Thursday, March 17, 2011

MT MAKILING (Sto Tomas -- Los Baños)

MakTrav with the Sabiterz Tribe (03/13/11)
Mt Makiling is situated between Sto Tomas, Batangas and Los Baños, Laguna. Both sides provide convenient entry points to the peaks of Mt Makiling. Three peaks may be scaled in this mountain. The peaks have been assigned the names peaks 1, 2 and 3. But to avoid confusion, the blogger would much rather refer to the two popular peaks as Sto Tomas peak and Los Baños peak. This nomenclature is based on the convenient access points to these peaks and not necessarily the geographic locations of the peaks on the political map of the Philippines.

The Track Log in my Garmin 60CSx

(Solo Maktrav: 2009)
Elevation (ft)
San Bartolome
(big green dot)
N 14˚06.553’
E 121˚09.938’
End of hill
(big green dot)
N 14˚07.015’
E 121˚10.471’
First Cross
(big green dot)
N 14˚07.104’
E 121˚10.514’
(small green dot)
N 14˚07.393’
E 121˚10.783’
(small green dot)
N 14˚07.388’
E 121˚10.861’
(small green dot)
N 14˚07.379’
E 121˚10.918’
(small green dot)
N 14˚07.263’
E 121˚10.946’
End of Talahib
(small green dot)
N 14˚07.424’
E 121˚11.046’
Melkas Ridge Campsite
(green tent)
N 14˚07.888’
LB Peak
(2nd blue mountain)
N 14˚08.139’
E 121˚11.627’
To Flat Rocks
(swim icon)
N 14˚08.893’
E 121˚13.921’
UPLB wash-up
(shower icon)
N 14˚09.067’
E 121˚14.020’
Altitude Profile

The Sto Tomas Trail
Sto Tomas, Batangas offers two trails that lead to the Sto Tomas peak but included in this article is the trail that has gained more popularity among recent Maktrav challengers. The Palanggana trail that starts off at Sn Bartolome Brgy hall will lead you through the Kubo (which has already fallen in) then the ‘Palanggana River’ then the Talahib Ridge and the Melkas Ridge Campsite before you reach Haring Bato and finally Sto Tomas Peak. This side of Mt Makiling is much more challenging and technical than its parkish Los Baños counterpart in that it is steep and segmented with vertiginous ridges. But the most challenging of ‘em all are the near vertical ascents on the boulders following Melkas Ridge! Ropes have been laid on three of these ascents. But on a fair day, the climb up these boulders are rewarding. With the stunning views on both sides of the ridge, you’ll learn how to appreciate vertigo! But remember to maintain good balance as the winds could get really strong in this area. If you don’t want to abort your mission, don’t bring acrophobes up this trail. Once you get past these boulder ascents, though, the Sto Tomas peak campsite can make a good take-five spot. But don’t let your guard down. There’s more challenge in store for you!

The Wild Boar Ridge
Traversing the ridge connecting Sto Tomas peak and Los Baños peak is a two-hour-long negotiation with the thick vegetation. In 2009, it was even denser that you’d have to go through, over and under those vines and ‘teka-teka’ (a thorny sort of vine) that crisscross the ridge. On a moist day, this area teems with limatik (leech). Before you know it, one of them is already in your eye, or inside your ear, in your socks or trying to penetrate the waistline of your pants or probably already past the waistline. On a dry day, the whole route from Sto Tomas to Los Baños is all but rid of these parasites.

The Los Baños Trail
The Los Baños side of Mt Makiling is ideal for tourists and biologists (that’s a euphemism for beginners). This side has rich flora and fauna. The area is canopied by a variety of rainforest trees. The ground is almost always wet. The trail is marked with station numbers (the peak being Station 30). This side didn’t show any significant physical change which could mean it is well-protected by the authorities. Let’s keep it that way! As shown by the altitude profile above, the Los Baños trail is a gently rolling terrain and therefore, long. You’ll start losing your patience once you’ve reached the Wilderness Zone marker. The wide rocky path will tire your leg muscles that you’ll start imagining Mountain Dew or Halo-halo. Don’t despair! Three or more stores offer refreshments starting at Agila Base.
During the wet season, this area is infested with limatiks. These striped tiger limatiks are more agile compared to their sluggish brown brothers in the Sto Tomas trail. They’re everywhere—perched on bushes and cartwheeling on the ground waiting for the slightest human vibrations. But more horrifying than these tiger limatiks are the snakes (mostly cobras) that abound on this side of Mt Makiling. I had a personal encounter with a snake between stations 25 and 24 during my solo MakTrav trek in 2009. Pinoy Mountaineer Gideon Lasco has more stories to tell of these snakes in Mt Makiling.


