Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

The first time I laid eyes on Mount Matutum, I was utterly mesmerized. With its flawless, symmetrical conical shape, it was a sight to behold, even from a distance. As I hit the slopes of Mount Apo, I hoped that one day I’d have the opportunity to climb this majestic, towering landmark in the Philippines. While my immediate focus was on Mount Apo, my thoughts drifted to the thrilling adventures that Mt Matutum might hold.

A view of Mount Apo from Mount Matutum

But back then, scaling Mount Matutum seemed like a distant fantasy, almost a pipe dream. 

Burdened and overwhelmed by life’s challenges, I never imagined going on a series of heart-racing mountain adventures in Mindanao.

Then, 457 days later, I found myself standing on a peak in Mt Matutum, admiring the view of Mount Apo covered beautifully in clouds.

It was a moment of bliss and a sign that my journey was coming full circle.

Organized by Soxlander Adventures, this hike was spectacular and fun-filled.

And along the way, I uncovered the different pathways to happiness.

So, did I follow the right path to happiness?

And did I make the right choice climbing this imposing landmark that day?

My Mount Matutum adventure

Day 0 at 12:12 PM: Mactan International Airport 

What does happiness mean to you?

Is it having deep conversations at night?

Is it buying the latest phones, trendiest clothes, and Apple products?

Or is it spending time with friends and family?

There are many paths to happiness.

So, what’s the path I follow?

Well, I find peace and happiness by hiking lush hills and conquering jagged peaks.

And that’s why I once again was flying from Cebu to Davao.

Some might say my path isn’t economical.

But I don’t skimp on experiences and go all out to make myself happy.

As I’ve said in the past, I’d rather spend money on things that make me happy than on hospital bills.

And besides, it’s therapy. 

It’s my way of saying, “fuck you to stress and the pressures of modern life.”

Day 0 at 9:47 PM: McDonald’s Bajada, Davao

I arrived early at our rendezvous spot, McDonald’s Bajada in Davao.

Soon, a familiar face appeared – Daryl, along with his husband, Randee.

I first met Daryl during a hike up Mount Apo via the Bansalan and Magpet trail with my former group, Day Hike Therapist.

Then, the rest of our hiking companions from the Davao area joined us. 

With everyone gathered and ready for the challenge, we enthusiastically embarked on our journey to Mount Matutum, one of the tallest mountains in Mindanao, Philippines.

For the first time in a while, I felt like I was in good condition for a major climb.

While I wasn’t getting that comfy and rejuvenating sleep, at least I didn’t have diarrhea or hyperacidity.

And best of all, I wasn’t extremely stressed out.

I guess all those major climbs are working.

In the past few months, life has felt like a hamster wheel.

I felt trapped in an endless cycle of bills, workload, Zoom meetings, and spreadsheets.

Every day looked the same, and my stress levels were skyrocketing.

I hadn’t been eating healthy, and I lost my passion for fitness.

And sadly, it has taken a toll on my physical and mental health.

People often ask me why I spend money on these experiences.

My answer? 

It’s therapeutic, keeps me sane, prevents burnout, and is an investment in myself.

The thing is, experiences like climbing mountains give us stories to tell and share.

They give us the motivation and energy to face the day and all the shit life throws at us.

They make our lives more meaningful and richer.

Sure, we may not quantify these experiences as easily as status symbols or money.

But believe me, they’re worth way more than that.

Day 1 at 02:34 AM: Sitio Glandang/ jump-off to our Mount Matutum climb

I was ready to conquer Mount Matutum.

Everything, from my gear to my physical and mental preparations, was set.

After a quick briefing and prayer, we began our hike to the top of Mount Matutum.

We started walking, and I was confident and relaxed until something happened.


Damn it!

What the bloody fuck?

Guess what happened?

I rolled my left ankle while walking and taking pictures of the group.

I’m a clumsy mother fucker.

Afterward, I put weight on my left ankle, and damn, it was painful.

I was at a crossroads with two crucial decisions for this day hike: quit or keep walking.

I wasn’t raised to be a quitter, and all my battles in the tallest mountains in the Philippines have taught me to embrace challenges and adversities.

And so, I followed the trail, walking gingerly and putting more weight on my right leg.

I’m not fond of trekking poles, but I did wish I brought mine on this hike.

