The legendary, Mt. Makiling, one of the most, if not the most famous mountain in Luzon, has inspired a number of poets, writers and lyricist for a long time. It is a perfect hiking destination near Manila especially for beginners because trails are from easy to moderate levels. The place has picnic grounds facilities and campsite, the Makiling Rainforest Park, where you can camp and enjoy nature even for family members, non-hikers and unfit individuals since vehicles can climb up to the campsite and picnic area. Commuting is also easy, you can even arrange with the jeepneys plying the UPLB route to take you up the park. Found in the province of Laguna and Batangas, Makiling hosts famous localities such as Los Baños famous for its hot springs and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). Mt. Makiling has three known trails. The first trail, the most popular and frequently used, is the UPLB Trail through the UPLB College of Forestry. Another one, but unpopular though is the Makiling Philippine Art’s Center Trail which you can also access via the UPLB Complex. The third one, the most difficult and less-established among the three, is the Sto. Tomas Trail located at the other side of the mountain, in Sto. Tomas Batangas. The UPLB Trail starts as a rough road wherein you can drive your way up half way to the summit. Mt. Makiling is actually an in-active stratovolcano. It has a "mud-spring" park with sulfuric vents, which are located a quarter-distance from the park entrance to the summit. Makiling is the source of Los Baños’ hot springs. Makiling has three peaks straightforwardly named as Peak 1, 2 and 3. The highest and the usual destination is the second peak or Peak 2. Peak 3 can be accessed via Peak 2 (the Sto. Tomas Trail passes by Peak 3 on your way to Peak 2 if you will be descending the UPLB Trail). Peak 1 has an old trail on the lower slopes of the UPLB Trail which in no longer accessible. It’s very difficult to access it from the other 2 peaks.
The ecological conditions and biodiversity of Mt Makiling are threatened by expanding urbanization along its vicinity, the continuing attempts of encroachment/settlements, wildlife poaching and illegal gathering of forest products.
WHEN AND HOW TO GO
Makiling can be climbed all year round. As mentioned earlier, Makiling has three trails, the UPLB, the Arts Center and the Sto. Tomas.
The UPLB is the most popular among the trails. To go there, you can take buses bound for Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Take off at the Los Baños Junction (UPLB- Jollibee). Take a jeep going inside the campus and ask if it will be passing by the College of Forestry. Most jeeps take-off from the Caltex gasoline station near the UPLB junction. From the College, the trail is the same road vehicles use in going up the mountain. If you will be bringing private vehicles, you can park your car on a designated parking area near the entrance gate. It’s safe to leave your cars there even on overnight trips. You can also take your vehicle way up to the Makiling Rain Forest Park but we suggest that you only do it if you have SUVs or even AUVs. Cars might have clearance problems on the rough areas of the trail.
If you will be planning to spend overnight at the park, it is no longer permitted to camp at the summit area. The usual designated campsite is the area within the Makiling Rain Forest Park (Tayabak Camp Site, approximately 4 km from entrance) and further up at the Malaboo Campsite (near the formerly known helipad or geothermal site or Camp One). You will need to make pre-arrangements with the Makiling administration to secure reservation for the use of the facility (see section on contact numbers).
Few meters from the entrance parking lot, there is a registration point. A minimal fee (5 Php as of the writing) is required to enter the park. Still further up the trail is a dry riverbed called "Flat Rocks". At the midpoint, there are some stores, picnic grounds and the trail that goes to Mud Springs. The road-trail continues half-way to the summit. At the end of this road is the place called Malaboo Camp Site which is an area designated as one of the official area where you can set up camp. There is an un-established trail between Malaboo and the jump-off point which they used to go to Peak 1 in the old days. From Malaboo, a 1 to 2 hour hike on a foot-trail will bring you to the highest point, Peak 2 (approximately 8 km from entrance). It can accommodate around 10-15 tents but camping in the summit is no longer permitted. There are also un-established trails from Peak 2 to Peak 1 and another trail linking to Peak 3 then to the Sto. Tomas Trail.