The Sto Tomas Trailhead
The Sto Tomas trailhead is the first obstacle you have to get through in doing the MakTrav. If you’re trekking without a guide remember this:
After logging in at the Brgy Hall of Sn Bartolome, follow the road that heads straight to the hill fronting Mt Makiling until you reach the second turnoff (to the left). Make a left and this should lead you to a stream which is dry in the summer. Piles of rocks will also help you find your way here. But don’t rely on these rock piles as they may disappear in a matter of months. The steam itself changes its form from time to time due to erosion. Follow this stream until you are situated between the left end of the hill (on your right) and a big tree on the left. At this point, you’ll have to take the upward trail on the left. Follow that trail until you reach the first cross. Make a right and follow the clear trail until you reach a rock that seems like a dead end. Make a right up this rock and you’ll have to cross a dry stream which is a tributary to the steam mentioned above. At this point, the ascent gradually becomes steep until you reach the huts. If not maintained, these huts could disappear in two years’ time. Go through the huts and turn left. After about five minutes, you’ll be at the Palanggana ‘river’. Cross it and the trail continues at your right. After ten to twenty minutes notice the fork—one trail veers to the left and the other straight downward. The left trail leads to the Talahib Ridge and the other leads you down to the other Sto Tomas jumpoff. When you get past the Talahib ridge, the trail is clear. After reaching the Melkas ridge campsite, take the trail on the left. This leads up. Haring Bato is already visible at your left from the campsite. Just head for it! After this, you shouldn’t lose your way anymore, as there is only one clear trail until you reach Los Baños. At Haring Bato, there’s a very clear trail on the right side of the rock, this will lead you to a dead end. Many climbers have walked on it that’s why it’s as clear as the true path on the left that goes up Haring Bato! 

Getting There
Take any bus that will go through Sto Tomas, Batangas. There are a lot in EDSA. We took the 0600hrs non-A/C bus in Alabang (P50+). Get off at Sto Tomas Public Market. You can buy packed lunch and other stuff here. Take a tricycle (P50 per trip / 3-4pax). Get off and register at Sn Bartolome Brgy. Hall (P20/pax).
Going home, you can take the jeepney in UPLB to Olivarez Mall. The last trip to Manila is around 1900hrs (less than P100). If you miss the last trip, you can take a jeepney to ‘Crossing’. There are non-A/C buses there.

Getting Lost
There are a lot of accounts of hikers getting lost or trapped in the realm of Mariang Makiling. Never underestimate this mountain. During my second ascent on this mountain, I was never able to find the entry to the Talahib ridge. Some returnees recount similar stories of aborted and foiled treks in the mountain. When this mountain doesn’t seem to allow you any entry, don’t push it! Just back down.

Get a Guide
Get a guide if you’re not very confident in your skills. But beware! Last Sunday a local guide abandoned his guests at Haring Bato telling them that the remainder of the trail was easy and clear. A responsible guide should never abandon his guests (especially in places like Mt Makiling and Mt Marami). When a guide starts telling you Kaya niyo na po yan! (You can do this on your own!) Madali na lang yan! (It’s just a piece of cake!) or Malapit na ang summit! (The summit is near.), it indicates that he is becoming impatient of your being slow or that he has to abandon you! Local guides usually think of the pay so they haughtily say “Yes I can take you there!” at the negotiation stage. When they’ve noticed that you’re slow, they’ll start showing signs. So consider these things when you get a guide. Don’t ask them how long it will take you to finish the trek! They will just boost your confidence with ‘Apat na oras lang yan!’ (It’s just gonna take four hours). Their base is always themselves—no backpacks, and with feet that have become parts of the ground. They don’t consider the fact that their guests are newbies in blue jeans, Jansport packs and Nike shoes who are not aware of how the lack of water discipline can greatly decide the course of their journey! I have trained a volunteer guide in Mt Marami. His phone is always busy now. Last Sunday, I introduced him to Mt Makiling. After one more climb in the same mountain, I can recommend him to you. A mountaineer himself, he understands the needs and weaknesses of each climber. He won’t abandon you. He may advise you to just go back down! He doesn’t charge any amount. Being able to climb a mountain is a great pleasure for him! Just cover his necessary expenses. I myself am a volunteer guide. Just hope that my weekend is free.

