Welcome to Tita Hike Series: a series about my hikes with my fellow modern Tita, Violet. To those who have been patiently following and reading my posts (shout-out to Atty. Hanna Lee Bravo, my very first blog subscriber, and most supportive friend 🙂 ), you may have been used to reading about me doing solo hikes. But in the coming months, you might be reading more about my hikes with Violet because I think I chose a good mountain for her first hike that is not work-related (we are both geologists btw). I am positive that she will go hiking with me again. Hopefully, she will also join me in my Mt. Kinabalu Climb in September. I hope you enjoy reading our Tita adventures! (P.S. For those who are not familiar what the word Tita means for the millennials, check out this post.)
If you were able to read my previous post about my hike to Mt. Tagapo, I mentioned that I was supposed to go on a hike with a friend but I canceled the day before because I was not feeling well. That friend is Violet, my schoolmate/dormmate in college. Two weeks after that canceled hike, we finally did it two Saturdays ago at Mt. Manabu.
Originally, I planned Mt. Hugom for our hike because I have read about the amazing views at the summit. But the modern Tita in me took over. Suddenly I was feeling lazy to wake up early for the hike. So I messaged Violet and made her choose between Mt. Gulugod-Baboy and Mt. Manabu instead. I told her that we might not be physically ready for Mt. Hugom because I have read that the trail is a continuous ascent but the truth is I just don’t want to wake up too early.
I have been to Mt. Gulugod-Baboy and Mt. Manabu in the past so I know that even if we leave Manila at 9 in the morning, we will still be able to finish the hike before it gets dark. Violet chose Mt. Manabu because she knows that I was not able to reach the summit during my first visit (read about my previous hike here) and also because she wants to try the coffee at the Station 5 of Mt. Manabu.
Mt. Manabu is located in Sulok, Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Sto. Tomas, Batangas. It is a minor climb with a difficulty rating of 2/9 from Pinoy Mountaineer. This mountain is 760 MASL high and its highest point is marked with a white cross. The trail, known as the rosary trail because of its shape, is 4738.2 meters long.
The Perfect Mountain for Late Risers
In the past, whenever I go for a hike with friends, we start early to avoid the midday sun and to finish early. I usually wake up at 5 in the morning because we leave Metro Manila at 6:00 AM. Hiking is a tiring activity and doing it in the middle of the day when it is hottest is very exhausting.
On the day of our hike for Mt. Manabu, Violet and I met at Starmall EDSA at 8 in the morning. We walked to MRT Ortigas Station and waited for a Lipa, Batangas bound bus. At 8:30 AM, we were able to board a bus and we arrived in Lipa at 10:00 AM. The bus doesn’t pass by SM Lipa or Fiesta Mall so we alighted at Tambo. We stopped by McDonald’s to have a quick snack and afterward we took a jeepney to SM. From SM, we took a tricycle to Sulok, at the jump-off point of Mt. Manabu. Travel time to Sulok from SM is less than 30 minutes.
When we got to Brgy. Sta. Cruz, I told the tricycle driver to drop us off at the barangay hall first. Hikers need to register at the barangay hall and pay the registration fee of Php 20.00. After that, we proceeded to Sitio Sulok to start our hike.
We started our hike at 12 noon but wasted an hour because we took the wrong trail and got lost. We went back to the starting point and started our hike on the right trail at 1:00 PM. Had we started at this time on a different mountain, we may have collapsed already because of the heat of the sun (I am just exaggerating 😀 ). But with Mt. Manabu, 80-90% of the trail is covered with trees and vegetation so you are not exposed to the sun while doing the hike making it a perfect mountain to hike for late risers.
Our Misadventure and Why Mt. Manabu is Safe for Solo Hikers
When we registered at the Barangay Hall, we were asked if we have hiked Mt. Manabu in the past. When I said that I did, they didn’t require us to get a guide but they let us get the mobile number of the barangay captain in case of emergency. Since we were not required, we decided not to get one. We thought it would be a nice adventure doing it on our own.
I guess a trip I take is never complete without a misadventure. We started our hike at 12 noon. About 5 meters from the starting point of the hike, we got into an intersection. One path goes down a stair while the other is a straight path (refer to the picture below). There is a sign with an arrow but we were not really sure where the arrow was pointing. I don’t remember encountering an intersection during my first visit and we didn’t want to take the stairs so we decided to take the straight path hoping that it is the right one.
In the first five minutes of our walk, the surrounding looks familiar. But as we progressed, we started to ascend and everything seems new to me. The trail was getting steeper and I told Violet that I think we took the wrong trail because if that was the type of trail that the Egyptian and I took during our hike, he would have had a hard time climbing it. I remember during my first visit that the trail was super easy and it was almost flat.
After 15 minutes of hiking, we reached a hut. We decided to take a rest. I was still contemplating on continuing with the trail we took but a part of me was saying I need to give up. I decided to call the barangay captain and asked for a guide. He asked where our location was but describing to him where we are exactly is kind of difficult coz there are no markers and no significant landmarks except for the tiny hut. I told him we have been hiking for 15 minutes already and mentioned a fence made of barb wire. Soon as he heard of the fence, he told us we took the wrong path. He told us to go back to the starting point, near the water tank and he will send the guide there. And so we went back.
