Trips - Mt. Isarog, Bicol Region 

Summer Assault '97-Mts. Isarog, Asog and Itbog Bicol, Philippines 

by Jon Linao, MESAU 

March 24 (Monday) "Masamang Pangitain" 

   Assembly time was at 5 PM at the Peñafrancia Tours terminal at Sampaloc, Manila, and ETD at 6:30 PM.  As early as 4 PM, participants started arriving.  Paul managed to join us as a chance passenger.  Last man to arrive was Mick-Chen et al.  Oni, Alex and Beth informed us they're just going to eat or withdraw some money at a nearby ATM.  A few minutes before departure, the three were still not back at the terminal.  We informed the driver about this and gave consideration but only for a short while.  Then he insisted on leaving as they have a schedule to follow.  At this instance, we felt this climb would be filled with misery and disarray.  Luckily, the bus picked-up more passengers at their other terminal at B.B. Soliven, EDSA Ave.  It gave us the chance to instruct some of our members who weren't joining to tell the participants left behind to meet us at the next terminal.  Eventually, the three caught up with us.  We then hoped that no untoward "incident" would happen for the duration of our climb. 

March 25 (Tuesday) "Wasted and Destroyed" 

   We arrived at Naga City at 5 a.m.  Bobot, Alvin and Arnel were already waiting at the terminal. From there we proceeded to the city plaza and waited for SG.  Breakfast was at Jollibee.  Our schedule was already behind the IT.  SG finally arrived at 8 AM then immediately left for CENRO to get our climbing permit.  Jump-off point was supposed to be at Panicuasion but was changed to Ocampo because the mountaineering group based in that area 1) didn't want us to climb Isarog; or, 2) they had other plans.  Although proper coordination was made with the group, they still ignored us.  The advanced party even pleaded with the group to send us just one guide. But it was to no avail.  Thank God the Asog Chapter already climbed Isarog.  They served as our guide in this climb.  We then changed our jump-off to Ocampo. 

   Finally we were trekking at 10:30 AM.  From jump-off to the foot of the mountain was about 3 kilometers of clearing.  There were no trees to shade us from the scorching heat of the sun.  We later learned from the locals that the river at the foot of Isarog has dried up due to the summer heat.  So when we reached the supposedly last water source, we filled up all the 5-liter containers each of us had. 

   The campsite near the PLDT relay station was visible from the foot of the mountain.  They said that Mt. Isarog was just like Mt. Maculot-four Maculots!  In our climbs, we would always tell ourselves never to underestimate any mountain.  We should always be prepared for any challenges the mountain has in store for us.  This time we can say we were not 100% percent prepared.  Isarog from the foot up to the campsite was all assault, nothing but assault.  Thus, the scorching heat plus nothing but assault plus added 5 liters of load equals "Wasted and Destroyed."  We simply ignored the pain.  Everyone was so tired; nobody had the strength to laugh and even to talk. 

   Halfway to the campsite, the view was already magnificent.  From there you could see Mt.Asog and Mt. Malinaw a little further the silhouette of Mt. Mayon and to our right Lake Buhi.  We finally reached the forested part of Isarog at 7 PM.  That's 8 hours of trekking and we're not yet close to the campsite.  It even rained for a couple of minutes.  So now, we were dead tired and soaking wet.  The breeze here is already cool, so is the view.  From here up to the campsite, we would be trekking on a trail we called "stairway to heaven" or "the never ending steps." 

   And past 8 PM, we finally reached the campsite.  Whew! Being here was like being in the twilight zone.  You could hear the deafening sound of the wind, see the rampaging clouds coming toward you and feel the pneumatic cold of the night.  It felt like Baguio with a super typhoon minus the rain.  Everyone was tired and disoriented. Only a handful was able to conduct socials after dinner. 

March 26 (Wednesday) "Heaven, Langit, Lupa, Yun Na" 

   Wake up call was 6 AM.  Took breakfast at 7 AM.  Break camp was 9 AM.  Situation here was much the same as when we arrived last night--still cold.  The cloud cleared up early in the morning so we had the chance to see the view surrounding Isarog.  We also had a little talk with one of the military men guarding the relay station; his name, Heaven-Langit-Lupa-Yun-Na.  It is his call sign.  According to him, the weather reported in the papers and on TV is not applicable up here in Isarog.  Up here is 365 days a year cold and windy.  Although they're isolated, they are updated on the happenings and going-ons at the lowland.  They have enough recreational facilities to keep them away from boredom and insanity.  They even have their own satellite dish so they can watch any movies they like. 

   9:30 AM.  As we bade goodbye and thanked the military for allowing us at the campsite, the cloud started again to blanket the place.  We took some souvenir shots then we started descending using the same trail we passed yesterday.  Had lunch underneath a big mango tree at 1 PM. Realizing that we never had formal socials last night, we decided to conduct one, right here, right now.  And besides, we were already near the foot of Isarog.  We left the place at around 3 PM. ETA to jump-off site was at 5 PM.  We were only able to leave the place at around 7 PM because of a minor problem.  A participant sustained injury and had to be carried back in a carabao. 

