LOCATION: Mindoro Oriental and Occidental
ELEVATION: 2,586 meters above sea level
LEVEL: Major Climb, Level III, Strenuous
JUMP-OFF POINT: Lantuyan Baco, Mindoro Oriental
Mt. Halcon is the fourth highest mountain in the archipelago.
It’s 2586 meters height towering over the hills and
verdant mountains occupies the north-south mountain range
of the province. Around it’s slopes are found the eight
ethnic minorities with their preserved culture and heritage
and unaffected civilization, one of the few remaining here
in the Philippines. Generally, these people are called the
"Mangyan". And each one of these groups is a bit
different from one another. Halcon is one of the few mountain
here in the Philippines where you will have the experience
of the cultural interaction with people living in the mountains.
Although only the fourth highest, most mountaineers claims
that Halcon is the most difficult to scale here in the Philippines
concluding that climbing Mt. Halcon makes a mountaineer a
‘true mountaineer"- Filipino mountaineer that is.
In fact climbing Mt. Halcon would entail five straight days
of continuous ascent and decent using the same effort on the
two days to the summit and the 2 days back to the trailhead.
The vast mountain range has also it’s own micro weather
wherein rain is due almost everyday even during the long dry
season at the lowlands.
During the rainy season, climbing may have to be aborted when
flash floods sets-in making the trail crossing the rivers
unpassable. Another factor that adds up to the difficulty
of climbing is the presence of the Philippine limatik on almost
90 percent of the trail. These small leeches silently clings
to your boots and makes their way to any exposed skin where
they begins to suck the blood of their host. The bite however
is painless but after sucking the blood, the blood then flows
continuously from the victim for about 30 minutes due to an
anti-clotting substance it injects when it bits you. It’s
more of a messy uncomfortable feeling than pain.Last 1994,
Halcon was in the headlines of the national newspapers due
to the death of one of its climbers. It was caused by hypothermia
due to the cold winds of typhoon Katring and inexperience
in the part of the novice climber. Because of this incident,
locals began monitoring and requiring permits to the climbers
of Halcon. It also proves that Halcon is not your ordinary
"hike-in-the-park". Climbing Halcon really demands
months of preparation and proper planning to make the ascent
not only a successful climb but more importantly a safe one.
Though years of experience have shown that it’s not
only preparation and planning that counts but it seems like
the mountain chooses who will be able to set foot on its sought
after summit. Nature will always be a factor in the success
of this climb. So it is best advised to climb it during the
summer months of March to May to make the chances of success
of the expedition the better.
The hardship in conquering Halcon has a lot of rewards other
than the feeling of conquering the Philippines hardest and
setting foot on its sacred summit. The entire hike has a lot
of wonderful sights and sounds to offer. It has unique and
exotic flora and fauna, countless rivers and waterfalls, spectacular
views, particular from the summit wherein you can see the
entire island of Mindoro and the surrounding islands. In a
clear day, you can see Banahaw, Maculot and even Mayon from
the summit. Different terrain from rain forest to mighty rivers,
mossy forest, bonsai forest and a wide variety of highland
floras are some of the unique encounters. The contact with
the natives will also give you a new perspective in life that
is why it is advisable to take them as your guide.
Definitely, climbing Mt. Halcon is the ultimate in Philippine
mountaineering. There you will come face to face with the
question of why do you climb. And maybe come into conclusion
that "mountaineering is the art of suffering!"
The Mangyan people have rich culture and heritage and with
that comes rich stories and legends about the mountain which
they come to call "Lagpas Ulap" or "over the
clouds". The native calls the summit "Sheldang"
and they traditionally believe that to climb Halcon would
entail you to climb a total of seven mountains. A ‘seven-summits"
adventure for the local mountaineer who comes to climb the
mountain. If you hire Mangayans as your guide, take the opportunity
to exchange stories with them so that you will have the chance
to get a glimpse of the rich legends of the mountains as well
as their rich culture, beliefs and traditions. One guide I
had told me of stories of a different tribe at the other side
of the mountain who are afraid of white skinned people. They
claim that it was due to an experience with the early Spanish
missionaries who bore children from the women of the tribes.
He explained that it was the reason why that tribe has better
complexion and pointed noses than the other Mangyans of the
mountains. If you are also planning future expeditions especially
to uncharted sections of the mountains, they are the ones
who can help you plan and eventually guide you to these new
and exciting territories. The best experience the encounter
can give you is a better understanding of these people and
if ever you have some prejudices, it may help you grow to
overcome this. It’s quite funny how some lowlanders
create amusing but at the same time disturbing stories about
them, some to the extent of telling you that Mangyans have