Philippines Travel

Conquering Mt. Mabilog

I hate climbing mountains. Okay not the mountain but the climbing part. If I could teleport myself up there I may hate this adventure a little less. But no, I am no Nightcrawler, I’m just Marjorie, a 33-year old writer and travel enthusiast who really knows nothing about appreciating the art of mountain climbing. Nonetheless, I’ve climbed a few mountains in my life. Mt. Kalatong in Romblon, Mt. Ipo in Bulacan, let’s include those three in the Cordillera Region, and even that paved mountain to get to PAGASA Weather Station in Baler. I climbed them all, not because I wanted to but because I had to. It’s kinda like paying bills, I pay them not because I want to, but because I have to. I’m sure you get the point.

Given this, why the hell am I writing now about Mt. Mabilog? Actually, why the fudge did I climb Mt. Mabilog? I really don’t know, but I did so I might as well tell you the story.

But first, fast facts:

Mt. Mabilog, as the name implies has a round-shaped peak. Its reach extends to the two towns of Laguna, San Pablo and Nagcarlan. There are several jump offs to get to the summit, in our case, we took the Sto. Angel trail or the trail close to Lake Pandin.

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Now let’s go back to the why part. The how did this climb come about part or the why did I climb this mountain part. Well, I got an invitation from an old officemate, Ni. Remember Ni? The one who used to take my photos for my OOTD posts of my now defunct blog, Piso Fashion? Well yeah, her. One day she asked me if I want to join her and this group of mountaineers in their Mt. Mabilog climb. I looked back on all the mountains that I climbed and wondered if there is anything on the list that is labeled under “Climbed-for-the-sake-of-climbing” category. Hmm… let’s see.

  • Mt. Kalatong – Climbed because former boss thought it was a great idea to include me in a photoshoot that involved going down the hill that is morbidly close to the edge.
  • Mt. Ipo – Climbed because that’s where we planted our trees for the tree-planting activity.
  • PAGASA – Climbed because, duh! It’s the only way to get to the PAGASA Weather Station.
  • Batad – Climbed to see the Amphitheater Rice Terraces, Tappiya Falls, and to spend the night over at Batad Pension Guesthouse.
  • Buscalan, Kalinga – Climbed because it’s part of the deal if you want to be tattooed by the last mambabatok, Apo Whang-Od.
  • Echo Valley – Climbed to see the hanging coffins.

So I went over this list and realized I never climbed a mountain just to reach the summit. All mountains that I scaled were a way to a destination. So I decided to accept Ni’s invite just to have that one mountain on my list that I can say, I truly conquered. [Read: Lake Pandin Laguna]

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Joke! Actually, I went for it because Ni offered to pay for my climb as her birthday treat to me. I know, I’m too honest for comfort. But to be fair I enjoyed this adventure despite it being anything but easy.

This climb was arranged by Jepoi, a Nursing graduate but now a mountaineer and an adventure organizer. I joined a group of 35 people, including my friends Ni and Alchris. The rate per head is PHP 800 (USD 16.96); food is not included, but at least there is a bus rented just for our group. How neat! Also, this wasn’t just a mountain hike, there is a side trip to the Underground Cemetery and swimming in the Twin Falls.

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Us, from Manila convened at McDonalds in Buendia. Call time is 4AM, yes, that early but guess what time did we leave? 7AM, 7 freaking AM. God I hate Filipino time; it should be abolished! Imagine if I watched a movie, I would have seen it to the end. Anyway, after fiftyleven years the bus started moving. It took us 2 hours to reach San Pablo, Laguna.

We went to Lake Pandin, one of the seven lakes in San Pablo that my friends and I visited few years ago after our stay at Casa San Pablo. [Read: Finding Courage at Kalayaan Twin Falls]

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This lake is beautiful and serene and still as beautiful as I remembered it. I thought it was just a side trip, turns out it is where the starting point of Mt. Mabilog is. Yes, I was climbing a good 30 minutes before I learned that we were not just looking for that perfect spot to photograph the Twin Lakes, Pandin and Yambo, but in fact, already climbing Mt. Mabilog. I have been exercising for a while now, but I think not even that prepared me for the challenge of this climb. To the mountaineers, Mt. Mabilog’s difficulty is only 2/9. I’ve no idea how they scaled it but to me it was like an 8 out of 10.

