First-timer’s Hike to Mt. Pulag

I am no mountaineer nor am I a true-blue backpacker/hiker, but I have always wondered why a lot of people want to climb this mount. Then some friends also wanted to go and so I asked another friend of mine, who is a frequent climber of Mt. Pulag, if he could accompany us. I wanted to go via Akiki Trail which is known to be the most scenic and also one of the most difficult trails (so ambitious of me). Six months before the hike, I started jogging to build my stamina plus, I am a smoker. Just a few weeks before the hike, my friends backed out and I was left alone. Good thing, there was another group who’ll be taking the Ambangeg Trail and there was still room for me.

The day before the hike, we went to Baguio where we stayed overnight. It’s an added day to the usual two-day hike but it was good advice from my friend so that we could get a good night’s sleep before the long and tiring journey. The next morning, we got up at 4 a.m.; prepped, packed, and took a cab going to Good Taste Cafe where we had a heavy and delicious breakfast for a cheap price. It was also our meet-up place for the jeep we rented going to Bokod, Benguet. In the jeep, I just relaxed and appreciated the mountain view along the way.

Agno River is the third largest river in Luzon, 206 kms. long, traversing the provinces of Benguet and Pangasinan.

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Stopover at Ambuklao Dam, a hydroelectric facility in Bokod, Benguet.

Next stop was at the DENR Office. For first-timers, there is a one-hour orientation. We had lunch at an eatery where the specialty is Pinikpikan (live chicken is beaten lightly to death with a stick to keep the blood inside. No bone should be broken in the process. It is actually an Igorot version of the Tinola.) We arrived at the ranger station around lunchtime and got our guide and porters.

A few minutes into the uphill trail, I could feel that that air was getting thinner and colder. I was having a hard time breathing and had to stop every so often just to catch my breath. I was the oldest in the group of young peeps who were really fast and didn’t seem to get tired. I told my friend that they should go ahead because I don’t want to slow everyone down besides, the trail didn’t seem to be difficult. I just really have a hard time with uphill climbs. I know I could manage it but only at a slower pace. He left me with the tour guide to accompany me while he led the young ones. I took my time with a slow pace because it was only the way to go. I wouldn’t dare go back and regret that I didn’t finish the climb. I turned over my water, jacket and camera to the tour guide because all the added weight was tiring me more. Tip: Don’t carry anything during the hike, if you can, so that the climb will be easier for you. Wear dry-fit shirts since cotton gets heavy when you start to sweat. Yes, I did sweat despite the fact that it was cold.

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Manong tour guide

After five hours, I finally reached Camp 2. I was surprised to see that my tent was already set-up. Yipee! A heap of thanks to my chivalrous friend. I fixed my stuff, had dinner and socialized with the young ones. Then my migraine started and I had to call it a day. They say lack of oxygen is usually the cause of migraines during climbs like this. In a few minutes, I was asleep. At 1 a.m., I was awaken by voices from the other tents. They couldn’t sleep because of the cold. It was 7 degrees at that time. I didn’t have the same problem as I was comfortably snuggled and all zipped up in my borrowed feather sleeping bag in my leggings, trekking pants, two dry-fit shirts with a men’s sailing jacket as my blanket.

At 3 a.m., everyone was up and getting ready for the hike to see the sunrise and (hopefully) the sea of clouds at the summit. Our group was the first to hike but along the way, I had to take more rest breaks. Before I knew it, I was the last among all the other groups going to the summit. At 5:15, my tour guide and I reached summit 2 or also known as the grassland summit. I felt that I might not reach the highest peak in time for the sunrise since I couldn’t go any faster. I decided to stay at summit 2 and wait for the sunrise there and here’s what I saw…

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Sea of clouds and golden light

Sunrise at the grassland summit

Sunrise at the grassland summit

I stayed at the grassland summit for more than an hour just chilling and taking in all the beauty and wonder that was right before my eyes. I was getting hungry and good thing I brought water and chocolate. Then when started our descent going back to Camp 2.

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Descent to camp 2

Descent to Camp 2

I may have not reached the highest peak but I have now realized why a lot of people have this on their bucket list and why some still come back for more. Despite that challenges I had — yes, I will go back if opportunity presents. Really, words are not enough to describe the experience I had and I guess nature lovers out there would agree. You have to experience it to believe it.

Estimated expenses:

  • Bus from Manila to Baguio – 500
  • Taxi to Good Taste (meet-up place) 50-100
  • Rented jeepney  (shared expense) – 8,500 
    Contact: Gina Epe – 0919 816 9234
  • Registration, camping and green fees – 385
  • Guide good for 6 pax – 600
  • Porter fee from drop-off to campsite and back (optional) – 500 per bag, 15 kg max

Things to Bring:

  1. Flashlight preferably headlamp (ONE FLASHLIGHT PER PERSON)
  2. Tent
  3. Sleeping bag
  4. Roof insulation foam – Optional, but I highly recommend that you bring one. Same size of your upper body will do. This is cheap matting, waterproofing and more importantly, it will protect your upper body from the cold weather. It will help you sleep better. Available at Ace hardware.
  5. Clothing for cold weather. estimated temp 3-6 deg C at dawn
  6. Gloves
  7. Whistle (for emergencies)
  8. Meds for maintenance, Bonamine, anti-allergy meds, pain killers (ibuprofen, mef. acid, ben-gay, etc…)
  9. Water / water purification tabs if you’re not sure you can drink the spring water at the campsite.
  10. Camp food for dinner, breakfast and lunch.
  11. Trail food (power bars, chocolate)
  12. Extra batteries
  13. CAMERA! 
  14. Raincoat (Cheap, disposable raincoat available at Ace Hardware)
  15. Wipes
  16. Shades
  17. Camp stove, cookware if you want to cook for dinner and breakfast, 
  18. Plates, cups, spoon, knives, etc….
  19. Packed lunch for first day.
  20. Trash bags – aside from trash use, this a cheap alternative to waterproof your things and tent floor when it rains. It can also serve as raincoat if you like. 
  21. Small plastic bags that will fit your foot. Believe me this is so useful when it rains because it will keep your feet warm and dry despite your wet shoes in very cold weather.
  22. Lip balm/moisturizer.
  23. Trekking/rubber shoes and sandals/slippers

Info:

  • Best time to climb: November to May with the coldest months from December to February.
  • No-health-clearance-no-hiking policy — This was implemented as of November 2015. It’s best that you physically prepare yourself a few months before the climb.
  • Permits are only issued to groups of 20 pax and below.
  • Camping😦 Via Ambangeg Trail) Camping is allowed from Monday – Thursday, but not on weekends (Friday – Sunday).
  • Starting this year 2017, Mt. Pulag willl be closed to tourists during Saturdays.

Special thanks to Art Soriano for taking care of me all the way and also to Marc Urmatan for all the tips and lending me his camping stuff. Couldn’t have done it without these two.

Aside

Daraitan Adventure: Tinipak River Trekking and Maytuntong Cave Spelunking

I first saw the beauty of Tinipak River in Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal from a friend’s Facebook post. Since then, I told myself “I will go visit this place one day.” Months had passed and that picture was still in my mind so I decided to ask a mountaineer friend if he could accompany me together with my daughter. I was so glad he said yes. We went two times; the first one was with a group of four and then after posting our photos on Facebook, a fellow member/admin of our group, “We are Funtastic Philippines,” suggested that we make it into a FUNLakwatsa so we thought, “Why not? The beauty of Tinipak River and Maytuntong Cave is definitely a sight worth sharing to others.” We made preparations and invited group members who would want to join.

The day finally came and all 21 of us were raring to go. The first two hours was an easy drive, but upon nearing Brgy. Daraitan, we had to slow down. It was approximately a nine-kilometer stretch of major rough road with sharp rocks so it’s best to drive slowly. At the Barangay Hall of Daraitan, one has to pay P20/person for the registration fee and P500 tour guide fee (good for eight people). A short briefing, with special emphasis on leaving no trash behind, was given just before the hike.

A few minutes into the trail you would see beautiful river scenery with rocks and boulders, trees and clear running water.

View along the way

View along the way

It took us twice the time of the usual 20-minute walk because we would stop, most of the time, to take photos plus a rest break before we descend down the major point of Tinipak River by way of narrow wooden (seemingly rickety) bridge and ladders, and climbing down the huge, white boulders by the riverbank.

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The descent to the river – Photo by Romina Dumlao

It was around 11 a.m. by the time we reached the major point of the river. We were all amazed at how awesome this place was. Even though it was my second time, I still marveled at its beauty. There were overnight campers, mountaineers and plain lakawatseros like us, curious about this hidden gem and who were game for a day’s adventure.

View of Tinipak River - Photo by Art Soriano, Jr.

Tinipak River – Photo by Art Soriano, Jr.

We found a spot near the entrance of Maytuntong Cave (commonly called Tinipak Cave) where we settled and ate our packed lunches…

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Enjoying lunch by the boulders

Kuya Bitoy with the reliable Daraitan tour guides.

Kuya Bitoy and Jumbo with the reliable Daraitan tour guides.

…dipped in the brook nearby while chit-chatting the time away as we enjoyed our lunch break.

Usapang sirena (mermaid talk) - Photo by Bitoy Labaniego

Usapang sirena (mermaid talk) – Photo by Bitoy Labaniego

Mineral water ready for drinking straight from the brook. Tinipak River was awarded as the cleanest inland body of water by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG),

Mineral water ready for drinking straight from the brook. Tinipak River was awarded as the cleanest inland body of water by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the whole Region IV.

At 1 p.m., it was time to go spelunking. The first time I went here, I wasn’t able to go in the cave and I promised myself I will not fail the second time around.

Going spelunking at Maytuntong Cave

Going spelunking at Maytuntong Cave

The entrance of Maytuntong Cave is different from the ones I've seen; you need to climb down into a hole on the ground which is approximately 20 feet deep.

Entrance of Maytuntong Cave

The cave entrance is different from the ones I’ve seen; you need to climb down into a hole on the ground which is approximately 20 feet deep with the rugged rocks as stepping stones/ladder.

As we went deeper into the cave, we saw glittering rock formations on the walls and ceiling scattered all over.

Glittering rock formations...they actually look a lot better when you're up close

Glittering rock formations…they actually look a lot better when you’re up close

Those white specks actually glitter like gold and diamonds in the dark.

Those white specks actually glitter like gold and diamonds in the dark, again, better when you’re up close

Woohoo! We made it this far. Photo by Art Soriano

“Woohoo! We made it this far!” Photo by Art Soriano

Farther on, we heard the sound of gushing water.

Clear water flows on the cave floor. Photo by Art Soriano

Clear water flows on the cave floor – Photo by Art Soriano

Soon enough, we have reached the cave’s natural pool. The water was so clear and cold, but it sure was refreshing. At first glance, there seems to be a deep black hole in the center but it’s actually black sand and it was only waist deep so no worries there.

The highlight of our spelunking was reaching the natural, waist-deep pool in Maytuntong Cave. Photo by Art Soriano

The highlight of our spelunking was reaching the natural, waist-deep pool in Maytuntong Cave. Photo by Art Soriano

The water in the pool is simply crystal clear!

The water in the pool is simply crystal clear!

At 3 p.m., we started our hike back. We were made to pass a different route on the opposite side of the river, with no paved trail, due to a territorial dispute between the barangays of Daraitan and General Nakar. We, the inexperienced trekkers, were literally bouldering! It was really difficult and it took us almost two hours to get back. Thank God, nobody was hurt (except for a few scratches and one of us suffered a dead toenail thereafter – not mine).  Nevertheless, the experience was really awesome and memorable. We were all charmed by the enchanting Tinipak River and the awesome Maytuntong Cave. Together, we enjoyed the beauty of nature as well as the camaraderie through the funny and difficult times of going and leaving this place. New friendships were born among us and our Daraitan Adventure never failed to bring a smile on our faces each time we reminisce… and so off we look forward to our next adventure!

WAFP Daraitan Trekkers

We are FUNtastic Philippines (WAFP) Daraitan Trekkers

Inland Sights of El Nido, Palawan

El Nido has been one of the most popular places for beaches and island hopping experiences and I definitely wanted to see it. Finally, my friend and I decided to go in November (2013) and were able to avail an airfare promo from AirAsia for round-trip tickets for P2,500 going to Puerto Princesa (PPS). Three days before our date of departure, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the Philippines and left most of the Visayan provinces in devastation. The mainly hit were the provinces of Tacloban and Ormoc, but Palawan was not spared and the small town of Coron was hit like bomb fell on it. The airlines didn’t cancel our flight but the usual feeling of excitement of going on a trip was not there. Our flight was in the early evening and we arrived in PPS around 7pm. There were some restaurants right outside the airport and we decided to have dinner first before the van ride (P700 one way) for the next 5 hours on the way to El Nido.  Arrived past midnight in El Nido, freshened up a little then went to sleep to get ready for the next day of island hopping. The following day we went early to the beach for some morning walk and the sea was calm with some slight breeze… perfect weather! NRD.DSC_7877 Around 8am, the tour operators announced that the Coast Guard has cancelled all island hopping tours since it was raining in the other parts of Palawan. It was so frustrating because right in front of us was a calm sea and perfect sun. We had no choice but to go somewhere else that doesn’t require any boat ride.  We hired a tricycle for P1,500 for the whole day so we could see the inland sights instead so that the day won’t be totally wasted. First stop was Nagkalit-kalit Falls, approximately 20 kms away from the town proper, initially a smooth in the parts of the town and then a bumpy ride once you’re in the outskirts. Ideal for the adventure seekers/trekkers. To reach the falls you would need to cross rice fields, go into the forest, cross streams/rivers around nine of them, if my memory serves me well. The depth would vary between ankle to hip deep so you have to be careful with your stuff. Also, if this is your first time (like me) grab hold on to the guide because you can easily slip. NRD.DSC_7908   It was just a small falls in a small hidden paradise. The water was not too cold and so it was just perfect for dipping after the 45-min trek.

Admiring Nagkalit-kalit Falls

Admiring Nagkalit-kalit Falls

NRD.DSC_7938   Nacpan Beach is just a few minutes away from the falls.  For me, it’s the best beach I’ve seen so far with a wide shore, white sand and turquoise blue water. This is also where we had lunch for P150. NRD.DSC_8002   NRD.DSC_7949 It was around 4pm when we left Nacpan Beach. I wanted to see the sunset and so I asked our tricycle driver to a sunset place near town. So off we went back to town on the way to Las Cabanas Beach to see the sunset.

Almost sunset at Las Cabanas

Almost sunset at Las Cabanas

After freshening up at the B&B, we walked to the beach and saw that most restaurants have set up tables on the shore with candlelight. Really a lovely sight. It was pretty much a tiring day and we wanted to fill up our tummies. We decided to eat at Sea Slugs because of the good reviews I’ve ready about it and I was not disappointed. The food was good with the serving size enough for a person with a big appetite. NRD.DSC_8159 The day has come to an end and I’m just glad it didn’t turn out to be that bad after all. Quick tips when going to El Nido:

  • Prepare yourself for the five-hour van ride; the first half is smooth but the next half is bumpy and brain shaking.
  • Accommodation: There are a lot of B&Bs to choose from. We stayed at Bulskamp Inn for P1,800/night ($42). It was clean, with water heater, air condition and just 3 minutes walk to the main beach and town proper.
  • Where to eat: IBR Fastfood is along Rizal Street. Food here will cost between 30 to 120. This is where we had our daily breakfast. For dinner, Sea Slugs by the beach with reggae band, good food at the average price of P220 and up, and ArtCafe along Sirena St. where its ground floor is a souvenir shop and the restaurant is on the second floor. Nice place with a live band and really good food, average price is P300 ($7) and up.
  • Touring inland: Renting a tricycle for a day would cost P1,000 to P1,500 depending on the location. Another alternative is renting a motorcycle for P700/day.
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Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite

Located along Tirona Highway in Kawit, Cavite, is the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, known as the site for the Declaration of Philippine Independence. It was built in 1845, making it a 170-year-old mansion at the time of this blog’s publishing. Aside from it’s rich background, this mansion holds secret passages and escape routes, hidden compartments in cabinets and shelves, which add proof of its role in revolutionary history.

Located at the ground floor is a museum with and a miniature bowling alley which was the first in the Philippines.

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Old canyon at the museum ground floor.

On the second floor are the bedrooms, the grand hall, the dining room and kitchen. Most of the furniture are varnished in Philippine hardwood that are the hard-to-find and expensive kind these days.

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Bedroom on the second floor

This bedroom has a secret passage leading to one of the halls. One of the cabinets has a peephole where one can monitor the comings and goings of people while in hiding.

This bedroom has a secret passage leading to one of the halls. One of the cabinets has a peephole where a person in hiding can monitor the comings and goings of people.

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General Aguinaldo’s receiving room which also served as his office.

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A map of the Philippines on the ceiling

Gen. Aguinaldo called the patio as the “Balcony of Sinners” where the Revolutionaries planned their strategies.

Gen. Aguinaldo called the azotea as the "Balcony of Sinners" where the Revolutionaries planned their strategies.

This patio also served as the family’s lounge on lazy afternoons.

The dining table with a secret — it’s size and heavy weight act as a camouflage while it serves as an entrance to a tunnel leading to a church.

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Side trip:

After touring the shrine, we decided to have refreshments on the way back via Bacoor route…

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Refreshing halo-halo

Refreshing halo-halo

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There is no entrance fee but donations are highly appreciated. I was quite impressed with the place; the house and grounds were well-maintained.

When to visit: Open Tuesday to Sunday, 8am-4pm, March to June are the perfect months with not much visitors from school field trips.

Map:

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A Photowalk at Pasig City Hall

I just recently joined the photowalk of FUNtastic Philippines group on Facebook and last weekend we went on a photowalk, “Discovering Pasig.” The first stop was the rooftop and the grounds of the city hall. This is the first part of the series of places we went to around the city and will post the succeeding ones in the days to come.

Capturing the busy photographer

Capturing the busy photographer

The rooftop of Pasig City Hall

The rooftop of Pasig City Hall

Green Rooftop

Green Rooftop

Entrance to the Session Hall

Entrance to the Session Hall

A very convenient overpass at the City Hall linking to the public market and other main roads.

A very convenient overpass at the City Hall linking to the public market and other main roads.

Mini Park

Mini Park

View from Pasig City Hall's rooftop

View from Pasig City Hall’s rooftop

Viewdeck

Walkway behind the main building

Flowers Along the Walkway

Flowers Along the Walkway