Sunday, February 8, 2015

The climb that started it all: Conquering Mt. Pico de Loro

Yesterday was definitely a day full of firsts. I never thought that this day will be all about facing your fears and conquering it all at the same time.

Thanks to Couchsurfing (CS), I discovered a new found love that matches my thrill seeking side. I've been seeing hiking photos/selfies over various networking sites this past couple of months. I always wondered why do they keep doing it regardless of how tiring it is, for sure. It seems to be a common hobby now, unlike in the past where hiking is a strenuous activity that is only left to the pros. Now, thanks to hiking groups and tours, a lot of people is starting to get in the fit zone through hiking.

Don't they get tired of being tired? haha! That's what lazy bum, like me, thinks. It's totally being out of your comfort zone to start with. But then, after trying it for myself, I now realized why many people can't get enough of it. The view. The feeling of achievement. The friends you get to know better. The new perspective you get each time you climb. It's a totally new world up there. You get that high (pun intended) after dealing with your first climb and so, you’ll want to do it over and over again to experience the thrill and be on the top of the world for a moment.

I only chanced upon this event 4 days prior to the day and only confirmed my attendance exactly a day before the hike. In short, biglaan, bahala na.  HAHA. I first doubted myself as I don't even do sports or any exercise. The only exercise I get is the walk along the long path from Paseo de Roxas to Ayala MRT after work. So to at least condition my body, I used the stairs in our office, 7th floor to ground before the day. Instant warm-up? haha! And this is where I doubted myself for a moment after losing my breath upon reaching the 5th level. haha! I seriously need to get active.

Meeting time of the group was set at 5:30am at Mcdo Pala Pala. I was already awake at 2:30 am and can’t go back to sleep. I haven’t yet prepared my things, and I almost decided to just sleep again if only my friend didn't call me up at 4:30am telling me she's ready to go. So just imagine me getting ready and throwing inside my bag anything I see that I think would need that day – within 15mins. I even tripped over while running around the house which seriously hurt my toe badly. What a good start. 5:40am we arrived at Mcdo. Just in time as they’re still buying their lunch for later.  As for me, I was able to prepare a sandwich (yes, I was even able to prepare a tuna sandwich in less than 5mins. haha!) while running around the house earlier but my friend had more than enough for her lunch so I bought rice too.

Good thing, 2 cars were brought by my co-CSers just enough for us 12. It took us more than an hour to reach the jump off point at DENR Ternate. At 7:30am, several cars are already parked inside and outside the compound. As expected, prices of food will be higher here. 1000mL of water costs 45Php and a regular sized C2 sells at Php40 which is normally priced at Php25-28. Registration fee costs Php25.  According to one of our co-CSer, who’s already climbing mountains for the past 5 years, there’s also another fee to be collected on the way up. But that was the case with the old trail which was already closed to public by now. According to lola, who seems to live there, the new trail that hikers will be using has just opened last week. The old trail used to let you reach the Pico de Loro falls which unfortunately not the case now with the new trail. :( After saying a short prayer, we now started on with the trail!

Mt. Pico de Loro, also called as Mt. Palay Palay, is located between Cavite and Batangas. This is also where the famous Monolith/ Parrot’s Beak is located. Mt. Pico de Loro is considered the highest point in Cavite so you wuld be able to see the wide plains of Cavite once you get to the top.
The way up to the first summit is surrounded by the lush forest that shades the trail making the almost 3 hour long hike up bearable for beginners like me. We also stop from time to time just to catch some breath but generally, the hike up was not so taxing. That is why Mt. Pico de Loro is considered a mountain for beginners. The shade and the cool breeze definitely helped my tired body recover and push through. There are some slight challenges with steep slopes but generally, the hike up is tolerable and fun!

Almost there!
You know you’re only minutes away from the saddle camp when you see those bamboo shoots bent like an arch.

Upon reaching the saddle campsite, the area’s already filled with day hikers resting and some campers who slept on their tents for the night. There are also stores that sell snacks and drinks. A 1000mL water costs Php50 while a regular sized c2 is Php40. As expected, prices would be higher but let’s just take in consideration the effort of hauling up these goods there. From here, we can already see the summit and the famous Monolith a.k.a. Parrot’s Beak because of its shape.

the view from the saddle camp

After some minutes of rest and selfies, some of us left our bags in one of the store to prepare for the hike up to the summit. Now, this is where the real deal starts. Maybe the hike up to the saddle camp is what they consider as for beginners, but definitely this way up to the summit needs a bit of "technique" and "determination" as the soil is loose and slippery.

It was already 11am and the heat is undeniably at it’s peak. Kuya Lando and Kuya Nick who approached us while we were resting offered us help going up to the summit. It’s not really required to have a guide, but as almost all of us are beginners we opted for one. They don’t charge fixed rates for their service and they keep on saying that it is up to us if we will give a tip of any amount. According to them, it would only take about 20 mins going up to the summit.