That would have come in handy when dealing with a sprained ankle.

As we were hiking to Phase 1, my mind kept cursing and screaming profanities.

Occasionally, I silently uttered some unpleasant words because of the pain in my left ankle.

Somehow, I felt better after cursing.

You see.

Profanities help us tolerate pain.

Moreover, it helps us build emotional resilience and cope with situations we feel we can’t control.

And it also leads to a surge of adrenaline – a natural pain reliever.

Every time I say “yawa”, I feel better and more energetic.

I’m not making this all up.

You can always search Google or ask your AI bot, ChatGpt, about it.

Eventually, the pain subsided, and I was starting to overtake other hikers.

Moments later, I arrived in Phase 1 where I took a short breather and ate dark chocolates.

Day 1 at 04:14 AM: The climb to the summit of Mount Matutum

We didn’t take a long rest in Phase 1.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

Excited to reach the summit of Mount Matutum, we took the trail that would lead us to the top of South Cotabato.

And the trail to the top of Mount Matutum from Phase 1 is no walk in the park.

First, we had to go through massive slippery rocks that would test our balance and agility.

Afterward, we took the seemingly never-ending assault to the summit.

And did we mention that there were gigantic trees, slippery roots, and a host of other obstacles along the way?

You’ll have to use your whole body to go through this tough terrain.

As we climbed our way to the top, I heard one of the hikers having regrets hiking Mount Matutum that day.

This was supposed to be my rest day”, he said.

I’ve heard this line a million times in my life.

Some would say they should have spent their weekends chilling at home watching a series on Netflix.

But I’m pretty sure they won’t regret having this kind of experience.

You see.

Endorphins – your happy hormones – are released when your body feels stress or pain.

And guess what? 

These hormones help reduce stress, relieve pain, and improve our sense of well-being.

Even better, these mood-boosting chemicals leave us feeling clear-headed and calm.

While you won’t feel the immediate effect of this chemical surge, you’ll feel a hundred times better and more relaxed after a successful climb.

And that’s why I’m addicted to climbing, and I do it at least once a month.

As I’ve said, hiking is my pathway to happiness.

I wasn’t hiking at my pace on the way to the top.

I followed a fellow hiker who struggled battling the steep slopes of Mount Matutum.

So, to uplift his spirit and help him reach the summit, I became his cheerleader, encouraging him that the first peak was just a few turns away.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

The reality was the summit was far away.

But sometimes, you have to tell a white lie to help someone.

In the mountains, I call this white lie “the 5-minute scam.”.

When someone is about to submit, I always say we’re just 5 minutes away.

Eventually, I had to overtake him and hit the challenging and tricky trail to the top.

Soon, I noticed a couple following me, and they were speedy.

I also saw a chubby dog who kept following the hikers.

Will he reach the summit too?

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

The sun was rising, and I was excited to see the awe-inspiring view from the top.

With momentum on my side, I climbed non-stop until I reached the top.

06: 30 AM: Summit of Mount Matutum

I was at the crossroads again, and I wasn’t sure where to go.

But the dog was there to help me find the summit.

When I arrived at the top, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the view.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

Surrounded by trees and grass, the summit didn’t have that signature breathtaking overlooking view that we all crave.

But I knew that the Mount Matutum summit didn’t have mind-blowing views. 

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

On the bright side, there were other peaks that provided beautiful vistas of the surrounding landscapes.

Minutes later, the speedy couple arrived at the summit.

As it turned out, this wasn’t their first time climbing Mount Matutum.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

They even know the trail leading to the other peaks in Mount Matutum.

So, I followed them and had fun conversations with them.

They were humble, friendly and accommodating and had a ton of knowledge about hiking in the Philippines.

On the way to Peaks 2 and 3, the couple showed me the trail leading to the Mt Matutum crater.

Peaks 2 and 3

We arrived at the peaks and were captivated by the views.

Later, one of the guides pointed northeast to show Mount Apo.

I couldn’t believe it.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

Months ago, I saw the perfectly conical shape of Mount Matutum from Mount Apo.

Now, it was the opposite.

For some local hikers, this experience may be nothing or ordinary.

But this was special for me.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

Those who know me have seen my struggles and the shit I had to go through to survive and improve the quality of my life.

