Delbros/Delwater AB Normal Club Conquers Mt. Batulao

This article, which I wrote a week after we went to Mt. Batulao, is also posted in the News & Features sections of www.delbros.com and www.delwater.com.

At about 1:30 PM on March 1, 2008, the last member of the Delbros/Delwater AB Normal Club reached the summit of Mt. Batulao in Batangas. It was a momentous event. For the majority of the participants, Mt. Batulao is their first mountain.

Two things made the March 1 Mt. Batulao Climb extraordinary.

First is its very short preparation time. Less than one month. Considering that there has not been an AB Normal activity for quite some time now, it is almost a wonder that it ever pushed through. For this, credit should go to the core organizing team led by Medel Castro, Cris Fuentes, Ray-An Gatchalian, and Edith Obra.

Second is the size of the contingent. Previous AB Normal activities were participated by 15-20 people on average, with maybe 25 at the most. The Mt. Batulao Climb was participated by almost 60 persons (and one dog), 42 of which are employees of Delbros and Delwater.

Mt. Batulao lies at the boundary of Nasugbu and Balayan towns in Batangas. Its summit is 811 meters above sea level (MASL), a relatively ìminorî climb. To better appreciate how high (or low) Mt. Batulao is, it should be interesting to note that Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon and the second highest peak in the country, is 2,922 MASL at its summit. Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines, is 2,956 MASL at its peak.

The AB Normal Club, led by its founder, chief benefactor, and activity master ñ JED himself ñ set base camp somewhere near the famous Careluega Church and the Evercrest Golf and Country club in Nasugbu. With almost 20 camping tents already set up when the participants arrived, the stage was all set for the climb ahead.

On your march, get set, go

The climb officially started at about 10:30 AM. Two vehicles ferried the climbers to the jump off point, about 10 minutes away from base camp.

The grueling walk begun. After an hour the lead pack, with MOC at the forefront, reached the ìpoint of no return.î

Between this point and the summit of Mt. Batulao will be nothing but rocks, dust, and grasses. The trail goes through a series of several up-down-ups, following the top of the mountain ridge. Each hump is followed by a higher hump. The gradually increasing altitude seems to prepare (or wear off) the climbers as they approach the final ascent to the summit.

With the trail following the top of the mountain ridge, there is a clear and breathtaking view on either side. To the far right are the beaches of Calatagan (or so I was told). To the left is Balayan Bay. Slightly to the rear and to the left is Taal Lake. The higher one gets, the better the view becomes. On the flip side, the ravines on either side of the ridgeline get deeper and deeper, too. One wrong step andÖ

Lost

There are plenty of opportunities to get lost. At about noontime the group was already spread over a distance of probably close to a kilometer. An isolated climber could easily get himself/herself choosing the wrong prong of a fork.

RUS fell victim to one of these tricky forks. Trying to catch up with the lead pack after posing for some photos with another group, he found himself in a fork. Ignoring his instincts and a makeshift road sign in front of him, he followed a small group of climbers he spotted on what turned out to be the wrong path, assuming ñ wrongly ñ that this must have been the lead pack. When he finally realized that he followed the wrong group (there were several other groups of climbers on that day), he had to re-trace his steps to that treacherous fork. It cost him almost 30 minutes of lost time. He never caught up with the lead pack until he reached the summit.

Another AB Normal climber who got lost is Fred Quinsay. Fred chose the wrong path in another fork and found himself at the wrong summit. This mistake earned him the distinction of being the last person to arrive at the real summit.

At the Summit

The AB Normal Climbers were treated to a rare experience of a passing cloud spraying a fine mist as it rushes by. For a few minutes there was also a beautiful rainbow which was actually lower than the summit. Not too many people can say they have looked down, instead of looked up, a rainbow.

Keeping to the tradition of past AB Normal climbs, chilled cans of beer greeted participants arriving at the summit. Who brought the cans of beer up the summit and how were they kept chilled remain to be a wonder to some. It’s one of those signature JED strokes drawn from his big bag of Boy Scout tricks.

Aside from the chilled can of beer, JED had a little something for each participant who reached the summit ñ a special edition Delbros cap, a fitting trophy for this historical feat.

