While my first few travels revolved around the mountains, I must admit that I haven’t climbed a lot lately. When a good ol balikbayan (back to the country) climb buddy invited for a day-climb for the weekend at Mt Batolusong, I got curious. Where the heck is that mountain? I haven’t heard that before. A quick google search brought out some interesting photos of grasslands and a waterfall in the vicinity. Hey! Why not? It’s only in nearby Tanay and I get to catch up with a fellow alumni from my university. Saturday. 3am. I’m up for the climb.
Finding Baranggay San Andres
“San Andres? Walang ganyang baranggay na malapit dito. (San Andres? There’s no village of such name nearby)” a tricycle driver told us, then a barker, then a jeepney driver. We probably got the wrong directions. Originally my friend Bob’s friend, Skwid has a friend who would accompany us here. But waiting in a fast food chain early morning proved futile as he was lost in dreamland. We had some choices: tag along with a group who was eating near our table who were heading to Mt Manalmon or find our own way to Mt Batolusong. Searched a bit in the internet for directions and decided, hey this would be a nice adventure. “I don’t think we’ll be lost here” I thought.
For a moment there I thought we’re lost in Cogeo Gate 2. We had to double-check our sources and found a more detailed direction to Mt Batolusong. No wonder there’s no San Andres nearby because we had to ride a jeep heading to Sampaloc and alight in an area called Batangas an hour away. The jeepney station is near the Public Market along Sumulong Highway. The jeep left even if it wasn’t full, but quickly filled up as we were going up Marcos highway.
The air began to get chilly as our jeep goes higher that we could already see the nearby cities below. Exactly an hour after, we arrived at what they call “Batangas” (which is not really the province). From there, we hired a heavy-duty habal-habal to San Andres proper which is around 15 minutes ride to the Ynares gym and baranggay hall. The hall was a tidy small place where we registered. A clean comfort room was there, guest can also take a shower afterwards. We got to meet our guide there, Kuya Emil, thin guy, probably in his late 40’s or 50’s dark-skinned but very knowledgeable of the area.
Climb to Mapatag Plateau
We started our trek by 9am. Crossing a few rice paddies, a small community where I was able to see a few kids playing around with their improvised toys and grown ups making sawali (interwoven split bamboos for walling) to sell. We crossed a stream and from then on it was an uphill climb. The soil was rich and red. Yesterday’s rain made it kind of soft but still firm to step on. Oh we’re definitely praying it won’t rain during our trek as we could imagine massive mud on the trail. There was good tree cover at the start of the trail but it was mostly open trail after. I didn’t hesitate to bring out my umbrella there since I forgot my shoal.
We reached the Duhatan part of the trail by 10am, a beautiful ridge with a line of duhat (java plum) trees. This is my favorite part of the trek. The ridge leading to the Mapatag Plateau which we reached by 11am, was very scenic. Our guide, Kuya Emil, called this place Sitio Mapatag since this grassland hills used to have a community but eventually the harsh conditions and difficulty in access forced the people here to live on the low-lands. It was sweeping site with the jagged Rangyas and Susong Dalaga peaks can be seen. The peaks can actually be reached by two more hours of hike on rough and virtually unpaved trail. Since we’re on a day trip only, we had to forego this one. In the area, Kuya Emil said there’s a large rock that looks like a lusong (a mortar for pounding rice). Hence the name of Mt Batolusong from the words bato + lusong (stone + mortar)
We did a short backtrack on the trail then took a new trail down to our next stop, the Kay-Ibon Falls. It was a descend then ascend on an open trail until we reached a stream down trail. We noticed a few knotted ribbons on the branches. Kuya Emil told us that a trail run was recently held here. About 200 participants but only half managed to finish the trail.
We finally reached Kay-Ibon Falls by noon, just in time for our lunch. It’s a charming small falls with a small basin. The water flow is not in full force that time but there’s a nice set of cascades on the side which we enjoyed after our lunch. It was refreshing and relaxing just sitting on the rocks and let the waters flow by. We stayed there for two hours before heading back to San Andres.
Descending trails has always been a dreaded part of the climb for me, I’d rather go up, than go down. A spate of showers warned us of incoming heavy rain but we’re glad to be back at the baranggay hall by 4pm to wash up before going home. The squall finally came in as we were about to leave. We’re glad we’re already comfortable under the shade until the rains abated. It was a refreshingly good weekend climb. I’m glad to be re-acquainted to the mountains again and it’s only a few hours from the metro.
How to get to Mt Batolusong and Kay-Ibon falls?
- From Cubao, take a jeep or FX to Cogeo Gate 2 Antipolo (Php 35)
- Ride a Sampaloc bound jeep near the market and tell the driver to drop you off at Batangas. One hour travel time and fare is Php 41
- Hire a habal-habal to San Andres Baranggay Hall. Fare is Php 70 for habal-habal maximum of 2 pax. Travel time is 15 minutes.
- On going back, you can ask the habal-habal driver to fetch you on designated time but they would ask for advance payment. Otherwise just hire in the area.
- Jeeps heading back to Cogeo Gate 2 usually pass by Batangas until 7pm.
Visitors are required to register at the Baranggay Hall (Registration Fee of Php 20 per pax). Guides are also required to climb. Guide fee of Php 500 for a maximum group of 5. More than 5 would require additional guides. For overnight campers it is Php 750 for each guide. Visitors are responsible for the guide’s meals.
- Bring enough food for the climb. There are a couple of sari-sari stores in San Andres for supplies.
- Bring at least 2 liters of waters. There are a couple of water sources but these are from their mountain stream. If you’re tummy is not that picky this water source would be okay (it’s where I refilled my water bottle) but if you’re sensitive, bring your own water.
- Bring mosquito repellant. There are lots of mosquito in the first part of the trail
- Bring enough sun shade. Hats, shoals and umbrellas. Most of the trail is open.
- Bring extra dry clothes for change before going home if you plan to get wet on the falls.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.