In January 2006, we ventured into a weekend of extreme sports in San Miguel Bulacan.
From a laid back balsa (raft) ride to crossing the monkey bridge, spelunking at Madlum Cave to trekking to Mt. Manalmon, river-crossing, bouldering and rappelling down to around 50 feet towering rock. It was one heck of a thrilling adventure.
January 28,2006 ( Day 1)
0700 – Assembly Time at Baliuag Transit bus bound for San Miguel Bulacan
0930 – ETD San Miguel, Bulacan
1130 – ETA San Miguel, Bulacan ( Palengke)
1330 – ETD San Miguel Palengke to Madlum
**Registration/Last Minute Check
1400 –Start of Trek to Bayukbok Cave
1430 – Spelunking
1630 – ETD to Madlum Training Center
1700 – Monkey Bridge/Freshen Up/ Prepare for ascent
1800 – Packs on back, start of trek to Mt. Manalmon
2000 – ETA Campsite, Rest, Pitch tent, prepare dinner
2100 – Dinner / Socials
2300 – Lights out
January 29,2006 (Day 2)
0700 – Wake up Call/ Prepare breakfast
0800 – Breakfast
0830 – Peak Assault/Picture Taking
0930 – Break Camp
1000 – Descend to Madlum Training Center
1230 – ETA Madlum Training Center / Prepare for lunch/ Rappelling 101
1330 – Lunch (optional c/o Kambal)
1430 – Rappelling
1630 – Free time/Madlum River
Manalmon is an easy trek where two hours is more than enough to reach the peak. Our group (Montana Seri) collaborated with Mouhics mountaineers for an introductory rappelling activity.
Our original itinerary was spoiled when some attendees came late at our assembly point in Cubao. It was almost lunch time when we reached the town of San Miguel. We pass by the market to grab some lunch and some last minute provisions. Few minutes later, we rented a jeepney which brought us to Madlum Training Center.
Our raft ride crossing Madlum River was a refreshing start to our intense day.
At Madlum Traning Center, we registered and prepared for a spelunking adventure. Head count, 11 participants including our guide, Bong. We left our bags, with only a headlamp / flashlight on hand, bottled water and a dynamic soul.
The 30 minutes trek to Bayukbok Caves was easy with an established trail. It consisted of 8 interconnecting caves. What seemed to be easy on the start turned out to be an energy-sapping adventure. We frolic and had a good time though hopping from one chamber to another. We crawled unto the muddy cave, sweaty and disheveled. We were like kids who don’t care about getting cleaned up.
We learned about the different chambers that hold rock formations such as the music room where a tap on different rock spots emit different sounds, the men’s room, where a formation is made up interestingly for men’s haven and a lot more.
The cave looked creepy from the outside. We had to use tree vines to get down on the entrance. We even saw a little owl perched inside the dark portal.
A swing on a vine imitating the famous tarzan moves is a must to get out of the cave. We were back on trail a moment later to Madlum River. Instead of using the previous raft to get to the other side, we get to experience the Monkey Bridge. It is two cable wires stretched out on both sides, one used as handle/support while the other one is where we step foot on. This form of bridge is usually being used by locals especially if they are chasing time.
To add spice to this exciting event, we have to do what the locals do. Cross over to the other side without a harness on or even a life vest. Only one person at a time.You can tell I’m shaking while I take my few steps forward. I refused to look down and hold on for dear life instead. I thought somebody’s playing a joke and shaking off the wires but no one would dare do it. Finally, I reached the other end. Honestly, I do want to try it again ‘coz its crazy and fun!
We feast on light snacks and freshened up quickly as we prepared for a night trek to the campsite. It was dark and we even haven’t noticed that one wrong step will get us closer to a cliff.
We reached the campsite around 8 in the evening. Pitched tent and prepared our dinner. There are about two more groups settled near us.
As usual, dinner gets more appetizing when you’re tired and up there. I don’t know if I just got lucky but in every climb I joined in, I feel like there’s always a banquet to spoil us in everything yummy. From chocolates to liquors, to boodle fight, adobos and desserts.
It just gets better during socials, when everyone loosen up and mingle with each other. Whether we played games or share a little something about ourselves, every climb seemed to be different from the other. But the joy and experience are priceless things we could never get anywhere else.
Camping and going out of the city is something I do to revitalize my soul from the hectic schedule and polluted surroundings. Its a great place to meet diverse people and make friends with them. A place to relax, unwind and get energized. A place where we can lay on blankets all night and count the stars. A place to chill, laugh and be one with nature.
Some chose the hammock to sleep while we settled to our comfy tent.
On day 2 rise and shine
It was rise and shine at around 7 in the morning. We were late with witnessing daybreak as everyone was caught in a good night sleep. Those who slept outside on hammocks though, complained about mosquitoes.
We just gathered and prepared breakfast first. When all is set and done, we shared a delicious meal. We went on a peak assault afterwards, which is just two minutes away from our camp. Photo ops and savoring yet another moment up there in a gorgeous backdrop. The 360 degrees view of surrounding Bulacan area and nearby town is just some wonderful sight to see.
Back to campsite, we packed up and get ready to leave. As good climbers, we instill the value to others that whatever we bring up, will also be going down with us. Hence, we take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.
On the way down, we passed through a different cave named San Miguel. Locals claimed they found their patron saint statue, San Miguel de Arkangel at this place years ago.
Further down the river was a strong current we have to cross. The boys helped out on setting up a rope to support us from raging rapids and strong current. We safely cross to the other side with the care and concern of our gentlemen.
Not too far, we get to experience bouldering on a massive rock formation. From up there, we roughly made an estimate of how high the rappel site is. Down under, the stillness of Madlum river was a picturesque sight.
We headed straight to the training center where we filled our hungry stomach for lunch. While at it, our guides, Bong, Rene and Pilo gave us a short course on Rappelling 101. The briefing covered about the equipments, safety, etc. They personally set up and tested the rappel system before they let us use it.
Carabs, ropes, harness, eight ring, belayer, all checked. Our TL, Janeth was the first to rappel. I on the other hand is watching on the sidelines, fighting a heart attack. You know things which involves heights is not my kind of game.
Janeth survived descending gracefully, so everyone lined up for our turn.
My dreaded time finally came when I was called to get the gears on. OMG! The first few steps off the cliff is the hardest part. I hold on for dear life with my hands gripping the rope like its my last time. I was slowly getting my footworks and balance coordinated to descend and hop off the wall. I thought I could do this and it seemed easy enough… NOT. Oh well, another dilemma came in when there was no wall at all to hop on. I need to let go of my tight grip from the rope and put my complete trust to Rene, my belayer. Seemed a nightmare because I don’t want to let go thinking that I’d fall flat into the ground in seconds. After much prodding, I took my hands off the ropes and closed my eyes.
Rene sticked to his promise to gently pull me down. I shut my eyes through the entire descent. Most of the participants enjoyed this activity. They even stretch their arms widely and feel the wind beneath them, the thought of flying down. Some more daring goes for an Aussie rappel, where they positioned themselves faced down. OMG!
After the adrenaline pumping action, we headed down to the river to cool down. A perfect end to our extreme weekend adventure was when the rain poured in. We were like kids soaking through the cold waters and playing under the rain. We whiled away the time sitting on the raft.
We packed and left after the sunset.
*photos from pilo, micko, rico & moi