PHILIPPINE ARTS CENTER TRAIL
The Philippine Art Center can be reached via the UPLB or via the DOST passing by the magnetic hill in Laguna. The entrance of the Arts Center is near the Makiling National Scout reservation of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. The Art Center trail can be difficult to follow since it is not as popular and widely used as the UPLB trail. This trail later joins the UPLB trail near Peak Two. Since the trail is seldom used, it may be difficult to see the trail when the outgrowth of the plants at the side of the trail already covers the trail itself.
STO. TOMAS TRAIL
Sto. Tomas is the more challenging route to Makiling. Although it can also be climbed in one full day and is ideally done in two full days, the difficulty is caused by some technical sections of the trail (which can be bypassed) and not because of the distance of the trails. It is usually done as a traverse usually called MakTrav (Makiling Traverse) from the Sto Tomas Trail going up and the UPLB trail going down or vise versa. It is advisable to do the former since it’s easier to climb Sto Tomas and to go down UPLB than the other way around.
In climbing via the Sto. Tomas trail, you take a bus that will pass by Sto. Tomas, Batangas like the Batangas City, Lucena City and Lemery bound buses. Get off at Sto. Tomas Batangas Public Market. There are two possible ways in climbing Makiling via Sto. Tomas, one is via Barangay San Bartolome and another is via Barangay San Miguel. The former was a popular trail before but nowadays, the formal trail being used is the one via San Miguel. Anyways, the two trails merge in the lower slopes at the first cogon field. The Sto. Tomas trail became famous early 2005 due to the death of a hiker in the most difficult portion of the trail. Because of that, there were talks of tightening permits in climbing the mountain. Permit or registration is done on site in one of the Barangay care takers of the entry point. There are no park facilities here compared to the UPLB Trail.
In climbing via Barangay San Bartolome, ride a tricycle to Barangay San Bartolome. You can also get a tricycle ride to Barangay San Miguel at the Public Market. There is a private resort (Almeda) where the trailhead is located. During the initial trek, you will be passing by a "Station of the Cross" ending in a Grotto. You will then pass by a hut. After some time trekking in the forested trail, the terrain changes to a Cogon area were the San Miguel trail merges. Then again you will enter a forest area. You will continue the trek to a ridge called by the pioneer explorers of the place as Melka’s Ridge and Wild Boar’s Trail (unofficial name). You will notice that you seem to be going inside the crater of Makiling. The alleged crater of Makiling is known as “Gubatan” and is considered the first camp site although for a smaller party group (2-3 tents), its better to continue and camp at the ridge for better viewpoint. From Gubatan, there are two trails, one will be passing by the technical section know as Haring Bato (where the campsite ridge is located) and another will be skipping it through a steep slope ascent. It’s difficult to find the latter trail because the common route is passing by the technical trail. You have to look for it at the Gubatan area. The technical trail or Haring Bato route veers towards your left while the short-cut trail veers towards your right.
The Haring Bato route is more challenging and has spectacular views. The difficult section is a wall composed of large boulders that is difficult to scale made more difficult if you are carrying a heavy backpack. There are fixed ropes on it but its not advised to use it because we do not have an idea of how old it is and its reliability. This is where the 2005 incident happened. From there you will be tracing the ridge which will merge with the shortcut route and eventually to Peak 3. From Peak 3, you will need to pass a saddle to Peak 2 then to UPLB. So in going to the ridge camp, you can still take the shortcut route and back track a little to avoid the technical section.
Be cautious since the Sto. Tomas trail is not an established trail and a bit confusing since it is not commonly used. This trail has more "limatiks" than the UPLB side. Water source is available only from the area within the hut. Look for a water pipe where you can reload your supply. Views are different from the UPLB side wherein you can see the mountains in the southwestern side, which includes Maculot and Malipunyo. You can also catch a glimpse of the Makban Geothermal Plant down below.
