An unexpected tree planting on my friend’s return climb (an unexpected twin hike too)

My friend, Jun Espiritu, told me his Conquer backpack haunted him for a wash after almost ten years so he asked me to join him on his return to the mountain. There was only the “old trail” when he last climbed Mt. Batulao so I recommended him to try the “new trail”. It was also where I had my return climb last June. ( see After a Decade of Hiatus, I Returned to Backpacking with a new buddy, My Wife.) I wore shoes this year in all four climbs but my friend had only sandals so I sympathized with him. Half the bus we boarded for Nasugbu have Evercrest their stop, it was sem-break and long weekend. When the bus was at the Tagaytay area, I chatted to a passenger whom I thought would do a Mt. Batulao. To my surprise, sir Nick Castellano of Philippine Nature Outdoor Explorers (PHINOE) would be participating into a tree planting at Mt. Talamitam, the sister mountain of our supposed destination.

With sir Nick were his 9 yrs old daughter Cholet and 8 yrs old son Cholas, fellow PHINOE sir Erich del Rosario and daughter Orange. Sirs Nick and Erich politely encouraged us to join them which we heeded. Twin hike and tree planting! big thanks to PHINOE! (my first at Mt. Talamitam).

Accordingly, the “Tree Planting Project” sponsored by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Batangas DENR and spearheaded by Bro. Ted Calimag of Talamitam has the highest output in CALABARZON CENROs.

Bro. Ted informed us that the first batch of seedlings were planted within the community to show future participants and mountaineers that the locals are willing to actively support this long-term project.

Bro. Ted, sir Erich, me, Jun, Orange, Cholet and Cholas. (This photo is from PHINOE)

Same contingent with PHINOE’s sir Nick in the middle. (This photo is from PHINOE)

Jun’s return climb detoured to Mt. Talamitam for tree planting, a great re-start!

Cholas and Cholet are frequent visitors of Mt. Talamitam so they took part on its preservation.

The multi-sectoral advocacy had participants from the Philippine Air Force, students, mountaineers, locals and NGOs. With us was sir Bert Guevarra, president of Earth Day Network Philippines (in white shirt and cap). I highly recommend you visit his site “Earthday News Everyday” for a wide array of environment protection information from blogs, tweets, videos and much more.

Step for nature, my six Mahogany seedlings.

While most kids are sweating in the playground, these two perspired on a mountain, on tree planting!

Cholet on photo-shoot atop, her reward for bringing up seedlings.

Bro. Ted took care of soaking hundreds of seedlings.

Mountaineers and locals, great combo!

I dedicate this one Mahogany for my father who passed away last year.

I hope some shades materialized here after a decade.

With its stream, I might introduce mountaineering to two of my three sons at Mt. Talamitam. (The older kuya Aaron had it at Mt. Tagapo. “My wife’s first clean-up drive and my son’s first climb.” )

After the tree planting, Jun and I headed for Mt. Batulao. Both campsite at the “old trail” and “new trail” were filled with tents but we managed to pitched ours. I wish those hundreds of mountaineers were detoured first to Mt. Talamitam for tree planting.

I also met a Facebook friend at Mt. Batulao, Charlou Ayon who lend me this one picture below.

I enjoined every mountaineers to visit Mt. Talamitam and coordinate with Bro. Ted Calimag for the tree planting. There are still thousands of seedlings there waiting for you.

[UPDATE (Nov. 27, 2011): PinoyMountaineer just released (same date) his advance Christmas gift of Twin Dayhikes Itineraries including dayhikes of Mt. Talamitam & Mt. Batulao, ours was not twin dayhikes but might give it a try following PinoyMountaineer’s itinerary, after all, I now reside a little more of an hour to Mt. Talamitam trailhead (KM. 83) and visit the status of trees planted.]


My wife’s first clean-up drive and my son’s first climb.

I forgot to cite in my earlier article “Mountain and Kids” that the three years old Juls Marley Rabanillo participated on a clean-up drive on our descent from the summit of Mt. Sto. Tomas. My second climb with Marley was at Mt. Tagapo in Binangonan, Rizal. It was the second mountain for my wife Rowena, and the first for my oldest son Aaron. When two of my three sons saw the pictures of my first climb with Marley, they insisted to join the next. But my second son, though older than Marley at age five, needs preparatory training so I decided to familiarize first his 11 yrs old brother. (Joke of numbers 🙂 )

My son’s first climb almost became a disaster when I forgot my camera’s memory. Good thing the EDSA-Crossing terminal has some cellular phone stores nearby. From that starting point, we took the jeepney for the port of Binangonan. Next was an hour and a half ferry to Brgy. Janosa.

Although our team leader Nico Waya Rabanillo once climbed Mt. Tagapo before, we arranged for a guide because we have three children in our group and trail to base camp has some forks.

Frankly, I almost got into tears when I took this shot, so happy.

She asked for this, of course for Facebook. (Though next time I will check the clothes she will pack, camouflage not advisable! 🙂 )

Can’t wait to complete this with my other two sons.

