Category Archives: Luzon

Talamitam’s animal farm

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Talamitam has a cuteness level of 5 with all the pairs of neighing horses, curious cows, photogenic carabaos and charming baby goats. Oh wait, this isn’t a farm.

Mt. Talamitam is an easy dayhike like her sister Mt. Batulao. Legend has it that a giant once lorded the plains. He had one foot in Batulao, and the other at Talamitam. Or so the story goes from an enthusiastic and chatty (slash intoxicated) local official. The trail starts from the barangay hall with a ten-minute walk through houses and concrete paths until a footbridge is crossed. From there, the trail transforms to a relaxing walk through partially covered paths. A clearing is reached after about twenty minutes; it offers an unobstructed view of the peaks of Batulao. Moving forward, the bare slopes transform to neatly lined rows of seedlings. It becomes open afterwards as one passes through fields and a “golf course”. There is absence of shade and trees throughout the rest of the hike.

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Traversing 21 mountains

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I now understand why some mountaineers keep coming back. As with most Benguet mountains, the scenery going to and from Ugo is picturesque. Rolling pine tree-covered ridges, chilly temperatures, long yet slightly ascending and descending paths complete the breathtaking landscape. The tiring traverse is capped by a crossing of the 90.7-metre hanging bridge of Sitio Cayoco over the Agno River.

A major climb because of the distance to cover, one will walk approximately 15KM on day 1 from Kayapa to Domolpos and on day 2, 21KM from Domolpos (~3KM to the summit) to Itogon (~18KM from the summit). The trek commences with a 1.5-hour steep ascent to Indopit Village then progresses to a 2-hour easy trek through both wide and narrow trails. Finally, to get to the Domolpos community, a half hour tricky descent ensues. The Domolpos’ public school can be used for the night as campsite. It has a water source and a nice toilet at the back. Spending the night there beats setting camp at the cold and windy summit.

The trek resumes the next day with a relaxed 2.5- to 3-hour hike to the peak. The summit has a wide area for camping and has a marker partially hidden by bushes and trees where it is said to once have marked the boundaries of Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan and Benguet. Navigating the steep descent takes less than two hours and then another hour to get to the nice lunch area at the old saw mill. With two more hours to go, the trek takes you to more covered trails, farmlands and easy trails to Lusod Village and finally to Itogon Village.

With credits to Ultraman Ace, here are the twenty one names of the mountains our guide, Sir Alex, recited from memory: 1. Kabilisan, 2. Indopit, 3. Yabnong, 4. Bundao, 5. Samiento, 6. Sadngat, 7. Sadle, 8. Domolpos, 9. Ugo (2,150 MASL), 10. Bakuyan, 11. Tigingan, 12. Dyabes, 13. Timal, 14. Sumil, 15. Lusod, 16. Badjao, 17. Sadyatan, 18. Anawang, 19. Latbak, 20. Cawayan and, 21. Cayoko.

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Damas traverse

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I will give it to you straight. Steep. Yes she had fabulous views at the peak, refreshing river crossings and the thundering drop of Ubod Falls, but, what stuck to me about Damas is her killer ascents and knee-busting descents.

The guides may insist the slopes are gradual, but they are not. With the jumpoff being at an elevation almost as high as the mountain’s peak (685+ MASL), the trail starts with an almost one hour sharp descent through slightly covered grass paths leading to a river crossing. It then progresses to a two-hour ascent all the way to the summit.

There are two saddle campsites and one at the summit itself. Each area can comfortably hold about five to eight tents. The views at either of the campsites offer clear sights of neighboring mountains (like Tapulao and Arayat) and the Tarlac terrain.

The traverse to Ubod Falls takes an average of three to four hours through more cogon-lined paths and steep trails. There are a number of roped segments to make the way down and up easier. Fifteen minutes away from the 100-foot Ubod Falls, you will pass by a smaller one through which you will have to negotiate the final roped segment.

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Tarak and its windy ridge

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My first climb for the year took me to one of Bataan’s highest points. Tarak left me with two things.

First, like a wordplay, I now understand how it got its name. The initial portion of the climb involves the usual wide trails through grasslands and flatlands. Three hours into this type of trek, you will reach the Papaya River where you break for lunch and the last water source. The second leg of the mountain’s assault leads to an exciting and almost two-hour cardiac trail. Steep and covered, you may need to hold on to branches and roots and climb using all four limbs for support. In two hours, you will arrive at the ridge where you will have a fantastic panoramic view at 1,006 MASL. Groups can choose to camp at an enclosed area before the ridge (which can accommodate roughly ten tents) or at the wider and open area at the ridge itself.

This brings me to my next Tarak lesson.

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Arayat: the case of the missing trail

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And I thought guides are supposed to know and lead the way. Up until this climb.

An ambitious dayhike traverse from the Magalang to Arayat trails ended on a rather mischievous note as we learned from the lead pack that our juvenile brothers from Brgy. Ayala on the Magalang side seemed to have lost the trail while already at the foot of Mt. Arayat.

Nevertheless, our group of nearly 25 reached Brgy. Baño at the Arayat side in under ten hours.

Through established trails to the North Peak, we traversed through an exciting ridgeline to the South Peak and continued on to a dense hunter’s trail until we got to the base of the mountain. The descent becomes a test of patience as one negotiates aimlessly through paths covered with trees, vines and roots.