There were winners, and then some

MOC out-walked and out-climbed everybody and was officially declared Mt. Batulao’s champion climber. He was first to the summit and was first back to base camp, with enough energy left to cook pancit.

JRC surprised his critics and the doubting Thomases. Not only did he complete the trip to and from the summit, he even managed to administer first aid to a fallen comrade.

Medel Castro suffered cramps on both legs a few minutes after leaving the summit and while on the most treacherous portion of the descent. His two teenage kids decided he was too slow and went ahead with MOC in the lead pack. His wife stayed with him all throughout though and they they had plenty of time for some romantic interlude. Walking together for about eight hours should easily qualify for an ideal date.

William Ginga surprised those who reached the summit ahead of him when he and RUS emerged at the summit on the wrong side of the mountain, where there was no trail (there is now) and the angle of ascent is close to 80 degrees.

Ray-An Gatchalian is Mr. Congeniality. He managed to be with all groups on the way to the summit. The other way to put this, of course, is that everybody managed to pass him by.

MJ ìpicture-pictureî Volante, Allen Rulloda, Melani Tirona, Carissa ìNeneî San Antonio, Aileen Bautista, Aimee Mallen, Ruel Lerin, and Joy Doron were contenders for Mr./Ms. Photogenic. Among them there should be enough photos to fill half a dozen DVD disks.

Abe Fuentes, one of the latest additions to Delwater’s personnel roster, had severe cramps, too. He also almost converted his pants into a skirt. Later in the evening Abe would play a major part in a detective mystery: The Case of the Missing Alaxan FRís.

Descent

Everybody was on high spirits after about thirty minutes at the summit. Everybody thought that the challenge of the climb was over. Everybody just wanted to be back at base camp for a much desired shower. Ascending Mt. Batulaoís summit had been grueling. Descending it should be a walk in the park. Or is it?

To everyoneís chagrin, the descent proved to be as daunting as the ascent if not even worse. The immediate challenge was the steep face of the mountainís summit which has an angle of approximately 70 degrees. But that was just the teaser.

The real challenge is the distance. The trail the AB Normal climbers took in ascending the summit, which happens to be a new trail ñ just two months old ñ turns out to be a short cut. For the descent they took the old and long trail. Reaching the jump off point seemed forever, and everybody was short on everything: energy, temper, will. All of a sudden the small bruises and bumps and scratches started to conspire to slow down each climber. Toes started to blister, too, and each new step became more agonizing than the previous one.

At about 7:30 PM with barely enough light from the few houses to illuminate the path, the last of the AB Normal climbers finally reached the jump off point. They were immediately ferried back to base camp. The AB Normal Clubís assault of Mt. Batulao is officially history.

At Base Camp

It was a chilly evening at base camp and the wind was howling as it passes through the pine trees of Caleruega.

Half of the group sneaked into their tents right after dinner while the rest braved the chilly wind over bottles of beer and wine.

There was a bit of an excitement when a baby snake got curious with all the ruckus going around. After a short debate with RUS on whether the snake is venomous or not, which he handily won, JED quickly cut the baby snake’s head off with his Swiss Army knife. Anton (Delgado) couldn’t help but wonder where the baby snake’s mother and father and siblings and a whole bunch of relatives could be. Will they go looking for their missing baby?

The baby snake episode was quickly forgotten as was obvious when just a few minutes later JED lent his Swiss Army knife to Gig Hagad who went to slice some tuna sashimi.

At Mt. Batulao’s journey’s end

Aching muscles aside, everybody seemed pleased with himself/herself for conquering Mt. Batulao. With many stories to tell and tons of photos to prove their conquest, the AB Normal Club members went their own ways back to their respective homes.

Little did they know that Mt. Batulao is just the beginning. On the previous day, when almost 20 people were yet to arrive at the jump off point and the Mt. Batulao caper was hardly over, JED was already finalizing the details of the next climb with his Mountaineering buddies.

Next stop: Pico de Loro (Parrot’s Beak), another ìminorî mountain in Batangas. It should be a breeze.

You wish.

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