Epic Peeking of Pico De Loro Via Bonifacio Trail

For the running community and running enthusiasts March 15, 2015 was a rather busy Sunday. There were running events happening in a lot of places. Most of my running acquaintances were in one of these events. There was the run event held on top of the skyway ala Condura Run with 7-11 1500 Run, a marathon and half marathon in the historic island fortress of Corregidor with the Corregidor International Marathon and Corregidor International Half Marathon, a fun run in Pagsanjan with Run for Sagwan, trail running events in Nueva Ecija via Amokan Trail Run Leg 2 and the PDL 42 in Maragondon, Cavite to which I participated at.

I picked to peek the peak of Pico De Loro because I haven’t climbed it yet although the Salomon X-trail Run mentioned Pico de Loro. Conquer Outdoor Equipment backed PDL 42 was all about the one (Peak 1) near the monolith (Peak 2) in Mt. Palay-Palay under the Mataas na Gulod National Park. PDL 42 or Pico De Loro 42 was my first run event under the Race Director, Benedict Meneses franchise, who brought earlier another mountain trail run in Tarak, Mariveles, Bataan. Another lure that this event offered was the historic component, which featured the National Cultural Treasure declared Maragondon Church, Bonifacio Trial House and Bonifacio’s execution site, which now stand as a shrine.

The race was participated by 83 runners in the 42k and around 50 others in the 10k category. There were runners who just recently ran in the 102K Bataan Death March Ultra who chose this race as their recovery run like Arianne. During the race bib distribution there was a checking of mandatory gears composing of head lamp, cellular phone with the number of the race director in it, trail food, first aid kit, whistle and a hydration pack that could contain at least up to 1.5 liters. I totally missed reading this part of the instruction in the event detail sent online and had to hastily source some of the mandatory gears for presentation. At 4:00 am we were given our gun start. All the while I was thinking that the gun start was at 6:00 am and I only brought my headlamp so that I could light up my things while preparing for the race. Although the road heading to Maragondon Church then to the Bonifacio Trial House had lampposts along the road, individual headlamp was indeed needed so that runners could see the road and avoid tripping over the uneven portion of the road. At Barangay Poblacion 3 Caingin, runners crossed a hanging bridge that led them to the Bonifacio Trail, which was part rice field but under the din of the evening this could not be discern. The trail was dark that had many runners were getting lost figuring out where the blinking race markers were located. At this point I caught up with runners Mang Pong Narciso, Bibot Quillan and Edgar Vassayllaje who chose to tread the trail slowly and carefully to avoid stumbling down and getting injured. Mang Pong was one of the most senior of the participants who is a common friend to both Master Vic and Joseph Prince.

At the 6th kilometer exiting the forested area was concrete road and Aid Station 1. From there we found the road going to Barangay Pinagsanhan then to Cavite Provincial Quarry passing along the road heading to Ternate, Cavite. The former dark sky had given way to the light of day. The road was dusty and pebbly. I soon found myself straggling behind the group of Mang Pong who had picked up speed running the uphill and all. At about the 14th kilometers Aid Station 2 awaits the runners. I drank cola and swallowed my Saltstick capsule. Some sweets were also offered. After this point, some downhill on the road offered me a chance to race ahead, passing and leaving behind the BDM finisher Arianne but I could not anymore catch up with Mang Pong’s company. At the 18th kilometers was a fork on the road with a marshal directing runners to take the right portion of the fork going towards the first u-turn and checkpoint of the race. It only took runners about a kilometer to get to the marshal who was distributing rubber tags. On my return trip I caught up with Ricky Francisco. Together we returned to the earlier fork on the road and took the left side of the fork. After about 3 kilometers we hit Aid Station 3, which was also the former base camp going to the summit of Mt. Palay-Palay. Natural spring water was the main source of hydration. Since this was inhabited there were stores selling sodas. From here the trail led to series of streams currently dry. There was actually a detour that would take one to the falls but this was not part of the race route. Mt. Palay-Palay base camp is just about 3 kilometers away but the path contains the most difficult elevated portions of the race. However, having run in other trail run events before such as TNF, Salomon and NDTR, the uphill climb to Mt. Palay-Palay was much easier for me. There were other climbers also heading the summit, which were not at all regular mountaineers, which to me says that the trail was not that totally difficult. Upon reaching Pico De Loro camping area, which was filled with campers, our task was not yet finish. Our U-turn actually was at the summit of Peak 1 overlooking the monolith Peak 2 where a bag tag was to be handed to runners. But in order to get there we had to climb a much steeper inclined and powdery slope of the mountain made more difficult because there were excursionists climbing on it. But once you managed to reach the summit the view was simply breathtaking.