Unsurprisingly, this trail up to the summit was definitely a challenge for us as the soil was loose and slippery. There’s not enough grass to hold on so I was really grateful to have Kuya Nick help me “walk” up to the top. It was seriously slippery that from time to time I just opted to go on all fours and crawl my way up. Haha! From what I noticed from the expert guides who helped us, it’s better if you walk up fast and steady and go on the direction where the solid rocks are. It seems easy for them, but seriously it’s hard to get the right balance, maybe on the long run I'll get the technique.

It was such a relief reaching the summit. I almost doubted my decision on joining this day hike while crawling up that slippery trail. Haha! But anyways, it was so fulfilling. Once you get to the top, you would thank yourself for not giving up! Just like how life is full of challenges, you won't reach your goal until you push yourself. Naks! Life lessons brought to you by the mountains. haha! The view from up there was just amazing, you can see the vast view of the mountains and the waters nearby. The famous monolith is also standing nearby, taunting you and challenging your guts.

I can see from afar how excited those people who then magically emerges from the back of the rock, jumping up and down and shouting once they get to the top. Crazy. Strong. I’m happy for them, good job to you all! As for me, I'll just settle on the summit and wait for the time to get down. But no. I heard Kuya Mike, our seasoned climber in the group already asking on who’s gonna go up to the monolith. And all I could say was, “WHAT?” “SERIOUSLY” “SERYOSO?” “HUH?”,”PAANO?”. And that is when I confirmed to myself that I have an acrophobia (for a moment). I continuously asked some question (how do we go there? Do we need to climb up again? Are we going thru it all again, really?) to which I only got vague answers. I have never been the one to chicken out on extreme challenges but this is a first. What I only understood is that all of us are going and the way down is through the monolith (with the latter obviously not true). So we climbed down or might I say slide down, for the trail is still composed of slippery rocks and soil and there’s not enough support to hold on.

Upon reaching the base of the monolith, there are already a lot of people sitting on the rocks waiting for their friends and some waiting for their turn to climb up. It turns out that on the side of the monolith there’s a part where you scale the rocks with only a rope to hold on. Once I saw that, I got very excited and thankful for peer pressure. Haha! I always wanted to try and do rappelling and this one’s a very good opportunity! We waited for I think almost an hour before we all were able to climb up the monolith.
The foreign couple that made scaling rocks look 'easy'. Thanks to their long limbs.

The way up using the rope was a bit easy as I can see where I can place my feet but going down was another story as I completely slid my way down as I can’t seem to feel a flat rock to step on. I can just imagine how humiliating I look on my way down. Haha! It would be good if you have gloves with you so your grip on the rope won’t hurt much like what I experienced.

After that rope climb you’re life is already on your own hands as you will be passing through a narrow walkway and climbing an almost chest-high rock on the edge. Yes, one wrong move or one slip of a grip might just be an end of it all. If climbing up the summit was a struggle, climbing the monolith was twice the danger. And that is when I realized that I wasn't specifically afraid of heights but instead with the fear of uncertainty or not having something certain to depend on (is there a term for that?). The monolith was definitely the ultimate feat in Mt. Pico de Loro. Conquering the monolith requires a great amount of strength and guts to face it. This monolith seems to be the ultimate test for beginners. But once you overcome the fear and muster enough courage, a 360 degree view of the countryside is what you will be rewarded with. It was just crazy being there. Being a first timer, I still can’t believe that I was able to overcome this much.

After taking all the selfies and groufies we could have, we started to make our way down back to the summit and into the saddle camp. Passing through all those slippery trail, again. Everything’s was still a struggle but I already had more courage and determination this time after conquering that one heck of a monolith.

 After some time, we are back in the saddle camp. After resting our tired feet and having our lunch, we started our descent back to the jump-off point. It only took us about 2 hours this time going down. If you want to wash up after, you may do so when you’re back in the jump-off point/ DENR. They charge Php5 for using the public restroom.  

Up until now, it still feels surreal. It was such a good experience for my first climb as I have never even did anything riskier than this before. I’m just thankful that our prayers before the climb helped us get away from any harm. If only I had my own bucketlist, I think I already ticked off a lot in just one day. Climbing the monolith might scare you at first but it is something to be proud of once completed. Everything that happened was all worth it. And to quote my co-CSer's fb status, "In the mountain, you are in a world without strangers" which is just amazingly real as everyone we met and cross path with on the trail greets and wishes us all well which of course we give in return. It's such a nice place to be at, everyone's very friendly and encouraging. A proof that everything that God made is perfectly awesome. Looking forwards to more climbs with this group this year! :)

The rocks on the way back. (c/o Roann)

On top of the Monolith with the CS group! (c/o Roann)


  1. Awesome work.Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading.Thanks for the share

  2. Hi,

    My name is Kim of Jacaranda Travels I saw your blog while looking top travel bloggers in the Philippines.
    I you trip, masaya pag biglaan, you discovered a new found love experience the thrill and be on the top of the world for a moment. after all your sacrifice you reach the Mt. Pico de Loro that considered as the highest point in Cavite so you would be able to see the wide plains of Cavite once you get to the top.

    I was hoping if you are interested for an interview that we will post on our business travel blog at (facebok page at
    Thank you, hoping for your positive reply.

    Kimberly-Tourist spots in the Philippines
    jacaranda travels


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