AFTER trudging for the past two hours along the forested trail overlooking Balayan Bay’s deep blue waters, the summit of Mt. Gulugod Baboy was finally within sight! And then I noticed, from the corner of my sweat-fogged glasses, the parked car.
Merrell invited SPIN.ph to join one of its Getaway Adventures, this time to one of the most popular day hike destinations that’s less than two hours travel time from Manila.
Located in the middle of a peninsula on the eastern coast of Batangas, Gulugod Baboy (The Pig’s Spine) is around 1,722 feet above sea level and is considered a “minor climb” by mountaineers.
It was around 4 a.m. Saturday morning when I met Em Mallari of Merrell who introduced me to our guides from Trail Adventours. After a quick breakfast and stocking up with water and trail food, around a dozen of us boarded two vans for the uneventful two-hour trip via SLEX and the Star Tollway.
Before reaching the jump-off point in the town of Mabini, we passed through Anilao and its numerous dive resorts. After a quick briefing of what to expect during the climb as well as some do’s and don’ts, we were off!
The trail began with a concrete road that went up, up and up! Pretty soon it narrows down to a dirt and rock trail leading into a forested slope. NOTE: If you spend most of your weekday seated in front of an office desk, it will remind you painfully of the fact! There are some bright spots though and you can always look at the scenic bay when you have to catch your breath.
Apart from the peace and quiet one finds along the trail, one of the best things about climbing are the people you meet. Members of our group included a lady from Canada whose one-week visit to the country as part of her Asian tour has extended into a month-long stay (“There’s just so many things to see and do hear! And the people are so friendly!”); a middle-aged chap from Australia who came to the Philippines several years ago on the invitation of his expat daughter and has since decided to live year-round (“The weather agrees with me, the people are nice and there’s always something to do on a weekend!”); Em who had just started in her new job and at that point was beginning to appreciate the great outdoors; Bryan, a photographer with a passion for MMA that extended to his girlfriend and our designated sweeper, Marvin, a curly-haired Trail Adventour guide who was a doting uncle to his young niece and nephew.
At the start of the trek the stronger and more experienced climbers quickly left the others behind. After about an hour and a half of encouraging one another, posing for selfies and reminding ourselves the uphill climb has to stop eventually, our group finally reached the base of the summit where to my surprise, there was a road. Pretty soon, some of us, in an exercise of wishful thinking, were thinking of hitching a ride back to town!
The peak of Gulugod Baboy is worth the climb though. We were soon afforded a panoramic vista of the Batangas and Balayan Bays. The steady, cool breeze literally felt like a second wind and after a quick lunch of sandwiches, chips and bananas washed down with Gatorade we were soon headed back.
During the descent, I perspired too much and lost more than just water. I had some difficulty due to a sodium deficiency and my old enemy reappeared—cramps! Good thing Marvin was there to provide a steady hand and shared some corned beef straight from the sachet and I was soon able to proceed back to the meeting point for the second stage of the day trip.
A hike to and from Gulugod Baboy can easily be managed by reasonably fit individuals. For a day trip, you won’t need to bring a heavy pack, just make sure you have enough hydration in the form of water or Gatorade, some trail food and a light lunch. A hat and a bandana are two useful items to help stave off the equatorial heat (and it does get pretty humid underneath the forest canopy). The pair of Merrell Capras that were provided worked splendidly on the dirt and rock slope (I slipped several times but managed to regain control), provided good ventilation for feet in socks and despite its solid appearance, surprisingly flexible (a godsend to swollen feet).
A quick walk from the parking lot to the shore took us to a motorized banca that would take us for the short hop to Sombrero Island for some much-needed (and deserved) beach time! Pretty soon the regular throbbing from the boat’s engines lulled everyone to a state of restful bliss.
A reminder: apart from a change of dry clothes and flipflops/ sandals, make sure you bring some food and beverage since there are no stores on the island. There is, however, plenty of soft sand and the water is clear as glass. Guests from the resorts go to the island since the coast of Mabini is composed of rocky outcrops and pebble beaches. Welcome company was a friendly dog who nuzzled up to me as I lay down on the sand and even joined us for swimming. Good times!
Our trip to Batangas wouldn’t have been complete without a Bulalo dinner complete with note-sharing of the day’s experiences and recollections of other adventures. By 9 p.m. were back in Manila, tired but with smiles plastered on our faces.