Let me begin this by saying sorry to those who warned me, “I’m sorry for I underestimated you and I underestimated the rockies. I apologize for not taking your words seriously.”
Last August, I received an invite to try Rock Scrambling in Bulacan. It is an event where you will have to do both hiking and rock climbing and is categorized as a Class 4 activity. It will require you to use your limbs; no rappel, no safety gears other than your gloves (if you were able to bring a pair) and you will have to purely rely on your body strength.
Due to some unfortunate events, I was not able to go. The incident haunted me, there is just something about the rockies that I find fascinating that I know I have to go discover what could it be? For days, it kept on popping on my mind so I gave in, and decided to do my own event. I did invite some friends but only a few were interested so I have had to move the schedule until I can find a company. I was hopeless that at one point I decided to go alone. Few days to go before what could be my first solo climb, Typhoon Mario flooded the streets of Manila, and it left me with no option but to retreat.
For the last time, I moved the schedule and luckily Nobs got interested to join. He was able to invite a friend and Vernie, my co-host for this event was able to confirm her participation already. I did make some changes about the itinerary to give way to their own timetable and September 26 came, and we conquered the rockies of Norzagaray.
0900 ~ Meet up (Boni)
0930 ~ Travel to Fairview
1100 ~ Arrival at SM Fairview / Travel to Bigte, Norzagaray
1200 ~ Lunch / Tricycle ride to jump-off point (upper Bigte)
1230 ~ Start trek
1315 ~ ETA Lioness back
1400 ~ Start descend & ascend to Rhino back
1430 ~ ETA Rhino rock
1500 ~ Start descend
– To cut short of your travel time from EDSA to SM Fairview, you may take the MRT all the way to Quezon Avenue or North Avenue then take an FX.
– At SM Fairview, you will find jeepneys going to Bigte in Norzagaray, you can take that or you can also ride a bus to Sapang Palay, ask the driver to drop you off at Road 2 and from Road 2, you can take a jeepney ride to Bigte.
– Travel time from SM Fairview to Bigte is approximately 1 hour. Ask the driver to drop you at Bigte Private Market.
– You can have your lunch at a local eatery at Bigte Private Market before taking a trike to the jump-off point.
– If you still have time, you can do a side trip at Pinagrealan Cave.
We started our trek at around 1230 in the afternoon. Since we were all first-timers in rock scrambling, and also for us to make sure of the safety of everyone, we planned on getting a guide. When we arrived at the jump-off point, there were no clear signs of where the jump-off really was. We asked around, and we were directed towards a rest house. We asked for permission to enter the property, and then off we go.
Since there were no guides around, I led the trek, and I was the one in-charge to look for the safest trail. To be honest, I was clueless, actually we were all clueless. For the first few minutes, I was already dripping in sweat. It took us around 40 minutes of climbing and clinging on to rocks for our dear life. Good thing is we managed to push ourselves until we reached the Lioness back.
Climbing the Lioness is scary, especially the stone erected in front of it. The wind can blow you any minute, and one wrong move, and you will be stumbling down the ravine. The head of the Lioness is stable but standing on it can still get your knees shaking. After some photo-ops, and after some good few minute rest, we decided to do our next mission which is conquering the Rhino rock. It was scorching hot when we went down, and it just made our descend much more harder.
On our way down, we heard someone at the top of the Lioness playing a song on his phone, and that’s when we met Renz. After some short talk, we convinced him to help us make our way to the Rhino rock. When asked about which of the two rocks is harder to climb, he answered the Rhino in an instant.
– Guides are optional but I will recommend it. They know well the safest and the easiest way in and out. Take for example what happened to us, we took a much more longer path going towards the Lioness back (the same way going down) when there is a trail that you can take for only a few minutes.
– Leave everything except for a pair of gloves. Trust me, you will need it.
We were running low on water and the stupid in me forgot to buy one. What I had was a sackload of swear words, and in all fairness it did help me gain control. I had my fair share of cursing all throughout our trek and yes, that was so not me.
If the Lioness’ difficulty let’s say is around 2/5, the Rhino is 5/5. The stones were way more sharper, the trail is way more steeper, and to make the matters worst, it started to drizzle halfway through our climb. The rocks became slippery, and it affected our pacing. From drizzle it turned into rain, and it was not just any ordinary rain. The wind started to blow crazy, and it was chilling. It was my first time to climb while it was raining, and mother nature did indeed gave us the adventure and the kind of adrenaline that we were asking.
While at the top, we were thinking of either letting the rain pass or if we should start with the descent. Looking at how bad the weather was, but thinking that the rain won’t stop any time sooner, we decided to leave. Going down, every step was like a matter of life and death, and this is not an exaggeration. It was only then that I let go of my pride, and get to use the help of our guide. Going down the Rhino rock was the hardest part of our climb that day, and could be the hardest one I have had to date. After around 30 minutes or so, we reached the bottom, and we thanked whoever our God is that we are still alive.
While on our way back to the jump-off point, I was still contemplating on what had just happened. It was one hell of an experience, and it did scare the shit out of me. But being able to survive both Rhino and Lioness back, somewhat gave us some bragging rights. We felt like survivors, like victors.
We went home wet, we were all dead-tired, and I have got calluses on my right hand, but really it was nothing compared to the high that the experience brought us. It was one for the books, really one for the books.
Big thanks to Vernie, Nobs and Ian for being my buddies for this climb. To Renz, whom we weren’t able to say our thanks, thank you! Without you, we might have been stranded at the top. If you have plans of going to Norzagaray, can I ask for a little favor? Can you look for him and if possible ask for his number? I want to thank him and endorse him to those who have plans of climbing both the Lioness and the Rhino rock.
And if you wanted to be a daredevil and try this activity, you may do so at your own risk. But don’t tell me you have never been warned
MRT to Quezon Avenue : 12 PHP
FX: 30 PHP
Jeep going to Bigte: 31 PHP
Tricycle ride to jump-off: 10 PHP
– Tricycle drivers may rip you off, stick to the 10 PHP fare from Bigte Private Market to the jump-off point.
– When going back to Manila, you can take a trike to Road 2 (15 PHP) from Road 2, take a bus back to EDSA (50 PHP until Boni EDSA).
– There is no fix amount yet for the guides. You may based it on how much help they’ve given.
Update: For now, the Lioness back and the Rhino rock is still not open for public. Hopefully, quarrying will stop in that part of Bulacan for if not, it may led to the destruction of both attractions.
Latest update: For those who were able to climb the Lioness, consider yourself lucky as the said attraction has been destroyed to rubble already. 😥