If not for the fish pens, this view would be like ‘Batanes-que’. (click the picture to enlarge)

A paradise Php 71.00 away from Manila. (click the picture to enlarge)

Aside from imparting her the LNT principles, my wife heeded when I told her our group have to do clean-up. Her smile describes her willingness.

I really love this kid Marley, we were leaving Mt. Tagapo but look at him (in the middle) still looking on his beloved mountain.

(Click the picture below for itinerary & information of Mt. Tagapo, from the Philippines’ hiking and mountain climbing guide site

Mountain and Kids

Kids draw their inspirations from adults, especially their parents. It can be the other way around too. My article entitled “After a Decade of Hiatus, I Returned to Backpacking with a new buddy, My Wife.” describes how my wife emotionally pushed me to return to my favorite recreation. Before that comeback, her FarmVille time competed with my frequent visit to the Philippines’ hiking and mountain climbing guide site

During one of those visits, I stumbled on the feature “Marley, the three-year old mountaineer by Nico Waya B. Rabanillo (the kid’s father). Nico Waya recounts “Every time he meets a fellow mountaineers along the trails he never forgets to greet them like “Good morning Ma’am/Sir”. Some fellow mountaineers are also amazed with Marley’s determination to climb the summit of each mountain. At a young age, he was already educated about the LNT principles and was very keen in following all instructions given to him by his parents.” When Juls Marley accepted my Facebook friend request, I was awed by the pictures of his climbs. The three years old kid became one of my inspirations on my return to mountaineering.

Marveled by Marley, I requested from his parents accommodation to their climb, which materialized at Mt. Sto. Tomas via Mt. Cabuyao, both in Tuba, Benguet.

There are many ways to reach the summit of Mt. Sto. Tomas; driving off-road vehicles, mountain biking, or trekking. Guides are not necessary, the locals are very helpful for directions and the trails are wide. From Baguio, we hired a jeepney for Brgy. Digdigwayan, Benguet, a short-cut to Mt. Cabuyao saving you an hour trek on paved/rough roads, but the jump-off is assault. Marley, even on his first use of a backpack, hurdled it with ease, stopping intermittently on the trail when he found something interesting from nature like colorful stones, dried leaves and seed beads.

Marley with the mountaineer couple, paps & mam, Waya & Roly Rabanillo.

The base camp of Mt. Cabuyao (serving the same purpose for Mt. Sto. Tomas) can accommodate many tents but be there before night or you’ll be pitching under poor visibility and cold wind.

Awesome morning view from the base camp. (click the picture to enlarge)

Cell sites atop  Mt. Sto. Tomas might prickle some mountaineers but the views from the trek to the summit are great. (click the picture to enlarge)

The popular joke that there are two gigantic electric fans on Mt. Cabuyao that keep Baguio cool are actually twin radars. (click the picture to enlarge)

The summit has man-made structures, but hey- focus on the horizon.

Some take Mt. Sto. Tomas/Mt. Cabuyao as sidetrip from a major climb in the Cordilleras or from a tour of Baguio. But if you are planning to have your vacation in Baguio especially with your family, why not spend it on these very accessible mountains. Strawberries and brocolis are freshest here!

I wish I can do this from Manila! Where’s my genie?

After a Decade of Hiatus, I Returned to Backpacking with a new buddy, My Wife.

“World War III??”

“Two (2) planes crashed into the Twin Towers”

Returning to the base camp after summiting Mt. Batulao in Batangas, my Nokia 3210 cellular phone was filled of SMS informing said tragic news. “What an anti-climax to a great climb!” Instead of cherishing the beautiful views from the mountain, my friends and I headed home worried, further trembled by new information that another plane crashed into Pentagon, then that ill-fated but heroic United Airlines Flight 93. The rest is history.

Busy at work, Mt. Batulao became my last climb. Then I met Rowena early 2004, married her December 8 that year. She was a widow before, with a five years old son, now ours, Aaron, who served as our ring bearer. We were blessed by two more boys, Jonmer and Adrian. My wife always knew my favorite recreation, but work schedule wont let. Unfortunately, all my backpacking equipment perished when tropical storm “Ondoy” flooded wide areas of metropolitan Manila on 2009.

Christmas of the same year, my wife gave me a blue North Face belt-bag. Although not intended for climbing, she smiled when she saw me found out the brand is connected to mountaineering. I gave her a smile too. Valentines the following year, Rowena brought home a 20L rucksack. “Hey! that’s good for day hike!” But the nature of my work wont permit me to even file a leave. Came the good year of 2011. My new assignment now allows me to manage my work schedule. So I bought a 60L backpack, borrowed some lacking equipment from friends (who are all absent from the mountain since 2002) and trained Rowena through daily jogging. On June 2, twenty days before my birthday, I returned to backpacking with a new buddy, my wife.

Click the image below for a larger view.

Mt. Batulao taken that fateful day of 9/11 (two pictures stitched together).

Click the image below for itinerary of Mt. Batulao from “Pinoy Mountaineer” by sir Gideon Lasco.