I never fully understood the clamor to climb Mt. Halcon. What perplexes me is the desire of most mountaineers to “conquer” it back when government authorities have publicly announced the park is off limits. Ever since the municipality of Baco in Oriental Mindoro declared authority over park management in early 2014, weekends have been booked to the hilt.
The first day involves going up limatik-infested trails to the first campsite. Trekking from the jumpoff to the Mangyan villages is scorching at the height of summer. The path is established but there is minimal cover. The forest line is entered after passing through the last village. There are a couple of stream crossings in between the steep trails. This stretches all the way to the hike up to Aplaya Campsite.
The beauty, and difficulty of the revered mountain are fully appreciated on the next day’s hike. The second day is technically a day hike of Mt. Halcon. On top of being laden with limatiks all the way to the summit, it is mostly a cardiac trail. A variety of terrain awaits on the second day. From rainforest to a mighty river; waterfalls to giant roots; mossy forest and a bonsai forest; it adds up to the finale – the knife edge.
It starts with a half hour descent to the Dulangan River. The massive river is traversed via a wooden bridge set atop and in between boulders. Unfortunately, if it rains, it can make the river swell and not passable. After Dulangan, the trail is mostly flat with a few more tributaries to pass. After 2.5 hours, the last river is crossed and the 1.5 hour ascent to the second campsite commences. From Karawyan Campsite, the summit is only two hours away.
The trek on the knife edge, while seemingly perilous, is easier than those of Mantalingahan and Guiting-Guiting. No doubt, the fantastic view of and at the ridge is the highlight of the climb. After half an hour of leisurely walking on the summit ridge, the highest point of Halcon is reached (2,582 MASL). The flat and open peak area offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the neighboring landscape.
Finally, the third and last day of the trip is the descent from the Aplaya Campsite to the jumpoff. Since it is mostly downhill from the camp, the total trekking time is reduced to four hours (from nearly 7 hours on the first day). The three-day trek is not for the average enthusiast. Park authorities and guides do not encourage this, and in fact, still charge the equivalent of a 4-day trip (for services rendered over 3 days only). If scrimping on work leaves (and physically plus mentally able), it is possible and can be achieved.
The detailed itinerary is as follows:
22:00 Assembly at JAM Liner Pasay
23:00 Depart Metro Manila (Php167.00)
01:00 ETA Batangas Pier; buy FastCat ferry tickets (Php190.00)
04:00 Ride ferry to Calapan
05:00 ETA Calapan Port
05:30 Ride rented jeepney to Baco (municipal hall)
06:00 ETA municipal hall
06:15 Fill up forms at the Tourism Office and get permit (Php350.00); log at police station
08:00 Depart for Brgy. Bayanan jump off
08:15 ETA Brgy. Bayanan; secure guides and porter (Php500.00 per day)
09:30 Start trek
10:00 1st Mangyan Village (Php50.00)
10:45 Resume trek
12:00 2nd Mangyan Village (Php50.00); lunch
13:00 Resume trek
17:00 Arrival at clearing/durungawan
17:30 Resume trek
18:30 Camp 1/Aplaya Campsite; set up camp
22:00 Lights off
03:00 Wake up call; breakfast
06:30 Start summit assault
07:00 Dulangan River
08:00 Balugbog Baboy
09:30 Huling Ilog
11:00 Camp 2/Karawyan Campsite
13:00 Arrival at summit; lunch
14:00 Start descent
15:00 Camp 2/Karawyan Camp
16:00 Huling Ilog
18:00 Dulangan River
19:00 Back at Camp 1/Aplaya Camp
06:00 Wake up call; breakfast
08:00 Break camp
09:30 Start descent
13:00 2nd Mangyan Village; rest
14:00 Resume trek
14:45 1st Mangyan Village
15:00 ETA jump off; wash up
17:00 Depart Brgy. Mayabig/Bayanan; log out police station.
18:00 ETA Calapan Pier; buy FastCat ferry tickets
18:30 Mass at Sto. Niño Cathedral
21:00 ETD Calapan Port
23:00 Batangas Pier, take bus to Metro Manila