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First of all, the path, the better part of it, is too narrow and rough. The plants on each side are so close to the trail, they were practically rubbing and clinging to our legs. I know that some mountains can be climbed wearing shorts, not on this mountain though.

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Along the way, I noticed some hoof marks on the ground as well as some horse dung. Imagine, they actually take horses up in that mountain! That must have been difficult.

But what I think made this climb extra tough for me is the heat and the thin air. I was gasping, literally hearing myself wheezing like an asthmatic. Because I was quite aware of my struggle, I was astonished, seeing our guide, who is an old man, climbing like there was nothing to it. Sure he looked tired and got all sweaty from the effort but he wasn’t panting and puffing the way I did.

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10 minutes before reaching the summit I was already thinking that this is how dying must feel like. My labored breathing, my wobbly legs, my clammy skin, and my dry throat made me wonder why there are people who love conquering mountains. I remember all the mountains that I climbed in my life, the long hours spent on walking, the difficulty in breathing, the exhaustion, the strain that it gives to the body, none of these I find to be enjoyable. So why the hell these mountain climbers like climbing?

After almost two hours, we reached the highest point of Mt. Mabilog. Up there you have an unobstructed view of some of the seven lakes of San Pablo. Yambo and Pandin are only separated by a long and thin piece of land, no wonder they are considered as twin lakes.

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I may not fully understand the reason why some people love conquering mountains, but I do understand the feeling one gets when he reaches the summit. There is always an unmistakable sense of fulfillment from achieving something that you worked hard for. It is a certain kind of high, a moment of pride that after all the cuts and scratches and the long hustle, you were able to make it.

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And so on August 2, 2015, Mt. Mabilog has become the first mountain that I ever climbed, not for anything else but to reach the top.



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Comments (12)

  1. Kat

    Climbing Mount Mabilog is on my things-to-do-on-a-weekend list. It’s (1) a minor climb, (2) offers a beautiful view of Pandin lake and the others, (3) near Manila. Hopefully I’ll be able to go here this year.

    I love how your photos have this quiet, relaxing vibe. 🙂

  2. JONtotheworld

    As I get older and has become more reflective about my life, I’ve learned to appreciate mountains more.

    Siguro, it’s better to climb mountain pag may pinagdadaanan LOL!

  3. Jerny

    The last part was also the same idealism of Jane. She always asks, “What do we get from climbing mountains? Nothing.” Lol! She doesn’t hate climbing, she’s just not a fan of getting tired. And I always loved to be with her, that’s why I keep on asking her to come and climb with me.

  4. Nic from Roaming Renegades
    Nic from Roaming Renegades

    Ahh, I love climbing mountains! You sure have captured some beautiful photos so it was worth all that effort! Well done for getting up there, it can be hard work!!

  5. Heather Cole
    Heather Cole

    Well done for stepping out of your comfort zone, quite literally! Personally I love climbing mountains, and like you find it difficult but just love the rewards you get from reaching the summits and seeing the views (apart from when it’s misty!).

  6. Majesta Zea
    Majesta Zea

    The photos are lovely. I will check this out the next time I am in the country.

  7. Madi @ The Restless Worker
    Madi @ The Restless Worker

    For someone who hates climbing mountains you’ve definitely taken part on some really badass climbs! Good for you – sometimes all you need is a bit of motivation

  8. Nancy

    Living in the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon my husband and I do a lot of hiking but nothing like what you were able to do at Mt. Mabilog, its GORGEOUS! What an incredible hike and the views from the top are stunning. I also can tell you how much I understand what you meant by wobbly legs, clammy skin and labored breathing by the time you make it to the top. Made me laugh!

  9. Els Mahieu
    Els Mahieu

    Well done! I love climbing mountains (ok, more big hills actually), but I’m always scared of the coming down part, afraid to slip 🙂

  10. Christina

    Same here. I don’t like the climbing part but love the views. That’s why I hike every summer in our Austrian Alps.
    Even if you don’t like hiking up mountains I am sure you will never regret your first hike. Mt. Mabilog looks amazing.

  11. Manic Pixie Girl
    Manic Pixie Girl

    You’ve been traveling a lot, Marge! Happy for you. ^_^

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hey gorgeous! So glad to hear from you again. How have you been? I just checked your latest post. It’s really funny. Thanks for dropping by!


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