Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bulacan | Outdoor Adventures In Madlum

BULACAN | Outdoor Adventures In Madlum
Adventure Trek With Sykes Outdoor

The sun on our backs, our shadows pooled in our feet, it was hot, and it was humid, steep trails, thick bushes, high cliffs, cherry blossoms, bamboo shoots and silent river springs, all in a day’s trek to Mt Manalmon. Lugging our day packs with packed lunches of takeout meals from Jollibee and a happy disposition, it was yet another day of adventure and learning about the outdoors.

A prerequisite to a Basic Outdoor Skills Course provided to us by the leaders of Sykes Outdoor, as a newbie outdoors-man with a ready thirst for fun, I grabbed to opportunity for a fun activity, and it never fell short of my expectations. While this outdoor adventure was more of a culminating activity, I was glad to find out that Bulacan being so near Metro Manila is home to a lot of Natural wonders. Sitio Madlum, in San Miguel Bulacan is home to Madlum caves, the historic Biak Na Bato and the hills of Mt Manalmon. We crossed Madlum river on Balsa, walked single file with a resident guide to Mt Manalmon, passing through Tree tunnels, some open spaces for grazing cows and goats, and we do our ascent, the rocky peaks of Mt Manalmon provides an awesome view of distant mountains like Mt Arayat, the Sierra Madre Mountain Range or the rock walls of Mt Gola. Our activity could be summed up to three parts with the finale of taking a cool swim in Madlum River just so we could freshen up before the drive back to the Metro.

Trekking The National Park

At 196 MASL and part of the Biak Na Bato National Park, Mt Manalmon is just a hill by standards. But a novelty outdoors destination it is due to beautiful rock formations that is scattering in the river bed of Madlum River. Located in Sitio Madlum, Barangay Sibul Springs, San Miguel, Bulacan or simply referred to as Madlum. This place boast of mysterious caves, Rocky Mountains and spring waters, a great place for hiking and caving, it was interesting to realize that this place aside from being a good place for outdoor fun is also a campsite. We were not the only hikers on this fateful Sunday, in fact there are a few families and travel groups pitching tents at the jump off site. A secluded location perhaps, because the place has no electricity, and houses are scarce, along the trails, there are abandoned nipa huts, some mango fields but mostly just a trail with the water streams, a nature park under the bright sky. Supervised and protected by MADLUM Inc, an association that is run by the residents of Madlum. All trekkers are required to hire a guide to lead in trekking, spelunking and even crossing the monkey bridge. We were assigned to Kuya Dan who seemed to be very enthusiastic about Mountains, he gladly shares a few trivia and experiences about the mountains he had already climbed. Mt Manalmon was derived from the word Manlalamon, while the adjacent Mt Gola was derived from Parola, the cave Madlum Cave itself which we had to pass first from the jump off is derived from Madulum.

It had been a good 30 minutes of trekking, more so as we are doing it leisurely taking our time at every take fives. We have to go inside the dark cave of Madlum, tricky little cave, but it’s a great venue for an amazing start, coming out from a dark place to emerge in a forested rocky area with huge Banyan trees, high cliffs and muddy trails, we just started the trek. The trek starts on the trail from the small chapel, passing by a huge Mango tree that stands in the middle of three splitting trails, where a reminder to keep the place clean is nailed. We crossed the gentle tributary of Madlum, taking note that the plants and trees growing in the banks of the river is pointing downstream of the river. It’s hard to imagine this place, seemingly calm to be flooded during heavy monsoon rains, but the trees are silent testament to its relentless power. 

Our slow descent had been fun, more so because I am with some photo enthusiast, it can’t be helped that we photographed in every corner we pass. The hike had been easy despite the heat of February Sun. 20 minute into the trek, arriving on the black rock that is facing the sun, I guess Mt Manalmon is but a huge rock trust up into the sky, we took a rest here while watching the clear skies and the distant shadows of Mt Arayat. We continued the trek with renewed excitement, already the views that greeted us in this face of the Mountain is very promising. As we turn a bend on a corner, greeted by white bush flowers and tackling yet another boulder which is where the summit actually was. The Mountain Ranges of Sierra Madre and the opposite Mt Gola stands proud though we see them now on eye level. Here is where we sat down, laid our day packs and enjoyed the view as long as we can while eating our lunch from Jollibee. After lunch, scaling the boulder of rock, we chance upon the breathtaking 360 view of Mt Manalmon’s summit, with the cherry blossoms. We took photos, lots of them, jumping, sitting on the edge of rock, leaning of the gnarled leafless tree or simply sitting side by side in a meteor garden setting.
Our trek back down had been easy, though we skipped the easy one and passed on steep muddy trails, thick with bamboos and thorny plants, Banyan roots and gigantic Acacia tress. The trail was shady and cool, we kept moving forward until we where back to river where we saw a family camping in its banks.