Mt. Pico De Loro (Parrot’s Peak) is actually a dormant volcano that stood at 664 MASL. It was much lower than the ones I climbed in Benguet and could easily be hiked from Ternate by anyone. That was why the summit was filled with people when I reached it and upon looking at the lower portion further away from the crowded base camp there a lot of tents strewn as if the whole people of Manila had decided to camp at Pico De Loro to escape the humdrum of the city. After the photo ops, being handed my bag tag and a brief rest, I scaled down the slope and forego my chance to have halo halo at Mang Rey’s Place. I left behind Ricky who waited for Arianne to have photo ops with her. On the way down the trail I was initially doing fine retracing the path in spite of the absence of race markers. However, upon reaching one of the dried streams I made a wrong turn towards the stream instead of crossing it to the other side. By the time I realized I made the wrong turn I must have covered quite a distance already. This was when my not bringing along a whistle came to haunt me. So, I relied on the built in whistle of my hydration pack, which was actually a strap with a hole that one could blew with. But the sound it emitted was not loud enough to be heard across the forest. I took out my cellular phone to send text message to the race director about my situation but there was no signal. I went on to blow my whistle hoping against hope somehow its pitch could be audible enough to be discerned. But no one was responding back. I could not retrace my steps because I lost count how far I was walking along the stream’s bed. I decided to climb out of the bank and wade across the line of trees. Then further ahead behind the regular pattern lines of still young and thin barks of trees, bathe against the light, I saw movement that had a regular gait in it. I knew it was one of the runners passing along. I shouted at it, I told the unidentified silhouette who was partially covered by trees that I was lost. He stopped and responded back. I ran towards the figure, running through the tangling vines and vanguards of trees until I could see the trail beyond the canopy. I broke out of the clutches of trees caging me and saw that it was Ricky who was standing at the path. He told me he was actually trying to catch up with me. Relieved of my rescue, we went on with the race homeward as if we just simply took a rest.

At last we were back at Aid Station 3. I retracted by earlier text message about my getting lost but it seems that there was no signal there too and therefore the marshals there were not yet told of my text message to the Race Director. In fact, my message might not yet even sent yet probably. After getting my hydration bottle refilled and eaten some nourishments, we went on with the race. At about a couple more kilometers we were again at the formerly fork road we came across with on the way up to Aid Station 3. We made another trip to the other marshal one kilometer away for a U-turn after being handed down with another tag. After this path the descent to the quarry begins. At this point my feet were hurting and I was really beginning to feel exhausted. When we arrived at the 2nd Aid Station we were told that hydration had been depleted already. I reckoned that there were just about 12 kilometers left before completing this race therefore I can hold on just a little bit more. When we reached the quarry, it was like we were transported to a desert. The sun was streaking hot, there was wind blowing dust sand sands particles in the air. The ground was covered in the surface with fine grain of sand. I don’t exactly know how I came to have my hydration pack close to depletion so quickly, when on my way up to the summit earlier, I hardly touched my hydration. So, I went to the shelter I saw along the way that I thought to be a public eatery. I wanted to purchase soda. But upon arriving there I was told they were not selling any soda. I could have a drink of water though from their container. After the drink, I rejoined Ricky. We ran until finally the trail gave way to concrete road. Then the marshal waiting there directed us to enter another trail that ran across a field and into a tunnel like path that led to the river. The river gave me a chance to moist my cap and doused myself with it. Then we crossed a bridge until we reached the path to the Bonifacio Shrine Aid Station 1 awaits us. My exhaustion was actually slowing me down. I wanted to rest more but we could not for we were wary that we might not make it to the 12 hours cut off time. In the Cordillera Series of Team Malaya, my 42k finish averaged about 12 hours. At the Bonifacio Shrine, I thought it was just a simply circuit run but it turn out there was still one more uphill climb to top of the mountain where again a marshal waited for us. After this u-turn we completed the run around the shrine and back to the Aid Station 1. We asked how much longer before the finish line. But there was a mixed reply ranging from 6 kilometers to as little as a couple more kilometers. So, we pushed on putting aside any thought of the remaining distance. We retraced our path back to the river then to the field. Then finally we were coming into a more populated area. We were already seeing in the distance the tower of the church. Soon we were again crossing a hanging bridge and spilling out a street that carries a directional marker leading to the town’s municipal hall. Finally we were circling the plaza and into the entrance of the covered basketball court that served as the race event venue. I arrived with a time of 10 hours and 46 minutes. Ranking 78 out of 83 runners. Another mountain conquered another milestone carved. I was hoping this would somehow help my performance when I make my revenge run at Salomon Xtrail Run, which had continuously denied me of my finisher medal for two years in a row.

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