With a difficulty rating of 2/9 and the peak reaching only 300 MASL (meters above sea level), Mt. Romelo is considered a beginner’s mountain. But heed my warning: The “easy” rating applies only to the two-hour trek to the summit. Exploring the waterfalls after the peak is a whole different ballgame, and I give that part a rating of 5/9. If you’re planning a trek to this mountain in Laguna, here are five tips:
1. Consider the weather.
The climate affects the difficulty of your hike and view of the waterfalls.
Summer season (March to May): Pros: The dry paths will be easier to navigate. But note that the guide ropes that used to be there years ago are all gone. Without those ropes, the assault is harder. Bring a hiking stick. Cons: The big falls (like Buruwisan and Sampaloc) are drier than usual, so you won’t have photos of cascading waterfalls.
Rainy season (June to October): Pros: The waterfalls will be flowing majestically. Cons: The paths will be slippery and harder to navigate, especially since the guide ropes are permanently gone. Rainy season also means bigger chance of limatik (blood leeches)!
2. Choose your waterfalls wisely.
According to our guide, there are 21 waterfalls in Mt. Romelo. The nine most frequented are:
While there are suggested itineraries for day hikes and overnight hikes, you may pick which waterfalls you prefer. The average Mt. Romelo hiker can catch only 3-4 waterfalls a day. Check out travel blogs (I suggest Pinoy Mountaineer, Lakwatsero, and yours truly) for photos and pick which waterfalls you really want to see. Looking back, I would have skipped Lanzonez for Binaytuan (Old Buruwisan) Falls.
3. Pick a guide with good interpersonal skills.
We had two guides for our group of 26 hikers. One was amicable, while the other, not so. The latter was always impatient with the slow hikers, even leaving some of us behind when we couldn’t catch up with his preferred pace. He didn’t bother guiding us in the steep, scary parts of the trek. He showed his disdain whenever we took long breaks. We were so relieved when he quit on us during the final descent and left us with guide #1. Choose your guides wisely.
4. Support the locals.
Mt. Romelo is a commercialized destination. The campsite looks more like a little village, and there are many sari-sari stores along the way. Aside from the climbing fee, there are horses available for rent. Don’t worry; they take good care of their animals, which are in far better condition than the poor horses in Intramuros. You can help support the livelihood of the locals by purchasing fresh buko and snacks from their stores. After your hike, visit the neighboring carinderias and restaurants for your recovery meal.
5. Pick up your trash.
The downside to being a popular climbing destination is that Mt. Romelo is full of trash, especially at the campsite. Our guide told us that this happens only during peak season, but according to my friend Emilio who went there back in 1995, this has always been the case. It seems like many tourists don’t adhere to the “Leave no trace principle.”
C’mon, humans! All you have to do is bring an extra plastic bag, dump all your waste in it as you go (down to the last used baby wipe), and dispose your trash properly off the mountain. Why the heck do you have to toss your empty cans and sanitary napkins in the mountain? Yes, I saw those en route to the waterfalls. Repeat after me: Pick up your trash!
Mt. Romelo is located at Siniloan, Laguna, Philippines.