text | Carla Ocampo and Lester Valle
photography | Carla Ocampo, Wing Larase and Lester Valle
“Ay, Maculot… Paboritong bundok.”
- Axel Pinpin, Pilipinong makata
ELEVATION | DIFFICULTY: Maculot Rockies: ~ 706 meters above sea level (MASL); Maculot Summit: ~ 830 meters above sea level (MASL) | Class 1
COORDINATES: 13°55’14.44″N 121° 2’30.95″E
Not too many people would realize that the view from Mt. Maculot— one of Batangas‘ most celebrated mountains— is world-class beauty.
With its oft-mentioned toothed Rockies gifting hikers with an unobstructed vista of the Taal Lake and Volcano (a geologic wonder, cited in books the world over), the perspective that Maculot offers is a hundred times better— and fresher— than that of tourist-frequented, infrastructure-defaced, smog-invaded Tagaytay City in the neighboring province of Cavite (although the lure of Tagaytay is an altogether different story).
Maculot is a Class 1 mountain. One of its footpaths offers a relatively short hike from the trail head to the campsites: 3-5 hours for completely inexperienced hikers… a couple of hours or less for regulars.
It is quite an easy climb that it has become a favorite among budding hikers and wind-whispering hippies aching for a quick getaway from city-doom. Alas, the constancy of visitors has turned the mountain pathway into one of the most eroded and garbage-laden trails of all.
But there IS hope for the flowers, says the mighty, and so it may be safe to say that there is hope for Maculot. This post tells you everything we know about the mountain, and everything we wish to impart in the name of saving its trails and its environs.
Scientific literature narrates that Maculot is an inactive volcanic cone located at the rim of the Taal Caldera. Taal’s outer lake was once the volcano’s base… so you could just imagine how insanely humongous it was back then, and how massive the eruption was.
The destruction was quite the end of the world as the ancients knew it: the volcano’s original body collapsed in the blast, transforming Taal Lake, Maculot Rockies and all the other surrounding crags into what they are now. The Rockies— actually round in shape— was a colossal, curdling andesitic volcanic neck.
Coincidentally, Tagalog folklore about the origins of Maculot also tells of a tremendous volcanic explosion, akin to the scientific version.
In legend, the local leader named Kulot (earning his name because of his curly hair; he was possibly an Aeta) tried to save his subjects from the explosion, which occurred in the midst of the people’s merrymaking.
“The people were panic-stricken and confused. Instead of scampering away for safety they ran around the venerated ruler and pleaded for help as they used to do in the past when in trouble…
…By this time, they had nowhere to go and escape was impossible. The lava and ashes which continuously poured over their heads began to build a big mound. Kulot, still holding his child in his arms made a mighty heave of head and shoulder to get out of the piling mass. Instead of getting out into the open, the big mass over their heads rose to a certain height and every time Kulot made an upward thrust, the mound rose higher. At last he became tired and stopped pushing up.”***
But then, a debate has been raging on within Team KT for ages, on whether Maculot really had something to do with “kulot” (curly) or not… because in several maps, it is labeled as “Mt. Makulod” or “Macolod”.
One of our hypotheses is that “makulod” could have been “magulod,” gulod being a Tagalog word perpetually associated with slopes, hills, mountains, and the like.
GETTING THERE (COMMUTE)
There is a concentration of terminals in EDSA-Kamuning-Cubao, harboring south-bound buses; JAM Liner being one of the most dependable— a three-minute walk from the GMA-Kamuning MRT Station.
Be on the look-out for signs which say “Cuenca”. A seat would cost you around PhP140, and the whole ride would last for about four hours, traffic considered.
MUST-BUYS AT THE CUENCA PUBLIC MARKET
The bus would drop you off right in front of the Cuenca Public Market. No Maculot climb would ever be complete without you raiding the innards of this commercial square. You could check your grocery stash right here, ‘ever you forgot to pack something into your backpack for the night’s supper.
