Philippines : Mount Batulao
THE ENDLESS ROLLING HILLS OF MOUNT BATULAO
Mt. Batulao (811m) is a beginner friendly hike situated in Nasugbu, Batangas and is just a 2.5h journey from the chaotic city of Manila. It is known as the place with endless rolling hills, as there are the 12 peaks of Batulao. If you are a first time hiker and wish to get some good views and photo moments, this is the trek for you to enjoy.
It is a trek with a high reward to effort ratio with many picturesque viewpoints along the trek. There are some basic rope moments and marginally steep ascents, but it can be easily completed in 4 hours (2 hours up and down). It is also a circuit trek so you don’t ascend and descend the same path.
Overall, an experienced hiker will enjoy this as a getaway day-hike. A beginner will enjoy the hike and feel satisfied and fulfilled, barring any bad weather. A camwhore will love it even more, so arm yourself with your camera, selfie sticks and fashion hiking wear.
Mount Batulao is also part of the Nasugbu Trilogy challenge where you can take on Mt. Pico De Loro, Mt. Talamitam and Mt. Batulao in two days! For more on how to do it, please read my other posts on Mount Talamitam and Mount Pico De Loro!
MEANING OF BATULAO
The first thing I thought of when I heard of Mount Batulao was to question the meaning of its name. I would suspect “Batulao” was some ancient name given by someone who discovered the hills or it would mean endless rolling hills.
I read some blogs which said that the name Batulao came from words “batong dilaw” (bato-law to Batulao) [rough translation: yellow rocks], as the mountain turns yellow (as yellow as gold) every sunrise.
However, it seems that the more convincing story is this. According to the locals, it was derived from Bato sa Ilaw (illuminated rock), wherein a yearly phenomenon was observed during the last week of December, where the sun sets right in the middle of Batulao’s two crests, producing a figure of rocks surrounding a disc of red light, therefore “illuminated rock”.
WHEN TO TREK
You would just wish to avoid the monsoon/typhoon season in the Philippines for this. Although you can hike Mount Batulao anytime in the year, the trek is extremely open to elements most of the trail.
If there is a thunderstorm, you will be faced with the prospect of walking up and downhill on loose and muddy soil, bracing the full assault of the relentless rain with no nearby shelter in sight. It will definitely not make a pleasant journey. So please always check the weather forecast! If it says thunderstorm for the whole day, my best advice would be to steer clear.
With clear skies, the only thing you need to worry about is the heat and the sun, which can be solved with sunglasses, sunblock, water, and starting early.
There are 2 main routes, the “old trail” and the “new trail”. You can ascend via one and descend via the other. So, there should be no reason for you to ascend and descend via the same route.
Although most people seem to do the new trail to old trail, I would advise doing the old trail -> new trail route. This is because you reach the summit quicker which happens to always be my mantra for hiking; go up fast and come down slow. Also, there don’t seem to be that many people, especially if you start early. If fact, we only saw 2 other people on the same trail as us on that day.
Pinoymountaineer has a good picture of the trail.
04:30 Coastal Mall – Ride a bus to Nasugbu
07:00 Arrive at KC Hillcrest
07:00 Registration and start trek
10:00 Reach Camp 10 (Summit of Batulao)
13:30 Reach back starting point
14:00 Make your way to Mount Tamalitam
HOW TO GET THERE
Getting to Mt.Batulao from Metro Manila
By Bus: Similar to Pico de Loro, take a bus from Coastal Mall Terminal bound for Nasugbu – Lemery. Inform the conductor that you’ll be going to Mt. Batulao.
Exit the bus when you get to Evercrest Golf Course in Lemery, Batangas. Travel time is roughly 2 to 3 hours depending on the traffic.
Once you get to Evercrest, you can either walk or take a tricycle going to the jump-off point which is Php 20.00 per head. Walking will take around 20 minutes.
Alternative: We got a driver (Russell) as we met him the day before in Pico De Loro. He’s not exactly a guide, actually, he is primarily an Uber Driver. However, I am sure he is more than willing to accompany you up and help with pictures and negotiations. Anyway, anyone can be a guide on this mountain because it is really easy.
To contact Russell, you can contact him at 0927-434-0078 or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wtch.box.
He is really friendly, fun and talkative. If you want some alone time, maybe find someone else.
Bus (Coastal Mall – KC Hillcrest) – Php 110.00 (2.21 USD).
Tricycle (4-5 max) – Php 120.00 (2.59 USD)
*Tour guide (Optional) – Php 400.00 (8.65 USD)
Total registration fee – Php 60.00 (1.30 USD)
Total: Php 322.00 (6.96USD) pax —- w/o Tour guide
If getting back to Manila, just double the bus and tricycle expenses. I would suggest to go to Mount Tamalitam as it is really close-by and you can take a really cheap tricycle there!
WHAT TO BRING
Bring sunblock and a cap or something to give you shade would be good. Wearing long sleeves is good for protection against the sun.
Bring a lot of water, at least 3L will be advisable as it can get really hot unless you want to spend money buying the drinks.
If it rains, there is no shelter so bring a good poncho or umbrella. Some people complain about how dusty it is, so wear covered shoes and pants if possible.
The Trek : “Old to New Trail Traverse”
There are two trails a hiker can select in reaching the summit. The old trail, which is on the east side, is apparently the more challenging course to take. I think we took the one to the left which is the old trail to new trail.
