Location: Alinao, Albay
Hours to reach the summit: 5 to 7 hours
Visited on: July 2016
Side trip: Vera Falls
Mt. Malinao, located in Alinao, Albay, is part of the Magayon Trio and is considered to be of the three beautiful moutains in Albay. It is located near Tiwi and Tobaco Albay, and is also near the borders of Camarines Sur.
Although the volcano, inactive for years now, is not a popular hiking destination due to distance, pinoymountaneer.com gave it a 5/9 difficulty rating since the trail can last from 5-9 hours, depending on the pace of the hikers. It is 1450 MASL in height if you are to reach the peak, but is 1564 MASL if the highest point is considered. It is a moderate climb which may require the use of hand when climbing. A two-day hike is definitely recommended, based on my experience, and I will further explain later why.
The original plan was to visit Albay on my own, but when I decided to invite my friends who keep me company when hiking, we considered to include the Mt. Malinao hike on our trip. The hike was by far the most difficult hike we’ve face based on the difficulty scale of pinoymountaineer.com.
We started the hike at about 4:30 am where we travelled to Malinao via a private car. If you are staying in Legazpi, you can ride a jeepney to Tobaco which would take about an hour. Since we are not familiar with the roads and the routes, we needed to ask a number of locals to lead us to the proper way, and so we rerouted for many a times.
It was a little after six when we reached the Sugcad Multipurpose Hall when a local needed to wake up the kapitana (brgy. captain) just to entertain us and our goal to hike Mt. Malinao. The kapitana then called for her cousin to be our guide. We settled to a fee of 500php for our guide, plus 200php for the sweeper (a guide at the tail of the crew), plus a 10php registration fee per person.
By 6:30 am, we started to trek past the concrete roads of Sugcad, and into the lush green grasslands of Mt. Malinao. The trail was slippery and muddy because the rainy seasons had actually began. In fact, class schedules and offices in Manila were suspended the day before our hike.
There were mostly grasslands on both sides of the narrow trail, and there were only a few tall trees here and there at the beginning of our hike. The trail is mostly straight, but it got steeper as we got deeper into the woods. There were times when our guide had to cut off some grass that had already obstructed our path, whereas the sweeper gave us trail sticks since we brought no trekking poles.
We arrived at a greenfield where the wind blew so strongly and gave us chills. We barely sweat in the hike because of the cool air around us, probably due to the bad weather.
Although we took several five-minute rests throughout the hike, we had a longer rest at a nipa hut where we saw and we experienced the first steps in processing abaca. When we got further, we were able to see a local who was drying the abaca he processed beforehand.
That was when our guide told us that the ground would get steeper. We were all prepared to the assault going to the Mt. Malinao campsite. Indeed, we needed to use our hands to get a grip to anything that could give us a stronghold. I sometimes needed assistance because yes, my legs are short, and the trail is really slippery, even the rocks on it. We sometimes chose to step on the plants instead (sorry plants) just to save ourselves from falling.
By the way, upon researching prior to our hike, we found out that Mt. Malinao is infested by limatiks (blood leaches) during the rainy season. We almost backed off from the hike, but then we decided to prepared against the leeches and get on with the hike. We were fully clothed, wore long socks and leggings and rash guards or jackets plus gloves, as well as caps and goggles (because there are tiger limatiks which jump in a projectile motion, lol). These blood leaches are active and are good at detecting warm blood so it is advisable to be fully clothed because they target the flesh. We also had spray bottles with alcohol to drive them off if ever they get a hold on our skin.
When we reached a small but mesmerizing falls with cool and clean drinkable waters, our guide, who wore no socks, was already bitten by two limatiks. But he was so used to them that he was so calm when he showed it to us. In fact, he did not immediately remove the limatiks because they said doing so might leave the jaws of this insects which may cause infection. According to them, the best thing to do is to let them be filled with our blood because they’ll be loosely attached to humans by then.
We kept hiking through the steep trails when the narrow roads became dangerous; there were cliffs sometimes. Luckily, we reached the campsite with our aching feet and hungry stomachs.
At the campsite, the tip of Mt. Mayon is visible, as well as the San Miguel Islands of Albay. The clouds felt so close to us, and we filled our stomachs with our trail food. We were advised not to continue the hike up to the summit because we needed to stay overnight if we do so, but we have no tents or enough supplies to let us survive, aside from the fact that there are more limatiks up there. So after having our lunch, we started our desent and planned to go to Vera Falls.
The descent was greatly challenging. I usually jump on stones when going down, but the slippery trail made me feel afraid to do so. There were also the cliffs on our way down, but it was when we were near the foot of the mountain when the trail was most slippery I fell down a couple of times and was left behind by the tired crew.Still, we made it out alive! We waited for our ride home since some of us wanted to sleep already. After a thirty minute wait, we went on our way to our homestay, stayed there for about half an hour, then half of the whole Albay team went to visit Vera Falls.
Vera Falls Side Trip:
After the extensive hike to the campsite of Mt. Malinao, we decided to proceed to Vera Falls, because, hey, who wouldn’t want to take a dip into the fresh flowing natural waters? Half in our company of ten were either too tired or too pained to accompany us to the falls because we all know this side trip was going to require some more painful steps going down and going up.
Although we barely know where Vera Falls exactly was, when we passed by the locals to ask them which way to go, they immediately responded to us even if we haven’t asked anything yet. This is a sign that Vera Falls is indeed the primary attraction at their place.
If you hike Mt. Malinao via Sugcad Trail (like we did), our tour guide mentioned that there is a jeepney that could take you to the place. But since we had a private vehicle during our trip, we opted to explore the roads leading to the falls.
Upon arrival at the wide parking space at the entrance of Vera Falls, one will get a glimpse of Mt. Mayon, ever present in Albay wherever you may go. My friends and I decided to do some stretching and some warm ups since our muscles and joints were starting to ache. One pair of local residents near the falls told us that we would have to take 176 steps going down, and since the entry and exit points are the same, this entailed that we’d have to take 176 steps up (but I wasn’t able to verify the number of steps).
Going down was easy. We were almost running in exhilaration to see the falls. When we were near enough, we were awed by its simple beauty. The waters were very clear you could see the color blue in beautiful gradients. The rocks were big and shiny, and the falls, although not very high, presented cascading waters rushing to the waterbed.
We went to the minor falls at the side of the vicinity, but almost all of us were afraid to go near the main falls because the darker the shade of blue meant the deeper the waters were. However, another group of tourists, maybe, came and they braved to swim against the strong currents of Vera Falls to get within the boundary of rocks behind the curtain of waters. Their actions challenged us to do the same, but with great fear, we decided to take a different route instead.
We swam to the right side of the falls, then swam diagonally to get behind the falls, then swam back to the shallow part of the falls. Sometimes, we tried to be brave enough to swim in a straight path, but either the currents were too strong, or fear washed upon us that we went immediately back to the shallow parts.
We lost track of time until it was already five in the evening, and we decided to head back to our homestay only to continue our swim there. The greatest challenge by far was actually surviving the many steps to the exit of the falls. Vera Falls is a beautifully pure sight to immerse one’s self into.
What a Vera good way to end a hike!