Bookmark the best-smelling stalls for the iconic kapeng barako, and have these aromatic coffee beans ground right under you lucky nose; value-for-money pasalubong at PhP27 per palm-sized bag.
For the trek up, you definitely need fuel. We recommend nothing but fresh-from-the-stove Lomi Batangas sold by a row of kiosks in the middle of the Cuenca market. Half-order at PhP25, and the full (and huge!) bowl of it is at PhP40.
Traditionally, Lomi Batangas is an egg-noodle soup served in extra-gooey form— its soup is so thick it would almost look like loose jelly— with a choir of fried pork rinds, pork liver and some veggies on top.
It is actually a FLAVORLESS slob of ooze at that; the trick is to season it according to your own taste. That’s why bottles of soy sauce, fish sauce, ground pepper, and slices of citric calamansi sit somewhere near you on the table. That’s your cue. Condiment galore. A splurt and a dash here and there… and THEN you could commence eating.
Just outside the wet market section, tricycles readily service obvious hikers at PhP60 per trip. All of them have sturdy ropes to securely tie your backpacks upon the carriage’s rear rack.
It is a five-minute motoring from market to trailhead; along the way, the driver automatically stops to allow your group to pay PhP10 per pax at the Barangay Outpost a minute before reaching the landmark Mountaineers’ Store (trivium: it once had a signage which read “Mountainers”… mercifully edited as soon as the booboo was made clear). The store serves meals. And it has designated cubicles for bathing and relieving yourselves.
There are many ways to get to the campsites (not necessarily the summit). One is via the Trail for Pilgrims, thickly vegetated and steep in parts that hikers would need to grab a rope to prop them up. This path passes through the Grotto, a religious marker and pilgrimage site, and then leads you to the peak— with not too clear a view, as the area is heavily vegetated as well— before going down to the grassy clearing on the Maculot mini-plateau: the designated camp grounds.
The second way, and probably the most difficult, is rock-climbing up the Rockies. This has been done by enthusiasts some years back.
Third, and most well-known (which also means the most abused) is the Tourist Trail.
After the entirely easy fifteen minutes of walking from the Mountaineers’ Store, the Tourist Trail is short but with constantly abrupt elevation gain, all the way to the campsite. It may be wise to bring a trekking pole with you. Especially cumbersome is the last 1/3 of the way, where only tall cogon grass would shield you— if at all— from the intense midday heat.
And here’s a head-scratching fact: 2/3 along the trail, you’d still be hearing zealous videoke sessions reverberating from the nearest community. The remoteness of the campsite, you’d think, would cancel this out…
But, there’s more to come.
THE MINI-PLATEAU, AND CAMP ETHICS
Just as you emerge out of the Cogon Grass section, a make-shift sari-sari store bumps your vision— selling brandy, gin, junk food, and the occasional halo-halo. The array of goods would help you predict what would happen next.
The Maculot campsite has become infamous for drunken shriek fests, drunken howls of “OOOOOOOoooooorrrrrghhh!!!” whenever some hiker is placed on the conversational hot seat… and the drunken propensity to shout a la Tarzan and expect echoes from oblivion. Not to mention the after-party litter.
This is, in the bluntest possible terms, a shameful disservice to the Leave No Trace Principle.
Let us remember that we do not own the mountain. We do not have the campsites all to ourselves. Drinking sessions are fine, really, but pandemonium is just… too painful a trade-off for the other responsible hikers who only wished to have a quiet time away from the urban uproar.
As one of the first mountains a newbie would climb, Mt. Maculot— with its sublime milieu and unselfish accessibility— should have been a training ground as well for exercising camp ethics. For this, Team KT addresses an appeal to every reader: we leave the cities and hie off to the mountains, because mountain tops are silent sanctuaries. It is best to just… let them be.
(*** Maculot legend excerpt taken from Philippine Folk Literature: The Folktales, compiled and edited by Damiana L. Eugenio, University of the Philippines Press, 2002)
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