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Mount Makiling in Laguna is a legendary mountain that has inspired numerous tales, poems and legends owing to its mystical dweller and protector - Maria Makiling. The contour of the mountain is said to be the sleeping/reclining profile of Maria Makiling. Our national hero, the great Jose Rizal himself, published an article in La Solidaridad about Maria Makiling:
"According to eyewitness, she was a young woman, tall and graceful with big black eyes and long and abundant hair. Her color was a clear pure brown, the kayumangging kaligatan, as the Tagalogs say. Her hands and feet were small and delicate and the expression of her countenance always grave and serious. She was a fantastic creature, half nymph, half sylph, born under the moonbeams of Filipinas, in the mystery of its ancient woods, to the murmur of the waves on the neighboring shore. According to general belief, and contrary to the reputation imputed to the nymphs and goddesses, Mariang Makiling always remained pure, simple, and mysterious as the genius of the mountain. An old maid servant we had, an Amazon who defended her house against the outlaws and once killed one of them with a lance thrust, assured me that she had in her childhood seen her passing in the distance over the reed grass so lightly and airily that she did not even make the flexible blades bend." ("Maria Makiling" by Dr. Jose Rizal published in La solidaridad, Dec 31, 1890.)
In fact, Mount Makiling is an inactive volcano that rises to approximately 1,109 meters above sea level and stands at about 3576 feet. It is a forest reserve undedr the official stewardship of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). You can explore Mt Makiling through the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources. The mountain is ideal for hiking, camping, trekking, mountain biking, and bird watching. Approximately 2,048 species of plants can also be found here.
Mt Makiling hosts man-made attractions such as the Makiling Botanical Garden and The National Arts Center; its natural attractions include the mountain's highest peak (the Peak II), the Flat Rocks, and the Mud Springs. Day tourists/trekkers usually explore the relatively easy trail of flat rocks and mud springs; hikers and experienced mountain climbers ascend the Peak II and stay there overnight. However, the forest mangaement recently banned staying overnight at Peak II for safety and security reasons. You can only stay there until afternoon and you must descend before nightfall (day hikes only).This site provides very useful information if you want to climb Peak II: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2007/09/mt-makiling-1090.html.
I went to Mud Springs and Flat rocks for the first time when I was in second year high school. We were required by our Biology Class to document these natural wonders. Flat Rocks is basically a river bed where numerous and huge "flat rocks" can be found. Although the water was inviting, we were not allowed to swim there. But of course, some of our naughty and stubborn classmated deliberately disobeyed the teachers and they surreptitiously immeresed themselves in the river. Bad move, because there were lots of leeches/blood suckers (limatik in Tagalog) there. My stubborn classmates were infested by the leeches but fortunately, these blood suckers don't do much harm to the body. Based on personal experience, rock salt may be used to remove leeches from your body. Just sprinke rock salt on the leech and watch it wriggle away from your body.
For other useful information on how to deal with leeches when you go hiking, see this site: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2008/01/limatik-blood-leeches-overview.html.
The Mud Springs has been popularly but erroneously known as the crater of Mt Makiling. The Mud Springs site is actually one of the mud pots left in the mountain. "A mud pot is a type of hot spring that is formed when due to volcanic heat, sulfuric acid breaks down surrounding rocks into clay. The clay mixes with water to form mud that is very hot (80 C), sulfurous (50mg/L), very acidic (2ph) and varying in consistency and color."
These boiling pots of mud produce a very strong and distinctive/offensive sulfuric smell (warning to those with asthma or other respiratory diseases). You can also see thick smoke coming out from the sulfuric vents. Don't get too close to these as the boiling mud can burn your skin. Camping is also not allowed on this site and beware of the dangerous and restricted area; do not go beyond the fenced area. Just be content in gazing at this mystical sight.
How to Get to Mount Makiling
By public transportation: Ride a bus from Cubao or Buendia going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. If coming from Alabang, ride a bus going to Calamba and then take a jeepney to Los Baños. Get off at Los Baños Crossing, walk towards 'El Danda' street (beside Robinson's Mall); ride the jeepney going to UPLB Forestry. For more convenience, you may rent a jeepney (from El DAnda) that will take you directly to UPLB Forestry all the way to the get-off point/entry point of Flat Rocks and Mud Springs. Be prepared to pay extra, maybe more than 100 pesos for a one-way ride.
By private vehicle: If you are coming from Manila, drive through South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and take Calmaba exit. Go to UP Los Banos College of Forestry and find the Makiling Rainforest Park.
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