Before my climb buddy started school last month, we decided to climb again. Dayhike destinations are already becoming rare, though, cuz we have already climbed the ones near Manila. If we could avoid it, though, we really wouldn't go to Mt. Kalisungan without a group. Holdups and getting lost stories in the jump off were so all over the internet and could we avoid that place, we would choose a different destination.
But we couldn't.
So last June 8, 2011, K and I braved the bad weather and went to Calauan, Laguna to climb Mt. Kalisungan. We boarded a Sta. Cruz-bound bus in Alabang and told the conductor to drop us off at the Duck Junction in Victoria, Laguna. He said okay so all the while, we thought he knew where the place is. Good thing that at one point, K decided to ask him again if we're still far from the Duck Junction. A man sitting across the aisle overheard us and said we're already past the said junction. It was only then that the conductor said he knew Victoria but didn't know exactly where the Duck Junction was. Okay so he was planning to drop us off at the boundary of Victoria and the next town? Good grief!
We got off the bus and stopped a passing trike. The trike driver knew where the Duck Junction was and even agreed to take us to Barangay Lamot 2. There are actually two jump-offs you can choose from to climb up Mt. Kalisungan: Erais Farm and Field of Faith Sanctuary. Erais Farm has a very established but steeper trail, while Field of Faith has "forky" but moderate trail.
It would be rational to think that first timers on this mountain who wouldn't want to shell out cash for a guide would choose Erais Farm. But mind you, there's an infamous ex-convict residing there, well-known for terrifying climbers (or so the internet says). There are also stories of hold-ups in Erais that's why we shied away from using that jump-off.
So we chose the "forky trail" of Field of Faith Sanctuary located in Barangay Lamot 2. We'd rather get lost (at least you could retrace your way back) than give our stuff to "charity."
The barangay hall/registration area of Barangay Lamot 2 is just in front of the cement road leading to Faith Chapel. There was no registration fee but they would ask for donations. No one in there, though, could give us any idea at where to turn at the road fork.
We thought only common sense would be enough to lead us to the right trail but we were amazed at how the trail split. First one was at the end of the cement road, which was in front of the Faith Chapel, where we were faced with three paths. We saw a gardener who was probably in his early twenties, and asked about which path we should take for Mt. Kalisungan. He pointed us to the right and we gladly thanked him. The trail split again into three after a while, and to three again after quite sometime.
We ended up in a house full of kids who called their Lola when we started asking. The lola, though, didn't know about the mountain we were talking about even if we showed her the pictures we printed out from the internet. She pointed us to another house which was so far from hers, and likewise, people from that other house didn't even know where Mt. Kalisungan was. We dropped names like Mt. Kalisungan, Mt. Calauan, and Mt. Nagcarlan – the alternative names of the mountain according to Pinoy Mountaineer – but they were clueless and looked at us like we were crazy for wanting to climb up a mountain on a rainy day.
You see, it rained the minute we left the barangay hall. I had no poncho cuz I gave it to Christian (my little guide in Mt. Talamitam) and Ace Hardware ran out-of-stock of ponchos when I went there the previous night. K, though, had on his jacket which he thought was waterproof but was actually not, he ended up using his big yellow raincoat when he realized he's getting wet to the skin.
A teenager from the second house pointed us to a trail that would lead us to another house where we could ask. At that point, we were already thinking of retracing our steps to take a different trail from the first fork at the end of the cement road, but decided to go to the third house first. And it was a good thing because the old couple living there knew the mountain we're talking about.
The old man, perhaps in his late 60s (I'm no good at telling age but he really looked old), whose name was Ben, looked at the pictures we brought. He said that the picture from Pinoy Mountaineer labeled Mt. Kalisungan and the summit picture didn't go together. According to him, the labeled picture was a mountain they own, and the summit picture belong to the other mountain in the opposite side.
But the most important thing was, Tatay Ben (short for Benigno) decided to bring us to the point of the trail where we "wouldn't get lost" anymore. I was so amazed at how Tatay Ben still walked so fast despite his old age. I silently wished I'd be as strong as he when I get old. The old man wouldn't accept anything from us. Not money, not sandwiches. He said he was only happy to help, and we're the second lost mountaineers he encountered. We couldn't thank him enough for his kindness.
