text | Carla Ocampo
photography | Elton Chua, Carla Ocampo and Lester Valle
ELEVATION | DIFFICULTY: ~ 525 meters above sea level (MASL) | Class 1
COORDINATES: 13°43’23.90″N 120°53’55.96″E
That’s just about the tastiest tongue-twister to ever grace The Kayumanggi Trails blog. And with a near-perfect back-story, to boot!
Bulgogi, of course, is one of the more famous Korean dishes that has landed on these shores— marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic— ah, Google away and you’ll know. And Gulugod Baboy (or, as the ever-witty Lester puts it, “Swine Spine”) is one of the more famous climbs along Batangas Bay; an extremely easy one for seasoned hikers, it is mostly reserved for first-time trekkers.
So it may strike you as a weird pair-up. You’ve heard of “Instant Pancit Canton sa Gulugod Baboy,” or “Ginisang Corned Beef sa Gulugod Baboy,” all those ready-to-eat types… easily packable and quickly consumed after an exhausting newbie hike. And besides, who would want to slave away— preparing some Asian gourmet stuff— on top of a peak notorious for ridiculously strong winds?
But we have an entirely different team here, see. Five out of eight, non-hikers, and two of those five… happened to be CHEFS who have the penchant for cooking nutritious masterpieces… outdoors!
But first, a few particulars.
GETTING THERE (COMMUTE)
“Sa Diversion po kami,” you would say, and Manong Konduktor would probably make you hand over something around PhP175. This is on board any provincial bus with the “Batangas Pier” sign, all neatly lined up among the terminals at EDSA-Kamuning and Cubao, south-bound.
Be alert after about four hours, someone would shout “Ah, Diversion!” and that’ll be your cue. Nonetheless, if you miss the call-out, Diversion would mean the start of a flyover in Barangay Bolbok, Batangas City. Just be sure to keep looking through the left windows of the bus. It’s quite easy to spot.
Perpendicular to the flyover— by the street corner to the right— jeepneys going to Mabini, Batangas stand by. Again, be sure to tell the driver to drop you guys off at Anilao (for around PhP30), ‘else you would end up in the middle of the Mabini Town Proper.
At Barangay Anilao (yip, it’s a village, not a town), ask around for a jeepney that would take you to Barangay Ligaya. That’s another PhP20, more or less. It’ll be a huff-puff ride, with the jeep engine heaving every now and then on inclined pavements. Constantly look through the jeepney’s right window and spot the PhilPan Dive Resort. It has nipa sheds along the road. Across these shelters… is the Gulugod Baboy trailhead.
HIKING IN THE HEAT… DOH!
The average Gulugod Baboy hike spans three hours. The first 1/3 of the trail is a steep cement road, so it is advisable to start the trek early in the day, to avoid the torture of a scalding pavement.
Unfortunately, we arrived way earlier than our expected time, and started the trek, what, at 11:30 near noon. Hehe. We were toasted. And five minutes up the concrete trail, we began sniffing what appears to be… pig dung. Welcome to Gulugod Baboy, danced the putrid odor under our nostrils. Salamat ha, rakenrol.
The heat of the sun proved to be too much, and one of our team members, Stephanie Santos, showed signs of heat exhaustion: nausea, muscle cramps, pale lips. Off the concrete path, the group had to retreat under the shade immediately. We cannot, in any way, wage war with the sun at its fiercest.
After drinking lots of water, Steph snoozed for half an hour and, fighter that she is, was up and about in no time. At 2pm, we were hiking again.
The vicinity of Gulugod Baboy is actually part-residential area, part-pastoral fields. It would come as no surprise that the trail is dotted with houses whose TV sets are tuned in to Wowowee, and variety stores that would sell ice-cold softdrinks, instant noodles and biscuits.
A halo-halo station sits somewhere along mid-hike. This humble hut of goodies is perhaps the greatest blessing to beat-up hikers. As Achmed would say, location, location, location!
