Beginner’s Climb: Mt. Gola + Mt. Manalmon Twin Hike

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Always wanted to try mountaineering but afraid the climb will be too difficult? Take it easy and don’t worry Mt. Gola and Mt. Manalmon is a good starting point for you. Located at Sitio Madlum in San Miguel, Bulacan that is a few hours away from Metro Manila, the Philippines’ capital.  It is an ideal beginner’s day hike. Reconnect with nature while going on an adventure cause aside from hiking, Sitio Madlum also offers a variety of activities such as spelunking, river swimming, and monkey bridge crossing.

How to get there?

To get there, you can take a bus in either FiveStar, Baliwag Transit or ES Transport in Cubao. Ride the Gapan/Cabanatuan or San Antonio bound bus. Important! Do not ride the Cabanatuan SCTEX as it will not pass through San Miguel. Tell the conductor to drop you off at Camias-Sibul Road. The fare is around 114 pesos and travel time is 2-3 hours. I recommend going in the early morning to avoid traffic and the harsh afternoon sun while climbing.

After alighting the bus, a 45-minute tricycle ride will take you to the jump-off point at Sitio Madlum.

Sitio Madlum Hanging Bridge

Across the hanging bridge, you’ll find the registration area. Here you’ll choose which activities you want to do and you’ll be assigned a guide. After a short briefing, you’ll be good to go.

The Climb

Crossing the Madlum River

On the way to the mountain, you’ll pass through a short part of Madlum Cave. Be ready to get your feet wet, as you’ll be crossing a shallow part of the river. You can avoid the dip by skipping on stones but be careful not to slip. If you want an extended nature trip you can also opt to set up tents and camp overnight near the riverbanks.

Mt. Gola

Mt. Gola Summit

 

According to the local guide, during the Japanese invasion, Mt Gola served as a watchtower for the guerillas. Today, it is a good place for a quick weekend adventure. Standing at 192 meters above sea level you can reach the peak of Mt. Gola in less than 2 hours. The trail is quite easy but there are a few steep slopes along the way. There aren’t many shades in the path so the guide recommends scaling Mt. Gola first to avoid the noontime sun later. Be sure to bring water to quench your thirst along the way.

At the top, you’ll have a great view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Stay for about half an hour to rest and relax after the climb. Take in the view and think of all the possibilities this climb has brought. If you can scale this mountain you can surely go on for another. Take several pictures to commemorate this moment and just appreciate what nature has to offer.

After the break, you’ll feel more energized. Start your descent, which will take less than the time to go up and be ready to take on Mt. Manalmon.

Mt. Manalmon

Mt Manalmon Summit

Mt. Manalmon got its name from the word Manlalamon which means devourer. Legend says that there was a huntsman who accidentally killed an enchantress’s deer. It was believed that as punishment he was devoured by the mountain and was never seen again. There are no more deer in the mountain but there’s still this breathtaking view overlooking the river and nearby landscapes.

Mt Manalmon Viewdeck

The trail is easier than Mt. Gola’s, there would be no steep areas throughout the climb. At 196 meters above sea level, you can reach the peak in an hour and a half. Before you reach the summit you’ll pass by a viewdeck that is also a great spot to take pictures. You’ll have the sky and the clouds as your backdrop as if you’ve reached such great heights, and soon you will. Take a well-deserved rest and enjoy the view at the summit. You have conquered two mountains today, it wasn’t a dauntingly high one, but hey, it’s a start.

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Other Activities

After the hike chances are you’ll be tired and hungry. If you did not bring any packed lunch there are several cheap eateries and stores near the registration area.

When you’ve satisfied your hunger you can just chill and take a swim at the Madlum River. It is a very refreshing treat after basking under the sun during the climb. If you want a bit of an adrenaline rush you can also try crossing the monkey bridge. It runs parallel the hanging bridge across the Madlum River. Before the hanging bridge was in place it was the only way to cross the river without getting wet. Now, it’s just an added attraction to the place. Else, if you’re still up for some adventure you can try spelunking at Bayukbok Cave.

Bayukbok Cave

You’ll need headlights for the spelunking but if you didn’t bring one you can rent from the guides. Spelunking is quite challenging as there are several areas where you’ll need both hands to traverse, you should leave your things behind. If you brought a car with you, you can just stow your things there otherwise you can leave them at the registration area. It is dark and quiet inside the cave so always mind your head and where you’ll step to avoid any injuries. There are some really tight areas you’ll need to fit through. It is really fascinating to see the stalagmite and stalactites meet and form columns. It took them a million drops and hundreds of years to meet but in the end, they do. You’ll also see white mineral deposits that

It is dark and quiet inside the cave so always mind your head and where you’ll step to avoid any injuries. There are some really tight areas you’ll need to fit through. It is really fascinating to see the stalagmite and stalactites meet and form columns. It took them a million drops and hundreds of years to meet but in the end, they do. You’ll also see white mineral deposits that sparkle when lights shine on them. Be careful not to touch them or they’ll lose their brilliance over time.

After spelunking, you can call it a day and it definitely would have been an awesome day. But if you still got the energy you can do a side trip to Biak Na Bato National Park. You can enjoy nature by hiking the park steps, visiting some historical caves and also taking a dip in the cold river.

Things to remember

A week before your intended climb be sure to inform the caretaker Tata Carling (09193160439). Remember to bring water and trail foods you can eat along the way. Never leave any trash behind. The place is beautiful as it is, don’t ruin it for others. There will be other hikers in the trail, greet them when you pass each other. And lastly, enjoy!

Budget Breakdown

(This only serves as a guide, actual figures may vary)

  • Bus Fare – P114 each x 2 = P228 (2-way ride)
  • Tricycle – P300 for 5 persons x 2 = P120 (2-way ride)
  • Sitio Madlum Entrance fee – P20 each
  • Environmental Fee – P10 each
  • Guide for Mt. Gola – P300 good for 10 people
  • Guide for Mt. Manalmon – P300 good for 10 people
  • Guide for Bayukbok Cave – P200
  • Headlights rental – P30 each
  • Monkey Bridge – P30 each

 

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