It took the group only three hours to reach the first peak where one finds a communication tower and an army detachment. The peak, at 1,026 MASL, has a campsite and a great view of the flat agricultural lands of Pampanga. The Pampanga river can be seen snaking through the rice fields. After a half-hour lunch break, we resumed the climb. The trek to the second peak (1,008 MASL) takes only about two hours. We passed by White Rock before reaching the southern peak where we stopped for the customary photo ops. It then progresses to a three- to four-hour descent via the Arayat trail.

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Maculot for the holidays

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In celebration of the holidays, we had a Christmas party and year-end dayhike at Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas.

Albeit rainy and slippery, we had fun eating cake at the Grotto and blowing candles at the Rockies.

After the quick Maculot traverse, the group gathered at the mountaineers’ store for a simple potluck meal and exchange of gifts.

Kalisungan is not a walk in the park

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Expecting a quick dayhike ala the likes of Daguldol and (as I was told) Gulugod-Baboy, imagine my surprise as I squished and squashed my way through sloping trails of mud and horse dung. Fruit flies hovered over dead banana trunks and coconut husks scattered along the way. Mosquitoes were abuzz at 3/4 of the trail. They were having a field day; and so were the red and black ants.

This is not the kind of park I had in my head. Indeed: never underestimate a mountain.

The rewards, as always, are fantastic. At the final ascent, swaying cogon grass lined the steep trail to the open summit. The peak of Kalisungan offers an unobstructed view of Calauan and San Pablo. Three of San Pablo’s Seven Lakes are visible at the left side. Mounts Makiling and Banahaw stand regal at the north and south portions of Kalisungan. There’s also Laguna de Bay and Talim Island’s Mt. Tagapo.

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Madlum weekend break

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Barangay Madlum of San Miguel in Bulacan is the home of Mt. Manalmon, the Madlum River, and numerous caves. It offers a variety of activities to excite the adventure-seeker in you.

At 196+ MASL, Mt. Manalmon may go unnoticed; unremarkable for some, even. To up the ante, we did a night trek of its 2-kilometer trail. In less than an hour, we passed through the Madlum Cave, crossed over a roaring river and trekked uphill to a campsite capacious enough for fifty. Early the next morning, we went to the highest point of the mountain which is a 5-minute scramble over a sloping rocky formation from the campsite. The views may not be grand, but it still offers a magnificent 270-degree view of the verdant San Miguel terrain and the snaking river below.

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Scaling the parrot’s beak

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Pico de Loro

Towering over seas of greens and blues, scaling Pico de Loro is the highlight of a climb to Mt. Palay Palay. The monolith stands imposing and dramatic amidst the plains of Cavite and the waters of South China Sea.

They say conquering the parrot’s beak takes skill and experience. It may not be for the faint of heart, but for the daredevils, the peak is surprisingly easy peasy. :) Its intimidating appearance sets off some climbers who settle for the actual peak of Mt. Palay Palay before proceeding through a steep path and crossing over to the rock.

At its base, there is a short portion where makeshift steps jut from the side of the rock and where a rather beaten rope was installed to aid the climbers. These make the climb up the monolith not too difficult. Careful steps must still be on top of mind as a slip to the right will send you plummeting a good hundreds of meters to the ground.

On top, rigid and appearing too vertical as a tower should be, the rock formation can be a good venue for rappelling. In fact, when we were there, a group was trying it out at Php250.00 per head.

Aside from the monolith, another sidetrip to complement a Mt. Palay Palay climb is a dip in the waterfalls which can be found about ten minutes off the main trail.

Accessible at two to three hours away from Metro Manila, a dayhike or a weekend in Mt. Palay Palay and Pico de Loro is easily a favorite for a quick weekend respite. To get to this part of Cavite, take a Ternate-bound bus from Manila and hire a jeepney to take your group to the DENR station and jump-off point.

Natib’s insurgent leeches

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View from Mt. Natib
 

 

Yes. Leeches. Limatiks. They have declared war on us. As if I have not had my fill and fair share of the infamous mountain bloodsuckers of Makiling, I found myself saying yes to another climb involving such a major-major concern. This climb is popular not only for its leeches, moreso for the fact that it has been declared closed (then open, then closed, then open) by the military for insurgency-related attacks by our leftist brothers and sisters.

At 1,287+ MASL, I called my mother to wish her a happy birthday and to report that I have summitted another mountain in one piece. Of course I left out the part about the insanely aggressive limatiks and the NPAs (lest I want to cap and prematurely end my budding and flourishing hobby). I also left out the portion describing the one-and-a-half hour cardiac assault to the summit, the almost 90-degree rocky roped segments and the steep and slippery forested trails.

No, I knew better than to bother her with such trifling details. :D

Mt. Natib is currently open. Prior arrangements with the barangay are however encouraged to ensure that your group has the military’s permission to proceed with the climb. Manageable for beginners, the trail to the foot of the mountain is established. It begins with a wide sloping dirt road near a farm for fighting cocks. It then transforms to grass-covered paths that take you through Pinagbutasan (literally an opening in the mountain made by an energy company for their geothermal equipment to get through) and a lunch area called “bahay kubo” (where a water source is available). Afterwards, the paths narrow to the usual single-file trail, most portions of which are lined with tall cogon grass. The foot of the mountain is reached after about three or four hours. At the final stretch, our group’s mountain guides managed the paths and installed ropes at three different segments. The trail to the summit were mostly (if not, all the way) punishing assaults through a heavily covered and cool forest. At the summit, if blessed with a clearing, there are good views of Bataan and her neighboring mountains.

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