I looked up at the sky to find the sole pale moon of the earth hanging almost half full against that clear blue sky.
I felt a little chill; it did not look eerie at all but because of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami which I recently read, the picture made me let out a sigh of relief. Only one moon.
That same moon then patiently watched the setting sun – a perfect ball of fire on the horizon, waiting eagerly for darkness to come.
..when its darkest that the moon shines the brightest
As a soul who had come to love the view from a mountain top, the display of that kind of ending and beginning is breathtakingly beautiful. Profoundly symbolic and meaningful too.
Mt. Manalmon and Mt. Gola offers that and so much more.
To reach both mountains, one has to enter Madlum Cave and cross the Madlum River. The river on summers enchant visitors to take a leap from the highest rocks and into its cool waters.
From the river, the view of the face off can be seen and at both peaks, a panoramic view of Mt. Arayat in the distance is served on a silver plater.
The hike to the peaks of Mt. Manalmon and Mt. Gola is easy but during rainy days, the trail can be slippery. It is a good start for aspiring mountain climbers.
According to our guide, a survivor of last years’ tragic accident that claimed several young lives, Mt. Manalmon got its name from the word “nilamon”. He further goes on to tell the story and his version is this:
The fairy of the mountains punished a young man for shooting her favorite deer by submerging half of his body on a rock. She then told the young man’s girlfriend to fetch a certain nectar in three days and present it as a ransom. At the end of the agreed time, the container was still half full. The girl resorted to deception – she added water. The fairy got mad and the young man sank into the rock. The rock thus in turn grew to its large size.
Nilamon ng bato, the locals started to refer to the mountain as Mt. Manalmon. Near it’s peak, a rock greets climbers and alas one can be awed at it’s huge size, towering to almost 3 storeys high. I found myself open mouthed as my eyes tried to scale it’s size.
At the peak of Mt. Manalmon, one can be intimidated by some hundred meter or so drop to Madlum River but the landscape from that vantage point offers the view of the continous ranges of Sierra Madre. If it wasn’t summer, the scene would have been green with the Madlum River raging below.
In the middle of the day on April is the worst time to go up Mt. Gola. With little or no covering – me, Anne and Arianne were reduced to water-chugging camels oops homo sapiens. The heat was beating us up and thus doubling the difficulty of the ascent.
Yellow fallen leaves littered the trail while the grasses were baked pale yellow by the summer sun. It brings out a nostalgic hope for new shoots comes the rainy season. And already in my minds’ eye, I can see the vastness of greens. Aye, all shall be green again.
I feel that the trail is Mt. Gola’s allure, a good challenge for newbies.
Aside from the fun hikes, visitors can challenge themselves to push for a cave experience which I highly suggest as a must-try.
To maximize the visit and get the worth of our money, we decided to explore the cave after the sun had already set. Our guide was a very eager youth and with the moon already halfway across the sky, we began the descent to earth.
Bayukbok cave offers six chambers, glistening rock formations and varying challenges like going through small openings, up a monkey ladder and a dose of rappelling.
What captivated me was the picture of the moon shining through the caves’ entrance, giving me that eerie feeling once again. Surrealism do foster out-of-this-world thoughts or maybe the residents of the cave were silently watching us.
Like other Philippine mountains, Mt. Manalmon is surrounded by mysteries and is considered enchanted. Stories of otherworldly creatures walking it’s slopes circulates among the locals. Yet, a fire started by a humanoid that razed the forests’ bushes and trees were beyond their control, magic and power.
An i-witness documentary by Jay Taruc, one of my favorite journalist, covered it in Misteryo ng Manalmon.
The documentary is 3 years old but minus the lush greenery, the view was the same. Lee, a veteran mountaineer and artist, guided and accompanied Jay in his first climb and quest for the elusive otherworld creatures.
In the Know
★ A sari-sari store can be found at the jump-off and during summer, a halo-halo kiosk
★ For dayhikes, no carinderya or eatery at jump-off, eat your meals just after getting off the bus at Kamias and bring packed lunch
★ Tricycles abound the jump off for the outbound trip to the national highway
★ There is a guide fee matrix but the rates are negotiable
♥ Hiking Mt. Gola and Mt. Manalmon
♥ Swimming at Madlum River
♥ Spelunking at Bayukbok Cave
How to get there
From Cubao or Pasay, ride a bus for Cabanatuan via Bulacan. Get off at Kamias, San Miguel, Bulacan. Across the road, ride a tricycle bound to Brgy. Sibul, Sittio Madlum – the jump off. Cross the Madlum river via the bridge or raft to the registration area.
Budget for dayhike
Bus ride – php117.00/one way
Tricycle – php200 or 67.00/pax (max cap of 3 pax)
Registration – php5.00
Hike up Manalmon&Gola – php300.00/guide for 5pax; 10pax-up = 2 guides…
Caving – php200.00/guide
Since the tragic accident of 2014 where several students where claimed by the Madlum river, hikes were suspended and was recently opened last January 2015.
However, according to the elders, the status is TEMPORARILY OPENED and will remain so as long as the local government of Bulacan doesn’t release a document that officially consents hikes to both mountains.
I extend my thanks to Anne and Arianne (willpower girl),
Christian (our guide), elders of Madlum,
and to the friendlies from Meralco.