Summiting Mt. Manabu is no easy feat. The underrated mountain, located at Sto. Tomas in the province of Batangas standing 760 meters above sea level, is cited by others as a peak that is very easy to climb. Very easy sounds too unrealistic especially for novice climbers or outdoor enthusiasts who do not solely focus on climbing mountains. Add more weight to your backpack and the burden will be worse. Difficulty in this context is the combination of our bags’ weight and the trail’s complexity. I had already mounted Pulag in Benguet and Taraw Cliff in Palawan; Manabu was not the first on the list of my surpassed pinnacles. It might be due to the gap between the climbs that I felt worn out in our Manabu assault—or maybe we were carrying a lot of gears for our overnight camp.
In this climb I was with six other guys—five of whom are my officemate’s girlfriend’s officemates in HP McKinley Hill; the sixth guy is my officemate (sounded like a tongue twister, eh?) Obviously I was the odd one out. But wait, there’s more! A classmate of mine in college is also their colleague and that completes the enigma. Pretty small world of IT. There is no reason for me to feel left out.
We almost canceled this activity the night prior to the climb due to conflict in workshifts of them HP guys as others can’t make it to the 10 AM call time. Even on the early morn of the actual day we were still unsure if we will push through. To make the story short, we divided ourselves into two groups: five of us will go ahead first while the remaining two will follow after their shift in the office.
From Manila we traveled by land to Lipa City and arrived at Fiesta Mall, which is the common starting point to Manabu, after two hours of connecting trips. The Batangas experience won’t be complete without having a bowl of their thick and eggy lomi so our group had lunch—late lunch to be exact as we arrived at around 2 PM—at Benok’s in Fiesta Mall before heading out to jump-off point. The weather was gloomy—it was a perfect time to avoid burns. On a chartered tricycle we drove for 15 minutes to Brgy. Sta. Cruz where we registered our names for Php20 per head.
All in all, Manabu has eight stations—five of which are the portions you have to overcome to reach the campsite. The trail begins at the front yard of residences and appears very easy in the initial stage. The first hour of the climb will be spent mostly on the deceptive parts wherein you’ll say that it’s just a piece of cake. Tall trees provide shade and chunks of stones to step on keep you away from mud. It is more of a nature walk in the first part.
Upon reaching Station 3 you will find a small hut in the middle of the forest. A heap of coconut fruits can be seen on their table; ingredients of halo-halo are individually put in small plastic containers. The abode does not only serve as a stopping place but also a shelter for quick refreshment. A shell of coconut juice worth Php10 already suffices one’s thirst.
Station 4 is the area where the trail splits into two. It is recommended to follow the one leading to the right and proceed with the cardinal precedence of stations. According to the lady in Station 3, the trail leading to the left is more slippery and difficult to ascend. Trust her.
The climb becomes more complex from Station 5 due to continuity of upward hike. A rope is installed to support climbers who can’t stand the slippery ground. A wide, flat surface is rare so you opt to take a quick halt while on steep portions of the trail. Once you made it out of the forest and noticed that you are already exposed to open air, it is a good sign that you are approaching the campsite.
After two hours of battling with the weights of our backpacks, we finally arrived at the campsite. We threw our bags away and sprawled on the dry ground. Our shirts are soaked in sweat; our pants partially covered with mud. There is no source of water at the campsite so we were not able to rinse the dirt off our body completely but instead relied on wet wipes and clean, dry clothes. The sun was setting when we arrived. We pitched our tents, cooked food for dinner, and slept early.
How to reach Mt. Manabu
Commuting to Manabu from Metro Manila is easy. Take a Lipa-bound bus (e.g. JAM Liner in Buendia, Php124 per head) and travel for two hours. Alight at the bus stop in Lipa City in Batangas and take a jeepney to Fiesta Mall for a minimum fare. From Fiesta Mall, charter a tricycle to Brgy. Sta. Cruz for Php100 (good for two passengers). Rate varies depending on the number of passengers.