Going Wayward, Discerning Portents, and Meeting Friends at Mount Sembrano, Pililla, Rizal

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


August 10, 2014

Heavy rains, muddy roads, and dull gray skies -
These were the components of my June and July.
And, yes, rain has its merits, but I, for one,
Fancy sharp colors and the grand bright sun.

(c) 081114

My dear readers, that, right there, started out as a simple introduction - prosaic, without intention of having rhythm. After going over the first three sentences of what was supposed to be the preface of a Celineist Travel Adventure, I heard a melody, a certain cadence to the words. I find that they rhyme beautifully. And as a hats-off to the title of this post, discerning portents, I decided to let the poetry take over. So there.

If anything, this has become even more celineistic in nature because of that verse.

In any case, the storm months are upon us. And I am one of the many who keep their eyes sharp for a clear blue sky - the most ideal time to go for an adventure.

So, when the past days granted us echoes of summer, my toes curled in eagerness. I snatched the sun rays, twisted its fragile tendrils around my hand, and nailed a note of promise to that elusive blue: I will have my sixth summit.

I was determined and I would not be denied.

Saturday, the third consecutive sunny day, I sent an SMS to Dennis, my Adventure-Buddy-For-Life, and told him we would be going on a day hike in Pililla. Tomorrow, I said - with utmost conviction - and Mount Sembrano, in Brgy. Malaya, would be the conquest.

And as it always has, he gave in to my whim.

'Twas a Sunday. And having been in a state of intentional - and unnecessary - sleep deprivation, I did not hear my alarm go off. It was a good thing, therefore, that Dennis made my phone ring. Oh, how he knows me so well.

The ring woke me up and it was a little past 5AM. For a moment, I got worried that the weather would harp at the face of my adventure. The early sky seemed swollen, as if it had been holding its pee for a long time. I spoke to it, pleading for it to hold it in a little longer - it wasn't as if it would get any renal complications anyway. I told it I would not be denied.

We were on a jeepney to Tikling by 5:55, and I was glad to see crisp blue skies behind wispy clouds. It was a beautiful day. The weather was just toying with me. We like ribbing each other, the weather and I.

At any rate, from Tikling, we hailed a jeepney bound for Tanay. A little past seven and we were in the town proper. Here we took another jeepney to Malaya and got off at the baranggay hall.

I scrawled our names in the log book and paid the twenty-peso registration fee. When asked if going sans tour guide was fine, the baranggay hall employee answered yes. It was decided, then, that Mount Sembrano would, indeed, be our first climb on our own.

We started our ascent at 8:15. From the baranggay hall, we walked past a Flying V gasoline station. We then crossed the road and turned left on the second street after Flying V. We followed the cemented path, level at first before gradually inclining. We could already see the mountain from here.
The cemented path

Moments later, the paved street ended and a rocky road began. We hopped on varied-sized rocks, catching up with a group of five fellow hikers who had paused in a sari-sari store known as the Tree House - the last place where one can stock up on supplies.
Sunlight pours
Dennis and I decided to forge ahead after giving the customary greetings. We already made a considerable headway when one of the hikers we passed by called our attention. We were going the wrong way.

We untrod, to where the group were huddled. A trio of locals walked past us and told us where the right trail was. It was on our right, a trail that can be easily overlooked. We were grateful for the holler.

We tagged along with our fellow hikers, encountering, within minutes, a forked trail. We followed them to the left, to a path that cut through towering coconut trees. Several minutes later, the breeze carried with it the fragrant scent of citrus. We were amidst tall calamansi shrubbery. And further, another forked trail. Dennis and I decided to take the right one, leaving our fellow hikers behind. We saw a cow with its drover and asked for directions. Surprise, surprise. We were wrong again.
I never knew calamansi could grow like this
One of the members of the group we've bumped into, the one known to his friends as "Angge", but I shall call him Angelo because I don't want to seem overfamiliar, had already gone the way we went and he relayed that we should have taken the right side path on the first diverging trail.

If you find yourself amidst coconuts and calamansi, you're going the wrong way. Go back and take the right-side path.

So off we went to the right. Well, it was, more or less, straight ahead.
You're welcome.

Not long after, when we entered the woodlands, we were faced yet again with a choice. On our right was a path where three rocks were balanced. We decided to take this route. And we were wrong again. This path led to a cliff overlooking the Manggahan Falls. And though descent is possible, it is very perilous. So we turned heel.

The man known as Edison, the tallest of us all, belatedly saw that there was a pair of twigs placed in an X in the start of the path we just took. If we were enrolled in Divination, Professor Trelawney would be immensely disconsolate at our ineptitude.

So we went straight, and I could almost hear the mountain laughing at us as we found ourselves, once again, in a path that forked. But we were getting better at this game of chance. The lady known as Bem spotted the "caution tape" tied to a branch on the right trail. Regardless of the connotations of the yellow police tape, our morbid imaginings and mild paranoia, we decided to take this path.

