Our journey through Marinduque had been a thrilling cycling adventure, and the last leg was both the shortest and the most demanding. Our destination: the Luzon Datum of 1911, the geodetic center of the Philippines, perched atop Mt. Mataas in Mogpog, rising approximately 200 meters above sea level. It was the perfect way to conclude our cycling odyssey on this captivating island.
We kicked off our ride not from sea level, but from Argao. The transition was merely a 4-kilometer jaunt away, but don’t let that distance fool you; the route presented its own set of challenges with its hilly terrain and steep stretches. Fortunately, our support vehicles had our bikes in tow, and I was relieved to spot En, my trusty foldable bike along with the rest of the bikes at the jump-off. Its rear tire had undergone some repairs, though I couldn’t help but wonder if it was perfectly aligned. After a few test rides, it seemed roadworthy enough.
As we set out, a group of local bikers from Boac joined our ranks. Their determination to ride alongside us was awe-inspiring, showcasing the robust cycling community in this area. We wasted no time and hit the road, fueled by the group’s infectious enthusiasm. Luckily, the road conditions were excellent, setting the stage for a memorable ride.
My DNF at 3.18km
The journey unfolded with countless curves and gentle inclines and descents. Approximately 1.5 kilometers into the ride, a particularly steep and winding section loomed ahead. I stashed my invisible stick and camera back in my bag, ensuring both my hands were firmly on the handlebars for optimal control. It turned out to be a thrilling downhill ride, with the gradient plunging to an intimidating -19.8%. I made sure to judiciously manage my brakes.
At a bend in the road, we regrouped, captivated by a striking rock formation that begged for photos. Beyond this point, a gradual ascent awaited us. After roughly 3 kilometers, I felt the weight of my pedaling increase, and it was evident that everyone was grappling with the challenge posed by this part of the ride. The gradient spiked to a jaw-dropping 29%, and my heart raced while my breath grew heavy. I knew I was pushing myself to the limit. With the destination just 900 meters or less than a kilometer away, I pondered my options. I realized that, while I could have made it by taking it slow, I wasn’t on this journey alone. So, I made the tough decision to halt my ride at this point.
The Luzon Datum of 1911
The Luzon Datum of 1911 beckoned, and we sped ahead in a van, leaving the others to conquer the final, grueling incline, which seemed to exceed a 30% grade. The sense of relief on their faces as they crested that challenging ascent was palpable. They had indeed conquered the Luzon Datum!
However, our victory lap was not quite complete. We still had to ascend a few flights of stairs to reach the marker at the summit. Climbing that familiar route, we finally arrived at the peak of Mt. Mataas. The stone marker stood resolute, and the view was as breathtaking as ever. The gusty winds discouraged me from flying my drone this time around.
This marked the culmination of our cycling adventure in Marinduque, and what an unforgettable experience it had been! I couldn’t help but promise myself that I would return to this remarkable place for another round of thrilling adventures in the future.
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.