Text and Photos by Euden Valdez
STRADDLING the provinces of Laguna and Batangas, Mt. Makiling is among the most renowned mountains of Luzon because of its unspoiled beauty—believed to be protected by its deity, Maria Makiling.
The folklore of the Diwata of Makiling has been passed from generations upon generations of Filipino families. Even our National Hero Jose Rizal, who was born in Laguna province, penned a story about Maria, a most beautiful maiden to have set foot on earth.
Mt. Makiling is thus filled with tales of encounters with Maria. It is told that she appears before those with a golden heart, or sometimes, playfully teases those who does not believe in her. It is also believed that she unleashes fury through storms to those who dare harm her mountain its natural inhabitants.
In real life, Mt. Makiling is a protected Forest Reserve and an Asean Heritage Park spanning 4,244 hectares. It is under the jurisdiction of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and is managed by Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME). Through MCME, research, conservation and sustainable efforts are enacted in the forest reserve.
All this has shrouded the mountain with both mysticism and natural beauty, enchanting veteran mountaineers and newbie outdoor enthusiasts alike. Without doubt, Mt. Makiling has become one of Southern Luzon’s most hiked mountains.
But do not underestimate the mountain. Towering at 1,090 meters above sea level (MASL), it is classified as major hike with difficulty rating of 5/9, particularly the traverse from Sto. Tomas in Batangas to Los Baños in Laguna. Dubbed Maktrav (Makiling traverse), the trail was established as early as the 1990s. And according to veteran climbers, Maktrav was originally 7/9 but after decades of climbing, it has gotten actually easier.
This author contests this because in August, Traveling Journo Ph together with my outdoor and outreach group Random Act of Kindness (RAK) Ph Mountaineers held a fundraising climb at Mt. Makiling. And the mountain is no easy feat especially to amateur and newbie hikers.
To give you vivid details, here is a virtual tour of the beautiful and mystical Mt. Makiling:
RAK at the jump-off point in Sitio Jordan in Brgy. San Miguel where we register and meet with our accredited guides.
Since the mountain is covered by a rainforest, it is infested with blood-sucking leeches called “limatik” in the local dialect.
Mt. Makiling will begin easy for warm up until you are met with slopes, which will get more and more frequent throughout the climb.
Get tangled as roots and branches are strewn all over.
And on we trudge.
Mushrooms in different sizes, forms and colors abound the mountain.
Proper phasing that’s fit for the entire group and rest stops are important to maintain everyone’s energy throughout the hike.
You know it’s getting higher.
We were able to take advantage of this majestic balete before rains started falling down.
Somewhere along the trail a marker indicates your exact location and elevation.
Just before Melkas Ridge, an opening in the trail will show this canopy with a fallen tree resulting to this almost heart-shaped looking whole.
Gearing for Melkas Ridge. Some of our members are brave enough to sit on a rock on the edge of the cliff. But just look at that view? Shows how thickly forested Mt. Makiling still is. The gloomy day’s clouds add a mystifying effect.
The much-awaited Haring Bato of Melkas Ridge, which presents hikers with rope segments and metal ladders on steep portions.
The topmost part of the ridge is so beautiful you’ll wish it’s the summit already. But not yet.
We return inside the mountain and are greeted with a mossy forest. It was green everywhere.
Even the topmost branches are reached by ferns covering the canopy even more.
Finally it’s summit–without view but we make do. After all, we summitted! Photo ops for the record!
We start descent without choice and it got more muddy and slippery. I had stowed my camera by then because this author is more challenged going down than up. Haha!
You’ll know you’ve gotten closer the base when the soil and the fauna get drier. The Agila Base has not been photographed by our entire group because we busied ourselves resting and munching on merienda. We need the refreshments and rest because we were to hit kilometers more of pavement.
The long road to the University of the Philippines-Los Banos exit (or jump-off point if you won’t traverse). We were exhausted at this point but we did not take the available habal (motorbike) rides offered by locals because! Just because. We were rewarded with interesting views of century old and massive trees, the rainbow tree (which were not so colorful that time), and the Laguna Bay.
TJPh lauds RAK for this successful fundraising hike, which was led by some veteran members of the group as well as the amateur ones. Extra kudos goes to the participants who embarked on their first-ever major climb at Mt. Makiling. Together, we hiked as one.
So are you excited to discover Mt. Makiling yourself?
(Additional Photos by Alex Delos Santos)