FIRST TIME CLIMBERS. I saw a poster in a neighborhood gym that describes the itinerary and schedule to climb Mount Banoy in Montalban Rizal. It looked inviting because aside from the jump-off point is barely an hour away from our where I live, the climb is scheduled on a weekend. I signed up.
One fine Sunday morning, first time mountain climbers JC, Edward, Karen and myself began our trip to the mountains of Montalban at sea level. After close to an hour of driving, we arrived at the jump-off point in Barangay San Rafael.
SAFETY FIRST. The jump-off point is also the entrance to Wawa Dam where visitors are invited to register and meet their mountain guide at the local tourism office. Here, we were given a list of activities from hiking Wawa Dam and entering Bonifacio’s Cave to trekking the mountains Pamitinan, Binacayan or Banoy.
Our local guide, Abner Mendoza encouraged us to buy rubber-padded gloves and sleeves for safety since we opted to trek Mount Banoy. Later in the day we found them very useful.
MOUNT BANOY. I have made several trips to Wawa Dam in the past but this is my first time to climb one of the mountains surrounding it. Excited, determined and clueless of what awaited us, our group began our trek to the summit of the highest of the three mountains. According to locals, banoy is Dumagat word for eagle. The peak of this mountain is said to be where the eagles eat and set their nest.
At 7:00 in morning, our local guide led us to cross the hanging bridge above the turbulent Wawa River where from a distance we see a silhouette of the mountain that we are about to climb partly shrouded in fog.
INTO THE WOODS. The first part of the trek we passed by a local community at the foot of the mountain. We walked deep into the woods under towering trees with interlocking branches that form a living canopy of evergreen. Occasionally, we would hear birds tweeting and see crawling worms and flying insects.
Our local guide explained that one can survive living in the forest by taking shelter in the caves and gather food by climbing fruit trees and digging for wild yams. Drinking water can be sourced for the several streams that lace the ethereal mountain.
THE LEGEND OF BERNARDO CARPIO. We rested beneath a massive wall of limestone. Mang Abner pointed out that this part of Mount Pamitinan is popular among rock climbers.
Here, our mountain guide narrated a story about the mythical hero Bernardo Carpio who is forever chained to keep the mountains of Pamitinan and Binacayan from colliding. It is said that whenever an earthquake occurs, it is caused by the giant trying to escape from the bowels of the mountain.
IT’S A HARD CLIMB. From the Pamitinan junction, we continued our trekking. This time Mang Abner instructed us to wear our rubber gloves and said in an a assuring voice that it’s going to be a harder climb ahead.
Sites and blogs about mountaineering describe the climb to Mount Banoy to be easy to moderate. For first time climbers, the slippery mud on river rocks, thorny branches, and sharp coral rocks are not easy or moderate at all. It is hard.
BONIFACIO’S MOUNTAIN. Upon our ascent to a spot half way to reach the summit, a spectacular view of evergreen mountain peaks greeted us.
Our country is rich in legends and history about our natural features. We took pictures with Mount Pamitinan’s summit in the background. There is cave in Pamitinan where a year before the 1896 Revolution, Andres Bonifacio with eight men inscribed on the cave wall what could have been the first declaration of Philippine Independence.
BUWIS BUHAY SHOT. Our veritable guide would volunteer to take our photos and would even give instruction on how we should position. We later learned that the mountain guides would compared their photos once they see them online and take the credit for the best shots.
There is one time when Mang Abner insisted that each of us strike a pose while at the edge of a protruding rock. After some convincing I agreed then when I looked down, I blurted Kuya, Nah. It’s a deadly ravine. Then I looked down again. Nope talaga. Pass muna.
WELCOME COMMITTEE. After four hours of climbing and picture-taking, we approached the summit of Mount Banoy expecting to see an eagle in its nest having a meal, after all the mountain is named after the Dumagat word ‘eagle’ because the haring ibon is said to dine and sets its nest on the mountain peak. Instead, we were greeted by dragonflies, butterflies and bees and at 500 plus plus meters above sea level a breath-taking sea of green that is the Sierra Madre mountain range and primeval Wawa river and its gorge.
EPILOGUE. Everyone should climb a mountain once in while. After climbing a mountain for the first time, I realize that there is truth to the saying to Keep close to nature’s heart… Climb a mountain, spend a day in the woods, wash your spirit clean.
October 4, 2016
Feast of St. Francis de Assisi, patron saint of nature