All along the trail, a grand parade of goats, cows, herdsmen and the occasional herd dog would sometimes block your way. Be courteous and let them pass before you do. This is, after all, THEIR territory. And you may have to coexist with them all the way up to the peak, 525 meters above sea level… that with one of the best views any Luzon mountain can offer.
You may know by now that The Kayumanggi Trails conducts alternative education programs, mostly on Outdoor Skills and Environmental-and-Cultural Conservation (expressedly practiced at the peak, for there were a looooot of rubbish heaps being blown all across the place).
This Gulugod Baboy Climb is a thing of that sort. With KT Resident Members Elton Chua (it was his first real climb since suffering a fractured fibula late last year), Lester Valle, and yours truly… five non-hikers reached their first summit. And in perfect weather! The wind blew ever so gently, none of the blaring gusts came. The sunset, too, rendered us speechless.
And oh, they did learn a lot. Here they are, in random order.
Mona Valle, Lester’s dear younger sister, whose most nagging itch (for the longest time!) was to hitchhike with us during our trips to the best places in the country. Her cruel schedule at work has been her worst enemy, so when she finally got the chance to climb Gulugod Baboy, there was virtually no hesitation. According to her, it was one of the best de-stressing experiences of her entire life, never mind the extreme heat during the hike.
Danilo Baliguat, a simple guy with simple pleasures. “100 million dollars!” he said, when asked about how he would quantify his happiness upon seeing the view from the peak. Danilo really had the time of his life, especially during the sunrise, when he posed and got the best photos among the group. Pang-Facebook, naks.
Kenny Kung, the ever-smiling one who scaled the slopes wearing denim pants. Thirty minutes into the hike, he was asking, “Bakit nga ulit tayo ‘andito?” (Filipino softened version for “Why the effin’ hell are we punishing ourselves again?”). The gentle Kenny soon found out the answer at the peak, where a 360-degree view of Batangas Bay, the Tagaytay Ridge and nearby islands wowed everyone to jaw-dropping submission. It was his first-time to spend the night on top of a mountain.
And of course, the tag-team of Steph and JB Cada, sweethearts who are simply among the best people any climbing team would wish to have. These two are responsible for the unusual menu we had, come dinnertime.
THE REGALI KITCHEN
Chef JB and Steph are members of The Regali Kitchen, whose novelty lies in the ability to whip up gourmet meals in the midst of The Great Outdoors. Given that, it is a pleasant shock to know that this is their first chance to cook a meal on a summit.
From their Multiply Site http://regalikitchen.multiply.com/, we garnered,
‘Chef JB says, “I love the outdoors! When you are out enjoying nature you feel healthy and alive. So you shouldn’t be reduced to eating instant noodles and reheated canned food. I think you should complete the experience by eating nutritious, fun, delicious food.’
And right on, they learned a whole lot during the cookfest. They marveled at how even a spoonful of water should be recycled during dish cleanup (given the absence of a water source), AND they finally experienced first hand how it is to cook rice on a mountain top. Quite tricky, mind you.
So that night, we had crispy nori strips, veggie sticks, nata de coco with fresh lychee (with a hint of lambanog, harhar!) for dessert… and yes, that flavorful batch of Bulgogi that the two prepared the night before, toting everything inside a sizeable insulator pack to retain freshness, and voila: the best mountain dinner that got us talking for days!
THE LIGAYA-ANILAO STRETCH OF BLUE
The next day, at 7am, the sun was already on “Burn-them-all!” mode. Break-camp, ideally, should be around these hours.
Of course, a Gulugod Baboy visit will not be complete without a side trip to the beaches of Ligaya and Anilao (and vice versa, depending on your priorities), home of prime snorkeling sites. So to cap off this little trip of ours, we headed to Barangay Ligaya’s PhilPan Beach, dived, strolled, lolled, ate leftovers and showered the mountain grime away… without leaving behind our lasting memories of sun and summit.
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- Cuenca’s Maculot, The KT Chronicles (Part 1) (thekayumanggitrails.org)