’s imaginations.

As we pushed through with our hike, the main characteristic of the mountain became more apparent. The mountain is flanked by limestone rock formations, a characteristic it shares with its fellow Rizal mountains like Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan. According to our guide, it is from these limestone rocks that Masungki derived its name. Masungki, roughly translated, means “jagged.”

At the crack of dawn, we reached the junction where we rested while waiting for our companions. After resting, we proceeded with our ascent, entering the forested section. The forested section is composed partly of trees and bamboo grass. What greeted us upon our entry was astounding. The sound of the birds and the other animals began reverberating through the morning air. It was otherworldly and beautiful at the same time. This is something that is quite difficult to find in the urban bedlam. Although this is my nth trip to the mountains, I still can’t help but be in awe.

Limestone rock formations is a quality that most Rizal mountains share.

When the clock hit 6:30 AM, we finally reached the last part of our climb. This is where the challenge tripled as we found ourselves scaling pointed rocks, burrowing through small openings. For inexperienced climbers, this section could be quite challenging, especially if you are out of shape because some of the rock openings are narrow. But if you want to avoid these narrow rock passages, you can use another route. However, this route is longer than the one we used.

After about thirty minutes of winding through rocks and small openings, we finally reached the summit. A crowd of early trekkers has already begun to form. It was foggy and we can barely see anything beyond the horizon. A queue to the prominent rock formations of the summit has already started so we had to wait in line.

I came here to climb a mountain. But then opportunity presented itself – I got to climb a billboard too! Photo by Glenn Eclarino
But I am nothing compared to these guys who opted to dangle on the edge. Photo by Karen Manapsal
So that you have an iota, here’s a picture of my companion sitting atop the billboard. Photo by Richmond Gozarin

wp-1498204661404.jpgTo bide our time, some of us climbed a billboard built there. Not one to buckle down on a challenge, I also joined the fray. It was nerve wracking because I was climbing free-hand, sans any safety nets. But the adrenaline rush is too much. The thrill of the climb and the triumph at the top is rewarding. It is just unfortunate that there was no clearing – the only view I found was a sea of fogs. The more dare devilish of the group even sat atop the billboard while waiting for the fogs to clear.

An hour after reaching the summit, we finally got our opportunity to take pictures taken at the rock formations. Getting there was also a challenge that some of our companions didn’t join us. Finally, there was a clearing! From afar, I saw Laguna de Bay, the country’s largest lake. On the south are wide stretches of rice fields while in the north are the towering peaks of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Thankfully the skies started opening up!
The view is majestic, with Laguna de Bay just on the horizon.
Who wouldn’t miss the chance to take pictures on these amazing rock formations! Photo by Stela Penazo
I am just but one in this sea of faces, a speck of dust, a memory that will eventually begin fading in time.  Photo by Glenn Eclarino

We took our time drinking in our surroundings before going back to the billboard area where we left our things. At around 9 AM, we proceeded with our descent to the junction are where we will decide if we are going to push through with Ikmo Rock or go directly to the more famed Nagpatong Rock. Our descent was quicker than our ascent and at around 10 AM, we reached the junction. While waiting for our companions who got left behind, some of us took the time to nap or eat.

When everyone was complete, we decided where to proceed next, and when we had a consensus, we proceeded with our weekend excursion. To keep up the tenterhook, I’ll be cutting short my narrative. I’ll be working on the second part, and probably the more exciting one, in the coming days.

Mountain climbing, as much as it is a physical assertion, affords me time to reflect and think.  Photo by Mikey Alcantara

 Article headline credit to Ryan Case Arevalo.