The Monkey Bridge
I never felt the need for some sugar until I sat down on a chair back from where we started our trek just 2 hours ago. It had been amazing, Mt Manalmon left us all spent but grinning and wanting for more. After a few rest and making arrangements for another guide to accompany us in Bayukbok cave, we headed out but first we need to cross the Madlum river by traversing the monkey bridge. Two steel cables, tied to both high rocky banks of the river that serves as one for the footing and the other for the hand to keep us from falling. It was high, and the river is very silent which makes me imagine it to be deep. One by one, with the help of a guide, the girls scrunched up their courage to cross this bridge by one agonizing baby side step to another. It couldn’t be helped that shrill screams are produced while passing through this route, where is the thrill if fear has been forgotten.

Spelunking In Bayukbok Cave
Though the trails of Mt Manalmon are fairly easy, it was still physical demanding especially to most of us in the team that haven't had any cardio preparation. We thought it was done after sitting for a while gathering our strengths but we still went ahead for an almost 2 hour spelunking. It's already 3PM. I have a few experiences with spelunking so I'm fairly familiar about a guided cave exploration, as we lithe our bodies along sharp crevices and rock formations that hadn't seen sunlight in millions of years. Just 5 minutes walk from the community in Sitio Madlum, along thick tickets vines and Banyan roots. A fitting finale for a day of fun and exploration in San Miguel, Bulacan, just the right fixed for an awesome weekend getaway for us corporate junkies of Metro Manila.

Rappeling and Spelunking lessons.

With Headlamps, tight crevices and heavy thickets.

Scalling a trail in the rock wall with steep drop.

Of finding footholds and hand grips in dark places.

Francis Balgos is a Call Center Agent, Weekend Travel Warrior, Amateur Spelunker, Sometime Surfer, Newbie Mountain Climber, Photography Enthusiast, Certified Beach Bum, A first born son, Faithful lover, True Explorer...

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  1. The quality of your photos never fails to amaze me! Ang ganda ng shots, as always! :)

  2. It's really crossing the mountain bridge but I'm sure all the scare was worth it.

  3. Seems a great site to trek. Yes I agree with Miss Kim, great shots bro.

  4. Pure adventure indeed! Bulacan is so nearby, so I'm definitely adding Bulacan to my must-see places to visit. I'm not quite sure about crossing the monkey bridge though. Lol.

  5. Ganda ng mga pictures.. ang linaw ng pagkakakuha.
    Gusto kong i try yung bridge, nakakatakot pero nakaka cool syang subukan. :)

    1. Hirap yung bridge.. pero sarap nung feeling kapag na achieve mo sya

  6. Lupet bro! Sarap mag shoot sa mga ganitong spot yun nga lang indi ko kaya yung hiking ngayon- mga 1 month cguro na workout at readiness :) Ganda ng mga shots bro (as usual)

  7. Thanks Jeff! kailangan nga ng training.. pang training lang din tong Mt Manalmon, super baba lang. hill nga lang xa by standards..
    ang pinagkaiba nya lang eh, marami pwede gawin aside from mt climbing

  8. Awesome place. No matter how long the walk or how tiring the trek is, it will all be taken away by the view and ambiance in there. Thanks for sharing your great photos!

  9. what a challenging trail, but just a reminder to everyone... never go to such places alone. sarap siguro sa feeling ma-conquer to. hehehe. congrats. Yahweh bless.

  10. what an adventure... what a beautiful place! You did a LOT in one day.. now I can only imagine the sore muscles you guys felt the next day. worth all the pain, im sure. :)

    1. You bet, i felt sore all over.. It was a fun day of exploration.

  11. My favorite is the monkey bridge and the cave.. but I guess the most essential part of your adventure was your breakfast in jollibee.. :D

  12. Pogi ko jan ah. - Gino

  13. Love it! Ang ganda ng shots :)

  14. magkano ang nagastos nyo dito? and may nagpapa rent ba ng tents for ovenight stay?

    1. Hello po!
      regarding sa tents, wala akong nakitang mga ng papa rent dun ng tents.
      mas ok na mg dala nalang, oh mg hiram sa mga kakilala kung overnight lang naman.
      Yung sa tourguide naman, hindi ko masabi kung mg kano kasi depende yan sa mga gusto nyong gawin.
      marami kasing option, trekking sa Mt Madlum, meron din caving, oh yung camping.
      Ng re require yun ng tour guide, depende sa dami ninyo.
      yung rates naman, madalas kasi ng iiba, so baka pg ng quote ako, mali yung maibigay.
      Affordable yung rates, yun lang assurance ko.

      Thank you po!

    2. Hello ulit Lhen!
      Regarding tents, Ive asked.
      I think walang ng papa rent dun, mura lang kasi ang tents, you can by a Php 999 sa Olympia, that's not even the cheapest around.
      Kung mg Camp kayo sa Mt Manalmon, kahit trapal at Earth Pads pwede nah.
      Para kasing garden dun, maraming puno.
      Kung hindi maulan, ma e enjoy nyo mg star gazing or bonfire sa tabing ilog. :)

  15. first time po namin pupunta dyan, magkano po ang tour guide at may rent po ba ng mga tents for overnight stay? thanks. love the pics.


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