There are a lot of ways to keep limatiks off your skin. The traditional way is to use detergent. In my case, I put on OFF lotion when I’m about to delve into an area known to be full of these bloodsuckers. When they have sunk their fangs into your skin, don’t pull them off. Use other means in which they would voluntarily let go. For more information on these bloodsuckers click here!
During my solo MakTrav in 2009
Day Hike
MakTrav is best done on a day’s hike. Your backpacks should be as lightweight and small as possible. Overhead backpacks will make it difficult for you to negotiate with the thick vegetation. Don’t bring unnecessary stuff. Carry enough water! There is no known reliable water source throughout the whole trek except for the one in the Kubo which is a bit difficult to locate. Get your body covered. The whip of the talahib is just as nasty as the sting of the limatiks. If you mind the rain, bring along a disposable raincoat or poncho.


  1. sir, can we hire you or your recommended guide for our maktrav dayhike this weekend (june 4)? thanks!

  2. @tagabukid: senxa na nasa arayat ako sa sabado...pede kau sumabit,hehe jan lng naman ang makiling at dami pwede samahan sa MakTrav...pero ang ArayaTrav bihira ang naggaguide.

  3. sir tra s august maktrav tau..

  4. I did my first and solo MakTrav last thursday and brought a printed copy of this article to serve as my guide. I still got lost a couple of times but managed to find my way though. thanks a lot for your blog sir, it's really a big help.


  5. congrats Sir Janoy...and thanks for trusting this making use of this article. you're a Lagataw by heart! may you find greater adventures than I have! But let us never underestimate Mother Nature. Be adventurous but be safe!

  6. Last Sept 18 2011,i did my second maktrav with my friends, the first one is a solo traverse a week before holy week this same year. I also saw the lagataw group logged in the baranggay bartolome last sunday. During my first maktrav i use the dead stream,then a left turn to the trail leading to the white cross all the way to kubo. This second maktrav, the locals shouted at us when we are making our way to the dead stream and instructs us to use the other trail. The steeper one that leads to the plantation area. It was marked with a red ribbon/tarpaulin with team oye mark. with this trail we did not find the palanggana stream..i would like to do my next maktarv using the sipit trail next year

  7. first time ko rin hindi sinundan ang dead stream dahil sa advice nung mga kasama kong minsa'y gumamit na rin ng IT na to. kumaliwa kaagad kami sa start pa lang ng dead stream (tawid sa dead stream) at akyat sa clear trail sa mapunong burol...pero nadaanan uli namin ang malaking bato at ang continuation ng dead stream hanggang dun sa mga crosses. the rest, kagaya din nung dati...but we made a little twist this time. pinilit kong hanapin yung exit papuntang arts center. successful naman pero nakakatakot dahil naglaho na ang ibang parts ng trail...but we still managed to find the trail to the arts center.

  8. I think kayo po rin si adonisextreme, yung first solo maktrav ko sinundan ko yung picture map IT sa blog..nakalagay din yung time and picture on how to find the trail in sto tomas..i also remember that di nga kayo nag-exit sa UPLB used the arts center which is much faster..but i am not daring enough na magbutas ng trail..anyway the blog you made is very helpful to me that i successful did my first solo maktrav.

  9. That's very smart of you. My travels may inspire some of my readers but I strongly discourage testing Mother Nature. As I have mentioned in another post, it is not much my personal merit that I succeed in some of my daredevil trips. It's mainly luck. Let's all practice Safety First!

  10. Hi sir ask ko lng po Kung meron po kyo mga specific pictures na Madali madistinguish once we are heading on the trail as a precautionary measure of not getting lost... I climbed it once and I wanted to climb it once again pero Nde ko na masyado tanda yung trail?? Pwde po makahingi sir? Salamat po!

  11. @Anon: you may try this link for my previous photo IT.

    But I have to warn you, you may not be able to get to the place labeled 0730. the stream changed form through time. So what you gotta do is, find the upward trail as soon as you see the place labeled 0727b. The trail should be seen on your left when you're facing the 0727. Then walk the clear trail and notice the four-pronged fork after about ten minutes. At that cross-trails, you should see the boulder in 0732b. the middle trail is the right trail (see caption of 0732). Upon reaching 0746, you won't lose your way anymore. Just click the image and see the caption. Only the entry at Sto Tomas side is labyrinthine beyond the cross, there is only one clear trail.
    Good luck and have a safe and successful trek.


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