Sinukuan’s Pride – Mt. Arayat (1026+)

Arayat, Pampanga
Major jump off: Arayat National Park, Brgy. Bano, Arayat
LLA: 15.20° N 120.742° E, 1030 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 3

The author was not a fan of superstitions and local folklore until he experienced to climb the so called “Banal na Bundok”: that is Mt. Arayat situated in the province of Pampanga.


Mt. Arayat, rising in solitary majesty from the central plains of Luzon.

After our oathtaking, one of our college friends invited us to visit their hometown and climb Mt. Arayat which is only a few kilometers from their home in Pampanga. Around 6pm we took the First North Luzon bus plying the route of Arayat-Cabiao at Monumento, Caloocan. Travel time is 2hrs and we alighted at Brgy. Cacutud where his Uncle was waiting for us. Another 20mins and we were already at Brgy. Gatiawin, Arayat, Pampanga where we will spend the night before our hike the following day. Cabalens are one of the most hospitable people that you’ll meet, moreover, they cook really sumptuous cuisines.

Mountain of Myths
The following day, we were up early to have our breakfast and prepare our packed lunch. Thankfully, everything were prepared by our friend’s Aunt and before sunrise we are already on the road. By 6am, our guides were already with us and after several minutes of ascent in the Arayat National Park, which is situated at Brgy. San Juan Baño, we were already at the end of the paved concrete way.

Trail starts at the end of this concrete road.
First part of the trail.

We will be summiting the south peak of the mountain since our entry point is in Brgy. San Juan Baño. Our guides have already warned us to respect the mountain because deities in it will punish us if we did the opposite and told us numerous stories about it. One is of Apung Sinukuan, a sun god,  who lives on the White Rock near the summit, who has engaged in an ancient battle of rock-throwing that went on for days against his rival, Apung Pinatubu.

After the rocky trail, we passed by some plantations of Tomato, String Beans and fruit bearing trees.

Another Sinukuan also figured in a legend that will rival that of Mariang Makiling. Mariang Sinukuan, it is said, was in fact, Maria Makiling’s sister who made Arayat her home. She made the forest primeval thrive with fruit-bearing trees which she cared for daily. A person who eats the juicy fruit is liable to get lost forever in the woods.It is also claimed that one can see from atop the mountain the silhouette of Mariang Sinukuan in quiet repose.

We passed by some rocky trails on the first part, which is followed by some agricultural lands, then to trails covered in thick foliage of grass. Mosquitoes are present in this parts and even our insect repellant lotions didn’t worked its magic.

Tomato Plantation.

Aside from the folkloric side of this mountain, it also has its mystical side. On the Magalang, Pampanga part of the mountain, stations of the cross are present on its trails. It is said that a cult of Rizalistas gather here during December to honor the Mahal na Inang Birheng Sinukuan which they acknowledge as the female incarnation of Jose Rizal. Tatay Pacio and his son, Mario, our guides, said that they often climb this mountain to pray and thank Sinukuan for the bountiful harvest, wherein they also light candles.

First Look
The trail from the grassy part will then intersect with the forest part where tree covering is now evident and where the temperature also cools down. It is mostly steep ascent into rocks and roots.

Into the woods.

Halfway from the trail, we already reached the Metung Batyawan, or when translated into tagalog is Unang Dungawan, where you have to crawl into large boulders until you reach a flat rock on top of it that offers a scenic view of the surrounding plains and rivers of Pampanga.

With Tatay Pacio, telling stories of the place.
At the moment with the baes. Naks

It is said that a woman of young age took her life in this same spot where she hanged herself to death while clutching a large bible on her hand. Creepy isn’t it?.

At the Unang Batyawan.
What's good?.

Lugud King Indung Gabun

Some rock scrambling during the assault.

