Pililla, Rizal: The Thief of Mount Sembrano
Cases of theft left Mount Sembrano of Pililla, Rizal with an infamous reputation among mountaineering circles. Unfortunate incidents have turned a good night’s sleep in Mother Nature’s arms into dreadful nightmares. Supposedly fun weekend hikes became haunting experiences. Scan the internet regarding theft incidents and you’ll stumble several articles that serve as warnings to future visitors. Sembrano comes with a notorious impression for a mountain that brims with rugged beauty only overshadowed by its mishaps.
Climbing Mount Sembrano
The 3-4 hour trek begins with a steep concrete uphill leading to a rock-filled path flanked by trees and only a handful of houses. Gradual ascents and occasional flats follow until you reach Manggahan Campsite/Rest Area. This moderate segment will certainly get those legs and backs pretty warmed up for the brutal section of the climb – the assault. Prepare for 45-degree climbs and narrow paths with dangerous drops on one side. A heavy downpour will make the trail even more difficult with a rain-drenched soil, extruding roots and moss-covered rocks that get all slippery – as slippery as a thief.
Overnight hikers have three campsite options – Manggahan, Grassland, and the adjacent Summit campsites. Manggahan Campsite lies about halfway in between the Malaya jump-off point and Mount Sembrano’s summit. Camp grounds are wide, sheltered from the heat, and most importantly, the water source near Manggahan Falls is only a 5-minute descent. Contrary to Manggahan, Grassland Campsite/s can accommodate 6-8 tents while the Summit Campsite, around 8-11 tents. Both campsites sit wide open to the harsh elements like strong winds, intense rains, or the scorching heat. There is no water source.
Setting camp in Manggahan means there’s no need to haul your heavy packs and water necessities during the punishing assault all the way to the Grassland or Summit Campsites. But then again, there’s the issue of theft. Carrying all equipment on the backbreaking ascent could be a better option than risk loosing valuables. Or is it?
The Thief of Mount Sembrano
A bit of anxiety and uneasiness filled the already uncomfortable cold and damp atmosphere of our camp some 745 MASL far from help. Tension rapidly builds up with the slightest of random noises heard from the rustling of grass to the zipping sounds of tents. All valuables, equipments, and food were kept inside or within the vestibules of tents right before we sleep. We bid the evening with cross-fingered hopes that no transgressor would come slicing open our flimsy-walled shelters or snatching our stuff into the night.
Morning came. No tents were sliced open. No item has gone missing. Every thing was safe, most importantly, everyone was safe.
The thief didn’t came in human form wielding knives or any weapons of some sort. Instead, dawn greeted us with stunning landscapes of the furrowed Sierra Madre mountain ranges touched by slices of pale golden rays from the beautiful morning sun. The tranquil Laguna Lake swept across the panorama from north to south. Tiny lights flicker from the horizon while the city sleep still. It was the one and only thief that seized our hearts and took our breaths away and let’s hope Mount Sembrano would remain this way – a beautiful and safe escape only a stone throw away from the bustling metro. ======================================================================================================= 1. Theft cases in Sembrano should never be taken lightly. Remain vigilant. If possible, travel in a huge group – there’s a better chance of protecting yourselves when many. Safety in numbers. If doing a day hike, bring necessary items only. Getting a local guide or a baranggay tanod from Malaya Brgy. Hall could help ensure safety among visiting hikers.
2. Directions to Mt. Sembrano: From Shaw Blvd. or EDSA Crossing, take a jeepney bound for Tanay, Rizal and get off at Tanay Public Market. At the terminal, take a jeep going to Malaya, Pililla then get off at Malaya Baranggay Hall. Travel time is approximately 2-3 hours.
3. Registration Fee costs P40.00.
4. There are stores and washing areas along the jump-off point.
5. Water source is beside Manggahan Falls, not the water directly coming from the small waterfalls.
6. The grassland and summit area could get really hot during summer so bring protection such as hats and sunblock. During the rainy season, bring ponchos or raincoats. It also gets really cold so if camping, make sure to bring jackets.
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