If ascending had been a little difficult for us, descending was even harder. The trail was steep and leaves are everywhere. We were very careful with our step because we might slip and get injured. We arrived at the starting point unscathed, but we were exhausted. After waiting for a few minutes, the barangay captain arrived. I wasn’t expecting him to come as he said in our phone conversation that he will just send a guide to meet us. But he personally came to check if the guide he sent was already there with us.
After a few minutes, the guide arrived. Turns out, the guide who happens to be a barangay official went to look for us when they were informed that we were lost. After asking us several questions, we started our hike. When we reached Station 2, the locals asked our guide if the two girls who got lost were already found. He told them that those two girls are me and Violet. And then they asked us how far we have reached and told us we were lucky we didn’t encounter snakes there. I’m really glad we didn’t.
When we reached Stations 3, 4 and 5, our guide was asked the same question. The story of two girls who got lost on the trail that day reached them. It was quite embarrassing but at the same time, it is a good sign. It means people there are kind-hearted because they are really concerned about the welfare of the hikers. Also it means it is safe even for solo hikers.
I highly recommend though that if you are going on a solo hike and it is your first time, get a guide even if you have read in other blogs that the trail is straight-forward. Trust me it is not.
The Ideal Mountain for Beginners
We started our hike on the right trail at 1:00 PM. The trek from Stations 1 to 4 was an easy one. The terrain was almost flat but rocky and the ascent was gradual. At Station 3 we had to cross a creek. It only took us 25 minutes to cover the first four stations even if we took two short breaks. The trail forks into two at Station 4. The trail to the left leads to Station 8 where the grotto is located while that on the right leads to Station 5. As we were following the normal sequence of the trail, we took the trail to Station 5.
The trail started to get difficult after Station 4. After about 20 minutes, we reached Station 5 where the famous hut of Mang Pirying/Tatay Tino is located. Here they offer free unlimited cups of civet coffee to hikers. They also have civet coffee grounds that are for sale. The small pack costs Php 100. Also at Station 5 is a life-size sculpture of a penis, which they call anito. The sculpture was so funny they even put a hair on it.
After our 20 minute break at Station 5, we continued our journey to the summit. The hike from Station 5 to the summit was the most difficult part of the trail. It was a continuous assault up to the top. There were ropes along the trail that were installed as a safety measure for climbers.
A few meters before the summit of Mt. Manabu, there is a flat area which serves as a camping ground for hikers. It took us 30 minutes to reach the summit from Station 5. Grass, shrubs and flowering plants cover the summit area. There are also “Sampinit” (wild berries) on the trails near the peak.
The view from the summit is breathtaking. As I have not reached the summit during my first hike to Mt. Manabu, I didn’t expect to see such view. I thought the only thing remarkable at the summit is the white cross. At the summit, you get to enjoy the views of other mountains such as Mt. Susong Dalaga, Mt. Maculot and Mt. Banahaw.
After spending 20 minutes at the summit enjoying the view, we continued with our hike. The continuous assault from Station 4 to Station 6 was exhausting but descending to Station 7 was difficult too. We were extra careful with our step to avoid slipping or getting injured. At Station 8, we found the grotto. We stopped for a few minutes then continued back to Station 4 up to Station 1. We finished the whole rosary trail for 3 hours and 40 minutes. Our guide, Kuya Ellis told us that compared to the other hikers that he accompanied, we walk faster. He also said that he had to assist the others while climbing or going down the trail while with us, all he needed to do was lead the way.
As I have mentioned in the introduction of the Tita Hike Series, it was Violet’s first hike that is not work-related. She enjoyed it a lot and she said she will go hiking again. So if you love hiking and you would like to convince your friends that hiking is fun, take them to Mt. Manabu. A mountain that is very near Manila, has an easy trail, well covered with trees, very safe and with very friendly locals.
How to Get to Mt. Manabu
There are two options to get to the jump-off point of Mount Manabu by public transport:
Option 1: From Buendia or Cubao, ride a bus going to Lipa City and alight at SM City Lipa or Fiesta Mall. Bus fare is Php 124.00. Then ride a tricycle to Sulok, Brgy. Sta. Cruz. Tricycle fare depends on how you haggle with the driver. Php 150.00 is a reasonable price.
Option 2: Ride a bus going to Lucena and drop off at Brgy. San Pedro, Sto. Tomas, Batangas. From there, ride a tricycle to Sulok, Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Sto. Tomas. Tricycle fare is Php 250.00 per trip.
By private transport:
Take SLEX and follow through to STAR Tollway, exit at Lipa-Tambo, and follow the highway back to Lipa. Go past Robinsons Mall until you see the Fiesta Mall junction. Turn right, follow the road, and make a left turn to the road that leads to Sto. Tomas. Make a right turn at Brgy. Sta Cruz and ask the locals for the direction to the narrow road that leads to the trailhead where parking space is available. (http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2007/08/manabu-peak-760.html)
Guide Contact Info:
Kuya Ellis- +639461938004
Brgy. Capt. Edwin Mendoza- +639286387420
- In case you forget to bring food or drinks, worry not because they are selling snacks and cold drinks (water, Gatorade, soft drinks and fresh buko juice) at the huts found in Stations 2, 3 and 5
- Cellphone signal is present in most parts of the trail and you can post IG stories at the summit 🙂
- There is a parking area at the jump-off point
- Each station has a marker and a trail map
- If you want to eat Lomi before going back to Manila, there is a “lomihan” near SM Lipa. Tell the tricycle driver to drop you off at Shatra’s Lomi Hauz. It is walking distance to SM