First things first, we needed to do some basic registration. It started off on a really nice paved road, lined by cogon grass that sways in the morning breeze. The morning sun showered its golden light on your path as if rolling a golden carpet for us to walk. I breathe in the fresh air. What good weather and what a good way to start! In the distance, I saw the various peaks of the Batulao Trek. Each peak is numbered, which serves as a good checkpoint. The summit of Mount Batulao is at Peak 10.
We started off slow as the morning sun was really good for taking pictures. Don’t ask me what the horse was doing there, I bet it was just posing for a picture. We followed the paved road, with some descents until the bridge.
Once we crossed the bridge, the ascent starts.
The grass becomes taller, the trees start to spring out.
We stopped by a village house where they had pigs. They just went about doing their daily business while we were busy squealing and taking pictures of the cute swine. The mama swine was one huge black one. They were really cute as you can see the little piglets running around eating the food and when the mother swine called them, they ran over to drink her milk.
The trek was akin to walking through a Savannah. It reminded me a lot of the starting part of Rinjani hike. We could see the peak in the distance while walking on really gradual slopes through the grassland towards the summit. It was really beautiful.
It was an open land with no big trees to shelter us from the sun. Luckily we started early so it wasn’t that hot yet. The solitary tree in the middle of the path was a good reprieve from the sunlight. It also made a good picture moment.
We took a short break before proceeding. It was around 10 am at this point. Almost 2 hours from when we first registered. Taking too many pictures really do slow us down.
After the tree-stop, the trek starts to become steeper. There are ropes to help stabilize yourself as your ascent. It is sometimes faster to simply use your hands on the rocks rather than the ropes. The ground might be slippery because of the soft and smooth soil or the brown dust coating the rocks.
After the first set of ropes is another stop point! There is a small view-point there which is basically a small flat area that juts out. I am amazed as to how many stop points there were. You could buy drinks if you want. There is nothing like a cold coconut drink on a hot trek, but it was too early for us.
We continued upwards and reached another rope section. It was slightly longer than the previous section.
It might seem really steep in the pictures, but it was really fun. The fact that we could take pictures so easily meant that it was okay. This time, it is easier to just use the rope. We spent some time taking pictures because it made it seemed as though it was really steep.
After this rope section, we reached the summit! There were quite a few people there already, as some people camp in Batulao. It must be crazy cold at night and crazy hot in the day though. There was even a cute dog up there. There was an ice-cream seller, it was really tempting to buy the ice-cream. As you can see from the photos, someone succumbed to it.
What else is there to do at the summit?
It was party time!
We brought some of our crazy props courtesy to Russell! Russell spent some time hitting on other girls at the summit while we went around spamming as many clicks as we could hope that one of the clicks would turn out to be a gem.
I am not ashamed to say that I took a lot of photos because they say “When in Rome, do what the Romans do.” The Filipinos really do take a lot of pictures. I was just trying to blend in.
At the summit, you will have a panoramic view of Taal Lake, the Batangas and Cavite provinces, the South China Sea and the mountains of Pico de Loro and Mt. Maculot. They say that you will also find an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the peak, but I was too busy taking pictures to notice it.
After around an hour of relaxing at the summit and doing silly things, it was time to leave because the noon sun was blazing hot. To the distance, you can see dark clouds start to assemble also. It was a clear sign for us to make our way down.
Other people were still climbing up as they started later. We walked past quite many groups who were struggling due to the heat. They were many groups of beginner climbers. There are rope sections from the “New Trail” which forms part of our descent. These areas after the summit might cause a slow-down, but it is actually not that steep so you can descend quite easily with or without the rope.
The afternoon sun in Batulao or Philippines was no joke. It started to wear on us, but luckily there was also another place to get coconut! Thank god for that cold coconut! Coconut juice is always extremely refreshing.
Descent to me is always the best time to take pictures. You would get the whole view of the plains and scenery. Luckily for us the clouds came in so my pictures were not that over-exposed. As the trek is mainly a clear ridgeline trek atop the hills of Batulao, it is a clear path with unhindered views on both sides which results in some marvellous photo opportunities.
We reached another stop point where we could buy some snacks and other drinks. This is place is extremely close to the base. By then, it was around 2pm.
Once we reached the bottom at around 2+pm. Apparently, you can shower at the base but we immediately went to Mt.Talamitam to do the next hike! It cost 25 php to shower. Rest is for the weak!
We took around 3 hours up (due to all the pictures and stops) and 2.5h down (pictures and stops). It was one of the few hikes I really took my time to hike as I knew I could be there for 4-5 hours if I wanted to and still make it out safely and alive. It was a really enjoyable trip and one of my favourite day hikes because I am a sucker for an unobstructed view and easy hikes. Thanks to Russell (Uber driver) for bringing us here, taking so many pictures with us and being outright crazy!
Remember, Mount Batulao is only such a beautiful place because it is kept clean. So please keep it clean as hikers and do not leave any trash behind! Pick up any trash if you see any along the way cause every bit helps!
Batulao can be done easily within a day, or half a day. Some people do Mount Tamalitam first before coming to do this in the evening. I prefer doing Mount Batulao in the morning and save Mount Tamalitam in the evening.
It is one of the better hikes for beginners to enjoy, especially those who like “glamping”. I can imagine people who dress up fashionably in their hiking wear with makeup and still taking nice pictures at the summit and along the trek. For more serious hikers, this is just an easy trek with nice views.
If you wish to maximize your trip, consider taking on the Nasugbu Trilogy challenge and conquer Mt. Pico De Loro, Mt. Talamitam and Mt. Batulao in two days! For more on how to do it, please read my other posts on Mount Talamitam and Mount Pico De Loro!
If you still wish to cross-reference and see what others say, here are some links! :