Needless to say, the past year has been a frustrating one as far as travel is concerned, so I’m determined to start 2021 on the road. I grab an opportunity to join a small group of trekkers to start this year on a high (quite literally) at Mt. 387 in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija.
We leave Metro Manila one weekday evening and hit the road for about four hours en route to the jump-off point, where we have breakfast of hotdog and fried egg and an orientation from one of the volunteers. At around 5 am, we start our climb with our guides leading the way.
Mt. 387 is named as such because it covers 387 hectares. It’s also known locally as Mt. Batong-Amat, which literally translates as Ghost Rock, as locals believe it houses ghosts from the Spanish period. It has been dubbed as “Bohol of the North” due to the hills resembling Chocolate Hills seen from its summit.
The mountain was opened to the public only in 2017, so it lacks the mass of day-trippers other peaks near Metro Manila experience on a regular weekend. But because Nueva Ecija is one of the few places where visitors from Metro Manila can go to without having to undergo testing and get a medical certificate, the last few weeks have seen a spike in the number of trekkers.
Still, the place is expansive that it doesn’t feel crowded at all–it’s easy to practice social distancing. And it’s blissfully serene and the scenery jaw-dropping.
We reach the summit at around 9 am. There’s a so-called Lover’s Tree here, supposedly because this tree has been the spot of numerous marriage proposals. We linger here for a bit to rest our legs, have a jolt of caffeine, and just enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
Having our fill of a cup of coffee, we start our descent from the summit. The trail starts on an easy path lined by tall cogon grasses but then soon becomes a series of steep descents. Some have ropes, but many others don’t. It becomes a test of endurance and a lingering question of your life choices up to this point.
We’re eventually rewarded with the sight of Aloha Falls by around noon. We eat our packed lunch and then jump into the pool. The water is cool enough for a dip and helps me recharge my aching thighs and shoulders.
An hour later and we do another walk to a clearing, where a truck arrives eventually and takes us back to the jump-off point. We shower, change clothes, and eat our afternoon snack. Then we hit the road back to Metro Manila, anticipating body aches all around the next day, but still on a high (in another sense of the word) on what this year will bring.