When the vehicle entered the rustic town of Lobo, we were caught in awe at the sight of the place. There were trees and mountain peaks everywhere. It was the complete opposite of the more familiar Batangas towns that we had visited. We were trying to survey its peaks to identify which Mt. Banoi was. No one had been to Mt. Banoi but we all knew that it's marked by structures of two towers. But it seemed to be a very confusing task as the vehicle kept on zigzagging along the highway, reminiscent of the Cordillera roads. It was expected to be rustic, but I did not expect to embrace the bucolic side of it. The wind was refreshing, the sights were relaxing, the carefree lives of the people were enviable. In short, I loved the place. I loved Lobo, Batangas.
|A town bordered by mountains and sea ~ Lobo, Batangas|
|Freddie, Jovy and Ivan with the OIC in Lobo Police Station|
|BPs King, Tin and Clue at the chapel|
When the rain stopped, we started our journey towards our target campsite: Malabnig Village. Yes, there is a village on top of the mountain which is a cool thing because we might have been prepping up for possibly the most luxurious campsite that we ever had. The trail was straightforward, in which the initial section was a typical 'follow-the-stream' trail. There were lots of opportunities to wash the dirt and mud off our shoes because we had to cross the stream several times. And it was characterized by a crystal clear, cold water which was truly refreshing. Along the trail was the presence of man made hose in which water coming from the stream was flowing. We had abundance of water as these man made hose paved way to a bountiful and lengthy water source.
|This way to Sitio Malabnig|
|Moderate uphill trail|
|One of our guests |
Ma'am Fe Manapat ~ a real trooper :-)
We had the opportunity of being graced by guest Ma'am Fe Manapat. Already in her fifties but physically fit and still very much active in such activities, she proved to be an inspiration to all of us. Many had several Take Fives during the second portion of the trail to Malabnig wherein we had to zigzag all the way to the top, but Ma'am Fe was such a trooper. Part of the Lead Pack, she managed to overcome the incline with such ease. Many climbers took their time in resting, their night jobs taking its toll on their presence and stamina, but it was okay. The target that day was to reach the village and not the summit.
|Sir Erwin Q.|
|A weird and mysterious looking tree at the trail|
|Nickson and Heinz|
|Everybody busy at the campsite|
|Nacho and Jovy while setting up the tent|
|BP Chons preparing her tent|
|Angel and York at the campsite|
|Three time BP guest ~ Sir Freddie|
|Dinner and then socials!|
|BPs Mon, York and Ivan with Kuya Ricardo (leftmost) and Leandro (rightmost)|
|Sirs Erwin S, Freddie and Resty|
|Sirs Gerald and Mina|
|BP Girls Liz, Angel and Jovy|
Socials is an important avenue, at least for The BACKPACKERS, in an overnight climb. This is where we formally get to know the guests and each other. This gathering was made more fun and unique because of the English Only Policy imposed due to the presence of our Spanish National guest, Nacho. The early part of the socials were abundant with political ideologies as Sir Freddie's guests started to introduce themselves and apparently, they are employees of a government agency: NAPC (National Anti Poverty Commission). As the introduction went on within the spacious and incredible socials venue (hey, we had a light bulb and mono block chairs!) so was the fun and the bonding. Myself (Ivan), York and Mon bonded with the humble locals, with the helping of Gin Bilog. Whew! It was responsible for making me dizzy and partially deaf that I was unaware that I was conversing in a loud voice when I went back in the socials circle. Yikes! Anyway, Mt. Banoi's socials was so much fun, and need I speak more? The pictures below will speak for themselves:
|Mt. Banoi socials ~ complete with mono block chairs!|
We were quite behind the itinerary on day two as we all helped ourselves with the morning's breakfast (coffee, bread and BP Tin's special chicken spread) prior to the hike to the peak. Added to the unforeseen circumstances was the condition of the trail from the village to the peak: it was as muddy as hell. Our sandals and shoes were squirting like icing squished on a cake whenever we moved our feet in the muddy course. The entire group was subdivided into trail duos, trios, quadruplets, quintuplets etc. But to sum up the assault portion, the trail was very easy and manageable. There was one fork wherein we needed to take the right upward trail to get to the peaks of Mt. Banoi. Trail marks were present to prevent mountaineers from wandering off the wrong direction. From that turn, we were immersed with the forest of Mt. Banoi until we arrived at a clearing marked by an electric post.
Unlike the other neighboring peaks in the Southern Tagalog region, there were only few accounts mentioning the beauty of Mt. Banoi. Sir Mina even had a mindset that the view atop Mt. Banoi will be plain and not as grand as the others. I myself diverted my attention to just appreciating the bucolic environment and the proximity of the mountain to the beach. And many BACKPACKERS who did their own research about Mt. Banoi never expected the mountain's peak to be this serene, beautiful and awe inspiring. Part of the mountain ranges in that area overlooking the town and the sea, we got an amazing vista of the small but beautiful world of Lobo, Batangas. The greenness of the forests that teem its mountain ranges, the vast pasture of the fields and the simplicity of the villages below were a delight to the spirit. It was a relaxing moment and an astounding view worthy of solitude; that moment when time stops and you just have to stare at that radiant face of the earth. I could stay all day staring at the greens and maybe just ponder about some things in life. The heavy clouds contributed to the wonder as strong winds greeted us at the peaks rather than the scorching heat of the sun, which made us relish our time even more. But it was because of these dark clouds that we postponed our trip to the Two Towers Peak. But nonetheless, the time spent at the third and fourth peaks of Mt. Banoi was worth it.
Photo ops on one of Mt. Banoi's peaks
Then it was time to leave the peak. The descent, though still muddy, was faster and easier. Chitchats and hearty conversations were enjoyed by some of the sub groups while descending. And when we reached our campsite at the village, (hello Leandro again!) we took advantage of the unlimited supply of water that was presented to us at the campsite. We washed up and cleaned our muddy footwear and limbs. It was not the time to eat lunch but due to the slightly altered itinerary, we decided to eat our pre cooked lunch. (And thank you again, Ate Angge for cooking our lunch!)
|Clue and the magnificent view|
|Wilson getting ready to wave goodbye to the magnificent Mt. Banoi|
|Ma'ams Fe, Cyrus and Ruby|
|BP Mon's 'semplang' shot|
|Sir Gerald coming all the way from Baguio|
|Bilinguals Anna and Nacho|
Pondering on the weeks of planning and researching prior to the climb, I am thankful that there are less articles that speak of the beauty of Mt. Banoi - for my experience greatly exceeded my expectation. For some, the mountain may just be a regular hiking destination, but for The BACKPACKERS, there was magic that day at Mt. Banoi which made it more special and remarkable.
|The bucolic beauty of Mt Banoi|
|The breathtaking landscape of Mt. Banoi|
Still in Lobo, Batangas, it's the group's sidetrip to Punta Malabrigo Beach
PHOTO CREDITS TO: Clue, Liz, Freddie, Ivan and King