   We were supposed to be staying for the night at a resort house, but since we arrived late, our host put us at the adjacent site of the resort.  It turned out that this place was far better than the resort. We had the entire place all for ourselves.  Pitched tent for the night and socials were held. Dinner was served already early in the morning. 

   Lake Buhi is a splendid place. 

March 27 (Thursday) "Ignore Pain" 

   After a strenuous trekking for the last two days, another climb was at hand.  This time Mt. Asog. Trek was to start at 3 PM.  Prior to the start, another round of socials was held.  Participants and host are relaxed, comfortable and at ease with each other that the word "shyness" had become insignificant to the group.  "Bawal ang mahiyain dito."  That day we learned a new word, "malmal."  The word instantly became relevant and a byword.  Everyone was "malmal." 

   For this climb, Sir Angelo, Pops and Ian joined us.  Some of the other undecided participants to the Asog climb but were easily persuaded by the others to change their mind.  We started trekking past 3 arriving at the campsite 5 PM.  As part of the induction process for the inductees, all applicants were instructed to fetch some water at the last water source, one hour trekking away from the campsite. 

   While on top of Asog, we felt we were not here in Bicol but in Laguna.  The surroundings are much the same here as in Laguna, the province where most of the mountains we climb in Luzon is located.  But Asog has also something different to offer.  A wall in the campsite likes a crater half surrounds you but it's not a crater.  At the site, you could see in full view Mt. Malinaw.  At night, the sky is clear and the moon out.  You could see the surrounding, the wall and other mountains. Others commented that the view here are somewhat comparable to the view you see on top of Antipolo. 

   An another social was held and we heard the word "malmal" again.  What's so nice about this social was the ice-cold chaser courtesy of Ed. 

March 28 (Friday) "Something's wrong with the food" 

   We had breakfast at 10 AM then made an assault to the crater.  The view here is even better than the campsite.  We saw a huge boulder from afar, which according to Ed at a closer look; you will see a familiar figure of a man.  According to locals, the man was allegedly punished by nature for doing something wrong?  Was it a fairy?  The location was unusual.  It shouldn't be there in the first place.  Someone might have deliberately put it there. 

   We didn't go down to the crater, as the view would just be the same.  Proceeded back to campsite and prepared for the trek back.  Arrived at the town at around 2 PM, bought some food and relaxed for a while.  After which we took a banca ride to Itbog Falls. 

   For the first time since Tuesday, we were finally able to wash ourselves.  That really cooled us off.  Itbog is a nice place.  The surrounding during our trek looks like the setting of Vietnam War movies.  Kewl.  What's even cooler is the Itbog Twin Falls.  The water is so clear you can see the floor. 

   Socials kept getting better and better.  There were lots of food and drinks to our hearts desire. What really got our attention was the dinner.  For the first time since Tuesday, the food was cooked to perfection.  Main event this day was the induction of applicants.  Before the induction, we went "malmalan" first.  Inductors and inductee, "malmal." 

March 29 (Saturday) "Malmalan Time" 

   Our stay here at Itbog Falls was more of an R and R.  We broke camp at four in the afternoon, walked all the way to the house of Bobot and Ed for about an hour.  As a consolation, we saw the peak of Mt. Mayon. 

   We rested for a while then after dinner we strolled around the town.  We saw the preparations being done by the local church for the "salubong" on Easter Sunday.  The stage was beautifully arranged.  And around 11 in the evening we went to a disco.  Everyone was "malmal", happy. Others were dancing like they never danced before.  After disco we went back to the house and continued what we were doing. 

 March 30 (Sunday) "Reality Check" 

   Only a handful were able to attend the "salubong", others were not able to because 1) they forgot; 2) already "malmal"; or 3) they were still having their socials.  Sleeping was on rotation.  A group will sleep for a while then others will be up to replace those who slept to continue the socials. They stopped at around 12 noon. 

   We were scheduled to leave at 6:30 PM for Manila.  We decided that before we bade this place goodbye, we'd go for last ditch of fun.  Go rappelling and swimming. 

   After thanking our hosts for the accommodation they extended to us, it was time to go back to reality.  We boarded the bus that would take us back to Manila thus formally ending the weeklong activity. 

   To all those we made this climb successful-MARAMING SALAMAT PO! Isarog, Asog, Itbog-meron pang isa,-og din nagtatapos. 

      1.  Richard Rebada     11. Beth Tobias 
      2.  Roy Palma          12. Rhone Fabon 
      3.  Jon Linao          13. Jojo Alforte 
      4.  Rollie Juanta      14. Jophen Lopez 
      5.  Alex de los Reyes  15. Jho Cabrera 
      6.  Paul Salvacion     16. Koni de Lemos 
      7.  Geb Jocson         17. Serafin Garcia 
      8.  MMick-Chen Milan   18. Jessie Carcha 
      9.  Jerome Alcantara   19. Mike Bides 
      10. Robert Cui 

      Pilipinas Sierra-Asog Chapter 
      1.  Bobot 
      2.  Ed 
      3.  Alvin 
      4.  Arnel 
      5.  Angelo 
      6.  Pops 
      7.  Ian 

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