Philippines, Year Two

Dirt. It tastes much like what you’d think it’d taste like.


I learned this while scaling the tropical-foliage-filled mountainside of Makulot in the Batangas region of the Philippines. Already sweaty and huffing for air, my fall was not a pretty site. I continue onward, and while tugging on a vine to pull myself upwards, wonder, “Now, why again did I sign up for this?”

And I’m not alone. Everybody in my group is struggling. The top soil is loose, which makes for a slippery ascent. Not to mention, the beginner’s trail is closed. We learned this upon our arrival to the jump off point. We are on a new trail and, according to our guide, are only the tenth group ever to take this route. This makes me feel like a pioneer and we soldier on.

I’ve got to hand it to the locals for being so industrious; they strategically set up stands along the way to sell refreshments to weary travelers. Reach a vista point, and you’ll find a woman selling fresh buko (coconut) juice. Cross a flat clearing and you can buy bibinka and even halo-halo. And at the top, bottles of local rum. This is hiking, Filipino style!

I sip on my buko juice, chat with my fellow group of expat hikers, and take in the vast view ahead of me. Below is a slope of greenery. Across the ravine, is a sheer cliff. To my right, Taal lake, and off into the distance is the Batangas Bay, a scuba diver hot spot. This. This is why I’m here.

I’ve moved half way around the world, parted with loved ones, and began a new life in the Philippines. It’s not easy, starting from scratch. But moments like this make it all worthwhile.

If it’s one lesson I’ve learned in my short time overseas, it’s to appreciate life. Those around you. Opportunities to learn and grow. Take chances. Connect. Challenge yourself. Move, or sit still for a moment and just take it all in. Dirt, and all.

To learn more about Mt. Makulot, check out this link here for a complete guide, including directions and itineraries.


19 responses to “Philippines, Year Two

      • Thanks for your blog. Enjoying it a lot. Glad that Mt. Makulot is now open to brave tourists like you. In 1968, I tried climbing it with a group of friends to no avail. At that time it was a huge forest. I see you are enjoying the Philippines. I am enjoying USA, too.

        Terry N.

      • Wow – and I thought that our hike was a challenge. I can’t imagine having to do it with no trail. I’m sure there was much more forest growth back then too. Yes, I am enjoying the Philippines. Perhaps a little too much! Glad that you are enjoying the States. I guess we switched places! :-)

  1. Hey Liana! Great write-up & blog. I’ve been eating dirt since I was a kid. Not intentionally; just from trying crazy things and then falling flat on my face :). The halo-halo stand totally makes sense now– hikers need that sweet reward after a face plant! Seriously though, I’m glad everyone made it through that brand new trail in one piece :). Let’s plan the next hike soon!

    • Well I guess we’re both either really accident prone or adventurous. Or both! (Dangerous combination, haha!) Anyway, thanks for organizing it – yes, let’s plan the next one soon.

  2. You know what they say “no pain, no glory”, haha! Maybe you can try climbing Mt. Pulag next time. It attracts a lot of mountain climbers, being the highest peak in Luzon. I imagine it would be a much a daring climb for you but super rewarding for sure. At Mt. Pulag’s summit you can experience the “sea of clouds” phenomenon as what they say. Check out this news article for the picture at the summit:

    • Hi Rhoda….yes, Pulag is certainly on my bucket list. So many of my friends have gone and I’ve seen their pictures. It’s an absolute must for me to go this year! That, Palawan, and Vigan. :) Thanks for reading and for the suggestion!

      • I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your travel adventures! After your time in Vigan, I suggest you go straight to Laoag, Ilocos Norte since you’re already nearby. You can visit Malacanaรฑg of the North, if you’re interested in Philippine history or the Marcoses. Haha! There you can also find Paoay Church which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Paoay Lake or go sand boarding in the sand dunes of La Paz. There are so many things to do, so little time. I wish I had more time when I was there. I hope you get to go to all the places in your bucket list. On top of my bucket list this year is Batanes, I really hope I get the chance to go.

    • Hi Gabz – thanks for passing by and reading Mango Mornings. Yes, Mt. Makulot is an amazing place. I’ve lived in the Philippines for a year now and feel like I just scratched the surface – so much to see and do! I love your blog and am totally going to use it as a study guide!

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  4. I’ve done a few hikes, mostly around Yosemite and in California.. but not here so much. But now that I live in the province area of Bohol I have a hiking trail to the west and north located just outside my door. If I ever were to get really industrious, I could head east.. but then I’d need a machete, and a GPS. Unlike the trail you mentioned here, no buko-juice stops.. just trees and (supposedly) cobras. That would suck. People in the village here though, they don’t quite get the idea of walking for no reason so it’s hard to get a hiking partner. So for now, just a few hundred meters away to get some photos. I figure if the cobras get me I could crawl back. ha!

    • Hi Henry – my apologies for my delayed reply. Yes – that’s too bad that you can’t find hiking buddies – it’s always more fun (and safe) (hello cobras!) with others. You are in a beautiful region of the Philippines – I’m sure there is so much to see! I hope one day soon you can really explore! Lucky for me, in the national capital region, there are more expats and plenty of others who want to get outdoors!

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