And this was a moment I’d cherish for years.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

Suddenly, I remembered something.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness
Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness
Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness




These are the trail signs that lead to a happier and more meaningful life.

They fill a void in my life.

They gave me a way out of depression, melancholy, and sadness.

And they ignited a spark and zest for life after years of struggles, heartaches, and dealing with dying loved ones.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

What would life have been if I didn’t choose this pathway?

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

I don’t know.

I may not even be breathing today if I took a different path.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

We spent time admiring the scenery and fresh air from the peak.

These moments at that time may seem ordinary, but they will soon turn into memories 

And these memories will turn into lessons and stories that I’ll share with my daughter and the future generation of adventure seekers.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

From Peak 2 and 3, my couple and I returned to the first peak to relax and have breakfast.

On the way to the first peak, we bumped into the other hikers headed to Peaks 2 and 3.

That was a good sign.

And even though I didn’t know them personally, I was happy to see them survive and reach the top.

Once we arrived at the first peak, we grabbed our food and quickly ate them.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

While I was eating, the dog was staring at me with fondness, wagging his tail.

I guess he liked my chicken.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

I don’t usually eat chicken skin, so I gave it to him.

The other hikers arrived and were all relieved to reach the summit.

Mount Matutum And The Pathway To Happiness

So what’s next?

Well, we had to go down to complete our Mount Matutum hike.

And I’m not going to lie.

Going downhill has been my Achilles’ heel.

I’m a fast hiker, and I’m usually in the lead pack when going up.

But going down hasn’t been my favorite part of hiking in the last few months.


What comes up must go down.

08:30 AM: The trail going down to Phase 1 in Mount Matutum

There’s something about downhill that makes me despise it.

Is it because of my knees?

Or is it because the adrenaline is not there?

Or maybe both.

Anyway, I had to go through this section to complete our Mount Matutum.

As we were headed up, I knew going down this trail would be as tough as a Ninja Warrior course.

The trail is slippery and mossy and has some massive fallen trees blocking the way.

I once again twisted my left ankle on the way down to Phase 1.

These challenges are nothing new to me.

And I’m willing to embrace these challenges.

I’d rather have cuts, bruises, and scars in the mountains than spend a day working and dealing with pings, a heavy workload, and tasks.

After the slippery slopes, we reached the rocky section of the trail.

It wasn’t easy, and you have to be careful with your movements.

One false move, and you could get seriously injured here.

And there was another mean son-of-a-bitch that was making it tough for us: a large rock that’s between 3 to 4 feet tall.

Thankfully, I still am pretty flexible despite not having yoga exercises in the past 12 months.

We soon arrived in Phase 1 and took a long rest while team Soxlander Adventures was preparing our lunch.

10:09 AM: Phase 1 in Mount Matutum

So, you traveled all the way to South Cotabato from Cebu for a day hike in Mount Matutum?

Quite a few people asked me that question on my day hike to Mount Matutum.

And I have received similar questions in the past months.

I get it. 

Flights aren’t exactly budget-friendly these days. 

But my experience working for Skyscanner has taught me tricks on how to score cheap flights. 

And besides, I prefer to spend my hard-earned money on experiences rather than material things. 

The thing is, I’m a minimalist who prefers spending on experiences rather than material things.

Experiences, to me, can live on forever.

Material things, on the other hand, don’t provide lasting happiness.

I mean.

Do you still remember the latest version of the iPhone you bought in 2011?

How about the flat-screen television you bought a decade ago?

Do you still talk about it with your family and friends?

Do these things still make you happy?

I doubt it.

Sure, buying material things will make you momentarily happy.

But that initial high doesn’t last long.

When I was younger, I saved tons of money to buy my first flat-screen TV.

It was beautiful, sleek, huge, heavy, and all mine.

A week later, it didn’t even think about this novelty anymore.

It was just another material thing inside our house.

The TV wasn’t as exciting as it once was, and it quickly became part of my routine.

Another reason why I spend my money on experiences is that it has shaped my identity.

Our identity is made up of our experiences, the places we’ve been to, and the things we’ve done.

Part of my identity is climbing mountains.

It’s tattooed in my soul and is helping me with my creative pursuits.

I wouldn’t have been an award-winning blogger, writer, and editor if I hadn’t pursued this path.