The wind and rain got harder as we went higher up Mt. Kalisungan. I had to put my cameras inside a Ziploc to keep them dry. And that was the second time I wished I had a waterproof camera (the first one was when it rained while I was watching the Pasayahan sa Lucena parade).
It was 12:30 PM when we reached this big tree and decided to stop by for lunch. The tree's leaves and branches somehow shielded us from the rain. I had sandwiches and pouched pork and beans while K still had to cook his pancit canton. None of us brought rice cuz it's really heavy on the bag. We also took that time to call home using my PLDT Landline Plus that has been so useful when I go out-of-town.
We only remained there for half an hour and carried on with the hike. The trail still split numerous times. We ended up in a kaingin at one point so we went back to the last fork and went the other way. We were already so high up when we stumbled into a sloped clearing that looked like another kaingin with no crops. Beyond the clearing was a wall of cogon grass that had no opening. We wouldn't wanna go back again because that would mean going two road forks back. We just decided to go through the cogon wall and make our own way.
It wasn't an easy task, what with the strong wind and rain making our ordeal with the taller-than-us cogon more difficult. After about 30 minutes of finding our way through the field of sharp-edged grasses, we caught sight of the summit. Soon after that, we stumbled upon the main trail going up. We almost shouted with relief.
K almost gave up before we found the right trail. More than once did he talk about going back. But I couldn't show negativity when my buddy showed it first so even if I felt like going back myself, I kept on telling K that we're on the right track (while making our own trail through the field of cogon grass LoL!).
But, at least, our efforts paid off.
The white cross near the summit was still standing while we were approaching. But as soon as we got near it, the cross gave to the force of the wind.
We stopped for a while to take some pics and to admire the beauty of the 360-degree view of Laguna and nearby towns. The seven lakes of San Pablo were really visible. But remaining inactive in the middle of strong wind and rain made us shiver. It was really cold!
We immediately went to the summit so we could finish it off and head back. We summited Mt. Kalisungan at 3:20 PM of June 8, 2011. A piece of wood sticking up from the ground was what remained of the wooden cross at the summit. The wood was adorned with a piece of worn-out black shirt (probably from a fellow mountaineer). We took pictures by the wood just the same.
Aside from the seven lakes of San Pablo, Mt. Makiling was also visible from the summit as well as Mt. Cristobal and Mt. Banahaw.
Having not climbed Mt. Makiling yet, K had his pic taken with Mt. Makiling in the background. LoL!
We headed back down after the photo-op. We were already midway down when I realized we didn't have a pic at the summit together. Rough weather really make you forget about things. Oh well, it was too late to go back and we were in a hurry not to let the dark catch us in the mountain.
It was a very smooth descent since we used the Erais Farm trail. We would have wanted to drop by Tatay Ben's place on our way down but we couldn't find the trail we used in going up anymore. Well, that's unless we go through the cogon field again. But that's already insane.
We had this sort of fear of Erais Farm due to what we read on the internet. And somehow, the meanness of the place was confirmed when while walking the tree-lined path of the farm, a man going our way eyed us like he's mad. We greeted the usual magandang hapon but he just eyed us like we're some sort of unwanted persons around.
Oh well, that's what you get when you pass through a private property unannounced.
People of Lamot should really develop the trail at the Field of Faith Sanctuary (and please make directional signs like the ones in Pico de Loro). After all, that's where the barangay hall/registration area is. I'm sure more mountaineers would frequent Mt. Kalisungan if (1) the trails are established you won't need a guide anymore; and (2) there are no more encounter with mean individuals and hold-up at the jump-off stories being told.
How to get to Mt. Kalisungan:
- ride a Sta. Cruz, Laguna-bound bus and drop off at the Duck Junction in Victoria (*P91)
- hire a trike to take you to the barangay hall of Barangay Lamot 2 or, if you brave it, to Erais Farm (*P15)
- register at barangay hall. no fixed reg fee but they ask for donations; you can also ask the officials for a guide if you want one
* fare prices indicated are as of June 2011
Below is a collection of videos I took during our Mt. Kalisungan climb: