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INTO... continued

The road to Malipuņo is relatively easy to find. That is, until you get to the off-road section, then the trail suddenly branches off into all directions like a drunk who can't find his way home. We spent a good hour just going back and forth in the muddy trails, it was so confusing that even the locals couldn't seem to agree which place was where or how to get there! We followed the meandering road network to a place where it suddenly dropped off into a small river gully, by then we had finally arrived at the trailhead in Talisay, Silangan. The trail to the mountain begins by following the barbed wire fence along the stream, up to an exposed ridge and finally, under a high-voltage electrical tower. It's very easy to get lost without a guide because of all the logging trails, hunting trails, plantation trails, and every kind of footpath known to man! We hiked for about an hour past the tower until we got to the business section of the climb. The trail continued over another ridge, but the actual summit trail is to the left, at the junction before the water source. The way to the summit is overgrown with vegetation and looks as if it's been a while since anybody climbed the area. Our guide, Aries, was flinging baby snakes off the steep trail at every switchback and rocky outcrop. It took us nearly an hour to get to the summit clearing because of all the hard labor it required just to clear a path. I retreated to the balcony viewpoint while waiting for the others, somnolent from the long "climbing weekend" and the zephyr wind brushing the summit in the late afternoon light. I looked down on Manabu and it seemed like no more than an arm's length in distance and yet, as I watched the festivities unfold on the barren campsite below me, it seemed more than a world away!
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