After a quick rest at the Unang Batyawan, we resumed our trek. The trail got steeper, luckily rain has not visited the area for three days, the rocks could be real slippery when wet and our guides said that splendid views at the top awaits. But we were wrong, the temperature got colder and fog started to mar the blue sky above the trees, the surroundings became dark and mist is all around.

Here, in the forest, dark and deep, I offer you eternal sleep.
An hour before the south peak, this happened.

The forest became enchanting and really quiet. Maybe this is Sinukuan’s way of welcoming us. We continued to the last part of the assault which is just an hour away from the campsite at the south peak.

Suddenly everything went silent, bird calls are farfetched, cicadas stopped buzzing.

And we had a quick rest upon reaching a flat part of the trail. The sky brightened up a bit as we were nearing the campsite. It is kind of impossible to get lost in the trail since a group who visited the area last time painted some rocks with a yellow dash to avoid confusion in the trail.

Minutes away from the campsite.
South peak covered in fog.

And after the last part of the assault, we were already at the summit, 1026 meters above sea level, in 3hours. And we were welcomed by a wooden sign nailed high in a tree that bears the words, “Lugud king indung gabun”.

And the weather was fine up in here.
At 1026 meters above sea level.
All worth it!

When translated means, “Return the Power, Life, and Love to Mother Earth”. Any mountain should be respected with utmost care, and try to always practice the LNT principle at all times. We were already at the summit with good weather, and from the summit a small trail leads to the viewdeck that offers views of the surrounding plains. And from the viewdeck a little 5 minute descent and ascent into a steep slope will lead you to a small rocky summit that has a hundred foot drop around.

From the viewdeck, descent to the smaller viewdeck.
Let it tear you away and lead you into wonders.

There was no clearing that time, our guide said that after summer months it is very uncommon for tourist and hikers to have a good view of the surrounding plains, but locals will always have a good glimpse of the plains from the summit no matter what time of the year they summit the said mountain.

The smaller peak shrouded in a blanket of fog.
Not for the faint hearted, one wrong step and a great fall will follow.
Good job, Arjov!

So we decided to wait for the fog to clear up and have our lunch instead. After that we came back, but still no clearing, even though is it surprisingly hot at the campsite.

One of the numerous Butterflies at the viewdeck.
The viewdeck as seen from the smaller one.
The mossy forest cliff at the viewdeck.

After two hours, we had no clearing, and numerous insects ranging from wasps, bees, butterflies and others we can’t name, now flew all over the viewdeck, with thick fog covering even the smaller viewpoint. Our guides said that maybe it is Sinukuan’s way of
telling us to already comedown. They even said that they will know if a foreigner is up here when it rains hard in their place. They also tell that of when the Telecom tower is being constructed, a tornado ravaged the area where the assembly of the tower parts is. Fascinating as the tales tell, the mountain is indeed protected. We descended back in an hour and a half to find out that the summit was no longer covered in fog.


DAY 01
1800  ETD to Arayat, Pampanga
2000  ETA Brgy. Cacutud, Arayat
2030  ETA Brgy. Gatiawin, Arayat
2100  Dinner (150php/pax contribution for food)
2300 lights off

DAY 02
0400 – wake up, prepare food
0500 – breakfast
0530 – ETD to Brgy. San Juan Baño
0600 – ETA Arayat National Park, secure guide (1000/ 5pax)
0630 – start trek
0930 – ETA Summit Campsite, lunch, wait for clearing
1200 – start descent
1330 – ETA National Park, bathe, swim (50php/pax)
1700 – headback to Brgy. Gatiawin
1900 – ETA San Fernando, Pampanga
1930 – ETD Bus bound to Caloocan
2100 – Manila

Transportation: Manila to Brgy. Cacutud – 120php
San Fernando to Manila – 102php
Guide Fee:  200php/pax (1000php/5pax)
Food: 150php/pax
(Note: Transportation varies since our group had a private service to and fro the jumpoff)

Total Damage: 572php/pax (800php – safe budget)

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Ernest Hemingway

Go, Carve That Niche, -Rex


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