Due to its proximity to Manila, Mount Batulao has become a popular destination for rookie climbers. The peak stands at 811+ meters above sea level and offers a spectacular view of the town. Since Batulao comprises a series of mountains, each ascent was labeled 1- 10 by locals to make it easier to identify the progress/movement of the tourists.
October 20, 2018 — I have hiked several mountains located even as far as Cebu in the south and Cagayan in the north, but never have I climbed Batulao which is, quite frankly, just a stone’s throw away from my province. My friend Fritz and I decided to go on a spontaneous hike one Saturday morning.
The journey started with a promise of wonder for nature but ended with a tragic realization of man’s exploitation. Well, let me tell you first about the good parts from this experience. There is no question about Batulao’s beauty. It was a feast in the eyes whether I turned my head to the left or right. Even if the peak was still far-flung, the climbers were already given a sight of the jagged mountain ranges in its radiant form.
In the beginning, the hike seemed like a fair stretch of walkathon until we reached the part where the old trail and new trail coincide. Our 16-year old tour guide, Beejay, informed us that the ‘old trail’ was a complex one that involves rappelling on abrupt ascents and walking beside hill edges. On the other hand, the ‘new trail’ was the simpler path that would only require very minimal climbing effort. The former has 5 basecamps while the latter has 2.
We didn’t want to spoil ourselves rotten by picking the easier route so we chose to hike both trails. My friend and I used the old trail going up the peak while we crossed the new trail going down. According to Beejay, most climbers opt for the same course.
The trail to the top was both a delight and a torture, if I may be frank with myself. It is characterized by a plentitude of loose soil and rocks among the grassy sharp slopes. I was not physically prepared for the journey, even more so mentally equipped for it. At one point, my friend and I were too tired that we were laughing at ourselves, asking one another why we voluntarily signed up for this. Heck, we had a great time still.
Batulao reminds me so much of Talamitam but at most, it was 4 times more challenging. Both have treeless trails which meant direct sunlight exposure and quicker dehydration. This is also why most hikers primarily go for a dawn hike or an evening hike.
After two hours of enduring the sun, rappelling aimlessly and holding onto rocks for our dear lives, we finally arrived at the summit. The panorama of Batangas from where I stood was spectacular and it was deeply cherished. We stayed rather for an hour just taking this beauty in. I realized it was so worth it as I imagined all that has happened whilst staring at God’s masterpiece. Just see how close I was to the sky!
This Camp 10 rock marker indicated that we have conquered the peak. However, don’t be tricked by the seemingly calm mood this photograph evokes. Behind the camera were people lined up to take their turn for the picture-taking. There were also ice cream vendors and even a makeshift store selling bottled water, soda, and coconut refreshments. It was business like usual.
While we were on the summit, I talked to the ice cream vendor to ask about his life on the daily. He mentioned that he goes up to the summit everyday to sell ice popsicles to the climbers. Inescapably, he raised his concerns about lesser tourists visiting Batulao since 2018. The unnecessary fee collections have resulted in a decreased number of climbers, therefore, lesser ice cream buyers and fewer earnings for kuya. He himself admits that the current supervising body is an opportunist.
Sadly, the basecamp fee collection is not monitored by the local tourism office. Within our first 30 minutes of hike and an interval of 10 minutes, my friend and I were charged a fee to proceed. Some mountaineers we met laughed about it and jokingly refer to the ridiculous system as “toll gate.” In totality, the registration fee covering both trails amounted to more or less than 150pesos. This is, by far, my most expensive local hike.
The toll gate comparison may sound like a funny analogy but it is irritatingly precise. This poor collection scheme causes inconvenience to the climbers. From time to time, tourists would log in and pay an amount. Whenever I asked our tour guide why the system was made that way, he told us that the locals had a disagreement among themselves and decided to divide the area. In other words, tourism in Batulao is not governed by LGUs but by residents. Now I wonder if the residents here allocate some of the funds for preservation and environmental efforts. Perhaps not.
The disturbing reality of local tourism here in the Philippines (not only in Batangas) can provoke further damage to the socio-political and environmental aspects. Although it was difficult for us to overlook this abuse whilst we were here, my friend and I were still able to enjoy the rest of our trek.
Guide to Mt. Batulao, Batangas
- Wear clothes with good coverage. You’ll be walking paths filled with tall grasses with razor-sharp edges.
- Tour guide is required, at Php 500 service fee.
- Bring lots of water, but make sure to drink moderately.
- Be careful not to slip. During the dry season, the soil is loosened while during the wet season, muddy.
- Carry a scarf, shades, or cap to protect you from extreme sunray.
- Wear sunblock for skin protection.
How to get there
- Ride any bus going to Nasugbu, Batangas. Alight at Evercrest Golf Course or simply tell the bus conductor about Mt. Batulao.
- At Evercrest, hail a tricycle to take you to Mt. Batulao jump-off point. One tricycle is good for 3-4 pax, the average fare is ₱100/tricycle per way. You may also opt to walk for warm-up.
Itinerary and Budget
|October 20, 2018||6:30 AM||Rode bus from Walter Mart Dasma to Evercrest, Nasugbu||₱69/head (bus fare)|
|7:30 AM||ETA Evercrest, ride tricycle to jump-off point||₱100/tricycle (max of 4)|
|7:45 AM||ETA start trek via Old trail||₱30/head (1st Registration); ₱30/head (2nd Registration); ₱20/head (3rd Registration); ₱20/head (4th Registration);|
|9:00 AM||Fifth registration via Old Trail, CR Break||₱10/half pail (water use); ₱20/head (5th Registration)|
|10:20 AM||ETA Camp 10 peak of Batulao||₱30/ice popsicle; ₱35/bottled water;|
|11:20 AM||ETD to New Trail||₱20/head (6th Registration); ₱20/head (7th Registration)|
|12:50 PM||ETA back to jump-off site, ride tricycle to hi-way||₱500/tour guide; ₱100/tricycle|
|1:00 PM||ETA hi-way, ride bus to Dasma||₱69/head (bus fare)|
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