Mt. Mantalingajan which local name is Mt. Mallnuu can be found in Rizal, Palawan . A south-western city which is six hours away from puerto princesa. The mountain is rarely scaled, so there is no definite Itinerary. Climbers usually rely on the local guide on how the climb is going to be. In the mountaineering community, Mt. Mantalingajan has a reputation of being the toughest climb in the Philippines (which after climbing I think is true). The length, difficulty and technicality of the trails, plus the fact that the place is malaria infested adds to the perils of climbing this mountain. The main road in Palawan is located on the both sides of the island, the middle part are mountains. So basically traverse climbing is entering the south-west of the island and exiting the south-east side. The start of the trek starts ~0 masl and exits on the other side around the same level (1km from from the sea). So basically after completing the traverse, you have done a sea to summit to sea hike, on the highest mountain in Palawan.
After buying our additional supplies in Puerto Princesa, we took the six hour ride to Ransang in Rizal, Palawan. We met the guide and took another hour walk to Brgy, Balen-balen. We reached the jumpoff early evening. A day was already spent just for travel, we rested and started the trek early the next morning.
The first day was already a difficult trek but was still manageable, since the trail was still adequate for walking, I think due to the mountain tribe (tau bato) still use them for walking to and fro... and for those who sometimes travel to the lowlands to buy supplies. The trail is fully covered with trees, century old trees. There were also spots where 'kaingin' (slash and burn) farming was being done by the local tribes. There are several areas that can be used as pit stops or campsite depending on the pace of the group. The last water source before paray-paray (campsite before the summit) is Kabugan, a big community of the local tribe. After Kabugan the trail becomes more steep, our local guide went way ahead to check if there are traps along the trail. According to the guide, the traps are not simple and can really kill people, flying spears and arrows, but the intended targets are wild boars. We also passed by several local tribe communities but they do not allow themselves to be exposed with city dwellers. They were afraid of us, mainly because they dont have protection against diseases that we might bring (colds etc). After the Kawayanan campsite, the fun begins. Its a continous assault for 5-6 hours. The trail was now more narrow and more steep. This is a good sign since it means the place is more pristine, but this adds to the difficulty of the hike. When the trail became Guiting-like rock formations, we know that we are close to the Paray paray (1650 masl) campsite. We arrived early and though summit assault was still possible the group conferred to do it early the next day, since there was more chance of a clearing.
|Manta is still on the other side|
|Large logged tree|
|One of the simple hazards|
|Manta is on the other side still|
|Kabugan - a local tribe community|
|Resting at Kawayanan|
|Paray Paray Camp|
|A bath in the clouds|
Early the next day we started our trek to the summit. The summit trail starts scrambling through rocks very much like the 'camelback' area of guiting albeit with century old bonsai trees. After this place was a mossy area with bamboo like plants. Its just like getting inside a den, very pristine and cavelike shaped. The next part was now very similar to the rock formation of guiting but unlike guiting several rocks are loose, which you will only know upon stepping or holding them. Additional care was needed to avoid accident. We saw several nearby mountains from the trail, Rio Tuba, Mt. sinapaan where Taut Bato reside and the beautiful Tres Marias peak. After several hours of scrambling, we reached the Mt. Mantalingajan summit (2030 masl). And there was 360 degrees clearing!!! wuhooo!!!. We can see both sides of Palawan on summit. I guess we were really lucky, it was even the first time for the guide to have this very good weather.
|Mt Sinapaan, residence of the Tau't Bato|
|With the guides|
|A long last view|
|Japanese treasure hunters dug this|
|The trail that looks like a den|
|Foot over a foot|
After the summit assault we descended the same afternoon. According to the guide we were the 4th group to do the traverse exit, the trail was actually the one being used by the local tribes. When we start descending very steep and bamboo bushy. I said to myself, 'o boy this is gonna be a long afternoon'. Part of the trail was passing by a very mossy dry river...with loose rocks, loose soil and wet logs. The trail was very difficult to negotiate. We were just waiting for a snake to came out and eat all of us (later the guide confirms that this place was a snake haven). The trail continues like this for several hours, later it will become something like a ravine.. with only a single foot will fit. Adding to the danger was the twigs and small trees you can hold on are sometimes dry/dead, very dangerous. The first day of the descent, we walked for 7 hours at the constant height of 1400++ masl. The traverse side also has just one watersource and one campsite. Proper rationing and budgeting was needed. In my previous climbs when you descend its a continous, but here it was up and down. Sometimes the height goes constant for several hours. I think we passed by several smaller mountains along the way that I lost count. The last 1/3 of the trail was not that technical, but still very long. We reached the main road after 12 hours of trekking (2nd day of descent)
|Dangerous trail, I hid may cam after this shot for fear it might fall.|
|The last and only campsite|
|The look like noodles|
|One of the mini assaults|
|Dont forget to take notes|
|Almasiga tree (for creating fire)|
|Luckily met Tau't Bato ascending from the City|
|City (other side)can now be seen|
|Exit point - Malis, Brookspoint|
Mt. Mantalingajan is my most difficult climb. I have never hike for 12 hours non-stop before. The place is more pristine than Mt. Kanlaon if not equal. The techinicality and danger of the summit assualt and the traverse trail cannot be equaled. My companion had been to Mt. Guiting (via traverse, I had been to guiting myself but traditional) and Mt Halcon and according to him this is the most difficult. The approach will take several days and the difficulty of the exit. I came to this mountain with several weeks of preparation and training, but was still had a hard time. This mountain is very big yet there is limited water source along the trail, a guide is needed in finding them since some of the water supply can cause serious sickness (elephantism etc). Indeed these mountain probably is the toughest climb in the Philppines. According to the guide, we were the first group to the the traverse in five days. But given the chance that there was water source and good campsite on the traverse side, I would have prefer to do it in six.
In the Know
- the local name of Mantalingajan is Mt. Mallnuu which means smooth, for the mountain can be seen smooth (without any jaggedness) from a distance.
- the Tau't Bato (people of stone) got their name because they live on stone caves.
- another tribe, the Tau't Daram also live before in this mountain. They were feared for their cannibalism. Our guide told us that it was believed that if you happen to wayward into their territory, you are absolutely gonna be eaten. They were even stories that they eat they own kin, during times of hunger. Their practice was stopped only during the time that a japanese preacher came into their place and was able to persuade them to stop this practice. The tribe is now scattered all over palawan and is not anymore a threat.