While resting and waiting for the food, I talked to several hikers in this group.

And I was glad to meet so many who also followed this path.

We talked about their adventure in Mount Guiting-Guiting and the iconic Apo Whang Od in Buscalan.

12:05: Lunch

Lunch was an absolute feast.

From chicken curry to fruit salad, our lunch prepared by the organizers had an array of tempting and tasty choices.

On day hikes, I usually don’t eat much because I don’t want to feel full while walking.

But I was tempted to eat more on this day hike.

Once lunch was done, we went on our hike back to the jump-off point to complete our Mount Matutum day hike.

I’m not fond of day hikes these days.

In my younger days, I went on thrilling day hikes, discovering uncharted peaks, hills, and valleys.

But it’s different when you’re older, and you need more time to rest and recover.

Still, day hikes teach people one important lesson: life is short.

Yes, day hikes remind us that life is short and we must make every moment count. 

These hikes are a reminder that we have to seize the day, live our lives, and follow the path to happiness.

We don’t know what will happen to us when we die.

Is there an afterlife?

Is death an ever-lasting sleep or a doorway to eternity with the greatest people who lived in history?

No one knows.

No one has returned from life after death to prove there’s eternity.

So, live your life and invest in experiences.

If there’s no life after death, at least you have lived and enjoyed it fully.

Along the way, I became a coach and cheerleader to another hiker.

Instead of overtaking her, I used my navigation skills and wisdom to help her complete the hike.

One of the things I love about experiences is that they teach me life lessons and improve my skills.

I never knew I was good at navigation and organization until I started traveling and hiking.

Moreover, experiences have taught me a lot of invaluable life lessons, including acceptance, patience, and understanding.

The world, in my book, is a never-ending classroom for us to develop ourselves into better human beings.

Sample Mount Matutum itinerary 

Day 0 

  • 09:30 PM: Meetup Mcdo Bajada
  • 10:00 PM:  ETD to Tupi 

Day 1

  • 01:00 AM: ETA Kablon Crossing, Tupi 
  • 01:30 AM: ETA at Sitio Glandang jump-off/Climb briefing/
  • 02:00 AM: Start trek
  • 04:00 AM: ETA Camp 1/Phase 1
  • 07:00 AM: ETA summit of Mt. Matutum/ sunrise views/Breakfast/ Photo Ops
  • 07:30 AM: Peak Hopping
  • 08:30 AM: Start Descent
  • 11:30 AM: ETA at Phase 1 / Lunch
  • 12:00 NN: Descent
  • 02:00 PM: ETA jump-off Sitio Glandang /Wash up/Pack things
  • 03:00 PM:  ETD SG farm (Sidetrip/Kkb entrance)
  • 04:00 PM: ETD back to Davao (Dinner along the way)
  • 08:00 PM: ETA DAVAO

Frequently Asked Questions

How to hike Mount Matutum?

The easiest and most convenient way to hike Mt. Matutum is to join an organized hike. Soxlander Adventures offers budget-friendly hikes to Mt. Matutum and other mountains across the Philippines. Their package usually includes transportation, meals, permits, and guide fees.

Is Mt. Matutum still active?

Mt. Matutum is an active stratovolcano in South Cotabato, Mindanao, in the Philippines.

How tall is Mount Matutum?

Mount Matutum has an elevation of 2,286 meters above sea level, making it the highest mountain in South Cotabato.

Aldrich Infantado is a travel junkie and a writing aficionado who loves to share amazing travel tips to his fellow travelers.


  • Cherry Ann Jurilla

    I really loved reading your blog, Sir. It made me relive my hike at Mt. Matutum last February 2024. I also joined Soxlander’s dayhike trip. I feel the same way when I reached the top, it’s not much of a breathtaking view but I felt really glad for conquering Mt. Matutum, considering I’m new to hiking and I weigh over 70 kgs.
    Along the hike, I also regretted why I spent the holiday (Chinese New Year) there when I could have gone somewhere else.. hehehe
    You have a really nice blog!

    • Aldrich Infantado

      Thank you for the kind words, maam. Glad you completed the hike. It’s not an easy one, and you’ll need to be mentally strong to complete it. Congrats! I hope you continue hiking mountains. 🙂

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