This activity is suitable for travellers who are seeking adventure and loves nature. The trail is very much established there is actually asphalt laid, if you have a mountain bike you can use it, recommended for trail riding and has a magnificent view every where
The Tanghalang Maria Makiling is an open-air theater /auditorium with a seating capacity of 1,800, including the concrete bleacher seats outside the theater. It is very ideal for concerts and conventions, but since it was a brainchild of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, it was reportedly "mothballed" or rarely used. It is sad to see the structure deteriorate.
Many people go up to the site of Tanghalang Maria Makiling which is located on the plateau of the National Arts Center. It offers a 360 degree view of the other towns of Laguna, Crocodile Lake, Talim Island, and on clear days, Mt. Banahaw. Mt. San Cristobal, and the Sierra Madre mountain range of Rizal. Though hazy, you can also see the skyscrapers of Alabang, Makati and Ortigas.
It is said that as a young man, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos frequented this site which he considered his sanctuary and the place where he dreamt of a "society sensitive, creative and humane, worthy of the heritage of the Filipino people".
Since we were in the area anyway, we thought of checking out Pook ni Maria Makiling.
Going up the mountain sides of Mt. Makiling, we were so refreshed by the lush greenery and exotic flowers. No doubt, Makiling's cool and refreshing rainforest is a welcome respite from the humid, polluted air.
Seeing the familiar cottages, picnic huts and the olympic-size swimming pool amid the giant trees made me nostalgic. It's been years since we last went to Pook ni Maria Makiling. We used to have lived-in seminar-workshops there; after our sessions we went nature-tripping. I remember, I stayed at the Van Cliburn Cottege. We also used to bring our kids there for swimming and picnic. Before the cottages were named after former FL Imelda Marcos' favorite international artists. Today, the cottages' names have been changed to Pilipino names. The roofs of cottages have grown ferns and mosses. The comfort rooms inside the cottages have seen better days. There is a new Restroom building outside, though. Before, the gardens were well maintained; today, the plants have grown wild. The familiar tree house was no longer there; only the spiral staircase remains.
I would probably go back to Pook ni Maria Makiling for day tour (picnic & swimming), but definitely not stay overnight. Weekday swimming & picnic would be best for more privacy;weekends are normally packed with people.
Exploring Makiling Forest Reserve is such a gratifying experience, making you feel assured that your future generation will still see trees and other precious flora and fauna. It is amazing that even trivial things like tree fungi can look so attractive.
Much has been talked about UPLB's Fertility Tree. Out of curiousity, we went to see it. It is actually a majestic acacia tree at the end of UPLB's oval field. One can't help but notice it because it stands just on the right front of the Carillon; with an attractive gazebo behind it, it makes a picture-perfect postcard-like view.
Why is it called Fertility tree, when its canopy only provides shade to the tired jogger or athlete or student who seeks refuge from the sweltering heat of the sun? Well, stories go around in the campus and the internet. It seems at night, this tree serves as a love nest for some student couples or outsiders who believe in the fertility power of the tree. It is rumored that a woman could get pregnant if she lies down under the tree. It is also rumored that among the UP campuses, UPLB has the most number of unwed mothers. It is also said that sometimes, used condoms are found under the tree in the mornings... True or not, the rumors have attracted a lot of "curious cats" to see the fertility tree for themselves, including us:-)
Crocodile Lake is a lake within a lake, located on the edge of Laguna de Bay. Crocodile Lake is actually a crater lake, and is one of the major vents of Mount Makiling. Its mouth leads to the Laguna de Bay.
How Crocodile Lake got to be called such can be attributed to two reasons: 1) Old folks say that the lake was heavily infested with crocodiles long time ago; 2) The lake appears to be guarded by two crocodiles (see closely the land formations/hills on both sides of the mouth of the lake).
I learned about the Crocodile Lake when I saw it from the plateau of National Arts Center, but it can be reached by going to the direction of the City of Springs in Los Banos.