Our string of trails-diverging was not done yet, for the mountain is demanding another decision from us: left or right. Rian, the lady in the Cinemalaya X shirt, remarked that, perhaps, this is the part where we should take the left path (since we have been taking mostly rights). Factor in the fact that the trail on our left looked more defined, more used. So left we went.

Fields of corn occasionally appeared on our side. We walked on despite the nagging murmurs of second-guessing. I imagined we all let out a sigh of relief when a familiar foliage emerged above us. Tall mango trees blocked out the sun. We were in the Manggahan campsite. It was 9:30.
Finally, the campsite!
We took a breather under the canopy of mango and coconut trees, had some fresh buko, and got to know our fellow hikers better. Angelo, Edison, Rian, and Bem all hailed from Cavite. And here was Noel, a fellow Rizaleño, from Taytay. It was such a pleasure to meet them all.
L-R: Noel, Rian, Edison, Bem, Angelo, and Me
Fifteen minutes later, we resumed our ascent. Campers had told us that we should always turn right if and when the trail forks. And we did. On our way up the 40 - 45° inclines, we passed by several groups of hikers, exchanging greetings and brief accounts of what's up there.
The start of the inclines
Several minutes later, the grassland began, and we found ourselves before a daunting assault amidst dancing cogon grass. We braved the dusty incline and by 11:00 we found ourselves in a clearing. From this vantage, we could already see the Laguna Lake and the form of Mount Tagapo in the distance. We waited for the rest of the group (as we are already part of them by this time).
Adventure Buddies
After quite a few photo ops, we proceeded and by 11:15, we were in the North Peak.
The grassland to the North Peak

We were uncertain about whether or not the descending slope, flanked by and almost completely lost in the tall cogon grass, was still part of the trail. It was 11:30, when we agreed that it was, and decided to have our lunch on the South Peak.

I took up the front, the slender leaves obscuring my path, the wind providing no aid with its alarming gusts. I relied on my alampay for protection and moments after we were in the South Peak.

Angelo, Dennis, and I waited for the rest of the company while munching on some tasty square biscuits called Jacobina. We relayed stories of previous climbs as well as future ones.

It was a little past noon when we were all reunited. We formed a circle and had our lunch. I did not bring lunch, only boiled eggs, granola, and leftover Cheetos. Dennis and I were extremely thankful that our new friends shared us their meal.

We exchanged more stories: birding, the joy and woes of organizing a climb, Rizal, Mabini, and a whole lot of other tales.

In that moment, among this group of fellow hikers, I remember thinking: sometimes, you lose your way so you can find something even better, like new friends.

Life is truly awesome, is it not?
Preparing for pictures

In any event, I did say, standing on the summit of Mt. Tagapo, that I will be viewing the Laguna Lake from Mt. Sembrano very soon. Like I said, I'm determined. Voila!

Of course, we didn't miss out on capturing the grandeur of the view. The vastness of the Lake, the many mountain ranges, the teeny shapes of houses and structures... It was all breathtaking. Everything is worth it, I tell you, once you're on the top. And that goes not only for climbing mountains. *wink wink*

Cartwheels for Sembrano
Laguna Lake from the other side of Talim
Naturally, more pictures!

Photos courtesy of Edison

We also happened upon another group of fellow hikers who call themselves the "Patola Mountaineer".

Tropang Ligaw with Patola Mountaineer
Photo courtesy of Noel

It was 1:35 when we started our descent, to a brief visit to the Manggahan Falls.

Related Adventure: Sidetrip to Manggahan Falls

Cheers to the next adventure!

How to Get There
From Angono, one can hail a jeepney bound for Tanay and get off at the terminal at the town proper. Alternatively, one can opt for a jeepney to Tikling road (Sta. Lucia, Cubao, Tropical, Hi-way signboards) and ride a Tanay-bound jeep. In the terminal, ride a jeep that is bound for "Malaya" and get off at the baranggay hall.

0615 - Tikling
0715 - Jeepney Terminal in Tanay town proper
0750 - Malaya baranggay hall
0800 - Start ascent
0930 - Manggahan camp site
1035 - North Peak/Rest/Photo Ops
1130 - To South Peak
1145 - South Peak
1335 - Start Descent
1350 - Back to North Peak
1435 - Manggahan Campsite/Regroup
1450 - Falls
1530 - Resume Descent
1600 - Tree House
1610 - Baranggay Hall
1640 - Town Proper
1800 - Home

Jeepney fare from Angono to Tikling - Php10.00/pax
Jeepney fare from Tikling to Tanay - Php40.00/pax
Jeepney fare from Tanay to Malaya - Php23.00/pax
Registration fee - Php20.00/pax
Tour guide - N/A
Campsite fee - Php10.00/pax
Fresh buko - Php15.00 each
Jeepney fare from Malaya to Tanay - Php23.00/pax
Jeepney fare from Tanay to Angono -  Php 35.00/pax

Special Concerns
There is no presence of  limatik
Bring lots and lots of water
Wear ample skin covering since the cogon grass are thick and tall and can be very itchy
Lots of forked trails, be wary
Be a responsible adventurer

Contact Persons
PO2 Camagong - +639392066763

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