LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA, PHILIPPINES — Considered as the most challenging dayhike near Metro Manila, Mt. Makiling Traverse (or simply MakTrav), is usually used as a training climb for the tougher mountains in the country. MakTrav starts from Sto. Tomas, Batangas (via Sipit Trail) and exits at Los Baños, Laguna (via Mariang Makiling Trail). It has a rated difficulty of 5/9 and is considered as a major hike.
I have once lived in the feet of Mt. Makiling and thus, it brings a bit of excitement to actually climb the mountain itself that cradled me for almost half a decade. Mt. Makiling, a dormant volcano, is administered by the University of the Philippines – Los Baños for an effort to conserve its biodiversity and as a “training laboratory for the advancement of scientific and technical knowledge on the preservation, conservation and development of forest, flora and fauna and natural resources.”
Sipit Trail is the current trail used for the traverse. There was a time that an alternate trail (Palanggana Trail) was used due to the devastating aftermath of a typhoon. The hike via Sipit would start with a flatland before entering the forest with several community trails. The steady increase in elevation served as a good warm-up.
After the brief grassland section, you’d enter the forest again. What’s interesting with Mt. Makiling is its diverse flora and the occasional fauna you’d see. From time to time, I’d snap pictures of those that pleased my interest. There are several roped segments on the way, but it won’t be a problem for the average hikers.
The Melkas Ridge is one of the highlights of MakTrav, i.e. you won’t get here if you took the route from UPLB and won’t do a traverse. The trail is composed of a series of sharp ascent with several roped segments. A rock called Haring Bato is also located here. From the ridge, you could see both the province of Batangas and Laguna. The ridge ends up at the Peak 3.
PEAK 3 (1020+ MASL)
Although Peak 3 isn’t scenic itself, you could get a decent view of Batangas and Laguna from here. We had our lunch at Station 22 (maybe) before heading out for Peak 2. Clouds have shrouded the trail and hence, a moist path. And when you say “moist trail”, limatiks will prevail. I was lucky no leech have dared to bite me even though I was wearing shorts instead of pants. Aside from the limatik, the trail was muddy that time. You won’t get away without slipping/sliding at least twice in the obstacle course between Peak 3 and Peak 2. I even considered being a contortionist as my next potential career.
PEAK 2 / SUMMIT (1090+ MASL)
After about 2 hours in the obstacle course since Peak 3, we reached the summit. The summit seemed to be a congregation point for both MakTrav and Mariang Makiling Trail hikers. It has a few shade-giving trees, so it’s also a good place to take a moment of rest. The summit is also marked as the 30th station of Mariang Makiling Trail from UPLB.
In case you were wondering, Peak 1 exists. It has a height of about 900+ meters above sea level and can be reached somewhere near Station 15 of the Mariang Makiling Trail. It is closed to hikers and is being conserved for scientific research purposes. Wag makulit.
The descent from Peak 2 was relatively easy. Just be careful with several protruding roots and branches. It gave me joy seeing a different way of getting to UPLB, my alma matter. Once you reach Agila Base, you can either opt to ride a motorcycle (habal-habal) to get to the exit point at the College of Forestry, or to continue with your trek. Habal-habal ride is PhP100.
We got to College of Forestry in UPLB at around 4:00pm and got in line for the wash-up area. However, due to the large volume of hikers that weekend, it seemed to be a long wait. I got this late idea of inviting the group to Dampalit Falls in Sitio Dampalit, Brgy. Lalakay, Los Baños. I thought it would be better to take a bath at a freshwater falls than to wait for the long queue (or to get no bath at all). So after passing by the Original Buko Pie shop, we searched for Dampalit.
To get to the falls, drive/commute towards the direction of Calamba and drop-off near Lalakay Elementary School & Camp Macario Sakay (formerly Camp Elridge) along the highway. Once near these landmarks, ask the locals for the direction. It’s a narrow street that leads to Sitio Dampalit where you’ll need to walk for about 15 minutes. There is another way via DENR office but I haven’t tried that. Anyways, it was already dark when we got there. The caretakers of the falls didn’t expect people to come at that hour, however we still insisted for a dip. Entrance fee is P20.
It was very dark so a semi-skinny dipping is no problem at all. The water, though very cold, was refreshing. It was one of those spontaneous decisions that is worthy to be added to your “I did these” list. Good thing there was no wandering limatik or snake. No pictures though since it was pitch-black dark.
TRAVEL GUIDE / TIPS
- HOW TO GET THERE. To get to the Sto. Tomas jumpoff, ride any Lucena-bound buses from Buendia/Cubao and get off at Brgy. San Felix in Sto. Tomas (fare P110/person, 2 hours). Take a tricycle to Sitio Jordan (fare P65, up to 3 pax, 15 mins).
- REGISTRATION. You may coordinate with Erwin Adornado (+63-918-3460730). Log at the Ecopark / Trailhead. No fees collected as of this writing.
- GUIDE FEES. Guides are mandatory and fees are pegged at P500 good for a group of up to 5 persons. I suggest adding a tip for their fare back to Sto. Tomas. Otherwise, it’ll be a long day for them.
- As part of your limatik-removal kit, bring alcohol.
- Entrance fee to Dampalit Falls is P20/person.
- Remember the Leave No Trace principles.
The following itinerary was based from Pinoy Mountaineer‘s: