Rising to 2,037 MASL, Mt. Tapulao’s cardiac trail, albeit wide, straightforward and clear, is covered with rocks over a 16-km steep path. The cool temperature, especially at night, affirms its being dubbed as the poor man’s Pulag.
Boring at first with the seemingly endless long and winding road to the campsite, Tapulao’s bareness transforms with the beauty of pine trees and low-lying clouds greeting mountaineers at the last quarter of the climb. The absence of Mr. Sun was welcomed as the trail has no cover. Intermittent rainshowers made the eleven-hour trek bearable and actually fun.
The trek to the summit is even better upon entering the so-called forest line. The view is your typical mossy forest with damp paths, overhanging branches and interesting flora dotting the trail. Blessed with a clearing, the view of neighboring Zambales mountains is clear at the summit.
Mt. Tapulao is located at Palauig in Zambales. Registration is required at the jump-off point in Barangay Dampay. If traveling via private vehicle, parking is available near the center. To get here by public transportation, take an Iba-bound Victory Liner bus from their Cubao or Pasay terminal. Tricycles can be arranged for Php150.00 per person to take you from the highway to the jump-off point (based on a conversation with a local at the welcome center).
Another major climb with a difficulty rating of 6/9, here’s our group’s actual schedule.
23:30 ETD Manila to Zambales
04:30 ETA Palauig, Zambales
05:30 ETA jump-off point; breakfast and registration at barangay center (Php30.00)
06:30 start trek
13:00 lunch at second water source
14:00 resume trek
17:30 ETA bunkers (if pitching tents, other campsites are available)
06:00 start trek to summit
07:00 ETA summit
07:45 start descent to campsite
08:45 back to bunkers
09:00 breakfast and break camp
10:30 start descent
01:00 lunch at second water source
02:00 resume trek
18:30 ETA jump-off point; wash-up at barangay center
21:00 ETD Barangay Dampay
23:00 dinner at Olongapo, Zambales
02:00 ETA Manila