The Makiling Botanic Gardens is a protected sanctuary for flora and fauna, located at the northeastern slope of Mt. Makiling. It is open to the public for a measly entrance fee of P10/person. It is pet-friendly, too so you can bring your dogs for a walk, just be sure to bring his "clean-up' paraphernalia and bag.
Photo enthusiasts will enjoy practicing their macros and wide-angle shots; health buffs will enjoy jogging around the area and climbing the stairs to the Center for Phil. Raptors; lovers will feel romantic sitting on the benches near the giant trees or the rocks near theMolawin creek; bird watchers will marvel at the different sounds of bird calls; nature lovers will surely find it mind-boggling to just sit there quietly and be "drowned" by the chirping of birds, croaking of frogs, and the "singing" of cicadas; asthmatics will have a generous fill of oxygen to their lungs; children will enjoy running and playing hide and seek; families will enjoy bonding moments on picnics... I can go on and on.
Since my grandson saw pictures of experiments on the Magnetic Hill, he was so agog about seeing things for himself if it was true that water flowed upwards and the bottle rolled upwards. We brought him there, and we conducted an experiment.
The result? I won't give you a spoiler :-)
Go there and prove to yourself if the Magnetic Hil is real or not.
I was intrigued by the statue of Pegaraw which was erected infront of the UPLB Main Library so I asked the students what it symbolized. They said the Philippine Pegasus or Pegaraw is considered the new symbol of the hardworking Filipino.
The name Pegaraw is derived from TamaRAW (wild Philippine carabao) and PEGAsus. The statue was supposed to remind the students that like the Tamaraw, they must labor hard no matter how lowly their roots might be; and like Pegasus, their ambitions and dreams must serve as their wings to soar up high and reap rewards/achievements.
St. Marc Chapel or Pook Bathala as it is called now, is a non-denominational place of worship. However, I noticed that the image of God The Father is enshrined, and 2 old tablets of the Ten Commandments are placed in the elevated steps. A modern art rendition of the crucifix stands high above the roof.
The chapel is admired for its unique structure designed by National Artist Leandro Locsin. It doesn't have walls, and the roof is supported only by the post in the middle, hence it is sometimes called "the hanging roof".
Located amidst the rainforest, the chapel has become a favorite place for meditation, reflection and prayers of those who seek some peace and quiet. Concrete benches with plants, moss, and ferns on the side serve as pews. Try sitting on them; it helps make one feel "grounded", and the wall-less chapel will make you feel being one with nature, with God's creations.
The Makiling Botanical Garden was started in 1965 by the College of Forestry to support forestry and plant sciences research, as well as educational, recreational and tourist needs of the area. It occupies about 300 hectares. An exhibit of Philippine wildlife is shown in the pavilion. Mini waterfalls, gurgling creeks, natural and artificial swimming pools, concrete or natural trails are the attractions in it, as well as a mini Zoo of Philippine raptor birds. There is an entrance fee of 10 pesos for the visitors, including the pick-nic area.
Take some drinking water with you.
I welcome you to visit this beautiful town. As you drive along the place, you will see a long line of resorts that is open to the public. These are not ordinary resorts. Los Banos has a considerable number of hot spring resorts that you will enjoy. Local and tourists from other parts of the Philippines and other countries come here on weekend or for summer getaways.
You will see on the picture I posted here the famous Mount Makiling on the background. It is the home of the University of the Philippines as well as the International Rice Research Institute. Los Banos is one of the famous tourists destination.
Come and enjoy the beauty of the town and have fun in the company of the local people.
When in Los Baños, or simply "elbi," try to have slice or two of this town's specialty: BUKO PIE.
Two prominent stores sell very great tasting pies, The Original Buko Pie and Lety's Buko Pie. One whole pie sells for Php110 (8-9in crust).
They also have other pastries such as pineapple pie, espasol, ube, etc.
While you are staying in one of the Resort in Los Banos, one thing that you can do is to visit the Rizal Shrine in Calamba. Dr. Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. He was born in the town of Calamba on the 19th of June 1861 and the family residence has been turned into a museum and shrine.