Finally! By the grace of the holiday gods, my officemate C., Tedric the bear, and I had a chance to go up the mountains once again. Last weekend’s pick was the San Jose Circuit, conveniently chosen because C. had to attend a baptism party in Tarlac.
I honestly thought it would be an easy climb because the total circuit length is only about 17.7 kilometers (and the longest we’ve done is 36 kilometers at 14 hours, roughly) and all three peaks didn’t require that much altitude gain. But oh, I was so f*cking wrong. We left the office around 10:00 PM of September 24, got lost on the way to San Jose (what else is new) due to a couple of closed roads and made it to the gate of Monasterio de Tarlac at around 3:00 AM. We parked there and slept until 5:30 AM.
At around 5:45 AM, we were already on the way back to brave the dirt road to Sitio San Pedro (with Ate Girl, my trooper, my humble sedan who’s been through a lot, literally hahaha). For some reason, I find so much clarity driving while the sun is about to go up. The creepy road from the night before was gone and we were headed for adventure!
There are three mountains comprising the San Jose Circuit: Mt. Tangisan, Mt. Bungkol Baka, and Mt. Kawayan. Pinoy Mountaineer’s itinerary starts at Mt. Tangisan but our guide Fidel recommended that we do it the other way around. So off we went to Mt. Kawayan with Tedric the Bear.
All in all, I tripped and fell on the paddy fields three times, slid off loose little rocks twice–almost died but still made it because you know what they say about masamang damo. Haha! Yes this climb is memorable in so many ways. You’d be glad to know, though, that the trail is far from monotonous–you could walk along 1-foot deep mud one moment, cross a stream shortly after, walk under intense heat, and end up in nice shaded nook. There is no shortage of great views.
My stomach started acting up on the way to Mt. Bungkol Baka and thus began all the problems. Our pace dropped (so sorry, guys!) but it did not stop me from eating guavas we picked along the way. Haha! I’m not sure why, but guava trees fertilised with cattle shit seem very tasty. After having lunch and stopping for a total of 1.5 hours, I told C. that I can no longer go on (even with a failed attempt to take a dump).
Told Fidel that we should head back because I felt like my insides were shifting and Smaug was about to burst out of my stomach. Plot twist: the descent would take another four hours (puñeta, hijo de puta!!! puro baka!!).
We had to take a couple of long stops so I could just burp and fart. No shit (no pun intended), gastritis can be bitch. And even with the whole team dying, one member still managed to have fun. Yeah, you got it right, it’s the infernal piece of fluff called Tedric.
Fun fact: locals grow organic rice on and around these mountains. From afar, it would just seem like tall grass, but nope, some parts of the trail will have you dancing with straw. Imagine! Rice, cattle, and fruits all around, plus you have a couple of free range chickens. I was thinking of a feast while my stomach ached.
By 5 PM, we were back at the registration area chatting up with Fidel, his wife, kids and the barangay chieftain. They’re such a cool bunch, they gave us brown rice as a going away gift. This place is definitely worth coming back to. To end, here is a photo of Fidel and Tedric:
San Jose Circuit Fail? Never mind. This is not bad. Not bad at all. 🙂