About Mt. Makiling
Mt. Makiling via Sto. Tomas trail
Time: 6-8 hours
Growing up in the southern part of Luzon, Laguna has been a common travel destination whenever my family would go out of town. The frequent trips to the hot springs of Laguna is always an opportunity for my parents to tell me the legend of Mt. Makiling whenever we see the the mountain from the road. Unless the people would tell you its legend, it’s hard to identify what form it is making.
Its name comes from a woman called Maria Makiling, a guardian of the mountain. The legend believed that the form or contour of the mountain is Maria Makilings reclining position, like a woman lying on its back. This story and its unique shape made Mt. Makiling one of the famous mountains in the Philippines. Never in my life would I imagine that I’ll be climbing Mt. Makiling (or any mountain for that matter) because of its intimidating form from afar. For that, I am sometime grateful for impulsive and risky decisions (hopefully they’re also wise).
Mt. Makiling, also known as “Maktrav”, was my first major hike and to be honest, I didn’t feel I was prepared for a longer and tougher climb. What convinced me is that small, still voice telling me that I have to do it because it will leave me wondering for the rest of my life if it was worth the risk. Indeed, it was. We took the Sto. Tomas trail and traversed to UPLB. The weather forecast for that day indicated that there will be a rainfall, but we still decided to push through our plan (this is case to case basis because the weather is an important factor in deciding whether it’s safe to push through or not). We left Cavite around 3:00am and we took a bus to Manila where we rode another bus going to Sto. Tomas market in Laguna. From there, we took a jeepney to the jump-off at Brgy. Sta. Miguel where we registered (you have to pay 20Php each for the registration). We did our stretching and warm-up at the jump-off and we also asked for a guide. Your head count will determine how many guide/s you need for the hike. We are 9 in the group so we needed only 1 guide and we paid him 1,000Php. We started the ascend really early at around 5:30am and there weren’t any hikers yet except the 2 guys that started 30 minutes ahead of us. The hike was easy at first because the temperature is a bit cool due to the weather condition, but we experienced some rainfall from time to time, though it’s not as heavy as what we’ve expected. The rain actually made the hike a lot easier because we don’t get dehydrated easily and it complements the body heat that the physical strain produces.
Along the way, the hike got more challenging when we came to the muddy part of the trail and the steepness adds to the difficulty. This is also where the roped segment was. For me, the worst and the most difficult is our encounter with “limatiks” (leeches). The terror stories about limatik encounters of previous hikers didn’t help in uplifting our spirits. The strategy here is to walk as fast as you can and avoid looking up as they can enter your eyes when they fall off the trees, but don’t let this intimidate you in braving Mt. Makiling. The limatiks will only start to appear at station 9.
There will be a campsite and open areas where you can rest and eat trail food/meal. In our case, we brought packed lunch and we ate at the first campsite we passed by on our way back.
One of the most rewarding things in our Maktrav hike is the beauty of the mountain itself. Though the peak didn’t show that much view because of the tall trees, you’d still get a front row seat to the greenest environment along the trail. What added to the beauty on the day of our hike is the fog the beautifully showed a silhouette of the surroundings.
Things to bring:
- Trail food
- Flashlight/head lamp
- Wind breaker
- Rash guard/dry-fit
- Alcohol (for limatik)
- First aid kit
- Check the weather the day before the hike and on the day itself. (Do not risk your safety just because you’ve prepared for it. The mountain will always be there, you can always re-schedule)
- Do a lot of cardio training, legwork, and even arm workouts (for the rope segment) at least a week before the hike.
- Make sure that you are prepared for “limatiks” or leeches. You can bring alcohol and spray on it because it’s harder to remove it with bare hands since it would really stick to you when it starts to bite and suck on you blood.
- Avoid wearing shorts to keep the limatik from sticking to your legs (you can use high socks as an alternative).
- Try to pack light because it’s a long way to the summit and the trail is not that easy. There’s a water source along the way and you can always refill your water so you won’t have to bring a lot of heavy bottles (trust me, the water there is fresh and clean you wouldn’t even distinguish its difference with bottled water).
- Avoid using sandals, especially if it’s raining because the trail is muddy and the soil is slippery.
- For the rope segment, make sure that you check the rope if it’s sturdy enough to carry your weight by pulling it first while your feet is still secured on the ground. A pair of gloves will be useful on this one.
- There’s a lot of rattan in Mt. Makiling (the gloves will also be useful for this one).
- Always greet fellow mountaineers and locals that you encounter along the way. Courtesy and respect are very important not just to people, but also to nature.
- Lastly, if you feel like you can’t do it, do it anyway because you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you try.