Mount Maculot

A day spent at the tip of Cuenca, Batangas. Mount Maculot is a common and one of the most visited destinations of Mountaineers and outdoor enthusiast in Southern Luzon. I’ve heard a lot of stories and seen photos of what great view awaits anyone who accepts the challenge of hiking Mount Maculot. True enough, every sight is alluring, from the thick forested trail up to the Rockies with its magnificent gorge, and Mount Maculot itself with a refreshing view of Taal Lake. If you are a little adventurous, you can also make the day more meaningful by traversing the whole trail to the Grotto with its stations.

While I have been in many mountains that I can’t remember much if I didn’t look in my blog archive, it is still a welcome to experience something new, less physically stressful, and a break from all the exhausting hikes I’ve joined from the past years. But of course, I’m not saying that this one is effortless, but just because it is different from most of the mountains I have climbed. Since I wasn’t able to sleep before the travel and the hike, I easily get tired and had trouble breathing from the start but eventually everything went well and continued with my normal pacing.

The trail to Mount Maculot starts at route leading to the Rockies first, but there is an alternative trail if your only target is Mount Maculot and skip entirely the Rockies. For that trail, you should first pass the Grotto and climbed all the way from Grotto up to Mount Maculot. I think it is easier that way instead of the trail that we traversed which started at the Rockies. It should be much more convenient since there will be less people for the time you decent if you decided to  continue down to the Rockies since there’s always a lot of people in the early morning. It’s like a public market up there.

Beginners should be thankful to know that there are rest stops and stalls selling refreshments and snacks, not just one or two, but probably a dozen of it. I lost count upon reaching the third stop and have actually skipped most of the stops.

There is a stop from the Rockies trail where you can already see the marvelous gorge and portion of Taal Lake. There is also a bench where you can sit and just watch everyone taking pictures of their faces and Taal Lake as background with no apparent angle change, just different facial expressions. The kind of selfie everyone hates.

Welcome to the Rockies. Just like what I said earlier, it’s like a market up here. But it still is a gorgeous sight in all directions, notably the view from the west side which shows the amazing gorge and its formation, that connects down the Taal Lake, and to the East side where you can see the entirety of Taal Volcano. We didn’t get the chance to get up there since it’s already a long line from the campsite, add with the ongoing construction of a what looks to be store or a small rest house facing the Rockies. I actually thought of making my own trail just to get up there but didn’t do for I don’t want to make a problem out of it.

It is sad but it’s better than compromising safety just to get the shot that you want. I think the guides at the time failed to regulate and limit the number of people at the Rockies. Everyone should be given a reasonable amount of time to climb and take pictures and then get back to the campsite afterwards. But that’s not what happened, most of those who were done taking pictures actually managed to stay and relax at the other side of the Rockies which is not safe since most of the rocks there are unstable and could break apart at any moment.

While I don’t usually give a fuck about things like this and couldn’t care less if someone fell or trip to their death while taking a selfie, being a typical mountaineer who just loves to hike and take pictures of everything that excites my eyes. But this one here is worrying and a real safety concern, and a lapse in preserving the natural landscape of Mount Maculo. It should be addressed immediately to prevent future lapses in happening again. Sarcasm intended.

After we have absorbed the fact that we won’t be able to make it on the Rockies however long we wait, we started to continue with our hike to Mount Maculot summit. There is almost a kilometer stretch of flat surface before you will be punished with a pure ascent trail to reach the summit, add some muddy sections of the surface and everything gets a lot harder for anyone who failed to do pre climb physical activities.

At the summit of Mount Maculot you can see the entire Taal lake and the gorge on the north west side facing the signage of Maculot summit at 930 meters above sea level. Since we were unfortunate to get a picture at the Rockies, we seized every moment to have a decent photo and take our group picture seen above. But then again, just like what always happens when I’m not behind the camera our group shot was out of composition so I used this picture I took instead and be happy with it. The sun at the time was at its full glory so it’s really hot and there is just a little shade where you can rest for a while before continuing with the trail.

On the descent from the summit of Mount Maculot, there is very muddy part where you need to rappel down or hold on to the trunks. It is recommended to wear a sturdy shoes or sandals, or better yet go barefoot for better traction. We thought of that for a time even if we are already wearing a Sandugo sandals, it still seems unsafe and could make us skid or tumble at any step we make. It’s the kind of mud that is very sticky for you to lift your feet again after making a step.

After surviving the first rappel and muddy surface, we continued down and was greeted again with yet another rappel which is much more slippery than the first one. I think the number of people that day have also contributed to the surface condition. When rappelling down, you need to place the rope on the middle of your legs, and then hold the rope with two hands then gradually descend, moving your legs one at a time for this kind of surface. Don’t even try here what you occasionally see at the movies and expedition series, those guys are professionals, and have a proper gear and training. You need to be extra careful if you don’t want to end up lying on the bottom with a body full of mud.

So near yet so far. After completing the first two rappel, we had a small break from the mud and continued the trail with small boulders and some flat surfaces. Continuing down, there’s a last rappel by the big boulders aligned well enough to help you easily go down with the help of the rope and tour guide. It is important to secure your bag and everything else that is attached to it. I was carrying a camera so I have to secure it at my back for it not to swing and smash to the rocks or ground when descending. Ask help from someone with your belongings if you are unsure that you can handle it by yourself. Make safety your top concern.

The Grotto of Mount Maculot or Cuenca, Batangas is the last item in our itinerary. I got excited and actually run down the trail to reach the foot of Grotto peak and waited for the entire group so I could take their pictures. From the top, you can already see the gorge, the hills on the left side and the Municipality of Cuenca right below.

After taking a short break and some refreshments, it is time for some group picture before descending back to the jump off. Passing through this trail, you will see the Stations of the Cross. I did took some photos of the stations but ended up deleting it and move forward to reach the base as fast as I can so we could go straight back to the jump off, get some rest and take a bath, and then walk a little to where the famous Lomi of Cuenca is. Mount Maculot is indeed a good place to start if you are looking into other physical activities or seeking something to refresh your mind and soul.

To be honest, I didn’t know what Mount Maculot has to offer when we organized the trip and started the trek since I did not really read much about the mountain, having some knowledge only on how to get there and the basics so I’m really surprised to find out that this is place where the famous shot at the gorge and Taal Lake can be found, the Stations of the Cross of the Grotto and the unforgettable Lomi. I will certainly visit Cuenca again, probably for the Lomi.