Mountain climbing beginners looking for an all-in-one experience should definitely go to Mt. Manalmon. It’s situated only two hours away from Manila, with various options for adventures.
Climbing Solo, At Least Initially
On Labor Day, I went on an open climb organized by Josh with a group composed of Ultimate players, couchsurfers, mountain climbing first timers and officemates looking for a team building activity. The diversity of the group definitely matched the diversity of our itinerary.
Upon arrival, we were immediately faced with two choices: cross the monkey bridge or ride the balsa to cross the Madlum River. There is a less exciting choice of just going around the river, but of course, where is the adventure in that?
Cable Crossing across Madlum River
I opted for the monkey bridge where it took me 7 minutes to cross compared to the typical 2 minutes. I finished singing around three songs to distract myself. The idea of plunging into the shallow part of the river without a harness did not help. But by all means, try it!
Across Madlum River, we were greeted by fellow hikers and guides. The hike to the peak is just an hour back and forth. Entering the short Madlum Cave (where “Mulawin” was shot), crossing waters and hiking up a mildly steep slope is what you can expect before reaching the top. There are also amazing rock and tree formations around!
Mt. Manalmon, A Mere Hill
In no time we reached Mt. Manalmon’s peak (a mere “hill” at 196 meters above sea level) overlooking the Madlum River and the summit of its twin mountain, Mt. Gola! Even though it was not that high or physically challenging (you can finish in an hour), I still liked the view from the top of Mt. Manalmon.
On our way down, we passed by some stores and had a soft drinks and mais con yelo. By the time we reached the jump off point, we enjoyed a lunch prepared for us by Josh. Here we got to know more about our daytrip buddies while eating.
Spelunking Bayukbok Cave
Afterwards we went to explore Bayukbok Cave. Headlights are required and can be rented for P30. It was highly advised not to bring too many things since we will be groping, hanging and wriggling our way inside the caves. We tried Caves 7-8, but there is a Cave 1-6 group that we missed due to the number of people (it was Labor Day after all). I copied photos instead because I didn’t bring my camera there. Hope you don’t mind!
The caves were absolutely stunning. I would never understand how someone first found his way inside because you will have to climb up, scramble down and crawl. The surroundings of the cave vary from smooth to jagged and there were times when we pause and turn off our lights just to take it all in — the pitch-black darkness, the still silence and coolness of the cave.
Going up to the caves was just as difficult as going down from it. It’s best to wear arm and leg sleeves to prevent cuts from the sharp rocks. Because it drizzled a little, we also had to be careful not to slip. Thankfully everyone made it in one piece!
Washing up at Madlum River
Finally, after hours of cold sweat and muddied hands, we finally emerged and washed up by the Madlum River. It was especially beautiful, and not deep enough to drown in. The ladies and I literally bathed in the river while it was drizzling! Best feeling ever.
Overall, the trip to Mt. Manalmon and the Bayukbok Caves are one of the best adventures ever. I got to meet new friends, go spelunking and of course face my fear of heights yet again — this time with the novelty of steel cables. I would definitely return for Cave 1-6 and do it all again.
Another great part? We only spent around P500 for everything!
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